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7 Best Mortgage Lenders of 2021

A mortgage is most 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 some steps that every consumer should take before settling on a servicer.

The best mortgage lenders tend to offer a wide variety of loan programs for consumers of different credit levels. They should also have a streamlined mortgage pre-qualification and application process and as clean a record as possible with regulating agencies.

Money.com Research Team: Gabriella Cruz-Martínez Heidi Rivera Joan Pabón Colin Grubb Last Updated: February 9, 2021
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Money’s Best Mortgage Lenders Picks

  • Company
    Specialty
  • Best Mortgage Lender Overall

    3rd Party Ratings

    MBA Ranking

    #1 MBA Ranking

    JD Power Rating

    Best in Mortgage Origination Satisfaction

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    620

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    No. They consider credit scores and DTI Ratios.

    Quicken is our best overall mortgage lender for two reasons:

    • Their nationwide reach
    • Their excellent customer service.

    Rated "Among the Best" according to JD Power's Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study, Quicken has consistently ranked highest in customer satisfaction for loan originations with JD Power for ten consecutive years.

    Quicken's YOURgage program sets it apart from the pack. YOURgage allows borrowers to choose the term of their fixed-rate mortgage and get a loan of up to $510,400. First-time homebuyers can pay as little as 3% down, which is especially helpful for first-time homebuyers who may not have 20% saved for a down payment.

    Finally, as Quicken has completed 96% of all electronic mortgage closings in the country, the company has a wealth of experience completing the process online, which is highly convenient for most applicants these days.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    Quicken Loans COVID-19 Response

    Quicken Loans clients who have been impacted by COVID-19 can fill out an application for assistance by visiting RocketMortgage.com. The company offers an initial 3-month forbearance, extendable up to 12 months, which temporarily stops their mortgage payments. Once the crisis is over, Quicken Loans will work with clients to determine the best course of action when they are ready to resume monthly payments. Clients won't experience an impact to their credit as a result of the forbearance.

    As for closings and appraisals, Quicken is taking precautionary measures to ensure that their real estate signing agents and appraisers do not have COVID-19. According to their statement, in some cases, they are not required to enter your home for the time being.

  • Guild Mortgage

    Best Mortgage Lender for First-time Home Buyers

    3rd Party Ratings

    MBA Ranking

    #13 MBA Ranking

    JD Power Rating

    Better Than Most

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    620 is the standard, with minor exceptions

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    Yes, such as utility bills and rental payment histories.

    Guild offers government-backed FHA, VA, and USDA loans, as well as programs that specialize in down-payment assistance. That's why Guild's range of credit options made it our top pick as the best mortgage lender for first-time homebuyers. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association Report (MBA), Guild is among the nation's top five lenders of FHA loans, making it a great option for qualifying borrowers with a credit score of 600.

    For first-time homebuyers who think their credit scores or down payment amounts aren't enough to get a mortgage, the lender offers a program specifically designed for borrowers who meet low-income requirements or live in low-income areas. It features a nifty incentive that accepts a minimum 3% down payment and awards borrowers a $2,000 Home Depot gift card and a $1,500 grant that can be used for the loan's down payment or closing costs.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    Guild Mortgage COVID-19 Response

    The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has extended a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions on enterprise-backed (Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), single-family mortgages through June 30, 2020. Guild Mortgage is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will not adversely report customer loans to credit bureaus through March, April, and May, as well as waiving late charges for all borrowers for April and May. If you expect COVID-19 to impact you for a while, Guild Mortgage offers an initial forbearance option and hardship assistance in partnership with investors.

  • Best Mortgage Lender for Military Members (Online)

    3rd Party Ratings

    JD Power Rating

    Among the Best

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    660

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    Lenders can count VA disability income and certain military allowances such as flight and hazard pay, among others, as effective income.

    Veterans United Home Loans (VU) is the country's top VA loan originator and, because of the strength of its online tools and resources, is also our top online lender of VA loans.

    VU specializes in loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, making it a great option for those looking into this type of mortgage, although it doesn't offer home equity loans or HELOCs and services some of its loans, it does offer competitive rates.

    With branches in only 18 states, the My Veterans United online mortgage application makes it easy to get a quote in a matter of minutes and get pre-approval without having to set foot in a branch office. Veterans United will assign a team of loan specialists to work with each customer to streamline the application process.

    Veterans United 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 and will help fix errors on credit reports, map out a plan for improving a score, and keep advising the borrower until they reach their credit score goal, regardless of how long that may take.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    Veterans United COVID-19 Response

    For customers who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans United is offering up to an initial 180 days of forbearance, which temporarily suspends monthly mortgage payments of their mortgage. If necessary, borrowers have the option of being able to extend that period for an additional 180 days.

