Finding a good mortgage lender can be time consuming, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. 

Q: I heard your radio show this past weekend on refinancing. It sounds like you got a really good interest rate. My problem is that I don’t know how to find a good mortgage lender.

There are so many ads online that I don’t know who to trust. What are your thoughts about trying out an online refinance company versus working with a trusted bank? Where do I start? And, can you recommend someone you trust?

A: First, we don’t recommend individual lenders to our readers and radio show listeners. That’s primarily because there’s no way we can keep tabs on everyone who is good all over the country.

But there is a foolproof way to find a good mortgage lender, and it starts by doing some homework. We believe that if you speak with at least five different types of lenders, you’ll learn enough about where your local mortgage market is to make a smart choice for yourself.

Consider speaking with someone in each of these categories: A big national bank, a credit union, a qualified and highly recommended mortgage broker (check with your local real estate agents, they usually have a list), an online lender and a small regional lender.

You’ll need a current credit history and credit score. If you haven’t already used them up, pull a copy of your credit history from, the only site that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires the three credit reporting bureaus to maintain. While you’re there, pay around $9 for a copy of your credit score.

If your credit is good, then next thing to do is figure out which kind of loan you want (most people are getting 15- or 30-year fixed rate mortgages because interest rates are at or near an all-time low). If you have less than 15 years left on your mortgage, consider refinancing to a 10-year loan.

Then, start shopping around.  Call the various lenders and ask them how much they charge for a particular loan, assuming your current credit history and score. Ask them about the fees they charge and try to get as much detail as possible. Let them know you’re shopping around.

The best personal finance advice and real estate advice I can give you is to compare and contrast each mortgage broker or lender with each other and the fees they charge along with their fees and expenses to figure out which lender is best.