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Originally Published: Nov 16, 2023
Originally Published: Nov 16, 2023 Last Updated: Feb 01, 2024 24 min read
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A streamlined loan application that can be completed entirely online

  • Get pre-approved in minutes
  • Receive custom mortgage solutions based on your credit and finances
  • Automatically share information about your income and assets
  • Customize loan terms and costs to fit your budget

Trustpilot Rating4.7 out of 5
Trustpilot Reviews20,239
Origination Volume (2022)126,258
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Veterans: You could qualify for a low rate with a VA Loan

  • Buy with 0% down when you qualify for a VA Home Loan
  • Dedicated Loan Teams support you at every step (even past close)
  • 4.8/5 average rating, 330,000+ reviews
  • #1 VA Lender: More Veterans chose Veterans United than any other VA Lender in FY2022 (According to VA Lender Statistics)

Trustpilot Rating4.9 out of 5
Trustpilot Reviews10,739
Origination Volume (2022)71,823
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Get rates & pre-qualified in minutes

  • Low Rates: Quick Quote and Approval
  • Rate Lock Protection. Lock Now Before Rates Go Up
  • Pre-Approval Letter with Rate Lock Protection
  • Over $100 Billion Funded. 21 Years in Business

Trustpilot Rating4.4 out of 5
Trustpilot Reviews11,982
Origination Volume (2022)10,453
This ad unit is part of a marketing platform for mortgage and home lending products. We work with a network of lenders and receive compensation for marketing and advertising services. We strive to provide accurate and unbiased information about mortgage products and services to help you make informed decisions. Please note that the lenders we work with may have different terms and conditions, so we encourage you to review their offers carefully before making a decision. Learn More.

Why Trust Us?

Money has been providing its readers with in-depth product reviews and financial advice for over 50 years. Our mortgage refinance lender reviews are the result of hours of research and analysis of over 20 lenders. We evaluated the variety of loan types offered, average interest rates, customer service ratings and the number of complaints filed against each lender, among other factors. We also relied on rankings and data from expert sources, including the Mortgage Bankers Association, J.D. Power’s Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study and the National Multistate Licensing System (NMLS).

A mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make — and one you’ll be paying off for years. Finding a reputable lender and a loan that fits your needs is essential.

Before settling on a lender, it’s important to consider different loan programs and compare terms like mortgage rates, lender fees and closing times. There are approximately 11,000 mortgage lenders in the United States. To help you narrow the field, Money has reviewed eight of the best mortgage lenders in America right now.

Our picks offer competitive interest rates and a range of loan products that cater to different needs. They also have simple mortgage pre-qualification, pre-approval and application processes and a strong customer satisfaction record.

Read on for our reviews of the best mortgage lenders in America.

Our Top Picks for Best Mortgage Lenders of February 2024

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Because Everyone Wants The Best Interest Rate — Get Yours
State
New Loan Type
i
Loan Amount
i
$

Find Your Actual Rate at Rocket Mortgage (NMLS #3030) Today!

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Interest rate estimates for:
Poor/Fair Credit
7.54% - 9.02%
Good/Very Good Credit
6.76% - 8.71%
Exceptional Credit
6.76% - 8.11%

Best Mortgage Lender Reviews

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • No home equity lines of credit available
  • No brick-and-mortar locations
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA
Minimum Down Payment
3%
Minimum Credit Score
620

Why we chose this company: Rocket Mortgage (NMLS: #3030), formerly Quicken Loans, stands out for its quality of customer experience. It ranked first in customer satisfaction in J.D. Powers 2023 U.S. Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study.

Loan applications can be fully processed online and Rocket’s products are available in all 50 states. Customers can also speak with one of the company’s 3,000+ affiliated mortgage bankers. Moreover, Rocket services almost all the loans it originates, so you’ll get consistent support from start to finish.

You can get cash credits if you buy or sell a house using Rocket Homes and Rocket Mortgage. Buyers can get 1.25% of the loan amount back (up to a maximum of $10,000) in closing cost credits. Sellers can get a 0.5% rebate on the sales price.

