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The best mortgage lenders of April 2021

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*Minimum credit scores are for conforming loans, or for VA loans from Navy Federal and Veterans United. If you qualify for another type of loan, you might be able to secure a loan with a lower score.

Choosing the right mortgage lender plays a big part in getting the best deal on your mortgage.

We’ve chosen lenders that offer a variety of mortgage types and have received an A- in trustworthiness from the Better Business Bureau, with the exception of Guild Mortgage, whose BBB profile is currently under review. Many of our top picks also thrive in customer satisfaction and accept alternative forms of credit if you don’t have a credit score, making it easier to qualify.

Our expert panel for this guide

We consulted mortgage and financial experts to inform these picks and provide their insights about mortgage lenders. You can read their insights at the bottom of this post.

PFI Mortgage expert panel



Insider


Our experts have also provided advice about how to know whether you’re ready to get a mortgage, and how to decide which type of mortgage is best for you.

The pros of Rocket Mortgage:

The cons of Rocket Mortgage:

  • No USDA loans, home equity loans, HELOCs, construction loans, or reverse mortgages
  • No physical locations
  • Doesn’t accept alternative credit data — you must show your credit score to get a mortgage

The pros of Navy Federal:

  • Plenty of options for military members, including VA loans, Military Choice loans, and Homebuyers Choice loans
  • High score in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey (Navy Federal doesn’t qualify to rank because it doesn’t meet certain criteria, but JD Power notes that the credit union would rank highly if eligible)
  • Accepts alternative credit data, such as utility bills

The cons of Navy Federal:

  • Limited options for non-military mortgages; no home equity loans, HELOCs, FHA loans, USDA loans, construction loans, or reverse mortgages
  • You can only become a member of Navy Federal Credit Union if you or your family is affiliated with the military
  • It has an NR (No Rating) in trustworthiness from the BBB because some previously closed customer complaints have been re-opened

The pros of Veterans United:

  • High score in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey (Veterans United doesn’t qualify to rank because it doesn’t meet certain criteria, but JD Power notes that the credit union would rank highly if it were eligible)
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit
  • Physical locations in 18 US states, but you can apply online from around the US

The cons of Veterans United:

  • No home equity loans, HELOCs, construction loans, or reverse mortgages
  • Difficult to find information for non-VA loans on its website

The pros of Fairway Independent:

  • Wide range of loan options
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit
  • Easy-to-navigate website
  • Option to close on your mortgage digitally instead of in person

The cons of Fairway Independent:

  • No home equity loans, HELOCs, or construction loans
  • Rates aren’t posted online

 

The pros of Guild Mortgage:

  • Wide range of mortgage types
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit
  • Option to close online instead of in person

The cons of Guild Mortgage:

  • No home equity loans, HELOCs, or construction loans
  • NR (No Rating) in trustworthiness because the BBB is reviewing its profile
  • Unavailable to residents of New Jersey or New York

The pros of New American Funding:

  • Special types of mortgages, like a buydown loan and I CAN mortgage, that help you tailor your term and payments to your needs
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit

The cons of New American Funding:

  • No USDA loans, home equity loans, HELOCs, or construction loans
  • Not available to residents of Hawaii or New York

The pros of NBKC:

  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Live online chat makes it easy to speak with an expert about your questions

The cons of NBKC:

  • No USDA loans, home equity loans, HELOCs, reverse mortgages, or construction loans
  • Doesn’t accept alternative forms of credit

The pros of Bank of America:

The cons of Bank of America:

  • No USDA loans, home equity loans, reverse mortgages, or construction loans
  • Doesn’t accept alternative forms of credit

The pros of PNC Bank:

  • A lot of types of mortgages, including home equity loans and HELOCs
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB

The cons of PNC Bank:

The pros of Carrington:

  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit

The cons of Carrington:

  • No home equity loans, HELOCs, reverse mortgages, or construction loans
  • Can’t see personalized rates online

The pros of Chase:

The cons of Chase:

  • No USDA loans, home equity loans, or construction loans
  • Doesn’t accept alternative forms of credit

The pros of US Bank:

  • Offers a wide range of loans
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB

The cons of US Bank:

We examined over two dozen mortgage lenders. Here are the ones we didn’t choose as our favorites:

