Although it all went smoothly today, there were a few times over the past month when I feared it'd get derailed, and the conclusion is: mortgage lenders, whoever they are, probablly all suck at communicating with you. When mzrowan and redheadedmuse's house buying turned into a mess, it turned out there was an explanation, but the bank just didn't tell them. I dealt with a different lender, Monument, but had almost-similar experiences.
What made the difference was having Joe Cooper, who redheadedmuse recommended, arranging things. He connects buyers with lenders, so he works with various banks and mortgage lenders, but the best part of the service he offers is communication. When the lender pulls some random inexplicable move and you go "WTF?!?", Joe explains why they did it, how the rules or laws relate, and even what the original purpose of those rules or laws is, and then you know what you need to do to make things work.
For example, when the lender says "sorry, you seem to be $18,000 short of being able to make your down payment" when I've looked at all the numbers and I know I have more than enough, they don't explain anything. They expect that I just take them at face value. Joe explains to me how we got laws requiring documenting the source of my funds, what funds do and don't need to be documented, and the key fact that since I made my deposit to the seller in July, that means they have to consider my July bank statement since that statement documents the deposit, which in turn means I have to document the source of any funds that went into my account in July, even though I thought I only needed to document what went in in August since they said they only need to look at one bank statement.
I second muse's recommendation: If you're going to get a mortgage without the standard lawyers and brokers, and you're not already very familiar with the process, don't try to deal directly with a lender; call Joe Cooper at 617-969-1441.