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Find the Best Mortgage Lenders

by Michele Lerner Mortgage & Real Estate Contributing Editor

Mortgages make the dream of homeownership a reality for millions of Americans. Our research team vetted 57 mortgage companies that have been collectively rated by more than 5,952 customers in the last year to help find the best mortgage lender for you. Read our guide to compare loan types, eligibility requirements, rates and terms.

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Current conventional national mortgage rates

Rates are effective 06/21/2021 and are subject to change without notice. APR shown is provided by a partner of ConsumerAffairs.

3.272%-0.01%Get Rates

The APR shown of 3.272% is available for a 30-year fixed rate loan in the amount of $200,000 for consumers with loan-to-value of at least 80%.

3.101%-0.03%Get Rates

The APR shown of 3.101% is available for a 20-year fixed rate loan in the amount of $200,000 for consumers with loan-to-value of at least 80%.

2.651%-0.12%Get Rates

The APR shown of 2.651% is available for a 30-year VA fixed rate loan in the amount of $200,000 for consumers with loan-to-value of at least 80%.

2.166%0.0%Get Rates

The APR shown of 2.166% is available for a 10-year fixed rate loan in the amount of $200,000 for consumers with loan-to-value of at least 80%.

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Our picks for top mortgage companies

To narrow it down from the mortgage lenders listed on this guide, we first looked at customer reviews. We required companies to have an overall satisfaction rating above 3.5 stars plus a 2:1 ratio of 5-star to 1-star reviews. The ConsumerAffairs research team also considered availability — all of the top picks are available across the country.

Our top pick overallAmeriSave MortgageAUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • Conventional loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • FHA, VA and USDA loans
  • Cash-out refinance loans

AmeriSave is a direct lender in 49 states (currently unavailable in New York), plus Washington, D.C. Fixed and adjustable rates with a range of closing cost options are available. We like that you can get real quotes — not estimates — in just a few minutes online.

What reviewers say: Helpful loan officers, fair rates and terms, super easy process

Our pick for refinancingMr. CooperAUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • Conventional loans
  • Refinance loans
  • FHA and VA loans
  • Jumbo loans

Mr. Cooper offers refinancing options to lower your payments, get cash out or consolidate debt. You can track changes in your home value and equity through an app. We also like that the company offers a “close on time” guarantee.

What reviewers say: Smooth process, rates could be a little lower, very responsive reps

Our pick for first-time buyersCaliber Home LoansAUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • Conventional loans
  • Government loans
  • Refinance loans
  • Jumbo loans

Caliber is a private, national mortgage company that offers purchase and refinance loans in all 50 states. Fixed-rate mortgages in terms ranging from 10 to 30 years (instead of the typical 15 or 30) are available. Many first-time homebuyers seem to like Caliber because of the personalized support.

What reviewers say: Great to work with, minimal out-of-pocket expenses, quick and easy process

Our pick for easy processRocket MortgageAUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • Conventional loans
  • FHA and VA loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • Refinancing loans

Rocket Mortgage is an online mortgage company developed by one of the largest lenders in the U.S., Quicken Loans. The application and approval process is streamlined, and homeowners can continue to manage their mortgages online after closing.

What reviewers say: Amazing rates and fees, friendly and knowledgeable reps, fast and easy refinancing

Our pick for mobile home loansVanderbilt MortgageAUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • Portfolio home loans
  • Land and home mortgages
  • Biweekly advantage mortgage
  • Fresh Start home loan

Vanderbilt Mortgage is a housing lender specializing in manufactured and modular home financing. The company offers a few unique mortgage products, including portfolio loans, which are nongovernment loans with fewer requirements.

What reviewers say: Clear, concise and friendly reps, smooth approval process, detail-oriented loan specialists

Our pick for VA loansVeterans United
  • VA loans
  • Cash-out refinance loans
  • Jumbo loans

Veterans United specializes in purchase and refinance loans for eligible vets, service members and military spouses. Through the VA Energy Efficient Mortgage program, borrowers can finance an extra $6,000 to pay for qualified home improvements.