  • USAA: This is a good option for VA loans, but because it only received an A- from the BBB, it might not be as strong an option as Navy Federal or Veterans United.
  • Regions: You might like using Regions, but the bank only has branches in certain parts of the US.
  • Citibank: This bank received decent customer satisfaction ratings from JD Power, but an F in trustworthiness from the BBB.
  • Better.com: A good option if you want a conventional loan from an easy-to-use online lender, but Better.com doesn’t offer FHA, USDA, or VA loans.
  • SoFi: SoFi is another worthwhile choice for conventional mortgages, but you can’t get an FHA, USDA, or VA loan.
  • Vylla: The BBB only gave Vylla an A- in trustworthiness, and you can’t apply for preapproval online.
  • Paramount Bank: You might like Paramount as an online lender, but it doesn’t offer as many mortgage types as our top picks.
  • Penny Mac: Penny Mac offers a variety of mortgage types, but it ranks low on JD Power’s customer satisfaction survey.
  • Flagstar Bank: This bank has received an A+ from the BBB, but JD Power ranks it pretty low on customer satisfaction.
  • Mr. Cooper: This lender offers several types of loans, but JD Power ranks it about average for customer satisfaction.
  • Alliant Credit Union: This is a good online lender with conventional mortgages and HELOCs, but it doesn’t have FHA, USDA, or VA mortgages.
  • Caliber Home Loans: You can find lenders with better customer satisfaction ratings from JD Power.
  • Fifth Third Bank: The bank doesn’t rank very highly on JD Power’s customer satisfaction survey, and there are no USDA loans.
  • Loan Depot: Loan Depot isn’t accredited by the BBB, and it doesn’t offer USDA loans.
  • Guaranteed Rate: You might like Guaranteed Rate, but it only has a B rating in trustworthiness.
  • Freedom Mortgage: This lender has a variety of mortgage types, but JD Power ranks it low for customer service.
  • Wells Fargo: Due to some recent scandals, Wells Fargo has received an F in trustworthiness from the BBB.
  • SunTrust: You might enjoy working with SunTrust, but the bank only has branches in the Southeast.
  • BB&T: BB&T’s website isn’t as easy to navigate as some of our top choices’ sites.

To choose the top mortgage lenders of January 2021, we looked at four main factors:

  • Loan types. Did a lender offer several types of loans to suit customers’ needs, such as conventional loans, government-backed loans, and home equity loans?
  • Customer satisfaction. If the lender appeared in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey, we looked at its ranking. If it wasn’t in the survey, then we read online customer reviews.
  • Affordability. We looked at lenders’ minimum credit scores and down payment amounts. We also checked whether they offer government-backed loans, which can be more affordable for borrowers with less-than-perfect financial profiles. Finally, we looked at whether it considers alternative forms of credit, like utility bills and rent payments, for you to qualify.
  • Ethics. Each of our top picks received an A- from the Better Business Bureau, which measures companies’ trustworthiness. The sole exception is Guild Mortgage, whose BBB profile is currently under review. We also researched and considered any scandals in the past three years.

The Better Business Bureau grades companies’ trustworthiness based on responses to customer complaints, honesty in advertising, and transparency about business practices. Here are the BBB grades for our top mortgage lenders:

Most of our top picks have an A+ from the BBB. The exceptions are Navy Federal and Guild Mortgage, both of which have an NR (“No Rating”). Navy Federal has an NR because it’s in the process of responding to customer complaints that had already been closed. The BBB says it is reviewing information for Guild Mortgage before updating the lender’s score.

Several of these lenders do have recent public controversies, though, even the ones with great BBB grades.

In 2019, the US Justice Department required Rocket Mortgage’s parent company Quicken Loans to pay $32.5 million for alleged mortgage fraud. The Justice Department claimed Quicken Loans approved mortgage applications it shouldn’t have. Although Quicken Loans paid the settlement, the company never admitted to mortgage fraud.

A Navy Federal employee has claimed the lender pressured mortgage underwriters to approve loans even if they didn’t have sufficient reason to believe applicants could repay the loans. Then she filed a lawsuit and said Navy Federal retaliated against her whistleblowing by changing her job duties. She dropped the case in late 2020.

In 2020, Guild Mortgage paid the United States $24.9 million when it was accused of approving FHA mortgages for people who didn’t qualify, resulting in loan defaults.

In 2020, the Department of Justice charged Bank of America for unfairly denying home loans to adults with disabilities, even though they qualified for loans. Bank of America paid around $300,000 total to people who were refused loans. In 2019, the Department of Labor required Bank of America to pay $4.2 million to people who claimed the bank discriminated against women, Black, and Hispanic applicants in the hiring process.

PNC Bank was accused in 2019 of aiding a man in carrying out a fake debt relief project, which cost customers a total of $85 million. In 2014, PNC had suspected the man of running a scheme and closed his bank accounts. But nine months later, the bank let him open more accounts.

The Department of Justice required JPMorgan & Chase to pay $920 million for wrongful trading in 2020. The company paid the Securities and Exchange Commission $135 million in 2018 for mishandling American Depisitary Receipts, certificates that let Americans invest in foreign stocks.

If any of these scandals worry you, you may decide to go with one of the other lenders on our list.

What makes a mortgage lender good?

A mortgage lender should offer the kind of mortgage that best suits your needs. For example, if you’re in the military, then you could benefit from a VA loan; if you’re buying in a rural area, then a USDA loan could be the best fit. 

A lender should be relatively affordable. You shouldn’t need a super high credit score or down payment to get a loan. It should also offer good rates and charge reasonable fees.

You want a lender that’s known for high customer satisfaction, and one that’s trustworthy. That’s why we’ve looked at ratings from JD Power and the Better Business Bureau for each lender on our list.

What banks offer the best mortgage rates?

