The 9 best mortgage lenders for 2020
Below are the nine best mortgage lenders this year. We selected these companies based on their customer service, expertise, selection of loan products, and generally competitive rates.
One of these may be the best mortgage lender for you. Just remember, it’s important to compare options from more than one company before choosing.
You can do that here.
J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Score1
Complaints per 1,000 Customers2
Minimum Credit Score
Fairway Independent Mortgage
Guild Mortgage Company
Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage
Navy Federal Credit Union*
*These lenders only serve veterans, service members, and certain eligible spouses
Editor’s note: The Mortgage Reports may be compensated by some of these lenders if you choose to work with them. However, that does not affect our reviews. See our full editorial disclosures.
In this article (Skip to…)
The 9 best mortgage lenders
- Fairway Independent Mortgage Co.
- Guild Mortgage Co.
- Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage
- US Bank
- Guaranteed Rate
- Veterans United
- Navy Federal Credit Union
1. Fairway Independent Mortgage
Fairway isn’t the biggest mortgage company. But it earned its top spot among the best mortgage lenders.
That’s because Fairway Independent Mortgage has a winning combination of:
- Great customer satisfaction scores — “better than most,” according to J.D. Power
- Almost no complaints from customers — just 0.08 complaints per thousand customers
That means a lot. Customer reviews are the best way to figure out how well a mortgage company is doing its job. And high reviews coupled with low complaints means Fairway is doing exceptionally well.
Other perks of working with Fairway Mortgage include:
- Great online and app functionality
- Expert, person-to-person help at the end of the phone
- Lots of mortgage product choices, including VA and USDA loans
- Loans for credit scores as low as 580 (but every application is different so that’s not a promise)
What’s the catch? None, really.
But you do have to plug in personal information before you get any kind of rate estimate. So you won’t know how competitive your rate is likely to be at the click of a button.
2. Guild Mortgage Company
In the J.D. Power 2019 Mortgage Origination Study, Guild came just a single point (out of 1,000) behind Fairway. And it ranks second for CFPB complaints.
So you can be highly confident about Guild Mortgage’s customer service standards.
What else is there to like? Well, Guild has:
- Branches in 31 southern and western states. Licensed in 48 states
- Wide portfolio of mortgage products
- You can get a VA loan with a score as low as 580, A USDA loan with 600, and other loan types with 620
- Will consider alternative credit information if your credit score isn’t high
When comparing competitive quotes from different lenders, just make sure you check Guild’s lender fees.
Some reckon they’re higher than some competitors’.
3. Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage
Rocket Mortgage is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quicken Loans, so we’re combining their spot in third place.
If you’ve looked at other mortgage lender reviews, you might wonder why Quicken and Rocket aren’t in first place, like they tend to be elsewhere.
There are two reasons. First, because Quicken and Rocket have slightly higher complaint numbers than our top picks.
Second, because their interest rates are often a bit higher than competitors’. (Or on par, but with two or more discount points required— each discount point is a fee equal to 1% of the loan amount.)
In all other regards, though, Quicken and Rocket excel.
They’re America’s biggest mortgage lenders, and have taken first place in J.D. Power’s satisfaction survey 10 years straight.
In, addition, Quicken and Rocket offer:
- Top-notch technology. Rocket lets you do the whole mortgage process online
- Great range of products, including Quicken’s “Yourgage,” which effectively lets you pick your own loan term
- Help if you have a low credit score or lots of debt — 580 minimum score and 50% maximum debt-to-income ratio
On that last point, just remember that each application is treated individually and you may need to be a good borrower in other respects to get either of those.
Choose Quicken if you think you’ll want traditional support from a loan officer and Rocket if you don’t.
Check your mortgage rate with Quicken Loans today, September 23, 2020
4. US Bank
US Bank is the only mainstream bank to make it onto our list of the best mortgage lenders. US Bank scored highly for customer service in the J.D. Power survey. So what’s hot about it? Well, it has a:
- A 3,000-strong network of branches for face-to-face meetings
- Willingness to consider alternative credit history if you have a lower FICO score
- Wide portfolio of mortgage types, including FHA, VA, and USDA loans
- Strong online and mobile functionality
US Bank also offers construction loans, and a no-closing-cost refinance called the Smart Refinance.
Just be aware that it didn’t do so well for CFPB complaints.
LoanDepot is another strong contender for fans of technology.
If its claims for its proprietary mello smartloan product are true, loanDepot’s online tools might significantly reduce your closing time.
