Mortgage originators managed to improve customer satisfaction levels in 2008, despite tighter lending standards and doubts about financial markets, according to a study by J.D. Power and Associates.

J.D. Power measured customer satisfaction in four areas of mortgage origination: the application and approval process; loan officer or mortgage broker; the closing process; and problem resolution.

Overall, customer satisfaction with mortgage originators increased slightly, to 757 on a 1,000-point scale, up 7 points from 2007. J.D. Power said fewer customers reported being asked for additional information after submitting their application; more customers were provided with time frames for application approval; and fewer customers reported that their closing costs were higher than originally estimated.

The increase in overall satisfaction was also attributed to lower customer expectations.

"After hearing so much bad news throughout the industry, customers have come to expect less from their lenders, so they are often pleasantly surprised when those expectations are met or even exceeded," said Tim Ryan, director of the financial services practice at J.D. Power.

Seven mortgage originators scored above the industry average, including SunTrust Mortgage (790), National City Mortgage (788), Wachovia (786), Wells Fargo (766), Bank of America (764), Washington Mutual (764) and CitiMortgage (760).

Scoring below the industry average in customer satisfaction were GMAC Mortgage (742), Chase (729) and Countrywide Home Loans (728).

J.D. Power recommended that borrowers review the closing document, final closing costs, and billing and payment options before closing. Consumers were also advised to discuss the initial estimate of closing costs in detail and determine which costs could change and why, and ask whether their loan will be sold or its servicing transferred.


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