What reviewers say: Helpful and friendly team, simple refinance process, good for first-time homebuyers

Our pick for fully online processFirst Internet BankAUTHORIZED PARTNER
  • Purchase loans
  • Refinance loans
  • Construction loans
  • Home equity loans

First Internet Bank offers conventional, government and jumbo home loans. Once all documents are signed and uploaded, most transactions close within 40 days. The lender works with a national network of closing agents and attorneys to complete loan closings.

What reviewers say: Excellent customer service, competitive rates, simple refinance process

What is a mortgage?

A mortgage is a loan that's used to buy real estate, typically residential property. The purchased property also serves as collateral for the loan. Unless you have enough cash on hand to purchase a house outright, a mortgage is a legal document you must sign to buy or refinance a property.

Conventional mortgages require a minimum 620 credit score.

Conventional mortgages require a minimum 620 credit score.

The word “mortgage” comes from the Old French phrase “mort gage,” which means “death pledge.” With a mortgage, the borrower is obligated to pay the full debt amount, or figuratively “kill” the loan. In this sense, “death” refers to the debt and “pledge” is a surety or promise. A mortgage is also sometimes called a lien against property, claim against property or deed of trust in some states.

Of all the different types of mortgage loans, conventional and government-backed mortgages are most frequently used to finance a home. Government-backed mortgage loans — FHA, VA and USDA programs — typically require credit scores higher than 580 and down payments from 0% to 3.5%. Since conventional loans are riskier for lenders, most require credit scores of 620 and 5% to 20% down payments. For more information, learn what a mortgage is and how it works next.

How does a mortgage work?

A mortgage functions as a lien or legal claim against a property. In exchange for immediate funds, the borrower must repay the loan with interest and fees over time. The financed property serves as collateral for the loan — if mortgage debt is not repaid, the bank or creditor has the right to repossess the property.

To get a mortgage, you must sign a legal agreement that gives your home loan lender the right to take the property if you don’t repay your loan. You also must sign a promissory note stating that you agree to repay the mortgage loan in full, with interest and under your lender’s repayment terms. Lenders evaluate your debt-to-income ratio to determine how well you manage your debts — borrowers with debt-to-income ratios above 43% are typically considered risky and may not qualify for a mortgage loan.

Mortgage amortization is the process of paying down home loan debt over time. Homeowners build equity by making payments on their mortgage principal. If you get a second mortgage, you borrow funds with your house as collateral for the loan but don’t have to use the funds to purchase a home. Home equity loans and lines of credit are types of second mortgages.

How does mortgage interest work?

Mortgages come with different loan terms and interest rates. The term refers to the life span of the loan, which is usually between 15 and 30 years. The mortgage rate refers to the amount of interest the lender charges in exchange for the loan.

Mortgage rates can be fixed or adjustable. A fixed-rate mortgage has the same interest rate for the entire term, whereas an adjustable-rate mortgage increases or decreases based on a changing index. The most popular type of adjustable-rate mortgage is the 5/1 ARM, which has a fixed rate for the loan's first five years and then can adjust each year after that.

Mortgage rates and terms have the most impact on how much you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

How does refinancing work?

Mortgage refinancing companies replace your existing mortgage with a new loan. The two most common types of home refinance loans are rate-and-term refinancing and cash-out refinancing.

Through rate-and-term refinancing, you can change your term, get a new rate and pick a new type of loan and lender. Rate-and-term refinancing doesn’t affect your principal balance, and it’s possible to save on interest in the long term if rates have gone down since you first financed your mortgage.

With a cash-out refinance, you access your home equity in exchange for a higher principal. For example, imagine you owe $50,000 on your mortgage and want a $10,000 loan. Through a cash-out refinance or home equity loan, you could accept a $60,000 loan and receive $10,000 in cash after closing.

Many homeowners refinance their mortgage to lower their monthly payments, get a better rate, convert home equity into cash or pay off their loan faster. Some mortgage refinance lenders also specialize in debt consolidation strategies. For more, read about how to refinance a mortgage.

