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PrimeLending Review 2018

Finding the Right Mortgage, Mortgages
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Texas-based PrimeLending might not get a lot of national press, but it has built a solid lending business by utilizing technology, offering a wide array of loan products — and perhaps by leveraging a little Southern hospitality.

“This company was built on referrals,” Kristi Harris, executive vice president of operations, says in a smiling Texas drawl. “It’s not that we just would want to do your loan. … We want to do everybody’s loan in your family and everybody that you know.”

Here’s what to expect if you shop for a home loan with PrimeLending.

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at a glance

  • Minimum credit score is FICO 600 on FHA loans
  • Lends to borrowers in all 50 states and has branch offices in all but a handful
  • Offers a “float down” interest rate lock

Compare PrimeLending with other lenders.

A Texas-size success

Founded by Roseanna McGill, a former certified public accountant, the company has grown from a 1986 startup with 20 employees in a Dallas office to 3,000 employees and 310 offices across the nation. In 2016, PrimeLending funded $15.5 billion in loans.

The company was acquired in 1999 by PlainsCapital, one of the largest banks in Texas. PrimeLending has offices in all but a handful of states, but it’s little wonder that most of its locations are in Texas.

Customer service hours aren’t listed on its website, but Harris says: “With our smartphones, are we ever unplugged? No! We’re having conversations at 8 o’clock at night or 6 o’clock in the morning.” PrimeLending’s systems and tools are mobile-friendly, so loan officers can work with customers in the evenings and weekends, she says.

PrimeLending mortgage products

PrimeLending says it has more than 400 loan products — from fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loans to conventional and jumbo home loans, as well as loans from the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The lender does refinancing, but it does not offer home equity loans or home equity lines of credit, also called HELOCs.

The company also has loans for second homes and investment properties and assists in coordinating down payment assistance programs backed by state housing authorities.

There are a good number of niche loan products on PrimeLending’s menu, including energy-efficient mortgages and FHA 203(k) renovation and remodeling loans. PrimeLending provides mortgages on manufactured homes, too, as well as home construction loans.

Perhaps PrimeLending’s most innovative product is its NeighborhoodEdge program. Initially offered only to Texas residents, the closing-cost assistance program rolled out nationally for low- to moderate-income borrowers in December 2016. Qualified customers may receive up to $2,000 in closing cost credits, with certain restrictions based on income and location.

» MORE: Calculate your refinance savings

In some cases, PrimeLending uses an “alternative doc” program, analyzing bank statements, rather than tax returns, to validate the ability of a borrower to repay.

As far as alternative credit — considering such factors as rent payment history and utility bills, rather than merely traditional credit scores — Harris says that’s more of a supplemental guideline for now.

“We do allow … some alternative credit sources to try to augment [a customer’s] credit,” particularly for FHA and VA loans, Harris says. “I’ve often said I would rather do a loan for somebody with no credit — and having to build their credit history — than somebody that’s consistently had trouble.”

But there is help for those who have had checkered credit histories, including a Homeowner’s Access “Just Missed” loan.

“It is for somebody that’s just recently out of a bankruptcy or foreclosure,” Harris says. The program offers relaxed credit standards for borrowers who have been through a bankruptcy, short sale or other mortgage payment difficulties.

PrimeLending mortgage process

PrimeLending gains most of its customers through referrals, says Harris, who credits those recommendations to real estate agents, builders and former customers. After you’re assigned a loan officer, the loan process often begins with an online application — that’s launched from the “Apply Now” button on the top right of the lender’s webpage.

As a part of the application, you can request pre-qualification from within the system on your phone, tablet or computer. A loan officer works with you, offering options and recommendations.

The online integration with the mortgage process allows you to upload documents directly into a secure system, use e-signature and receive reminders and updates along the way.

In a time of volatile interest rates — up one day, down the next — PrimeLending offers a handy “float down” interest rate option. If you’ve already locked in a loan rate, but interest rates fall before closing, you have the option to snag the lower rate. It’s a free service.

The typical closing time for mortgages is 30 days.

Fees and mortgage rates

The lender’s fee on a PrimeLending home loan is typically around $1,000, though Harris says that can vary a bit by state, region and loan product.

When starting the loan shopping process, it’s natural to look for mortgage rates on a lender’s website. But you won’t find any at Harris says the lender prefers to provide personalized rate quotes to applicants rather than post generic interest rates on its site.

Admittedly, putting a bunch of national rates on a website is of little value to most borrowers, though many lenders are beginning to offer a short questionnaire that users can fill out in order to obtain a customized quote, based on location, estimated credit score, etc. PrimeLending doesn’t offer that.

What PrimeLending does best

  • Offers a range of niche home loan products
  • Has a low ratio of consumer complaints registered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau versus loans funded, according to a NerdWallet analysis
  • Offers a proprietary closing-costs assistance program

Where PrimeLending falls short

  • No live chat
  • No first-time home buyer educational offerings
  • No online mortgage rates or short-form custom quotes

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Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @halmbundrick.

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.