Online Mortgage Quotes: How to Get a Loan Quote from the Web

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Online mortgage quotes are a good way to get the ball rolling with lenders. It's also a good way to comparison shop, in order to spot the best deal and the best terms. But there are a few things you should know before you start filling out forms and getting quotes from lenders. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject of how to get a mortgage quote online.

At a glance: Here's the idea of this article in 100 words or less. You can get mortgage quotes online through an individual lender's website, or through a lending network like Zillow's "Mortgage Marketplace." It's a way to get the ball rolling. After you submit an application form, you'll be asked for a variety of documents (bank statements, W-2 forms, tax returns, etc.). An online quote is not a commitment to lend. You won't receive a final approval until you've cleared the underwriting process.

The Online Mortgage Quote Process

The process of getting a mortgage quote online will vary from one lender to the next. They all have their own ways of doing things. With that being said, the process usually goes something like this:

  1. Choose an online lending website, using our internet security checklist as a guide.
  2. Provide the requested information on the mortgage website. Typically, this will be a short web form asking for your name and contact info, your desired loan amount, size of your down payment, and similar information, etc.
  3. Once you've submitted the information needed to get an online mortgage quotes, you'll eventually receive one or more offers from brokers and/or lenders. This may come in the form of emails, phone calls, online messaging through the lending website, or a combination of the three.
  4. Your next step is to review the quotes presented to see which one offers the best interest rate and terms. Just keep in mind you might not actually qualify for those terms -- it's just an initial offer based on the information you've provided.
  5. Next, you would choose a broker or lender, and follow up with them by email or phone.
  6. At some point, you will have to complete a more formal application (a.k.a., the Uniform Residential Loan Application, or Fannie Mae form # 444).
  7. The lender will request a variety of financial documents to complete the application, review and underwriting process. These include IRS W-2 forms and tax returns for the last two years, pay stubs, bank statements for the last few months, etc. The lender will also check your credit scores at this stage.
  8. Based on this review process, you'll eventually be pre-approved for a certain loan amount. You can use the resulting pre-approval letter when house hunting (it shows the seller that you are capable of buying their home).

Notes: There are two things you should understand at this point. (1) This is not the entire loan process. After you get an online mortgage quote, you'll still need to go through the underwriting process to obtain a final approval. This happens later, after the home appraisal has been completed. (2) This process varies from one lender to the next. If you use an online lending network, as opposed to a mortgage company's website, you may encounter additional steps to receive quotes from more than one lender.

The Initial Quote is Not an Approval or a Commitment

The initial mortgage quote you get online is not an actual loan approval, and the terms presented will depend on your level of qualification (income, credit score, debt level, etc.). You haven't really been reviewed by the lender at this early stage. Your documents have not been verified. Your credit report has not been pulled. There's a lot the lender doesn't know about you yet.

The final approval won't come until later, after you've been screened by an underwriter.

This confuses a lot of first-time home buyers and mortgage shoppers. They fill out a form online and receive an offer from a lender, and they think: "Wow, I just got approved for a loan!" But it doesn't work that way (refer to steps 1 - 8 above).

After the initial online application, you will go through an in-depth financial review process. This process varies from one bank or mortgage company to the next. But it usually includes the following:

  • The lender will verify your income using tax records and employment documents.
  • They will verify your financial assets using bank statements.
  • They'll check your credit reports and scores to see how you've borrowed money in the past.
  • They'll assess your current level of debt in relation to your gross monthly income.

All of this happens later in the process, after you get an online mortgage quote or offer.

Bottom line: You don't get a final approval until you have cleared the underwriting review process. Keep that in mind when getting quotes online through a lender's website.

Internet Security When Dealing With Lender Websites

Let's shift gears and talk about internet security. When you fill out a form to get mortgage quotes online (for comparison shopping), you might be asked for private information. This might include your full name, SSN, bank account information, etc.

We recommend that you take certain reasonable steps to protect yourself (and your sensitive information) when getting online mortgage quotes. Here are five tips on doing just that.

1. Stick With Names You Know

We recommend using companies and websites you've heard of before. Companies with well-known brands (like Ditech, LendingTree, eLoan and Zillow) have a lot invested in their reputations. They are more likely to treat you fairly and professionally.

2. Look for an 'S' in the Web Address

A secure website has special encryption to prevent hackers and identity thieves from accessing your information. You can tell if you're on such a website by looking at the web address, or URL, in your browser's address bar. Before the "www" part, there should be an "https://" prefix. Note the letter 's' in that prefix -- this indicates a secure web page. If it starts with "http://www" (without the letter 's'), then it's not a secure site. Find another place to get a mortgage quote.

3. Look for Third-Party Verification Seals

There are companies that specialize in verifying the online security of other companies. You've probably seen their logos at the side or bottom of financial websites. For example, you might see a graphical seal of approval that says something like "verified by TRUSTe."

In most cases, these graphics are hyperlinks as well, and you can click on them to check the security verification status of the website you are currently using. All of the big-name online mortgage companies have these verification seals on their websites. Combine this with the first two recommendations above, and you can be 99% sure you're on a safe and legitimate website.

Bottom line: You can enjoy the speed and convenience of getting mortgage quotes online, while also protecting your personal information. It just takes a bit of common sense.

Frequently Asked Questions

Home buyers and homeowners typically have a lot of questions about the mortgage quote process and how it works. We know this from the emails we have received over the years. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions on this subject.

Do online mortgage quotes cost money? Is there a fee?

They are usually free. You might have to pay an application or origination fee later on in the process. But the quote / offer should not cost you anything. After all, the lender is trying to get your business at this point. It wouldn't make sense for them to charge a fee for an online quote. But you can be sure that there will be plenty of fees and charges further down the line.

Can I get an anonymous mortgage quote without using my name?

Probably not. Lending websites usually ask for your full contact information, including your name and phone number. They do this so that a broker or loan officer can follow up with you about your request. Mortgage calculators and other "loan estimators" can be used anonymously. But if actually want to receive an offer from the lender, for comparison-shopping purposes, you'll need to provide contact info.