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Mortgage rates have been increasing steadily since 2022 began — closing in on the 5% threshold.
For homebuyers and homeowners, making a good decision about buying or refinancing has much more to do with personal circumstances than current mortgage rates. Borrowers shouldn't panic, says Rob Cook, vice president for marketing, digital, and analytics for Discover Home Loans. “Historically, rates are still fairly low.”
Experts say rising interest rates shouldn't deter homebuyers too much. “The benefits of homeownersship do not come exclusively because of mortgage rates,” says Ralph McLaughlin, chief Economist at Kukun, a property data and analytics firm. “They come in spite of mortgage rates.”
A mortgage is a huge financial commitment. That makes choosing a mortgage lender the most important step in a homebuying journey.
You want to ensure you're getting the best deal possible. to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), interest rates can vary by 0.5% or more between two similarly qualified borrowers. Even a small difference in interest rates can help you save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
But there's a lot more to choose the best mortgage lender than the rates. A lender with transparent pricing, online conveniences, accessibility to most borrowers, an extensive product offering, and a reputable history with customer satisfaction are all important factors, too.
With hundreds of lending options available, deciding which mortgage lender is the best choice is a challenge. To help you navigate the process, NextAdvisor reviewed 36 different lenders and scored each one on categories including transparency, accessibility, online convenience, loan product variety, and customer satisfaction. We then down the list to the top 10 best mortgage lenders of February 2022.
Top 10 Best Mortgage Lenders of February 2022
1. Guaranteed Rate
Best With Fast Preapprovals and Closings, 4.8/5 Stars Guaranteed Rate is a Chicago-headquartered firm with a strong online presence and 400 branch locations spread across the country. We ranked the company a top choice lender because of its top-of-the-line digital experience, helpful consumer tools, solid customer service, variety of loan products, including all three government loans, and large nationwide footprint.
Guaranteed rate received fewer consumer complaints compared to most other lenders we reviewed. The company logged less than one complaint per 1,000 loans originated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) consumer complaint database, the agency responsible for collecting, monitoring, and responding to U.S. consumer complaints about financial services and products.
Guaranteed Rate’s Standout Feature: From start to finish, borrowers can complete the mortgage application, upload documents, and even sign closing paperwork online where e-closings are allowed. Guaranteed Rate says it can provide a preapproval letter in around 15 minutes and the company goal is to be clear to close within 10 days.
A Drawback for Guaranteed Rate: Certain loan products, such as construction loans, reverse mortgages, and home equity products, you can start the application with Guaranteed Rate, but they’ll take the application and broker it to another lender.
2. Navy Federal Credit Union
Best for Military Families, 4.8/5 Stars Headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, Navy Federal Credit Union serves all 50 states and has 344 branches worldwide. Navy Federal Credit Union was a high-scoring lender by NextAdvisor because of its nationwide availability, price transparency, streamlined online application process, and loan product variety. It has a slightly above average complaint ratio of 2.8 complaints per 1,000 loans with the CFPB. But this lender offers no-down payment and flexible credit requirements on most mortgage products to qualified military service members and their families.
Navy Federal Credit Union Standout Feature: Navy Federal Credit Union offers a unique relock rate option: You can lock in your interest rate and relock it twice if rates improve before closing.
A Drawback for Navy Federal Credit Union Navy Federal Credit Union’s footprint is nationwide but only lends to eligible military families.
3. Rocket Mortgage
Top Lender for Customer Satisfaction, 4.6/5 Stars Rocket mortgage is the online lender for Quicken Loans and is one of the largest mortgage lenders in the U.S. We ranked the Detroit-based company as one of the best mortgage lenders because of its simple online application process, large nationwide footprint, low level of consumer complaints, the transparency and accessibility of its rates and fees, and the company’s wide offering of mortgage loan products.
Rocket Mortgage’s Standout Feature: Rocket Mortgage stands out for the company’s high level of customer satisfaction. Rocket Mortgage originated over one million loans in 2020, making it the largest lender we reviewed by total volume. Despite its magnitude, the company has lower-than-average consumer complaints registered on the CFPB consumer complaint database. We found 0.48 complaints per 1,000 loans — or less than half a complaint per 1,000 loans occurred. This figure is very low compared to the average complaint ratio of 2 complaints per 1,000 loans among other lenders we reviewed.
A Drawback for Rocket Mortgages: It’s not clear on the Rocket Mortgage site which types of loans it offers or what the minimum credit score requirements are for different mortgages. The FAQ lists a few types of loans and its requirements, but there isn’t a complete public list of every loan offered. So you’ll have to call or chat with a representative to get some critical questions answered.
4. Veterans United Home Loans
Top Lender Among Military Families, 4.6/5 Stars Veterans United Home Loans, headquartered in Missouri, is a mortgage lender that specializes in VA home loans in all 50 states. Veterans United is incredibly active in the VA loan space. The U.S. the Department of Veterans Affairs lists Veterans United in the top three among VA loan lenders by volume for five consecutive years. While the company focuses heavily on VA loans, they also offer conventional, jumbo, FHA, and USDA loans.
