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Your Leadership Needed: Nearly Half of Home Buyers Surveyed Don’t Understand Essential Information about Mortgages

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RISMEDIA, May 5, 2011—As the housing market continues to struggle, home buyers appear ill-prepared to take out a mortgage, answering basic questions about mortgage information wrong nearly half (46 percent) of the time, according to a Zillow® Mortgage Marketplace survey. In fact, 44 percent admitted they are not confident in their knowledge of mortgages or the mortgage process. Zillow® Mortgage Marketplace, with Ipsos, surveyed prospective home buyers, asking them to gauge their own knowledge of mortgages, and asking basic questions about mortgage facts.

More than half (57 percent) of prospective home buyers who were polled do not understand how adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) work. When asked if interest rates on 5/1 ARMs always reset higher after five years, the majority of home buyers answered yes. In fact, the interest rate will adjust to the prevailing rate after five years, even if rates have declined. Currently, many borrowers whose ARMs have recently reset have lower interest rates than they did when they took out the loan.

Additionally, one-third (34 percent) of the respondents who are prospective home buyers do not understand that lender fees are negotiable and that they vary by lender. They believe lenders are required by law to charge the same fees for credit reports and appraisals, when in fact home buyers can save money by shopping for the lowest fees.

“Most people wouldn’t jump out of a plane if they didn’t know how to use a parachute, yet each year many buyers commit to the largest loan they will take out in their lifetimes without understanding essential information about mortgages,” says Zillow Mortgage Marketplace Director Erin Lantz. “By simply spending a few hours researching how a mortgage works, and by shopping around for the most competitive rates and fees, buyers can save a lot of money.”

Additional Survey Findings

• Nearly half (45 percent) of polled prospective home buyers believe that they should always buy mortgage discount points when obtaining a mortgage. However, because mortgage discount points are simply prepaid interest, the decision should depend on how long you intend to own the home. In some cases, you may not plan to remain in the house for long enough to break even after buying points.

• More than half (55 percent) of prospective home buyers in the study do not understand that mortgage rates vary throughout the day. In reality, mortgage rates can change rapidly, similar to how stock prices can change throughout the day. To get the optimum rate, it is important to monitor rates and shop around.

• More than one-third (37 percent) of prospective home buyers who were polled believe that pre-qualifying for a loan means they have secured financing. In fact, “pre-qualification” is used to describe the earliest step in the process when a lender approximates how much you can afford, but does not run your credit or request any sort of documentation to verify the information you provide. Although there is not a reliable industry standard definition of pre-qualification, it is not until a lender has approved your loan application without conditions that you can rest assured that the lender has committed to financing your loan.

• More than two in five (42 percent) of the polled prospective home buyers do not understand that Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are available to ALL buyers. Instead, they believe only first-time buyers qualify. FHA loans can cost less for many buyers, including repeat buyers with low to average credit scores and with down payments of less than 20 percent.

For more information visit www.zillow.com.

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