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How to Choose a Good Mortgage Lender

You’ve probably heard you should contact a mortgage lender to see what loan amount you can qualify for before you begin house hunting because being pre-approved can help your offer be accepted, no matter what type of market we’re in.

But it’s important to note that like real estate agents, not all lenders are the same and it’s worth taking a little bit of time to understand why and how to choose a good mortgage lender.

Why Mortgage Lenders Matter for Real Estate Transactions

Great mortgage lenders know a variety of loan options inside and out. Finding the best loan product for your situation can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Good lenders can also help make buying real estate quicker and less stressful. Who doesn’t want that?


We want you to have the best real estate experience possible, so we wrote this article to help you understand which things are important to consider when choosing a mortgage lender.

What Qualities Make a Good Lender?

The best lenders tend to share these ten important qualities:

  • Interested – in your questions, goals, and situation
  • Knowledgeable – about a variety of loan products to find the best deal for your unique circumstances
  • Good Teachers – answer your questions about loans and terms in a way you can understand, without being pushy
  • Responsive – to your emails, calls, and texts
  • Trustworthy – honest and have your best interest in mind
  • Good Reputation – among real estate agents and others in the community
  • Available – Does your lender strictly work 9-5 Monday through Friday, or can you reach them on evenings or weekends if you need something?
  • Creative – helps you solve obstacles by offering creative solutions
  • Always Learning – about the industry and new financing options
  • Detail-Oriented – can stay on top of financial deadlines to ensure closing happens on time

Related Post: How to Tell if Your Realtor is Good

What are Good Questions to Ask a Lender?

Here are some good questions to ask a mortgage lender:

  1. What are the best interest rates and programs can you offer me?
  2. How long does it take to get pre-approval?
  3. How quickly can you close once I’m under under contract?
  4. What are origination, lender, and other fees would I need to pay?
  5. How much of a down payment is needed?
  6. How long can you lock in a rate?
  7. Are there loans for buying a duplex/condo/townhouse as my primary residence?
  8. Are there special loan programs for first-time home buyers, teachers, veterans, etc. and how do those compare to other loans?
  9. How much of the process is done online vs in person?
  10. What type of home can I buy (or not buy) with each loan option?

Or if you’re considering building a house in Wisconsin, ask about the new construction loan process!

Pre-Approval vs. Pre-Qualification

Pre-approval is the process where the lender verifies your information and approves you for a mortgage. After completing a pre-approval, you receive a formal document that confirms the mortgage size and interest rate your lender will give you.

While pre-qualification uses estimates, a pre-approval uses verified information.

Mortgage lenders will review your financial documents to determine what you and any co-borrowers are eligible for, which may include:

  • Credit scores & history
  • Housing payment history
  • Debt obligations, such as credit cards, car loans, & student loans
  • Bank statements for savings, checking, and investment accounts
  • Tax returns, W-2s, and 1099s for two years
  • Pay stubs
  • Social Security numbers

You have the option to lock in that rate if you’re satisfied with the product.

Compare Loan Estimates

Loan Estimates spell out important details about your requested loan, including the estimated interest rate, monthly payment, fees, and total closing costs.

A loan estimate is a document lenders must give you after you’ve applied for a loan and have provided certain information, including the address of the property you want to buy.

After reading each line and asking the lender questions about anything you don’t understand. At this point, the lender has not yet approved or denied your loan application. Carefully compare costs and terms from the lenders you’re considering to choose the best mortgage option for you.

How far in advance should you get pre-approved for a mortgage?

Ideally, you will get pre-approved for a mortgage shortly before you start looking at houses, so you know for which houses you are likely to get lending and to increase the likelihood your offer is accepted.

Typically, your pre-approval is good for 90 days, but it’s possible it’s only valid for 30 days.

This is another reason it’s important to have an accessible and helpful lender because if your house search lasts more than 30-90 days, you may need to get an updated pre-approval or extension.

