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Best Mortgage Lenders in September 2023

Looking to purchase a house? Our list of the top mortgage lenders can help you find the best rate on your home loan.

Taking on a mortgage is a major financial decision. With hundreds of lending options available, It’s tough to decide which mortgage lender is the best for you. So we narrowed it down. 

The interest rate you get on a home loan can add or subtract hundreds of thousands of dollars to what you’ll pay back over time. But when it comes to choosing the best mortgage lender, there’s a lot more to look at beyond rates. We looked for lenders based on pricing transparency, online convenience, accessibility, amount of loan options and customer satisfaction.

Rates, loan terms and fees vary, and experts recommend comparing offers from multiple lenders to get the best deal possible for your situation. 

Here are CNET’s picks for the best mortgage lenders of September 2023.

Best mortgage lenders for September 2023

LenderCredit requirementsDown payment minimums
Guaranteed Rate620 for conventional loans and FHA loans, 580 for VA loans3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
Rocket Mortgage620 for conventional loans, 680 for jumbo loans, 580 for FHA and VA loans3% for conventional loans, 10%-15% for jumbo loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA loans
Veterans United Home Loans620 for conventional and VA loans3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
PNC Bank620 for conventional, jumbo, and FHA loans, 640 for USDA loans3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans
Navy Federal Credit UnionNot disclosed3% for conventional loans, none for VA loans
PennyMac Loan Services620 for conventional loans, 580 for FHA loans, 620 for VA loans3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
Citibank620 for conventional loans, 680 for jumbo loans, 620 for FHA and VA loans3% through Citibank’s HomeRun Mortgage
loanDepot620 for conventional loans, 700 for jumbo loans, 580 for FHA loans, 620 for VA loans3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA loans
U.S. Bank620 for conventional loans, 740 for jumbo loans3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
Truist620 for conventional loansNot disclosed
Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional and FHA loans, 580 for VA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: Guaranteed Rate stands out to us for its nationwide availability, depth of loan offerings and proven record quality customer service -- ranking in the top 10 of J.D. Power’s 2022 customer satisfaction survey. The lender’s smooth online experience and fast closings also help make it a good option for most borrowers.

Guaranteed Rate is a Chicago-based lender that has a strong online presence and 400 branch locations across the country. It offers conventional mortgage purchase loans as well refinances and the full range of government-sponsored loans. Guaranteed Rate provides home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, but not home equity loans. 

 

Guaranteed Rate advertises daily rates for all of its products, such as 30-year and 15-year fixed conventional loans, FHA loans and VA loans. But, you can also personalize the quote based on loan size, down payment, credit range and location. Borrowers need a credit score of at least 620 and a minimum down payment of 3% to qualify for a conventional loan. VA loan borrowers will need a credit score of 580 and zero down payment. 

 

The lender offers a breadth of information about the homebuying process as well as multiple calculators to help you get a better understanding of what you can afford as well as any additional costs associated with your loan. Borrowers won’t be met with any prepayment penalties on any loan originated by Guaranteed Rate. The company doesn’t disclose its closing costs but you can use its closing cost calculator to get an estimate of what those will be. 

 

The lender says you can lock in a fixed mortgage rate for up to one year in some cases -- but fees may apply if you need to extend the lock. 

 

You can apply for a mortgage with Guaranteed Rate using their digital mortgage application.You can get preapproved for a home loan on the lender’s website within 15 minutes. Closing time can vary with each mortgage, but Guaranteed Rate’s goal is to be clear: close within 10 days.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Strong customer service
  • Advanced online experience to streamline mortgage process
  • Full line up of major mortgage programs
  • Lender fees not disclosed online
  • Doesn’t offer home equity loans 
  • Some loans, like reverse mortgages and home equity products, are brokered off to other lenders
Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans, 680 for jumbo loans, 580 for FHA and VA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, 10% to 15% for jumbo loans and none for VA loans
  • Where to find: Online

 

Our take: Rocket Mortgage stands out for the company’s high level of customer satisfaction and excellent online user experience. We also like the lender’s wide range of loan offerings as well its transparency regarding rates and fees.