Veterans United has a fully digitized and easy online application process. Compared to other lenders we’ve reviewed, the company had one of the lowest complaint ratios logged with the CFPB: Less than half of one complaint per 1,000 loans originated.
Veterans United Standout Feature: Veterans United provides a wealth of information on its website regarding the loan process. This information covers topics on the eligibility requirements and benefits of a VA loan, such as 0% down payment, no private mortgage insurance (PMI), and competitive interest rates despite credit blemishes. The webpage also has articles detailing what to expect through the loan process, closing, how to prepare for homeownership, home loans basics, credit, and underwriting.
A Drawback for Veterans United: Veterans United seems to focus heavily on VA loans, and although the website was easy to navigate, it was difficult to find information on their other loan offerings for conventional, jumbo, FHA, or USDA products. A customer service representative confirmed they are available.
5. North American Savings Bank
Best for the Non-Traditional Borrower, 4.8/5 Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, North American Savings Bank (NASB) is a full-service bank that lends in all 50 states. North American Savings Bank has an extensive mortgage menu than most, including options for veterans, first-time homebuyers, self-employed people, and borrowers with less-than-perfect credit histories. That’s because the bank offers VA loans, FHA loans, and mortgages for people who don’t fit conforming loan standards. NASB also has a streamlined online application process with transparent pricing for browsing borrowers.
NASB’s Standout Feature: NASB has several programs that can help non-traditional borrowers get a home. For instance, its non-conforming home loans advertize flexible underwriting guidelines for borrowers with credit issues. Another unique loan product is the Bank Statement Loan. It allows self-employed borrowers to show income using bank statements rather than tax returns. The bank also has a Good Neighbor Home Loan Program, which is designed for people looking for homes in low- to moderate-income areas in certain parts of Kansas and Missouri. There are no lender fees through this program, and borrowers can receive closing cost assistance.
A Drawback for NASB: NASB minimum credit score requirements for its VA and FHA loans at 620, which is slightly higher than some competitors.
6. Truist Bank
Best for Full Service Banking, 4.5/5 Stars Truist Bank, now merged with Suntrust and BB&T under its name, has an extensive footprint across the U.S. through its thousands of brick-and-mortar branches and online presence. Along with the company’s solid menu of mortgage products, easy-to-use online application process, transparency of rate and fee information, and average number of complaints compared to other reviewed lenders, the brand’s website is easy to navigate with several useful resources to help with the borrowing process, such as calculators, videos, and sample mortgages.
Truist Bank’s Standout Feature: Truist offers a comprehensive menu of online or in-person banking accounts such as checking, savings, money market, and CDs. If you are in the market for a bank, looking to switch banks, or already have a Truist account, there is an allure of convenience to also have your mortgage through the same institution. Some lending institutions also give incentives or discounts to existing account holders.
A Drawback for Truist: Because Suntrust and BB&T are still in the process of merging under the Truist brand, gathering mortgage product information online is slightly confusing navigating between each individual site. We recommend sticking to the Truist site for ease of use.
7. Sebonic Financial
Best Online Application Process, 4.5/5 Stars Sebonic Financial is the mortgage lender division of North Carolina-headquartered Cardinal Financial. Sebonic Financial scored well with NextAdvisor because of the company’s high-end digital borrowing experience, full mortgage product lineup which is available in all 50 states, and the lender’s history of below-average customer complaints with the CFPB. Based on 2020 data, Sebonic has less than one complaint per 1,000 loans originated in the same year.
Although Sebonic’s mortgage rates and fees are not listed on the company website, the online system, Octane, makes it easy to access a quote without a credit check or drawn-out process.
Sebonic Financial’s Standout Feature: Sebonic’s proprietary borrowing platform, Octane, is a standout feature. With Octane, borrowers can get a fast rate quote, start an application, upload documents, and sign closing documents, with real-time updates along the way. We found Octane to be one of the best online application processes compared to other lenders we’ve reviewed. It’s easy-to-use, high-tech, and we appreciate the ability to have a full-online digital experience with the option to speak to loan officers.
A Drawback for Sebonic Financial: Mortgage rates aren’t published on the lender’s website. After filling out a rate-quote form online, someone from Sebonic will call or email you with available rate offers. You’ll answer a few qualifying questions, but won’t need to do a credit check before getting the rate quote.
8. Pennymac Loan Services
Best Online Experience, 4.5/5 Stars Pennymac Loan Services isn’t a well-known name. But the California-based mortgage lender stands out for its convenient online application process, ability to get a rate quote without a credit check, transparency of rates and fees, and low frequency of consumer complaints with the CFPB. In 2020, the CFPB reported less than 0.30 complaints per 1,000 loans. Pennymac offers most major mortgage products and all three-government loans in 49 states, with 16 brick-and-mortar branch locations.