In addition, loanDepot offers:
- 200 offices for face-to-face meetings
- Ultra-slick online services
- Loan approvals with credit scores as low as 580, though only on limited mortgage types
- A broad range of mortgages
All in all, loanDepot is good all-around, especially for technophiles. But be ready to deliver plenty of personal data to get an idea of the mortgage rate for which you qualify.
6. Guaranteed Rate
If your only concern is accessing the best mortgage rates then Guaranteed Rate is likely to be on your shortlist. This lender has a reputation for undercutting competitors’ rate offers.
Additionally, Guaranteed Rate boasts:
- Good customer service scores and few complaints
- Branches in 46 states. Licensed to lend in all 50
- Plenty of different types of mortgages to choose from
- Strong IT functionality for online applications and information
But there’s a caveat to its low-rate offering. This lender specializes in those with good or great credit.
So if your score isn’t top-notch, you may have to look elsewhere.
This credit union topped the J.D. Power survey with a customer satisfaction score of an incredible 900. On that basis, you could argue that it’s the best mortgage lender in America.
The only reason USAA (and the next two companies) are so far down on our list, is that they only serve US military members and veterans. So most people won’t be able to work with them.
But for those who qualify, USAA mortgage lending has some great perks:
- You don’t need to get a VA loan; USAA offers other types of mortgages too
- That said, USAA has years of specialized experience and service for VA loans
- You may need a minimum credit score of 620 with USAA, even though the VA itself has a lower floor
If you’re eligible for membership, we strongly recommend getting a mortgage quote from USAA.
8. Veterans United
Veterans United is by far and away the most popular (read: biggest lender) for VA home loans.
VU customers are big fans, giving it 891/1,000 in the J.D. Power survey. And of almost 4,400 reviews on Trustpilot (at the time of writing), 95% scored it as excellent while 3% thought it good.
Veterans United also has a lower rate of CFPB complaints even than USAA or Navy Federal.
What else do you need to know? VU has:
- Great online functionality and 24/7 telephone support
- A range of mortgages besides VA loans
- 25 branches nationwide
- A minimum credit score of 660, in most cases
- If you have lower credit, Veterans United’s Lighthouse Program will provide you with one-on-one support to help you build it so you qualify
Veterans United is a surefire candidate for your shortlist if you want a VA loan. And its worth considering if you’re a veteran or service member who wants another kind of mortgage.
9. Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal is another of our military specialists that could claim to be the best mortgage lender.
Why? Its customer satisfaction scores are only a little lower than those of its competitors and easily beat Quicken Loans, which is the top mainstream lender.
And it may give you a lower mortgage rate.
You won’t know that for sure until you get a quote. But our sampling suggests it often beats its main competition on rates.
Navy Federal mortgage also offers:
- Lower credit score threshold than other big VA lenders, starting at just 580
- Willingness to consider alternative credit data, such as on-time payments for rent, utilities and so on
- Slick website with good functionality
- Lots of different mortgage types, besides VA loans
Again, if you’re eligible for membership with this credit union (the biggest in the world) then you’ll likely add it to your shortlist.
Are local mortgage lenders any good?
You may notice our picks for best mortgage lenders are all large companies.
These major lenders are available to most people, and big enough to rated by official agencies. This lets us review mortgage lenders objectively.
But there are plenty of smaller and local companies worth looking into as well.
Scroll down for resources to help you compare rates and mortgage companies, even if they’re not on this list.
What are mortgage rates today?
Mortgage rates have hit record lows 9 times since the beginning of 2020. Maybe more by the time you read this.
That makes it an uncommonly good time to lock in a rate for a home purchase or refinance.
Below are today’s lowest average rates*, as filed by The Mortgage Reports’ lender network:
|Loan Type||Today’s Average Rate|
|Conventional 30-year FRM||2.875% (2.875% APR)|
|Conventional 15-year FRM||2.625% (2.625% APR)|
|FHA 30-year FRM||2.25% (3.226% APR)|
|VA 30-year FRM||2.25% (2.421% APR)|
|VA 15-year FRM||2.25% (2.571% APR)|
*Rates shown reflect averages for “prime” borrowers. Your own rate will vary. See our full loan assumptions here.
How to get the best mortgage rates
Your mortgage rate depends on how “good” your application looks to lenders. To get the lowest rate, you need a high credit score, solid down payment, few debts, and other features that make you look like a responsible borrower.
