With interest rates still at record lows, my wife and I have been considering refinancing our house (last year, we refinanced our rental home). I typically use a trusted mortgage pro to handle anything I do with my home – but this time I thought I would go elsewhere. His rates have traditionally been higher than other lenders – but I've remained loyal to him because he is so helpful and I know we aren't going to get “messed” with.
That said – this time around I figured I would give LendingTree a try. I'm sure you've seen the commercials, “when banks compete, you win” – or this guy, Stanley Johnson:
They have definitely spent the marketing dollars to become a big player in the bank/lending business.
My story with LendingTree
So, in January, I decided to “let the banks compete” and submitted my inquiry for a refinance on our house at LendingTree.com. It was a pretty easy process and it didn't take a lot of time. I answered some pretty basic questions about the loan I was seeking, terms, personal information and hit the submit button.
In minutes, I was flooded with emails from lenders. Then, a few phone calls – from real people – started trickling in. I didn't answer.
I was a bit freaked out. But, I should have known this was going to happen, right? I figured that I'd get some inquiries here and there – but instantaneous? It was like these folks were just waiting by the phone and computers – just ready to pounce. On me.
One of the first inquiries was from Discover Home Loans. I have a credit card with them and have written about how you can use your Cashback rewards at Amazon. Discover was really my first credit card – and while I've given them my share of stupid tax over the years, I have generally appreciated how they conduct themselves (as far as credit card companies are concerned). So, I responded to them, getting the representative on the phone who had initially contacted me. He was polite and helpful – got some initial information from me so he could start the process of my refinance. There was a little more immediacy to his pitch than I would have liked – but the guy is trying to a “close a deal” – so I wrote it off as such.
I continued my correspondence with my rep at Discover and sent him more documents and information he had requested. The whole process was going smoothly and I was generally pleased with how they were handling my case.
The other lenders? They still wanted to compete. And so, the phone calls -and emails kept coming. I replied to a couple, letting them know I was working with another lender, but I couldn't reply to all.
Several weeks passed, my case was handed off to an assistant of my rep at Discover and the process continued. Documents signed, scanned and sent. The refinance process is not an easy one (as you might be aware) – and it has gotten a lot worse over the years thanks in large part to the 2007 mortgage crisis.
At this point – I was hoping for an off switch at LendingTree – but I couldn't find one. And, I really didn't want to answer every single offer with a “sorry, I'm working with another lender at this time..”
Due to the nature of our personal situation our refinance has started to get bumpy. It's now approaching two months since my initial inquiry and we are still trying to make it work. And, I'm sure this is not entirely their fault – but more related to our unique situation.
Oh – the phone calls and emails? Yes, they are still coming. Not quite as frequently as they once did of course. The bad thing about the age we live in is the customer relationship programs these big companies have now. Once you get loaded into their sales funnel, it's tough to get out.
So is LendingTree any good?
I can only speak to the home mortgage side of their lenders – but I could only imagine the treatment being the same with other products. They need to work on allowing the customer to “tame” the lenders – and opt out (right away) of any offers or promotions they don't want. Otherwise, they will annoy some good people.
Part of any good business is having people come back again for your service. In the future, I'll probably opt for my trusted mortgage advisor or my personal bank to get the loan I want.
Have you ever tried LendingTree? What's been your experience?
Update 3/3: After publishing this article a representative from LendingTree contacted us to let us know they are working on making the experience better for customers. We aren't out to bash a service or give bad reviews – but to share our experience with you so you can be better informed. While it appears that LendingTree has a little bit of work to do, it does seem like they are out to create a better product for all.
Update 3/21/19: The Federal Reserve has decided to keep interest rates at (almost) record lows for the remaining of 2019. A great time to refinance if you are in the market to do so.
Update 5/28/19: Rates have gone down. 4.06% for a 30-year-fixed, according to Freddie Mac — down from 4.66% this time last year. Additionally, the 15-year fixed-rate average is now at 3.51%, down from 4.15 percent a year prior.
Update 8/14/19: With no end in sight for the trade wars, rates are heading downward – which bodes well for those looking to refinance, etc.