Look at loan programs and rates offered by several different lenders. If you find a lender that offers a 6.25 percent rate when all the others charge more, you'll save in interest over the life of a 30-year.

Comparison-shop on line to cut your search time drastically. Work with a mortgage broker who arranges loans from many different institutions. Choosing a mortgage can take weeks if you contact several lenders yourself.

Be sure to compare loans thoroughly:

  • COMPARE AT LEAST 6 LENDERS OR MORTGAGE BROKERS. One of them is bound to offer the loan that's best for you.

  • IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT INTEREST RATES. Getting a low rate is important, but you won't benefit from it if you have to pay too many up-front points and other fees.

  • UNDERSTAND HOW POINTS & RATES WORK. A point is prepaid interest, and each point you pay equals one percent of your loan amount. If you get a $100,000 loan and pay 3 points, that's $3,000 in points. The more points you pay, the lower the rate you'll get.

  • HOW LONG WILL YOU KEEP THE LOAN? If you're going to move in a few years, consider an adjustable-rate mortgage since you may be able to sell the house before the rate gets too high. If you plan to stay longer, a fixed-rate mortgage may be an attractive option because your rate stays fixed for the term of the loan.