Digital Mortgage Platform Maxwell Lands $16.3M in Funding

Maxwell, a digital platform serving small to mid-size mortgage originators, has raised $16.3 million that it plans to use for product development, market penetration and hiring. So reports Crowdfund Insider.

Launched in 2016, the company says it uses artificial intelligence to speed up and simplify the mortgage process for community lenders and home buyers.

“With this latest round of funding, we will deliberately and rigorously invest in the future we initially set out to pursue five years ago: a better, more efficient mortgage experience for community lenders and their borrowers,” Maxwell co-founder and CEO John Paasonen wrote on the company’s website.

Read the full article from Crowdfund Insider.


HomeLight Cash Close: Make All-Cash Offers and Trade-In Your Old Home for a New One

Posted on February 10th, 2020

Real estate agent matchmaker HomeLight has launched two new programs for homeowners in California that make it easier to buy and sell by leveraging the power of cash.

The new initiative, known as “HomeLight’s Cash Close program,” includes HomeLight Trade-In and HomeLight Cash Offer.

They can be utilized by both first-time home buyers and existing homeowners who may be looking to buy before they sell in a competitive market.

The new offerings flank HomeLight’s iBuyer service known as Simple Sale, which generates all-cash offers in 48 hours or less.

How the HomeLight Cash Offer Program Works

  • Get pre-approved to determine home purchasing power
  • Tour properties with a real estate agent and make your offer
  • HomeLight will either guarantee you are clear to close or purchase the home on your behalf
  • Cash offers can be 3X more likely to win and 5% cheaper vs. financed offers

Just about everyone knows that cash is king, and it’s no different in the real estate game.

A home seller is much more likely to go with a cash buyer versus someone who must get approved for a mortgage, given the uncertainty with the latter.

With HomeLight Cash Offer, you can make an all-cash offer using funds from HomeLight, then secure your financing after the fact.

Here’s how it works. First, their subsidiary HomeLight Home Loans verifies your income and assets to determine your purchasing power, similar to a mortgage pre-approval.

Then you tour homes with your agent (or one recommended by HomeLight), and when ready, make your all-cash offer that comes with a “speedy guaranteed close.”

HomeLight either guarantees that you are clear to close or they’ll purchase the property on your behalf, then transfer ownership once financing is completed.

HomeLight notes that cash offers are 3X more likely to win, and can generate savings of 5% on average versus financed offers.

In other words, you can bid less for a property and still beat out other buyers, thanks to the certainty of cash.

But in this case, you’re doing it with another company’s money, instead of your own, similar to the Reali Cash Offer or BoardRE.

How the HomeLight Trade-In Program Works

  • Existing homeowners can trade in their current home for a new home
  • Don’t have to deal with buying/selling at same time or related contingencies
  • HomeLight provides a guaranteed sales price for your existing home
  • When you make an offer on a new home they provide funds to make that purchase
  • They will then attempt to sell your home for more than the guaranteed price and let you keep the upside

If you’re already a homeowner, but want to sell your old home and purchase a new one, it can be tricky to do so.

No one loves contingencies, and if anything, they can hurt your negotiating power on both ends of the deal.

To avoid them, you can turn to HomeLight Trade-In, which allows you to bid on a new property without worrying about unloading your existing one.

First, you apply for a HomeLight Cash Close and the company will provide you with a guaranteed offer to purchase your home.

At the same time, you’ll need to determine how much you can afford to spend on the replacement property.

When you find a home and your offer is accepted, HomeLight will purchase your existing home at the guaranteed price, freeing up funds to use for the new home purchase.

To sweeten the deal, HomeLight will let you keep the upside if they sell your old home for more than the guaranteed price.

What Does It Cost?

While both these features sound pretty sweet, there is a cost involved.

The HomeLight Cash Offer fee is 0.5% of the purchase price, assuming you use HomeLight Home Loans to finance the purchase.

For example, on a $500,000 purchase the fee would be $2,500.

However, if you do not use HomeLight Home Loans to obtain your mortgage, the HomeLight Cash Offer jumps up to 2% of the purchase price.

Using our same example, the cost is a whopping $10,000.

In other words, they want you to use their lender division to complete the transaction.

For HomeLight Trade-In, they charge a fee to purchase, hold, and sell your current home.

Again, there is discount pricing if you use HomeLight Home Loans. If you do, the HomeLight Trade-In fee is 1% for the first 30 days that HomeLight owns the property, then 0.5% for every 30 days thereafter.

If you use a different lender, the HomeLight Trade-In fee is 3% for the first thirty days that HomeLight owns the property, then 0.5% for every 30 days thereafter.

They calculate the HomeLight Trade-In fee by using the final sales price of your existing home.

So you’ll want to unload the property quickly to avoid being hit with lots of fees, but the idea is you’ll save money by avoiding contingencies.

HomeLight Cash Close is only available in California, but the company expects to launch in additional states this year.

HomeLight Home Loans

  • Purchase-only lender available in 8 states
  • Offers 5/1 and 7/1 ARMs and 30-year fixed
  • Apply in 30 minutes and get a full underwrite in 24 hours
  • Has never missed a closing date (21-Day Close Guarantee)
  • Doesn’t charge any lender fees

In July 2019, HomeLight acquired digital mortgage lender Eave, creating HomeLight Home Loans in the process.

