Realtor.com operator Move Inc. has partnered with a correspondent lender to launch a new mortgage website targeted at first-time homebuyers, MortgageMatch.com, and also allow Realtor.com users to experiment with different financing options as they hunt for properties online.
Like other sites and services that enable consumers to shop for mortgages online, MortgageMatch.com employs an automated pricing engine that allows consumers to see the loan products and rates offered by multiple lenders.
But Move says its partnership with Houston-based correspondent lender Cornerstone Mortgage Co. means MortgageMatch.com users are one step closer to approval than they would be through other online prequalification programs.
Move claims that because Cornerstone will actually fund loans offered on the site, that increases the likelihood that consumers will be able to obtain loans at the rates and terms they are initially quoted after entering information about their finances and the property they are interested in. The site’s pricing engine also provides estimated closing costs customized for each query.
MortgageMatch.com will also allow buyers to check their credit for free and obtain a prequalification letter in as little as 10 minutes — a feature that’s likely to be a hit with real estate agents, who often recommend that would-be homebuyers prequalify for a loan before they tour homes.
The prequalification letter includes loan terms and rates and can be e-mailed to a real estate agent or printed out before touring a home.
Move says it will integrate MortgageMatch.com tools into Realtor.com, which will help homebuyers focus on homes they are most likely qualified to buy.
"Our goal as a company is to help Realtors sell housing," said Move CEO Steve Berkowitz, and first-time homebuyers are a big part of that equation. This year, about half of all homebuyers are first-timers, but there are many pitfalls to obtaining a mortgage.
"We spent a lot of time listening to what Realtors and potential homeowners were saying," Berkowitz said. "This whole process is so long and drawn out, a lot of people don’t know what to do."
MortgageMatch.com is intended to help consumers better understand the mortgage lending process, access rates, prequalify, and "have a more successful homebuyer experience," Berkowitz said.
Move is also sensitive to the fact that many real estate brokers who advertise on Realtor.com already offer mortgages through affiliated companies or joint ventures.
Move says it will allow brokers who are Realtor.com customers to suppress a "Get Rates" link to MortgageMatch.com rate quotes that is displayed with listings (the "Get Rates" link previously took Realtor.com users to rate quotes from another advertiser, Bankrate.com).
Brokers who provide mortgage services but allow Realtor.com to display the link to MortgageMatch.com quotes alongside their own listings will be given free banner ads for their mortgage company on their listing detail page.
For consumers, the question will be whether MortgageMatch.com offers as great a selection of lenders as competing services like Bankrate.com, Zillow.com’s mortgage marketplace, and Google AdWords Comparison Ads for Mortgages, among other online tools.
Like other correspondent lenders, Cornerstone Mortgage provides the initial funding for mortgages, then sells them to other lenders or investors. Cornerstone funded $2.7 billion in loans in 2009, nearly 65 percent of which were purchase loans.
Cornerstone says it works with all major lenders, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi and Chase, and has delivered loans to a total of 43 investors this year including banks, portfolio investors, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
MortgageMatch.com will initially be able to fund loans in 38 states, with licenses approved but not finalized in the remaining 12 states, said Andrina Valdes, Cornerstone Mortgage division president.
New York is the only major state where Cornerstone has not finalized its licensing, Valdes said, and one of Cornerstone’s bank partners has offered to provide loans there in the interim.
While Move touts Cornerstone’s role in funding loans at MortgageMatch.com as an asset, Zillow says competition between lenders at Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace drives down costs and enables borrowers to get the best rates.
Zillow says each month, borrowers submit nearly 300,000 loan requests through the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, and 1,500 lenders respond with nearly 5 million loan quotes — an average of 22 quotes per request.
Google would not say how many lenders are using Google AdWords Comparison Ads for Mortgages, which launched in January, but said the number has increased by 60 percent during the last six months.
Lenders using Google AdWords Comparison Ads for Mortgages have a choice of five pricing engines: Mortech, NYLX, Optimal Blue, Price My Loan, and Open Close.
MortgageMatch.com screenshot. View larger image.