The home-buying process is notoriously stressful and oftentimes confusing, especially if you’re taking on a mortgage to finance most of your purchase. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to the mortgage application process, so Select rounded up a list of five of the best mortgage lenders to help you streamline the process and find a lender that best suits your needs.
We evaluated lenders based on the types of loans offered, customer support, and minimum down payment amount, among others (see our methodology below.)
However, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when you’re looking to apply for a mortgage. First off, mortgage interest rates can fluctuate quite often, however, the rate you are likely to receive will heavily depend on your location, credit score, and credit report. While you can take a look at each lender’s website to get an idea of what interest rates they charge, the best way to get a solid idea of what you will be charged is to provide the necessary information to check your rate.
The mortgage approval and acceptance process come with many fees, collectively called “lender fees.” This can include an origination fee, processing fee, application fee, and underwriting fee. In addition to lender fees, you may also pay a document preparation fee, an appraisal fee, title search fee, title insurance, and more. According to ValuePenguin, lender fees can run you an average of an additional $1,387.
Some lenders may waive certain fees or provide discounts on fees. It’s always a good idea to ask which fees have the potential to be waived but when you decide to move forward with a particular loan from a lender, prepare yourself to account for these additional charges.
Lastly, it’s important to do your homework so you can be sure you’re choosing the lender that can suit your needs whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or purchasing an investment property. We have included an FAQ section below to help you familiarize yourself with some aspects of the process, but if you have other more specific questions, reach out to a representative or an advisor at your desired lender.
Select picks for the top five mortgage lenders
- Best for lower credit scores: Rocket Mortgage
- Best for flexible down payment options: Chase Bank
- Best for no fees: Ally Bank
- Best for flexible loan options: PNC Bank
- Best for saving money: SoFi
Best for lower credit scores
Who’s this for? Rocket Mortgage is one of the biggest U.S. mortgage lenders and has become a household name. Most mortgage lenders look for a minimum credit score of 620 but Rocket Mortgage accepts applicants with lower credit scores at 580.
The lender even has a program called the Fresh Start program that’s aimed at helping potential applicants boost their credit scores before applying. Keep in mind, though, that if you apply for a mortgage with a lower credit score, you may be subject to interest rates on the higher end of the lender’s APR range.
This lender offers conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, and jumbo loans but not USDA loans, which means this lender may not be the most appealing for potential homebuyers who want to make a purchase with a 0% down payment. Rocket Mortgage doesn’t offer construction loans (if you want to build a brand new custom home) or HELOCs, but if you’re a homebuyer who only plans to purchase a single-family home, a second home, or a condo that’s already on the market, this shouldn’t be a drawback for you.
This lender offers flexible loan repayment terms that range from 8 – 29 years in addition to standard 15-year and 30-year terms.
On average, it takes about 47 days to close on a home through Rocket Mortgage. However, keep in mind that, in general, much of the closing timeline will depend on how quickly you can provide all the information and documentation that’s needed and whether or not they can be processed without a major hitch.
Best for flexible down payment options
Who’s this for? Chase Bank provides several options for homebuyers who would prefer to make a lower down payment on their home. The traditional advice has been to make a down payment that’s about 20% of the price of the home, however, Chase offers a loan option called the Dreamaker loan that would allow homebuyers to make a down payment that’s as low as 3% (by comparison, the FHA loan requires borrowers to make a 3.5% down payment).
This option is made for those who can only afford a smaller down payment, but it also comes with stricter income requirements compared to their other loans (the annual income used to qualify the customer must not exceed 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), according to the Chase team). If you meet the income requirements for the Dreamaker loan, this option could be very attractive for those who would prefer to make a down payment that’s as small as possible so they can have more money reserved for other homebuying expenses.
In addition to the Dreamaker loan, Chase also offers a conventional loan, FHA loan, VA loan, and jumbo loan (USDA loans and HELOCs are not offered by this lender). Much like other lenders, Chase has a minimum credit score requirement of 620 for their mortgage options.
Chase offers mortgage terms that range from 10 years to 30 years, as well as fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM). This lender also offers discounts for existing customers, but the requirements are rather high: For $500 off your mortgage processing fee, you need to have $150,000–$499,999 between Chase deposit accounts and Chase investment accounts; $500,000 or more in these accounts can get you up to $1,150 off the processing fee.
On top of this, Chase provides a number of resources to help their customers navigate the process and feel comfortable managing their mortgage, including online customer support, mortgage calculators, and educational articles. Chase customers typically close on their house within three weeks.
Best for no lender fees
Who’s this for? It’s common for lenders to charge a number of fees on mortgage applications, including an application fee, origination fee, processing fee, and underwriting fee — these fees can end up costing a significant amount during the home-buying process. Ally Bank doesn’t charge any of these fees (they may, however, charge an appraisal fee and recording fee, and may charge title search and insurance). You can get pre-approved for a loan in as little as three minutes online and submit your application in just 15 minutes as long as you have all the necessary documents handy.