Rocket Mortgage is one of the largest online mortgage lenders in the US, operating in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It offers a wide range of both purchase loans and mortgage refinance loans, including government-backed mortgages. However, it doesn’t offer USDA loans, home equity loans or HELOCs. 

 

Rocket Mortgage advertises daily refinance and purchase rates for 15-year loans, 30-year loans, VA loans and FHA loans. These rates change every day and are based on a few assumptions, such as that your credit score is higher than 720 and your debt-to-income, or DTI, ratio is less than 30%. So, not everyone will qualify for the lowest rates. 

 

Rocket Mortgage allows you to lock in your interest rate for up to 60 days for free. But, there is a deposit of $500 required to cover the appraisal and rate lock. 

 

There are no application fees or prepayment penalties for any loans with Rocket Mortgage. As is common among many lenders, late fees may apply and will vary depending on how late the payment is. To get a complete breakdown of closing costs, including lenders fees and discount points, you’ll need to submit an application.

 

Rocket Mortgage was the first lender to offer a completely digital mortgage application, and it has one of the best user experiences among the lenders we evaluated. Rocket Mortgage says you can be preapproved in just a few minutes. In 2022, Rocket Mortgage topped J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction study for mortgage origination.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo 
  • Refinance
  • FHA 
  • VA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Streamlined digital application process
  • Strong customer service
  • No branch locations
  • Does not offer USDA loans, home equity loans or HELOCs
  • Limited information available online regarding lenders fees
Veterans United Home Loans

Veterans United Home Loans

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional and VA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans; none for VA and USDA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: Veterans United Home Loans offers a variety of mortgage products, but it’s likely best suited for eligible borrowers looking to obtain a VA loan. We ranked Veterans United highly for its customer satisfaction, smooth online application and its wealth of educational content about the mortgage and homebuying process.

Veterans United Home Loans, headquartered in Missouri, specializes in VA home loans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The US Department of Veterans Affairs listed Veterans United as the top VA loan lender by volume in 2022. While the company focuses heavily on VA loans, it also offers conventional, jumbo, refinance, FHA and USDA loans. 

 

Veterans United provides an eligibility chart to help determine if a VA loan is an option for you. 

 

Among the benefits of VA loans is the ability of borrowers to make a 0% down payment, avoid private mortgage insurance and qualify for a competitive interest rate without a top-notch credit score. 

 

The lender doesn’t advertise rates on its website, but you can get an online quote without a credit check. You’ll just need to provide your phone number and email address. Veterans United typically considers applicants with a credit score of at least 620. 

 

Closing costs can vary depending on the exact details of the loan. For VA loans, for example, borrowers can expect to pay a funding fee of anywhere from 0% to 3.5%, depending on how often you utilize the program, the loan type and where you qualify for exemption. A funding fee is a one-time payment that a veteran, service member or survivor pays on a VA loan -- it helps to lower the cost of the loan for US taxpayers as these types of loans require no down payment or mortgage insurance. 

 

Information on the company’s conventional, FHA and USDA loans was difficult to find on the lender’s website, but you can reach out to a customer service representative to get information. 

 

Borrowers can begin the application process online, in person or over the phone, but Veterans United’s fully digitized and easy-to-follow online application process stands out to us. Borrowers can expect the process to take between 30-45 days from start to finish. The lender’s website provides tons of educational content on the mortgage process, and if you have questions, its customer service representatives are available via phone 24/7. Compared with other lenders we’ve reviewed, the company excels in customer satisfaction.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Highly experienced in VA loans
  • Strong customer satisfaction
  • Limited rate information available online
  • Difficult to find information regarding non-VA loan options
  • Doesn’t offer home equity loans or HELOCs
PNC Bank

PNC Bank

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans, jumbo loans and FHA loans; 640 for USDA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: PNC Bank offers a long list of mortgage options in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The lender ranked well for its price transparency, accessibility and customer satisfaction. It may be an especially good option for first-time homebuyers who need a government-sponsored loan or borrowers who qualify for the Community Loan program.

