The DANGER of automated mortgage pre-approvals via your cell phone

The danger of automated mortgage pre-approvals via your cell phone

Minneapolis / St Paul, MN: Can you really get a mortgage pre-approval online in 10 minutes? Yes. Should you? Probably not. It’s 2018 as I write this, advancements to our lives, along with instant gratification is everywhere. Why go to the store when you get better selection and two day shipping from Amazon. No need for old fashion video stores, everything is on Netflix, Amazon Prime video, or your HBO Go app.  Twitter, Facebook, the internet, and of course Smartphones and iPads have replaced home computers for many people.

So it is no surprise that many mortgage lenders are now advertising instant 10-minute mortgage loan pre-approvals while you stand in front of the house you just looked at. The biggest company pushing these is Quicken Loans ® “Rocket Mortgage”®.

Sounds cool, and their commercials are really funny… But wait a minute… This is the largest financial transaction of your adult life. Can it really be done on your cell phone?

 The Traditional Mortgage Loan Process

The traditional process is you complete a loan application. You do that in person, over the phone, or by completing an online loan application. From there, a real live person reviews the information, pulls your credit report, talks to you about your situation, uses knowledge and expertise to explore all avenues, issues, and different loan options (all good ideas).

Assuming that all looks fine, your application is processed through one of the major AUS (automated underwriting system) of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, etc, to get your initial “looks good” answer.

ffThis automated underwriting system process only takes a few seconds, and with the initial “looks good” answer to your loan application, you got a loan, right? NO, not even close.  This is just AN INITIAL step.

Next, just because the AUS indicates ACCEPT (yes), there are still pages of information and requested items that need to be received and reviewed for accuracy BY ALL LENDERS. Common items are W2’s, pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns. Depending on your situation, you may need further items, like bankruptcy papers, divorce decrees, and more.

You generally need to gather all those documents and submit them to your lender for review to receive a proper Pre-Approval.


After you find the exact house and sign a purchase agreement, the lender orders the appraisal, title review, and everything else is sent to the underwriter for final review. Generally speaking, a proper professional pre-approval will equal a successful final approval by underwriting in the final stage of the process. A sloppy pre-approval, not properly review??? Scary stuff.

Your largest financial transaction of your life is too important to trust to just anyone, let alone a computer. You need the wisdom and input from a licensed, experienced, and professional Loan Officer.

The Quicken Rocket Mortgage ® 

The difference with their app, is that after taking the initial application information online (like thousands of other lenders), their app jumps right to running your information through the major automated underwriting system to get that initial pre-approval. Yes, that can take just 10 minutes.

Next, they attempt to gather some of your basic supporting documents electronically. Rocket Mortgage ® will ask you to link your financial accounts to their program. This allows them to check your financial statements online without you having to send them the physical copies of your banking information. Again, sounds cool, but in the day of cyber hacking, do you really want to give them access to your information electronically?

Next, a huge portion of applicants are not able to take advantage of instant document verification, and still need to submit many, if not all of their documents the traditional way – completely eliminating the cool factor.

You can also get instant rate quotes, cost quotes, and options like to buy discount points. Again, sound nifty, but…

The first major issue is simple. Garbage in equals garbage out.

I review a LOT of online mortgage applications.  Rare is it that I don’t need to change or adjust any application data before running it though the computers. Data errors, missing data, and income that isn’t allowed to be used for qualifying are all too common.

For example, I recently had a client input $50,000 a year for his wife at a job she has been at for about 9 months. But, as I interviewed him, I discovered that her new job is 100% commission based. Standard underwriting rules for commission based income require the person to have two-years on the job, and that we average the two-years of income.  Therefore her job qualifying income was ZERO.  Oops… Now you are running around with a quick pre-approval looking at houses you will never actually get final approval to buy.

Another recent applicant answer the “Do you pay alimony or child support” question online NO. But when I physically reviewed his pay stub, it clearly showed the deduction for child support. This additional debt lowered the maximum house he could buy $50,000. Again, potentially someone running around with an invalid pre-approval letter.

 The Big Disadvantage of Instant Online Approvals

For as cool as all this sounds, it has huge disadvantages.

First is not having the opportunity to talk to a human loan officer. Consumers may lose out by applying for a mortgage that isn’t necessarily the best choice for their situation. I get clients all the time who complete my online application for one loan type, but I end up switching them to something better suited for their situation. This is because most applicants usually have several mortgage options available to them. Since most consumers are not mortgage experts, this is clearly an area where a human loan officer could help steer their client in the right direction.

Your largest financial transaction of your life is too important to trust to just anyone, let alone a computer. You need the wisdom and input from a licensed, experienced, and professional Loan Officer.

They typically don’t offer first time home buyer programs, and don’t offer down payment assistance programs. This is especially troublesome, as younger first time home buyers are the ones more inclined to think apply on your phone is cool.

Do they have the best interest rates and lowest closing costs?  Generally not, and sometimes, especially on government loans, like FHA, we beat their rates by a long shot.

The Best Move When Getting Mortgage Pre-Approved?

When buying a home, your best move is to always work with a local lender the traditional way. The guy located in your geographic area, with a local reputation to protect. There is nothing anyone on the internet on the other side of the country can offer that you can’t get down the street.  More often than not, it is just the opposite… Especially when it comes to down payment assistance programs for first time buyers. These programs are always only available from the local lender.

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