Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Online Services Make Home Mortgage Process Easier

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Online Services Make Home Mortgage Process Easier

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- When Sky Tsan refinanced his home mortgage this past winter, he searched the Internet for the best rates, downloaded a loan application, filled it out on his personal computer and e- mailed it -- all in just a few minutes.

What a contrast from 10 years ago, when the 46-year-old engineer and his wife, Sue, first applied for a loan on their three-bedroom Fremont, Calif., ranch: They spent days calling around and searching local newspapers for the best rates and terms, made an appointment with a banker just for an application, took the paperwork home, met again with the banker, then waited for the application to be retyped before signing it and setting the long approval procedure in motion.

Tsan (pronounced Tan) figures he shortened the process in getting his new 6.625 percent 15-year loan by a few weeks this time around. "It was quick and easy... and went so smooth," he said. "I wouldn't do it any other way." First it was books and clothing, then stocks and automobiles -- as more households become comfortable doing business on the Internet, some are now making their single-greatest financial commitment online as well. And more and more, financial institutions, large and small, are scrambling to put mortgage application services online so they won't be left out of what some predict will be a market bonanza. Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., estimates online mortgages will capture nearly 10 percent of the $1.3 trillion mortgage market by the year 2003. The benefits of searching for a mortgage online are obvious: Besides the convenience of shopping 24 hours a day from the comfort of home, it saves time and energy. But will it save money? Sometimes, but not always, industry experts warn. "It's easy to get wrapped up in all the bells and whistles -- like the fancy calculators. But there are still many deals in the local marketplace that will beat any deal you may get at the Net," said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates, a Butler, N.J., mortgage research firm, which also publishes data online (www.hsh.com). And, he said, it's sometimes difficult to tell much about an online lender. It may have a fancy Web site but turn out to be a one- person operation in the middle of nowhere. He suggests borrowers exercise some caution before divulging personal financial information, or at least try to learn something abut the lender and how their privacy will be protected. "You should think of the Net as a tool, a very powerful tool, that will help you find out what's available (in mortgage information), but it's not an end all," Gumbinger said. …

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