PNC Bank is a full-service bank based in Pittsburgh and originates a wide selection of mortgages nationwide, including conventional home loans and all government-sponsored mortgages. 

 

Among PNC’s conventional loan offerings is its Community Loan program, which is geared toward low- to moderate-income borrowers. The loan requires a 3% down payment, waives private mortgage insurance and allows borrowers to use gift funds at closing. 

 

Like many lenders, PNC advertises daily rates on its website, but you’ll need to enter some information -- like your loan amount and zip code -- in order to access them. To get a customizable rate, you’ll need to call the lender with your personal details. There’s no hard credit check involved in this step. The bank’s advertised rates are based on a few assumptions, such as that your credit score is at least 740, your DTI ratio is under 36% and your down payment is 20%. So everyone won’t be able to qualify for the lowest rates.

 

PNC’s lender fees include an origination fee and other closing costs, which can range from 3% to 5% of the total loan amount. 

 

When you’re ready to request a preapproval or start a mortgage application, you can do so online and track your progress through a dedicated portal. Unlike some other big bank lenders, PNC doesn’t have an app for mortgage borrowers, but you can access some basic tools through the general banking app. Closing on your home loan will take about 30 to 60 days. 

 

PNC landed in the top five for customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power’s 2022 mortgage origination survey.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Application can be tracked online
  • Offers all conventional mortgages, government-sponsored loans, and HELOCs
  • Limited app functionality for mortgage borrowers
  • Advertised rates are for creditworthy borrowers
Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: Undisclosed
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, none for VA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: With its expertise in the military community and low-cost mortgage options, Navy Federal Credit Union is a good option for eligible borrowers. We like Navy Federal for its price transparency, streamlined application process and loan product variety. J.D. Power ranked Navy Federal above average in its 2022 customer satisfaction survey.

Based in Virginia, Navy Federal Credit Union serves all 50 states and the District of Columbia with 344 branches worldwide. Navy Federal’s field of membership goes beyond current and retired members of the armed forces to include their families and household members, as well as certain government contractors. In addition to a full suite of banking services for its members, Navy Federal offers conventional, jumbo and VA loans. It doesn’t offer FHA loans, USDA loans, renovation loans, reverse mortgages and other niche products.

 

Navy Federal advertises daily purchase and refinance rates for each type of loan it offers in 15-year and 30-year terms, though you won’t find customized rates based on credit score or other factors before you apply.

 

The lender offers no-down payment and flexible credit requirements on most mortgage products to qualified military service members and their families. Navy Federal Credit Union also doesn’t charge private mortgage insurance. The credit union also has a rate lock option: You can lock in your interest rate for up to 60 days before closing, free of charge. 

 

Navy Federal doesn’t charge prepayment penalties, but the lender may charge origination fees and other closing costs that can be wrapped into your loan principal. Closing costs will vary by location and typically run from 2% to 4% of the home’s purchase price. 

 

Navy Federal’s website is easy to use and offers an array of guides that explain the homebuying process and different types of mortgage loans. The lender lists the types of mortgages it offers, but doesn’t advertise minimum credit score and DTI ratio requirements. It does, however, flag minimum down payment requirements, which vary from 0% to 15% depending on the type of home loan you get. 

 

To get a mortgage, you can apply online, over the phone or in person. Navy Federal has streamlined its online process with a digital application called HomeSquad. Applicants can, for example, set up a personalized portal where they can get preapproved, upload documents, connect their bank accounts to verify assets and receive notifications on the status of their loan. According to Navy Federal’s website, it takes 30 days to close on a mortgage loan, and 45 days for a refinance.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • VA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Offers no-down-payment mortgages
  • Flexible credit requirements
  • Doesn’t charge private mortgage insurance
  • Membership is limited to current and retired members of the armed forces as well as their families and household members and certain government contractors
  • Doesn’t offer FHA loans and USDA loans
  • You’ll have to request a customized rate quote
Pennymac

Pennymac

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans, 580 for FHA loans and 620 for VA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: Pennymac stands out for its overall online experience. The lender features daily rate updates and customizable rate quotes on its website. While it has some customer benefits in the form of preapproval discounts, Pennymac falls short in customer satisfaction, with J.D. Power ranking it below average. However, the lender does have a BBB rating of A+.