Ally offers a HomeReady mortgage program that is geared toward low- to mid-income homebuyers (regardless of whether it’s their first time or if they’re a repeat buyer) that would allow them to put down as little as 3% for a down payment. Applicants must also have a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 50%, their income must be equal to or less than 80% of the area’s median income and at least one borrower must take a homeowner education course.
In addition to this loan option, homebuyers can also apply for a jumbo loan (FHA loans, VA, and USDA loans are not available through this lender). Customers can also choose between fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgages, and 15-year, 20-year, and 30-year loan terms.
Ally Bank customers also take an average of 36 days to close on their homes. One important drawback, though, is that Ally mortgage loans are not available in every state — residents of Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, and New York would be unable to apply.
Best for flexible loan options
Who’s this for? It’s sometimes tough to find lenders that offer USDA loans in addition to other standard mortgage options, but PNC Bank includes USDA loans in its lineup. This lender also offers conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, jumbo loans, and a PNC Bank Community Loan, which is a special program that allows homebuyers to put down as little as 3% (without paying private mortgage insurance) while still choosing between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgage terms.
This lender also offers a special loan option catered to medical professionals who are looking to buy a primary residence only. With this loan, medical professionals can apply for as much as $1 million and won’t have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), regardless of their down payment amount. They can also choose between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate terms.
PNC Bank offers online and in-person mortgage application processes, which can be a plus for homebuyers who don’t live near a PNC Bank location but still want to apply for a loan. You can get online pre-approval in as little as 30 minutes as long as you have all the documentation on hand and similar to most other lenders, PNC Bank has a minimum credit score requirement of 620.
Best for saving money
Who’s this for? SoFi offers homebuyers a number of discounts that can help them save as much money as possible throughout their home buying process. When you lock in the 30-year rate for a conventional loan, you can receive a 0.25% discount. And when you purchase a home through the SoFi Real Estate Center, which is powered by HomeStory, you can receive up to $9,500 in cash back. Another appealing perk is that SoFi members can get a $500 discount on their mortgage loans.
This lender offers an online-only experience for those looking to qualify for a conventional loan, jumbo loan, or HELOC (SoFi doesn’t offer FHA, VA, or USDA mortgage loans). Terms range from 10 to 30 years and are both fixed and adjustable-rate. Similar to most other lenders, SoFi considers applicants with a minimum credit score of 620.
Homebuyers can also take advantage of a host of resources from SoFi, like a home affordability calculator, a mortgage calculator, and a home improvement cost calculator, which can really come in handy if you’re purchasing a home that needs some work done and you need to figure out ahead of time how much to budget for renovations.
Just keep in mind, though, that SoFi’s mortgage loans are only available in 47 states and Washington, D.C. — residents of Hawaii, New York, and New Mexico would be unable to apply.
To determine which mortgage lenders are the best, Select analyzed dozens of U.S. mortgages offered by both online and brick-and-mortar banks, including large credit unions, that come with fixed-rate APRs and flexible loan amounts and terms to suit an array of financing needs.
When narrowing down and ranking the best mortgages, we focused on the following features:
- Fixed-rate APR: Variable rates can go up and down over the lifetime of your loan. With a fixed rate APR, you lock in an interest rate for the duration of the loan’s term, which means your monthly payment won’t vary, making your budget easier to plan.
- Types of loans offered: The most common kinds of mortgage loans include conventional loans, FHA loans and VA loans. In addition to these loans, lenders may also offer USDA loans and jumbo loans. Having more options available means the lender is able to cater to a wider range of applicant needs. We have also considered loans that would suit the needs of borrowers who plan to purchase their second home or a rental property.
- Closing timeline: The lenders on our list are able to offer closing timelines that vary from as promptly as two weeks after the home purchase agreement has been signed to as many as 45 days after the agreement has been signed. Specific closing timelines have been noted for each lender.
- Fees: Common fees associated with mortgage applications include origination fees, application fees, underwriting fees, processing fees, and administrative fees. We evaluate these fees in addition to other features when determining the overall offer from each lender. Though some lenders on this list do not charge these fees, we have noted any instances where a lender does charge such fees.
- Flexible minimum and maximum loan amounts/terms: Each mortgage lender provides a variety of financing options that you can customize based on your monthly budget and how long you need to pay back your loan.
- No early payoff penalties: The mortgage lenders on our list do not charge borrowers for paying off the loan early.
- Streamlined application process: We considered whether lenders offered a convenient, fast online application process and/or an in-person procedure at local branches.
- Customer support: Every mortgage lender on our list provides customer service available via telephone, email, or secure online messaging. We also opted for lenders with an online resource hub or advice center to help you educate yourself about the personal loan process and your finances.
- Minimum down payment: Although minimum down payment amounts depend on the type of loan a borrower applies for, we noted lenders that offer additional specialty loans that come with a lower minimum down payment amount.