A mortgage is likely the largest loan you’ll ever take out in your life. You’ll be paying it for years, which makes getting a lower interest rate essential. Comparing loan terms such as mortgage rates, fees, and closing time are steps that every home buying customer should take before settling on a lender.
When looking for the best mortgage lender, make sure it offers loan programs for consumers with different types of credit. It should also have a streamlined mortgage pre-qualification and application process and as clean a record as possible with regulating agencies.
If you’re already on your way and would just like to calculate your mortgage costs (monthly payments, fees, etc), you can use our mortgage calculator.
Our Top Picks for Best Mortgage Lenders
Best Mortgage Lender Reviews
- First-time homebuyers can pay as little as 3% down
- Best in customer satisfaction in J.D. Power study
- Representatives are available every day of the week during flexible hours
- No home equity loans or home equity lines available
- No brick and mortar locations
Why we chose this company: Quicken’s YOURgage program allows borrowers to choose the terms of their mortgage outside of traditional 15- or 30-year periods, from 8 to 29 years.
Quicken Loans, offered by Rocket Mortgage, is the largest retail lender in the US, offering a variety of mortgage products, including conventional mortgages, ARM FHA, VA, and jumbo loans. Aside from the traditional 15- and 30-year mortgages, the lender also has loans with flexible terms between 8 and 29 years.
Quicken’s YOURgage program sets it apart from other other online lenders by allowing borrowers to choose the term of their fixed-rate loan (outside of traditional 15 and 30-year terms) and borrow up to $548,250.
And, if you haven’t saved the traditional 20% benchmark and are looking for a low down payment, Quicken has options — some loans allow first-time homebuyers to put as little as 3% down.
Quicken also stands out for the high quality of its customer experience, as evidenced by the results of J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study. Customers are able to speak with one of the company’s 3,000+ mortgage bankers 24/7 and may fully process their loan online in all 50 states. Moreover, because Quicken services 99% of its mortgages, it keeps a stable line of support from start to finish, instead of handing customers off to another company midway through the process.
QUICKEN LOANS COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Quicken Loans clients impacted by COVID-19 can fill out an online application for assistance by visiting RocketMortgage.com. The company offers an initial three-month forbearance, extendable up to 12 months, which temporarily stops mortgage payments. Once the crisis is determined to be over, Quicken Loans says they’ll work with clients to determine the best course of action when they’re ready to resume monthly payments. Clients won’t experience an impact on their credit as a result of the forbearance.
- Compare offers from over 1,500 lenders in minutes
- Various home loan learning sources available
- LendingTree gives your information to various loan originators when you apply. These companies compete for your business, and those lenders will contact you, probably during the same period, via phone and email
Why we chose this company: LendingTree’s large network of lenders and straightforward quote comparison process makes it our pick for the best marketplace.
LendingTree is one of the most comprehensive mortgage marketplaces around, letting you compare mortgage products from over 1,500 different lenders. You can compare lender offers online through a three-step process that consists of answering a series of questions, comparing offers side by side and discussing your options with a loan officer.
LendingTree will ask for your income, assets, education, debts, occupation and length of time at your job, and SSN at the beginning of the quoting process. The company then runs a credit check and uses your FICO score to match you with lenders from their network. Finally, you’ll be contacted by up to five lenders after they’ve put together a preliminary quote.
LendingTree also offers plenty of resources regarding mortgages and loans, including a glossary of loan terminology, current rates for all types of home loans, several calculators, and a national loan officer directory. It also features reviews so users can read about experiences other customers have had with each lender.
LENDINGTREE COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
LendingTree offers a detailed explanation of various coronavirus pandemic mortgage relief programs. It also features information about federal mortgage relief programs, instructions on finding your current loan services, and summaries of several lender relief programs. It also has a section on mortgage relief scams.
- Competitive interest rates
- No down payment or PMI required
- Online credit counseling program available for borrowers with poor credit history
- No home equity loans available
- Only has physical branches in 18 states
Why we chose this company: Veterans United’s robust online platform and online credit counseling program make it a solid choice for active-duty military members who may not have the time to visit a physical branch.