Rocket offers a variety of mortgage options, including conventional mortgages, FHA, VA and jumbo loans, plus flexible loan terms ranging between eight and 29 years.

The lender recently introduced a 1% down loan option, One+, for borrowers earning 80% or less of the area median income and meeting qualifying income requirements.

See rates on Rocket Mortgage's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Compare offers from over 1,500 lenders in minutes
  • Comprehensive learning resources available
Cons
  • You could receive multiple phone calls or emails from different lenders competing for your business
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA (specifics vary by lender)
Minimum Down Payment
Varies by lender
Minimum Credit Score
~585 (recommended)

Why we chose this company: LendingTree’s (NMLS #1136) extensive network of lenders and straightforward quote comparison process make it our pick for the best marketplace.

LendingTree lets you compare mortgage products from over 1,500 lenders, through a simple three-step online process that consists of answering a series of questions, comparing offers side-by-side and discussing your options with a loan officer.

To get started, you must provide your social security number and information about your income, assets, education, debts and work history. LendingTree then runs a soft credit check and uses your FICO score to match you with lenders. Finally, you’ll be contacted by up to five lenders with preliminary quotes.

LendingTree recently introduced its Spring account, a tool to track and improve your credit score, get personalized financial guidance and receive customized offers for home and personal loans, credit cards and more.

The website offers plenty of educational 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.

See rates on LendingTree's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Competitive interest rates
  • No down payment or PMI required
  • Online credit counseling program available for borrowers with poor credit history
Cons
  • No home equity loans available
  • Only has physical branches in 18 states
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
0%
Minimum Credit Score
620

Why we chose this company: Veterans United’s (NMLS: #1907) robust online platform and online credit counseling program make it a solid choice for active-duty military members who may not have the ability 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 service members and reservists, as well as veterans and their families.

The lender provides free online credit counseling through its Lighthouse Program, which matches customers with a credit specialist who helps them map out a credit score improvement plan.

Its mortgages are available nationwide, though Veterans United only has physical branches in 18 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Unlike some VA loan competitors, Veterans United doesn’t offer home equity loans or lines of credit (HELOCs), though they do offer VA Cash-Out refinance. The lender also offers conventional and FHA loans for those who may not qualify for a VA loan.

See rates on Veterans United's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • No origination, underwriting, or application fees
  • Assistance programs for down payment and closing costs
  • Representatives available every day until 9 pm ET
Cons
  • Doesn't offer customizable terms
  • No VA, USDA, home equity, or home improvement loans
  • Not available in Nevada
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, HELOCs
Minimum Down Payment
3%
Minimum Credit Score
620

Why we chose this company: Better Mortgage (NMLS: #330511) offers a fast and streamlined document submission process, resulting in faster closing times for many customers.

Consumers can obtain a rate quote and a pre-approval letter in just a few minutes. Better also says it has an average loan closing time of 32 days, which is faster than the national average of 50 days as of December 2022. Customer reviews mention closing times between one and two months.

The lender also offers a One-Day Mortgage, allowing customers to lock in a rate, submit their financial details and obtain a commitment letter stating they’ve been approved for a mortgage within 24 hours.

You can also take advantage of the Better Price Guarantee, which promises to match any valid competitor’s offer and credit you $100 — if they can’t match the price, you get to keep the $100.

Better offers additional services, including insurance policies, attorney referrals, and title and closing services, designed to streamline the homebuying process.

See rates on Better's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • One of the nation's top five lenders of FHA loans
  • Home improvement and manufactured home mortgage loans available
  • Specific programs for low-income borrowers available
  • Matches customers with down payment assistance
Cons
  • No current mortgage rates available on its website
  • No home equity products available
  • Not available in NY and NJ
HIGHLIGHTS
Types of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
0%
Minimum Credit Score
620

Why we chose this company: Guild Mortgage (NMLS: #3274) has low credit score requirements and down payment assistance programs that make it a great choice for first-time homebuyers.

