One of the largest retail mortgage lenders in the country now allows borrowers to submit their own loan applications online and receive approval in as little as 15 minutes, according to an announcement from Guaranteed Rate.

Borrowers can use Guaranteed Rate’s website to choose and customize a loan, receive free credit reports with scores from the three major credit bureaus, submit a secure application to the lender’s automated underwriting service, and receive an approval letter to purchase a home within minutes of submitting the application.

"Historically, the mortgage process is manual and puts the burden to complete the loan application on the customer and the loan officer, with many handoffs between the two. With Guaranteed Rate’s online process, customers have the same access to tools as loan officers, and now they can apply for their loan and receive approval themselves," the lender said.

Listing portals Zillow, Trulia and offer consumers online mortgage quotes using "pricing engines" that take into account their credit history and the size of the loan they are seeking. operator Move Inc., for example, says consumers using its PreQualPlus tool can "prequalify completely online" in as little as 15 minutes.

PreQualPlus employs an automated underwriting process to evaluate consumers’ credit scores and their capacity to afford monthly mortgage payments based on pricing, eligibility, underwriting, a full credit history review, credit risk analytics, and loan scenario modeling.

Borrowers using Guaranteed Rate’s website can also check the progress of their loan online at any time, and many receive a "clear to close" in just a few days, the company said. At closing, borrowers who submitted their application through the website will receive $150, the lender added.

Borrowers who submit an application online can also choose to work with Guaranteed Rate’s loan officers. The company has more than 147 offices nationwide and is licensed in 48 states.

The new streamlined application process is part of Guaranteed Rate’s push to increase convenience through technology, the company said. Guaranteed Rate has more than quadrupled the size of its technology group in the last year as its loan originations jumped more than 110 percent on an annual basis to $14.7 billion in 2012, the company added.

Founded in 2000 and based in Chicago, Guaranteed Rate is the largest independent retail mortgage company in the U.S. and the 10th largest retail mortgage lender, the company said. 

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