Veterans United specializes in loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and is a great option for active-duty service members and reservists, as well as veterans and their families.
Unlike some of its competitors, Veterans United doesn’t offer home equity loans or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).
VU also offers a free online credit counseling program for veterans and service members with low credit scores called the Lighthouse Program. A credit specialist is assigned to each customer to help fix errors on credit reports, map out a score improvement plan, and advise the borrower until they reach their credit score goal.
VU’s mortgage programs are available in all 50 states and Washington DC. However, keep in mind that the lender only has physical branches in the states of Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington.
VETERANS UNITED COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Veterans United offers an initial forbearance period of up to 180 days, temporarily suspending monthly mortgage payments. If necessary, borrowers have the option to extend that period for an additional 180 days. While the loan is in a forbearance program, VU won’t assess any late payment fees, and the loan won’t accrue any additional interest. Entering into a forbearance plan won’t affect a borrower’s credit score. When this period ends, Veterans United will work with individual borrowers to establish either a repayment plan or a loan modification.
- One of the nation’s top five lenders of FHA loans
- Specific programs for low-income borrowers available
- Home improvement and manufactured home mortgage loans available
- Matches customers with down payment aid
- No current mortgage rates on its website
- No home equity products available
- Unavailable in NY and NJ
Why we chose this company: Guild’s low credit score requirements and down payment assistance programs make it a great choice for first-time homebuyers.
Guild Mortgage offers government-backed FHA, VA, and USDA loans and programs that specialize in down-payment assistance. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association Report (MBA), Guild is among the nation’s top five lenders of FHA loans, making it an excellent option for qualifying borrowers with credit scores as low as 540 (provided they put at least 10% down).
Guild also offers an FHA Zero Down program for low to moderate-income homebuyers with below-average credit (generally under 700) and who don’t have enough saved up for a down payment.
While most FHA loans require at least 3.5% down, Guild’s Zero Down program allows applicants with credit scores as low as 640 to get an FHA home loan without the need for a down payment. We chose Guild as our best for first-time homebuyers lender because of their low credit score requirements and down payment assistance options.
Guild can originate loans in Washington D.C. and all but two states — New York and New Jersey. Additionally, the company can fully close mortgages online via its digital platform, MyMortgage, which provides added security and can help speed up the closing process.
GUILD MORTGAGE COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Guild Mortgage offers an initial forbearance option and hardship assistance, as well assistance extensions depending on your case. This isn’t automatic, however, so be sure to ask about these options.
- 324 branches nationwide, catering to military members, reservists, veterans, retirees, and annuitants
- Up to 100% financing and 0% down payment options available
- Rate loan match available
- Doesn’t offer customized rates unless you apply
- No private mortgage insurance
Why we chose this company: A combination of its 324 branches nationwide, as well as full in-house servicing of their loans makes Navy Federal Credit Union our best in-person lender for military members.
With its 324 branches, Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) ranks as our best lender for in-person assistance for military members. NFCU services all of its mortgages in-house for the life of the loans, which can be important for customers looking to do business solely with their chosen lender. Furthermore, borrowers need fewer mortgage points to access the lowest available rates.
VA loans are government-backed, so they don’t feature the same interest rate across lenders. However, borrowers looking into mortgage products through NFCU can take advantage of its rate loan match. If you find a better rate elsewhere, NFCU will match it or discount $1,000 from your closing costs.
Navy Federal’s HomeBuyers Choice program is a standout option in the company’s line of financial products. It offers 100% financing, a fixed interest rate, and a seller contribution of up to 6%. This makes it a strong alternative for members of the military who are buying their first home.
Navy Federal membership is open to active-duty military members as well as reservists, veterans, retirees and annuitants.