HomeLight notes that the Cash Close products highlighted above are powered by HomeLight’s Home Loans and Closing Services divisions.

Essentially, their “Full Upfront Financial Underwrite” allows you to make cash-like offers because they determine exactly what you can afford, not just a ballpark estimate.

It apparently takes just five minutes to get pre-approved, 30 minutes to submit a complete loan application with the help of a dedicated loan officer, and 24 hours to receive a fully-underwritten approval.

You don’t have to be under contract to get a complete underwrite, helpful if you want certainty before house hunting.

And they say they’ve never missed a closing date, with their 21-Day Close Guarantee in place if they do.

In short, they’ll reimburse lost earnest money up to $100,000 if you don’t close on-time and it’s their fault.

At the moment, they only offer home purchases loans – they plan to offer refinance loans in the future. They offer two ARMs, a 5/1 and 7/1, along with the 30-year fixed.

The company doesn’t charge any lender fees, including no origination fee, application, or processing fee.

HomeLight Home Loans is currently available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, with more states expected to launch soon.


Costco Mortgage Review: What Don’t They Do?

Costco, the well-known mega wholesaler that runs a chain of membership warehouses internationally, rolled out it’s so-called “Mortgage Services” back in 2011.

Now known as “The Mortgage Program,” their lending partners have funded nearly 200,000 mortgages worth more than $51 billion.

Costco already offers all types of insurance, a co-branded credit card, RV and boat loans, food and drink, jewelry, electronics, not to mention gigantic tubs of mayonnaise.

So what’s the deal here? Why did Costco get into mortgages? Could it really be that profitable?

Costco Is Marketing Mortgages, Not Actually Making Them

  • Just to be clear here, there is no Costco Mortgage
  • Nor is Costco actually originating mortgages on their own (they are NOT a lender)
  • They are simply marketing home loans via their lending partners
  • Because they have a massive stable of customers who are or want to become homeowners

Let me start by saying there is no “Costco Mortgage.” It does not exist.

What Costco’s really doing is marketing a mortgage product on behalf of another company, formerly First Choice Loan Services Inc., and now CrossCountry Mortgage.

CrossCountry actually oversees a group of preferred lenders, including national depository banks and mortgage bankers, such as NASB Home Loans and Consumer Direct Mortgage.

Apparently, Costco doesn’t get paid for the loans that close or receive any sort of loan origination fee, but there’s obviously some financial agreement in place for the partnership.

Costco initially partnered with First Choice Loan Services Inc., a Berkshire Bank subsidiary, but have since switched to CrossCountry Mortgage.

The lender is essentially leveraging the warehouse chain’s loyal and enormous customer base.

That means we should be more concerned about who CrossCountry Mortgage is, which is the company that’s really doing the mortgage lending here, including taking the loan application and underwriting, processing, and funding it.

CrossCountry Mortgage is based out of Brecksville, Ohio, and has been around since 2003. They have 200 branches nationwide and are licensed in all 50 states.

Despite only being around since 2003, they’ve grown exponentially and now have a team of 3000+ employees that produce $14+ billion annually. Thanks Costco!

They are a direct lender that offers all types of home loans, including conventional stuff backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with government loans like FHA and VA loans.

Costco apparently oversees the company (and the other lenders in The Mortgage Program), holding them to rigorous standards to ensure they protect their good name and their own customers, though they don’t endorse them or hold themselves responsible.

Costco Lender Partners Now Offer Jumbo Mortgages

  • Early on Costco didn’t offer jumbo loans
  • Which is ironic given the company’s typically economy-sized offerings
  • But you can now get anything from a conforming loan to a jumbo loan
  • Or an FHA loan, USDA loan, VA loan, and even a renovation loan

Ironically, when the Costco Mortgage program first started they only seemed to offer conventional loans, FHA loans, and VA loans.

There was no mention of jumbo loans, despite Costco specializing in all things jumbo, like massive tubs of mayonnaise.

So if you needed a big home loan, you’d be out of luck. But times have changed and CrossCountry now advertises jumbo loans up to $5 million dollar loan amounts.

Anyway, aside from purchase money mortgages and refinance loans, they also offer renovation loans, including the popular FHA 203k loan and the Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage.

And they’re all about streamline refinances, such as the FHA streamline refinance and the VA IRRRL refinance.

Older Costco members (62+ years of age) might be interested in their reverse mortgage program as well.

Current Participants in The Mortgage Program from Costco

  • CrossCountry Mortgage
  • (formerly eRates Mortgage)
  • NASB Home Loans
  • Strong Home Mortgage
  • Consumer Direct Mortgage (a division of FirstBank)
  • NBKC Bank
  • Mutual of Omaha Mortgage

Former Participants in the Costco Mortgage Program

– Bank of Internet USA
– Berkshire Bank
– CapWest Home Loans
– J.G. Wentworth Home Lending, LLC
– PennyMac Loan Services, LLC

Costco Mortgage Works More Like a Mortgage Lead Service

  • It’s more of a lead acquisition program than it is a unique home loan lending program
  • Costco is just playing matchmaker by connecting their customers with a mortgage lender
  • Similar to what they do with most of the products they sell on behalf of manufacturers
  • But they do offer some special benefits for Costco members

In a way, the Costco Mortgage program works kind of like a mortgage lead service.

