First-Time Home Buyer Questions to Ask

First-Time Home Buyer Questions to Ask

Q & A session with one of our Loan Originators.

According to a 2016 Housing Wire study, the peak season for buying and selling homes begins in March. Sellers start thinking about ways to get their home ready and first-time buyers begin their research on homes and lenders. But for many first-time buyers, they’re not sure how to take out a mortgage, let alone what questions to ask to get them there. Luckily for first-time home buyers, we’re here to help, and we sought the expert advice from one of our own Loan Originators (LOs) Shaun Dunphy. Here’s a list of first-time home buyer questions to ask your lender.

Cardinal Financial: When a first-time buyer calls you, how does the conversation usually start?
Shaun Dunphy: First, I’ll start out with some ice breakers to find out what they’re trying to do and what their goals are. If they tell me they have no idea what they’re doing, I say, “Well, you’re doing the right thing by coming to me and calling us.”

CF: What are some other questions you ask a first-time buyer?
SD: I’ll ask them what they’re trying to do, what are their goals, what is the purpose behind their desire to buy a house right now. That’s a good indication of where they’re at in the process. Then I’ll ask about their price point, which helps me start thinking about the right loan I can pair them with.

CF: What are some other first-time home buyer questions to ask?
SD: We often get asked, “What are the hidden fees?” And rightfully so. Because people want to know exactly how much it’s going to cost them. And there’s a lot of ambiguity around that until you actually begin the loan process with an LO. We’ll uncover those hidden things and we’ll tell you it’s not just about principal and interest—there are other fees associated with the loan process and then there’s the cost of furnishing a home and your utility bills, etc. Our competitors hide fees or they’ll call them something else. We don’t do that—it’s a clear cut, transparent conversation.

CF: Can you tell us a little bit about the initial steps of the mortgage process?
SD: First of all, I’d say, make the call. The worst thing you could do is not call us and just start the conversation. It’s my job to answer your questions and educate you on the process—if you didn’t have questions, I wouldn’t have a job.

1. We check your credit score. 2. We review your debt-to-income ratio and ask about your current income. 3. We ask how much you have saved up and how much you realistically want to put down as a down payment. From there, it’s pretty straightforward. I keep the communication lines open with my borrowers so they can reach me anytime because I remember what it was like when I bought my first house.

CF: It sounds like business is personal for you.
SD: Yeah, that’s how it is for all the LOs here. I’m still living in my first home and, when I give borrowers advice, I speak from personal experience. I remember mortgages being a foreign language so I connect with them on a personal level and put myself in their shoes, which makes them feel more comfortable, like they’re not alone. My goal is to set realistic expectations for the borrower and help them make a smart financial decision so they’re not eating ramen every night. I treat my borrowers like they’re my family, like I’m putting my family into a home.

CF: What are some other first-time home buyer questions to ask?
SD: I think anything around our process is one of the smartest first-time home buyer questions to ask. Because Cardinal Financial is an online lender, people worry that we’ll lock their loan and never speak to them again. That’s not true. You have an LO and a Processor talking to each other and talking to you the whole way through. I like sports analogies, so one way I like to explain it to borrowers is that I’m their main point of contact, like the quarterback, and the Processor is like the running back communicating with me. Together, we get your loan to the finish line.

CF: Can you tell us a little bit about the process after the initial steps?
SD: It’s pretty straightforward. Our LOs and Processors are in constant communication so the process is streamlined. Where there are moving pieces, everyone is on the same page. Even our executives will step in and help with the loan sometimes. That’s how it is, though: We run the company like a family and everyone is working together to get the loan to close. Whatever it takes to carry the borrower home.

CF: If you could give one final piece of advice to all the first-time buyers out there looking to start the mortgage process, what would it be?
SD: I would say you’re not alone. If you’ve never done this before, the mortgage process is hazy and confusing. But that’s where I come in. It’s my job to make sure you sleep at night and don’t stress out. It’s my job to calm you down and answer your questions—you can never ask too many questions. I give out my cell number to my borrowers and tell them just to call me anytime. You know, mortgages can be stressful but it’s my job to make it a less-stressful process for them. And there’s a lot of mystery around mortgages, and with that there comes a fear of the unknown. But I like to think of us as the flashlight that guides you through the darkness.

Shaun Dunphy is a Loan Originator for Cardinal Financial Company, Limited Partnership.