In addition to conventional loans, Guild Mortgage offers government-backed FHA and VA loans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture named Guild a Top Guaranteed Rural Housing Lender for 2023 in recognition of the lender’s outstanding USDA loan origination services.

The lender also works with local governments across the U.S. and more than 500 down payment assistance programs specifically designed for first-time homebuyers.

Guild recently launched its 1% Down Payment Advantage Program, which allows the borrower to pay only 1% down (Guild covers another 2%). The program includes a 1% rate buydown for the first year of the loan.

Guild can originate loans in all but two states — New York and New Jersey. The lender can fully close mortgages online via its digital platform, MyMortgage, which can speed up the closing process.

See rates on Guild Mortgage's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • Doesn't offer customized rates unless you apply
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
0%
Minimum Credit Score
660

Why we chose this company: With 324 branches nationwide, Navy Federal Credit Union (NMLS: #399807) is our pick for best in-person lender for military members.

Borrowers can also take advantage of NFCU’s rate match guarantee. If you find a better rate elsewhere, NFCU matches it or discounts $1,000 from your closing costs. The credit union also offers a no-refi rate drop: You won’t have to do a full refinance if the rate drops within six months of taking out a specific type of loan (there is a one-time $250 fee).

First-time applicants have access to the Freedom Lock feature, which allows you to lock in a lower interest rate if one becomes available. Borrowers are allowed up to two locks with a minimum interest decrease of 0.50%.

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%.

NFCU also services every mortgage it originates in-house for the life of the loan, which means customers do business solely with their chosen lender. Navy Federal membership is open to active-duty military members, reservists, veterans, retirees and their families.

See rates on Navy Federal Credit Union's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • One of the largest selections of mortgage loans on our list
  • Some loan programs have low credit score options
  • Program available for self-employed customers
Cons
  • No home equity loans available
HIGHLIGHTS
Types of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
3%
Minimum Credit Score
580 for VA loans

Why we chose this company: Caliber Home Loans (NMLS: #15622) offers a program tailored specifically for self-employed individuals, making it much easier for borrowers to prove how much they earn even if they don’t have traditional income sources.

With Caliber’s Purchase Perks, borrowers can save $1,000 on closing costs when financing a home purchase with them. The lender also has a low minimum credit score requirement and accepts non-traditional credit information when evaluating loan applications. Caliber says borrowers with this alternative credit data can secure down payments as low as 3% on conventional loans.

Caliber’s online application process is another standout feature. Customers can apply online by answering a few questions about themselves, their finances and their housing budget. A representative then contacts applicants shortly after. The process can take as little as 15 minutes.

See rates on Caliber's Secure Website >>

Pros
  • Thousands of branches nationwide
  • Down payment and closing costs assistance program available
  • Application can be done digitally
Cons
  • Rates shown are for a credit score of 740 or higher
  • Fee information isn't available online
  • No renovation loans available
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA
Minimum Down Payment
3%
Minimum Credit Score
620

Why we chose this company: With more than 4,300 branches and 2,900 lending centers, Bank of America (NMLS: #399802) is one of the most accessible lenders on our list, especially for clients who prefer face-to-face interaction.

Bank of America’s diverse selection of mortgage options, competitive closing costs, interest rate estimates and broad reach make it a solid lender choice overall. It can be an even better choice if you have existing accounts with Bank of America: Preferred Rewards members may qualify for a reduced origination fee or interest rate.

Borrowers can apply and pre-qualify online. Bank of America’s Home Loan Navigator, accessible through the bank’s mobile app, lets users sign, submit and track documents online.

See rates on Bank of America's Secure Website >>

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Other mortgage lenders we considered

The following lenders were considered for our list, but ultimately didn’t make the cut:

HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Types –
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment –
3%

Guaranteed Rate (NMLS: #2611) is an online mortgage lender with a fully digital process that can be tracked via an interactive checklist. The lender also has more than 500 physical branches across all states. It’s the only lender we surveyed offering a 100% money-back guarantee.