Founded in 2008, Pennymac is a lesser known name in the mortgage industry. But it offers a range of conventional and government-backed loans in 50 states and the District of Columbia. 

 

Customers can view daily purchase and refinance rates on the lender’s site. A minimum credit score of 620 is required to qualify for both conventional and VA loans, but as low as 580 for an FHA loan. The lender doesn’t specify its lender fees online. 

 

Homebuyers can lock in a rate with Pennymac for up to 60 days. To extend the locked rate, customers must initiate a mortgage application for a specific party at least 20 days prior to lock expiration. Pennymac doesn’t disclose its extension fees online. After the rate lock, customers may be eligible for a one-time reduction in rate of up to 0.50%  once the mortgage application has been initiated. 

 

People who are pre-approved with Pennymac prior to locking in its mortgage get a $1,000 discount on total closing costs (with the exception of jumbo, refinance, third-party and in-process loans). 

 

While Pennymac has sales office locations, customers can apply for a mortgage online or over the phone. The lender says the underwriting and closing process averages 36 days for purchases.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Full line up of major mortgage programs
  • Preapproved customers can get $1,000 off closing costs (not applicable to jumbo loans or refinancing)
  • Online information about lender fees is limited
  • Below-average customer satisfaction score
Citibank

Citibank

  • Availability: All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans, 680 for jumbo loans, 620 for FHA and VA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% through Citibank’s HomeRun Mortgage
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: We like Citibank for its nationwide availability, price transparency and customer satisfaction -- ranking third on J.D. Power’s 2022 mortgage origination survey. The lender also incentives borrowers with its relationship pricing offerings and low-down payment mortgage option.

Based in New York, Citibank is one of the top 10 largest banks in the US. It offers a range of mortgage products, including conventional loans, FHA loans and VA loans in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

 

Citibank displays the latest rates for 15-year and 30-year fixed mortgages on its website. To get the lowest rate available, you can expect to buy mortgage points. Each point you buy will cost you around 1% of the total loan amount. If you choose to buy points, it will increase the amount you need to pay at closing. 

 

To qualify with Citibank, borrowers will need a credit score of at least 620 for conventional loans, 680 for jumbo loans and 620 for FHA and VA loans. Citibank offers down payments as low as 3% through its HomeRun Mortgage. Account holders who set up automatic payments can qualify for relationship pricing in the form of an interest rate discount or closing cost credit (up to $500) based on balance level. 

 

The lender says that closing costs range between 1% to 4% of your home’s value, but the exact amount will depend on the loan type and your geographic location. 

 

Borrowers can get prequalified and apply for a mortgage on the bank’s website. Citibank’s app allows you to track your application status as well as make payments later on. Purchase closings typically take 45 days to complete. Citibank ranked third for customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2022 mortgage origination survey.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • Available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
  • Rate discount or closing cost credit available to new and existing customers when they set up autopay from their Citibank savings account 
  • HomeRun Mortgage has low down payment requirements and flexible credit guidelines
  • Doesn’t offer USDA loans
  • Doesn’t disclose down payment requirements for loans other than the HomeRun Mortgage
  • Branch locations in only 10 states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota and Virginia), the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank

  • Availability: All 50 states
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans, 740 for jumbo loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: U.S. Bank offers a variety of mortgage types and an easy, digital application process. You also have the option to visit a physical branch for more assistance in 26 states. The bank stands out to us as an all-around good option for new or existing U.S. Bank customers. The main drawbacks are the bank’s below average customer satisfaction score for home loans according to J.D. Power’s 2022 survey as well as that you can’t get a rate and fee estimate without getting prequalified. 

U.S. Bank is the fifth largest bank in the US and offers mortgages in all 50 states, with physical branches in 26 states. The bank offers both conventional and government-backed mortgages, as well as home equity loans and home equity lines of credit. 

 

U.S. Bank advertises a few mortgage products with potential rates. However, the rate you see is based on ideal creditworthiness and assuming a 20% down payment. You’ll need to prequalify to get an understanding of what rates and fees each borrower can get. 