Mortgage broker vs. lender

There are many places to find a mortgage — national and regional banks, local credit unions and online mortgage lenders or brokers — so it can be confusing to know the best place to look or where to start.

What is a mortgage broker?

A mortgage broker is the middleman between a borrower and a wholesale mortgage lender. Hiring a mortgage broker to help compare multiple lenders can save time and money, but brokers earn higher commissions on more expensive loans — keep in mind that they might not always have the borrower's best interests in mind. Mortgage broker fees are up to 1.5% to 2% of the total real estate loan.

What is a mortgage lender?

A mortgage lender is the banking institution that finances the home loan for a fee. Mortgage lender origination and closing fees vary by lender and from state to state. Mortgage banks and portfolio lenders are types of direct mortgage lenders. Direct lenders process applications and originate and underwrite loans. A lender is different from a mortgage servicer, which processes loan payments, responds to borrower inquiries and manages escrow accounts.

How much is a mortgage?

The average mortgage is $840 to $1,200 per month. Most financial experts suggest keeping your mortgage payment below 30% of your monthly gross income and your total debt-to-income ratio lower than 36%. Use our mortgage calculator to determine how much house you can afford.

Keep in mind that the total cost of a mortgage is more than just the price of your house. As you compare mortgage companies, consider closing costs, mortgage points and prepayment penalties.

  • Down payment: A down payment is the percentage of the total sale price that you put down upfront. Down payments can vary by loan type, location and lender. Mortgage insurance is typically required when you make a less substantial down payment.
  • Closing costs: Closing costs amount to 2% to 5% of the home loan and include application fees, lender fees, attorney fees, escrow deposits and fees, courier fees, homeowners association transfer fees, inspection fees and title insurance.
  • Mortgage points: Sometimes called discount points, mortgage points are optional fees paid to your lender in exchange for a lower interest rate. Each point costs 1% of the mortgage loan amount.
  • Prepayment penalties: A prepayment penalty is a fee that some lenders charge when a borrower pays their mortgage loan off early, either through refinancing or overpaying each month. The average prepayment fee is 80% of six months of interest.

What makes up a monthly mortgage payment?

Once you’ve covered all the upfront costs of a home loan, your monthly mortgage payments include principal, interest, taxes and insurance. In some cases, other regular expenses include homeowners association or condo fees.

  • Principal: The principal is the balance of the loan amount you borrowed. Each month, your mortgage payment reduces the principal.
  • Interest: Interest is the amount you agree to pay your lender in exchange for a mortgage loan. Fixed interest rates stay the same throughout the term of the loan. Adjustable interest rates can vary over the life of the loan.
  • Property taxes: Property taxes are often included in mortgage bills. Lenders keep your property tax payments in an escrow account until they're due and then pay them on your behalf.
  • Mortgage insurance: Mortgage insurance protects the lender if you stop making payments on your loan. The two types of mortgage insurance are private mortgage insurance (PMI) and mortgage insurance premiums (MIP). For conventional mortgages, you can avoid the need to pay for PMI by making a down payment of 20% or more. For FHA and other government-backed loans, you can avoid MIP after 11 years by putting at least 10% down.
  • Homeowners insurance: Homeowners insurance covers damage from fire, storms, theft and other perils. Most lenders require homeowners insurance and charge premiums on your mortgage bills.

How to get the best mortgage rate

The easiest way to get the best interest rate is to compare multiple mortgage lenders and refinancing companies, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Other tips for getting a great mortgage deal include improving your credit, making a larger down payment, buying mortgage points and selecting an adjustable-rate mortgage loan.

