The biggest negative was that prior to actually putting in an offer they were all sunshine about mortgage approval, but after we had an offer in on a house and time was critical, then they were more honest about how long it was going to take and the likelihood of not being approved. And it isn't as if we fraudulent in presentation of our financial situation and the sort of documentation we had to support our ability to pay a mortgage. Another problem was that in practice it was difficult for the seller's agent to get in touch with anyone at USAA regarding the pre-qualification. Several agents told us this was a problem, because it indicated to them just how troublesome dealing with USAA would be during the closing. This made sellers reluctant to work with us.
I suspect part of the problem is that they only offer "Pre-Qualification" which is a meaningless term anyway. The document commits them to nothing. Not having such a document is more telling that having one, sincen almost anyone should be able to get one. That said, the second bank I approached was also optimistic and told us how they consider each mortgage on a case by case basis. That is until we were applying. Then there was no case by case approach anymore. There was only: "our mortgage software requires blah blah blah...".
Another issue was the trouble with changing the loan amount. The initial process took a little over an hour to complete. Then I wanted to raise the purchase price by 5k. No problem. Took like 5 minutes. Then I did it again a little later, and got the 3rd degree from a seemingly streessed agent who wanted me to think of the largest number that could possibly come into question for a house purchase. He asked all the same questions the first agent did, even though he had all the same answers. I felt like I was being cross-examined to see if I could keep my story straight. An hour later I had another "Pre-Qualification". But at least this time, due to the diligence of the agent, I was certain that when we applied the process would go smoothly. Some time passed, and again I wanted to up the purchase price by 5k. The new agent ( you get a new one everytime) started all over from the beginning. Seeing this as a problem, I decided to skip the increase due to time constraints. To no avail: "No no... not now that we've started. I'm sorry, but I'll have to suspend your Pre-Qualification". Great. Appology not accepted. Called back later, got different agent, process completed in 5 minutes. Really hit or miss.
I remember trying to buy a house for the first time 15 years ago in California. I gave up. Despite earning what I thought was an insane amount of money at the time, I couldn't find an affordable house. I thought this time it would be tick easier with a larger down payment. This thinking was kind of on-target. You know what we did in the end to finance the house (our first house by the way)? We sold assets and paid cash because we'd had enough of trying to get a mortgage from a bank. For me this outcome just takes the cake. We have no credit problems, a steady income stream going back a decade, 6 year history of paying about as much in rent as we would for a mortgage, and assests worth the value of the house we were buying, and still we couldn't get a mortgage from two different banks. Technically, I don't know if we *could not* get a loan, since we stopped working with them when it seemed unlikely that they could approve the loan in time to meet our industry standard 45 day closing schedule. I can't imagine how anyone can buy a house at all under such conditions.
I'd have appreciated a little less sunshine and more honesty about what USAA was willing to finance. Although I guess that leads us to another structural problem. USAA doesn't actually finance home purchases do they? They originate the loan and sell it on. As a home buyer, you think you are trying to get something. Trying to get a loan based on your ability to pay it back. But a loan originator doesn't see it this way. They are basically fishing through a sea of prospects, looking for one that they can easily sell on to a financing company. As such the home buyer is the product, not the loan. Pre-qualification in this context means you are a pre-qualified lead which could result in a sale for the agent.
So all in all USAA has a number of built in problems that can't be addressed with anything but structural changes. It all starts with the worthless pre-qualification letter. Then there is the agent roulette every time you want to talk to the mortgage department. Add in the fact that they only orginate loans and you've got three strikes. Hard to imagine how that works for anyone in practice. Given this experience, I have no intention of buying another house in my lifetime.
Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with USAA mortgage services. I have passed your feedback to the appropriate party. We truly appreciate the feedback, please keep it coming. Thanks again.