The Secret Weapon This Woman Used to Save $150/Month on Her Mortgage

Tracy Wilson poses for a portrait at her Elk Grove, California home, February 27, 2018.
Tracy Wilson and her husband refinanced their Elk Grove, Calif., home through Lenda, a rapidly growing online mortgage lender. Max Whittaker for The Penny Hoarder
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In the business world, everything keeps speeding up. Products and services keep getting faster and cheaper.

You see it in everything from booking a flight to hailing a ride to investing in stocks. Day by day, service keeps getting simpler and more streamlined for customers.

The only exception is this one: Getting a mortgage. It takes months and costs a fortune.

It’s always an ordeal.

Until now. Now it can be different.

Tracy Wilson found this out through trial and error.

When it came time to refinance her mortgage, Wilson thought she knew what to do. She walked confidently into the local branch of U.S. Bank, where she had her current mortgage. The way she figured it, sitting face-to-face with a loan officer would get her personal service and the best possible deal.

That didn’t work out so well.

She would have to find a whole new way to do it.

Challenges in Mortgage Refinancing

Wilson works on her computer in her home on March 27, 2018.
Wilson works on her computer in her home on February 27, 2018. Max Whittaker for The Penny Hoarder

Wilson, 40, is a paralegal who lives near Sacramento, California. After working full-time for a law firm for eight years, she decided to strike out on her own as a freelancer.

It was something she really wanted to do. But she worried it would hurt her chances of getting a better mortgage.

“I knew [my career change] could be a factor,” Wilson said.

So when she wanted to refinance her mortgage, she was totally upfront about her new job status from the beginning.

“I walked into the bank branch that I went to every month to make a payment on my mortgage,” she says. “I spoke with the loan officer about this.”

She had eight years of tax returns that showed a steady income from her old full-time job. But at this point, she’d been working for herself for six months. She wasn’t sure if a lender would accept that.

She made it clear to the bank that she didn’t want to go through with the refinancing process and have credit inquiries pull down her credit score if there was no point.

The loan officer assured her it would be no problem.

However, after Wilson spent three weeks going through the application process, the bank informed her she didn’t qualify.

“They came back and said, ‘You’ve had a really big job change.’ They literally said exactly what I said at the beginning,” Wilson says.

“It’s frustrating. You want to speak to someone in person. But if they’re only relying on a script and don’t understand what they’re doing, it’s really no use.”

After this initial rejection, Wilson waited two years before she tried refinancing again. By then, she could show she was earning income as a freelancer, and she hoped her experience would be different.

‘Better Customer Service Than at a Bank’

Wilson shows Lenda's website on her cell phone. Max Whittaker for The Penny Hoarder
Lenda says it saves homebuyers an average of $409 per month in loan repayments since the whole process is done online. Max Whittaker for The Penny Hoarder

This time Wilson tried Lenda, a rapidly growing online mortgage lender. It’s using cutting-edge technology to streamline the mortgage and mortgage refinancing process.

With Lenda, you do everything online. By automating and digitizing its processes, the company says it saves homebuyers an average of $409 per month in loan repayments.

Lenda only requires a 620 credit score to be approved, and it can wrap up its loans in as few as 17 days — as opposed to the industry standard, which is typically two months. That’s nearly 3.5 times faster.

Most important for Wilson, Lenda’s customer service impressed her. She had been a little anxious because it didn’t have a brick-and-mortar office to visit, but she got over that.

“Companies have gotten really lax,” she says. “They don’t care about customer service. I got better customer service with Lenda online than I did at a bank where I’d been going for five years.”

When she and her husband refinanced their mortgage, they had $170,000 of equity in their house, which they bought in 2009.

By refinancing through Lenda, they took out $50,000 in cash for home improvements and to pay off medical debts. They got a lower interest rate, ended their private mortgage insurance (PMI) payments and ended up with a monthly mortgage payment that’s $150 lower than what they were paying.

Refinance Your Mortgage at ‘Warp Speed’

Lenda is available to customers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Virginia — and quickly expanding.

Along with its customer service, Wilson appreciated Lenda’s efficiency.

“Because I work for myself, every minute I’m not doing billable work, I’m costing myself money,” she says.

Lenda’s website told her exactly which documents she needed to upload. Throughout the process, it guided her through the next steps, and the Lenda team was available for support and questions..

“It felt like warp speed,” Wilson says. “We started right before Halloween, and we were done by Thanksgiving.”

Sponsorship Disclosure: This content is provided by Lenda, an advertiser. The Penny Hoarder does not provide home mortgage loans or mortgage recommendations. Lenda is the mortgage originator.  Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 60DBO68584. Lenda loans are originated by Lenda, Inc, NMLS #991397. Terms and Conditions apply; see for details. Mortgages are not available in all states. See the Lenda eligibility list. Lenda, Inc, 44 Tehama Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He once refinanced a mortgage and it took forever and a day.