  • Compare all mortgage options: As you shop around, get quotes from at least three lenders and be sure to consider all your loan options — for example, USDA loans are ideal for those who live outside of an urban community. Remember that you can also negotiate with lenders to get better deals.
  • Improve your credit score: To get the best interest rate on your mortgage, you need to have excellent credit. Take the time now to pay off your credit cards and don’t take out any new loans while you’re getting ready to apply for a home loan.
  • Make a larger down payment: A larger down payment often gets you a lower interest rate. Try to save up for a 20% down payment to avoid having to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). If you can’t put down 20%, aim for at least 5% — that's where you start seeing a decrease in interest rates.
  • Consider mortgage points: Mortgage points are optional upfront payments that reduce your interest rate. One point typically costs 1% of the loan. When interest rates are high, buying mortgage points can save you money in the long term.
  • Go for the ARM: You can usually get a better upfront mortgage rate by getting an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) rather than a fixed-rate mortgage. Keep in mind, though, that your monthly payments may increase after the fixed-rate period ends if you opt for an ARM.

How to apply for a mortgage

After you’ve checked your credit score, figured out how much house you can afford and researched the best mortgage lenders, it’s time for some paperwork. The application process varies depending on preapproval status and other factors, but everyone who applies for a mortgage generally goes through these five steps:

1. Collect important documents
Lenders want to verify information relating to your monthly income, credit reports and cash savings. You need W-2s or federal tax returns from the past two years and several months of pay stubs. Gather any statements about your assets or long-term debts, including car notes and student loans. Get your recent bank statements and a government-issued ID ready. When you apply, a warranty deed is usually required if title insurance is used.
2. Fill out the application
Conventional mortgage loan applications are uniform across lenders — if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. First, there's a box to check if you're applying with a spouse or co-borrower (if applicable, you both must sign). Then, you fill in the type of mortgage, interest rates and loan terms (fixed, graduated, adjustable or other).

The application asks for details about the property, including its original cost and present lot value. Lenders consider the loan-to-value ratio (LTV) — the loan amount divided by the appraised property value — to assess how risky your mortgage loan is in the current market.

The application also asks for personal and financial information to assess your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). You must provide details about your residence and employment history for the last two years and answer questions about your gross income and number of dependents. You must itemize all regular monthly expenses plus other liabilities or assets. Liabilities can include notes, child support and revolving account charges. Applicants are also required to disclose if they’ve filed for bankruptcy in the last seven years or if there are any outstanding judgments against them.

The best mortgage companies employ expert loan officers who can help with your specific financial situation. Finally, you (and a co-borrower, if applicable) must sign the application again at the bottom to acknowledge that the information provided is true.

3. Review Loan Estimates from several lenders
After a lender receives your application, you should get a Loan Estimate within three days. All lenders are required to use the same Loan Estimate, which makes it easy to compare interest rates, fees and projected monthly payments.
  • Loan amount: This is the total amount of money you borrow for the mortgage loan. This amount could go up if your lender rolls some of your closing costs into your loan.
  • Interest rate: The Loan Estimate indicates if the interest rate is adjustable or fixed. The total interest percentage (TIP) tells you the total amount of interest the loan requires. Make sure you’re getting the lowest interest rate possible and hold on to your original Loan Estimate when it’s time to close to ensure you’re getting the same rate you were offered.
  • Monthly projected payments: This section of the Loan Estimate breaks down the amount you pay each month for principal, interest, mortgage insurance and the estimated escrow fees.
  • Origination fees: Mortgage lenders charge loan origination fees for services like mortgage application and underwriting. Origination fees are usually a small percentage (between 0.5% and 2%) of the total loan amount, though some mortgage lenders offer fixed fees of $1,000 or less.
4. Make a commitment
After you’ve compared rates and fees and found a trusted mortgage lender, it’s time to make a decision. It’s OK to take your time on this step, so don’t let a pushy loan officer make you feel cornered into a final decision. When you’re comfortable, contact the mortgage lender you like best and tell them you’re ready to buy a house.
5. Wait for approval
Remember the official mortgage application you filled out and had to sign twice? Once you commit to a lender, all that information is scrutinized. A processor pulls your tax records and confirms your income, and then an underwriter evaluates how risky it is to give you a loan. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Keep in mind that it’s more difficult to get a mortgage now than it was before the Great Recession. Common reasons for being unexpectedly denied a loan include leaving out crucial information on the application, the inability to verify some portion of your income, a recent application for a personal loan or line of credit, job change or overdraft on a checking account.

