Q: I’m looking to refinance my 30-year, $100,000 mortgage. The interest rate is 6.50 percent. This mortgage is only 8 months old but my credit is very good.

Should I try to refinance with my current mortgage company or shop the rate or what would you do? Thank you for all of your advice.

A: Usually, I think about mortgages as a commodity – that is, you can pretty much shop around and as long as you’re going to a legitimate lender (whether it’s a national lender, mortgage broker or local bank), rates will, by and large, be available at the same price.

The mortgage market is generally very efficient because of the Internet, everyone knows what the competition is charging, and so no one wants to be much higher than anyone else. Consequently, prices are about the same.

Except now. What’s happening is that the mortgage market has become chaotic. There is a lot of variation in what loan programs are being offered at what rates at the moment. You’ll really need to shop around with several lenders (more than 3) to find the best program for you with the lowest fees.

There’s no downside to shopping the rate around to see what you can get and how much you’ll save. I recommend you do just that.

And by the way, if you belong to a credit union or are eligible to join one, you should check there for mortgage rates. Credit unions tend to offer the best programs at the cheapest rates.

As for your current lender, you should consider talking to a loan officer at the company in any event. If you’ve received an offer from your current lender, you can pursue that offer. With some national lenders, there are times that talking to that lender can be more difficult that starting from scratch. In other cases, some lenders will go out of there way to take care of their current customers and may even have streamline the refinance process for them.

Feb. 16, 2008.