 

The company doesn’t disclose origination fees online because it varies by state, but the lender does charge a $395 application fee that will be refunded as a credit once you close. U.S. Bank can be a good option for existing customers, who are eligible for a discount of 0.25%, up to $1,000, on total closing costs. The bank doesn’t charge a prepayment penalty. 

 

You can apply for a mortgage online, in person or over the phone. U.S. Bank also provides prequalifications and preapprovals for applicants. You can get prequalified on the same day as your mortgage and a typical closing takes 30 days for a purchase or 45 days for a refinance. The U.S. Bank app allows you to track your application, complete some e-closing steps and make payments. 

 

You can lock a rate for up to 30 days by submitting an application to U.S. Bank. You’ll then receive confirmation from a mortgage loan officer.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Eligible existing customers can get a closing discount of up to $1,000
  • Can apply online, in person or over the phone
  • Range of loan offerings
  • Advertised mortgage rates are for creditworthy borrowers
  • Limited lender fee information available online
  • Long closing period for refinances
LoanDepot

LoanDepot

  • Availability: All 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans, 700 for jumbo loans, 580 for FHA loans and 620 for VA loans
  • Down payment requirements: 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA loans
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: LoanDepot is a solid lender that offers help both online and in person at more than 200 offices nationwide. While the website offers a lot of general information on the homebuying process, it falls short on price transparency. Your best bet is to call the lender to receive a rate quote and information on fees you might pay.

LoanDepot is one of the biggest non bank retail mortgage lenders in the US. It operates in all 50 states and offers a range of loans including purchase and refinance loans, as well as two types of government-backed loans. LoanDepot, however, doesn’t offer USDA loans, home equity loans or HELOCs. 

 

LoanDepot doesn’t advertise daily purchase and refinance rates, nor does it offer a list of lender fees. But you can work with one of its loan officers to estimate your rate. To qualify for a mortgage, you’ll need a credit score of 620 for conventional loans, 580 for FHA loans and 620 for VA loans. 

 

You can lock in your interest rate for between 15 and 270 days, but extending the lock can get pricey. The extension fee is equal to a quarter of a percentage point of the loan balance. So, for example, if you borrow $200,000, the fee would be $5,000 for every 15 days you extend the lock. 

 

LoanDepot has no application fees or prepayment penalties for any of its loans, but the lender charges a late fee if a borrower is more than 15 days late on a mortgage payment. Refinancing with LoanDepot comes with a major benefit: the “lifetime guarantee.” If you take out a mortgage with LoanDepot, and later refinance it with the company, it will waive your lender fees and reimburse your appraisal costs. 

 

Applicants can apply either in person at one of its 200 branches nationwide or complete the mortgage application process entirely online. The lender says its online closings are 75% faster than the industry average, and in some cases closings take just eight days. J.D. Power ranks LoanDepot above average in customer satisfaction, but the lender is beat out by top scorers including Rocket Mortgage and Guaranteed Rate.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • Available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • More than 200 branches nationwide 
  • Waives fees for existing customers who choose to refinance
  • Rates and fees aren’t available online
  • Doesn’t offer USDA loans
Truist (Suntrust and BB&T) Mortgage

Truist (Suntrust and BB&T) Mortgage

  • Availability: 47 states (excluding Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii) and the District of Columbia
  • Credit requirements: 620 for conventional loans
  • Down payment requirements: Not disclosed
  • Where to find: Branches and online

 

Our take: We like Truist for its easy-to-use online application process, rate transparency and solid menu of  mortgage products. Truist is also a full-service bank, which means you can conveniently handle your day-to-day banking and mortgage payments in one place, and there are thousands of physical branches where you can get in-person help. Truist comes in just above J.D. Power’s average for customer service satisfaction, but falls below other lenders on this list.

Truist Bank became one of the largest banks in the US after merging with BB&T Bank and SunTrust Bank in 2019. The lender offers all the major mortgage programs, including conventional and government-backed loans in 47 states and the District of Columbia. 

