I have long been a proponent of referrals when choosing whom to do business with. But even with a referral, you owe it to yourself to do some homework. In terms of a mortgage, you have always had the Better Business Bureau and local regulators (like state banking departments) that you could contact. Over the past few years, the internet search engines have become popular ways of finding information beyond a company’s or a loan officer’s website. Two other places I strongly recommend you visit online (one for the company and one for loan officers) are:
This is the website for HUD’s Neighborhood Watch. Neighborhood Watch is where HUD publishes a lender’s loan performance on FHA loans and how it compares to the national and local averages.
A compare ratio of 100% means “average” performance. Numbers greater than 100% are below average. And a ratio under 100% is above average. Understand that the Neighborhood Watch numbers measure the quality performance of FHA loans only. Further, be aware that HUD recently stated that lenders with compare ratios over 200% were subject to suspension from being able to participate in the FHA Program, and lenders between 150-199% were going to be scrutinized very closely and subject to audit. Be wary of “riskier” lenders.
When you go to the website, click on the "Early Warnings" tab and either research an individual lender or look for a list of lenders in an area, and then just follow the instructions. Remember, many lenders nationally have similar names, so make sure you have the right lender.
Here you can search for loan officer and company licensing status. Recognize that loan officers are individually licensed now. Those who have taken the required courses, passed the required tests and been approved by their respective state licensing authority have all that information verified on this website, along with their employment history. Loan officers who work for federally chartered institutions (like banks) have not yet been required to take the classes and pass exams and are listed on the site with their license number and their employment history.
Make sure you are dealing with a loan officer who is licensed! Ask questions if they have a lot of job changes.
There has been a cleansing in the mortgage industry over the past few years, but there are always a few bad apples in any large group. These websites may help you identify mistakes you can avoid when choosing whom you do business with.