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Best Online Home Equity Lenders

Change Sciences report indicates room for improvement

January 27, 2006


photo of Coco Salazar

Many of the best home equity lending Web sites leave room for improvement -- with more than a third quickly driving prospective customers away.

Change Sciences Group's recent ranking of 42 home equity Web sites from the perspective of people looking for a loan indicates much work is needed to make the experience easier, according to a recent announcement.

The group reportedly analyzed the sites from the view of four prospect groups -- remodelers, expense managers, one-time buyers, and debt consolidators -- to see how they supported key prospect goals such as finding the home equity section quickly and easily, learning the basics about home equity lending, getting information about a loan, and applying online.

More than a third of the sites reportedly have look and feel problems that cause many prospects to leave immediately.

Also, almost all of the 42 sites are missing key content and functionality that speak directly to key home equity prospect groups. About a quarter of the sites do not offer content that speaks to remodelers and the same percentage do not address needs of the prospect using a loan for a one-time purchase. As for content directed to the expense manager, more than half the sites do not have such and only one site does not cause friction for the bill consolidator prospect, Change Sciences said.

Most of the lenders are failing to provide what consumers need to feel comfortable moving forward to apply for a loan because they present a generic home equity offer. And of the "handful" of sites that are working to provide detailed loan offers to prospects, many are doing so in a way likely to confuse prospects, according to the announcement.

The research also showed that only two of the 42 sites address each of the top three questions prospects have about home equity products without causing friction.

The research group said it also found that most banks "are not at all clear how home equity products are perceived by the consumer. Are they more like credit cards or mortgages?"

Despite room for improvement across the companies, Change Sciences recognized Capital One as providing the best home equity site, while it gave Quicken Loans and Wells Fargo the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

"Competition in the online lending space is heating up, with a number of regional players working hard to make their web sites as good as the traditional leaders," Change Sciences said in the announcement. "The gap is widening between large regional banks working to take advantage of the online channel and those which are not."

While Change Sciences acknowledged that the large lenders continued to score well, it noted that "most surprising are the performances put in by major regional players" like Fifth Third Bank, Citizens Bank and Commerce Bank, which respectively placed fourth, fifth and sixth. "These guys know they are vying with powerhouses like Capital One, Quicken and Wells in the fiercely competitive online space, and they are building out their web sites to go toe to toe."

The remainder of the top 10 consisted of E*Trade, Wachovia, Compass Bank and Regions.

Coco Salazar is an assistant editor and staff writer for MortgageDaily.com.

e-mail: [email protected]

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