With that in mind, there are steps you can take leading up to your mortgage application to ensure you get the best rate possible:
- Actively manage your credit score — Check out our Guide to improving your credit score for tips
- Pay down as much debt as you can — This mostly applies to credit card balances. You want them all to be below 30% of your credit limits. But, if you have a small amount left on an auto loan or personal loan, see if you can pay that off before you apply. That will reduce your monthly outgoings on debt
- Shop around with 3-4 lenders, minimum — you could lose thousands or tens of thousands over your mortgage’s lifetime if you apply to just one or two lenders
- Compare quotes carefully — Learn how to read your loan estimate, and find the lowest rates and closing costs in this article
- Watch out for closing costs — Don’t be dazzled by headline rates on quotes. See how much you’ll pay on closing, too
- Consider buying discount points — Discount points are an option on closing. They let you buy a slightly lower mortgage rate by paying a bit more when you close. If you can afford their cost, model your options using a mortgage calculator
Some lenders sneakily reduce the rates they offer in their quotes by assuming you’re going to buy discount points. Others don’t.
There’s nothing wrong with discount points if you want them. But you need to compare rates on equal footing. So make sure your loan estimates factor in the same amount of points.
How to shop for a mortgage
Different lenders tend to specialize in different types of borrowers.
One might be the best at helping “top-tier” borrowers (those with stellar credit scores, large down payments, etc.), while another might offer much better rates and programs for those with weaker applications.
That means there’s likely a mortgage company out there with a great deal waiting for you.
The catch? You won’t know which one it is until you’ve compared loan estimates side by side.
Plan to dedicate a few hours to filling out applications, before you’ll know which company is really best for you. We recommend checking with three or four lenders minimum.
If you struggle to access your Gmail account, you may find an end-to-end online offering, such as Rocket Mortgage’s, just too much.
But if you live somewhere seriously remote, you might welcome an e-signing option that saves you a lot of traveling.
Choosing the right loan type
You’ll also need to find the type of mortgage that suits you best.
If you’re eligible for a VA loan, it’s likely you’ll want one. But assuming you’re not, you’ll need to decide whether a conventional, conventional, FHA, USDA or other loan type is best for you.
Compare mortgage loan types:
|Loan Type||Min. Down Payment||Min. Credit Score||Mortgage Insurance Required If <20% Down||Special Eligibility Requirements|
|VA||0%||N/A (Often 620)||No||Yes|
Finding the right loan type is personal.
You have to consider your own goals; for instance, do you want the lowest down payment possible? The lowest monthly payment possible? Do you have a lower credit score and need extra flexibility?
For more information about each loan type and help choosing, see our complete guide to types of home loans.
Mortgage lenders FAQ
The straight answer is that Wells Fargo is the number one mortgage lender for loan volume. But the “best” lender for you really depends on the rates and costs you’re quoted. Other top lenders we recommend checking rates from include: Fairway Independent, Guild Mortgage Company, Quicken Loans, Rocket Mortgage, loanDepot, US Bank, and Guaranteed Rate.
Some lenders are more easygoing that others when assessing borrowers. But often lenders’ minimum requirements are imposed on them by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the federal government.
These agencies “guarantee” loans, and set thresholds for things like credit scores and down payment sizes. So your first priority is to decide on the best type of mortgage for you.
Government-backed loans like FHA, VA, and USDA are typically easier to qualify for. Once you know what you’re looking for, finding the right lender gets much easier.
You’ll need to get prequalified by a lender before you hunt for a home. Rate shopping happens later, once you’ve found the property you want. It’s a four-step process:
1. Decide on the type of mortgage you need
2. Request quotes from multiple lenders
3. Compare your quotes carefully
4. Choose the deal that’s best for you
You’ll find all the information you need, together with links to more detailed explanations, above.
30-year mortgage rates just recently hit their lowest average to date, hitting 2.86% in September 2020.
But be aware that most of the rates advertised are for top-tier borrowers; those with stellar credit scores, big down payments, few other debts, and significant assets.
Your own ‘lowest mortgage rate’ will depend on your unique application. Check with a few different lenders to find out what that is.
If you’re a veteran or a service member, the easiest mortgage to qualify for is probably a VA loan. If you’re buying somewhere rural or suburban, it might be a USDA loan. And the easiest mortgage to qualify for if you’re credit-challenged is the FHA loan. For those with smaller savings, it’s also relatively easy to qualify for a conventional loan with 3% down.
Both VA loans and USDA loans allow you to get a mortgage with no money down. But every other type of mainstream mortgage requires at least 3.0% of the appraised value of the home.
If that’s a little more than you’re able to put down, look into down payment assistance (DPA) programs across the country that can help cover your down payment with grants or low-interest loans.
Mortgage brokers are like retail outlets for multiple lenders. And they may find you the lowest rate you can get. Or they may not. So by all means consult a broker. But don’t rely on one. Get your own quotes in parallel and compare all your offers.
