Best Mortgage Lenders | December 2023
Buying a home can feel overwhelming. Your home is one of the biggest purchases of your life, so you want to feel confident. Make sure to put your mind at ease by shopping around to find the best mortgage lender for your circumstances.
Are you thinking about buying a home? If so, comparing rates from at least three lenders is essential. You could save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan just by investing a couple of minutes in shopping for quotes from competing mortgage lenders.
Below is SuperMoney's list of the most-recommended mortgage lenders based on SuperMoney's algorithms and community feedback.
Mortgage Home Loan Vs. Mortgage Refinance
Mortgage refinancing involves replacing your current mortgage with a new one, typically with different terms or a lower interest rate. Homeowners often choose to refinance when interest rates have dropped since they first took out their mortgage, as this can result in lower monthly payments and potentially save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
Refinancing can also be a useful tool for homeowners who want to change the type of mortgage they have (for example, from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate one), pay off their mortgage faster by switching to a shorter-term loan, or tap into their home's equity through a cash-out refinance.
How do mortgages work?
A mortgage is a type of loan that you can use to buy real estate, often a home. The home you buy using a mortgage serves as collateral for the debt. This lets people use mortgages to borrow large amounts of money because securing the loan with the home you buy reduces the lender's risk.
Because homes are so expensive, mortgages typically have very long terms. Many people see 30-year mortgages as the standard, but 15-year mortgages are also very popular.
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will consider many factors, including your income, credit score, and current debts. They'll also appraise the home you plan to buy to make sure it is sufficient to act as collateral for the mortgage.
How do lenders set mortgage rates?
Mortgage rates can be complicated. Many factors influence the rates that lenders charge, and those rates directly impact how much you have to pay for the mortgage.
Interest rates for everything from savings accounts to home loans are affected by major benchmark rates. One of the primary benchmark rates in the United States is the Federal Funds Rate. The Federal Funds Rate is the interest rate that banks use when lending money to each other overnight.
The Federal Reserve manipulates the Federal Funds Rate to help enact its economic policy. When the Fed wants to increase spending, it reduces the rate. If the Fed wants to slow down inflation, it increases the Federal Funds Rate.
Higher Federal Funds Rates correlate to higher rates on mortgages. The lower the Federal Funds Rate, the lower your mortgage rate will tend to be.
Banks set different rates for individual loans. One of the primary things lenders look at when setting mortgage rates is the borrower's credit score. If you have strong credit, you'll get a lower interest rate than someone with poor credit. Those with poor credit could add a cosigner with strong credit to get a lower rate.
You'll also likely get a lower interest rate if you buy a cheaper home. Loans that exceed the conforming loan maximum for your area (called jumbo loans) usually carry higher rates.
What to look for in a mortgage lender
What type of mortgage are you looking for? It may seem like a small distinction on the surface, but the mortgage type you’re looking for can make a big difference in the lender you choose. Financial institutions can specialize in a variety of mortgage types, including:
- Mortgage refinancing.
- Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) loans.
- Jumbo loans.
- Home equity loans.
- Lines of credit.
- Fixed-rate mortgages
- Adjustable-rate mortgages
- Hybrid mortgages (starts off with a fixed rate, then becomes adjustable after the first 10 years of the loan)
- Reverse mortgages (for older homeowners, borrow against the value of your home with no monthly mortgage payments)
If it's your first time buying a home, you're going to have many questions. To this end, you'll want a lender that focuses on customer service. You may also need a bit more financial help depending on your age and income. So, it's a good idea to find a lender that knows its way around FHA loans and other programs with low down payment requirements. Schachter recommends finding a lender that doesn’t only approve perfect-credit, high-worth buyers. These are often out of the realm of their portfolio products, and they don’t focus on the smaller, lower loan amount mortgages. Also, a lender that is a broker (meaning they offer mortgage loans from a variety of lenders) or a banker can offer more product selections." Here are five factors to consider when seeking a mortgage lender:
Speed and accuracy
Most major lenders take 60 to 90 days to close a mortgage. However, a lender with best-in-class service can close a mortgage in as little as three weeks.
Focused on customer service
It's important to find a lender that focuses on customer service who is freely available to answer all the questions that a new buyer will naturally have.
Keeps up with industry trends
A mortgage lender with a focus on continuing education is a must. A licensed loan officer who takes ongoing training is often more knowledgeable about new products and changes in the industry.
