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Best Mortgage Lenders

Rocket Mortgage is our top lender overall

We recommend the best products through an independent review process, and advertisers do not influence our picks. We may receive compensation if you visit partners we recommend. Read our advertiser disclosure for more info.

The best mortgage lenders offer competitive rates and terms consumers can benefit from, yet they also take steps to reduce the hassle and stress involved in a home purchase or refinance. They do this by offering ample online resources for potential borrowers and using technology to improve the loan application and closing process. 

The best lenders also make their minimum requirements for approval crystal clear, which helps borrowers understand the financial standards they need to meet before they apply.

With all this in mind, we compared the best mortgage lenders based on important factors like loan options, rates, terms, customer service, and the ability to get pre-qualified before applying. See our top picks in a variety of categories below.

Best Mortgage Lenders of 2023

Best Overall : Rocket Mortgage

The Balance's Rating

Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

  • Minimum down payment: 0%-3.5%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • Average days to closing: 26 days
Pros & Cons
  • Fast closing times

  • Convenient online loan process

  • Impressive reviews from past users

  • Remote closing available in all 50 states

  • No USDA home loans or mobile home financing

  • No construction loans

  • No interest-only mortgage options

  • No offices for customers to visit in person

Why We Chose It

Rocket Mortgage earned the top spot in our ranking for several reasons, including its fast closing times (26 days on average, according to customer support) and excellent marks with third-party ranking agencies and past customers. 

Rocket Mortgage scored the best in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Primary Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study, and the second best in J.D. Power's 2021 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study. The company also has an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars across more than 4,000 user reviews on Trustpilot, and past customers tend to be pleased with their experiences.

This mortgage provider offers a fully online experience that lets borrowers in all 50 states apply for a mortgage, upload their documents, and get funding for their home or refinance loan without having to visit a physical office. Rocket Mortgage even offers remote closings in states where it is allowed.

Rocket Mortgage lets borrowers apply for fixed-rate mortgages in 15- and 30-year terms and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), as well as jumbo, FHA, and VA loans. For conventional loans, borrowers will need a minimum down payment of 3% (or 5% if they're a first-time buyer) and a debt-to-income ratio that is no more than 50%. A minimum credit score of 620 is required for conventional loans. 

Originally founded as Rock Financial in 1985, this company operated under the name Quicken Loans for many years before changing its name to Rocket Mortgage in July of 2021. With that in mind, you should note that Rocket Mortgage and Quicken Loans are often used interchangeably.

Best for Veterans and Customer Service : Cherry Creek Mortgage

The Balance's Rating

Cherry Creek Mortgage

Cherry Creek Mortgage

  • Minimum down payment: 0%-3.5%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • Average days to closing: 28-42 days
Pros & Cons
  • Plethora of available loan types

  • Low down payment loans available

  • Physical branches in 22 states

  • Only licensed in 42 states plus Washington, D.C.

  • Does not clearly disclose mortgage rates or fees

  • Does not offer interest-only mortgages

Why We Chose It

Cherry Creek Mortgage was originally founded in 1987, and since then it’s grown to become a top mortgage lender with a variety of loan options available. This provider offers conventional mortgages, as well as FHA, VA, USDA home, jumbo, mortgage refinance loans, and reverse mortgages. 

We chose it as the best for veterans and customer service due to its ample resources for military members seeking home financing. Veterans and eligible military members can work with an agent at physical branches in 22 states, although the company is licensed to offer mortgages in 42 states plus Washington, D.C. The company also scored highest in The Balance's survey of consumer satisfaction among 45 mortgage lenders.

While Cherry Creek offers virtually every type of mortgage available today, its specialization in VA loans really sets it apart. VA loans from Cherry Creek Mortgage do not require a down payment, although they can only be used to purchase a primary residence. Borrowers will need a credit score of 620 or higher, as well as a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans who apply will need to provide recent pay stubs, tax returns from the last two years, and proof of income. Fortunately, Cherry Creek Mortgage makes it possible for applicants to start the application process and upload loan documents online from the comfort of their home.

Best for Homebuyer Benefits : Fairway Mortgage

The Balance's Rating

Fairway Mortgage

Fairway Mortgage

  • Minimum down payment: 0%-3.5%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • Average days to closing: 30-45 days
Pros & Cons
  • You can work with a qualified mortgage expert

  • Offers nearly every type of mortgage product

  • Offers loans with unique benefits

  • Unlikely to be your loan servicer

  • No offices in Alaska or West Virginia

  • Physical branches may be geographically limited 

Why We Chose It

Since its inception in 1996, Fairway Mortgage has grown by leaps and bounds to offer a plethora of home financing and refinancing options, including loans with special benefits. This company offers conventional, FHA, jumbo, USDA, and VA loans, as well as reverse mortgages. 