Costco members enter in their personal details, including property and loan information, and are then presented with a number of mortgage rate quotes from CrossCountry Mortgage and other affiliates.

If you happen to like their rates, your lender fees will also be discounted because Costco caps them.

In terms of financing options, Costco has nothing to do with what is and isn’t offered. They don’t set the minimum down payment or get involved with any other underwriting guidelines.

The same goes for mortgage rates – Costco doesn’t set them or have anything to do with them, but they say they’re “competitive.”

As noted, they simply let CrossCountry Mortgage and other lenders advertise their loan products to their client base.

Costco Mortgage Lender Fees Are Capped

  • Costco provides reduced lender fees for its members
  • Which includes things like application, underwriting, and processing
  • But not third-party costs like appraisal and title/escrow fees
  • Executive members only pay lender fees of $350 or less
  • Gold star members pay lender fees of $650 or less

One plus to the program is that lender fees are capped for Costco members, with Executive Members paying $350 or less and Gold Star Members paying $650 or less.

Be sure to compare this to standard lender fees, which can range from zero to a very high number depending on the circumstances.

Also look beyond lender fees and consider the mortgage interest rate along with any closing costs charged.

While we know there are some potential savings here, it really depends what the interest rate is that goes along with those fees. Closing costs can’t be viewed in a vacuum, we need context.

Costco Mortgage Rates

Remember, Costco Mortgage doesn’t exist, so that means there aren’t “Costco Mortgage Rates.”

Instead, there are mortgage rates offered by lenders participating in The Mortgage Program for Costco.

As such, their rates will likely vary from lender to lender, and by unique loan scenario.

The good news is you should be able to get quotes from multiple lenders in one go, which is sort of like using a mortgage broker.

Then you can compare these rates and determine who to use, knowing they all cap lender fees since they’re part of the Costco program.

Just remember to consider lenders outside the Costco program as well to really see where they stand.

Costco Mortgage Reviews

On Trustpilot, The Mortgage Program for Costco Members currently has a 4.8-star rating out of 5 based on nearly 4,000 customer reviews.

That is an excellent rating, and a generally good sign that customers are happy with the lenders Costco has partnered with.

As noted, they work with a handful of lenders, so you may want to check out their reviews separately as well.

For example, CrossCountry Mortgage has a very solid rating of 4.97 out of 5 stars on Zillow based on nearly 10,000 reviews.

And NBKC Bank has a 4.93-star rating out of 5 on Zillow based on 9,600+ reviews.

Similarly, NASB Home Loans has a 4.95-star rating out of 5 on Zillow based on more than 1,000 reviews.

Be sure to check out the reviews of the lender partner you eventually consider to see where they stand.

Should You Use Costco to Get a Mortgage?

  • Costco is yet another option to consider when searching for a mortgage
  • But I wouldn’t rely on Costco alone to find the perfect home loan
  • If you don’t shop around elsewhere you won’t know if it’s a good deal or a bad one
  • Always take the time to obtain multiple quotes to ensure you properly comparison shop

Back in the day, there was one thing that stood out to me in the fine print that I didn’t love.

This is actually no longer on their website, but at one point they noted that lenders are “held to very strict pricing and fee standards which limit their ability to negotiate a lower fee or rate.”

To me, that told customers to just accept the rate they were given because it was already rock bottom.

While it’s not there anymore, and hopefully that’s no longer their position, I always recommend negotiating your mortgage rate, no matter how good or low it might be. There’s always room to go lower or to go elsewhere.

All in all, it appears as if Costco is just another avenue to go down while shopping for a mortgage, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

More options are generally a good thing.

I certainly wouldn’t blindly rely on Costco to find you the best mortgage out there. If you’re a Costco member, sure, give them a chance to beat other lenders.

But don’t just contact Costco and call it a day. You should also shop around beyond Costco to make sure you exhaust all lender options.

This includes checking out other online lenders, visiting a local bank or two, a credit union, and speaking with a mortgage broker or three. Don’t cut corners!

Getting a mortgage is a big deal, and even a slight change in interest rate can mean thousands in savings or costs over the life of your loan.

Pros and Cons of Costco Mortgage

The Good

  • Home loans are originated by CrossCountry Mortgage, or a similarly high-rated mortgage lender
  • Can apply online or at a brick-and-mortar branch
  • They offer a digital mortgage application powered by Blend
  • Lots of loan types to choose from including jumbos
  • Lender fees are capped at $350 for Executive Members and $650 for Gold Star Members
  • Licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • More than 92% of Costco members rated The Mortgage Program as excellent, very good, or good

The Maybe Not Great

  • The mortgage doesn’t actually come from Costco (just their lender partner CrossCountry Mortgage or another affiliate)

Read more: What mortgage rate can I expect?

(photo: greenwenvy08)


Amerifirst Financial Review: They Take Home Purchase Lending Seriously

Posted on February 24th, 2021

It’s not every day you come across a large-scale independent mortgage lender that has been around since the 1980s, but Amerifirst Financial Inc. fits that description.