Guaranteed Rate has a full suite of comprehensive educational resources, including a Know Your Neighborhood feature that allows borrowers to view market and population trends by zip code, school data, and taxes. You can get your loan approved in as little as one day with Guaranteed Rate’s Same Day Mortgage.

Pros
  • Allow borrowers to upload and e-sign documents
  • Provides sample rates for many of its loan products
  • Participates in down payment assistance programs: HomeReady, HomePossible®, Fannie Mae 97%, and Freddie Mac HomeOne
  • Over 350 branches across 50 states
Cons
  • No home equity products
  • Not available in Mississippi, Vermont, or West Virginia

See rates on Guaranteed Rate's Secure Website >>

HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Types
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, ARM, FHA, Reverse Mortgage, USDA, VA
Minimum Down Payment
5%

Fairway Independent (NMLS: #2289) has more than 650 branches across 48 states and the District of Columbia, along with a comprehensive mobile app. Their FairwayNOW app helps streamline the document submission process while also providing calculators and direct communication with your loan officer.

Fairway offers flexible mortgage terms of 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. Its most notable products are physician loans, designed to help medical professionals currently saddled with student loan debt.

While Fairway Independent receives overall favorable reviews, it doesn’t publish any of its rates, credit score requirements and minimum down payments online. Instead, you must reach out to an agent to access this information.

Pros
  • Proprietary FairwayNOW app serves as a one-stop shop for documents, communications, and more
  • Offers physician mortgage loans
  • Flexible term options for fixed-rate loans
Cons
  • No home equity loan or lines of credit available
  • Interest rates and minimum credit score requirements not available upfront

See rates on Fairway Independent's Secure Website >>

HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Types
Purchase, Jumbo loans, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Renovation, Manufactured Home
Minimum Down Payment
3%

PrimeLending (NMLS: #13649) has a broad selection of loan products, 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.

With Prime’s 1Day AdvantEDGE, you can get a loan approval within 24 hours of completing the online application process and get a $250 lender credit.

While PrimeLending’s selection is vast, 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • No home equity products
  • Must speak with a loan officer before an online application
  • Qualifying requirements not published

See rates on Prime Lending's Secure Website >>

HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Types
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Renovation, Manufactured Homes
Minimum Down Payment
3%

Though better known as a mortgage servicer than an originator, Flagstar Bank (NMLS: #417490) offers a full suite of loans, including home equity products and several specialty loans.

An example is 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.

Pros
  • 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
Cons
  • 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

See rates on Flagstar Bank's Secure Website >>

Mortgages Guide

Purchasing a new home and taking on a mortgage loan can be intimidating, especially for first-time buyers. The process requires a firm knowledge of your personal finances and a long-term financial commitment. This basic information will help you start with confidence and find the best lender for you.

If you need more guidance during the home-buying process, a professional mortgage banker or mortgage broker can help.

What is a Mortgage?

A mortgage is a loan used to buy a house, condo, townhome, apartment or any other type of real estate. When you take out a mortgage, you are using the property you’re buying as collateral to secure the loan, which means that if you stop making the mortgage payments, the bank can repossess the home.

How Do Mortgages Work?

Mortgages are secured loans that use the value of the home you’re buying as collateral.

Loans are secured with a down payment, and the minimum amount requirements vary by lender. Borrowers typically need 20% of the purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance. However, getting a loan with as little as 3% down is often possible.

Mortgages are repaid over time with interest, and loan terms can run from eight to 30 years. Most Americans need a mortgage to afford a home. The drawback of a mortgage is if you’re unable to make your monthly payments, the lender can seize the property.

If you’re already a homeowner and thinking about refinancing your mortgage, check our mortgage refinance calculator and our list of the best mortgage refinance companies to get started.

Types of mortgage loans

To fit the diverse needs of homebuyers, mortgage companies offer products with a range of lengths, interest rates and payment structures. Be sure to compare different types of financial institutions to find the lender that best meets your needs.

Conventional loans

The most common type of mortgage loan, conventional loans are offered by private lenders and are not part of any government insurance programs. Conventional loans can be conforming or non-conforming.

