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Who should I talk to first when buying a home

Who should I talk to first when buying a home?

You've decided to enter the housing market. Now what? Well, if you're like most people, aside from looking at what houses are available for purchase on various listing websites, you probably think talking to a real estate agent is the first person with whom to speak. You shouldn't have a problem finding one, as there are over 1.1 million of them in the U.S., according to the National Association of Realtors®.

While a real estate agent will certainly help you locate your forever or for-the-time-being home, listing agents actually aren't the first people to go to. Your best bet in the early going are loan officers. But what, exactly, are loan officers. More to the point, what makes them a go-to source starting out?

What does a loan officer do?

Loan officers perform many different functions in the mortgage realm. For the sake of simplicity, they serve as the gateway to obtaining a home loan.

When you meet with a loan officer, he or she will go over various personal details that will tell them whether you're a good candidate to buy a house. Some of these items they'll look through are pretty basic: whether you're gainfully employed, what you earn per year in salary, what kinds of assets you have available, and so on.

Loan officers will also run a credit check to get a determination of your credit score. The credit scoring bureaus - TransUnion, Experian and Equifax - use slightly different scoring metrics, but they all work from the fundamental premise of gauging how consistent you are about making your payments on time. The higher your score, the better chances you have not only of being approved for a loan, but securing one at a lower rate of interest compared to someone with a low score.

In short, loan officers help you get the proverbial ball rolling as it pertains to home financing.

Who employs loan officers?

Much like real estate agents, loan officers work for various entities. As noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 318,600 loan officers to choose from throughout the U.S., 80 percent of whom are employed by "credit intermediaries." That's an umbrella term for credit unions, mortgage companies and commercial banks.

It's fitting that loan officers work for credit intermediaries, because loan officers serve as the middleman. These individuals talk to loan applicants like you to gather and evaluate the personal information you provide, who then get in touch with management to make a decision on mortgage approval.

Consumer loan officers - the kind that you'll meet - specialize in loans for individual borrowers, but there are other varieties, such as commercial loan officers. They primarily deal with business owners interested in obtaining property for business purposes.

What makes loan officers truly significant?

Aside from explaining the details of what you need to apply for a mortgage, loan officers can give you a better sense of how much house you can afford. Home values go up and down, largely depending on supply, demand and what other properties in the area sell for. Loan officers help you determine the types of houses that fall in your budget, ensuring you don't settle on a place that you can't afford.

Additionally, loan officers can supply you with something that can provide you with an advantage: a prequalification letter. The current housing market favors sellers, meaning more people are looking to buy a house than sell. As a result, the market is highly competitive.

With a prequalification letter, though, your odds of getting the house you want improve because sellers know you have the means with which to buy. With due diligence - like meeting with a loan officer first - you're one step ahead of the game compared to people who met with a real estate agent at the outset.

Choices are a great thing to have when you're looking to buy a house. Loan officers provide them and, at the same time, help to narrow the market down so you avoid wasting time. So, what are you waiting for? Enter the market today by meeting with a reputable lender.

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