How We Determine the Best Mortgage Lenders
The best mortgage lenders offer competitive rates, low fees, a wide variety of loan options, a seamless web interface and, of course, good customer service. SmartAsset took a look at some of the top lenders in the U.S. to find you the best in each category.
SmartAsset reviewed top mortgage lenders in areas such as loan availability, customer satisfaction, prequalification process, online bill pay, fees and rates and customer service. These rankings are the result of our research into finding the best mortgage lenders in 2019.
|Best Overall Lender|| ||Compare Rates|
|Best Online Lender|| ||Compare Rates|
|Wells Fargo |
|Most Popular Mortgage Lender|| ||Compare Rates|
|Best for Veterans|| ||Compare Rates|
|Best for Borrowers with Low Credit|| ||Compare Rates|
Best Mortgage Lender Overall: Chase Bank
Chase is transparent about rates and mortgage terms, something that’s not as common with other lenders. It makes it easier for homebuyers to shop around without committing to a lender. In addition to transparency, Chase also offers home buying education in a two formats: short articles and videos. As a customer, if you’re an auditory or visual learner, you have the chance to listen and watch the videos, while those who prefer reading, can peruse the content below the video. This lender also offers calculators and other resources to help homebuyers decide price range, home value and more.After considering each lender holistically as well as using data to rank across metrics such as customer satisfaction, loan availability, usability, rates and fees, we found Chase Bank to be ranked number one. The bank originates loans in all 50 states remotely, but you can also find in-person locations if you wish. And fortunately, that doesn’t mean the online experience suffers. In fact, Chase has an easy-to-use mortgage section and offers fully online prequalification for customers who don’t wish to speak to a loan representative from the start.
You’ll find a large variety of loan options at Chase, including conventional loans, government program loans, low down payment loans, jumbo loans and refinance options. In addition to offering a wide variety of mortgage products, the banking institution offers a full suite of financial products, such as credit cards, checkings and savings accounts, personal loans and retirement and investment services. That means if you like to keep all your financials, including your mortgage, in one place, Chase could be a good fit for you.
Runner up: Quicken Loans
Best Online Lender and Best Mortgage Lender for Loan Variety
Quicken Loans is the best option for homebuyers seeking flexible mortgage terms and who want to choose from a wide variety of loan options. The internet-based company offers conventional fixed-rate home loans and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), government-backed options such as FHA, VA and USDA loans, refinance options, a 1% down payment option and YOURgage, a loan were you can pick your conventional loan terms. For an online company, that’s one of the largest mortgage option spreads SmartAsset’s encountered. It’s also more than most brick-and-mortar banking options too, such as Chase or U.S. Bank. While those banks offer government-backed options and conventional mortgages, they don’t offer borrowers the opportunity to customize their loans, as Quicken does with its YOURgage offering.
Another reason Quicken tops these categories is its accessibility. Loans are originated in all 50 states and D.C., and since Quicken operates over the phone or online, borrowers don’t need to drive to an in-person location to apply for a loan. It also means the online interface is user-friendly and it’s easy to get ahold of a customer service representative.
While Quicken doesn’t have the slickest online presence like some startup lenders such as Better Mortgage and Lenda, it does have two things younger companies lack: proven experience and loan origination in all states. Quicken has offered loans online much longer than recent startup lending companies and that means many of the kinks are worked out. The numbers also speak for themselves: Quicken has been in the top 10 for loan volume in the U.S. for the latter half of the decade.
Quicken also takes the No. 1 slot for first-time homebuyers for many of the same reasons, but also for its homebuyer education, 24/7 customer service and overall loan offerings.
Runner up for Most Loan Variety: SunTrust
Most Popular Mortgage Lender: Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo is the most popular mortgage lender because of the sheer number of mortgage originations its responsible for. In 2015, the company issued 1.2 million home loans, and in 2017, origination volume was $94.6 billion. SmartAsset considers Wells Fargo as the most popular because of its lengthy history as the No. 1 lender in the U.S. While Quicken Loans has come close to surpassing the company with loan volume the past few years, it hasn’t yet been able to catch up to the banking behemoth. In fact, according to Bloomberg, the Federal Reserve hit Wells Fargo with a growth ban to stop the company from expanding. This was due to the underbelly of having a national business: Wells Fargo has been in trouble for consumer lending issues including improperly charging fees to mortgage customers.
