Successful products normally get easier to use as time passes. The first cars, for example, broke down so often only a mechanic was qualified to drive.
At first, only a computer scientist could operate a computer. Now we use them every day.
What about mortgages? Is it easier to get a mortgage now than a decade ago?
Rocket Mortgage thinks so.
The company, which Detroit-based Quicken Loans launched in 2016 as an online-only mortgage lender, seeks to give borrowers more control over the lending process.
Mortgage lending remains complicated, but Rocket Mortgage’s innovations have been popular among borrowers.
They’ve also been popular for other lenders, many of whom are adopting Rocket Mortgage’s borrower-centric approach.
My Rocket Mortgage Review: Taming the Mortgage Process
A mortgage is the most complex — and the biggest — loan many of us will ever need.
The median home price in 2017 was $188,900. Collectively, Americans hold close to $10 trillion in mortgage debt.
That’s trillion with a T. It’s hard for me to comprehend such a large figure.
Mortgages also offer a lot of variations:
- Fixed vs. adjustable interest rates.
- Short- vs. long-term loans.
- Conventional vs. subsidized loans.
- Second mortgages vs. reverse mortgages.
And to get into the mortgage market in the first place, borrowers usually need to meet a minimum credit score, which varies depending on the kind of loan.
With so many moving parts and so much money changing hands, it’s understandable when lenders still control the borrowing process.
So how has Rocket Mortgage changed this process?
Rocket Mortgage: Giving Consumers Access to the Ignition
All the complications in the mortgage industry exist for a reason. Some homebuyers need an adjustable rate mortgage, for instance.
Others have low credit scores and need subsidized loans.
Had Rocket Mortgage tried to simplify the borrowing process by limiting loan options, it wouldn’t have had much impact on the marketplace.
The beauty of Rocket Mortgage lies in its focus on what can be changed.
Rather than changing the rules of mortgage lending, which would take Congressional action in some cases, Rocket Mortgage has changed the way borrowers access loans, giving users:
The Ability to Navigate Freely
I like to explore my options when making a big purchase. I’m sure others do, too. Sometimes, it’s fun to consider options without having a conversation with a loan officer.
Rocket Mortgage has made this easier through its online-only approach, which seems simple even if you do not know much mortgage vocabulary.
For example, you start the borrowing process by choosing from two simple options, “Buy a Home” or “Refinance.”
Then you answer a series of questions about your goals and the kinds of property you’re thinking about buying. Your answers will help Rocket Mortgage match you with the best kind of loan.
Since it’s all online, you can explore your options whenever you want — at home when you can’t sleep, in line at the DMV, or wherever you have an Internet connection.
A Seat Behind the Wheel
Choosing a 10-year mortgage over a 30-year mortgage (or something in between) will have a huge impact on your interest charges and your monthly payment.
Rocket Mortgage will show you the dollar-for-dollar consequences of your choices before you decide. (You can accomplish the same thing with an online mortgage calculator, but it is nice to have this option built into the process of loan shopping.)
You can also see the direct impact of variables such as a bigger down payment, a lower interest rate, a subsidized loan, or an adjustable rate mortgage.
In other words, you can sit in the mortgage cockpit pulling the levers and turning the switches that control your loan.
Transparency Throughout the Process
Some of the most stressful moments in the entire process of buying a home come when you’ve applied for a mortgage and don’t yet know whether the bank will underwrite your loan.
All the work you’ve done so far, which may have taken months or even years when you consider how long it can take to find the perfect home, hinges on the bank’s decision.
Sometimes — this happens to a lot of us — when you don’t know exactly what’s going on you start to fear the worst.
Maybe there was a last-minute drop in your credit score because you were late paying the student loan. Maybe your employer made a mistake on your work verification form.
This is the reason some loan applicants call the bank a couple times a day.
Rocket Mortgage offers transparency to ease your mind and give you a head start if you do have a problem. While underwriters look into your application, you’ll have access to a portal that includes a to-do list and an up-to-date status for your application.
Expert Advice When You Need It
Let’s just admit it: We want it all. We want to control what we buy, but sometimes we also want help, preferably from an expert.
Rocket Mortgage knows that, so it has loan officers on standby ready to help when you have a question or need advice.
Even the best drivers take their cars to a mechanic. Even the most experienced computer programmers ask for help sometimes. And loan shoppers can ask an expert for help and still control their borrowing process.
Other Things I Like About Rocket Mortgage
I’ve talked about the ease of use, transparency, and helpful staff. Here are some other things I like about Rocket Mortgage:
- The possibility of putting down only 3 percent of the home’s purchase price. Many lenders require 5 or 10 percent. I’m all for healthy down payments, but a 3 percent down payment can help get more people in the market more quickly.
- The wide variety of loan types, including jumbo loans (for more expensive properties), fixed and adjustable rate loans, and subsidized loans, including VA, FHA, and USDA. (If you’re a veteran, be sure to look into the VA loan program.)
- Easy-to-use refinancing process for existing loans or second mortgages whether you’re seeking a lower payment or access to equity for home improvements. Unfortunately, Rocket Mortgage does not offer a home equity line of credit, which is another good way to finance home improvements.
- The ability to use the site without having to actually apply for a loan; the site’s tools can help you understand how mortgages work before you make the application official.
- The speed at which the site guides users through the application and underwriting processes using financial databases to confirm applicant input. This helps the lender give quick decisions.
Even Convenient Mortgages Are a Big Deal
Yes, Rocket Mortgage is changing the way borrowers access to mortgage loans, but borrowing six-figures to buy property remains a significant transaction.
I mention this because I’ve met a couple home buyers in the past year or two who had narrowed down their home choices and had even called a home inspector, but they hadn’t looked into a mortgage lender yet.
When I asked why they hadn’t thought about lenders, both said something like, “Oh, we’re just going to log onto Rocket Mortgage.”
If you’ve read this far you know I believe Rocket Mortgage is a great choice, but borrowers shouldn’t confuse convenient access to loans with guaranteed loan approval.
Rocket Mortgage holds applicants to the same standards as comparable lenders, so find out where you stand by applying for a pre-approval, whether it’s with Rocket Mortgage or another lender.
And even if you’re a highly qualified borrower, you should take some time to shop around for the best rates and the lowest fees.
A Convenient Option for More and More Homeowners
You can hardly mention home ownership these days without someone saying your home will be your biggest investment.
For some people it will be; for others, it’s just the beginning.
Either way, using $150,000 or $250,000 or maybe even $400,000 of someone else’s money to buy a house takes some time and effort for a lot of people, and understandably so.
Rocket Mortgage has succeeded in reducing that time and effort for a growing number of homeowners.