Mortgage Markups
By Joan Caplin

(MONEY Magazine) – A recent audit of 5,600 mortgages by the National Mortgage Complaint Center (NMCC) found that five out of six people financing or refinancing a home were overcharged by lenders, brokers or others in the loan food chain. Borrowers who thought they were paying the lowest rate were often actually paying a quarter to half a percentage point higher because of broker commissions. Customers also paid mysteriously high closing costs for things like "doc prep."

• THERE OUGHT TO BE A LAW Actually, there is. Lenders must send a statement of their terms (including any prepayment penalties) three business days after you submit your application. "But 70% of lenders don't send it," says NMCC founder M. Thomas Martin.

• IS THERE A DOC PREP IN THE HOUSE? You're also due a good-faith estimate of all settlement costs, but again, Martin says, most lenders don't comply. Ask the lender for the info you're entitled to before your closing and bring it to the table to compare. NMCC can vet it for $35--an extra cost you'll probably be glad to pay. Call 866-714-6466 for details. --JOAN CAPLIN