Finding the best mortgage lender can be a challenge. The right lender depends on the borrower’s unique financial credentials and what features they’re looking for in a loan.
Our team of mortgage experts has curated a list of the top mortgage lenders to make it easy for borrowers to get multiple multiple quotes and find the right lender for their unique needs. This guide provides insight into how a mortgage works and how to find the top mortgage lender no matter your situation.
What is a mortgage lender?
A mortgage lender is a bank, credit union, online lender, or other financial institution that provides a loan to purchase a home. Home loans offered by mortgage lenders are typically secured loans. That means the house acts as collateral and can be taken by the lender if you don’t pay the loan. Interest rates offered by mortgage lenders are typically below the rates on most other kinds of loans. And interest may be tax deductible.
Mortgage lenders offer different types of loans. Conventional mortgages are loans without a guarantee from any government agency. Government-backed loans or conforming loans have different requirements and include:
- FHA loan
- USDA loan
- VA mortgage loan
Loan type, interest rate, and loan term can vary from one mortgage lender to another, so comparing multiple lenders is often the best move for home buyers.
What should I look for in the best mortgage lenders?
There are a few key features home buyers should consider when researching the best mortgage lenders. These include:
- Loan types: Not all lenders offer all types of mortgage loans. If you need a larger “jumbo loan,” or a government-backed loan, you’ll need to find a mortgage lender that offers it.
- Interest rates: Interest is the cost of borrowing. The lower the rate, the lower the monthly payment and total costs. The best mortgage lenders offer a more competitive interest rate.
- Loan fees and costs: It’s common to see an origination fee as well as fees for an appraisal and credit check. Most fees are paid as part of your closing costs. Some lenders charge more fees than others.
- Qualifying requirements: Some lenders have stricter standards than others for credit score, income, employment history, and other qualifying factors.
Required down payment. For conventional loans, lenders may require a 20% down payment to avoid private mortgage insurance. That’s insurance homeowners pay for to protect against lender losses in the event of foreclosure. However, it’s possible to find lenders willing to offer loans with less money down. That’s especially true if you choose a government-backed loan.
- Approval time: Some lenders are able to complete the loan approval process much more quickly. This could be a factor if you’re on a tight deadline.
A lender’s reputation for customer service does matter a little. You want the application process to be easy and pleasant. But be aware that many lenders resell mortgages. There’s a chance the original lender you borrow from will not remain your loan servicer for long.
What credit score are mortgage companies looking for?
Your credit score is one of the most important factors that determine if you’ll be approved for a loan and what rate you’ll be charged. Scores range from 300 to 850.
Most lenders set the minimum credit score for a mortgage at around 620. But some loans, including a VA loan, have no minimum credit score requirements at all. Other government-backed loans, such as FHA loans, are available with scores as low as 500 as long as you have a 10% down payment.
The table below shows the APR and monthly payment based on FICO scores, assuming a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan for $300,000.
Because rates and terms vary so much from person to person and company to company, it is important to shop around for a mortgage. Obtaining multiple rate quotes is the best path to choosing a mortgage lender.