PennyMac Mortgage Review 2017

Finding the Right Mortgage, Mortgages
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Mortgage lender PennyMac Loan Services caters to the over-the-phone and online borrower. A few brick-and-mortar offices are sprinkled around the country, but most PennyMac borrowers interact with licensed PennyMac workers located in call centers.

Let’s see how PennyMac — one of the country’s largest nonbank mortgage loan originators and servicers — measures up.


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AT A GLANCE

  • Offers fixed and adjustable-rate loans, USDA for refinance, and conventional FHA and VA for both purchase and refinance.
  • Services loans in all 50 state; originates loans in every state except New York.
  • No minimum income requirement.

Compare PennyMac with other lenders.

A call center lender

PennyMac’s largest call centers are in Fort Worth and Plano, Texas; Pasadena, Moorpark and Sacramento, California; and Seattle, Washington. But you have the option to apply for a mortgage in person if you live close to one of PennyMac’s several smaller call centers, which also act as retail branches. These branches are in Honolulu, Hawaii; Henderson, Nevada; Kansas City, Missouri; and Eagan, Minnesota.

“In the lending industry, there’s a lot of effort to create this personless origination platform,” says Scott Bridges, managing director of consumer direct lending at PennyMac. While acknowledging the value of technological advances within mortgage lending, Bridges says PennyMac’s customers appreciate the personal connection they make with a loan officer.

PennyMac is proud that its loan officers spend hours each day helping customers navigate the mortgage process, Bridges says. “Despite everyone’s efforts to make mortgage lending simple, it’s simply not,” he says. “It does require someone to walk [borrowers] through and explain how a loan is priced, how rebate pricing works, how an appraisal process works, what things you should expect to deliver and why you need to deliver those things.”

PennyMac licenses each of its loan officers. On average, each one holds 14 or 15 state licenses, according to Stephen Brandt, executive vice president for retail production. Earning the licenses “involves a number of tests, and it also involves a pretty robust prescription of continuing education that they have to go through and pass every year to recertify themselves,” Brandt says.

The PennyMac mortgage process

You’ll start the PennyMac mortgage process by either calling the company or by filling out a short online form. If you fill out the online form, you’ll still have to speak with a loan officer by phone.

Getting a rate quote isn’t required in order to start the process, but you’ll have the option to do so. And if you want to get preapproved before applying to increase your chances of making a successful offer on a home, you’ll do it directly with a loan officer rather than online.

After your application is underway, you can create an online account to complete and submit electronic documentation. The account is mobile, tablet and computer compatible, and with it you’ll be able to sign electronic disclosures and make mortgage payments once you’ve closed on your loan.

“This speeds up the process and makes life easier for the consumer” because it cuts paperwork and shortens the time it takes to send documents back and forth, Bridges says.

PennyMac is currently updating its application status tracking capabilities through the online account, so at the moment, you won’t be able to do that.

The amount of time between submitting your application and closing on your mortgage varies. If you’re going with a purchase loan, the process can take 30 to 45 days. If you’re refinancing, it can take about 47 days.

» MORE: Calculate your monthly mortgage payment.

PennyMac mortgage requirements

When it comes to criteria like your debt-to-income ratio and credit score, or if you’re self-employed, PennyMac follows requirements set by government-sponsored enterprises, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. PennyMac won’t go below the minimum requirements set by GSEs, though it will consider rent payment history if necessary.

PennyMac has no minimum loan amount, and the maximum loan amount depends on a number of factors including GSE requirements, loan type, the number of units in the property and where you live.

Mortgage rate locks come free, but PennyMac charges one of two other fees. If your home requires an appraisal — as it will with any conventional loan — PennyMac charges a $445 appraisal deposit fee. If you’re getting a loan that doesn’t require an appraisal — such as an FHA Streamline — PennyMac charges a $100 application fee. However, when the loan funds, PennyMac credits the application fee against the cost of your loan.

PennyMac mortgage options

PennyMac offers fixed-rate purchase loans for terms ranging from 10 to 30 years, and adjustable-rate mortgage loans are available in 3/1, 5/1, 7/1 and 10/1 terms. The same fixed rates apply to PennyMac’s refinance loans, and adjustable-rate refinance loans are limited to 5/1 and 7/1 terms.

PennyMac’s refinance options include FHA Streamline — an FHA loan with more lenient requirements — and cash-out refinancing if you want to tap into your home’s equity for cash. Be careful when it comes to cash-out refinances; you’re using your home as collateral with these loans. PennyMac’s FHA positive equity refinancing option is for current customers only, and allows you to refinance into an FHA loan if you owe more than your home is worth.

PennyMac also participates in the Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, which lets you refinance if you’re struggling to make mortgage payments and have little or no equity in your home.

What PennyMac does best

  • Well-trained loan officers.
  • A relatively short refinance process.
  • Convenient online loan support, including electronic document submissions.

Where PennyMac falls short

  • Doesn’t originate loans in New York.
  • Only a few branches in a handful of states.
  • Like most lenders, charges an appraisal deposit fee.

If you’re OK with interacting with your loan officer only by phone or email, or if you live close to one of the few brick and mortar offices, PennyMac might be the right choice for you.

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Michael Burge is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburge@nerdwallet.com.

NerdWallet’s star ratings for mortgage lenders are awarded based on our evaluation of the products and services that lenders offer to consumers who are actively shopping for the best mortgage. The six key areas we evaluated include the loan types and loan products offered, online capabilities, online mortgage rate information, customer service and the number of complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a percentage of loans issued. We also awarded lenders up to one bonus star for a unique program or borrower focus that set them apart from other lenders. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.