 

Homebuyers can check daily purchase and refinance rates on the lender’s site, though the lender’s advertised rates are based on a few assumptions. For instance, the 30-year fixed mortgage quote assumes your credit score is higher than 740 and your down payment is at least 20%. To qualify for a conventional loan, you’ll need a credit score of at 620.

 

The bank doesn’t disclose its fees or down payment requirements online. 

 

Customers can apply for a mortgage with Truist online, over the phone or at a branch location. A typical purchase closing with the lender takes between 30 and 45 days, while a refinance closing takes about 60 days.

  • Conventional
  • Jumbo
  • Refinance
  • FHA
  • VA
  • USDA
  • Available in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Can submit an application online, by phone or in person
  • Advertises sample mortgage rates online
  • Offers a full line up of major mortgage programs
  • Not available in Alaska, Arizona or Hawaii
  • Doesn’t disclose down payment requirements or lender fees online

How to find the best mortgage lender for your situation

Outside of price and lender reliability, narrowing down your choice comes down to what is best for you and your personal circumstances. Depending on your goals and needs as a borrower, one lender could be a better fit than another. For example, a first-time homebuyer struggling to meet down payment requirements can look into lenders with down payment assistance programs. Another borrower may have a low credit score and need a lender with a lower credit threshold. 

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a mortgage lender

Types of mortgages available

One of the first steps in choosing a lender is figuring out what type of mortgage you need. 

If you have blemishes on your credit report, like a bankruptcy, then an FHA loan is likely to be easier to qualify than conventional loans. Other loans, such as USDA and VA loans, offer 100% financing with no down payment required -- though some lenders may have their own down payment requirements -- you’ll need to find a lender that offers these types of loans. 

The loan repayment term can also impact the lender you choose. Most lenders offer 15-year or 30-year mortgages, but if you want a 10-year or a 40-year mortgage, your options will be more limited. 

Loan officer experience

The biggest mortgage lenders have hundreds of locations and are staffed by thousands of loan originators. So, within the same lender, you could have a wildly different experience depending on the individual loan officer you work with. 

Talk with a loan officer to ensure that they have the experience in the industry and have dealt with individuals in similar situations to your own. If you’re applying for a VA loan or FHA loan, for example, working with a loan officer who’s familiar with those types of mortgages is even more important. 

Homebuyer assistance programs

These programs can provide you with thousands of dollars to put toward your down payment and closing costs. For many first-time homebuyers, this assistance is the difference between buying a home or needing to continue renting. As you’re comparing lenders, be sure to ask if they have these types of programs.

Why it’s important to compare offers from multiple lenders

Comparing offers is important because each one will evaluate your financial situation differently. First, you’ll want to compare different types of lenders, such as credit unions, banks and mortgage brokers. You’ll also want to provide the same information to each lender to get a more accurate comparison. 

Secondly, make sure you receive a loan estimate form from each lender. This is a document that outlines the interest rate and fees charged by the lender. Lenders must adhere to what they disclose on a loan estimate, and this is what can protect you as the borrower, from any fee increases later on in the process. 

To secure the best rate, fees and terms, compare at least two to three different quotes. 

Comparing rates

A difference of 0.50% doesn’t sound like a lot but it can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Take this example on a 30-year fixed, $300,000 loan: 

Loan amountInterest rateMonthly principal and interest paymentTotal interest over loan’s life
$300,0003.6%$1,363$191,285
$300,0003.1%$1,281$161,189

With this example, a 0.50% difference in interest rate is the difference of $82 a month. Over a 30 year loan, that difference amounts to $30,096 in interest. 

Comparing lender fees

Securing the lowest interest rate isn’t the only factor you need to consider when comparing mortgage lenders. Two lenders can advertise the same mortgage rate but charge wildly different closing fees. A low rate with high closing costs can eat away at the savings you thought the low rate provided. 

One sure-fire way to evaluate the difference between offers is to look at a mortgage loan APR. The APR factors in many of the loan’s fees, in addition to the interest rate, over the loan’s full term.