Interestingly, the company focuses on offering mortgages with special homebuyer benefits, including their renovation loans. Options offered through this lender include the HomeStyle Renovation Loan, the Limited 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage, and the Standard 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage, all of which let buyers get financing for homes that need extended renovations or upgrades to reach their potential.

While Fairway Mortgage does make it possible for some aspects of the mortgage process to take place online, it focuses on customer experience by offering physical offices and loan experts in all states except for Alaska and West Virginia. That said, the company is still licensed to offer home loans and refinance loans in all 50 states.

When it comes to conventional loans from this provider, borrowers will need a minimum credit score of 620 and a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 45% to 50%. A minimum down payment of 5% is usually required, although some borrowers may be able to put down as little as 3%. Also note that Fairway Mortgage charges 2% to 3% of the loan amount in closing costs.

Best for Diverse Loan Options : Caliber Mortgage

The Balance's Rating

Caliber Mortgage

Caliber Mortgage

  • Minimum down payment: 0%-3.5%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Around 50%
  • Average days to closing: 10-30+ days
Pros & Cons
  • Diverse loan options for every type of buyer

  • Licensed in all 50 states

  • Offers helpful mortgage resources and tools

  • Lender faced regulatory action in 2021

  • Doesn’t publish mortgage rates online

  • No home equity loan options

Why We Chose It

Caliber Home Loans was just founded in 2008, so it's impressive to think of how much the company has accomplished since then. It’s now licensed to offer mortgages in all 50 states, and it has extended its offerings to include nearly every type of mortgage and mortgage specialty product available today. 

In addition to conventional mortgages, for example, it offers other conventional products like the HomeOne mortgage, the HomeStyle Renovation Loan, the Home Possible mortgage, and the HomeReady mortgage. Caliber Home Loans offers FHA loans, as well as the FHA 203(k) Home Loan and the FHA Streamline Refinance. Other borrowing options include VA loans, VA Streamline Refinance loans, USDA loans, and various loan options geared specifically to real estate investors.

Caliber Home Loans requires a minimum down payment of 0% to 3.5%, depending on the loan type, and a maximum debt-to-income ratio of around 50%. 

Caliber Home Loans lets you take care of the bulk of the mortgage process digitally with the help of its online portal. Borrowers can use this portal to fill out their loan application, upload required documentation, and monitor their loan progress in real-time.

Best for Online Services : Primary Residential Mortgage

The Balance's Rating

Primary Residential Mortgage

Primary Residential Mortgage

  • Minimum down payment: 0%-3.5%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • Days to closing: 21-30 days
Pros & Cons
  • Robust online platform with myriad services

  • Offers a closing guarantee 

  • Licensed in 49 states plus Washington, D.C.

  • Doesn’t publish mortgage rates online

  • Limited office locations

  • Has faced regulatory action in the past

Why We Chose It

Primary Residential Mortgage was founded in 1998, and it has grown to become licensed in 49 states plus Washington, D.C., with more than 250 branches and 1,800 employees nationwide. That said, this lender is mostly known for its excellent online user experience, including its online loan application. 

Potential borrowers can use the company website to begin their loan application and upload required documents that can expedite their loan approval. The entire process starts with an intuitive Q&A session that leads borrowers toward the loan type that will suit their needs best. Once your loan is approved, you can use the company's online portal to make mortgage payments and oversee your repayment progress.

Speaking of loan types, Primary Residential Mortgage stands out in this category as well. The lender offers conventional home loans, FHA loans, jumbo loans, VA loans, and even reverse mortgages. Primary Residential Mortgage lets borrowers get pre-qualified for financing online without any impact on their credit, which is a major plus.

Generally speaking, borrowers seeking a conventional home loan from this lender will need a credit score of at least 620. A minimum down payment of 3% for conventional home loans is also required, along with a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50%.

