Wednesday, February 13, 2008 and BankRate Mortgage Offering

Earlier this month, just prior to their February 5th conference call, Bankrate announced the acquisition of FeeDisclosure enables consumers to get price quotes on all fees related to the purchase, sale or refinance of a home, including mortgage broker fees, real estate agent fees, title insurance, home inspection, hazard insurance and appraisals.

Unlike Bankrate, who charges banks and lenders a per-click fee to display their interest rates on its rate tables, FeeDisclosure has been a subscription based service, charging its partipating vendors annually for the right to be included in their fee tables.

As a standalone, FeeDisclosure is limited in its appeal with little traffic and no information about the main-event of the mortgage shopping experience: mortgage rates. Bankrate certainly can deliver what FeeDisclosure lacks.

Can FeeDisclosure bring to Bankrate consumers the straightforward comparison shopping experience that they want?

I think there is work to be done: the FeeDisclosure model is open to problems related to vendors posting inaccurate or not-guaranteed pricing, and upon a visit to their site, their interface seems to confusing with multiple fee line items from mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, and wholesale lenders on the same transaction. A perusal of their site shows that in many ways it is still not ready for prime time with broken links, empty functions. Returning to the site and logging in brings an error screen, completing a request for quotes brings no response from lenders.

I suspect this acquisition is just one piece of the plan for improving Bankrate's offering and securing its place as the arguably the most successful consumer mortgage portal. The real challenge it seems continues to be balancing the need for transparent accurate pricing information with a meaningful and simple comparison interface.

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