  • Conforming loans meet the standards to be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are government-sponsored mortgage investors.
  • For 2024, the conforming loan limit is $766,550 in most places. In some expensive areas, the limit goes up to $1,149,825.
  • Non-conforming loans are those that do not meet these standards and therefore stay on the private lender’s books.

Jumbo loans

Jumbo loans are a type of conventional, non-conforming loan for loans above the conforming loan limits of $1,149,825.

FHA loans

A Federal Housing Administration is a government-backed mortgage program popular with first-time buyers.

  • The government offers lender insurance on this type of loan, so FHA mortgage rates tend to be lower than conventional loans.
  • You can also make a lower upfront down payment with this type of loan, typically as low as 3.5% of the purchase price.

VA loans

Another government-backed loan, VA loans are guaranteed by the US Veterans Affairs Department. VA loans are available to service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses.

  • They often come with lower interest rates and don’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. However, it requires a VA funding fee. For more information about VA loans, check out our guide to the best VA loans.

USDA loans

A reverse mortgage allows homeowners age 62 or older to convert their home equity into cash without having to sell their property.

Reverse mortgage:

A reverse mortgage allows homeowners age 62 or older to convert their home equity into cash without having to sell their property.

  • As long as the homeowners live in the house, they don’t have to pay back the loan — however, there are caveats, such as having homeowners insurance and maintaining the property in good condition.
  • Instead of a reverse mortgage, homeowners under the age of 62 can also look into home equity loans, which are similar in concept, though with different repayment rules.
  • The best reverse mortgage lenders will refer you to an independent financial counselor before applying to explain how this type of loan works and ensure you make the right choice.

Type of mortgage rates

When looking for a loan, always look at the most current mortgage rates and the APR being offered by the lender to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Borrowers who can qualify for a lower rate will save money on their loan over time.

The annual percentage rate (APR) is a measure of both how much interest you will pay throughout the year and any applicable loan fees, including loan origination and underwriting costs. This is expressed as a percentage of your principal loan amount. There can be a big difference in mortgage interest rates offered by different lenders, so comparing rates is a good idea.

Lenders typically offer both fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages.

Fixed-rate mortgages

Pros
  • Interest rate doesn't change over the life of the loan
  • Predictable monthly payments
  • Ideal for long-term homeownership
Cons
  • Higher interest rates than adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Harder to qualify for when interest rates are high

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM)

Pros
  • Lower interest rates during fixed-rate period
  • Ideal for short-term homeownership
  • Easier to qualify for higher loan amounts
  • Interest rates may go down throughout the life of the loan
Cons
  • Monthly payment amounts can change multiple times over the life of the loan
  • Interest rates can potentially double in the span of a few years

How to Get a Mortgage Loan

Your first step toward getting a home mortgage loan is to determine your budget. Check our mortgage calculator and home affordability calculator to see how much you’ll be able to afford in monthly mortgage payments and get an estimate of your ideal purchase price.

Part of determining how much home you can afford is figuring out your down payment. As a general rule of thumb, a 20% down payment is recommended because you’ll avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI) — a policy that will protect the lender in case you default on the loan. Most lenders, however, will have lower down payment requirements.

Before applying for a mortgage, make sure to check your credit score. 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%.

It is also important to compare mortgage lenders to make sure you find the one with terms that best fit your financial situation. Once you’ve decided on a lender, gather all the necessary paperwork to help streamline the application process.

Documents needed when submitting a mortgage application include:

1. Your two most recent pay stubs

2. Your most recent tax return

3. W-2 and/or 1099 (lenders may ask for two years, 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 (retirement accounts, 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 cards and student loans

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

Lenders will perform hard credit inquiries when you apply, making sure there are no red flags in your credit history that may impact your chances of approval. If you apply with multiple lenders within 45 days, your score will not be affected. Credit reporting agencies recognize this as shopping around for the best mortgage rate.

