Overview: Stearns Lending
Headquartered in Santa Ana, California, Stearns Lending LLC is a major correspondent mortgage lender—they originate and fund home loans in their own name. In fact, the majority of their loans are retained and serviced by Stearns Lending instead of being re-sold to another lender.
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Stearns Lending was founded in 1989 by its current Chairman, Glenn Stearns, when he was just 25. He left his post as CEO in 2012 when Stearns Lending brought former MetLife Home Loans president Brian Hale on board.
According to Stearns Lending’s website, they have funded more than $58 billion–representing 230,176 loans–in the last four years.
Bloomberg reported that Stearns Lending achieved 23.8% year-over-year growth in production volume in 2014. Production volume reached $16.190 billion.
Locating 2015 production results online proved futile…until checking out Stearns Lending’s You Tube channel. In a video titled, “2015 Triumphs for Stearns Lending, LLC,” the company broadcasts its 2015 production results: $25.3 billion funded and a growth of 344% over the last five years.
Stearns Lending’s Offerings
Stearns Lending offers products and services in all 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. Stearns home loans are available through quite a few mortgage products:
- Fixed-rate loans
- Adjustable-rate (ARMs) loans
- FHA 203k loans
- VA loans
- Jumbo loans
- USDA rural loans
They do not print APR rates online or quite them over the phone at Stearns Lending. Like many mortgage lenders, they construct a picture of your finances and credit first and determine your APR based on Federal Reserve interest rates and your profile.
Stearns Lending also offers refinancing options and invites potential clients to use the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). Introduced in 2009 by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FSFA), the program offers refinancing options to homeowners who have seen a drop in their home value or who are underwater. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage holders are eligible as well. Lower interest rates, higher loan amounts, smaller monthly payments, and shorter loan terms are available to eligible borrowers under HARP.
The team at Stearns Lending created their own streamlined process to help customers utilize the HARP option. The StearnsSaver option allows borrowers to enter information about their current mortgage, current interest rates, and refinancing goals. It promises personal guidance through every step, as well as the ability to close within 30 days.
Unfortunately, the StearnsSaver does not appear to be a very effective tool. There’s not much information about the StearnsSaver program itself or how to prepare for a conversation with a Stearns Lending agent about refinancing. There isn’t even much information about HARP; the customer is left to sorts these things out on their own.
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How It Works
If you’ve purchased a home in the past, the Stearns process will be very familiar. It’s a traditional home loan with typical procedures:
- To pre-qualify for a loan, you’ll meet with a Stearns Lending loan officer to discuss your goals. You’ll talk about your employment, assets, and credit history. Those few things will get the process started.
- For pre-approval, the loan officer will identify the documents they need to evaluate your loan application. After all documents are submitted, an underwriter reviews your information and determines your loan eligibility.
- When underwriting is completed, it’s time for house shopping. After you’ve found your perfect home, an appraisal and title review are ordered.
Stearns Customer Portal
Once you have a mortgage through Stearns Lending, you might enjoy the ease of checking your mortgage information online. Like other companies who hold a large client database, Stearns Lending’s website houses a Stearns Customer Portal.
Stearns Customer Portal is a new tool on the Stearns website; it was rolled out in early March 2016.
The customer portal allows clients to manage and monitor the loan process. Stearns customers can enter paystub photos, bank statements and sensitive documents into the platform. It’s a much easier process than keeping track of hard copies.
For those who can’t wait for loan officers to call with news, Stearns lending customers can find loan statuses immediately. It’s one-stop service at its best.
Stearns Lending Reviews—The Good and the Bad
One quick search for “Stearns lending complaints” yields a multitude of reviews (both good and bad) about customer service at Stearns Lending. Bear in mind that consumers are more likely to post reviews when they have had a negative experience than if they have had a positive one; even so, it is helpful to hear from a wide range of experiences.
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On Google Reviews, there are 22 reviews for Stearns, and it has a 1.7 star rating out of five. Chief among complaints are issues of escrow problems after loans were sold to Stearns and lack of customer service responsiveness.
Of course, 22 people isn’t a large sample, so we tried to find as many sources with Stearns Lending reviews as possible. Yelp produces similar reviews, where most complaints are about the endless phone tree and how difficult it is to find a knowledgeable customer service representative. One reviewer in March of 2016 cited a 20-25 minute wait time on the phone.
Complaints about the phone automation system, lack of follow up, and website issues abound. Since 2001, Stearns Lending customers have filed a total of 60 complaints with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent U.S. government agency that protects consumers in the financial sector. Despite many negative reviews, Stearns Lending’s CFPB response time is rated “Good,” with a 91.7% customer satisfaction rating.
In fact, nearly every source for Stearns mortgage reviews we found had responses from Stearns Lending to the reviewer, inviting dialogue with the customer services team through private phone lines and e-mail addresses. Each response had a corresponding reference number for the case. It’s apparent that Stearns Lending is making an effort to remedy any negative reviews.
There were very positive reviews as well. Kudos to agents, compliments on the lending process and personal budgeting were all staples in the reviews about Stearns Lending.
Stearns Lending customers raved about their ability to refinance, close in 30 days, and receive competitive interest rates.
Sometimes, it comes down to working with the right person: a review from April 2015 enthuses about an agent who was knowledgeable and helpful, working with the customer to maximize her personal budget. A review from June of that year confessed to doing a lot of “rate snooping” with other companies; in the end, her Stearns Lending agent offered the best rate!
Stearns Lending has recently been the victim of scamming. It’s hard not to find a company these days that has not fallen victim to some form of scamming or fraud.
The fraud scheme offers a fast turnaround, a 2% interest rate, and repayment terms of 30 days to 30 years. The scam artists ask for bank account, social security, driver license and other personal information, along with an application fee to be wired, usually through Western Union.
Stearns Lending advises customers: “Stearns Lending only conducts business using company email addresses that end with stearns.com or cupartners.com. If you have any questions about the legitimacy of the loan officer or loan you are seeking, please contact the Stearns Security Officer at [email protected].”
Do Your Homework
Stearns Lending reviews are a bit polarized: some customers have an excellent experience, others a difficult one. At the end of the day, you must do your own due diligence by researching this company and others, looking at the state of your finances and needs, and meeting with several companies to figure out whether or not they are a good fit.
As an educated consumer, it’s up to you to research any lender before you jump in with both feet. Good luck!
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