The Arizona-based company understands that there’s more to the mortgage business than just refinances, which is why their goal is to be the lender of choice for real estate professionals in all the markets they serve.

This could be a pretty smart strategy if and when interest rates rise and the pool of eligible refinance candidates begins to run dry.

If you’re thinking about buying a home, Amerifirst could be good choice for your financing needs since they’re heavily focused on purchase loans. Let’s discover more about them.

Amerifirst Financial Fast Facts

  • Direct-to-consumer retail mortgage lender
  • Founded in 1989, headquartered Mesa, Arizona
  • Offers home purchase financing and mortgage refinances
  • Funded more than $2 billion in home loans last year
  • Most active in Arizona, Colorado, and California
  • Licensed to do business in 43 states and the District of Columbia
  • Also operate several DBAs including AFI Mortgage, Spire Financial, and Truly Mortgage

Amerifirst Financial Inc. is a direct-to-consumer retail mortgage lender, meaning they operate a call center along with branches throughout the country.

The company was founded all the way back in 1989 and is headquartered in Mesa, Arizona, which is just east of Phoenix.

They also have branches in nine states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

Amerifirst appears to specialize in home purchase financing, with roughly two-thirds of total volume dedicated to home buyers.

The rest can be attributed to mortgage refinances, including rate and term refinances and cash out refinances.

Last year, the company funded more than $2 billion in home loans, with nearly a billion in their home state of Arizona.

They’re also very active in Colorado and California, and have a decent presence in Nevada and Texas as well.

While they’re licensed in most states nationally, they don’t seem to be available in Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or West Virginia.

How to Apply with Amerifirst Financial

  • You can get started instantly by visiting their website and clicking “Apply Now”
  • They offer a digital mortgage application powered by ICE that lets you complete most tasks on your own
  • It’s also possible to browse their online loan officer (or branch) directory first to find someone to work with nearby
  • Once your loan is submitted you can manage it 24/7 via the online borrower portal

Amerifirst Financial makes it super easy to get started on your home loan application.

Simply head to their website and click on the big “Apply Now” button and you’ll be off to the races.

That will take you to their digital mortgage application powered by ICE that lets you input all your personal and financial details electronically.

Then you can link financial accounts using your credentials to avoid having to scan/upload or track down your documents.

Additionally, you can order your own credit report and eSign disclosures to speed through the more painstaking part of the process in a matter of minutes.

Once your loan is submitted and approved, you’ll receive a to-do list with any conditions that must be met to get to the finish line.

You’ll also be able to track and manage your loan via the online borrower portal, and get in touch with your lending team if and when you have questions.

Those who prefer a more human touch can also visit a local branch and/or browse the online loan officer directory to learn more about the individuals who work there.

It may also be advisable to speak with a loan officer first to discuss loan pricing and available loan programs, then proceed to the online mortgage application.

In any case, they make it really simple to apply for a mortgage and manage your loan from start to finish thanks to the latest technology.

Protect Your Transaction Pre-Approval for Home Buyers

Protect Your Transaction

One perk to using Amerifirst Financial, especially if you’re buying a home in a competitive market, is their “Protect Your Transaction” loan commitment.

It goes beyond both a pre-qualification and pre-approval in that it’s underwritten upfront by a real human loan underwriter.

In fact, the PYT even comes with monetary assurance (up to $15,000, with an additional $5,000 for first responders and teachers), which represents their belief in the strength of your application.

So if the loan falls through and it turns out to be the lender’s fault, you could be entitled to that cash, which can also be shared with the seller. This may strengthen your offer.

Next to a cash offer, they believe it provides the greatest assurance that they can provide financing for your home purchase.

And that could just be enough to give you edge versus other home buyers on a hot home.

It may also give you peace of mind in the process, knowing you can actually get financing when all is said and done.

Loan Programs Offered by Amerifirst Financial

  • Home purchase loans
  • Refinance loans: rate and term, cash out, streamline
  • Conforming home loans
  • High-balance and jumbo home loans
  • FHA/USDA/VA loans
  • Down payment assistance
  • Green Value Mortgage
  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options available

Amerifirst Financial offers both home purchase loans and refinance loans, including rate and term, cash out, and streamline refinances.

You can get financing on a primary residence, including townhomes/condos, along with a vacation home or 1-4 unit investment property.

They offer all the popular loan types, including conforming loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, high-balance and jumbo loans, and government-backed options like FHA, USDA, and VA loans.

They also offer an exclusive loan program known as the “Green Value Mortgage” that offers a reduced interest rate, fees, and discounted mortgage insurance if your property has a green score of 75 or lower.

You may also be eligible to receive up to 3.5% of the purchase price as a non-repayable gift. All the more reason to go green!

In terms of loan programs, you can get either a fixed-rate mortgage such as a 30-year or 15-year fixed, or an adjustable-rate mortgage like a 7/1 or 5/1 ARM.

Amerifirst Financial Mortgage Rates

One slight negative to Amerifirst Financial is the fact that they don’t mention their mortgage rates anywhere on their website.

As such, we don’t have any clues about their loan pricing relative to other banks and lenders out there.

The same goes for lender fees, which aren’t clearly listed on their website to my knowledge.

