|The best servicer of home-equity loans and home-equity lines-of-credit is a troubled institution that is in the process of being acquired.
Wachovia ranked highest in J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Home Equity Line of Credit/Loan Servicer Study, a press release said today. The ranking, in its second year, was based on responses from 5,035 HELOC and HEL borrowers during March, April, July and August.
The study examined product details, payment and billing, access to funds and customer contact at 30 HEL servicers -- including several that were subsidiaries of institutions that either failed or were acquired. Servicers were scored on a 1000-point scale.
Wachovia's No. 1 ranking was based on a score of 746. The high score reflected a strong payment and billing process as well as loyal customers. Financially troubled Wachovia -- which ranked third in the 2007 HELOC servicer study and in J.D. Power's 2008 Home Equity Line/Loan Origination Study -- has agreed to be acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. this month.
No. 2 in the 2008 HELOC servicer ranking was Bank of America with a score of 743. BoA, which also ranked second in the 2007 report, was cited for its fundings. BoA was the highest ranked HELOC lender in the May origination study from J.D. Power.
SunTrust Bank -- which topped the 2007 HELOC servicer ranking -- was No. 3 in the latest study with a score of 741. No. 4 was Washington Mutual, which failed in September and was subsequently acquired by JPMorgan Chase & Co., and National City Bank, which is being acquired by PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
Industry-wide, the HELOC servicer satisfaction score fell to 716 this year from 721 in 2007.
"The challenging economic market plays a key role in the decline, with actions taken by lenders to reduce risk -- such as tightening credit availability and terms, extending fewer credit limit increases and offering less flexibility for locking rates -- contributing to the decrease," J.D. Power explained. "In addition, poor performances in fundamental areas of home equity servicing -- such as billing and payment processes, and customer contact -- have also driven the decline."
J.D. Power noted satisfaction for delinquent borrowers increased nearly 300 points when lenders exhibited a willingness to work with them. The research firm said that a 6 percent drop in attrition rates can translate into $134 million in saved balances for every 100,000 borrowers.
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