Watermark Home Loans Review 2021: Solid Mortgage Menu, but Rates and Fees Not Advertised

An image to accompany a review of Watermark Home Loans Illustration/NextAdvisor

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Watermark Home Loans is a mortgage lender based out of Irvine, CA, and licensed to lend in 38 states. In addition to conventional, jumbo, and government loans, it also offers several niche products such as interest-only loans and reverse mortgages

For questions, customers must speak with a loan officer by calling or completing an online rate quote request form. We found it very easy to get in touch with a loan officer, as we received a callback from a loan officer within minutes of completing the online rate quote request. 

Applying for a rate quote online is a little clunky. It’s possible, but there isn’t a clear call to action to apply. It took some trial and error to find where to start that process. 

Pros and Cons of Watermark Home Loans

Pros

  • Has standard conventional and jumbo loan products, in addition to FHA and VA loans

  • Variety of niche loans options available including reverse mortgages and interest-only loans

  • Pleasant customer experience

Cons

  • Only originates mortgages in 38 states

  • Rates and fees are not available online

  • Website has limited educational resources

  • Must contact a loan officer for details on loan programs

  • Website not intuitive with application process

Watermark Home Loans: Loan Types and Products

Watermark Home Loans offers mortgage loans for those looking to purchase or refinance a home. Loans are available for a primary residence, second homes, and investment homes, although some loan programs may have certain restrictions. 

Here is a full list of the types of mortgage loans the lender offers:

Watermark provides very little online information about its loan programs. Jumbo loans are offered up to $3M for loans that exceed the conforming county loan limits, but customers must speak with a loan officer for any further information on rates, fees, loan terms, and loan requirements. 

Watermark advertises the availability of VA loans as a product for those with a military background. These loans could allow eligible customers to purchase a home with certain flexibilities such as no down payment, no added cost of monthly mortgage insurance, and waivers of the VA loan funding fee. 

Watermark Home Loans Transparency

Watermark Home Loans does not provide any information on its website regarding rates and fees. Except for some brief information about VA loans, the lender does not provide any minimum down payment, credit score requirements, or loan program details. There is also little educational content customers can use to understand the loan process or basic mortgage terminology. 

You can apply for a rate quote online in a roundabout way. At first glance, it would seem that there is no option to apply online, as clicking the “Apply Now” button on the website leads customers to a form to provide contact information for a callback. However, by following prompts to “Log In” and then “Sign up,” we found it was possible to submit an application online. Despite this non-intuitive process, we received a call within minutes. However, speaking to a loan officer by phone is the only way to receive a rate quote. The experience with the phone call was pleasant, which matches up with Watermark’s emphasis on providing quality customer service.

Watermark Home Loans: Rates and Fees 

Watermark Home Loans only provides custom rate quotes, and customers must speak with a loan officer. However, a specific list of fees is not provided with the quote. To obtain a Loan Estimate (LE) with a list of fees, customers must submit a full loan application and allow for their credit to be pulled. Keep in mind that rates can change daily, and third-party fees are dependent on your specific loan scenario.  

When reviewing your LE, look to make sure the rates don’t include discount points so you can get the best apples-to-apples comparison to LE’s from other lenders. When shopping around, know that many lenders offer a variety of rate and fee combinations. Lower rates have smaller monthly payments over the life of the loan but may come at the cost of more up-front costs in the form of discount points. Higher interest rates may offer lender credits to cover your upfront closing costs but at the cost of higher monthly loan payments. 

According to a loan officer we spoke with, minimum credit scores vary depending on the loan program. Conforming loans require at least a 620 credit score, while jumbo loans vary depending on the borrower. 

Refinancing With Watermark Home Loans

Watermark allows customers to submit applications online, although their website is slightly confusing. Clicking the “Apply Now” button on the website only directs you to a form where you request a callback from one of their loan officers. Instead, you’ll want to click the “Log In” button and then “Sign up” to be given the option to submit an online application. 

After applying, Watermark’s process is similar to many other lenders. A Loan Estimate (LE) will be provided along with loan disclosures, options to lock in a rate will be presented, and the lender will provide a list of items needed from the customer. Items needed may include an appraisal inspection of the home, income documents, and borrower explanations to address any discrepancies. Once everything is provided, Watermark’s underwriting department will review the items. Then, final loan documents will be generated for signature. 

Watermark charges an origination fee of $1,499 for its loans. Third-party fees will also apply, but a full list of fees could not be provided. We were told they can vary depending on a number of loan characteristics. For example, fees may vary based on property location, loan amount, appraised value of the home, occupancy type, and credit score. 

Watermark Home Loans Compared to Other Mortgage Lenders

Watermark Home LoansCarrington Mortgage ServicesWintrust Mortgage
Minimum credit score620 for conventional, other programs may vary620 for conventional, 500 for FHA, VA, and USDA620 for FHA, 640 for conventional
Minimum down payment0% to 3%, varies based on loan program0% to 3.5% depending on the loan program0% for VA, other programs may vary
Where does the lender operate?38 states48 states and Washington, D.C.All 50 states
Major loan typesPurchase, refinance, conventional, jumbo, FHA, VA, interest-only, reverse mortgage, fixed-rate, adjustable-rateConventional, jumbo, FHA, VA, USDA, refinance, adjustable-rate, fixed-rateConventional, jumbo, FHA, VA, USDA, construction, renovation, refinance, HELOC

How to Shop Around to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

When shopping for the best mortgage rate, it’s important to also consider all the fees and discount points in the LE. Lenders may offer a lower interest rate, but it could be due to discount points that lower the rate, but you have to purchase upfront at closing. Similarly, higher interest rates could be applied by lenders offering lender credits.

Before making a final decision, you should always request a Loan Estimate (LE). This step will often require the lender to pull your credit. The benefit of having a LE in hand is you can make a true apples-to-apples comparison with other LE’s. Fees can vary based on loan amount and down payment, so if you compare loan estimates among lenders you should ensure they are all for the same loan scenario. 

Bottom Line

Watermark Home Loans offers standard products such as conventional, jumbo, and FHA/VA loans. Several niche products like reverse mortgages and interest-only loans are available too.  However, because the lender offers limited information online, this may be a better fit for those knowledgeable or experienced with the mortgage process and who have already shopped rates with other lenders