If you're denied a mortgage loan, you have the right to know why. You can ask your loan officer what went wrong — you might be able to get the loan if you make a bigger down payment or get a co-signer. If all else fails, you can try to apply for a mortgage loan with another lender. If you’re approved, then closing is the next step toward homeownership.

Who are the best mortgage lenders near me?

Mortgage questions

What is a good mortgage interest rate?
With any mortgage loan, a lower interest rate is better. Depending on the type of loan you select, current interest rates are between 2% and 3%, with APR starting around 2.5%. A good fixed interest rate in 2021 is about 3% on a 30-year term or a little over 2% on a 15-year term. A good mortgage interest rate on an ARM is between 2.8% and 3%.

Mortgage interest rates vary from year to year. In general, rates tend to be higher when the economy is doing well. However, keep in mind that mortgage interest rates vary from lender to lender and also by state. Lenders often charge less interest when you promise to repay the principal in less time.

How do you shop around for a mortgage?
Buying a house is a huge decision, so it’s important that you find the right mortgage lender to work with. When picking a mortgage provider, don’t be afraid to shop around. Getting multiple quotes from different companies and banks before you make a decision helps you find the best lender for your situation.

Reading reviews will help give you an idea of what to expect from working with different companies. Here are a few more tips to help you shop around, according to the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Compare several lenders.
  • Ask about all cost information, including rates, points, fees, down payment and private mortgage insurance premiums.
  • Negotiate lender fees.
  • Read the fine print.
What is the easiest mortgage to qualify for?
Government-backed loans are typically the easiest mortgages to qualify for since they are the least risky for lenders. Those with lower credit scores can still qualify for an FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan. If you are eligible for VA (for service members and veterans) or USDA (for rural properties) loans, you can qualify for additional interest breaks and no down payment requirements. Conventional loans are typically chosen by those with higher credit scores and more liquid savings to draw from. The right loan for you depends on your financial circumstances and personal details.
How do you get preapproved for a mortgage?
Lenders consider your credit history and current financial information to determine whether you can be preapproved for a mortgage. The most common documents required to get preapproved for a home loan include:
  • W-2 wage statements
  • Recent tax returns
  • Pay stubs
  • Credit report
  • Investment account statements
  • Monthly debt statements
  • Copy of your driver’s license
  • Social Security number

If you’re preapproved, you receive a mortgage preapproval letter with the loan amount for which you qualify. Each preapproval letter is valid for up to 90 days. A mortgage preapproval letter lets you start making offers on homes.

Getting pre-qualified is different from getting preapproved for a mortgage. Mortgage pre-qualification is a less formal process that gives you a general idea of how much of a loan you are eligible for. To get a mortgage preapproval, a lender examines your financial situation much more thoroughly to determine your maximum loan amount and interest rates.

Keep in mind that the mortgage lender pulls a hard inquiry on your credit when you apply for preapproval. Hard inquiries cause your credit scores to take a small dip, so only try to get preapproved when you’re serious about putting in an offer on a home.

Which loan is best for first-time homebuyers?
Many first-time homeowners opt for FHA loans, due to lower interest rates, down payment requirements and credit score requirements. FHA loans, which are backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), are the most popular government-backed mortgage loans for first-time homebuyers. To qualify for an FHA loan, you only need a credit score of 580 and a minimum down payment of 3.5%. With this type of loan, rates are fixed and you can pay it off over 15 or 30 years.
What credit score do you need for a mortgage?
Those with credit scores below 580 can still qualify for an FHA loan if they can make a 10% down payment. To qualify for conventional loans, a minimum score of 620 is typically required.
Can you get a mortgage to build a house?
Yes, construction loans are a type of home loan available to finance building a brand-new home. A regular construction loan is different from a mortgage because there is no existing property to use as collateral for the loan. A construction-to-permanent loan is a type of construction loan that converts into a mortgage once the construction is complete. Also called “single-close” construction loans, these are the most streamlined ways to finance a build and get a mortgage on your new home.
Is it better to get a mortgage from a bank or mortgage company?
Depending on your circumstances, there are advantages to both banks and mortgage companies. Mortgage companies offer a more extensive range of loan products, but banks sometimes offer better rates and pricing. If you already have a good relationship with your local bank, you might have a better experience. If you want to compare several home loan options at once, a mortgage company saves you time.

