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Stearns Lending mortgage review

This lender’s low down payment options may not offset its poor customer reviews.

Stearns focuses on one thing: loans that help borrowers open the door to a new home. It offers options for first-time homebuyers looking for low down payments and a wide range of government programs, including FHA 203(k) renovations loans. But the lender doesn’t have a good reputation with its customers.

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Details

Loan products offeredConventional, FHA, VA, USDA, Jumbo, Refinance, Reverse
Minimum credit scoreConventional: 620
Minimum down payment (Conventional)3%
State availabilityNot available in: NY
NMLS #1854

Stearns Requirements

Requirements come down to the type of loan you’re applying for:

Maximum loan-to-value (LTV)Maximum debt-to-income (DTI)
Conventional loans97%43%
FHA loans96.5%50%
Freddie Mac Home Possible Advantage loans97%No set maximum. But most lenders want a ratio below 45%.

Documentation

Stearns says that getting a preapproval can speed up the application process before you start looking at potential homes. Here’s what you’ll likely need to submit with your application:

  • Government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license
  • One month of pay stubs
  • Proof of other income, if applicable
  • Two years of W-2 forms and Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), if applicable
  • Two years of federal income tax returns
  • Statements for assets
  • Signed letter if your down payment is a gift

Costs and fees

Stearns fees vary by state and depend on the loan you’re interested in, but most borrowers can expect to pay:

  • Application fee
  • Processing fee
  • Underwriting fee
  • Origination fee
  • Rate lock
  • Fees to third parties — flood specialists, appraisers and title companies

How to apply for a mortgage with Stearns

Apply online to start the process, but you’ll eventually need to speak with a loan officer to complete it.

  1. Go to the Stearns website and select Get Started.
  2. Indicate whether you’re buying a new house or refinancing.
  3. Enter the purchase price and down payment, and choose Next.
  4. Provide details about the location of your purchase by ZIP code or city and state. Hit Next.
  5. Answer whether you currently own a home, whether you’re eligible for military financing and choose the property type — for example, single-family residence, condo or multifamily.
  6. Indicate whether you’ll use the property as your primary home, secondary home or investment home and whether you’re already working with a Stearns loan officer.
  7. Complete your contact information and select Submit.

Stearns says you’ll hear from a loan officer within 24 hours.

What types of mortgages can I get through Stearns Lending?

  • Conventional
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Jumbo
This company accepts mortgage refinance applications.

Other mortgage products Stearns offers

If you’re looking for something more unique, you’ll find the following loans available from Stearns:

  • Mortgage refinance. Stearns offers several refinance options — conventional fixed- or adjustable-rate financing, a cashout option and both an FHA Streamline or VA Streamline refinance with less documentation for qualified borrowers.
  • Reverse. A home equity conversion mortgage (HECM) uses your home as collateral. You must meet with an independent certified counselor before applying.
  • FHA 203(k). Streamline your purchase and renovations through this 30-year fixed-rate mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration.
  • State bond programs. Stearns works with state grant programs that offer financial help with down payments or other upfront costs.

How Stearns’ mortgage products compare to other lenders

Stearns offers a pretty traditional slate of mortgage products, from conforming to government-backed options. The lender no longer advertises the more unique loans it used to offer, such as its doctor loan or Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae programs that required lower down payments and provided other advantages to homebuyers.

But you can get nearly the same deal if you qualify for a Stearns conventional mortgage with a 3% down payment or a state grant program to help with your mortgage costs.

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Stearns reviews and complaints

Trustpilot doesn’t include user reviews for Stearns. And it’s not accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), though as of June 2021, it has a D rating for failing to respond to customer complaints. Stearns doesn’t fare much better on Yelp, where the lender has 112 reviews averaging only 2 stars out of 5.

A few reviews praise individual loan officers for their good work, but the vast majority complain of pushed-back closings, lost loan payments and incorrect billing fees with department runaround when attempting to resolve these issues.

Stearns pros and cons

Consider the upsides and drawbacks before taking Stearns on for your mortgage

Pros

  • Rate locks. Lock your interest rate for 14 to 90 days for a fee. If your loan closes after your lock expires, Stearns will extend it another week for free, or for 30 days for a fee.
  • Mobile application. Apply through a free app, and your details go directly to loan underwriting, which might speed up approval. Or, chat by video with your originator using screen share on desktops and laptops.
  • Educational tools. Stearns offers a comprehensive blog about home loans, tips for buying and selling and recent company news.

Cons

  • Poor customer service. Customers online report poor communications and longer-than-normal closings — some of which made borrowers lose their chance to buy the properties they wanted.
  • Billing and escrow issues. Borrowers report issues that include lost loan payments and billing errors that can negatively affect your credit.
  • Not available in New York. If you live in the Empire State, you’ll need to look elsewhere for a loan.

What is Stearns?

Founded in 1989, Stearns is a wholesale lender that works with licensed mortgage brokers to provide a variety of home loan options to borrowers. It supports 81 retail home loan branches nationwide that provide regional financing to borrowers. Furthermore, Stearns Lending supports eight regional home financing joint ventures and is an equity partner with Certainty Home Loans and Citywide Home Loans.

Stearns Holding, the parent company of Stearns Lending, filed for Chapter 11 in June 2019, blaming an increase in interest rates that rendered the company unable to repay its debts.

It has since completed financial restructuring, and in September 2019, Stearns Lending became a subsidiary of Blackstone. As of June 2021, the company has rebranded as simply Stearns but is still registered as Stearns Lending, LLC.

Review by


Kimberly Ellis is a writer at Finder. She hails from New York City with a BA from Queens College and a New York State teaching certificate. After teaching in both public and private schools, Kimberly decided to take the world by storm and dive into the media industry — where she covers everything from home loans and investing to K–12 education and shopping. She’s also an aspiring polyglot, always in a book and forever on the hunt for the perfect classic red lipstick.

Expert review

Stearns offers a suite of mortgages, including 403(k) renovations loans and a mobile app that supports a fully digital application — a boon for convenience. But it garners an overwhelming number of negative reviews that include serious accusations of poor customer service and mistakes that affected borrowers’ credit scores.

And while many of these issues arose around the time Stearns Lending filed for bankruptcy, the reviews haven’t become more positive since its restructure.

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