The vast amount of information available online about mortgages - such as interest rates, loan benchmarks, prepayment penalties, and the like - can cause home buyers to feel confused and overwhelmed when shopping for a mortgage.Â Most surprisingly, a recent survey found that only 61 percent of homeowners surveyed said they comparison shopped for a mortgage, and 39 percent said they took out a home loan based on just one quote.
Resulting from consumer feedback about lending Web sites being unhelpful or difficult to navigate, some of the nation's leading mortgage sites have responded by working to become more consumer-friendly.Â The revamped sites allow borrowers to not only browse lender rates and terms, but also learn about market trends and read comments from other loan shoppers.
One of the challenges borrowers have, according to Keith T. Gumbinger, the vice president of HSH Association, is that while there is plenty of mortgage information available, consumers often have difficulty understanding the technical aspects of a mortgage, such as when an adjustable rate mortgage actually adjusts, and when a prepayment penalty applies.
One site, LendingTree, allows consumers to browse quotes from various lenders, read an array of industry articles, use research tools and calculators, and peruse consumer-generated ratings and reviews of lenders.Â In December, the company created an online feature in which borrowers can post a mortgage-related question to be answered by a LendingTree loan specialist.
Online direct lender, Quicken Loans, offers an expanding number of customer-written reviews on buying and refinancing.Â Beginning in March, consumers can download Quicken Loan's iPhone app and track when appraisals come in, closing dates are set, and when other time-sensitive hurdles in the home-buying process are reached.
Some major lenders also are making changes, including Bank of America, which offers articles and tools specifically for first-time buyers, and another set for more experienced borrowers.Â
Of course, borrowers also can forgo the online aspect of mortgage shopping, and instead work with an experienced mortgage broker who can help guide the buyer through the process, including locking in the best rates available for their situation.
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