Buying a new home is an exciting time at any stage of life. But amid a multitude of mortgage lenders and a housing market with high interest rates and low inventory, choosing the right loan can be a challenge.
According to Finder’s Consumer Confidence Index, 19% of those surveyed struggle to make mortgage payments. But with mortgage payments averaging almost $500 less per month than what participants pay in rent, deciding to buy a home might make financial sense.
If that’s true for you, consider these mortgage lenders, which may offer the funding you need.
7 best mortgage lenders
- Best for first-time buyers: Rocket Mortgage
- Best for veterans: Veterans United
- Best for quick closings: AmeriSave
- Best for low rates: Guaranteed Rate
- Best for low fees: PenFed Credit Union
- Best for refinancing: Better
- Best for lending marketplace: Credible
Best for first-time buyers
Best for veterans
Best for quick closings
|Minimum credit score||Conventional: 620|
Best for low rates
|Minimum credit score||Conventional: 620|
Other mortgages: As low as 580, depending on type
Best for low fees
PenFed Credit Union
|Minimum credit score||Conventional - 620|
Best for refinancing
|Minimum credit score||Conventional: 620|
FHA, VA: 580
Best lending marketplace
|Minimum credit score||Mid-600s (varies by lender)|
Methodology: How we chose the best mortgage lenders
We chose these lenders based on several criteria, including fees, loan amounts, interest rates and eligibility requirements. We also considered customer reviews from sites such as Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Our lending experts researched hundreds of home loan providers to narrow down the best lenders. We found lenders suited to a wide range of needs, including those that offer multiple mortgage products, get high customer ratings and offer the best rates and low fees.
We weigh lenders against 11 key metrics:
- Application process
- Lender reputation
- Eligibility requirements
- Credit score minimums
- Mortgage products offered
- Minimum and maximum loan amounts
- Service footprint
- Specialty loan products
- Rate discounts
How do I choose the best mortgage lender?
Choosing the right lender can be a challenge if you’re not sure what to look for. A few features to compare while you’re shopping around are:
- Types of loans. There are several types of mortgages — including jumbo, conventional, fixed rate, adjustable rate and government insured. Not all lenders offer all types, so knowing which kind you want can help narrow down your options.
- Mortgage rates. Generally speaking, the lower the rate on a home loan, the less you’ll pay over time.
- Down payment requirement. If the amount you can put down on a home is limited, the lender’s requirements based on your financial situation can make or break your purchasing power.
- Cost and fees. Some lenders aren’t transparent on loan costs. So, you’ll need to comb through the fine print and ask about all the fees involved.
- Prepayment penalties. If you plan on paying off your mortgage ahead of time, look for a lender that won’t charge you a fee for it.
- Credit score flexibility. Each lender has specific requirements when it comes to credit scores, and some are stricter than others. Knowing where your score stands can help you find the lenders most likely to approve you.
- Face-to-face service. Many modern digital lenders lack brick-and-mortar branches. If in-person service is important to you, a more traditional lender might be a better fit.
Can a broker help me find the best mortgage?
Mortgage brokers take your financial information and try to connect you with the best mortgage to match your location and needs. You’re basically paying a fee to have an expert compare mortgage products for you — a fee that can range from 0.5% to 3.0% of your loan principal.
This can save you a tremendous amount of time and money if you find a better rate than you could have on your own. But, similar to using a lender marketplace, you’re limited to lenders the broker is familiar with and lenders that work with brokers. Not all lenders do.
How to get the best rate on a mortgage
Your financial history and the amount of your down payment are the two most important determinants of your mortgage rate, regardless of lender. But there are other factors that can help you get the best rate available to you.
With interest rates high now but expected to come down in the coming months, this may be a great time to follow our suggestions to get a better interest rate on your mortgage.
- Work on your credit score. Clearing any false or incomplete information from your credit report can go a long way to increasing your score. Other solutions may take longer, but it may be worth the work before you start shopping for a mortgage.
- Reduce your debt. Debt-to-income (DTI) ratios are also part of the qualification process when getting a mortgage. Paying off as much debt as possible and closing zero-balance credit accounts can help.
- Save for a higher down payment. You can get a loan with as little as 3% down, but saving more can lower your rate. If you can save toward a 20% down payment, you can get a better rate and won’t have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).
- Pay down interest with points. Mortgage points are an upfront fee that some lenders charge to reduce your interest rate. Typically, a point can reduce your interest by 0.25%, and each point costs you 1% of your mortgage value. For example, if your loan is for $500,000, each point would cost $5,000. So, for $10,000, in addition to your down payment, you may be able to lower your rate by 0.50%.