Another good idea is getting a mortgage pre-approval before deciding on a property. Getting a pre-approval letter will save you time and make the mortgage process more manageable.

It is important to note that student loans count against your debt-to-income ratio, which can make applying for a mortgage a tricky proposition for many individuals. However, getting a mortgage when you have student loans is not uncommon, so make sure to thoroughly explore all of your bank’s options to secure the best rates.

Once you’ve submitted your application, the lender will generally provide you with a loan estimate within three business days. The loan estimate is a document that outlines the preliminary terms of the loan you have requested.

Latest News on Mortgage Lenders

Homebuyers are getting some relief this year after facing tough market conditions in 2023.

After briefly flirting with 8%, current mortgage rates have dropped below 7%. Many experts expect the downward trend to continue throughout the year, with the possibility of rates averaging less than 6% by the end of the year. The recent rate decrease has led to renewed buyer interest, with home sales ticking up to start the year.

Despite the positive trend in rates, affordability is still a major concern for many potential buyers. In addition to high financing costs, they're facing increases in related expenses like homeowners insurance, with costs predicted to jump by as much as 15% this year.

Mortgage Lenders FAQs

How much house can I afford?

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How much house you can afford will depend on your monthly income and expenses, your credit score, the amount of interest you'll pay and how much money your lender is willing to approve, among other factors. Using an affordability calculator is the easiest way to get a ballpark figure of how much you can comfortably spend on a home purchase.

How to buy a house

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There are several steps to buying a house. First, prepare yourself financially: improve your credit score, save enough cash for a down payment and closing costs and have income and employment documentation readily available. Shop around for the best mortgage lender, then get a preapproval letter. Contact a knowledgeable real estate agent to help you find the right property and, when you do, make an offer.

What is private mortgage insurance?

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Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is an insurance policy that protects the lender from losing money if a borrower can no longer make their mortgage payments and defaults on the loan. It is required whenever a borrower makes a down payment of less than 20% and can add anywhere between $30 and $100 to monthly payments for every $100,000 borrowed. PMI can be eliminated once the homeowner has accumulated at least 20% equity in the home.

What credit score do mortgage lenders use?

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The FICO scoring system is most commonly used by mortgage lenders. There are many different versions of FICO Scores. Each of the three credit reporting bureaus — Experian, Transunion and Equifax — will use a different version when it comes to mortgages: FICO 2, FICO 4 and FICO 5, respectively. However, the Federal Housing Finance Agency recently announced that all lenders will be required to phase in the VantageScore 4.0 model, in addition to the FICO 10T score, over the next few years.

Individual lenders will require a minimum credit score that can range between 580 and 660, depending on the type of mortgage (Conventional, FHA, VA, etc) being applied for.

How long does it take to get a mortgage preapproval?

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Obtaining a preapproval letter can take as little as a day and as long as 10 days, depending on what lender you choose. Some lenders may issue the letter with a simple credit check based on the information you provide while others may require to see documentation such as pay stubs, W-2s, and bank statements.

How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders

Our ranking methodology was determined based on the following categories:

  • Types of loans offered: We favored companies that offer a variety of loan options, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, different term lengths, and both private loans and loans backed by government agencies.
  • Customer experience: We favored companies that consider alternative credit data, provide a streamlined application process, offer at least two forms of customer service, and have a variety of resources and educational tools on their websites.
  • 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:

Summary of Money’s Best Mortgage Lenders of February 2024

COMPANY and SPECIALTY

MINIMUM CREDIT SCORE

MINIMUM DOWN PAYMENT

Rocket Mortgage - Best Customer Service
620
3%
LendingTree - Best Marketplace
~585 (recommended)
n/a
Veterans United - Best Online Lender for Military Members
620
3%
Guild Mortgage - Best for First-Time Homebuyers
620
3%
Navy Federal -Best In-Person Lender for Military Members
620
3%
Caliber Home Loans - Best for Self-employed Individuals
620
3%
Bank of America -Best National Bank
620
3%
Better Mortgage - Best for Fast Closing Time
620
3%