Fairway Independent Mortgage Review: A Top-10 Lender Big on Home Purchase Financing

Posted on May 21st, 2020
Fairway Independent Mortgage Review: A Top-10 Lender Big on Home Purchase Financing

One of the largest mortgage lenders in the country you may not have heard of is Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp., based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

They were the eighth largest residential mortgage lender in 2018, per HMDA data, just below Caliber Home Loans and loanDepot.

That’s pretty impressive, considering the only others ahead of them include the likes of UWM, Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Quicken Loans.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Fast Facts

  • Direct-to-consumer retail mortgage lender licensed in all 50 states
  • Founded in 1996 by Steve Jacobson and Randy Cross
  • Headquartered in Madison, WI and Carrrollton, TX
  • Top-10 lender that funded $39.2 billion in home loans during 2019
  • Heavily focused on home purchase financing as opposed to refinance
  • Also operates a wholesale channel known as Fairway Wholesale Lending

Fairway Independent Mortgage got started back in 1996 and has funded more than $150 billion in home loans since that time, with $39.2 billion originated in 2019 alone.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based direct lender employs over 7,000 people across 500 branches nationwide, and counts roughly 3,000 team members as loan originators. They are licensed in all 50 states.

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Their focus is to provide unparalleled customer service to help Americans achieve their dream of homeownership. Speaking of, the vast majority of their business is for home purchase loans as opposed to mortgage refinances.

They seem to do the most business in the state of Texas, followed by Arizona, Washington, Colorado, and California.

In 2013, they also began servicing their own loans as opposed to selling them off to other companies.

The company operates a wholesale lending channel for mortgage brokers known as Fairway Wholesale Lending that is licensed everywhere other than Arizona and Colorado.

However, they do the majority of their business via the retail direct-to-consumer channel, representing about 95% of their volume.

How to Apply with Fairway Independent Mortgage

  • You can apply directly on the website or via the mobile app
  • Or browse the loan officer directory on their website if you want to work with someone specific
  • The branch locator can also be used if you want to visit a local loan officer in person
  • Lastly you can get a home loan from Fairway via a mortgage broker partner

One nice thing about Fairway Independent Mortgage is the ability to apply for a mortgage via their smartphone app.

Everyone seems to be big on mobile and technology when it comes to getting a mortgage, and with Fairway you have that option.

At the same time, it’s possible to go the more traditional route and speak to a human if you want a more personal touch, or need a more hands-on approach.

They have lots of physical branches if you prefer to meet face-to-face, or you can search the directory on their website to find a specific loan officer who may have been referred to you.

It’s also possible to simply apply for a mortgage directly on their website without being linked up with a loan officer. Once you fill out the application one will be assigned to you.

As noted, it’s also possible to get a home loan from Fairway via a mortgage broker, in which case the loan process will be dictated by how that individual does business.

Their wholesale lending department is pretty aggressive, offering FHA loans and VA loans with FICOs as low as 600, and USDA loans with a FICO score as low as 620.

So you’ve got lots of options in terms of applying for a mortgage to fit all personality types.

The FairwayNow App and Fairway Express Close

  • Smartphone app allows you to apply via phone or website in minutes
  • Once approved provides live status updates and secure document upload
  • You can message your loan officer or real estate agent at any time via the app
  • When ready to fund you can use their e-closing technology known as Fairway Express Close

Those who are tech savvy may want to download the FairwayNow app, which provides a mobile mortgage application and live status tracking.

You can apply directly from the app and “get approved in minutes,” which I assume is a mortgage pre-approval followed by a true, fully underwritten loan approval.

Once approved for a loan, you can upload documents securely via the app and get status updates as conditions are signed off.

You can also message your loan officer and/or real estate agent at any time during the process if you have questions.

Another cool feature of the app is that it’s available from a computer, not just the phone.

The company also makes it easy to close a loan thanks to Fairway Express Close, their e-closing technology.

Borrowers are able to take part in a digital closing experience where documents can be viewed securely and signed electronically prior to settlement.

Aside from being more convenient and better for the environment, it can be faster, more secure, and result in no missed signatures from the borrower.

It may also give the customer more time to review the documents they are signing, instead of feeling rushed at the closing table.

And with social distancing becoming a way of life, it could be a very timely solution for home buyers and those looking to refinance a mortgage.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Loan Options

  • Home purchase, refinance, and renovation loans
  • Conventional, government, and jumbo loans
  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loans with various loan terms
  • Reverse mortgages for seniors

The company has a ton of available loan options, including both conventional mortgages and government ones, including FHA, USDA, and VA loans.

They offer home purchase financing, home renovation financing, and mortgage refinances, including cash out refinances.

However, they seem to be big on home purchase loans, as evidenced by their HMDA data, which indicated that 89% of their 2018 volume was for purchases.

The remaining 11% was refinances, with 4% rate and term and 7% cash out, which is pretty low. Most lenders tend to be refinance-heavy, especially with mortgage rates so low these days.

Those who need a renovation loan can apply for a HomeStyle Renovation or FHA 203k loan via Fairway. It’s also possible to get a reverse mortgage if you’re 62 or older.

With regard to loan type, you can get a fixed-rate mortgage in varying lengths including 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30-year terms, or an adjustable-rate mortgage, such as a 5/1 ARM or 7/1 ARM.

They also offer jumbo loans for those who need a mortgage that exceeds the conforming loan limit.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Rates

Whenever I review a mortgage company, I include a section about mortgage rates since pricing is very important.

Of course, many consumers don’t chose a lender based on rates, but maybe they should.

That being said, Fairway Independent Mortgage doesn’t openly discuss or advertise mortgage rates on their website.

Many lenders don’t, though this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good or bad.

Of course, if a lender had the lowest mortgage rates in town they’d probably want you to know about it.

Part of the reason might be their focus on home purchase lending, as opposed to refinances, the latter being interest rate-driven and the former being more about customer service and simply getting the loan closed.

When purchasing a home, borrowers are more concerned about going with a lender who can close the deal. When refinancing, it’s generally about finding the lowest rate possible.

If you choose to consider Fairway, be sure to shop around and compare their interest rates and closing costs to other lenders.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Reviews

In terms of customer reviews, they have 4.97 out of 5 stars with Zillow based on nearly 22,000 reviews.

That’s pretty darn close to perfection and really exceptional given the sheer volume of reviews.

Many of the reviews indicate that both the interest rate and closing costs were lower than expected. So that might give us an idea of pricing and competitiveness.

They are also an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau, and amazingly have a 5-star rating with the BBB based on over 1,000 reviews.

That’s pretty hard to pull off given the BBB is typically complaint-driven. Speaking of, there aren’t many complaints for the company on the BBB website either.

So it turns out their goal of providing excellent customer service seems to be met. But as always, individual experiences may vary when dealing with such a large company.

Fairway Independent Mortgage Pros and Cons

The Good

  • Can apply directly online or via app without a human
  • Lots of loan programs to choose from with low credit score and down payment requirements
  • Mostly positive customer reviews
  • Free smartphone app with live status tracking
  • Ability to upload loan documents securely
  • Can utilize their e-closing technology
  • Free mortgage calculators on their website
  • They service their own loans in most states

The Maybe Bad

  • Do not advertise their mortgage rates
  • Do not disclose lender fees on website
  • Unclear how competitive they are relative to other lenders
  • No home equity loan products available

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