NAVY FEDERAL COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Navy Federal is offering eligible members a temporary suspension of their monthly mortgage payment requirements for a total of up to 18 months. Members will also be provided with options to make payments missed during forbearance, including a loan modification or a deferral. Navy Federal does advise its potential customers that closing a mortgage loan may take longer than usual, but that it’s still honoring its initial locked rates in light of COVID-19.
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- One of the largest selections of mortgage loans on our list
- Program available for self-employed customers
- Some loan programs have low credit score options
- No equity home loans available
Why we chose this company: Caliber accepts non-traditional credit information when evaluating loan applications, which greatly favors self-employed individuals and anyone with little to no traditional credit experience.
Caliber’s low minimum credit score requirements and a program tailored specifically to self-employed individuals make it much easier for them to prove how much they earn even without traditional income sources.
The company also considers alternative credit data during the mortgage application process. In many cases, these alternative sources of credit history can prevent borrowers from getting the best deals. However, Caliber claims borrowers with this alternative credit data can secure down payments as low as 3% on conventional loans.
Caliber Home Loans has one of the largest selections of mortgage products of all the companies on our list, including Conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, ARM, Refinance, Bond, Renovation, Freddie Mac HomeOne, Freddie Mac Home Possible, and Fannie Mae HomeReady.
Caliber’s online application process is another standout feature. Customers can apply online by answering a few questions about themselves, their finances and their budget. A representative contacts applicants shortly after, and the process can reportedly take as little as 15 minutes.
CALIBER HOME LOANS COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Caliber is offering both short- and long-term options for those struggling to pay their mortgage due to COVID-19. There is a forbearance plan which postpones monthly payments, and a repayment plan to gradually pay the amounts delayed by forbearance. There is also a deferral plan under which clients pay for the months in forbearance at the end of their loan. Alternatively, clients can also apply for a loan modification.
- Numerous retail and lending centers available nationwide
- Down payment and closing costs assistance program
- Online application
- Rates shown are for a credit score of 740 or higher
- Fee information isn’t available online
- No renovation loans available
Why we chose this company: With more than 4,300 branches and 2,900 lending centers, Bank of America is the most accessible national bank for mortgage borrowers.
Bank of America’s diverse selection of mortgage products, competitive closing costs, interest rate estimates, and broad reach makes it a solid lender choice overall. It’s an even better choice for existing members, as the bank may offer them more significant discounts on origination fees.
We chose Bank of America as our best national bank based on their more than 4,300 branches and 2,900 lending centers throughout the country. As a result, accessibility is one of the bank’s strong points, especially for clients who prefer face-to-face interaction.
The bank also allows borrowers to apply and pre-qualify online. Bank of America’s Home Loan Navigator, which can be accessed on web or through the bank’s mobile app, lets users track, sign, and submit documents online.
BANK OF AMERICA COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Bank of America is currently extending both payment deferral and forbearance options to clients experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The bank states that, for both options, payment due dates will be delayed but not forgiven or erased; however, there won’t be any late charges applied and they’ll work with its clients on repayment options.
Eligibility for these programs varies depending on the owners or insurers of the loan product. If Bank of America owns the loan, both deferral and forbearance options will be available. Only those who have a single due payment on their loans can apply for a deferral. If a third party owns or is insuring the loan, Bank of America will follow its guidelines.
- No origination, underwriting, or application fees
- Assistance programs for down payment and closing costs
- Representatives available every day until 9 pm ET
- Doesn’t offer customizable terms
- No VA, USDA, FHA, home equity, or home improvement loans
- Not available in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, or New Hampshire
Why we chose this company: Better Mortgage offers a fast and streamlined document submission process, which results in faster closing times for many of their customers.
Better Mortgage is an online alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar lenders. Thanks to this business model, Better has lower operating costs, which can translate into savings on some of their products. Despite this focus on the digital, borrowers also gain access to a dedicated loan officer.
Speed is another of Better’s strong suits. Consumers can obtain a rate quote and a letter of pre-approval in just a few minutes. Better also affirms that it has an average loan closing time of 32 days, which is faster than average. While these claims are difficult to verify, many customer reviews do mention closing times between one and two months, which are fairly good for this type of transaction.