    While the loan is in a forbearance program, VU will not assess any late payment fees or accrue any additional interest on the loan. Entering into a forbearance plan will not affect a borrower’s credit score. Once the forbearance period ends, Veterans United will work with individual borrowers to establish either a repayment plan or a loan modification.

    Once the forbearance period ends, Veterans United will work with individual borrowers to establish either a repayment plan or a loan modification, whichever option works best for their needs. More information about forbearance can be found on Veterans United’s COVID-19 Mortgage Relief Resource Center.

  • Navy Federal

    Best Mortgage Lender for Military Members (In Person)

    3rd Party Ratings

    MBA Ranking

    #1613 MBA Ranking

    JD Power Rating

    Among the Best

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    620 is the standard, but they accept less than perfect credit scores for certain loan products

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    Yes, it considers utility bills and evaluates a member's tenure or loyalty to the company.

    As the world's largest credit union, the sixth-ranking VA loan originator in the country, and one of the best mortgage lenders by customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power, Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is one of our two top picks for military service members. Not only that, but with their 324 branches, NFCU ranks as our best lender for in-person assistance.

    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 the lender they have researched and chosen.

    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 give you a deduction of $1,000 off your closing costs.

    Membership is open to active-duty military members as well as reservists, veterans, retirees, and annuitants.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    Navy Federal COVID-19 Response

    Navy Federal is offering eligible members a forbearance plan, which temporarily suspends monthly mortgage payment requirements. Members will also be provided with options to make payments missed during forbearance.

    "We understand that some Navy Federal members are going through an unprecedented experience right now. Our commitment has been and will continue to be to support our members the best we can," said Janelle Allison, Vice President of the Mortgage and Equity Resolutions Branch at Navy Federal. The latest details on NFCU's forbearance for mortgage borrowers can be found on NavyFederal.org's website by clicking on the COVID-19 Response button near the top of the main page.

    Additionally, closing a mortgage loan may take longer than usual, but Navy Federal is honoring initial locked rates in light of COVID-19. For more information regarding other personal loans, checks or transfers, visit their COVID-19 response blog.

  • Caliber Home Loans

    Best Mortgage Lender for Self Employed Individuals

    3rd Party Ratings

    MBA Ranking

    #7 MBA Ranking

    JD Power Rating

    Along Industry Average

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    580

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    Yes, Caliber has special financing options that consider payment and rental history instead of just credit score and DTI.

    One of the highest-volume lenders in the country, Caliber Home Loans stands out for a number of reasons, most notably for how easy they make it for people with poor credit history to get a mortgage.

    For some of its loan programs, Caliber will accept applicants with credit scores of as low as 580. The company also considers alternative credit data during the application process, offering low down payments of 3% in some cases.

    The low entry barrier and a program specifically tailored towards self-employed individuals make it much easier for them to take out a loan with Caliber. Those who are self-employed generally have a harder time finding loan programs that will accept their application. This is because it’s harder to prove how much you earn when you do not have a regular salary.

    Caliber’s online application process is another standout feature of the lender. Customers can apply online by answering a few questions about themselves, their finances, and their budget. A representative will contact applicants shortly after, making for a process that may last as little as 15 minutes.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    Caliber Home Loans COVID-19 Response

    Caliber offers both short-term and long-term solutions for those struggling to pay their mortgage due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first option is to establish a forbearance plan, which will postpone their monthly payments. This can give clients the time and flexibility that they need to recover from their current financial challenges.

    If forbearance is not enough, clients have several other options depending on the type of loan and financial situation. A repayment plan may be established to gradually catch up on paying the amounts postponed by their forbearance, and a deferral plan can keep the payments suspended until clients reach the end of their loan or sell their home. Alternatively, modifications can be made to a client’s loan to make it more manageable for them.

  • Best Mortgage Lender Marketplace

    3rd Party Ratings

    MBA Ranking

    n/a

    JD Power Rating

    n/a

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    585 (recommended)

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    n/a

    Although not a lender itself, LendingTree is the go-to solution for browsing and comparing mortgage products from multiple lenders. The company is the country’s largest online loan marketplace and is partnered with over 1,500 different lenders.

    Compare lender offers through a straightforward 3-step process, which consists of answering a series of questions, looking at offers side by side, and reaching an agreement with a loan officer or simply applying online.

    LendingTree also has a wealth of resources regarding mortgages and loans such as an expansive glossary of loan terminology, current rates for all types of home loans, several calculators, and a national loan officer directory. It also features numerous reviews so users can see the experiences of others with each lender.

