Residential News » Seattle Edition | By Michael Gerrity | November 28, 2022 8:59 AM ET
Based on a new survey by Zillow Home Loans finds prospective U.S. home buyers spend about as much time researching their next TV purchase and more time researching their next vacation or car purchase than they do their mortgage lender. Additionally, 72% of prospective buyers have not shopped around, nor have any plans to shop around, for a mortgage that best suits their financial situation.
According to the survey, 28% of prospective buyers spent at least a month researching vehicles for their next car purchase, but only 13% said they spent that much time researching mortgage lenders before applying. Twenty three percent of prospective buyers spent at least a month researching their vacation options before booking, and 12% spent at least a month researching a new TV before purchasing.
The survey shows nearly half (46%) of prospective buyers who submitted applications for mortgage pre-approval only submitted one application. Now that housing affordability is at its lowest point in decades and mortgage rates have jumped significantly in just the past six months, it's more important than ever for home buyers to understand their mortgage options and find a loan that best meets their personal financial needs. Zillow research finds prospective home buyers who don't shop around could end up spending tens of thousands of dollars more over the course of their mortgage.
"Home buyers should take the time necessary to make an educated decision on their mortgage. It's often the largest financial decision someone makes. Taking time to understand their credit report, repair any issues and consult with a qualified mortgage professional can make a significant difference in a home shopper's experience," said Libby Cooper, vice president of Zillow Home Loans. "Buyers often don't understand that a loan officer can be a partner in the home-buying process. They help discuss options and find the right fit for a customer's personal financial situation. Zillow Home Loans can help home buyers educate themselves and head into their home purchase feeling more confident in this significant financial decision."
A lack of understanding about mortgage applications is what most often drives people to skip the research. The top reason prospective home buyers indicated they haven't or would not shop around for their mortgage was a concern that it would hurt their credit score (30%). While mortgage pre-approval can impact a credit score, buyers can shop and submit multiple applications over 45 days with only one hit to their credit score.
Another Zillow survey found that 86% of sellers prefer a buyer who has been pre-approved, as opposed to pre-qualified, for a mortgage. Pre-approval includes the financial history (including income, assets, debts and credit score) that are requested during pre-qualification, but usually also requires documentation to support the information provided and a credit check. The financial check provided by pre-approval can give sellers more certainty that a buyer will close on time, and it allows buyers to make a stronger, faster offer the minute the right home hits the market.
It is important for borrowers to understand how preparing to apply for a mortgage can significantly impact the mortgage interest rate they will ultimately qualify for. Taking the time to understand your credit report, fixing any errors that may exist and paying down existing debt will change what you pay for your home. A recent Zillow analysis showed that, nationally, buyers with "fair" credit could be paying hundreds more on their monthly mortgage payment than those with "excellent" credit.
Thirty-four percent of prospective buyers did not spend time preparing before applying for mortgage pre-approval, mortgage pre-qualification or a mortgage, and nearly half of those (49%) spent less than a year prepping. The buyer's preparations could include things like taking necessary steps to improve credit scores and saving for a higher down payment.
Home buyers looking to purchase in the next year can take steps to research and prepare for their mortgage as they get started on their home-financing journey, including:
1. Understanding their credit profile: Credit scores are key to getting approved for a mortgage, but for many home buyers, understanding credit is complex.
2. Improving their credit score: Once buyers familiarize themselves with what's in their credit report, they can take steps to pay down existing debts, pay bills on time, and review their credit report and dispute possible errors.
3. Avoiding closing accounts: Don't close an account to remove it from your report. Those accounts aren't automatically removed and will continue to show up on your report.
4. Holding off on large purchases that need to be financed: Wait to make purchases that need to be financed, such as a car, until after you close on a home. This type of purchase will impact your debt-to-income ratio, which will negatively impact the amount of home loan you qualify for.
5. Determining what affordability looks like: Once buyers have a good understanding of their credit report and are satisfied with their credit score, it's time to understand how much home they can afford.