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Published: May 03, 2024 27 min read

Money's Main Takeaways:

  • A mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make. Finding a reputable lender and a loan that fits your needs is essential
  • It's important to shop around for a lender and compare loan types, mortgage rates, lender fees and closing times to find the best option for you
  • The best mortgage lenders will have competitive rates, simple pre-qualification, pre-approval and application processes, and a track record of providing excellent customer service
  • Our top picks for best mortgage lenders include Rocket Mortgage, LendingTree and Veterans United
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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 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).

Our Top Picks for Best Mortgage Lenders of 2024

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Interest rate estimates for:
Poor/Fair Credit
7.35% - 9.1%
Good/Very Good Credit
7.01% - 8.64%
Exceptional Credit
7.01% - 7.99%

Best Mortgage Lender Reviews


Pros
  • First-time homebuyers can pay as little as 1% 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, is known for ranking at the top of multiple customer satisfaction rankings for several consecutive years. In 2023, it was top of the list in J.D. Powers 2023 U.S. Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study.

The lender recently introduced Rocket Logic, an artificial intelligence-driven platform designed to speed up the loan application process. The technology allows Rocket to scan uploaded documents and confirm the borrower’s information is correct. The lender says Rocket Logic can reduce closing times by as much as 25%.

Borrowers who earn less than 80% of the area’s median income can qualify for the One+ program. Qualifying homebuyers can purchase a home with just 1% down, with Rocket paying an additional 2%.

The loan application process is done completely online, although you can also get help from Rocket’s loan officers or one of the lender’s 3,000+ affiliated mortgage bankers. There are several loan options available, and buyers can get up to $10,000 in credits towards closing costs.

See rates on Rocket Mortgage's Secure Website >>


Pros
  • Compare offers from over 300 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 (NMLS #1136) allows you to easily compare rate quotes from multiple lenders, making it our choice for the best mortgage marketplace.

LendingTree has a network of over 300 lenders located throughout the country. You can discuss the options with a LendingTree loan officer to find the option that best fits your needs. Once you complete a simple, three-step online application, you will be contacted by up to five different lenders offering quote estimates.

During this comparison process, LendingTree runs a soft credit check, which won’t affect your score. If you do choose a lender LendingTree recommends, you’ll complete the application process with that company directly (which will require a hard credit check).

LendingTree also offers plenty of educational resources and support services, including information on current mortgage rates, loan calculators and a national loan officer directory. The company’s free Spring account helps users keep tabs on their credit score and offers tips on how to improve it, among other features.

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) easy-to-use online platform and robust credit counseling programs make it a good choice for active-duty military members who may not be located near a physical branch.

Veterans United offers conventional and FHA loans, but it specializes in loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, making it a great option for service members, veterans, reservists and their families. The lender doesn’t offer home equity loans or lines of credit, but does offer VA cash out refinancing loans.

Borrowers in need of credit counseling can take advantage of Veterans United’s free Lighthouse program, which matches customers with specialists who work one-on-one with customers to design credit improvement plans.

Outside of its online services, Veterans United 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.

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 USDA, home equity, or home improvement loans
  • Not available in Nevada
HIGHLIGHTS
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, HELOCs, VA
Minimum Down Payment
3%
Minimum Credit Score
620

Why we chose this company: Better Mortgage’s (NMLS: #330511) streamlined application and document submission process can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to close on a home loan.

With Better’s One-Day Mortgage, customers can submit their financial documents, lock in a mortgage rate and, if they qualify, receive a loan commitment letter within 24 hours. According to the lender’s website, borrowers can also close on their mortgage up to 17 days faster than the industry average (for comparison, the industry standard is around 45 days).

The online lender also has a Better Price Guarantee. The lender will match a competitor’s offer or give you a $100 credit. Another plus: the lender doesn’t charge commissions on the loans it originates.

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, VA
Minimum Down Payment
0%
Minimum Credit Score
Undisclosed

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).

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
  • Variety of loan options, including home equity and specialty loans
  • Online application process
  • Offers investment property loans
Cons
  • No mortgage rate or fee information on website
  • Does not offer Home equity lines of credit
HIGHLIGHTS
Types of Loans
Conventional fixed and adjustable-rate, FHA, VA, Refinance, cash-out refinance, home equity loans, specialty loans
Minimum Down Payment
Undisclosed

Why we chose this company: Newrez is one of the few lenders on our list that offers financing for buyers interested in purchasing investment properties, including those that aren’t owner-occupied.

Newrez’s niche and specialty loans are available for multifamily dwellings, low-to-high-rise buildings, and long and short-term rental properties. While investment property loans make it stand out, the lender also offers a variety of loan options, including conventional and government-backed options with low down payment requirements.

