Buying a home is a massive financial commitment, so it's imperative that borrowers conduct a good search before settling on a mortgage -- and a particular house.
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But what's the best way to get good information for a mortgage rate comparison and property comparisons? Start by using these tools:
Good Faith Estimate
The Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, issued the first industry-standard good faith estimate, or GFE, in January 2010. The standardized document makes it easier to shop different lenders as each lender is required to detail the same information on the same work sheet.
Here are a few tips for using GFEs to compare loans. Try to collect GFEs from different lenders on the same day, or around the same time, if possible. Make sure you're comparing apples to apples -- e.g., a 30-year mortgage with another 30-year mortgage. Be sure to give lenders accurate information about your income and expenses so the GFEs you get back honestly reflect what you can expect to pay in loan costs. And use the shopping chart on the third page of the GFE -- it allows you to compare different loans by amount, loan term, interest rate and more.
Loan Comparison Calculator
This loan comparison calculator will let you further compare rates, monthly payments and other fees for up to three different loans. Comparing the variables side by side may help you discern which loan is the best deal.
Along with your mortgage rate comparison, you may also be looking for easy ways to compare properties and home values in different neighborhoods. Several real estate websites deliver the goods. Trulia.com's "Compare it!" feature allows you to compare up to five properties by size, price and other variables. Homes.com and Zillow.com offer data on homes as well as mobile applications, making it easy to conduct on-the-go searches.