LOS ANGELES - The Associated Press
Mortgage lenders have raised the bar on what it takes to qualify for a home loan the last couple of years, but shopping for a loan online has actually gotten a bit easier, if not necessarily less confusing.
Where mortgage-scouting Web sites traditionally required users to enter a swath of personal information to generate rate estimates, the newest sites offer users a way to comparison shop for a loan under the cozy blanket of anonymity.
This can help allay concerns over turning over too much personal information online or of being hounded for weeks by mortgage lenders soliciting your business.
Question is, do these rates hold up once real names, credit scores and other personal details come into the picture?
"My gut instinct is that there will be a wide disparity about what rates are quoted on these sites and what they actually end up with, and not necessarily due to the borrower," Robert Statnick, chairman of the California Mortgage Bankers Association. "All the sites may not collect all the data that's necessary to give an actual price quote."
In fact, the lenders ultimately do collect the data they need to figure out what to charge for a loan, but these sites have made it possible to delay that step to give the prospective borrower enough time to shop incognito.
Zillow.com and MortgageMarvel.com have embraced this consumer-friendly concept in the past year, although that's where their similarities end.
Mortgage Marvel bills itself as the mortgage-shopping version of travel sites Orbitz.com or Expedia.com.
The site, which officially launched in the spring of this year, is operated by Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Mortgagebot LLC, a provider of online loan-origination technology for banks and other lenders.
Like the online travel sites, Mortgage Marvel lets users enter details on the kind of mortgage loan they need and the site rounds up real-time rate and lender fee quotes directly from hundreds of lenders.
The site boasts that users don't need to punch in personal details to get real rates, not teaser rates used to bait visitors. But the catch is users must have a credit score of 720 or better.
Mortgage Marvel says it can make this claim because it's tapped directly into the 250 banks and credit unions' own automated loan pricing databases. The site requires users to enter only three pieces of information: the loan amount, the property's value and its ZIP code. Users can toss in a few more variables, including specifying whether they're looking to buy a condo or a detached home, whether they'd prefer a 30-year, fixed-interest rate loan or an adjustable rate mortgage.