Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lender
As increasingly more people turn to the internet for financial services, it’s only natural that the mortgage industry pivots too. And it has. You can find dozens of online lenders, some existing only in the digital space, as well as traditional banks offering online mortgage prequalification, preapproval and full applications. It doesn’t stop after the application, either. Once you have a loan, you can make your monthly mortgage payments online.
Applying for a mortgage online is not only easier in cutting down on paperwork, travel and processing time, but it can sometimes save you money as well. Rate shopping is simple and efficient when you can apply to multiple lenders from your couch. Before the advent of internet-based lending, you’d have to drive to several banks and wait for loan officers.
SmartAsset analyzed and determined the best online lenders for a variety of circumstances. Find your ideal lender below, whether you’re a first-time homebuyer, VA or FHA homebuyer or more.
How We Determine the Best Online Mortgage Loan Lenders
SmartAsset’s team of personal finance experts analyzed a number of mortgage lenders ranging from small, startup lending companies to large, established banking institutions. Ranking criteria included customer service and customer satisfaction, rates and fees, online and mobile experience, overall transparency, loan availability, online prequalification and preapproval, content and features.
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|Guaranteed Rate |
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|SoFi Mortgage |
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Best Overall Online Mortgage Lender: Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans
Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans is our top pick for online lenders for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s the online lending arm of Quicken Loans, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the U.S. Additionally, Rocket Mortgage is known for speedy online prequalification and preapproval and has top marks for customer service and customer satisfaction. We also looked at factors such as loan availability and website design, and Rocket Mortgages scored high in those areas as well. As a standalone mortgage lending company, this company is entirely focused on approving the user experience for homebuyers. Compare that to a retail bank that offers dozen of products along with mortgages, and you can see why Rocket Mortgage gets high scores.
Your mortgage options include fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loans, government loans such as FHA and VA loans for a variety of loan term lengths. It offers refinancing as well. Rocket Mortgage also has an option called the YOURgage, where homebuyers have the option to choose term length, anywhere from eight to 30 years. You can pay as little as 3% down with this type of loan. Another option for low down payments is the 1% down payment option the company offers. You can use this loan for a primary residence home purchase.
While Rocket Mortgage has plenty of advantages, there is one rather significant drawback for savvy spenders: uncompetitive rates. Across the board, Rocket Mortgage seems to have higher-than-average mortgage rates. For some, that’s a deal breaker. For others, it might mean shopping around and seeing if you can get Rocket to rate match. That said, Rocket Loans has one of the quickest loan approval timelines and cleanest interfaces, not to mention top-notch customer service, so your choice in lender will depend on what you value most. If you want bottom-of-the-barrel rates, you might want to try Ally Bank or Guaranteed Rate. But for all other needs, Rocket might be the best choice.
Runner-up Best Overall Online Loan Lender: Guaranteed Rate
Guaranteed Rate is a mortgage company that has a high quality online application process as well as 150 physical offices across the U.S. Competitive interest rates aren’t the only advantage to this lending company. You’ll also find all three major government loan types: VA, FHA and USDA as well as a wide array of conventional mortgage options, including fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages. Guaranteed Rate’s customer satisfaction and customer service also rank very high, which helped place this lending company as the runner-up.
As for the company’s online experience, Guaranteed Rate uses an intuitive, fast-loading rate comparison tool and prequalification. You’ll have to provide application information such as personal details, contact information, address, property and income specifics and more. The site’s interface will walk you through the process step-by-step. If you decide to apply for a loan, the application takes about 15 minutes. Guaranteed Rate advertises free credit scores from three credit bureaus, a real approval from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae and digital signatures and uploads all through its digital mortgage application.
If you’re not quite ready to apply or prequalify, you can also look at loan options, read customer reviews, use the calculators and read up about the homebuying process in Guaranteed Rate’s “knowledge center.” Rates are transparent with this company, so you can get an idea if you want to work with this lender or not right from the get-go.
The downside to this company is its fees. In general, Guaranteed Rates fees are slightly higher than competitors, and don’t even come close to online lenders such as SoFi that offer no origination fees. That said, most large lenders do charge fees, so that’s something you’ll have to contend with most of the time. Other than that drawback, there aren’t any major red flags with the company. It has both online and in-person lending, gets high customer service marks, offers the major government loans and has very competitive rates.
Best Online Lender for High-Income Homebuyers: SoFi
High-income homebuyers will enjoy working with SoFi, an online loan startup headquartered in San Francisco. The company started in the student loan arena and branched off into personal and home purchase loans. SoFi has many advantages: the first is no origination fees for mortgage loans. Most lenders charge a percentage of the home loan value as origination fees. In addition to no fees, SoFi allows homebuyers to put as little as 10% down for conventional and jumbo loans up to $3 million with no borrower-paid private mortgage insurance (PMI). Most lenders require 20% down for a conventional loan or you’re obligated to pay for PMI.
SoFi scored high in our analysis for customer service and satisfaction, competitive interest rates, transparency and online experience. You can get a personalized rate quote and prequalification in two minutes, read customer reviews, check rates and apply for a loan all on SoFi’s website. The design is user-friendly. It’s easy to find all the information you need to make an informed decision about the loan options offered.
The downsides are twofold: SoFi doesn’t offer any government loan options and only originates loans in select states. If you’re located in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Idaho or a handful of other states, you’re out of luck with SoFi. Low-income homebuyers who don’t meet conventional loan standards won’t be able to use this lender. SoFi only offers conventional loans and jumbo loans. That means all the programs generally geared for less traditional homebuyers such as USDA loans, VA loans, FHA loans, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs, are absent from SoFi.
Best Bank Online Lender: SunTrust
Southerners will be more familiar with SunTrust as most of its branches are in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi. While retail locations are concentrated in the South, SunTrust originates mortgage loans in all states except Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii or Oregon. SmartAsset found SunTrust to be the top bank online mortgage lender because of the large variety of loan options offered and its excellent online interface. The bank also ranked high for customer service and satisfaction, rates and fees, transparency and more.
Homebuyers can apply for prequalification and the purchase loan online using SunTrust’s well-built website. Information is abundant on the website. You can find everything you need to know about the company’s loan programs and find useful resources such as a first-time homebuyer guide. Current rates are displayed for loan terms ranging from a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to a VA 30-year 5/1 ARM. SunTrust offers all government loan options (USDA, FHA and VA) as well as a few more hard to find options such as HomeReady® and Home Possible® loans, agency plus financing and the doctor loan program. In addition to a wide selection of loans, SunTrust offers home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans. Those options most online-only lenders offer. As a bank, SunTrust offers the best of both worlds: online applications and user-experience with bank products such as those.
SunTrust has many advantages, but there is one drawback. If you’re buying a property in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii or Oregon, you won’t be able to apply for a home. You can use another bank lender, such as Chase or Bank of America, or go with an online-only lender such as Rocket Mortgages/Quicken Loans.