    Users who sign up for a LendingTree account will be shown their credit score and may receive suggestions on how to improve it. Users can also download the LendingTree app to keep tabs on their credit score. The app will automatically look for deals and notify homeowners when refinancing their loan could produce savings in the long run.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    LendingTree COVID-19 Response

    LendingTree’s wealth of mortgage resources includes a detailed explanation of the 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. Additionally, it has a section on mortgage relief scams.

  • Bank of America

    Best National Bank Mortgage Lender

    3rd Party Ratings

    MBA Ranking

    #4 MBA Ranking

    JD Power Rating

    Among the Best

    Company Credit Check

    Minimum Credit Score

    620

    Analyze alternative credit data?

    Yes, they consider alternative credit data such as rent, utility, and cellphone payments for some of its loan products.

    Bank of America is one of the world’s largest banks and has been recognized as one of the country’s best banks. The bank’s diverse selection of mortgage products and competitive closing costs and interest rate estimates combined with its broad reach makes it a solid lender choice overall. It’s an even better choice for existing members, as the bank may offer greater discounts on mortgage lender origination fees.

    Accessibility is one of the bank’s strong points, with choices for both clients who prefer face-to-face interaction and an end-to-end digital experience. Bank of America features a staggering 4,300 retail financial centers and 2,900 lending centers. The bank also allows borrowers to apply and pre-qualify entirely online.

    Bank of America receives more official complaints than some other lenders due to the size and reach. However, the company still boasts excellent customer satisfaction rates. It ranked second in J.D. Power’s 2020 Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

    LATEST NEWS AS OF JANUARY 2021

    Bank of America COVID-19 Response

    Bank of America is currently extending payment deferral and payment forbearance options to those experiencing financial hardship associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In both cases, payment due dates will be delayed but not forgiven or erased. The company will work with its clients on repayment options, and there won't be any late charges.

    Eligibility for these programs varies based on the owners or insurers of the loan. If Bank of America owns the loan, both deferral and forbearance options will be available. However, 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 their guidelines while extending a forbearance program to the client.

How Much Will I Pay for My Mortgage

Buying A House In 2021

UPDATE: The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

As of March of 2020, the Federal Reserve has taken extraordinary measures to stabilize the home buying market in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 started with mortgage rates plummeting to a 50-year historic low — and while rates have risen slightly, they have remained well under 4%.

Interest rates are projected to stabilize as the economy recovers as we start 2021. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s Chief Economist, Mike Frantatoni, forecasts that mortgage rates could rise in the year to come, despite remaining near all-time lows. “The economy, labor market, and housing market have all seen meaningful rebounds since the onset of the pandemic, but there is still profound uncertainty, [...]”

So, if you're looking to make the most out of the current market conditions and are financially ready to make the dream of homeownership a reality, our list of best mortgage lenders can be a great starting point to help narrow down your options.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Mortgages

On March 18, 2020, underwriters Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced they were taking measures to protect those affected directly or indirectly by the novel coronavirus.

These protections include:

  • A nationwide suspension of all foreclosure sales and evictions
  • Additional mortgage relief options
  • Expansion of forbearance programs to incorporate those affected directly and indirectly by this crisis, effective immediately
  • Loan modifications such as loss mitigation, which is usually offered for natural disasters, may be available as well — depending on the mortgage lender.

Additionally, as per the Financial Services Forum, some lenders implement supplemental relief efforts such as fee waivers and are not reporting adverse credit to credit bureaus. If you have a loan with one of the entities mentioned above, please contact your mortgage lender as you may be entitled to some relief programs if you were affected by COVID-19.

Is Now the Right Time to Buy a Home?

The financial market's uncertainty has caused mortgage rates and applications to continue experiencing significant volatility. However, despite all odds, mortgage loan applications have increased due to lowering interest rates, according to the MBA.

To recover from the coronavirus, Freddie Mac is working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to make it easier to buy, sell, or refinance a home. Specifically, Freddie Mac is relaxing employment verification requirements and offering appraisal alternatives in light of the crisis.

Additionally, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have announced a nationwide relief plan to help borrowers facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, effectively suspending all evictions and offering forbearance plans for up to 12 months.

So if you want to take advantage of low rates and this window of opportunity, contact your mortgage lender first to evaluate the options that are available to you.

FAQs

To answer some of these questions, 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.

Should I get an adjustable- or a fixed-rate mortgage?

A fixed-rate mortgage is the way to go, for now. According to Tim Lucas, 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.”

“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.

I qualify for both conventional and government-backed loans. Which one should I choose?