For buyers interested in acquiring a single-family residence, getting a Newrez mortgage offers several benefits. With Purchase Perks, you can reduce your closing costs by $1,000. The lender also offers an on-time closing guarantee: Get up to $5,000 back if you miss the closing date because of lender delays.

See rates on Newrez'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 discount.

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
3%

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.

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 hoping to achieve their dream of homeownership. 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 find the right loan program to fit your needs.

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 by making a down payment and meeting the lender’s minimum credit score and income requirements. Borrowers typically need 20% of the purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance. However, lenders may offer different down payment options and getting a loan with as little as 3% down is often possible.

It’s important to research different loan options and compare lender requirements and the costs associated with taking out the loan. Closing costs, for example, include application, origination, title search, and other mortgage fees and must be paid upfront or rolled into the loan. Depending on the lender, you will be required to pay between 2% and 6% of the loan amount in closing costs.

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

Mortgage companies offer products with a range of lengths, interest rates and payment structures to fit a range of different needs. Be sure to compare offerings from multiple 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 mortgages can be conforming or non-conforming.

  • Conforming loans meet the loan limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the standards required 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 home purchases priced above the conforming loan limit of $1,149,825.

FHA loans

A Federal Housing Administration is a government-backed mortgage product 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 have no down payment or private mortgage insurance requirements. However, it requires a VA funding fee. For more information about VA loans, check out our guide to the best VA loans.

USDA loans

USDA loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and are an option for borrowers purchasing or building homes in rural and suburban areas. Applicants have to meet specific income requirements to qualify, but typically don’t need to make a down payment.

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 they meet eligibility requirements.

  • 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.
  • The homeowner can choose to receive the loan through different payment options, such as a monthly disbursement or a lump sum payment.
  • 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.

Home equity loans

A home equity loan is a second mortgage that a borrower takes out on top of their existing loan. This type of loan is guaranteed by the borrower’s first property, which allows homeowners to tap into the equity their house has gained over time. Applicants must own at least 20% of their home’s value to qualify. Home equity loans are paid out in a lump sum and can be used for any purpose. Like traditional mortgages, these loans are repaid in monthly installments.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC)

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is another type of second mortgage that allows you to access the equity built up in your property and convert it into readily available cash. As opposed to a home equity loan, however, a HELOC functions like a credit card, where the lender pre-approves a specific borrowing limit you can draw upon as needed.

There is a draw period during which you can use funds from the line of credit. During this time, you pay interest only on the amount you draw. You can also repay the amount you take out and have access to the maximum line of credit again. Once the draw period ends, you will no longer be able to draw cash out and have to repay both the principal and interest on any outstanding balance.

Fixed-rate vs. adjustable-rate mortgages

Once you start shopping for a mortgage, you’ll find two types of interest rates: fixed rates and adjustable rates, also known as variable rates.

A fixed rate means that the interest the lender charges on the loan will never change as long as you meet the terms of the loan. In other words, if you make your monthly payments, don’t refinance the mortgage or alter the loan agreement in any way, your interest rate will always stay the same.

On the other hand, an adjustable rate means that the interest will change according to market conditions, meaning it could increase or decrease several times during the loan's term. When talking about adjustable rate mortgages (ARM), most lenders will offer what are called hybrid ARMs: they will have a fixed-rate number of years where the rate won’t change, then become variable and start adjusting.

Each type of interest rate has its pros and cons. You should carefully consider each one before deciding which type or interest rate best fits your needs.

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

Another important piece of information you need to know is the difference between your loan’s interest rate and the annual percentage rate (APR).

The interest rate is the rate your lender is charging on the amount you borrow. The APR is the total percentage you’ll pay the lender and includes your interest rate plus any applicable loan fees, including loan origination and underwriting costs.

Compare 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.

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

Aspiring homebuyers are facing challenging conditions in the housing market this spring.

Freddie Mac’s benchmark rate for a 30-year fixed-rate loan, the most popular type of mortgage in America, jumped past 7% in mid-April. Borrowers with less-than-stellar credit scores are seeing current mortgage rates averaging even higher. Coupled with soaring home prices and a stagnant inventory of available houses for sale, this has led to record-high costs for many would-be homebuyers.

Buyers who are planning on making a home purchase this year have a few tools at their disposal — like learning how to negotiate — to help navigate this environment. Shopping around for a lender and actively working toward improving their credit score can also help aspiring buyers lessen the impact of higher rates.

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 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%

Newrez – Best for Investment Property Loans

640 (for conventional loans)

3%

Bank of America – Best National Bank

620
3%

Better Mortgage – Best for Fast Closing Time

620
3%