Subsidized mortgages such as FHA and VA loans are designed to finance your primary residence. You could use one of these to buy multi-family real estate, such as a duplex or 4-unit condo complex, but you’d need to live in one of the units. Conventional loans do not have these kinds of requirements so they often work best for real estate investments.
The down payment you’re required to make depends more on the type of loan you’re using than the lender.
Conventional loans often allow as low as 3% down (look for the Conventional 97, HomeReady, and Home Possible loans); FHA loans start at 3.5% down; and VA and USDA loans don’t require any down payment.
So check what loan types a lender offers if you want to know how large of a down payment you’ll need.
Many home buyers have to pay for mortgage insurance, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
PMI is typically required on mortgages with less than 20% down, so if you want to use a low- or no-down-payment mortgage you’ll likely have to pay for it. (The one exception is a zero-down VA loan.)
PMI is a good thing in the sense that it can help you buy a home much sooner than would otherwise be possible. And, it’s possible to refinance into a loan without PMI later on.
Most homebuyers choose a fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) over an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM).
Fixed-rate mortgages have the same rate and payment over the life of the loan, so there are no surprise costs.
Adjustable-rate mortgages have a fixed rate for the first few years (usually 5-7), then your rate can move up or down with markets.
An ARM might be good if you plan to sell in a few years. Otherwise, it presents the danger of your mortgage rate and payment eventually increasing.
Online mortgage lenders let you apply for a loan, upload documents, track your progess, and sometimes even close online. Many borrowers prefer this process because it can be more convenient than working with a loan officer in person or over the phone.
However, if you don’t like or aren’t comfortable managing your finances online, then one of these lenders likely isn’t right for you.
Theoretically, it’s possible to get an FHA mortgage loan with a credit score as low as 500 (and a down payment of 10%). But it’s tough to find lenders that are this lenient in practice.
You’re much more likely to find FHA loans starting at a 580 credit score. The same goes for VA loans.
Most other mortgage types require a credit score of 620 or higher. That includes conventional loans, USDA loans, jumbo loans, and home equity loans.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the broader economy, interest rates for home loans have reached record lows in 2020. To access the market’s lowest rates you’ll need a strong credit score (think 720+), a decent down payment, and a lender whose strengths match your specific home buying needs.
Many lenders will prequalify you for a mortgage based on a stated credit score or a “soft pull” that does not hurt your credit.
However, you’ll need a preapproval — which is different from a prequalification — before you can start house hunting. Pre-approval requires more documentation and a hard credit check, which will likely ding your credit score.
Note, if you get all your mortgage quotes within a reasonable shopping period (usually 2-4 weeks), they’ll be counted as one instance so your score is not dinged multiple times.
No, being self-employed shouldn’t affect your mortgage rate, but it could make getting qualified more difficult.
Lenders want to document how much money you make during the application process which is more difficult for self-employed applicants.
Check with your lender before applying to find out whether your employment status will affect the underwriting process.
Yes, most lenders sell mortgage loans to mortgage servicing companies. This process creates the liquidity lenders need to make additional loans.
But the loan terms you finalize with your lender will stay in place even when your loan servicer changes. So choosing the best mortgage lender still has long-lasting advantages.
If your loan is sold, you’ll be notified of where to send your payments several months before the change takes effect.
Recep: The 9 best mortgage lenders
- Fairway Independent Mortgage Co. — Top customer service, few complaints
- Guild Mortgage Co. — Top customer service, few complaints
- Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage — Top customer service, online application
- US Bank — Wide variety of loans, plenty of branches
- loanDepot — Online application, faster closing
- Guaranteed Rate — Generally low rates, online application
- USAA — Top customer satisfaction, VA loan specialists
- Veterans United — Top customer satisfaction, VA loan specialists
- Navy Federal Credit Union — Top customer satisfaction, VA loan specialists
Remember, mortgage rates change daily.
So once you find a lender you like, keep an eye out for low rates and be prepared to lock.
You can get a head start by requesting personalized rate estimates below.
1J.D. Power satisfaction scores taken from the 2019 US Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey. Overall scores are based on ratings from 4,602 survey respondents. Areas scored include: application/approval process, communication, loan closing, and loan offerings
2Complaints per 1,000 customers based on the number of official complaints filed against a company, divided by that company’s total number of purchase originations in 2018. Complaints sourced from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaint database, and origination information sourced from the CFPB’s 2018 Mortgage Trends Report)
Published at Wed, 23 Sep 2020 11:00:32 +0000