Your question is somewhat dated; however, I think many First Time Home Buyers (FTHB) have the same trepidaton and anxiety about the home buying process and I alway appreciate the opportunity to clarify and educate about the mortgage process. As a HUD certified FTHB counselor and a mortgage professional with over 20 years helping FHTB I believe I have the experience to shed a little light on your questions.
First, I would never encourage a FTHB to work with a Big Box lender (Wells, BofA, Chase). Frankly, most experience Real Estate professionals I know cringe when a borrower brings any of them into the mortgage process so the recommendations below are a bit baffling. The reasons for my adversion to Big Box lenders are:
1). The loan officers are registered with NMLS, but currently are not required to be licensed. While many loan officers at BBL are excellent (I started my career with Security Pacific Bank), the reality is that there is a huge variance is knowledge and experience.
2). The business model of BBL is one of volume, not consultation and education. Even if the loan officer has the best of intentions, the fact is they are paid on a per file basis and the name of the game is huge volume. FTHB need a consultant who has time for them!
3). The business model is also usually in a centralized processing structure. Once the loan officer takes an application and gathers preliminary documents the file is sent to a "pool" of processors, underwriters, closers and funders. The loan officer has virtually no control of the process. On the contrary, I walk down the hall or make a call to one of my Team members to get clarification or update. Maintaining control of the process is essential for successful closings of my transactions....and my sanity.
Next, I would never recommend a FTHB to work with Quicken or other online discount mortgage companies.
First, as a top producing consultant for an online company(s) for almost five years...closing in excess of 25 loans per month...I know the inside of the business model. Reasons for a FTHB to avoid:
1). The business model is VOLUME. The loan officer is paid per file....the incentive is closings, not service.
2). The business model is "Cookie Cutter". There is no process for a loan that does not "fit" for one reason or another. It would simply be declined.
3). When I worked online I (and other professional, experienced consultants I worked with) had the good sense to tell potential FTHB's that our business model was not set up to service their transaction smoothly and that, ethically, the best advice we could give them would be to work with a mortgage banker/broker who worked with purchase transactions.
Finally, I am not saying there is anything inherently "bad" about either Big Box Lenders or Online Lenders...for goodness sake, I have worked for both! I am just advocating that First Time Home Buyers deserve more service than either would, or could, provide.
All my best,