Best for Poor Credit : Finance of America Mortgage

The Balance's Rating

Finance of America Mortgage

Finance of America Mortgage

  • Minimum down payment: 0%-3%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 55%
  • Days to closing: Not disclosed
Pros & Cons
  • Mortgage options and resources for poor credit

  • High allowable DTI ratio

  • Licensed in 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

  • Numerous loan options

  • Doesn’t disclose mortgage rates online

  • Doesn’t disclose lender fees

  • Has faced regulatory action in the past

Why We Chose It

Finance of America Mortgage has been helping buyers finance their homes since 1994. The company offers a broad range of loan types, from conventional mortgages to jumbo loans and reverse mortgages. It also offers financing options for real estate investors, as well as renovation loans that help borrowers purchase homes that require significant repairs to become habitable.

That said, this lender stands out due to its plethora of loan options for borrowers with low credit scores. These include government-backed mortgages like FHA, USDA, and VA loans, as well as Fannie Mae HomeReady mortgages and Freddie Mac Home Possible home loans. 

These loans can help eligible buyers get into homes with credit scores as low as 500; some loan types even have no minimum credit score requirement that's set by a government agency. In many cases, as with USDA loans and VA loans, buyers can purchase a home with no money down.

Final Verdict

When it comes to getting a mortgage or looking for a lender to refinance a home loan, there are almost too many companies to consider. For example, Rocket Mortgage made the cut as the best mortgage lender overall, but Cherry Creek still stands out for veterans and customer service, and Fairway Mortgage is known for its homebuyer benefits.

If you have poor credit, on the other hand, you may want to check out Finance of America Mortgage. Meanwhile, Caliber Home Loans is a good choice for diverse mortgage options, and Primary Residential Mortgage stands out for its stellar online services. 

Take the time to compare all the best mortgage lenders that made our ranking, and you're bound to find the right fit.

Compare the Best Mortgage Lenders

Company Min. Credit Score Max. Debt-to-Income Ratio (Conventional)  Min. Down Payment  Average Days to Closing 
Rocket Mortgage
Best Overall
620 50% 0%–3.5% 26 days
Cherry Creek Mortgage
Best for Veterans and Customer Service 
620  50%  0%–3.5%  28–42 days 
Fairway Mortgage
Best for Homebuyer Benefits 
620  50%  0%–5% 30–45 days 
Caliber Mortgage
Best for Diverse Loan Options 
620  Around 50%  0%–3.5%  10–30+ days 
Primary Residential Mortgage 
Best for Online Services 
620  50%  0%–3.5%  21–30 days 
Finance of America Mortgage
Best for Poor Credit 
500  55%  0%–3%  Not disclosed 

Guide for Choosing a Mortgage Lender

When Does It Make Sense to Get a Mortgage?

Getting a mortgage makes sense if you are hoping to purchase a property and you cannot (or don't want to) pay in cash. Mortgages are for people who want to own a home instead of rent, but there are many factors to keep in mind as you weigh the pros and cons of becoming a homeowner vs. renting a home.

It also makes sense to look at mortgage lenders when you know you can meet minimum requirements for approval. For example, lenders consider factors like your credit score, your debt-to-income ratio, and your down payment amount (or loan-to-value ratio) when evaluating you for a home loan, and they may have specific minimum or maximum requirements for each of these factors.

If you are unsure of whether you should get a mortgage, or whether you can qualify for one, a mortgage calculator can help you see what your monthly payment might be based on your purchase amount, down payment, loan term, and interest rate.

How to Prepare to Apply for a Mortgage

There are several steps you can take to improve your chances of qualifying for a loan from the best mortgage lenders. Consider the following steps in the months and years leading up to homeownership.

  • Check your credit score: Taking the time to check your credit score so you know where you stand is a smart move. After all, you'll need a credit score of 620 or higher for a conventional home loan from most lenders. 
  • Fix your credit if it needs work: If your credit score isn't where you want it to be, take steps like paying all your bills on time and paying off debt, both of which can improve it. Keep your credit card balances low compared to your credit limits. Refraining from opening new accounts or closing old ones leading up to your mortgage application is also a good idea.
  • Save up a down payment: The best mortgage lenders often require a down payment of 3% or more for their conventional loans. However, you can avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI) if you save up a down payment of at least 20% of your home's purchase price.
  • Pay off unsecured debts: The amount of debt you have is one of the main factors that influence your credit score. Paying off revolving debt, like credit card debt, has a bigger impact than paying off installment debt, like auto or student loans. Paying off debt can also lower your debt-to-income ratio, which is a determining factor used by mortgage lenders.
  • "Check your rate" before you apply: See whether you can get pre-approved for a home loan and check your rate without affecting your credit, i.e., without a hard inquiry on your credit report. Some companies allow this option, and it can help you shop around and compare rates before you settle on a lender.

