Shopping for the best . . . (blank).

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Shopping should be labeled as the great American hobby.  With the invention of the internet (thanks VP Gore . . . ok, fine, thanks VP Gore for “[taking] of the initiative to create the Internet”), the art and skill of shopping and the unquenchable desire to get the best price, the best deal, the best you-name-it reigns supreme.  Even if not on the internet, we (as good consumers, good capitalists and good budget-teers) are always looking for the best deal.  

For most, this same zeal carries over into shopping for a mortgage.  But, unfortunately, shopping for a mortgage is not the same as shopping for the best deal on a new TV, or for the least expensive gasoline (almost always QT by the way) or for the  cheapest box of Pop-Tarts (it’s not even close, it’s always Wal-Mart).  When I started Hillside Lending in 2002 one of my main goals was to always be certain that I was offering my clients the best . . . the best rates with the best service.  Now a lot of people would agree with that statement and even use it as their “slogo” possibly (but come-on, everybody can’t be the best, right).  So, to be totally honest with myself, I decided to re-phrase my idea into this — being certain that I was offering my clients the absolute best combination of rates, closing costs and service.  What about getting the cheapest mortgage?  Or the lowest closing costs?  Why not just those things?

Here’s a funny story:  my brother and I were recently traveling to Orlando, Florida for a family funeral (obviously, that’s not the funny part) and we decided when we were booking tickets for the quickly-planned trip that he would take care of the hotel room and I would take care of the rental car.  So with multiple screens open on my computer (shopping for the best deal on a 2-day notice flight to Orlando), I found the best flight to fit my schedule and used the “click here to add rental car” button to take care of my part of the plans.  Despite knowing better, I clicked on the super-budget deal (we were only going to drive the car from the airport to the funeral home and then back to the airport the next morning) . . . I thought that $14 a day for a rental car was rather inexpensive (read: cheap, i.e. we definitely paid less, if you catch my vibe, paid less, payless), but hey the next level up in price was an increase of more than 25%!  ha.  Yes, the next level up was all of $20 per day.  I wish that I had had my camera with me.  My brother and I, both nicely dressed in dark suits, climbed into one of the dirtiest, muggiest, non-air-conditioned, park-and-ride vans I have ever seen.  We piled in with 15+ Disney-travelers and proceeded to the off-site car rental facility.  As we headed down the road, as if out of a commercial, kids screaming, I’m sweating, mother’s scolding . . . I look out the window and a beautiful Hertz park-and-ride bus goes cruising past us — you could practically see the air-conditioning on the people’s faces.  My brother said to me with a smirk, “Hey, Jeffrey, good job on saving a few dollars.”  “Hey, I saved more than 25%,” I reminded him.  To which he responded, “I think you owe me some money for the hotel room . . . after this, I don’t think we’re even.”  The rest of the story follows the same theme . . . was it a great experience? no.  Was it even a good experience? not really.  Would I use them again? I am sure I wouldn’t.  Did I save money?  yes.

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So back to shopping for a mortgage.  How can you make sure that you are shopping for the best?  Well, first you have to determine exactly what that means — the best rate?  the best closing costs?  the best service?  Or the best combination of all three?  And then you have to determine what you are willing to risk (or put up with) — mediocre advice?  slowly returned phone calls?  a not-so-smooth closing?  And then once you’ve done your homework (please do more than just compare good faith estimates), give your business to the person or company who deserves your business the most . . . not because they were the cheapest, but because they really were the best. 

Next time . . . more on getting what you pay for . . . a funny story about a $12 haircut and a more-than-bizarre slogan for selling vegetables.

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