Wells Fargo Mortgage is the 800-pound gorilla of home loans. But standing next to this gorilla is a big elephant in the room.
Wells Fargo has been the leading originator and servicer of residential mortgages for 24 out of the past 25 years. The bank has a loan product selection that is long and wide. Last year, it financed one of every eight home loans in America.
‘We’re not a perfect company. We made a mistake’
But in 2016, Wells Fargo suffered a costly and embarrassing corporate setback. After news spread that thousands of employees set up as many as 2 million unauthorized customer accounts in a five-year cross-selling scheme, the bank is struggling to regain consumer confidence.
And on Oct. 2016, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $50 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit alleging the bank overcharged 250,000 customers for mortgage appraisal fees.
“Wells Fargo is a great company, and it’s been a great company for over 160 years,” says Greg Gwizdz, national sales manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. “But we’re not a perfect company. We made a mistake. And I think it has been well documented that we have made corrections based on that mistake.”
He says the bank has changed its compensation policies, given refunds to customers, reviewed sales practices and “taken steps to change the organization to make sure that that doesn’t happen again.”
If you’re considering Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, here’s what you need to know.
AT A GLANCE
- A full range of traditional and specialty mortgages.
- Minimum credit score of 620, though alternative credit data may be considered for certain loan products.
- A first-time homebuyer program allows down payments as low as 3% plus “expanded credit criteria.”
A full product mortgage lender
Wells Fargo offers the extended list of mortgage products you’d expect from a “big box” lender. Beyond conventional mortgages, home equity lines of credit and government loans from the Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Affairs and Department of Agriculture, Wells Fargo Mortgage offers:
- Jumbo loans on up to 89.9% of a home’s value, with support provided by a specialized private mortgage banking team.
- Renovation loans, with financing based on after-home-improvement value built into purchase or refi loans.
- New construction home loans, with options for an extended rate lock during the building period.
- Relocation and employee mortgage programs for many large companies.
- A loan program with special benefits for eligible union members.
The Union Plus Mortgage program is available to 59 national and international labor unions and 30,000 local unions. Participants get a $500 award card on a purchase loan or a $300 award card on a refinance. “If you [become] disabled, unemployed or your union goes on strike, you can apply for a grant and interest-free loan to make your mortgage payment,” Gwizdz says.
Programs for first-time or declined homebuyers
Wells Fargo’s yourFirst Mortgage offers down payments as low as 3% on fixed-rate mortgages, expanded credit criteria and incentives for homebuyer education.
“From a credit perspective, this would be [considering] things like utility bills and other forms of credit, in addition to just a standard credit report,” Gwizdz says. “And we provide an eighth lower interest rate (0.125%) if consumers go through our homebuyer education classes.”
Gwizdz says these classes aren’t for learning about mortgages and the mortgage process. “It’s really learning about being a homeowner and understanding everything that comes with that: the taxes and the insurance and the maintenance — and saving money because, guess what, the furnace is going to break, and the roof is going to leak.”
Meanwhile, the My Home Roadmap program offers free credit counseling for customers who have been turned down for credit or have decided not to apply for a mortgage. It offers a referral for up to two hours of free counseling with a certified credit counselor to discuss your situation.
Wells Fargo mortgage process
You can’t get a prequalification or complete a mortgage application online at Wells Fargo. While the bank’s website offers some affordability tools, educational videos and national mortgage rates, that’s pretty much as far as you can go online.
Once you’re ready to make an application, you can sign into yourLoanTracker, the online bridge between you and your Wells Fargo Mortgage loan advisor. After you apply in person or over the phone, this is where you can track your application’s status and exchange information and documents via computer or mobile device. There are also e-signature capabilities.
Even though the lending process and timeline are typical, the online interface can save a lot of the time you otherwise might spend on taking or mailing documents to a loan office.
Gwizdz says technology upgrades are in the works, with “full online capabilities” coming soon.
What Wells Fargo does best
- Wells Fargo offers a deep product bench for borrowers at every financial stage in life.
- Specialty loan programs target first-time homebuyers, union members and others.
- While some other large banks are growing wary of mortgage lending, Wells Fargo maintains a dominant position.
Where Wells Fargo falls short
- Borrowers can’t yet apply for a mortgage online.
- With a long list of government actions, the embattled bank has an uphill climb to regain consumer trust.
Wells Fargo has a world-class selection of mortgage products and deep resources for customers to draw upon, but the fact remains that this bank has a lot of baggage. While employees are putting on brave faces and working to regain trust, homebuyers may find it hard to put their largest purchase in the hands of Wells Fargo Mortgage.
“What I say to my team is, ‘At this point, our actions have to speak louder than our words,'” Gwizdz says. “And all we can do is continue to provide great service to all of our customers and give it some time, and we believe we’ll win back the trust of our customers. But we have to earn it back.”
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Hal Bundrick is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @halmbundrick