You’ve found the home you’ve been looking for. It checks all your boxes for must-haves, from location to square footage to price point. You’ve done your homework as a homebuyer, going through the preapproval process, getting your down payment together, and picking out your mortgage lender. But there’s been a hitch in the process. Things aren’t going exactly as planned. You’re thinking of switching mortgage lenders before closing.
Maybe you’re dealing with delay after delay, or perhaps you’re getting the feeling you can get a better rate elsewhere. But is it a good idea? Will you regret making the switch before closing? Here’s what you need to know about switching mortgage lenders.
Why you might think about switching mortgage lenders before closing
First things first. Yes, it is possible to switch lenders before closing. However, switching lenders may — and most likely will — cause a closing delay, which could be a problem. (More on that later.) Still, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider it.
1. You found a better deal somewhere else
As you might have guessed, a better deal on the mortgage loan is the biggest reason homebuyers consider the switch.
The better deal may be in the form of lower interest rates, lower origination fees, or both. You might start looking for greener grasses if you’ve already locked in a rate with one lender but didn’t get the interest rate you wanted.
Let’s say you lock in a 15-year mortgage with a 4.125% interest rate, and the rate is locked in for 30 days. After you find the ideal home and the seller accepts your offer, you decide to do a little browsing.
Lo and behold, you discover that interest rates have fallen. You start wondering if the grass might be a bit greener (and cheaper!) with another lender.
It’s unlikely that your current lender will offer you a lower rate unless you have the float-down option. The float-down option gives you the opportunity to reduce your locked mortgage rate if market interest rates fall. This option can typically only be used once during the closing process.
This is why comparison shopping before you choose a lender is so important.
Jessica Sanchez, director of Underwriting & Loan Management at HomeLight Home Loans, explains that buyers should pay close attention to the loan estimate, “which will tell you what the loan is going to cost you, the interest rate, all the points and fees. Get that upfront, and that will keep you informed about what you’re getting into.”
However, if you find yourself shopping around after you’re under contract on a house, it’s important to understand how changing lenders will affect your closing process. Unfortunately, it may not be as easy as submitting the same paperwork to a new lender. You may have to show additional documents or gather updated documents to satisfy the new lender’s requirements.
And in the end you might not get that stellar rate that caused you to switch in the first place. The new lender will need to pull an updated credit report and get the property appraised again. Most appraisals aren’t portable, meaning they can’t be transferred from one lender to another (though FHA mortgage appraisals are portable). If you want a new lender, you may have to pay for another credit report, an additional application fee, and a new appraisal.
If that new appraisal comes in at a different (lower) value, then that is going to increase your loan-to-value ratio, which could in turn generate a lower rate than the one you thought you could get. So in other words: buyer, beware!
2. Your lender is now imposing an overlay
Overlays are another reason buyers think about switching lenders. An overlay is an additional standard required by the lender, on top of published guidelines. Overlays can apply to both government-backed and conventional mortgages. They’ve always been around, but when big economic changes happen, lenders are a lot more likely to impose an overlay. A lot of buyers had to deal with overlays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example.
The pandemic increased the potential risk of lending, which translated to more overlays, or requirements designed to protect lenders for riskier loans. Buyers with lower credit scores and higher debt-to-income ratios are more likely to face overlays, especially when shopping at the very top of their price range.
Overlays are lender-specific, so switching lenders may make sense if you’re worried about your loan not being approved. Be sure to weigh the cost of switching against other options to reduce your loan risk, such as putting down a larger down payment, changing mortgage types, or selecting a less expensive property (although, if you’re already under contract, you should make sure you won’t lose your earnest money before deciding to back out of your current agreement).
3. Your house didn’t appraise
What if the house you’ve made an offer on appraises below the offer price? You may find that your lender doesn’t want to offer a loan for the full amount (minus your original down payment).
If you can’t renegotiate the sales price or get the property reappraised, a different lender may appraise the home at a higher value. This option may be worth it if you have good credit, you have your pick of lenders to choose from, and you have your heart set on that particular home.
4. You’re experiencing delay after delay
Buyers sometimes consider switching lenders when dealing with long closing times, especially if they’re the lender’s fault.
Closing delays aren’t fun for anyone, especially if you’re moving from an apartment and your lease is up, or when you’ve sold your current home. Sellers may be waiting to move out or purchase a new property with the funds from the sale.