Take this example on a 30-year fixed, $200,000 loan: 

Loan amountInterest rateClosing costsAPR
Loan A$200,0003.000%$6,0003.233%
Loan B$200,0003.125%$2,0003.204%

Loan A is the more tempting offer since it has a lower interest rate but it has higher lender fees. Loan B may be overlooked because of its higher interest rate. But it has lower lender fees and a lower overall APR. 

The best apples-to-apples comparison when considering multiple offers to look at the APR on each Loan Estimate. The best approach is to do plenty of research, narrow it down to two or three lenders, get prequalified with each one and compare the Loan Estimate side by side. 

Each application may trigger a hard inquiry on your credit reports, but credit-scoring companies know consumers shop around. Experian will treat all mortgage inquiries made within 30 days as just one inquiry. FICO will do the same within a 45-day period. Try to submit your mortgage applications within this window to minimize the impact to your credit. 

What factors affect a mortgage rate? 

While a lender may advertise rates on its website, that’s likely not the rate you’ll end up qualifying for. Your interest rate may be higher or lower depending on a variety of factors, the main ones being: 

  • Credit score: The higher your credit score, the better your interest rate. You may be able to qualify for a mortgage with a credit score under 700, but you’ll pay a premium for the loan. To get the lowest mortgage rate, you’ll want a credit score of 740 or higher. Building your credit score can take some time, but it can make homeownership much more affordable in the long run. 
  • Loan-to-value ratio: Your LTV ratio is the size of your mortgage -- or if you’re refinancing, how much equity you have in your home -- compared with the value of the property. The larger your down payment is, the lower your LTV will be. An LTV of 80% or less (meaning you have a down payment of at least 20%) will help you secure the best mortgage rate and allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance on conventional loans.
  • Debt-to-income ratio: How much debt you have will limit the amount you can borrow and impact your mortgage interest rate. Because your mortgage is paid monthly, lenders typically look at your monthly debt payments and calculate it as a percentage of your income. This is known as your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI. The maximum allowable DTI varies by loan type and lender. It can be as high as 50%, but the maximum DTI you’re allowed to have isn’t necessarily ideal. You want to make sure you’re purchasing a home you can afford, and as your DTI increases, your mortgage rate can move up right along with it. A good DTI target is 36% or less, including your future mortgage payment. 
  • Income: Proof of stable and consistent income is an important factor a lender will take into consideration when approving a low rate offer. Certain types of employment, such as self-employed or commission-based pay, could factor into a loan approval and rate offer. In the eyes of the lender, some borrowers are seen as a riskier investment, and may want the borrower to pay more for that risk.

Other mortgage resources

Methodology

We evaluated a range of lenders based on such factors as nationwide availability, loan product variety, online convenience, customer satisfaction and transparency regarding rates and fees. Our list doesn’t take into account factors such as mortgage rates and APRs because those depend on market conditions and your individual credit worthiness.

  • Nationwide availability: We took into account a lender’s geographic footprint when compiling this list. We looked for lenders which operate in most, if not all, US states. 
  • Loan product variety: We evaluated a lender based on its loan product menu and variety of products offered. Lenders who offered most or all mortgage products available stood out to us. 
  • Transparency: Mortgage lenders’ transparency regarding mortgage rates, lender fees and credit check requirements for those rates and fees were also important. We looked for lenders who made it easy for customers to access daily mortgage rates and lender fees online without requiring a credit check in order to do so. 
  • Online convenience: When evaluating each lender, we paid attention to the ease, or difficulty, of its mortgage application. We looked for lenders who offered a completely digital mortgage application process for ultimate convenience. In addition, we noted whether that online process was streamlined or full of hiccups for the applicant. 
  • Customer satisfaction: To measure customer satisfaction, we relied on J.D. Power and Associates 2022 Mortgage Origination survey which ranks lenders based on their customer satisfaction scores. We also considered a company’s Better Business Bureau rating for additional context. We looked for lenders who had above average scores on the J.D. Power survey in addition to a solid BBB rating. 
Katherine Watt is a CNET Money writer focusing on mortgages, home equity and banking. She previously wrote about personal finance for NextAdvisor. Based in New York, Katherine graduated summa cum laude from Colgate University with a bachelor's degree in English literature.