Zillow Adds Mortgage Loans

Real estate site will match lenders with borrowers, who can remain safely anonymous.

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Zillow has launched a mortgage-finding service to complement its online real estate service. And unlike other online mortgage services I've tried, Zillow promises to keep me hidden from pushy lenders.

The service is perhaps best known for its real-time estimates, known as "zestimates," on home values. Zillow execs say their service will stay out of the lending process and not take a cut of the business. The site will stick to making money from ads, including, by the way, from lenders.

Zillow bemoans the fact that borrowers spend more time researching a car loan (eight hours on average) than a mortgage (five hours), according to a recent survey it commissioned. Borrowers would do more if loans were easier to research, Zillow says.

The site will register lenders and relay applications, returning loan offers in a standardized form for apples-to-apples comparison. Borrowers won't have to provide any personal information, such as name and—thankfully—a phone number. The last time I tested online mortgage offers, I dodged phone calls for several weeks from overanxious lenders.

Of course, mortgage lending has slowed amid the credit crunch. So it'll be interesting to see what kind of offers come back when I try the Zillow service—I might be in the market for a refinancing. That's "might be." No calls, please.