Online mortgage shopping at major mortgage Web sites comes with delays, misleading claims, pressure tactics and unnecessary risks to your personal financial information.What’s more, it’s easier to find lower rates at traditional brick and mortar lenders with local offices.
“Rates, in fact, remain one of the disappointments with online mortgages overall,” said Consumer Reports after its testers went shopping for mortgages online.
“If you don’t mind sending a lot of personal financial information through cyberspace and fielding phone calls from salespeople, online mortgage shopping can be a good way to get a feel for what’s out there,” the report found.
“But if you’re like us, you probably do mind. What’s more, when we checked the Web sites of local banks to find out what they offered, we discovered that it is possible to find rates in your own backyard that are lower than or comparable to those advertised on the major mortgage Web sites,” according to “Getting A Line On An Online Loan,” a recent Consumer Reports Money Adviser test of six mortgage Web sites.
The April report is in line with other recent studies that reveal big hopes for online mortgage shopping were dashed along with the dot com bust. Mortgage information online has been a boon to consumers, but when it comes to mortgage shopping, the Internet has effectively given consumers little more than a new way to face some of the same old problems.
Here’s what Consumer Reports discovered when test shopping three lenders, a broker and two mortgage information Web sites for a zero-point, 15-year fixed-rate refinancing for a $99,000 balance on a single-family house in suburban New York:
Ditech (a lender), a GMAC Mortgage business unit, revealed that sales pitches are just that, pitches. Consumer Reports discovered that Ditech’s televised advertising — a flat closing cost fee of $395 — was often attached to loans that are more expensive over the life of the loan than those with higher closing costs. Unfortunately, an online applicant won’t discover that until he or she has submitted their Social Security number and other financial information in an application. Without that information the online application process refuses to proceed.
Quicken Loans (a lender) received favorable Consumer Reports comments for knowledge, courteousness, online tools and an accessible Web site staff, but unfavorable comments for sharing applicants’ information with partners. The tester also found that Quicken’s quote “wasn’t particularly low.”
HSH (an information Web site) lists lenders by state and their rates and provides links to lenders’ Web site where applicants can further check rates and apply for a loan. The bank Consumer Reports tester found through HSH, a regional lender in New Jersey and New York City, offered the best overall rate found in the magazine’s test of online mortgage shopping Web sites. Closing costs, however, were “hefty.”
Bankrate (an information Web site) allows applicants to choose loans by city or county instead of by state, but like HSH “Some of the mortgage providers listed on the two Web sites aren’t banks but brokers, who could prod you into a higher-priced mortgage to collect a fee from the lender called a yield-spread premium, which translates into a higher interest rate for you,” Consumer Reports reported.
LendingTree (a broker) offers an extensive, 79-question application it sends to up to four lenders. Applicants have no way to examine a given lender’s privacy policies until after the application is complete and then only if the lender contacts the applicant.
“Sales reps trying to close the deal barraged us with so many phone calls that it felt as if they really were on the doorstep,” Consumer Reports wrote.
The magazine said the online mortgage process initially was supposed to be a painless alternative to brick and mortar loan shopping making comparing lenders and loans easy.
“We found that applying for a loan online could sometimes be more annoying than using a bank,” Consumer Reports concluded.