Info sources for refi rates
January 17, 2009 12:56 PM   Subscribe

What are the best ways to find and compare mortgage refi rates and fees? (web sites, or?)

Rates are low, my credit score is very high, and I'm planning to stay here indefinitely (at least 5 years), but I don't want to pay a mortgage broker. Google is pretty worthless -- their pick hits are commercial sites of dubious credibility or value. EG lists only 1 mortgage source in Portland OR, which is ridiculous.

Looking for a 30 yr fixed with no prepayment penalty for about half the property's value, just lowest fees and rate. Contacted my existing mortgage lender (the notorious Countrywide, who bought my mortgage) but their fees seemed high -- $3300 plus 1.75 points ($4500) to get a 5% loan, plus another $1836 for some vague "prepaid" fee.
posted by msalt to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 1:22 PM on January 17, 2009

Response by poster: shows only 1 lender in Portland, OR for my loan, which is not a useful piece of information.

Someone mentioned credit unions in another topic -- so far, the first local one I checked (OnPoint) has a very well designed online rate checker which shows a significantly better rate than Countrywide -- at least $40 a month less for final payment, with smaller fees.
posted by msalt at 1:42 PM on January 17, 2009

You might want to try MortgageMarvel.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 2:02 PM on January 17, 2009

Response by poster: Cool site (MortgageMarvel) but I wouldn't rely on it. I had manually checked all my local Credit Unions by the time I tried it. They listed the CU with the second best rate (Advantis) but not the best one (OnPoint). Their numbers for Advantis are the same I got going there directly.

Their top pick (lowest APR) was Spokane Teachers Credit Union, which I am not eligible for. (Residents of Vancouver WA, part of the Portland metro area, are eligible, so I'm guessing that's why.) They listed 3 Internet banks that were competitive with OnPoint and Advantis: CapWest from Kansas, First Interstate Bank of Indiana, and AIMLoan. (AIMLoan was the only listing on; I'm guessing they pay for their listings.)

Advantis and OnPoint (my local credit unions) and these three are showing very similar quotes, with CapWest allowing a buydown to 4.625 vs. 4.75 elsewhere. Any thoughts on local vs. Internet banks? My gut says stay local if they are similar.
posted by msalt at 3:58 PM on January 17, 2009

Best answer: Get a quote from a local bank, credit union, and broker. They should be able to provide you with a Good Faith Estimate so you can compare rates and fees. Don't try to gauge what fees and rates will be from some general website. Talk to a loan officer about your situation.

Not sure what your beef with brokers is...maybe because they get a bad rap. The truth is that a broker can give you just as good a deal as a bank or credit union and no matter who you go with you will be paying someone.
posted by curlyelk at 5:37 PM on January 17, 2009

Response by poster: The only beef is the fee. Can you elaborate on your last sentence? I understand that, if a mortgage broker finds a substantially better deal than I'm able to on my own, I could be net ahead even with a fee of a point or whatever it is.

But isn 't it also possible that -- with above average computer/database skills and the mighty power of MeFi behind me -- I might be able to find a deal as good, close to as good or possibly even better on my own, and save the commission?

Also, why shouldn't I try to gauge fees and rates from the bank or credit union website? As you probably know, they all use a standard (identical) breakdown listing all of their fees, points, rates, etc. Only 1 credit union had an asterisk about a fee not included in their Total Cost, and I quickly skipped them.
posted by msalt at 5:53 PM on January 17, 2009

A broker doesn't necessarily charge more than a bank or credit union, but unlike the latter two they must disclose everything. So even a "no fee" loan from a bank or CU will have a higher than par rate that ends up costing you over the life of the loan. I'm not trying to say they always have the best offer, but its worth a quote if you can find a reputable broker. Also, keep in mind their rates are coming from the wholesale market so its possible for them to give you a par rate below a bank.

Concerning website info for rates and fees, its just a personal preference for me to talk with a live person to get specific numbers. It seems a lot of times that the actual numbers don't end up mirroring the general info. There will be some pre-paid items (taxes, insurance, per diem interest)that will vary depending on when you close. If they can't take 15 minutes to chat with me about my situation, then they aren't for me.
posted by curlyelk at 8:20 AM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: So I can just treat a broker as one of many sources I'm comparing for a loan? I guess I saw them as like a travel agent (remember them?) where you give over your search to them and it's kind of uncool to check for a better deal. If it's no obligation, "see what you can do", then why not?
posted by msalt at 11:27 AM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: Update: I ended up going with Wells Fargo, of all people. Got to a credit union, which generally had slightly better terms (though the loan officer there was frankly surprised how little Wells was padding their price.)

The important story though was that I didn't get to the credit union until the next day, and rates moving up swamped any advantage that the credit union had over Wells. I was still able to get the quote the guy gave me (he actually called to warn it was going up soon). Got 4.75%, with some buy-down.
posted by msalt at 11:21 PM on January 24, 2009

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