For the first time in recent memory, mortgage lenders can’t just rely on low rates or fees to win over new customers. These companies have to differentiate by providing a better servicing experience so they can retain borrowers.
Of course, we all want to find an affordable mortgage and a low rate. But the reality of a mortgage commitment is that it’s potentially a 30-year relationship. After you obtain your financing, you may be making 360 monthly payments over three decades. So be sure to ask these three questions of your prospective or current lender before you sign:
1. Who will service my mortgage? Make sure to double check your mortgage statement to see who you’re paying. In many cases, you’ll work with a loan officer throughout the mortgage application process. After your mortgage closes, your mortgage may then be sold to another company known as a “mortgage servicer.” Or your lender will contract with another company to service the loans on their behalf. These servicers communicate directly with borrowers, process payments, and so forth. If your mortgage is sold or moved to another company to service the loans, you should receive a notification letting you know that you’ll be serviced by a company which has no history of working with you.
2. What are your loan modification plans? Loan modification programs are available to consumers that can actually lower your payments by altering the terms of your loan. It’s a good idea to know what options are available to you. By now, most servicers should have solid forbearance and loan modification plans. That’s because over the past few years the pandemic resulted in millions of people losing their jobs and consequently seeking assistance in the form of a mortgage-forbearance plan. This is a program that suspends your requirement to make your mortgage payments for a period while you are out of work. It’s important that your mortgage lender is upfront with you regarding options for assistance.
Consider contacting the Bureau of Consumer Protection or your relevant state agency, especially if your mortgage servicer isn’t leveling with you regarding loan modifications or if you suspect something is off. You’re the customer and deserve to know the truth.
3. What self-service features do you provide? Customers want their mortgage servicers to be flexible and convenient. Millennials, the largest demographic group and largest homebuying group, usually want an omni-channel servicing experience. They want to be able to call a single point of contact regarding their mortgage and also check online or use an app. See if your prospective lender has omni-channel, self-service options including an automated voice response system, website, and mobile app.
These tools provide flexibility for the customers to change their address, access documents, process a one-time or reoccurring payment without the need to reach out to a customer service agent. For those customers who have a request too difficult to address through a self-service option, it’s important that your lender has an actual, live person with whom you can discuss your issue.
Getting a mortgage is an important decision and a lifetime event. Make sure you know how your lender will take care of you before you sign on the dotted line and it’s too late.
Sanjiv Das was the CEO of Citi Mortgage and Caliber Home Loans.
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