A Guide to Mortgage Shopping

Check the reputations of lenders and brokers by contacting the BBB, your county and state consumer protection offices and possibly your state department of banking.

Determine what kind of loan you want, based on interest rates, your credit history, the size of your down payment and the cost of the home.

Demand a copy of the terms of your loan before closing. Read and understand it, or have a lawyer read and understand it for you. Comb the contract for signs of "creative financing" deals that could get you in trouble.

Avoid Private Mortgage Insurance if you can. If you can't, keep track of it and stop paying as soon as possible.

Figure out if your loan has prepayment penalties and whether they're legal in your area. If not, work out a plan to pay extra each month without outsourcing your willpower to an outside company.

How to Complain:

To lodge a complaint against a mortgage broker, contact your county and state consumer protection offices and the BBB. Do the same for a mortgage lender, but also find out what agency regulates mortgage lenders in your state. It could be the department of banking. If your loan is insured by the federal government, contact HUD (for FHA loans) or the Veteran's Administration (for VA loans).

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