Choosing a government-backed loan could save you hundreds of dollars on your mortgage in the long-run compared to a conventional loan. “If you qualify for both a VA loan and a conventional loan, usually the VA loan will be the better option based on the interest rate if you select the proper lender,” said Jason Sharon. Additionally, loans never have private mortgage insurance (PMI), while conventional loans will require PMI if you make a down payment of less than 20% of the purchase price.

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 (although some lenders may require up to two years worth of these, depending on your employment history)
  • 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—some lenders may require information about monthly credit card payments

In some cases, lenders may require additional documentation, like a history of alimony payments and gift letters, so make sure to ask before applying.

Will I have a higher interest rate because I'm self-employed?

Your credit score and the type of loan will affect your interest rates, not your employment status. However, being self-employed will likely affect your qualifying status. Tim Lucas stated that “You'll have a greater chance of being denied because the underwriter for that loan is going to have a harder time proving that you make a certain amount of money.”

If I want to buy a house, where should I start?

Andy Harris suggested that getting pre-approval before deciding on a property can be crucial to avoid getting ahead of yourself and looking at homes you can't afford. “You must be pre-approved before you start looking at properties or talking to a real estate agent. Otherwise, you have no idea of what your target budget is,” he said.

Most consumers will get motivated by the piece of real estate itself because that’s the fun part. But other things should come first. “No one wants to go through the process of setting a budget and applying for a mortgage and doing all these things, but you can't put the cart before the horse,” he added.

What Are Jumbo Loans? Should I Get One?

Jumbo loans are mortgages designed to finance luxury properties and homes in competitive real estate markets. As real estate value continues to rise — and dramatically so in major cities and coastal areas — more and more people are considering getting this type of loan.

Jumbo loans are different from conventional loans in that they exceed the limits set by the Federal Housing Financing Agency. In 2020, the limit was around half a million dollars for a single-family property, while some high-cost areas had the limit set at $765,600.

It’s hard to qualify for a jumbo loan because they are not purchased or guaranteed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Applicants will 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 liquid funds in their bank account for the closing process, which tends to be longer because of the stricter requirements for a jumbo loan.

To learn more, read our article on the best jumbo mortgage lenders of 2020.

How We Found the Best Mortgage Lenders

Our research into the best mortgage lenders led us to the Mortgage Bankers Association, from which we obtained a detailed mortgage origination report. This document sheds light on factors such as the total number of originations (or the number of loans issued) by volume per state and per lender, the percentage of each type of loan originated, and the average loan size issued in each state. For VA loans, we based our top picks on the Veterans Administration's 2020 list of lenders by loan volume.

We cross-referenced our top 50 picks with J.D. Power's 2020 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study to narrow down our list even further. This study measures customer satisfaction with each lender's application, approval, and closing process, as well as their loan offerings and communication.

Using the same data, we calculated the median number of purchase originations, including those for government-backed loans, and eliminated any lenders that fell well below average. This further narrowed down our best list to 7 mortgage companies, including brick-and-mortar banks, credit unions, and conventional lenders.

As a final step, we identified where our top lenders had the highest originations per region with the Mortgage Bankers Association's Top 100 Lenders by State excerpt from the 2020 Residential Originations Databook.

We also took into account the number of mortgage complaints per lender according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the number of regulatory actions taken against a company according to the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS). Companies that had more than five regulatory actions with the NMLS and over 20,000 complaints with the CFPB were eliminated from our rankings.

Rankings were derived from more than 60 types of data in 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 ranging between 10 and 30 years, and loans backed by government agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Customer Experience

We consider customer experience to be one of our most important factors for choosing the best mortgage lender. To us, this includes:

  • Assessments of consumer credit history and whether they consider alternative credit data such as employment longevity to determine loan approval or interest rates
  • A streamlined application process
  • Customer support available in at least two forms: this could be in-branch, online, through email, or over the phone
  • Tools and resources, such as related literature and calculators to help borrowers make informed decisions

Reputation & Transparency

We evaluated consumer complaints with the CFPB and the number of regulatory actions filed against each mortgage company with the NMLS, selecting those with the best track record.

Summed Up List of the Best Mortgage Lenders

Company and
Specialty
Minimum
Credit Score
Minimum
Down Payment
Quicken Loans
Best Mortgage Lender Overall
620 3%
Guild Mortgage
Best Mortgage Lender for First-time Home Buyers
620 3%
Veterans United
Best Mortgage Lender for Military Members (Online)
660 0%
Navy Federal
Best Mortgage Lender for Military Members (In Person)
620 0%
Caliber Home Loans
Best Mortgage Lender for Self-Employed Individuals
580 3%
Lending Tree
Best Mortgage Lender Marketplace
~585 (recommended) n/a
Bank of America
Best National Bank Mortgage Lender
620 3%