The answer could change by the day. Take a look at Insider’s daily mortgage rate updates to see the average mortgage rates for various term lengths. If you have a good financial profile but a lender is charging you a higher rate than today’s national average, you may want to look elsewhere.

But a low interest rate isn’t the only expense that matters. Ask lenders for an itemized list of fees. Comparing fees among lenders is another way to see which is offering the best financial deal.

How can I get a good mortgage rate?

To secure a low rate, focus on three factors: credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and down payment.

Your score should be at least 620 to get a conventional loan with most lenders, although some require higher. But the higher your score, the better rate you should get. To improve your credit score, focus on making payments on time, paying down debts, and letting your credit age if you aren’t in a rush to buy.

Your debt-to-income ratio is the amount you pay toward debts each month, divided by your gross monthly income. Lenders typically want to see a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or less. To get a lower ratio, you either need to pay down debts or earn more.

You don’t necessarily need a 20% down payment to get a good rate, but the more you save, the better your rate will likely be. If you don’t have much for a down payment right now, it could be worth saving for a few more months, since rates should stay low throughout 2021.

Is it better to get a mortgage from a bank or a lender?

Mortgage lenders specialize in lending. Banks focus on several areas, including personal banking, lending, and investments. There isn’t a clear better choice — your decision will come down to a few factors.

Some banks offer discounts on closing costs if you’re already a customer. In this case, you may prefer to go with the bank you already use.

Mortgage lenders often have more flexibility, though. Banks are held to stricter lending standards by the federal government, so lenders may be willing to customize your loan to fit your needs.

Ultimately, your choice could come down to which company offers the best rate, lowest fees, and best customer service.

Which should I do first, choose a lender or shop for homes?

It’s better to look at mortgage lenders before houses. Once you choose a lender, you can apply for preapproval and get an official preapproval letter that states how much the lender intends to lend to you and locks in your interest rate.

When you choose a home to buy, show your preapproval letter to the seller to show you’re a serious candidate in good financial standing. Getting a preapproval letter can give you a leg up on the competition.

You aren’t married to a lender once you get a preapproval letter, though. You can apply for preapproval with multiple lenders to compare each company and make an informed decision. You’ll only need to show one to a seller, though.

To help you learn more about homebuying, mortgages, and lenders, four experts weighed in:

Here’s what they had to say about mortgages. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity.)

What factors should someone take into consideration when choosing a mortgage lender?

Anthony Park, author:

“The canned answer is to just go with the lowest rate. However, you also want to take into account who’s going to serve your loan best. Are repayments going to be easy for you? Who is most likely to be able to help you if you need to take out a HELOC or refinance later, versus somebody who’s more of a one-off type?

“They may have the lowest rates to get you involved, but they might have very, very little hand holding after the fact. I wouldn’t recommend paying an exorbitant amount more for potential services in the future, but just don’t always necessarily go with the rock-bottom lowest rate. There’s sometimes a cost with that.”

Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:

Apply for preapproval with multiple lenders. Each lender’s preapproval letter states how much it would lend to you, and it locks in your interest rate. It’s an effective way to compare lenders and see which will give you the best deal.

“But try to apply with all the lenders within a month or so. When you apply for preapproval, a lender does a hard credit inquiry. A bunch of hard inquiries on your report can hurt your credit score, unless it’s for the sake of shopping for the best rate. If you limit your rate shopping to a month or so, credit bureaus will understand that you’re looking for a home and shouldn’t hold each individual inquiry against you.”

How can someone decide between a conventional mortgage vs. a government-backed mortgage?

Anthony Park, author:

‘It really depends on if you qualify. If you do qualify for FHA or VA mortgages, those are no-brainers. just because the terms are so favorable. If you don’t qualify, you fall back by default onto conventional mortgages.”

Julie Aragon, Aragon Lending Team:

“The most common government loan that’s widely available to almost everyone is the FHA loan. There’s a couple of reasons why somebody would go with FHA instead of conventional one. Their credit is a little on the crummy side, let’s say below 700. You can get conventional with down to a 620 score, but the mortgage insurance gets really expensive. FHA doesn’t discriminate — no matter how perfect or crappy your credit is, the mortgage insurance is the same.”

How can someone know whether they’re financially ready to buy a home?

Lauryn Williams, CFP:

“You should have funds left over after everything is said and done as it pertains to purchasing the home. So if you don’t have an emergency fund plus a down payment, you’re probably not ready to purchase a home. Another thing I think about is credit card debt. While you can be approved for a mortgage with credit card debt and student loans and very little cash on hand, you put yourself in a very risky situation.”

Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:

“You should b able to afford the extra costs that come with owning a home, like home repairs or lawn care. You didn’t have to budget for those things when you rented, because the landlord was responsible for maintenance.”

Mortgage and refinance rates by state

Check the latest rates in your state at the links below. 

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Washington DC
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Laura Grace Tarpley is an editor at Personal Finance Insider, covering mortgages, refinancing, bank accounts, and bank reviews. She is also a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF). Over her four years of covering personal finance, she has written extensively about ways to save, invest, and navigate loans.

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