Banks sometimes have stricter eligibility requirements, so riskier applicants typically get a better deal from a mortgage company. If your credit score is less than ideal, you may not be eligible for a conventional mortgage through a bank. Mortgage companies often work with a vast network of lenders, so they can provide more options that cater to homebuyers with low credit scores or higher debt-to-income ratios.

What is the difference between a loan officer and a mortgage broker?
Loan officers work for financial institutions and handle the lending process. On the other hand, mortgage brokers negotiate with lenders on your behalf to find a loan option with the best terms for you.
What does a mortgage broker do?
A mortgage broker functions as a middleman between different lenders and prospective homebuyers.
Is a mortgage broker worth it?
It depends. Working with a mortgage broker can save time and money, especially if you want to compare multiple options. A broker can also help manage your paperwork and fees during the homebuying process. However, brokers typically aren’t able to guarantee cost estimates and may not have access to all the lenders in your area.
Can you trust online mortgage lenders?
These days, you can complete almost the whole mortgage process online. Many lenders have secure websites that are trustworthy. On the other hand, not all online mortgage lenders are reputable. It’s important to read reviews to get a sense of the average customer’s experience.
What do the worst mortgage lenders have in common?
Some of the worst mortgage companies consistently get complaints about hidden fees, bad customer service and aggressive marketing tactics. Additional red flags to watch out for include:
  • Pressure to make a rush through the process or borrow more than you need or can afford
  • Unusually high rates and fees compared with other lenders
  • Being asked to sign blank loan documents or lie on your application
What are the four types of mortgage loans?
For homebuyers, the four most common types of mortgage loans are FHA loans, VA loans, USDA loans and conventional loans.
What is a HECM?
The Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) is a reverse mortgage backed by the federal government. This program lets you draw on your home’s equity to borrow money.
What is a good down payment on a house?
While a down payment of 20% is recommended to avoid paying mortgage insurance, most homebuyers put down about 6% of the home’s purchase price. The amount required depends on the type of loan. FHA loans, for example, require at least 3.5%, while VA or USDA loans don’t require down payments. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may qualify for local, state or federal down payment grants.

Making a smaller down payment means you have lower upfront costs to purchasing a home. With grants and other programs, your down payment may be as low as $0. However, you will need to pay mortgage insurance on loans with less than 20% down. Mortgage insurance is paid with your monthly mortgage payment and typically ranges from 0.5% to 2% of the loan’s value per year.

How do you get rid of PMI?
You can ask your lender to get rid of private mortgage insurance (PMI) once the principal balance of your loan falls to 80% of the value of your home. You can avoid PMI altogether by making a down payment higher than 20% of the property’s purchase price. Lenders are required to automatically terminate PMI on the date when your principal balance falls to 78% of the original value of your home.
How do payments on a mortgage work?
The main factors that determine your mortgage payment are the size of the loan and the term of the loan. Loans with longer terms usually have lower monthly payments. Most homeowners’ mortgage payments have four components: principal, interest, taxes and insurance, often abbreviated as PITI.

Early in a mortgage term, a borrower’s monthly payment goes mostly toward interest, while toward the end, the payment goes mainly toward principal. The amortization schedule of a mortgage shows you how much of each monthly payment goes toward principal, interest, property taxes and insurance, including both homeowners insurance and PMI.

How do I find out who my mortgage lender is?
Your mortgage servicer (the company that sends you mortgage statements and manages your loan) is required to tell you who owns your loan. You can call your servicer to ask, or you can send a written request. The servicer must do its best to provide you the loan owner’s name, address and telephone number.

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    by Michele Lerner Mortgage & Real Estate Contributing Editor

    Michele Lerner, author of “HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time”, has been writing about personal finance and real estate for more than two decades. Michele writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.