Lending Tree Extends its Branches

by Matt Villano

With interest rates hovering between 5 and 6 percent, refinancing a mortgage these days is more popular than Justin Timberlake.

As such, everywhere you turn, it seems, there’s another company offering home financing on the cheap. More sellers mean more options, which, generally translates into more deals for consumers looking to obtain a loan.

The Internet world of home financing became even more crowded Thursday, with news that Charlotte, N.C.-based LendingTree , will offer services from its network of more than 200 lenders to Yahoo! Real Estate customers.

The deal, set to take effect immediately, means that consumers who visit Yahoo! Real Estate can obtain multiple loan offers from LendingTree within one business day, directly off the Yahoo! site. These prospective homeowners then have the opportunity to choose the loan offer that best suits their needs.

“This allows us to expand our brand proposition to a whole new bunch of consumers,” notes Deirdre Alexander, senior director of strategic alliance management for LendingTree. “As competition in the industry grows, we saw this as a great time to expand our presence.”

Alexander explains that this expanded relationship is the latest step in a partnership that LendingTree first forged with Yahoo! Finance in 2001.

The move comes just one day after America Online launched a real estate channel of its own, though this new channel does not yet offer customers the option of obtaining loan quotes without clicking to another site.

AOL isn’t the only competition for the new LendingTree/Yahoo! venture. Other entities, including LendXpress.com and E-LOAN Inc., as well as new offerings from financial institutions such as Fidelity, Bank One and Chase, have crowded the marketplace in recent months. Still other Web sites, outfits such as bankrate.com, and monstermoving.com from TMP, Inc., provide consumers with a host of other options.

“The home financing market now has so many players,” says Wes Mayder, a mortgage broker and CEO of Western Capital Mortgage in San Jose, Calif. “It’s great for consumers because it gives them the option to get bids from up to four lenders without all the hassle.”

LendingTree, which to date has facilitated more than $48 billion in closed loans since its inception in 1996, was acquired on May 5 by USA Interactive.

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