Good customer reviews
It's become fairly easy to do your own research on just about any company these days. Check out past client reviews on verified sites, such as SuperMoney, to get a sense of a lender's reputation.
While similar to customer reviews, getting a personal recommendation is even better since you know the messenger. Ask for recommendations from your Realtor, friends, coworkers, and family.
What is the primary purpose of your mortgage?
While many will use it for a primary residence, mortgages can also be used for investment properties, house flipping, estates, trusts, and retirement. Look for a bank that excels at working with mortgage products that fit your specific needs. You may want to weigh the benefits of working with a banker or a broker. Bankers usually work directly for one financial institution, while brokers work with several institutions to shop for a loan. Brokers can save time by helping to shop around quickly, but they may take a percentage of the loan as a brokerage fee. Bankers, by working for the lending institution, eliminate the middle man in the process. Another consideration is the growth of online-only banks and lenders. For more tech-savvy consumers, managing monthly payments and chatting through problems online or via a smartphone may be preferable. The ability to go into a branch and talk to someone you know personally may hold greater appeal for other mortgage buyers.
Other mortgage purchase tips
Get recommendations. Working with a mortgage lender is a service relationship, and getting references from friends and family can help the process. The first place to start for any large purchase, especially a home mortgage, is with trusted advisers and friends. Not for, 'I think my cousin’s neighbor does mortgages now,' but to find out if they have worked with anyone recently and whether their loan originator was knowledgeable and responsive. Ask several sources and see if some of the same names come up.
Compare rates and fees
Mortgage interest rates and fees can change relatively quickly during your home search. Consult several different mortgage companies to see which will offer you the most competitive rates. Also, consider the other fees and closing costs associated with the loan and how that will affect the total amount you need to pay. One way to do this is through a loan estimate from a lender. This form is a detailed document that will outline expected interest, payment amounts, and closing costs. Lenders only give loan estimates after applying for a loan, and such an action results in a hard pull on your credit, which affects your credit score. Make sure you have narrowed it down to a few finalists before proceeding with any loan estimates.
Things to consider
Many types of home loan programs have specific requirements, such as VA loans, which are only available to borrowers in the military, veterans, reservists, and National Guard members. Likewise, many lenders have their own requirements. Many only offer loans to borrowers with good to excellent credit. If your credit isn’t ideal, don’t apply for a loan with a company that states it only accepts borrowers with a credit score of 720 or above. Make sure you’re only applying for loans that you think are achievable for your situation. Talking to a trusted mortgage specialist can help you identify the best solutions for you. How large of a down payment are you planning to make? The industry standard for home loans is 20% down. However, newer lenders, as well as programs such as FHA loans and VA loans, are allowing borrowers to pay anywhere from 0% to 10% down.
Some lenders can offer smaller down payments without requiring the buyer to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). If saving 20% down for a new home doesn’t seem reasonable, consider a bank specializing in lower down payment loans. You may also want to consider what is known as a piggyback loan. This is where you take out two loans: one for 80% of the home's value and another loan to cover the cash needed to reach a 20% down payment and avoid PMI. Another thing to consider is how quickly you need the loan. There are many parts of the process of obtaining a home loan. Depending on what tools and resources a financial institution have at its disposal, the time needed from start to finish in the loan process can vary by weeks. Ask potential lenders how much of your loan will be processed in-house. Not all companies keep their loan officers, processors, and underwriters in the same location, and that has the potential to lead to disconnects and a slower overall pace.
How to get the home of your dreams
The home buying process can be stressful. However, certain things can be done to make you feel more comfortable. Asking questions will be your best tool during the entire process, whether that’s recommendations from friends or hard-hitting questions from a banker or broker. Once you understand the type of mortgage you need, head to our home loans page to find the company that best meets those needs.
Frequently asked questions about the best mortgage lenders
Do you still have questions about getting the best mortgage rates? Here's a quick guide with answers to the most frequently asked questions on the topic.
Where can you get the best 30-year mortgage rates?
Each lender offers a different rate on their 30-year fixed mortgage, and that rate can change every day until you sign the paperwork. To find the best mortgage rate for you, you should review offers from multiple reputable lenders. Then, get quotes from your three top picks to find out which one can offer you the best deal.
Why do 30-year mortgage rates change every day?
The current mortgage rates are based on the strength of the overall economy and the amount of risk you present as a borrower. Lenders adjust their rates each weekday morning, Monday through Friday, to respond to the market.
