If you have applied for a mortgage any time in the past five years, you have probably heard of Better.com. Founded in 2016 by Vishal Garg, the company took an online approach to make home loans more easily accessible. Until recently, they seemed to be doing a good job, having built a fairly solid reputation. That is until the CEO fired 900 employees during a single Zoom call.
Remaining employees told Fortune that, in a subsequent meeting Vishal Garg held with the rest of the company, “his tone was extremely harsh and threatening.” He informed them about the layoffs and said that their productivity would be closely watched.
Once news broke about the mass layoffs and Garg began to face backlash, he wrote an anonymous post on a professional network accusing the fired employees of stealing from the company and its customers due to their lack of productivity.
In the days following, the company’s board sent out an email to remaining employees, calling the events “very regrettable” and announcing plans to hire a third-party provider to do a “leadership and cultural assessment.”
Garg himself has apologised and announced that he is “taking time off.” But what does this mean for people who are looking for mortgages? Should you avoid Better.com or is this an internal matter that does not affect you?
Making a conclusive decision on the quality of Better.com is impossible without the full context. Most of what we know about the firing of the 900 employees comes from people impacted by the decision. Furthermore, until recent “review bombing” by people outraged by the story, Better.com had great online reviews.
Nonetheless, there is no doubt that there was severe mismanagement. Even if we take as fact that the employees were fired with just cause, a company with 900 unproductive employees is not one you would want to trust with one of the biggest decisions of your life. You don’t need to make a moral judgement on the company or its CEO to have concerns about their mismanagement.
One problem, however, is that we are seeing this in isolation. It is easy to get outraged at Vishal Garg and Better.com as a whole. But that does not mean their competitors are running better or more ethical businesses. It is possible that they simply do a better job at hiding their messes!
Because we necessarily lack this context, it is a good idea to apply for a mortgage through someone who knows the industry.
Who is Better.com?
Better.com, is an online lender established in 2016 that provides a completely online process where rates, loan preapprovals and resources are available online. They offer a variety of mortgage options, including conventional and jumbo fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages and bridge loans.
Unlike with a mortgage broker, a lender does not have your best interests at heart. The lender’s goal is to get your business. A broker, on the other hand, has the mandate to get you the best possible deal. Most brokers get paid commissions by the lenders, but rates are fairly standard, and they do not benefit from pairing you with any particular lenders.
The simple reality is that lenders like Better.com would rather you made the decision, and have made it easier than ever to get a mortgage without going through a broker. You won’t know the legalese in the documents they send you and will struggle to compare as many quotes as a broker will.
If you have considered using Better.com, you may well be having second thoughts. Rather go with a mortgage broker than trying to figure it all out on your own.