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Good Faith Estimates
Several years ago the U.S. Congress tried to protect consumers from a few unscrupulous lenders by requiring all lenders to calculate and disclose the annual percentage rate (APR) you pay on your mortgage loan. Do yourself a favor. Forget about APR and instead direct your attention to the Good Faith Estimate of Settlement Costs (GFE).

Though Congress meant well, in practice the APR is not helpful and is confusing. If you are looking for a good way to understand your costs of borrowing and/or to compare one lender's costs to another, the GFE is your best bet. Get your lender(s) to provide a written GFE before you commit your mortgage business.

When reviewing a GFE, keep in mind that the lender actually controls only a handful of the disclosed costs. Other parties typically control costs of appraisal, settlement, title insurance, recording fees and taxes, survey, and the "prepaid" expenses of homeowner's insurance, mortgage insurance, real estate taxes, etc. Most of the remaining costs are controlled by your lender. Review these origination fees, discount points, etc. and you will have the ability to understand the full costs of your proposed mortgage loan.

 
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