12+ Recommended Mortgage Lenders in Southern Wisconsin

We’ve helped clients close thousands of real estate transactions in Wisconsin that involve lenders. We’ve had great experiences with lenders–and terrible ones.

We want you to have a smooth process buying your next home, so if you’re getting a mortgage, we highly recommend contacting any of the Southern Wisconsin lenders mentioned below (in no particular order).

Although these lenders are primarily located throughout Jefferson, Dane, and Dodge Counties, most can service mortgages throughout the state. Johnson Financial Group can even service mortgages in different states!

Reach out to your local Shine realtor for more guidance on finding the best lender for your situation.

Jefferson County & Dodge County Mortgage Lenders

Jake Schultz – Bank of Lake Mills

Office: (920) 945-0770

Cell: (920) 728-1870


400 Bernard St. Watertown, WI 53094

Diane Rue – Johnson Financial Group

Office: (920) 568-5641


200 Sherman Avenue West, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538

Nicki Kelly – Farmers Merchants State Bank

Office: (920) 478-7015


210 W. Madison St. Waterloo, WI 53594

Mark Catton – PremierBank

Office: (920) 542-1385

Cell: (920) 222-3100


320 South Center Ave. Jefferson, WI 53549

Tori Woolley – Summit Credit Union

Office: (608) 243-5000 ext. 6201


1610 S. Church St. Watertown, WI 53094

Tom Dehnert – Badger Bank

Office: (920) 563-2478


220 Grant Street, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538

Tom Evensen – PremierBank

Commercial Mortgage Lender

Office: (920) 542-1395

Cell: (920) 222-9345


320 South Center Ave. Jefferson, WI 53549

Matt Zastrow – PremierBank

Commercial Mortgage Lender

Office: (920) 542-1399

Cell: (920) 220-9119


320 South Center Ave. Jefferson, WI 53549

Dane County Mortgage Lenders

Ben Mlsna – Bank of Deerfield

Commercial/Agriculture Lending

Phone: (608) 764-1022

15 S. Main St. Deerfield, WI 53531

Brett Wolfram -Summit Credit Union

Phone: (608) 243-5000 x2782


Cottage Grove / Lake Mills Branches

Waukesha County Mortgage Lenders

Steve Luebke – North Shore Bank

Cell: (414) 588-8801


15700 W. Bluemound Rd. Brookfield, WI 53005

Alexa Zastrow – Epic Mortgage

Cell: (920) 723-1203


14503 W Capital Dr. Brookfield, WI 53005

Local Lenders vs Big Name Lenders

You’ll notice all of our recommended lenders are local, not giant financial companies.

In small towns like we have in Jefferson County, you may see your lender at the grocery store, school activities, or sporting events.

This helps foster a partner relationship where lenders and borrowers interact with one another as humans, not just a no-name number or lead on the computer.

When you choose a local lender, you’re a real person with real goals.

All of these Jefferson County lenders have brick-and-mortar offices, so you can stop in and communicate face-to-face if something isn’t quite right or you have questions and prefer face-to-face communication. You don’t have that option with giant lending companies.

Local lenders typically use local appraisers who have a better understanding of the local market, so working with a local lender can be a much smoother process for you and often lead to a quicker closing.

Questions About Lenders?

Reach out to us and we’d be happy to help you find a good lender for your situation.

Save These Tips & Share With Friends

If you want to save these tips for finding a good mortgage lender for later, Bookmark it to your Favorites or save it to Pinterest!

Also, if you know anyone looking to buy a new home in South-Central Wisconsin, share this list of recommended Jefferson County mortgage lenders with them because everyone deserves to have an amazing real estate experience!


This post was originally published in 2022. It was updated in 2023 and 2024.

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One Response to “How to Choose a Good Mortgage Lender”

  • As a Jefferson County resident, I found your article particularly relevant. The emphasis on the benefits of choosing local lenders in our community resonates with me. I’ve always believed in the power of personal connections, especially when it comes to significant financial decisions like mortgages or business loans.

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