Sanchez advises, “Before switching lenders, I would do a lot of research as to why you would want to switch mid-transaction.” You’ll want to make sure that you can definitely get approved with the new lender and that they have the capacity to close your loan on time considering the new application, new appraisal, and underwriting turn times.
5. You still have valid applications open with other lenders
Sometimes buyers have applications open with multiple lenders. If you have another pre-approval offer that looks more appealing than your current one, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing it. The loan estimate will help you compare the offers side by side. Just remember: the keyword here is “estimate.”
The disadvantages of switching lenders before closing
There are cons to switching, some of which are big enough to make you rethink changing lenders.
1. You may end up with a longer timeline
Even if you’re currently dealing with delays, switching lenders won’t automatically speed things up. In fact, it may slow things down.
You may have to extend your closing date to accommodate the new loan. Sanchez explains, “If you decide to switch mortgage lenders in the middle of the transaction, you’re going to have to essentially start that process all over again with the other lender. That definitely can result in delays in your closing.”
2.You might be offered a higher interest rate
While you may have locked in a rate with your previous lender, the new lender is under no obligation to offer you the same rate. Instead, they’ll offer you a rate based on your credit score and the current market rates. Keep in mind: Both of those factors may have changed.
When your previous lender made the initial offer, they pulled your credit report, which is a hard inquiry on your account. Doing so typically lowers your score at least a little bit. That little blip may put you in a lower credit score range and could potentially lead to a higher rate.
That said, you can apply with multiple lenders within 45 days of that original credit report being pulled, and they will all report as a single inquiry and therefore won’t affect your credit any further. This allows you to shop around to see if another lender may offer you a better rate.
3. You may pay higher closing costs
Yep, closing costs do vary. Your new lender may charge higher or additional fees than your first lender. If they do, that could add up to higher closing costs.
If you’re going to switch, don’t forget to factor in closing costs (you can find an estimate of closing costs on your loan estimate). It’s possible that the savings you generate by snagging a lower interest rate could be washed out by higher closing costs.
4. You may need to pay for another appraisal
As we mentioned before, most appraisals aren’t portable from lender to lender (except for FHA mortgage appraisals). Your new lender will want to send an independent appraiser to see your property. So you’ll have to pay for that additional appraisal.
Appraisals typically range from $310 to $404. Be sure to factor that in when you’re comparing how much you could save by switching lenders.
5. Your credit will be checked again (and it may be lower now)
Your new lender will pull your credit report to review your creditworthiness. Your credit score may come in lower, which may change the rate and terms under which you qualify. Oh, and they could charge you a fee for pulling your credit, which typically costs around $30.
6. You may have to start all over with your application
Remember all of those financial documents you submitted to your original lender? You’ll have to do that again, and your new lender may require even more documents or updated documents if it has been a while since you originally applied.
7. You could lose your earnest money
Sometimes, sellers can’t or won’t wait for you to get your financing sorted. If your seller isn’t willing to extend the closing date, you could be in breach of your contract. That could mean the seller is free to keep your earnest money, wash their hands of the deal, and put the house back on the market.
8. You may need to pay the seller
If you need to push your closing date out, you’ll need to ask your seller. The seller may require you to pay a per diem (also known as a daily rate) until the closing occurs, which is usually based on prorated interest (plus taxes and insurance).
How do you switch mortgage lenders before closing?
First, apply for your new mortgage loan through another lender if you haven’t done so already. Provide all of the required documentation and make sure your application is as accurate as possible to avoid any further delays.
Once you’ve chosen your new lender, you’ll need to let your real estate agent, the seller, and escrow agent know. Your real estate agent will need to work with the listing agent on a new closing timeline. You’ll likely need at least 30 days to secure your new loan.
If you change the type of mortgage loan (for example, you’re moving from a conventional to an FHA loan), prepare for longer timelines and delays. Government-backed loans require different paperwork and processes with stricter appraisals.
In some cases, switching lenders might be worth the hassle if you can snag significant savings or disentangle yourself from an unscrupulous lender. Otherwise, if you can’t afford the delays, you could always close your loan with your existing lender and then refinance your loan with a different lender, which you can typically do after you’ve been making loan payments for six months to a year, though some lenders have no waiting period. You’ll want to give yourself enough time to make sure your credit score is in the best place possible to snag a low-interest rate, regardless.
If you think you want to switch lenders before closing, talk to your real estate agent about why, then ask their advice for how to move forward. The best agents will be able to give you their opinion about whether it’s a good idea or whether it would be better to wait and refinance.
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