Citizens Bank Mortgage Review: Digital Process and a Smartphone App

Posted on April 9th, 2020
Citizens Bank Mortgage Review: Digital Process and a Smartphone App

Today we’ll take a hard look at Citizens Bank Mortgage, which is operated by one of the oldest and largest banks in the United States.

As of the end of 2019, they considered themselves the 13th largest retail bank in the U.S., with $165.7 billion in assets and $125.3 billion in customer deposits.

Citizens Bank Mortgage Fast Facts

  • Headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island
  • 13th largest retail bank in the U.S. with 1,100 branches nationwide
  • Owns Franklin American Mortgage Company which provides correspondent and wholesale mortgage lending
  • Typically a top-25 mortgage lender nationally
  • Much of their home loan lending takes place in East Coast states like New York and Rhode Island
  • They originate a high percentage of home purchase loans and ARMs

They have roughly 1,100 physical branches across 11 states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic region, and the Midwest.

Outside of the bank’s 11-state branch footprint, they refer to themselves as “Citizens One Home Loans.”

The company also counts Franklin American Mortgage Company as one of its businesses, which offers both correspondent lending and a wholesale division to serve mortgage brokers.

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In 2018, Franklin American Mortgage Company did roughly $3.2 billion in total loan volume, with much of it via home purchase financing.

The majority of the lending was concentrated in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Citizens Bank recorded total home loan volume of nearly $10 billion in 2018, with about two-thirds of it purchase loans and the remaining third mortgage refinances.

Nearly a quarter of their overall volume was in New York State, with another 17% in their home state of Rhode Island, and about 10% in Pennsylvania.

Citizens Bank Mortgage isn’t as active in the west, with very little home loan lending west of the Mississippi River.

They do quite a bit of jumbo loan origination, and many of their funded loans in 2018 (~30%) were adjustable-rate mortgages.

How to Apply for a Home Loan with Citizens Bank Mortgage

  • Can apply online, by phone, in-branch, or connect directly with a loan officer
  • Digital mortgage process allows for web-based document collection and validation of assets, income, and taxes
  • A responsive checklist and task reminders allow you to track loan progress
  • Offers real-time co-browsing with loan officer to assist in completing the loan application

Fortunately, Citizens Bank Mortgage is on top of it when it comes to technology. You are able to apply for a mortgage or HELOC directly from their website, without speaking to a human.

Their mortgage application is powered by Blend, which allows borrowers to complete much of the loan process digitally.

This includes the ability to view personalized mortgage rates, upload key documents, or link financial accounts to automate income and asset verification.

You can also use their “find a loan officer” search feature to find a local branch of licensed loan originator near you.

Alternatively, you can simply call them up to get started, or visit a bank branch in person if face-to-face is what you prefer.

What Citizens Bank Mortgage Offers?

  • Fixed-rate mortgages: 30-year, 20-year, 15-year
  • ARMs: 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, and 10/1
  • Interest-only options
  • Conforming loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • Government loans: FHA and VA
  • First-lien HELOCs
  • Second mortgages: HELOCs and home equity loans
  • Construction-to-permanent financing
  • Doctor Loan Program
  • Available on 1-4 unit primary residences, second/vacation homes, and investment properties

Citizens Bank Mortgage offers home purchase, mortgage refinance, and home construction loans, along with second mortgages.

You can get a conforming loan or a jumbo loan, including an ARM with an interest-only option if you so desire.

In terms of government home loans, they appear to offer both FHA loans and VA loans, but not USDA loans. Those can be had via Franklin American Mortgage Company though.

Citizens Bank offers a variety of loan programs, including fixed-rate mortgages and ARMs with various loan terms.

They also offer both HELOCs and home equity loans, and they don’t charge any application fees or closing costs on the former other than a prepayment penalty if you close your HELOC within the first 36 months.

Some specialty loan programs include their first-lien HELOC and their doctor mortgages, which feature low down payment requirements without the need for mortgage insurance in some cases.

Citizens Bank Mortgage Rates

One positive with Citizens Bank Mortgage is they do openly advertise their mortgage rates. So you can see what they’re offering on a given day before applying for a home loan.

They display mortgage rates for the 30-year fixed, 20-year fixed, and 15-year fixed, along with the 5/1 ARM, 7/1 ARM, and 10/1 ARM so you can get a feel for how competitive they are relative to other mortgage lenders.

You can also see their jumbo mortgage rates for all those products, along with a 3/1 ARM and a 5/1 ARM with interest-only option.

As always, check the interest rate assumptions to see what credit score and LTV is required for the advertised rate.

Most of their advertised rates tend to come with a .25% discount point, which is pretty reasonable, but not no cost.

And understand that your unique loan scenario may price differently than what you see on their website.

In terms of lender fees, they don’t disclose if there’s an application fee or loan origination fee, so be sure to keep a close eye on what’s being charged when comparing lenders.

Your Home Rewards from Citizens Bank

Citizens Bank has also partnered with real estate brokerage HomeStory Real Estate Services to offer a “full service home-buying program” to its customers.

It’s basically a real estate agent referral program that most notably includes cash back to the home buyer or home seller when they use one of the agents to buy or sell a property.

The rewards vary from $350 to $6,500 depending on the purchase/sales price, but aren’t available to customers in Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana, or Missouri, or in connection with FHA or VA loans from Citizens Bank.

They say their agents maintain 90% or higher customer satisfaction rating and have at least five years experience.

Citizens Bank Mortgage Reviews

Citizens Bank Mortgage comes highly rated, with a 4.96 out of 5-star rating at Zillow based on over 1,500 customer reviews.

Many past customers say both the interest rate and fees/closing costs were lower than they had expected.

That’s all we have to go for reviews since they are a large depository bank and most reviews are for the bank in general, not necessarily its mortgage division.

One thing I can add is that your mortgage experience may vary widely with the thousands of employees at the bank possibly providing completely different levels of service.

Citizens Bank Mortgage Pros and Cons

The Good

  • They advertise their mortgage rates on their website (which appear competitive)
  • Offer a 0.125% rate discount if you set up auto payments from a Citizens Bank checking account
  • You can apply directly online (using Blend technology)
  • Highly rated on Zillow
  • Lots of loan options including home equity loan products
  • You can manage your home loan with their smartphone app
  • They service their home loans
  • Licensed in all 50 states and DC

The Possible Bad

  • Do not disclose lender fees upfront
  • No physical branches outside of their 11-state footprint
  • Do not offer USDA home loans

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