This means you’ll need to get in touch with a loan officer to discuss rates and fees to ensure they are competitively priced.

Be sure to compare their rates/fees with other lenders before you proceed to the application if you want peace of mind on pricing front.

Customer service and competence is always important, especially when it comes to a home loan, but so is cost.

Amerifirst Financial Reviews

On Zillow, Amerifirst has a very impressive 4.98-star rating out of 5 from roughly 900 customer reviews, which is quite impressive given the volume of feedback.

On LendingTree, they have a perfect 5-star rating, though it’s based on just about 30 reviews. They also have a 100% recommended score there.

If you’re looking for more reviews, you can also check out local ones on Google for their brick-and-mortar branches nearest you.

Lastly, the company is Better Business Bureau accredited, and has been since 2014. They currently enjoy an ‘A+’ rating based on complaint history.

To sum it up, Amerifirst Financial could be a solid choice for someone purchasing a home (especially a first-time buyer) thanks to their robust Protect Your Transaction loan approval and variety of down payment assistance programs.

Amerifirst Financial Pros and Cons

The Good

  • You can apply for a home loan from any device in minutes
  • Offer a digital mortgage application powered by ICE
  • Lots of loan programs to choose from
  • Discounts for those who purchase a green home
  • Protect Your Transaction loan approval for home buyers
  • Excellent customer reviews from former customers
  • A+ BBB rating, accredited business since 2014
  • Free mortgage calculators and mortgage dictionary on site

The Not

  • Not available in all states currently
  • Do not list mortgage rates or lender fees on their website

(photo: nathanmac87)


AimLoan Review: You Can Check Their Rates and Fees 24/7

Posted on February 22nd, 2021

Today we’ll take a look at American Internet Mortgage, more commonly known as “AimLoan,” which is a streamlined discount mortgage lender that focuses mostly on conforming loans.

Doing so allows them to do what they do best, and ideally offer lower mortgage rates to their customers by running more efficiently and keeping costs low.

At the time of this writing, they were offering the lowest APR for both a 30-year fixed and a 15-year fixed mortgage for a sample loan scenario on the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

So they appear to offer competitive interest rates and reasonable lender fees. Let’s find out more about them.

AimLoan Fast Facts

  • Direct-to-consumer mortgage lender that offers home purchase and refinance loans
  • Founded in 1998, headquartered in San Diego, California
  • Funded roughly $1.3 billion in home loans last year
  • Most active in the states of California, Arizona, and Texas
  • Licensed to do business in all 50 states and D.C.

AimLoan is a proper veteran in the mortgage industry, having been around since 1998. Not many companies last that long without being acquired or going out of business.

The San Diego, CA-based direct mortgage lender was founded by Vince Kasperick, who continues to serve as the company’s president.

Since that time, they’ve funded more than $23 billion in home loans, with nearly $1.3 billion originated last year.

Their bread and butter product is the mortgage refinance, whether it’s a rate and term refinance or a cash out refinance. But they also offer home purchase loans too.

They tend to stick to plain vanilla loans, meaning straightforward stuff that can easily be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shortly after funding.

AimLoan operates as a direct-to-consumer mortgage lender, meaning it’s a call center you can’t visit in person. So you’ll be working with a loan officer and processor remotely.

The company appears to be most active in their home state of California, which accounts for more than a quarter of total loan volume.

They also do a lot of business in nearby Arizona and Texas, along with Florida and Georgia.

At the moment, AimLoan is licensed to lend in all 50 states nationwide, along with the District of Columbia.

How to Apply for a Mortgage with AimLoan

  • They offer the so-called AimLoan 6-Step Process
  • It starts with a digital mortgage application powered by Ellie Mae
  • Then your loan is run through their automated underwriting system
  • Once approved you can manage your loan via the online borrower portal and upload any required conditions

It’s easy to apply for a home loan with AimLoan. Simply visit their website and click on “Apply Now.”

From there you’ll need to provide personal and financial information, then your application will be run through their automated underwriting system.

Assuming you receive a conditional loan approval, you’ll be given the opportunity to lock or float your rate at your desired fee/credit combination.

A human loan officer and loan processor will also assist you along the way and provide you with a list of any conditions that need to be met.

During that time, a home appraisal will be scheduled if necessary and third-party items like title and escrow will be set up.

Speaking of, you will be asked to submit an appraisal fee at the time you lock your rate, which kind of acts like the application fee, though it covers the appraisal if and when you fund.

All in all, they appear to make it pretty simple to apply, lock, and close your loan.

If you don’t want to use their self-service option, you can also call them up directly and connect with a loan officer before beginning the application.

Loan Programs Offered by AimLoan

  • Home purchase loans
  • Rate and term refinances
  • Cash out refinances
  • Conforming loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • VA loans
  • Fixed-rate mortgages: 30-, 25-, 20-, 15-, and 10-year terms available
  • They lend on primary residences, second homes, and investment properties (1-4 units)

As alluded to, AimLoan is a streamlined mortgage lender that likes to keep its product menu short and sweet.

Doing so allows them to offer lower rates and superior customer service. But it also means you may not be able to get what you’re looking for.

While they offer all the usual stuff, like home purchase loans and mortgage refinances, along with conforming loans and VA loans, several items appear to be missing.

