Monday, February 22, 2010
by Broderick Perkins
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Deadline Newsroom - Mortgage apps for iPhone, iPod reviewed
by Broderick Perkins
A growing number of mortgage comparison and information apps are available from the Apple iTunes App Store network for iPhones and iPods.
The apps range from virtually useless and incomplete apps to those that can be useful adjuncts to mortgage shopping. Even the best are only adjuncts.
In addition to mortgage comparison apps that offer rates from a host of lenders and brokers, there are also mortgage calculator apps and those that monitor average mortgage interest rates, mortgage indexes and other financial indexes.
Reviews here concentrate on mortgage comparison apps, but also include one each from the two other categories.
The reviews here are unscientific and do not attempt to rate the apps or compare one app against the other, except where there was obvious similarity. These reviews only seek to report what each app offers. The reviews here are also not all-inclusive. Other apps are available.
When it comes to finding a mortgage that fits, mortgage rate comparison apps aren't silver bullets. Users still must do some leg work, perform online searches and otherwise hunt down rates that don't show up in the apps. Comparison shopping is always the best bet when it comes to finding a mortgage.
Fortunately, all the apps that require users to input personal information will work even if users input disingenuous information.
Loan comparison apps in alphabetical order
Erate Current Mortgage Rates Free Erate.com
There's no need to provide personal private information to search for rate comparisons for 25 loan types. In "Settings" just select the loan type, loan amount, points, purpose (purchase or refinance) and state or District of Columbia and get rates. The app requires Internet access.
The search turned up rates and information from 11 unique lenders. With each lender comes the asking mortgage interest rate, annual percentage rate (APR), points and fees in the vertical mode. Turn the app to the horizontal mode and monthly mortgage payment and the rate lock period are added to the menu. Click on any menu item to sort by that item. The sorting feature is unique to Erate.
Tap on any quote and go directly to web site of lender for more information including loan applications. The app frames the web site, allowing easy transitions back and forth between the app and the web site.
Pros: Easy to use, simple interface. App does not require or collect personal private information. Excellent use of iPhone technology. One of only two apps that provides direct access to lenders' web sites. Sorting ability is unique to the app.
Cons: Not clear how many lenders are in data base. Not property-type specific. No additional assumptions beyond settings.
Mortgage RateFinder Free Lending Tree
Lending Tree's Mortgage RateFinder is cleaner and has a more visually appealing interface than the nearly identical LoanXEngine (reviewed below), a technology partner with Lending Tree.
RateFinder offers fewer features than LoanX, the two turn up different lenders, but they operate similarly. The app requires Internet access.
In addition to loan amount and home value, plug in loan type (22 varieties); loan purpose (three types of purchases, two refinances); cashout required; buy down points; type of purchase/occupancy (primary, second home, investment); FICO credit score and the number of quotes required (5 to 30), among other variables.
Unlike the LoanX app feature, users cannot sign up for emailed rates, including target rates and best rate of the day emails.
After asking for and getting 30 quotes, half the quotes came in from a single lender, six from another lender and the rest from four or five different lenders for a total of about six or seven lenders.
Tap a quote and the page slides to a page of loan details including lender's name, loan type, loan rate, APR, points, closing costs, monthly payment, down payment and origination fees. From the loan details page, users can click "Contact me about this loan" and personal information is sent to the lender who, in turn, will contact the app user. Privacy remains intact only until users hit the "contact me" button.
The app contains an assumptions page (upon which the rates are based); tips about requesting quotes, lenders, the app itself and network issues; and a disclosure that explains when private information is sent to the lender.
Pros: Tips are useful. Not necessary to key in authentic private information. App retains submitted information, eliminating need to repeat the process when changing variables. Easy to use after initially keying in formation.
LoanXEngine Free LoanXEngine.com
A technology partner with Lending Tree, LoanXEngine boasts a search of "4,000 loan products" users can tap by plugging in certain criteria - in addition to loan amount and home value; loan type (22 varieties); loan purpose (three types of purchases; two refinance and one equity); cashout required; buy down points; type of occupancy (primary, second home, investment); FICO credit score; interest rate wanted, and how many quotes required (5 to 30); among other variables.
Otherwise nearly identical to Lending Tree's Mortgage RateFinder, LoanX claims to offer more lenders and it reveals more features.
Users can sign up for emailed rates, including target rates and best rate of the day emails. The app requires Internet access.
After asking for 30 quotes, the search returned 30 quotes, but several or more quotes each were from a total of about 10 lenders.
Tap a quote and the page slides to a page of loan details including lender's name loan rate, loan type, APR, points, closing costs, monthly payment, down payment and origination fees. From the loan details page users can click "contact me about this loan" and contact information is sent to the lender to trigger personal contact. Privacy remains intact until user hits the "contact me" button.
Cons: Requirement to add private personal information (name, phone numbers and email), before obtaining quotes, is intrusive, tedious and unnecessary beyond Zip Code information for pinpointing lenders nearby. No horizontal view. Limited lenders found, little variety found among lenders in search.
Mortgage Marvel Free MortgageMarvel.com
Mortgage Marvel boasts access to more than 100 lenders to compare rates and fees without the need to add private personal information. The app requires Internet access.
Key in the loan amount, loan purpose (purchase and refinance with or without cash out), loan type (12); property value; ZIP Code; property use (primary, second home, investment); property type (single family, condo, plex, manufactured, coop); and the number of quotes sought, from 10 to 40.
The search results include the lender, loan type, asking rate, the annual percentage rate (APR), monthly payment amount and closing costs.
Click on a quote for more details (payment schedule, all rates from the lender, etc.) and to go directly to that lender's web site and apply online. The app frames the web site, allowing quick return to the app.
A search turned up 14 quotes, but only from eight lenders, primarily credit unions (7), small banks and mortgage lenders.
Pros: Easy to use. No need to add personal private information in the app. App frames the web site making it easy to switch back and forth between the web site and the app. One of only two apps reviewed that allows users to go direct to lender's web site.
Cons: Relatively few results. Fewer lender choices within results. No horizontal view.
Broderick Perkins, DeadlineNews Group, author of this story, provides content for Erate.com. The Erate Current Mortgage Rates app is an Erate.com product.
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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist, parlayed 30 years of old-school journalism into a digital real estate news service, the San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group, including DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site, and the Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop.
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