When it comes to shopping for a mortgage lender, rates are important, but they aren’t the whole story. Mortgage banking is a service like any other, and just like you wouldn’t automatically pick the least expensive contractor to work on your home, you don’t want to bargain hunt for your mortgage professional. More than a quarter of recent homebuyers felt as though they were not a priority to their lender, and nearly one-third found the home loan process “stressful.”1
Homebuyers may prioritize different qualities they look for in their lenders. But no matter what your experience or expectations may be, it’s clear that communication and transparency are paramount to having a good experience with a mortgage lender. While you may kick off your search for a lender with independent research, you should also ask friends, family and your social network for recommendations. Finding someone you trust who can guide you through the process with confidence is key to a successful and low-stress home buying journey.
Sign #1: They have the experience to walk you through the process
Buying a home is challenging enough without the hassle of preventable surprises. Just 27 percent of recent homebuyers said the mortgage process was “organized,” while another 27 percent thought it was “complicated” and 23 percent found it “frustrating.”1 One frustration? Lack of information and clarity from the get-go. Others are inconvenienced by repeated, scattered requests for information throughout the process.
Those with better experiences appreciated transparency from their lenders. Luke W., 37, says, “My lender was amazing to work with. He took extra time to make sure my loan packet had more information in it than he thought the underwriters would need so there were no additional requests from them that could delay the loan proceedings.”
A loan officer should ideally have gone through a scenario similar to yours before and take time to walk you through the process as it begins. They should also set clear expectations for timing and next steps. Margaret P., 29, says, “After my offer was accepted, my lender reached out right away to get the mortgage process moving. And because he was so organized, there were no surprises when I got the final disclosure, and everything went smoothly at the closing.”
Sign #2: They communicate frequently
The majority of consumers (90 percent) prefer person-to-person communication with their lender, and phone calls are the most popular communication channel followed by email.2 When it comes to overall satisfaction with the process, however, accessibility and frequent touch points are even more important than the communication channel itself.3
The typical loan process can take more than 40 days after the application is submitted.4 During this period, you may start to feel anxious, and steady communication can help reassure you that everything is on track. Luke recalls, “My lender called me almost once a week or more depending on where we were in the process. He also followed up after closing to make sure I didn't have any issues.”
Many recent homebuyers appreciate staying informed throughout the application process to make sure everything is on track (even if there aren’t new updates to share). And buyers who have access to real-time support and online information have less risk of unnecessary back-and-forth causing delays.
Sign #3: They have access to helpful technology
Lenders who embrace technology can streamline the process for their clients and provide a more satisfactory journey. More than two-thirds of recent borrowers (71 percent) had access to an online portal through their lender, and the majority of users agreed that access to technology improved the borrowing process.5 Some of today’s lenders (including SunTrust) offer a digital, paperless platform that allows consumers to complete their mortgage application entirely online in roughly 30 to 40 minutes.6
Some recent buyers found electric signatures helpful, while others appreciated other perks: Simon R., 47, remembers, “We had a mobile notary come to our house in the evening to sign final documents. It wasn’t expensive and saved us from having to take a day off work to make an office visit.”
Having someone you can trust with questions (and who’s there with answers) can make all the difference between a smooth process and a stressful one.