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“Consumers need to commit to timeliness and they need a sense of humor, too. It helps everyone if we recognize that there is a lot of paperwork required, so loan applicants should not get offended by the loan officer’s requests.”

Mr. Benner says borrowers today need to keep careful track of their funds as they go through the loan process.

“Everyone needs to show a 30-to-60-day paper trail of where the money is coming from when they apply for a loan,” Mr. Benner says. “A lot of people do all their transactions online now and may move money around in order to prepare for their down payment and closing costs, but they need to be able to give us printed statements that show where the assets are coming from.”

While borrowers must provide most of the documentation in the loan transaction, lenders are required to provide borrowers with a good-faith estimate within three days of the loan application. The estimate details anticipated closing costs along with the loan details so borrowers can compare loans with what other potential lenders offer.

Once borrowers understand they will need to be responsive to lender requests for documents and information, they also should be comfortable enough to ask for financial advice from their lender.

“We definitely provide advice to our borrowers, but not all lenders do that,” Mr. Stanger says. “We think it’s important that we are not just qualifying someone for a loan, but we also discuss the borrowers’ overall comfort level with their mortgage payment.

“I think lenders have a valuable role to play in terms of discussing the pros and cons of various loan options. For instance, if someone calls to check on interest rates for refinancing, it is better to discuss their overall financial goals and their current loan before focusing solely on rates. People need to understand the implications of their loan choices.”

Mr. Mendelson explains to his customers the option of wrapping closing costs into the loan or of paying a slightly higher interest rate to eliminate closing costs. He says his job is to educate borrowers on the pros and cons of different loan products.

“I can also help people with credit problems improve their score,” Mr. Mendelson says. “Not all lenders have this expertise, but some can help their customers by giving them advice about fixing errors, settling debt or shifting debt in order to improve their score. We have a computer program we can use that can help us evaluate what will improve someone’s score the fastest.”

Ms. Partlow says the credit bureaus have software that lenders can use to anticipate potential improvements in the score depending on various steps a consumer takes.

“We can’t physically take over and fix someone’s credit, but we can give them advice on things like paying down their credit card balance to keep it under 50 percent [of the credit limit],” Ms. Partlow says.

Communication is key to a smooth mortgage transaction, and borrowers should establish how they want to communicate - by phone or e-mail, for example - as soon as they choose a lender.

“If you are not hearing from your lender for a little while, you should definitely get in touch and make sure everything is going smoothly,” Ms. Partlow says. “There are some lulls in the process sometimes, but you should expect to hear frequently from your lender about what is happening.”

Mr. Mendelson and Mr. Stanger say they send e-mails about once per week during the loan process and are immediately responsive if a client has a question.

“Keeping people in the loop is an important part of good customer service,” Mr. Mendelson says. “Customers should feel comfortable enough to ask questions or to discuss potential issues. I’ve had people quit their job just before settlement, which, of course, derailed the whole loan process. If they had just talked to me about it first, I would have told them to wait until after settlement.”

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