Lastly, Better offers a price guarantee, promising to match any valid competitor’s offer and credit you $100.
BETTER.COM COVID-19 RESPONSE
LATEST NEWS AS OF OCTOBER 2021
Better is currently providing loan forbearance, waiving late and overdraft fees, suspending foreclosure for all borrowers whose loan it services and suspending credit reporting following Fannie Mae guidelines. Other changes include:
– They’ve increased their minimum FICO credit score requirement for cash-out refinance loans to 680. The minimum requirement for loans for purchase or rate-and-term refinance is still 620.
– Their Jumbo loan offerings are restricted, and they cannot currently complete a Jumbo loan with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio over 80%.
Other Mortgage Lenders We Considered
When we looked at the mortgage lending industry, we found that many home loan lenders didn’t necessarily offer the best products in the market, however, they do excel in other areas.
Guaranteed Rate: Good for fully online loan applications
- Allow borrowers to upload and e-sign documents in 300 branches in 46 states
- Provides sample rates for many of its loan products
- Participates in down payment assistance programs: HomeReady, HomePossible®, Fannie Mae 97%, and Freddie Mac HomeOne
- No home equity products
- Not available in Mississippi, Nebraska, Vermont, or West Virginia
Guaranteed Rate is another online mortgage lender that allows for a fully digital process that can be tracked via an interactive checklist. That said, borrowers who also want a physical branch visit one of the lender’s 300 branches across 46 states.
Guaranteed Rate has a full suite of comprehensive educational resources, including a Know Your Neighborhood feature (in beta) that gives borrowers the ability to view market and population trends by zip code, as well as school data and taxes.
While this lender includes a mortgage affordability calculator on their website, it’s unclear if the numbers provided take into account any mortgage points purchased by the borrower.
- Loan Types – Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
- Minimum Down Payment – 3%
PrimeLending: Good for home renovation loans
- Proprietary Loanplicity® app guides borrowers through the entire process, from application to closing
- Ample selection of mortgage products
- Participates in over eight closing cost and down payment assistance programs
- No lending fees on any VA loan, including renovation
- Float-down rate lock option available within 20 days of closing, if rates drop
- No home equity products
- Must speak with a loan officer before an online application
- Qualifying requirements not published
PrimeLending has one of the broadest range of loan products of all the companies on our list, including some unique options, such as pool escrow loans, energy-efficient mortgages, and FHA 203(k) renovation loans. Additionally, with its Neighborhood Edge program, low- to moderate-income borrowers can receive up to $2,000 in closing credits, based on income and area.
While PrimeLending’s selection is certainly wide, the lender could be more transparent regarding its requirements for borrowers. Further, though the company touts its online availability, potential homebuyers must first speak with a loan officer before completing an application.
- Loan Types – Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Renovation, Manufactured Home
- Minimum Down Payment – Not disclosed
Flagstar Bank: Good for loan variety
- Over 2,000 mortgage brokers in the U.S. and service loans in every state
- Offers some options that don’t require down payments
- Has several specialized products, such as multiple properties or high balance loans
- Borrowers are assigned a single loan advisor and loan processor
- Rates easily accessible
- Home equity products not available nationwide but primarily concentrated in Michigan
- Home equity products have an annual $7 fee and must be taken out in person
- A high number of complaints in the CFPB database related to trouble during the payment process
Better known as a mortgage servicer than an originator, Flagstar nonetheless offers a full suite of loans, including home equity products and several specialty loans.
Some examples of the latter include the Professional loan, aimed at recent graduates with high earning potential. In some cases, Flagstar may even exclude some student loan debt from its DTI calculation.
- Loan Types – Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Renovation, Manufactured Homes
- Minimum Down Payment – 3%
How Much Will I Pay for My Mortgage?
Mortgage Loans Guide
How Do Mortgages Work?