When the economy is strong, rates tend to rise. When it's weak, rates tend to fall. If something happens, causing consumer confidence and spending to change, you will likely see that reflected in the rates shortly after. For example, when the pandemic hit in 2020 and triggered a recession, mortgage rates dropped.
With these regular fluctuations, it's good to keep a close eye on the market if you plan on buying soon.
Why does a 30-year fixed mortgage rate vary from one lender to the next?
Home loan lenders vary in the amount of risk they are willing to tolerate and their desired profit margins. Being so, they each have their own practices when it comes to setting rates and analyzing risk. However, you have the power to compare many companies side-by-side to find the best fit for you.
What personal factors impact my mortgage rate?
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will analyze the level of risk you present. In other words, they want to find out how likely you are to meet the mortgage agreement throughout the life of the loan.
The factors they will consider in assessing your risk include your employment, income, assets, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio. Requirements can vary by lender, so it's smart to compare the mortgage eligibility requirements when vetting potential companies.
The lower your credit score and the more unstable your financial picture, the higher your interest rates and costs. However, the opposite is also true.
What is a mortgage rate lock?
A mortgage rate lock enables you to lock-in a rate so that it doesn't go up before you are ready to buy. You often have to pay a mortgage lock fee for this service, and you only get the guaranteed rate for a specified amount of time (typically 30 to 60 days). Because loan rates can fluctuate so much, rate locks can be helpful when the market is expected to strengthen as it will cause mortgage rates to increase. You can receive a guarantee that you will get the rate you lock in no matter what happens in the market.
Is a 30-year fixed loan or 15 year fixed loan better?
Most lenders offer both a 30-year fixed mortgage and 15-year fixed mortgage options. So which loan type is better for you? It depends as both have pros and cons.
A 30-year mortgage spreads the cost of your house out over a longer period. It lowers your monthly payment amount, making it more affordable. However, in the long run, you pay more interest. Further, the interest rate is usually a bit higher on a 30-year mortgage.
If you can afford the monthly payments on a shorter-term, a 15-year fixed mortgage, it can save you overall on the total cost of your home.
For example, say you buy a house that costs $284,000, and you put down $10,000 (3.5%).
Fixed-rate APR 30-year: 2.84%
Fixed-rate APR 15-year: 2.3%
With the 15 year loan, your monthly payments would be $1,801, while they would only be $1,132 with a 30-year loan. However, the 30-year loan would end up costing you an estimated $83,170 more overall.
Despite the savings of the 15-year fixed option, most people opt for the 30-year mortgage.
Should I refinance to get a lower 30-year fixed rate?
If you have a 30-year fixed rate loan and notice that today's 30-year rates are much lower, refinancing may be a smart idea. Keep in mind, you'll want to consider the closing costs, cost per month, and overall cost to see if it's worth it.
If you are 10 years into your loan and you refinance extending your loan by 10 years, you will pay more in interest even though your rate is lower. Further, if the closing costs counteract your savings, it will be a wash or loss. However, if shorter-term loans are available and the closing costs are low, you may be able to save thousands.
You can use a mortgage calculator to run the numbers and see if it makes sense.
How should I compare 30-year fixed rate mortgages?
You can compare the base 30-year fixed rates by looking at the list above. This will tell you the lowest possible rate you can get from a specific lender. However, to get a better idea of what the rates will look like for you, it's important to dig a little deeper.
Look into each of the lenders to determine the mortgage loan amounts they offer and the eligibility requirements. It's also a good idea to check what past customers say about a lender. Do they provide quality customer service? Will they be actually servicing the loan, or what should you expect?
Once you find the mortgage lenders that seem like a good fit, you should apply to find out what your actual 30-year fixed rate will be. Then, you can compare the actual rates and costs to see which company will offer you the lowest monthly payment and overall cost.
How to get the best mortgage lenders for a 30-year fixed mortgage rate
To get the best deal on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and get the lowest monthly payments possible, you'll need to get a few things in order.
- First, get your credit score in the best shape possible. Start working on it in the months or even years leading up to buying a house. Ensure your debt utilization is low (under 30%), make your payments on time, maintain a variety of credit types, and check periodically for inaccuracies.
- Build your savings. By showing you have money saved up in the bank, it makes you less of a risk as you have a backup system in place to make your payments.
- Don't change jobs. If you can maintain your same job, it helps to show consistency to lenders, which reduces the level of risk you present.