Those include jumbo loans, which exceed the conforming loan limit, along with FHA loans and USDA loans. If you’re in need of one of these loan types, you may need to go elsewhere.

Additionally, while you can get a fixed-rate mortgage in a variety of loan terms, they aren’t offering adjustable-rate mortgages at the moment.

Or at least not displaying them on their website because they say they’re currently pricing higher than fixed rates, which tends to be true.

AimLoan Mortgage Rates

One advantage to using AimLoan is the fact that you can see their mortgage rates online. And you don’t need to sign up or speak to someone first.

Additionally, you can compare a variety of rates all at once tailored to your own unique loan scenario, instead of simply looking at promotional rates that make a bunch of assumptions.

To get started, simply head to the AimLoan website and start filling out the instant rate quote form on the homepage. It’s easy to complete and you should see a variety of rates in about a minute.

In terms of fees, they appear to charge a flat $995 origination fee, which can often be offset by a lender credit.

They say their pricing model differs from other lenders because their profit is mostly from that flat fee.

As such, they can pass on the savings to consumers by not marking up the pricing they receive on the secondary market.

Anyway, once you click on a given mortgage rate, it will show you a full fee breakdown including their fees and third-party costs like appraisal and title insurance.

You can also get an idea of cash to close by inputting your estimated property taxes and current loan balance if it’s a refinance.

If you like what you see, simply click on “Apply Now” or “Talk to a Loan Officer” to get started on your application.

AimLoan Reviews

On Zillow, they have a 4.15-star rating out of 5 from nearly 400 customer reviews, which is good but not excellent. There are some mixed reviews that seem to be dragging down their overall score.

On Google, they have a 4.3-star rating from nearly 300 reviews, and on Bankrate a 4.4-rating from almost 200 reviews with an 84% recommend score.

AimLoan has a more inferior 3.5-star rating on Yelp from about 300 reviews.

They also list a bunch of customer reviews on their own website, though it’s unclear if they provide much value.

Lastly, they have a 4.61/5-star rating with the Better Business Bureau and an ‘A+’ rating based on complaint history.

They’ve been an accredited business since 2015 and were awarded the BBB Torch Award for Ethics, which goes to businesses with “the highest standards of leadership character and organizational ethics.”

To sum it up, AimLoan is probably best suited for an existing homeowner looking to refinance their mortgage to a lower rate, who doesn’t have a complicated scenario.

I’m talking someone with good credit, a steady W-2 job, and nothing out of the ordinary to ensure the loan process moves along smoothly.

Those who have more complex loan scenarios or need more hand-holding may want to consider other lenders.

AimLoan Pros and Cons

The Good Stuff

  • Can apply for a mortgage directly from their website
  • Offer a digital application powered by Ellie Mae (ICE)
  • View mortgage rates online without providing contact info
  • Offer 60-day rate locks standard
  • Licensed to do business in all 50 states and D.C.
  • Mostly good customer reviews
  • A+ BBB rating, accredited since 2015
  • Free mortgage calculators and mortgage glossary on site

The Perhaps Not

  • Do not appear to offer FHA, jumbo, or USDA loans
  • Typically do not allow FICO scores below 620
  • Do not finance co-ops or manufactured/mobile homes
  • No physical locations

(photo: Ann Oro)


Watermark Home Loans Review: Loan Amounts Up to $10 Million

Posted on February 15th, 2021

If you’ve been comparing mortgage rates and shopping your home loan lately, you may have encountered “Watermark Home Loans” along the way.

They advertise quite a bit on some of the mortgage comparison websites, but aren’t necessarily a household name like some of the bigger guys.

Of course, bigger isn’t always better, nor does it tend to be cheaper in my experience. So let’s learn more about them to see if they should be included in your home loan search.

Watermark Home Loans Fast Facts

  • Direct-to-consumer retail mortgage lender
  • Offers home purchase financing and refinance loans
  • Founded in 2006, headquartered in Irvine, CA
  • Licensed in 36 states and the District of Columbia
  • Funded more than $1.2 billion in home loans last year
  • Appears to specialize in refinancing for existing homeowners

Watermark Home Loans is a direct-to-consumer mortgage lender based out of Irvine, California, which is essentially the mortgage capital of the United States.

There are tons of mortgage companies situated nearby in Orange County, including big names like New American Funding and techy newcomer LoanSnap.

Anyway, they essentially operate a call center whereby you can phone in to get started on a mortgage application. This differs from lenders who offer brick-and-mortar locations as well.

While they offer both home purchase loans and refinance loans, they appear to specialize in the latter, with such loans accounting for about 70% of total volume, per the latest HMDA data.

Last year, they originated roughly $1.2 billion in home loans, with nearly half of total loan volume coming from their home state of California.

At the moment, they’re licensed in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

They don’t seem to do business in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, or the Dakotas at the moment.

How to Apply with Watermark Home Loans

  • You can either call them up directly or fill out a short online contact form
  • Once you speak to a loan officer to get pricing you can apply online
  • Their digital loan application is powered by fintech company Blend
  • It allows you to link financial accounts, electronically sign documents, and check loan status 24/7

When it comes to applying for a mortgage, Watermark Home Loans makes it pretty easy.