How to Pick a Mortgage Lender

While the lenders that made our list are the best companies offering mortgages and refinance loans on the market today, there are several factors to consider before you pick one. Consider the following details from each lender before you begin a loan application.

  • Mortgage rates: Check for lenders that easily disclose their current mortgage rates online, although this may require submitting some information. Do your best to compare them. See if you can check your rate without affecting your credit, which will make it easier to shop around.
  • Loan types: Check which lenders offer the type of home loan you want, whether that's a conventional loan or a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan or a VA loan. Some lenders offer more loan types than others, so it makes sense to check early in the process.
  • Fees and average closing costs: Read over the fine print on lender websites in order to check for loan fees. See if the lenders you’re considering disclose their average closing costs.
  • Online experience: Decide if you want to work with a lender online or in person, and choose a company that offers the type of experience you want.

How the Mortgage Application Process Works

Once you decide on a lender, you can begin working through the process of applying for your loan. Fortunately, this step has become considerably easier over the last few decades thanks to technology and the internet. The majority of mortgage lenders let you begin your loan application online, and some even let you check your rate quickly and easily.

As you begin your mortgage application, you should have the following information ready and easily accessible:

  • Government-issued personal identification (driver's license, passport, etc.)
  • Social Security number
  • Recent pay stubs
  • Two to three months of bank statements
  • W-2s for the last two years
  • Investment account statements
  • List of your monthly debts
  • Gift letter if you were gifted funds for your down payment

Even if you plan to work with a mortgage officer in person or over the phone, there's a good chance you'll be asked to fill out your loan application and upload your required documentation through a secure online portal. This expedites the application process considerably, and it's often more convenient for the loan company and the buyer.

Once your mortgage application is complete, your application will move to the underwriting process. This stage of the mortgage process often entails having an underwriter manually verify the information in your loan application, although some of the underwriting process may be automated.

Once your loan receives final approval and you have completed all the requirements and documentation, your mortgage application can move toward closing. The mortgage closing is when you finalize all the details, sign your loan documents, and get the keys to your home.

What Is a Mortgage?

A mortgage is a specific type of secured loan that’s used to purchase a home or a piece of real estate. Mortgages are offered by a variety of financial institutions, including banks and credit unions. Some of the most common types of mortgages include fixed-rate mortgages, adjustable-rate mortgages, and government-backed home loans like FHA loans and VA loans.

Mortgages let you use the property you're buying as collateral, which means the lender could claim the property if you don’t make payments as agreed. You can typically make payments for up to 30 years before you own the property outright, although lenders typically let you pay more than the minimum payment amount without penalty if you want to pay down your home loan faster.

How Do You Qualify for a Mortgage?

Requirements for home loans vary depending on the type of mortgage and the lender you work with. However, you'll typically need to meet minimum credit score requirements and have a debt-to-income ratio that falls below a specific threshold. You may also need a down payment for your home, and you need to be able to prove you can repay the loan with valid proof of income. Depending on the amount of that down payment, you may need to buy private mortgage insurance, too.

How Do You Pay Your Mortgage?

Most mortgage companies offer several ways to make a payment on your loan. For example, Rocket Mortgage lets you make a loan payment online through a secure portal, over the phone, or via regular mail. Typically, the easiest method is to set up automated bank account withdrawals through ACH.

You can check with your mortgage company to see which payment methods it accepts.

What Are the Main Types of Mortgages?

The main types of mortgages are conventional home loans, fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loans, FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans. However, there are also renovation loans, reverse mortgages, jumbo loans, and various specialized loan products.

Methodology: How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders

We evaluated 45 mortgage lenders and collected almost 1,500 data points before selecting our top choices. We weighed 15 criteria and gave a higher weight to those with a more significant impact on potential borrowers. 

The top picks were selected based on factors including quality of service (weighted 50%), operational features (32%), loan types (12%), and accessibility (6%). We took into account important considerations like whether or not the lender offers jumbo loans, how many states the lender is licensed in, and what the overall customer experience is like.

We also conducted a survey of 1,195 mortgage borrowers. We asked questions about customer satisfaction with various mortgage lenders and learned which features are most important from a customer perspective. We then applied this information to the weights used for scoring lenders.

Read more in our full mortgage lender methodology.

Image shows a blue two story house with a sunny patio with lounge furniture and neat landscaping.

The Balance

Article Sources
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