Mortgages are loans given by financial institutions to purchase or refinance a property. The home you’re buying with a mortgage loan serves as your collateral. If you’re unable to make your mortgage payments, the bank will seize your property.
Financing your home with a mortgage means that your lender is taking on a financial stake in the property. In some cases—such as with conventional loans with less than 20% down payment—lenders may require borrowers to have homeowners insurance to protect their investment.
If you’re thinking about refinancing your home, check our mortgage refinance calculator and our list of the best mortgage refinance companies to get started.
Type of mortgage loans
Mortgage companies offer several loan products with varying terms and interest rates to fit the needs of homebuyers.
Conventional loans: The most common type of mortgage loan. Typically offered by private lenders (as opposed to loans backed by government programs), they have a loan amount limit of $489,350 in most counties and $726,525 in more expensive areas. Homeowners’ insurance is generally required if the borrower gives less than 20%.
Jumbo loans: Jumbo loans are designed for properties exceeding the limit of $489,350. Non-conforming jumbo loans are meant for properties worth between $1-2 million. Both conforming and non-conforming loans require good credit and a sizable down payment to qualify.
FHA loans: A Federal Home Administration loan protects the lender from default. If the borrower stops making payments on their loan, the FHA pays the lender the unpaid balance on the mortgage. Mortgage rates tend to be lower than conventional loans because of this guarantee by the FHA.
VA loans: Available to service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses, this loan offers competitive interest rates and doesn’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. However, it requires a VA funding fee. VA loans include options for Native American veterans, refinancing and remodeling a home for easier access for the disabled. For more information about VA loans, check out our guide to the best VA loans.
USDA loans: This loan supports low-income borrowers in rural areas. No down payment is required, and it offers competitive interest rates, flexible credit score requirements, and low monthly mortgage insurance.
Reverse loans: A reverse mortgage allows homeowners age 62 or older to convert part of their home equity into cash without having to sell their property. As long as they live in the house, they don’t have to pay back the loan. Homeowners under the age of 62 can look into home equity loans, which are similar in concept, though with different repayment rules.
Local loans: Provided by local financial institutions, these lenders have developed relationships with other local businesses, including real estate agents, local appraisers, and interior designers. These local lenders can be especially helpful when procuring home services not directly associated with your mortgage process.
Type of mortgage rates
There are a variety of costs associated with a mortgage.
The annual percentage rate (APR) is more than just your interest rate, and may include anything from interest to brokerage fees and other charges established by the lender.
When looking for a loan, always look at the most current mortgage rates.
Lenders typically divide their products between fixed mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages.
|Interest rate doesn’t change during the loan term||Interest rates can change during the loan term. By law, ARMs have a lifetime cap, which limits the interest rate raise on the loan|
|Monthly payments stay the same during the loan term||Monthly payments may vary depending on interest rate fluctuation.|
|A good option for homebuyers planning to stay for a long time in the house||A better option for homebuyers who plan to live in the house for a shorter amount of time|
|Three terms for fixed-rate mortgages: 15- year, 20- year, and 30- year||ARMs have an adjustment period where the initial payment and rate for the loan will stay the same for an established period. It can be between 1 month and 5 years. Afterward, rates can change every quarter, year, 3 years, or 5 years|
|APR will not always reflect the maximum interest rate for the loan|
How to Get a Mortgage Loan
Getting mortgage pre-approval before deciding on a property can be crucial. It will save you time and make the mortgage process more manageable. Check our home affordability calculator to see how much you’ll be able to afford in monthly mortgage payments.
Documents needed to apply for a mortgage:
1. Copies of your two most recent pay stubs
2. A copy of your most recent tax return
3. W-2 and/or 1099 (although some lenders may require up to two years’ worth of these, depending on your employment history)
4. A state-issued photo ID, such as your passport or driver’s license
5. Statements of all your assets (IRAs, investment accounts, checking and savings accounts, etc.)
6. Bankruptcy discharge documents (if applicable)
7. A recent credit report (typically obtained by the lender)
8. Records of any outstanding debts, such as credit card and student loan payments.
9. In some cases, lenders may require additional documentation, like a history of alimony payments and gift letters, so make sure to ask before applying.
