"We were supposed to close today, and our mortgage broker just requested some extra paperwork from the lawyer yesterday. Why didn’t she ask for it earlier instead of screwing up our closing?"

"The apartment makes sense for us to buy if it saves us $7,000 a month in rent — do those numbers work?"

"If you use a mortgage broker, who pays the fees: you or the bank?"

"I heard interest rates were at 6 percent — how come I got quoted 8 percent on my loan?"

These are just some typical mortgage questions — I’m sure that you hear many variations on these, and many new ones, in the course of a typical month. It’s always been a facet of our business, that consumers need money to buy homes, and the industry that supplies money is confusing, and so they turn to us.

But I think that these kinds of questions are surfacing now more than ever. For one thing, the underlying information has changed due to the Bush mortgage assistance act. For another thing, even in niches where the subprime mortgage collapse hasn’t affected consumers, it has still affected their perception of the money-lending industries, and they’re turning to us for help.

First off, let’s all say a "there but for the grace of God" blessing. Imagine how bad a PR problem your industry must be having when people would rather turn to Realtors for help.

But second, let’s work on some answers. Even for profoundly financial questions — "how many points does it make sense for me to pay?" as my friend Di asked me at dinner — we agents are now quite capable of being a helpful resource.

There are some who would tell you that giving financial advice is outside of their area of expertise, but they are happy to recommend a trusted mortgage broker. That’s an answer. I have given my more inquisitive clients a basic book or two on how mortgage lending works, and that’s an answer. Roughing out the numbers and saying, "For the finer points, consult your accountant" — that’s an answer.

And of course, directing clients to some great Web resources — I particularly like Jack Guttentag’s "The Mortgage Professor" at www.mtgprofessor.com — is an answer too.

The point is just to shed a little light on a subject that’s complicated and changing rapidly — and really, who should be better able to do that than a broker? We’ve already had to do that kind of interpretation, analysis and clarification about our own markets over the past couple of years.

There was an article in The New York Times recently stating that agents were having to work harder and harder for their commissions, and that salespeople were now hiring town cars to chauffer buyers around in and providing window boxes to dress up sellers’ listings.

Agents have always done that sort of thing, and I think it’s great. As a consumer, I would love both a fancy ride and a bunch of flowers.

But the most important flourish, I think, is the provision of good solid information.

So, Di, I don’t know how many points it makes sense for you to pay, but if you want to call any of the three people on this list they are all mortgage pros who I trust to help you with the answer … I’d rather send you to someone who’s an expert in this area, just as I am in mine.

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."


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