- You'll need to shop around. Learn the average mortgage rates in the market and be aware of market conditions. Are rates supposed to go up or down in the near future? If they are going to go up, consider a rate lock. Also, be sure to check with a few reputable lenders to ensure you get a competitive deal.
A little prework can save you a few basis points to a few percentage points, which makes a big difference over the life of the loan.
Do I need a good credit score to get approved by the best mortgage lenders?
A good credit score certainly helps when getting a mortgage, as it gets you a lower rate. A lower interest rate means a lower monthly mortgage payment and overall cost. However, it's not necessarily required.
You can get approved with poor credit, although you will face higher rates. But there are programs in place to help. For example, the Federal Housing Administration offers the FHA loan program, which is available to first-time homebuyers with credit scores as low as 580. While it will likely be more difficult to get a home loan with a bad credit score, it's still possible.
What is the lowest 30-year mortgage rate ever?
The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate has been on a downward trend since 1981, when rates hit 16.63%. And before COVID, it hit the lowest point in 2016 when the average 30-year rate was 3.65%. However, in 2020, we saw rates drop to rock bottom, below 3%. As the economy recovers, the interest rates are expected to rebound to some degree.
How do 30-year fixed mortgage rates work?
30-year fixed mortgages are used to buy a home. You then repay the loan through monthly payments that extend over the 30-year term. You are also required to carry mortgage insurance to protect the home for the duration of the loan.
This loan type involves principal and interest payments. If you happen to pay off the loan early, you can potentially save on the interest costs (assuming there's no prepayment penalty).
One of the benefits of fixed loans is their predictability. When you sign the loan, you can see the breakdown of your principal and interest payments over the 30-year period.
Is there a difference between the annual percentage rate (APR) and the interest rate?
While erroneously used interchangeably, there is a key difference between an interest rate and an annual percentage rate (APR). The interest rate shows the cost you'll pay each year to borrow the money. The APR includes the rate plus any fees or other charges you'll need to pay.
Are adjustable or fixed-rate mortgage loans better?
A 30-year fixed mortgage rate is set when you initiate the mortgage, and it doesn't change at any time over the life of the loan. On the other hand, 30-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) can change. Often, ARMs come with an initial fixed period where the rate doesn't change. Then, when the period ends, it can fluctuate. For example, a 5 1 adjustable-rate (5 1 ARM) is fixed for five years and then adjusts every year thereafter.
Fixed loans typically start with a higher rate than an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) but can end up lower in the long run. The risk is especially high with a 30-year loan due to the effects of inflation.
In short, a 30-year fixed interest rate mortgage is better if you value predictability and want to know your payment amount is set in stone. An adjustable-rate may be cheaper upfront, so it can help you plan to move or refinance. However, keep in mind, it can be risky in the long run.
What should I look for when choosing a mortgage lender?
Here are five tips to help you choose a mortgage lender when buying your first home.
1.Know your credit score and history. 2.Ask about first-time homebuyer programs. 3.Seek lenders who offer government-backed home loans. 4.Compare interest rates. 5.Get pre-approved before house shopping.
Is it better to get a home loan from a bank or lender?
There are several advantages to using an independent mortgage broker over a bank or mortgage banker. Brokers have several lenders they can submit your loan application to. This makes them an attractive option, especially for borrowers with difficult loans, such as low credit scores or income issues.
Does shopping around for a mortgage hurt credit?
You can shop around for a mortgage, and it will not hurt your credit. You can shop around and get multiple pre-approvals and official loan estimates. The impact on your credit is the same no matter how many lenders you consult, as long as the last credit check is within 45 days of the first credit check.
How far back does a mortgage credit check go?
Mortgage lenders will typically assess the last six years of the applicant's credit history for any issues.
How many times do mortgage lenders check your credit?
When borrowers apply for a mortgage loan, their mortgage lenders run their credit at least once. Whether these lenders check their borrowers' credit more than once during the lending process is a matter of personal preference. There are no firm rules in place forcing lenders to run a credit check more than once.
Find the best mortgage lenders for your situation
Now you know that mortgage rates can vary based on a wide range of factors. To find the best 30-year fixed interest rate, you need to do a bit of homework.
Compare the companies above to find those that best fit your needs. Then, contact them to find out what actual interest rate they can offer you. Remember, the mortgage rates advertised on lender websites are the lowest possible rates. That doesn't mean that's the rate you will get.
Once you have a few quotes, compare them to find the best mortgage rates and terms for you!