Many consumers choose Wells Fargo because it’s easily available, with more than 5,800 branches across the U.S. Mortgages are originated in all states, and the company generally services its own loans. That means your mortgage isn’t passed to another company once you close, a practice common with smaller lenders.
Wells Fargo offers a wide variety of loan options, including government-backed options like FHA and VA loans, and also products such as yourFirstSM and Union Plus mortgages. These two programs are aimed at specific types of underserved homebuyers. In addition to mortgages, Wells Fargo offers a full suite of retail banking options, including savings and checkings accounts, credit cards, personal loans, investing and retirement accounts and small business and commercial banking.
Runner up: Quicken Loans
Best for Veterans
USAA tops the list for VA lenders with its high customer service scores, competitive interest rates, expertise with VA loans and its military-focused mission. Headquartered in San Antonio, USAA operates almost entirely online and over the phone. The company only allows veterans, active duty service members and qualified family members to become members, ensuring that the bank stays focused on military financial needs.
You’ll find that USAA often offers the lowest VA loan rates and runs no origination fee specials as well. The company doesn’t charge excess fees, such as underwriting fees or documentation fees, two closing costs lenders often tack on to the fee sheet. In additional to offering the best terms, rates and fees, the company is very transparent. Veterans United, the runner up, does not publish rates or fees, and doesn’t offer online prequalification; USAA does.
While USAA doesn’t have as extensive educational articles as Veterans United, you will find guides, articles, FAQs and calculators. The website is also much better designed than many competitors. You can easily navigate from home buying guides to prequalification to contact information and more. In addition to a well-designed website, USAA has a mobile app.
The downside to USAA is you have to be a member to rate shop with the company. That means if you want to get preapproved, you’ll have to become a member. While that’s not a huge issue, it will slow you down at least initially. Another downside is that USAA mortgages aren’t 100% online. You’ll be assigned a loan representative to help you through the process. You’ll need to coordinate through phone or email instead of entirely through a web interface. The upside is that USAA has document uploads and e-signing capability, which means you can accomplish a lot on your own. Finally, if you want to sit down in-person with your loan agent, you likely won’t have that opportunity at USAA. The firm has very limited offices in four locations in the U.S.
Runner up: Veterans United
Best for Borrowers with Less than Perfect Credit
Carrington Home Loans has some of the lowest credit score requirements SmartAsset’s come across, with certain mortgages offered to homebuyers with FICO credit scores as low as 500. This Anaheim-based non-bank lender originates loans in all states except Massachusetts and North Dakota. You can find branches in 20 states across the U.S.
Carrington offers conventional, jumbo, VA, FHA, USDA and Home Possible loans, along with down payment assistance programs and refinance options. While Carrington has a solid array of mortgage options, you won’t qualify for all of the loan types with a low credit score. In general, Carrington offers FHA and VA loans for those with at least a 500 FICO credit score. USDA loans require a 550 or above, and conventional and jumbo loans don’t have a specified number. However, conventional and jumbo loans generally require high 600s to qualify, and 740 and above for the best rates and terms.
While Carrington has some of the lowest credit score requirements, it’s not apparent what terms you’d qualify for. The company isn’t transparent regarding mortgage rates. That means you’d have to contact a company representative to see what you’d be offered, rather than input an online prequalification or preapproval. You’ll also want to be careful about applying for a mortgage when your credit score is in the low 500s. You generally won’t qualify for decent mortgage rates with a score that low. That means you’ll pay more interest for the life of the loan. FHA loans also come with mortgage insurance premiums (MIPs) and upfront mortgage insurance premiums (UFMIPs) if you don’t put 20% down. You’ll have to pay an additional amount of money on top of your principal, interest, homeowners insurance and property tax payments. Overall, that can really place a burden on the homebuyer. However, if you’re determined to buy a home and haven’t found a lender willing to accept your credit score, Carrington may be your best option.
Runner up: Caliber Home Loans