That’s because they’ve chosen to partner with fintech company Blend, which is a leader in the digital mortgage space.

Their software allows borrowers to link financial accounts using bank or payroll credentials, sign documents and disclosures electronically, and collaborate with their loan officer or loan processor in real time.

Additionally, customers can track the status of their loan application 24/7 by simply logging on to the borrower portal via the Watermark website.

But before you get to the application, you’ll need to either call the company directly to link up with a loan officer, or fill out a short form on their website.

Once you do that, you’ll be able to discuss mortgage rates, fees, and loan options – assuming you like what you hear, you can move along to the application.

All in all, Watermark makes it easy to apply and track your home loan from start to finish.

Loan Programs Offered by Watermark Home Loans

  • Home purchase loans
  • Refinance loans: rate and term, cash out, streamline
  • Conforming loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • Jumbo home loans up to $10 million loan amounts
  • Government-backed loans: FHA, USDA, and VA
  • Reverse mortgages for seniors
  • Interest-only mortgages
  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options available in various loan terms (including 40-year terms)

Watermark Home Loans appears to be big on mortgage refinancing, with rate and term refinances accounting for about 50% of volume.

Another 20% or so is devoted to cash out refinances, in which existing homeowners pull equity from their properties to pay for other expenses.

The remainder is devoted to home purchase loans, with many of them conforming loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

They also do quite a bit of jumbo home loan lending, which makes sense given their headquarters being in pricey Southern California. In fact, they offer loan amounts as high as $10 million!

Borrowers can also take out a government-backed mortgage, such as an FHA loan, USDA loan, or VA loans.

Speaking of VA loans, Watermark Home Loans says it donates a portion of loan proceeds to the Warrior Foundation – Freedom Station, which assists wounded veterans.

With regard to specific loan programs, you can get a fixed-rate mortgage such as a 30-year or 15-year fixed, or an adjustable-rate mortgage like a 5/1 ARM.

They actually say they offer loan terms as long as 40 years, along with interest-only home loans, both of which are somewhat outside-the-box and harder to come by these days.

So you shouldn’t be limited when it comes to loan choice, which is another plus.

Watermark Home Loans Mortgage Rates

While they don’t list their mortgage rates on their website, they do say you can call in for a free, no obligation quote.

You may also come across their mortgage rates when comparing lenders on websites like Bankrate.

If so, you might be able to get an idea of their loan pricing, along with closing costs if also listed.

My assumption is they’re pretty competitive in the pricing department because they’re essentially a direct-to-consumer online mortgage lender.

That should mean less overhead and a streamlined approach, which hopefully translates to lower costs and cheaper mortgages for their customers!

But you’ll need to call them or fill out a form on their website to obtain pricing for your particular loan scenario to find out.

Once you’ve got that in hand, be sure to compare their rates and fees to a few other lenders to ensure they offer the best price.

Based on their many positive customer reviews, homeowners seem satisfied with their pricing.

Watermark Home Loans Reviews

The company comes highly rated, with a 4.81-star rating out of a possible 5 on Zillow from nearly 1,300 customer reviews.

Many of the reviews on Zillow indicated that the interest rate and/or closing costs were lower than expected, which gives us another hint about pricing.

Over at Bankrate, they’ve got an even better 4.9-star rating out of 5 from more than 700 reviews, with nearly all of them 5-star reviews.

Similarly, they’ve got a 4.6-star rating out of 5 on Google from more than 600 reviews.

But wait, there’s more – at LendingTree they have a 4.9-star rating from over 30 reviews and a 97% recommended rate.

Lastly, they are an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau and currently hold an ‘A+’ rating based on their interactions with customers. They’ve got a 3.9/5-star rating based on about 30 customer reviews as well.

In summary, Watermark could be a good choice for an existing homeowner looking to refinance thanks to their perceived low rates and plentiful loan options, coupled with their easy digital loan process.

Watermark Home Loans Pros and Cons

The Pros

  • Can apply for a home loan via their website in minutes
  • Offer a digital mortgage application powered by Blend
  • Lots of loan programs to choose from including jumbos and interest-only options
  • No closing cost and $0 application fee options
  • Excellent customer reviews across all ratings sites
  • A+ BBB rating, accredited company
  • Free mortgage calculators on site

The Cons

  • Not licensed in all states
  • No physical locations
  • Do not publicize mortgage rates or fees


Assurance Financial Review: So Fast You Can Apply During Halftime

Posted on February 11th, 2021

Today we’ll check out a mortgage lender based in the south by the name “Assurance Financial,” which is headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Aside from being fans of LSU, they also say you can apply for a mortgage during halftime, which is handy if you’re a sports fan.

They’re able to get things done quickly because they’ve employed the latest cutting-edge technology, and they do everything in-house. Let’s learn more.

Assurance Financial Fast Facts

  • Direct mortgage lender that operates online
  • Offers home purchase financing, refinances, and construction loans
  • Founded in 2001, headquartered in Baton Rouge, LA
  • Licensed in 43 states and the District of Columbia
  • Funded more than $1 billion in home loans last year
  • Does most of their business in home state of Louisiana

Assurance Financial is an independent, direct-to-consumer full-service residential mortgage banker that offers home purchase financing, mortgage refinances, and construction loans.

