Mortgage shopping: what you should know before you begin

Part 1: Finding the right home loan

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(This is Part 1 of a seven-part series. See Part 2: Pros and cons of fixed, adjustable mortgages; Part 3: Three options available on most mortgages; Part 4: How long should you take to pay off your mortgage? Part 5: Investment returns influence real estate down payment; Part 6: Understanding choices in mortgage insurance and Part 7: Navigating real estate loan locks, docs.) Most consumers, before they start shopping for an automobile, decide on the brand, model and options they want. They realize that they can't shop effectively unless they know exactly what they are shopping for. When they enter the mortgage market, in contrast, where their financial commitment may be 10 times larger, many consumers don't have a clue as to what they want. They look to the loan provider to guide them through the maze. This dependency is one major reason they often end up with a mortgage that is over-priced and, even worse, does not meet their needs. This article poses eight questions that pr...