I realize that I’m not directly answering your questions, but I do have some advice to offer as a somewhat recent first-time home buyer (and even more recent refinancer). When I originally purchased my home, I used a local lender recommended by my realtor. In the end, I never met with the lender face-to-face because it was easy enough to handle everything over the phone and by email/fax. A few months ago, I decided to refinance because rates were so low. I obtained a quote from my original lender, but also shopped around. What I learned (and what I wish I knew back when I obtained my original mortgage) was that rates are generally consistent from lender to lender but fees vary tremendously–and are almost always negotiable. The refinance deal from my original lender included about $10,000 in various closing fees. The lender I ended up using paid everything (and I mean actually paid…I didn’t buy points or roll the fees into the loan). In this “borrower’s market,” you really shouldn’t be paying any closing fees. If your lender won’t negotiate with you, you’re probably getting ripped off. I used Google’s Mortgage Advisor (which has sadly been discontinued) to compare various lender offers, but I’m sure other online lender comparison sites exist. In the end I used RoundPoint Mortgage Company. From start to finish, a team of three or four people worked with me through the various steps. All were extremely responsive and available to answer any questions that I had. Communication via phone and email is actually much more convenient for this type of thing than in-person meetings and postal mail. So, all of this to say: shop around. It saved me over $10,000, and had I know when I originally obtained the mortgage, I would have saved twice that amount. A lender should provide you with a GFE (good faith estimate) which discloses all closing costs. Comparing GFEs is the only way you can really know if you’re getting the best deal. If a lender won’t provide a GFE, they probably have something to hide. Asking for a GFE does not commit you to a lender (although some will try to make you think it does). Good luck, and don’t be afraid to keep asking questions. It’s a stressful process and all seems to happen at once, so you’re already a step ahead by doing your research now.
(Just a note about RoundPoint: after you close, they’ll likely sell your mortgage to Chase. This is how they make their money, but it doesn’t change any of the terms or conditions of your loan–just where you send the check.)