This means you can apply for a home loan directly from their website so you don’t need to leave your couch.

But while the company mostly operates online, they do have physical branches in eight states nationwide to serve customers locally.

They’ve been around since the turn of the century, which is a lifetime in the mortgage biz, and funded more than $1 billion in home loans last year.

At present, they’re licensed in 43 states and the District of Columbia, but not currently available in Arizona, Hawaii, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, or Utah.

Much of their business came from their home state of Louisiana, along with Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia.

About 70% of total volume comes from home purchase loans, with the remainder mostly refinances and some HELOCs.

How to Apply for a Mortgage with Assurance Financial


  • You can call them, have them call you, get in touch with a loan officer, or use their digital assistant Abby
  • Their digital mortgage offering is powered by leading fintech company Blend
  • It allows you to complete most of the process electronically from any device
  • They handle the entire loan process from start to finish in-house to ensure turn times are quick

One great thing about Assurance Financial is the ability to apply for a home loan from any device using the latest technology.

They’ve turned to Blend to get that done, and go a step further in simplifying things by bringing in their digital assistant Abby.

The character is actually based on their “very real” Post Closing Manager Abby Widmer.

You can apply with “Abby” in as little as 15 minutes and get helpful tips and guidance along the way so you know what you’re getting into and what to expect.

But if you want a real human to help you right off the bat, you’re also able to peruse the online loan officer directory on their website.

There you can enter your location to see which loan officers are licensed in your state, then get access to their contact information if you want to discuss pricing and loan options first.

Regardless of how you apply, a licensed loan officer will step in at some point to get you approved and help you fund your loan.

Either way, it’ll be super simple because you can complete the app online and link your financial accounts and tax returns using your credentials instead of having to scan or fax paperwork.

Additionally, you can eSign all those pesky disclosures and manage your loan from their online portal 24/7. You’ll also get status updates and a to-do list to stay on track.

As mentioned, they also have branches in eight states if you prefer to do business in-person, including Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

Loan Programs Offered by Assurance Financial

  • Home purchase loans
  • Refinance loans: rate and term and cash out
  • Construction loans (one and two-time close options)
  • Conforming loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • FHA loans
  • VA loans
  • USDA loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • Non-QM loans
  • Down payment assistance programs
  • Manufactured home loans
  • HELOCs
  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate options available

Assurance Financial has a very wide range of loan programs available, and lends on all property types, including single-family homes, condos/townhomes, and even manufactured homes.

You can get financing for a primary residence, vacation home, 1-4 investment property, or even a new build if you’re constructing your dream home.

If you’re an existing homeowner, you can take advantage of a rate and term refinance or a cash out refinance if you want to take advantage of a lower rate and/or your accrued equity.

With regard to loan types, you can get a conforming loan backed by Fannie/Freddie, a government-backed loan such as an FHA or VA loan, or even a jumbo loan.

They say they also offer non-QM options and down payment assistance programs for first-time home buyers, along with home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

Both fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgage options are available in a variety of loan terms.

Assurance Financial Mortgage Rates

One drawback to Assurance Financial is the fact that they don’t list their mortgage rates online or elsewhere.

As such, it’s unclear where they stand in the loan pricing department. It is recommended that you speak to a loan officer to get pricing first before diving into an application.

That way you can be assured that they’re competitively priced relative to other lenders out there so you don’t waste your time.

Also be sure to inquire about any lender fees they may charge, such as an application fee or loan origination fee.

Once you know these things, which together make up the mortgage APR, you can accurately shop your home loan with other lenders to ensure they’re good on price.

Assurance Financial Reviews

They seem to really excel when it comes to customer service, so much so that someone living far away from their corporate headquarters might be tempted to use them.

On SocialSurvey, they have a 4.94-star rating out of 5 from nearly 15,000 customer reviews, which is impressive for both the rating and sheer volume.

Similarly, they’ve got a 5-star rating out of 5 from more than 7,000 reviews on LendingTree, with a 100% recommended score.

They are rated excellent in every category, including interest rates, closing costs, responsiveness, and customer service.

On Zillow, it’s the same deal, a 4.99-star rating out of a possible 5 from almost 100 reviews, which while a smaller sample size is on point with their other ratings.

Lastly, they are a Better Business Bureau accredited company (since 2003) and currently hold an ‘A+’ rating based on customer complaint history.

In summary, Assurance Financial has incredible customer satisfaction ratings, the latest technology, an excellent website, and tons of loan programs to choose from.

Assuming they also offer great pricing, they could be an excellent choice for your home loan needs, whether you’re a first-time buyer or an existing homeowner.

Assurance Financial Pros and Cons

The Pros

  • Can apply for a home loan directly from their website
  • Offer a digital mortgage application powered by Blend
  • Also have a digital assistant to help you along the way
  • Their website is very modern and easy to navigate
  • Lots of programs to choose from including jumbos and non-QMs
  • Excellent customer reviews from past customers
  • A+ BBB rating, accredited company
  • Physical branches in some states
  • Free mortgage calculators and mortgage guides online

The Cons

  • Not licensed in all states
  • Do not list mortgage rates or lender fees on their website

(photo: Stuart Seeger)