Press Releases

One-third of Homebuyers Surveyed Are Ill-prepared to Get a Mortgage

Many Homebuyers Are Misinformed About Down Payments, Lender Rules and Mortgage Rates; Current Homeowners Lack Understanding of Basic Refinancing Rules

May 9, 2013

SEATTLE, May 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- After several years of depressed demand for homes, buyers are returning to the market in droves. However, many homebuyers may be ill-prepared to take out a mortgage, answering basic questions about mortgage information wrong nearly one-third (32.5 percent) of the time[i], according to a Zillow® Mortgage Marketplace survey[ii] of prospective and current homeowners.

For example, one-third (34 percent) of first-time homebuyers are not aware that it is possible to get a home loan with a down payment of less than 5 percent. In fact, the number of lenders on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace quoting loan requests with a down payment between 3.5 and 5 percent has risen by 570 percent over the past two years[iii]. 

Homebuyers also do not understand how to secure the best possible interest rate and loan terms. One-quarter (26 percent) of homebuyers incorrectly believe they are obligated to close their loan with the lender that pre-approved them, and, separately, 24 percent of homebuyers incorrectly believe that the best interest rates and fees can always be found through the bank they currently do business with. Additionally, one-third of buyers (34 percent) believe all lenders are required by law to charge the same fees for credit reports and appraisals.  In fact, homebuyers should always shop multiple lenders to compare rates and fees in order to find the best loan for their situation.

The survey also reveals that current homeowners lack understanding of basic refinancing rules, which may be costing them money each month. One in five, or an estimated 14 million homeowners[iv], said they did not believe underwater borrowers could refinance. In fact, more than 2.2 million underwater borrowers have already refinanced through the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program, which was recently extended through 2015[v]. Separately, almost half (47 percent) of current homeowners believe they must wait at least one year between refinancing.

"All too often buyers focus on negotiating a lower home price and ignore the importance of finding the right loan. If a home buyer can lower their interest rate by even half a percentage point, they can not only increase their purchasing power, but save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan," said Erin Lantz, director of mortgages for Zillow. "Buyers should always shop multiple lenders and compare rates and fees and read lender reviews in order to find the best loan for their situation."

Additional survey findings:

  • One-third (34 percent) of polled prospective homebuyers do not know what the term "annual percentage rate" (APR) means. The annual percentage rate (APR) is a yearly rate that reflects the true cost of a mortgage and is inclusive of the interest rate, points, mortgage insurance (when applicable), and other fees, including origination and underwriting fees.  The APR will typically be higher than the interest rate quoted by lenders, and should be used as a starting point when comparing loan quotes between lenders.
  • Half (50 percent) of prospective homebuyers in the study do not understand that mortgage rates change throughout the day. In reality, much like the stock market, mortgage rates can change rapidly throughout the day. To get the optimum rate, it is important to monitor rates and shop around.
  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) of current homeowners incorrectly believe that you must wait seven years after a short sale or foreclosure to purchase again. In most cases, homebuyers with a short sale history typically only need to wait 2-4 years depending on their down payment and the loan type. The waiting period after a foreclosure is longer – typically, buyers need to wait 3-7 years before they can qualify for a new home loan.
  • More than one-third (34 percent) of current homeowners incorrectly believe that you can only refinance your home every 12 months. In reality, homeowners can refinance as often as they want. However, homeowners should weigh the cost of the refinance against the time they will own the home and the monthly payment change to determine if refinancing makes sense.

Interactive Online Quiz and Resources Available
An online version of the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace survey, the "Mortgage IQ Quiz," is available at  and contains the correct answers and detailed explanations to each question. Following the quiz, participants are given a score and resources to learn more about mortgages and the mortgage process. 

About Zillow® Mortgage Marketplace
Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, operated by Zillow, Inc., is a free, open, and transparent lending marketplace, where borrowers connect with lenders to find loans and get the best mortgage rates.  Borrowers anonymously submit loan requests and receive an unlimited number of custom mortgage quotes with real rates directly from thousands of competing lenders.  Zillow Mortgage Marketplace also provides mortgage calculators, mortgage advice, mortgage widgets, and lender directories

Zillow is a registered trademark of Zillow, Inc.

About Ipsos
Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals. Ipsos helps interpret, simulate, and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers, and citizens around the world.

Ipsos has a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999.

Visit to learn more about Ipsos offerings and capabilities.

[i] The percent of homebuyers who correctly answered the survey questions was calculated by averaging the percentages of buyers who correctly answered all eight buyer-specific questions.

[ii] These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted April 4-5, 2013.  For the survey, a nationally representative sample of 1,018 randomly-selected adults aged 18 and over residing in the U.S. was interviewed via Ipsos' U.S. online omnibus.  With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within +/-3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire population of adults in the U.S. been polled.  The margin of error will be larger within subgroupings of the survey population.  The subgroup of prospective and current first-time homebuyers in the sample is 85, which has a margin of error of +/-10.6.  The subgroup of current and prospective homebuyers in the sample is 222, which has a margin of error of +/-6.6. The subgroup of current homeowners in the sample is 635, which has a margin of error of +/-3.9.  These data were weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/gender composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

[iii] According to an April 2013 analysis of unique lender quotes per loan request on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace from March 2011 to March 2013 for purchase loan requests with down payments of less than 5 percent.

[iv] According to the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS), which is an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau that estimates the number of owner-occupied homes.

[v] According to an April 11, 2013 Federal Housing Finance Agency press release.


For further information: Alison Paoli of, 1-206-757-2784,