Garden State Home Loans Review: Strong Customer Service, but Requires a Credit Check for Rate Quote

An image to accompany a review of Garden State Home Loans mortgage Illustration/NextAdvisor
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Since launching in 2011, Garden State Home Loans has funded more than $4 billion in mortgage loans for its 20,000 borrowers. The lender is based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and is currently licensed in eight states across the U.S. 

Garden State Home Loans specializes in customer service. You can chat with a loan officer seven days a week through the website, via email, or over phone call, or you can visit the Cherry Hill office if you’re nearby. The lender also says it closes most of its home loans within 30 days. However, there are two major drawbacks with this lender: Mortgages are only available in eight states, and you’ll need to go through a credit check to get a rate quote. Here’s what to know about this lender before applying.  

Pros and Cons of Garden State Home Loans 

Pros

  • Mortgage loans available in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania

  • Most home loans close within 30 days

  • Customer service available seven days a week via phone call, live chat, or email

Cons

  • Not available in Washington, D.C., and 42 states

  • Doesn’t list mortgage rates or fees online

  • There’s just one in-person office available (in Cherry Hill)

Garden State Home Loans Review: Mortgage Loan Types and Products

Garden State Home Loans offers a menu of conventional loans, government-sponsored loans, and renovation loans. But borrowers won’t find certain specialty products, such as construction loans, home equity products, and reverse mortgages. 

Borrowers have a choice between fixed-rate loans, in which the rate never changes, and adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs. With a Garden State ARM, the rate is fixed for the first five, seven, or 10 years. Then, for the remaining loan term, the rate may go up or down every six months or once a year based on market conditions.

Garden State Home Loans also offers jumbo mortgages, which are home loans that exceed the conforming loan limit of $548,250. Garden State funds jumbo loans up to $2 million, which is on the lower side compared to some of its competitors.

Garden State Home Loans Review: Transparency

When you visit Garden State Home Loans’ website, you can fill out an online form to request a rate quote or chat with someone if you want help. The website also includes mortgage calculators, blog posts on home buying topics, and answers to important mortgage-related questions. 

The website doesn’t spell out the lender’s loan qualification requirements or list certain important costs, such as lender origination fees. But loan officers are readily available to answer any of your questions and provide a preapproval or a Loan Estimate, depending on where you are in the homebuying process.

Garden State Home Loans Review: Mortgage Rates and Fees 

On its website, Garden State Home Loans says it has “very minimal fees and low overhead,” though it doesn’t specify further. The website is missing certain helpful resources, such as a clearly labeled list of loans it offers, qualification requirements on each loan, current mortgage rates, and a list of lender fees it charges borrowers. 

But a loan officer confirmed borrowers never pay prepayment penalties and can lock in a rate for up to 90 days for free. Additionally, most home loans close within 30 days. 

According to the loan officer, applicants can’t get a rate quote without submitting financial documents and approving a hard credit pull. That’s a major drawback because you won’t be able to see if you qualify and determine whether you want to move forward with Garden State Home Loans without affecting your credit. Several other lenders offer a free rate quote with a soft credit pull or no credit check. 

If you decide to get a preapproval, ask for a closing cost worksheet and look for some of these common lender costs and third-party fees:

The lender says it requires a credit score of at least 640 to qualify for most of its mortgage programs, including conventional loans. You’ll also need a down payment of 3% to 5% for a conventional loan, depending on whether you’re a first-time homebuyer. With a 10% down payment, you may qualify for a jumbo loan with no mortgage insurance. FHA loans come with more flexible qualification requirements, so your credit score can be as low as 580 if you have a down payment of at least 3.5%. 

Refinancing With Garden State Home Loans Review

If you already have a mortgage and want to lower your monthly payment or tap into your home equity, you can refinance with Garden State Home Loans using one of these options:

  • Cash-out refinance, which allows you to take out a new mortgage for more than you owe and use the extra cash for any type of expense. You’ll have a larger mortgage payment going forward, though, and you’ll extend your repayment timeline.
  • Rate-and-term refinance, which allows you to swap out your mortgage with one that has a different loan term, interest rate, or both. A refinance could help save on monthly mortgage payments, eliminate private mortgage insurance, or shorten a payoff timeline. 

Garden State Home Loans Compared to Other Mortgage Lenders

Garden State Home LoansRocket MortgageFairway Independent Mortgage Corp.
Minimum credit score640 conventional; 580 FHA580 to 620620 for conventional; 660 for jumbo; 600 for FHA; 600 for VA
Minimum down payment3% to 5% for conventional; 3.5% for FHA; 0% for VA and USDA0% to 3.5%0% to 5%
Where does the lender operate?8 statesAll 50 states and Washington, D.C.All 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Major loan typesConventional, jumbo, VA, FHA, USDA, adjustable-rate, fixed-rate, refinance, cash-out refinance, renovationConventional, jumbo, VA, FHA, fixed-rate, refinance, cash-out refinanceConventional, jumbo, VA, FHA, USDA, various renovation loans, adjustable-rate, fixed-rate, refinance, cash-out refinance, reverse mortgages, home equity loans, home equity lines of credit

How to Shop Around to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

Before you start shopping for a home, it’s a good idea to contact a lender and ask for a mortgage pre-approval. After pulling your credit and looking at some of your financial documents, the lender provides an estimate for how much you can borrow. This will help you define your budget and support your purchase offer. But you’re not locked in with that lender, so you can check out others when you’re ready to apply for a home loan.

Once you’ve found a home and the seller accepts your offer, submit mortgage applications with multiple lenders. (You can minimize the hit to your credit by applying for the loans within a short window, around two to six weeks.) You’ll receive a Loan Estimate that lists all the borrowing costs you’ll pay with that lender. Use these documents to compare the interest rate and closing costs, and use an online mortgage calculator to help you figure out how much you’d spend on interest with each option. 

Take a look at one example: Let’s say you receive two mortgage rate quotes on a home worth $200,000 with a 20% down payment and 30-year term.

Interest rateMonthly principal and interest paymentInterest saved
3.4%$709
3.1%$683$26 per month or $9,360 over the loan term

With a 3.4% interest rate, the monthly principal and interest payment comes out to $709. But with a 3.1% interest rate, you save $26 a month on interest costs. That might not sound like much, but it adds up to $9,360 in savings over 30 years. 

The Bottom Line

Garden State Home Loans is a regional lender with excellent customer service and a good mortgage lineup. But only borrowers in eight states can get a mortgage here, and you’ll need to go through extra steps to get a rate quote. If you live within the borrower’s footprint, check them out when you’re ready for a preapproval. Then, compare the offer with others to make sure you’re getting the best deal.