Washington Mutual (WaMu) was founded in 1889 to offer home mortgage loans and investment services to Seattle residents and businesses. Today, WaMu continues to offer mortgage and investment services, but the bank has also diversified to offer retail and business banking, credit cards, consumer lending and other financial services.
WaMu employs nearly 50,000 people and is still headquartered in Seattle, although it has retail banking locations and lending centers in 36 states.
Washington Mutual's Growth
WaMu remained very much a Northwestern bank until the early 1990s, when the company started buying banks all over the country in an effort to grow by acquisition. Recent WaMu purchases outside Washington state include Commercial Capital Bancorp (California, 2006), HomeSide Lending (Florida, 2002), Dime Bancorp (New York, 2002) and Fleet Mortgage Corp. (South Carolina, 2001). The purpose of many of WaMu's acquisitions was to gain a surer foothold in the residential mortgage market, to which WaMu committed increasing attention in the last decade.
WaMu made its first home loan in 1890, and home lending continues to be one of the bank's signature services.
WaMu Offers Six Kinds of Home Loans:
- Fixed-rate mortgage: This loan comes in 15-, 20-, 25-, 30- or 40-year durations, comes without a prepayment penalty, has a low documentation option, is capped at $3 million and may require private mortgage insurance (PMI).
- Fixed-rate, interest-only mortgage: 30- or 40-year durations, no prepayment fee, low documentation option, capped at $417,000, may require PMI.
- Adjustable-rate mortgage: Fixed or variable interest rate, 30-year duration, prepayment fee, low documentation option, capped at $3 million, may require PMI.
- Interest-only mortgage: Fixed, then variable interest rate, 30-year duration, no prepayment fee, low documentation option, capped at $3 million, may require PMI.
- WaMu MultiPay: Fixed, then variable interest rate, 30- or 40-year duration, prepayment free for the first three years, low documentation option, capped at $1.5 million, may require PMI.
Washington Mutual Mortgage Plus Loan
The WaMu Mortgage Plus is the most distinctive loan in this group, as it offers flexibility and bundled services to borrowers, who can reset their rates twice a year. Switching from a fixed to a variable rate costs nothing, as does a first-time borrower's switch from a variable to a fixed rate; there is a small charge for the second and subsequent times. This option is good for borrowers who believe that interest rates will keep dropping, and for those who want to avoid paying for refinancing.
WaMu Mortgage Plus is packaged as a combination mortgage and home equity line of credit (HELOC), with HELOC limits increasing as borrowers pay off mortgage principal. There are cancellation fees and other fees associated with this option. This loan is presently unavailable.
WaMu can be reached at the following numbers:
- Mortgage loans: 866-WAMU-YES
- Home equity and consumer loans: 888-800-8738
- Checking, savings and CDs: 800-788-7000
Photo: © Elizabeth Weintraub
NOTE: AS OF SEPTEMBER 26, 2008, WASHINGTON MUTUAL IS NOW OWNED BY JPMORGAN CHASE.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.