In this era of specialization and litigation most agents shy away from giving financing advice to their clients.
The general consensus seems to be that since the mortgage lender is an expert in the field, you should set your client up with a lender to arrange for all that complicated financing stuff.
Although your buyer will more then likely have to get financing, I don't think it's in your best interest to defer all financing questions to the lender - and here's why.
Assuming that you've developed a good rapport with your buyer, why risk the chance that the lender doesn't strike the same cord with your client? Not only that, but doesn't it seem that your buyer would have more confidence in the lending process if their agent not only knew the options, but could explain them in some detail?
I'm sure your company attorney and your E & O carrier would want you to defer all questions that you don't have some knowledge about to an expert in the field - and that's good advice. But why can't you educate yourself to a point where you can tell buyers about various loan programs that currently exist and the basic criteria for qualifying for each program?
I know you want your buyers to be "pre-approved" before you even show them houses, but that doesn't mean you can't have a financing discussion with them prior to meeting with the lender. You ask some basic questions, make sure you understand the buyer's needs, and help the buyer get a mental picture of what type(s) of program will work for them.
Now I know that many loans have some "iffy" situations, and that underwriters can be temper mental. But you can caveat some details while giving your buyer a good basic understanding of what they can expect for a down payment, what rates are being quoted that day and how much closing costs usually run.
The way you accomplish all of this is to work with lenders that you trust and who know how you want them to handle your buyers.
Instead of giving your buyers to the last lender that came to your sales meeting promising 20 day closings, interview lenders until you meet a couple that seem to be a good fit for you. Ask them to explain - in detail - what types of programs they offer. Don't let them go until you have a good understanding of the programs. (If you can't understand it, how do you expect your buyer to?) Have them do a cost break-down for you on each loan that fits the client base you work with. Make sure you run several scenarios by the lender regarding potential buyer problems so that you cover a wide spectrum of variables - and don't forget to ask about their "lock-in policy."
Then when your totally satisfied that you understand what's being offered, let the lender know what to expect from you and how you want your clients to be handled.
Since this approach is so much different then what most lenders are used to seeing, it's time for you to lay down the rules of doing business with you.
I tell the lender that any buyers that I send their way will have been pre-qualifed (by me) for a particular type of loan program. My buyers will have a good idea of what's expected of them and what to expect from the lender.
I let the lender know that I will not tolerate them switching programs on my buyers without my knowledge. The fact that their boss told them to sell a certain product that day isn't my concern. And, if I ever suspect that the lender is skimming the loan, I'll have them drawn and quartered at high noon in the public square!
Besides the common sense concerns about keeping me posted on the loan progress, I also tell the lender that they have to let me have the pleasure of telling the buyer that their loan is approved!
I don't want to lose any positive connects with my clients. I also want the lender to tell me if their loan is denied - and the reasons why - so I can do what's necessary to fix them.
Vertually any lender worth their salt appreciates doing business with an agent that you knows what's going on. It actually makes their job some what easier. Plus, the lender knows that they've got a pit-bull on the other end of the deal.
Remember, it's a jungle out there. So be the Tiger!