- Check special programs and specialty mortgages. Lenders sometimes offer special mortgage products for borrowers who work professional jobs (such as medical, legal or accounting), borrowers who work civil occupations (such as firefighters, police and teachers) and low-income borrowers buying in certain areas. These programs come with discounted fees, lower eligibility requirements and sometimes lower rates.
- Compare lenders. Get free quotes from your top few lenders to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. Just be sure that its preapproval or prequalification processes don’t require a hard credit pull, which could affect your score.
Types of mortgages
Each lender has different mortgage products on offer, which is why it’s important to compare and understand all the loans you have to choose from.
Conventional or conforming loans
These are loans that meet the federal guidelines set by Fannie Mae (FNMA)/Freddie Mac(FMCC). The requirements include:
- Minimum credit score: 620
- Maximum loan limits (set by county): $548,250 in most areas
- Maximum debt-to-income ratio (DTI): 43%
- Minimum down payment required: 3%
Any loan with requirements outside these is considered non-conforming.
Obviously, the loan limits of conforming loans make financing difficult in areas like Silicon Valley or NYC, where housing costs are high. Large loans create a big risk for the lender, which is why jumbo loans usually require large down payments and higher financial stability and carry higher APRs.
Government Backed Loans
For people who can’t qualify for a conventional loan, there are government programs that can help keep things affordable. These are all backed by a government authority and come with a set of requirements listed on the appropriate government websites.
- VA loans. These offer a 0% down payment with no PMI required, lower rates and discounted lender fees. VA loans require a certificate of eligibility (COE) based on the length of service and the housing entitlement of service members, veterans and surviving spouses.
- FHA loans. These require a 3.5% down payment for those with FICO scores of 620 or higher —10% for those with lower scores. FHA loans come with a lower interest rate and can be easier to qualify for, which makes them popular with first-time home buyers. Borrowers are required to pay mortgage insurance on these loans for 11 years, even if the home’s equity exceeds 20%.
- USDA loans. If the property is in a designated rural area, low- to mid-income borrowers may qualify for a USDA loan. These typically have no down payment and lower interest rates, and the borrower can apply for a grant to improve the property.
There are many specialty loans to choose from, the most common include:
- Construction loans. These allow you to finance the building or massive renovation of your home and the home’s mortgage with either one or two closing periods, depending on what works best for your circumstances.
- Professional loan (doctors/lawyers/CPAs, etc.). Lenders often have loans available for newer professionals who come out of school with big student loans but have larger income potential. These may require no down payment on financing up to $2 million, no personal mortgage insurance and no prepayment penalty.
- Community heroes loans. Similar to professional loans, these are designed to target certain professions, such as firefighting, rescue, education, law enforcement and the military. The perks are usually discounted fees or streamlined paperwork and can typically be tied to a local government grant or program.
- Interest-only and extended-term loans. For those who want to get into a home today but whose income won’t be higher for some years, these loans can provide interest-only payments up front, followed by a balloon payment down the line when the buyer can afford it. Other loans offer extended terms, up to 40 years, to lower mortgage payments overall.
- Multiple property loans. Borrowers who already own more than two properties can have a hard time getting financing for additional properties. So, a lender that will finance additional properties has to offer a specialty loan.
- Alternate-credit loans. Some lenders allow borrowers with low credit scores to use alternate ways to show an ability to repay, such as a history of paying bills, income and employment info and access to your consumer banking data.
Where to get a mortgage
Get to know the different lenders who offer mortgages.
- Banks. This is the most traditional choice but includes giant international institutions as well as small regional banks. You may also see banks and credit unions referred to as “retail lenders” in the mortgage space.
- Credit Unions. These are non-profit financial institutions that require you to be a member to borrow. You can typically get a lower interest rate from a credit union, because they don’t have all the financial overhead of a more traditional bank.
- Online lenders. If you don’t want to work with a lender that requires you to visit a physical branch location, fintech lenders typically focus solely on loan products and can have a fully online or a hybrid process of starting your application online, then meeting at the bank or loan center for closing. Some have you meet at an attorney’s office or title office to close. They are often attached to a major bank.
- Rent-to-own and home equity services. You may come across services that work outside the normal mortgage process. But these programs are often sketchy, if not outright predatory. Before you buy into promises of an alternative way to get into a house, make sure you research thoroughly and crunch the numbers to be sure you aren’t paying more than you should for something you don’t need.
Is a mortgage worth it?
Buying a house is the largest purchase most people will ever make. If you are ready financially and know you’ll continue to be stable for the next three to five years, buying a house can be a good investment. Regardless of current rates, every year you spend in the home builds equity you can use down the line to borrow against or buy your next home. And because the loan’s term is so long, you can choose to refinance when interest rates come down.
But if you’re not quite ready, waiting can also be the right call. House values will continue to rise, but you may find you’re able to spend more on a house after you take the time to raise your credit score and save more of a down payment.
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