Editorial Review

Stearns Lending Mortgage Review 2019

Ideal for borrowers who want to choose from a variety of home loan options, including a low-down-payment mortgage for physicians and dentists.

Hal M. Bundrick, CFPSeptember 27, 2019

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Our Take

3.5

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: Stearns offers a full menu of purchase and refinancing loans, but not home equity loans or lines of credit.

Stearns Lending

Stearns Lending: NMLS#1854

Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Offers government-backed loans with low down payment options, including FHA 203k renovation loans.

  • Has a low-down-payment program available for medical doctors and dentists.

  • Has a mobile app to streamline the mortgage application process.

Cons
  • Does not provide information about its rates and fees on the website.

  • Does not offer home equity loans or HELOCs.

  • Not available in New York.

Compare to Other Lenders

Quicken Loans
Better.com
Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

Min. Down Payment

3%

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA

Loan Types and Products

Purchase, Refinance, Jumbo, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA

Full Review

Stearns Lending, based in Santa Ana, California, was founded in 1989 by Glenn Stearns when he was 25. If Stearns’ name sounds familiar, it may be due to his starring role in “Undercover Billionaire,” a reality show that debuted in August 2019 on Discovery.

In 2018, Stearns Lending was the nation's 26th largest mortgage lender by volume, funding more than $9.7 billion in home loans that year, according to 2018 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data.

In July 2019, Stearns and some of its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company continues to operate during a restructuring plan aimed at reducing its outstanding debt.

“Stearns is operating as normal and its employees are focused on providing customers the high-quality service they expect from the company,” the lender says on its website. “We remain firmly committed to our mission of helping home buyers find the best loans for their current and future needs."

Stearns is licensed in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Its products are unavailable in New York.

» MORE: Compare Stearns Lending with other mortgage lenders

Stearns Lending mortgage loan products

Like many nonbank lenders, Stearns Lending has most of the traditional mortgage loan options, except for home equity loans and home equity lines of credit.

Just about everything else is on the menu: government-backed loans such as FHA, USDA and VA loans; fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages; renovation loans; jumbo loans; and refinancing.

Stearns offers several mortgages tailored to first-time home buyers, including low-down-payment mortgages that can be paired with local down payment assistance. In addition, there are programs that enable home buyers to avoid mortgage insurance and a “Smart Start” program, in which the lender pays a portion of the interest during the mortgage’s first two years.

Stearns also offers a mortgage for medical doctors and dentists. The down payment requirement is as low as 5%, and certain student loan payments are excluded from the debt-to-income calculation.

Stearns Lending mortgage process

Stearns offers home loans through mortgage brokers, small banks and directly to consumers. The lender maintains a consumer-facing website showcasing its mortgages and offers a mobile app, Stearns Digital, to streamline the application process.

To start the application process, you can call or email the company, fill out a form on the website asking a loan officer to call you or contact a branch.

You can also download the Stearns Digital mobile app at the App Store or Google Play, but you’ll need a verification code to register your account and start using it. The app lets you upload and digitally sign documents, message your loan officers, view loan details and check your loan’s status.

Stearns says that a loan officer will guide you through the application online, or if you visit a branch, in person. The lender says that in many cases it can validate income, employment and assets almost instantly online; all you need to provide is your Social Security number and bank information. Stearns says underwriting the loan takes an average of 48 hours.

Closing typically happens in 14 days or less, the company says, although closing times can vary depending on a variety of factors.

Stearns Lending fees and mortgage rates

Stearns doesn’t post information about fees or mortgage rates online. To get a rate quote, you'll need to contact the company or a branch directly.

» MORE: Use our mortgage calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage payment.

Stearns Lending customer service

Stearns has more than 30 branches in California and at least one branch in these other states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

You can see if there’s a branch near you through the “contact us” page on the Stearns website. If so, you’ll get a link to that branch’s webpage with email and phone numbers for the branch manager and mortgage loan originators. If you don’t live near a branch or would prefer to do business by phone or online, you can contact the national sales office by phone or email. You can also fill out an online form to have the company call you.

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.