Before applying for a mortgage, make sure to check your credit score. It is also important to compare mortgage lenders.
Even though lenders will pull your credit — and it is considered a hard credit inquiry — your score will not be affected if all the inquiries are done within 30 days. Credit reporting agencies recognize this as shopping around for the best mortgage rate.
Lastly, check your debt-to-income ratio before applying. Lenders prefer borrowers with a debt-to-income ratio lower than 36%, and many lenders will not even consider borrowers with a ratio higher than 43%.
Jumbo loans are mortgages designed to finance luxury properties and homes in competitive real estate markets. They are different from conventional loans in that they exceed the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Because they aren’t purchased or guaranteed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, applicants generally need an excellent credit history, a lower debt-to-income ratio, and will have to provide a larger down payment. They may also need a greater number of tax returns and more liquidity in their bank account for the closing process, which tends to be longer because of the stricter requirements for a jumbo loan. Wells Fargo and New American Funding are examples of banks that offer jumbo loans.
What is a mortgage loan originator?
A mortgage loan originator, also known as MLO, is a trained professional that can guide applicants throughout the mortgage approval process. Their goal is to orient customers from the moment the loan application is prepared, up to its closing. Mortgage loan originators can be either state-licensed individuals or licensed company representatives.
What documents do I need to apply for a mortgage?
Copies of your last two pay stubs; a copy of your most recent tax return W-2 and/or 1099 (some lenders may require up to two years’ worth of these); a state-issued photo ID, such as your passport or driver’s license; statements of all your assets (IRAs, investment accounts, checking and savings accounts, etc.); bankruptcy discharge documents (if applicable); a recent credit report; statements of any outstanding debts; and, in some cases, additional documentation, like a history of alimony payments and gift letters.
“It’s a big risk having that adjustable rate because, at this point, it can only go up, so you might as well lock it in for 30 years and never worry about it again,” Lucas added.
Which is better: fixed or adjustable-rate mortgage?
A fixed-rate mortgage is the way to go, for now. According to Tim Lucas, Managing Editor for The Mortgage Reports, adjustable rates “don’t make any sense at all,” given how low current rates are. “The only way that I would suggest an adjustable rate is if you’re expecting some big inheritance or if you’re able to pay off your mortgage in two or three years.” Lucas adds that, “It’s a big risk having that adjustable rate because, at this point, it can only go up, so you might as well lock it in for 30 years and never worry about it again.”
Who are the best mortgage lenders?
Because no two borrowers have the same needs, the “best” mortgage lender will be the one with the most options available to you. Low rates, flexible credit score requirements, being able to deliver documents electronically or in person, and having a variety of loan products available are all important.
Using these and other factors, we determined that Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage, Veterans United, Guild Mortgage, Navy Federal, Caliber Home Loans, Bank of America and Better Mortgage are some of the best mortgage lenders in the market.
What is the average mortgage rate?
As of the week ending September 30, 2021, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.01%, according to Freddie Mac. Note, however, that these rates change quickly and often, and the rate you’re offered will depend on your particular situation and credit history, among many other factors.
To answer some of the questions in the previous section, we contacted Tim Lucas, Managing Editor for The Mortgage Reports; Jason Sharon, mortgage broker, US Navy Veteran, and owner of Home Loans, Inc; and Andy Harris, owner of Vantage Mortgage Group, Inc.
How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders
Our rankings were determined based on the following categories:
- Types of loans offered: We favored companies that offered a variety of loan options, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, term-lengths, and loans backed by government agencies.
- Customer experience: We favored companies that consider alternative credit data, provide a streamlined application process, at least two forms of customer service, and a variety of resources and educational tools.
- Reputation and transparency: We evaluated consumer complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the number of regulatory actions filed with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System
Over the course of our research, we consulted the following expert sources: