One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a home buyer is choosing the right mortgage. While it’s now possible to shop and compare terms over the Internet, finding the right online mortgage lender for you can still be intimidating, especially for those purchasing a home for the first time.
According to the National Association of Realtors, roughly a third of home buyers are first-timers. That means they don’t just need to find a good interest rate, but also learn the ins and outs of mortgages and compare offers from different lenders.
To help with the process, we’ve highlighted some of the best online mortgage lenders of 2020. These lenders all made the list by standing out in different areas, from having strong customer service to a smooth digital experience to a full range of mortgage options.
Keep in mind, however, this article is designed as a starting point for mortgage shoppers. These picks, adapted from our sister site Consumers Advocate, are based on these companies’ industry reputations in their respective areas of expertise, not necessarily on Money editor’s independent assessment.
You still need to shop around, especially since the interest rates mortgage lenders offer, based on factors like your credit score and how much money you put down when you buy your home, are unique to individual borrowers. With that in mind, our aim with this guide is to make you an informed, empowered shopper.
Important Things To Know About Mortgage Lenders:
Your mortgage lender will walk you through the entire home purchase process, so you want to make sure they’re upfront about their fees and potential timeline for closing. To make sure you get the best possible price, expect to check with several different mortgage lenders before deciding which one to use. You should also keep a few things in mind about the mortgage industry before you sign on the dotted line.
Know your mortgage types. In addition picking a lender, you’ve also got to pick a mortgage type. What many buyers consider a “plain vanilla” mortgage has a term of 30 years and fixed interest rate. But plenty of other types are common too, including mortgages whose interest rate floats after certain period such as five or seven years. There are also other plenty of other varieties for buyers who haven’t saved enough for the typical 20% down-payment or who are trying to purchase expensive homes.
People with the best credit scores get the best interest rates. If you have above a 750 credit score, you will likely qualify for some of the best mortgage interest rates. Even saving 0.05% on your mortgage interest rate could mean thousands in savings over the course of a 30 year mortgage. In general, you need a credit score of at least 650 to qualify for a mortgage.
Mortgage companies charge several fees as part of the lending process. Each company is different, so compare fees in addition to comparing interest rates and timelines which choosing which lender is right for you. Common fees include credit report fees, document preparation fees, loan origination fees, title fees, private mortgage insurance, etc. Be wary of so called “junk fees” that a company might add to your closing costs, like “commitment fees.” Ask a mortgage company to list out all of their fees prior to borrowing money from them. If they aren’t upfront with their fees or don’t explain them well, find a different mortgage company.
Mortgage lenders make money when you borrow money from them. That means the more you borrow, the more money they make on interest and other fees. Rather than trusting them to tell you how much house you can afford, make sure to do your own calculation. While lenders tend to base their judgements on gross income, which is before items like retirement savings and healthcare premiums get taken out of your paycheck, you should focus on net income, which gives you a better sense of your actual take home pay. Also don’t forget to factor in expenses like taxes and home maintenance.
Don’t forget traditional banks. Our list focuses on the online mortgage lenders that offer the best customer service. But to make sure you find the lowest-possible interest rate you should also check with traditional banks, such as national leaders JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo, and local banks and credit unions that operate just in your area. What local lenders lack in terms of technology, they often make up for in terms of knowledge of the local real estate market. That can mean a lower interest rate, a smoother close, or both.
The 4 Best Mortgage Lenders
Here are the four best mortgage lenders for 2020 and why they made the list.
- Best Customer Service – Quicken Loans
- Best for FHA and other government-backed loans – Freedom Mortgage
- Best Closing Times – Figure
- Best Comparison Tools – Lending Tree
Mortgage Lender Reviews
Below are the five top picks for the best mortgage lenders. Find out why they made the list and which one might be best for your and your particular financial situation.
Quicken Loans Review: Best Customer Service
The largest mortgage lender in America isn’t a bank at all it’s Quicken Loans — which surpassed traditional banking giants JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo in 2018. That’s because its big investment in developing online mortgage application software, allowed it to shine at a time when competitors were retrenching after the financial crisis.
A few years ago, Quicken was so proud of its new Rocket Mortgage software, it took out a Superbowl ad promising to you could have a mortgage in as little as eight minutes. One reason it’s so fast: While other lenders may ask you to gather manually type in information and upload forms like you W-2, Rocket Mortgage can grab these automatically once hand over data like social security number and bank account passwords.
Quicken has won plaudits from tastemakers too. In 2018, J.D. Power and Associates ranked Quicken Loans #1 in Customer Satisfaction for Primary Mortgage Origination for the 9th year in a row.
Freedom Mortgage Review: Best for FHA and VA Loans
Although Freedom Mortgage is known for government-backed mortgages such as FHA Loans, VA loans, HARP loans, and USDA-backed loans.
These loans can help borrowers who might otherwise struggle to get a loan, especially first-time home buyers. For instance, while you need a credit score of at least 620 for a traditional “conforming” mortgage backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you can get an FHA loan with a score as low as 580. FHA loans, also allow borrowers to put as little as 3.5% down, compared to the much heftier 20% that represents the rule of thumb for borrowers.
Keep in mind, though there are drawbacks. FHA loans require borrowers to pay “private mortgage insurance,” an extra fee that typically amounts to 0.2 to 2% of your mortgage.
Freedom, one of the top FHA lenders by volume, aims to help borrowers sift through the government paperwork in order to qualify for these types of loans. It’s simple and transparent underwriting process is fully online, according to Consumers Advocate. So, if you are looking for a company that has a strong knowledge of how to secure one of these loans products, Freedom Mortgage could be a good option for you.
Figure Review: Best Closing Times
Most first-time home borrowers don’t realize how long it can take to actually close on the home. According to real estate data company Ellie Mae, it takes 37 days to close a refinancing, and even longer for a purchase loan.
By contrast Figure promises to close your loan in just 10 days. Figure only offers mortgage refinancings, not purchase loans. But with the average 30-year mortgage rate under 4%, that’s a smart move for lots of homeowners. Also, Figure offers a 100% online application so there’s no need to go to the bank in person.
LendingTree Review: Best Comparison Tools
It’s important to note that Lending Tree does not offer mortgages. It is a comparison website that aims to make it easier to get quotes from multiple mortgage lenders. As mentioned previously, it’s extremely important to get several quotes before deciding which lender to work with.
LendingTree allows you to compare quotes from up to five lenders in just a few minutes. The service is free, and allows you to view offers online, get a free credit score, and start the mortgage application process from the comfort of your own home.
How We Found the Best Mortgage Lenders of 2020
This list was adapted from consumersadvocate.org picks for best mortgage lenders. Money.com and Consumers Advocate, share the same corporate parent. Consumers Advocate compiles data from over 200 hours of research and determines the best national and regional mortgage lenders based on the most relevant criteria from a consumer standpoint.
Below are some of the most important attributes that were taken into account when deciding the finalists for this list.
Buying a home as a lengthy and exhausting process. That’s why it’s so important for your lender to offer excellent customer service and answer any questions you may have. We looked at several JD Power and Associates rankings from the past several years to find the companies with the absolute best track record for customer service.
Variety of Mortgage Products
There are many different types of mortgages, so we sought to find companies that offered a variety of different loan products. Every single company on this list offers many different options, including conventional mortgages as well as FHA or VA loans. Some of them also offer jumbo loans and other specific types of loans that might not be available everywhere.
Accessibility to Borrowers
Another factor we considered was loan accessibility, so we made sure this list included lenders that cater to borrowers on different stages and from different walks of life. The companies on this list are great for new borrowers and experienced homeowners alike. Additionally, some companies, like SoFi, are particularly good for non-traditional borrowers.
Given that this list is for the best mortgage lenders of 2020, we only included companies competing in the current digital market. The lenders on this list can operate entirely online without you ever having to walk into a bank branch. Some are more traditional than others, but still offer a variety of resources to complete your loan application from the comfort of your home.
Summary: Best Mortgage Lenders of 2020
Finding the best mortgage lender for you is a personal choice based on your priorities and needs. The list below can help you identify the best mortgage lenders of 2020 and why they made the top spots on this list.
The Best Mortgage Lenders for 2020
Best Customer Service – Quicken Loans
Best for Government Loans – Freedom Mortgage
Best Closing Times – Figure
Best Comparison Tools – Lending Tree
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