Real estate agents keep telling me that today's home-buyer is better educated and informed because of the Internet.

Yet every day something comes across my horizon that blows that observation out of the water.

The latest was a revelation by a survey from bankrate.com that 35 percent of the respondents who have a mortgage say they are not very confident they know what their mortgage rate is.

I'll repeat that: 35 percent of the people don't know what mortgage rate they have.

I thought of a conversation I'd had with Lawrence Tobler, of the AllStar Realty Group, a few months ago for the Town by Town column on Yeadon.

I said I had the impression that the prolonged real estate downturn offered lessons for home-buyers and sellers alike, and the resulting market was filled with better-educated consumers.

Tobler agreed, but then added: "Some of them insist that they know more than I do. Of course, they don't."

The statistic took Michael Elia, of Weichert Realtors in West Chester, aback.

His first question was, of course, location, meaning "Who participated in this survey?" When I replied, "nationally," he seemed relieved.

"My buyers are very savvy," Elia said. "I encourage them to shop around for a mortgage, and to ask all the right questions, even if they have a friend or relative in the business."

BHHS Fox & Roach agent Mark Wade in Center City has this belief: "The most common myth when buyers choose a lender is to think they might have a leg up with one if it might also be the bank in which the buyer has a checking account."

"I don't see how that benefits a buyer when making a decision of which lender to choose," Wade said, adding, "the best approach is for buyers to get two quotes, then compare."

The interest rate is not the only defining factor. Fees can vary greatly from lender to lender, Wade said.

It is best to get the rate and costs in writing so a buyer can compare apples to apples, Wade said.

In one way, bankrate.com's statistic isn't surprising.

While buyers are being encouraged by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to "shop around" for the lowest rates, real estate agents such as Elia, Wade and Tobler, mortgage brokers and all others with common sense know that the lowest rates may not be the best deal.

The annual percentage rate, or APR, is what borrowers should be looking at anyway.

APR includes certain noninterest charges and fees as well as the interest rate, and, under the Truth in Lending Act, must be disclosed to the borrower within three days of the mortgage application.

An amortization schedule, which shows the borrower how much of the monthly payment is applied to principal and to interest over the life of the loan, accompanies this lender disclosure.

This all sounds pretty basic to me, but you never know. Those in authority try periodically to make all the documentation involved in a home purchase simpler, but it really doesn't seem to work the way they would like it.

Agents tell me that buyers still have glazed looks when the title agent hands them documents to read at closing, even after eight years of evidence that they need to read it all.

"The mortgage process can seem daunting to many individuals," said S. Clark Kendus, of Weichert Realtors in Media, who adds that they should rely on their agent to give them guidance in dealing with lenders and brokers.

"Service is so important and communication is key," said Marilou Buffum, of BHHS Fox & Roach in Chestnut Hill.

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472 @alheavens