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There was a time not long ago when looking for a home loan meant simply going down to your local bank or S&L and working out whatever arrangement you could. The possibilities were limited, but the process was fairly simple, and you knew with whom you were dealing.

The first stop for home loan consumers today is usually the Web, which has effectively brought an entire nation's worth of lending institutions and possibilities into every neighborhood. Unfortunately, the sheer number of companies, plans, rates, fees, and options that can be generated by a few key clicks has become as much of an impediment as a benefit. How is a person to know where to go and who to trust?

It's an equal problem for vendors. A mortgage broker may have the very best mix of services, contacts, and support, but it's of little value if it's all invisible to the consumer. For existing lending institutions the ongoing technological transition has been a hefty challenge, and, when coupled with the unparalleled real estate financial crisis, it was for many simply too much. Hundreds of mortgage lending institutions and brokers, including some major ones, pulled out of the industry or went completely out of business.

On the other hand, Loans4Less, a California-based online mortgage loan broker, has been exceptionally successful in taking advantage of the latest technologies, in addition to coming through the industry's recent financial collapse unharmed. From day one the company has viewed the Web as the way to reach today's marketplace. And, unlike so many other institutions, the company carefully avoids the risks inherent to the sub-prime world, focusing instead on "A" paper loans. As a result, the company is in an excellent position to prosper as the real estate market turns around.

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