Pennymac’s Standout Feature: The brand had one of the lowest complaint ratios among lenders we reviewed, but the more noticeable standout feature is the overall online experience. At NextAdvisor, we value price transparency and accessibility. Pennymac met this expectation with daily rate and fee updates and customizable rate quotes on its user-friendly webpage.
A Drawback for Pennymac: Pennymac does not carry niche products such as home equity loans, construction loans, renovation loans, jumbo mortgages, and reverse mortgages.
9. Watermark Home Loans
Best for the Self-Employed Borrower, 4.5/5 Stars Watermark Home Loans based out of Irvine, CA, and currently licensed in 38 states. The company is named one of NextAdvisor’s best mortgage lenders of February 2022 because of its streamlined online application process, transparent and accessibility of pricing, lower-than-average consumer complaints, and solid loan product lineup.
Borrowers can receive a customized rate quote by filling out a form online with basic information such as your income, address, and estimated home value. You will get an email with a few different quote options to review with options for discount points, lender credits, or closing costs options. Watermark Home Loans advertises national daily rate averages along with data indicators of how much each loan type’s rate has moved up or down in the last 30 days.
Watermark has a lower-than-average number of consumer complaints: Less than one complaint per 1,000 originated loans in 2020, according to the CFPB’s consumer complaint database.
Watermark Home Loans’s Standout Feature: Watermark Home Loans advertises a “Non-QM loan,” or “Non-Qualified Mortgage.” According to the website, non-traditional borrowers, such as the self-employed, those with a history of bankruptcy, or those with less attractive debt-to-income ratios can use this loan type to potentially qualify for a mortgage.
A Drawback of Watermark Home Loans: Watermark Home Loans is currently only licensed in 38 states. Although, a Watermark representative told us a few more state licenses will become available this year, further expanding the company footprint.
Best Pricing Transparency, 4.5/5 Stars Headquartered in Calabasas, CA, LenderFi offers mortgages in 45 states with an easy-to-use online application process. LenderFi was named one of NextAdvisor’s best lenders because the company provides a unique feature to its rate quotes: A full, transparent, line-by-line breakdown of all rates and fees before even getting a credit check. Discount points are clearly advertised with how they affect the APR and monthly payment. The quote even estimates homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance (if applicable), property tax costs, and all third-party closing fees.
What’s more, the company has a below-average number of consumer complaints (per 1,000 loans originated) logged with the (CFPB).
LenderFi’s Standout Feature: The company advertises that it does not charge lender fees as part of the closing costs. Third-party closing fees, such as appraisal, title insurance, and inspection costs still apply. But LenderFi says no additional lender costs are passed to the borrowers. Instead, all lender-related costs are rolled into the quoted rate and APR.
A Drawback for LenderFi: LenderFi does not offer any government-sponsored loans, such as VA, FHA, or USDA loans at this time.
Honorable Mention: Costco Mortgage Program Best Lender Marketplace, Not Rated The Costco mortgage program does not originate mortgages, so it was not included in the list of best mortgage lenders. However, the useful marketplace is worth an honorable mention. Costco members have access to a network of participating mortgage lenders offering discounts and incentives for borrowing through this channel. Through the Costco mortgage marketplace website, you can fill out a universal application, compare loan offers, and cash-in on discounts or lender fees if you choose a lender through this program. The marketplace platform is easy to navigate with transparent pricing and terms. You can get a rate quote online in minutes and will only be contacted by the lender with your expressed permission.
How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender for Your Situation Outside of price and lender reliability, narrowing down your choice comes down to what is best for you and your personal circumstances. Depending on your goals and needs as a borrower, one lender could be a better fit than another. For example, a first-time homebuyer that is down payment-challenged can look into lenders with down payment assistance programs. Another borrower may have a low credit score and may need a lender with a lower credit threshold.
Here is what you can use to evaluate your decision:
Types of Mortgages Available One of the first steps to narrowing down the list of lenders you’re considering is figuring out what type of mortgage you need.
If you have blemishes on your credit report, like a bankruptcy, then an FHA loan is likely to be easier to qualify for than conventional loans. Other loans, such as USDA and VA loans, offer 100% financing with no down payment required. If you want to take advantage of any of these government-backed loan programs, then you’ll need to find a lender that offers these types of loans.
The loan repayment term can also impact the lender you choose. Most lenders offer 15-year or 30-year mortgages, but if you want a 10-year mortgage or a 40-year mortgage, your options will be more limited.
Loan Officer Experience The biggest mortgage lenders have hundreds of locations and are staffed by thousands of loan originators. So within the same lender, you could have a wildly different experience depending on the individual loan officer you work with.
Talk with a loan officer to ensure that they have experience in the industry and have dealt with individuals in similar situations to your own. If you’re applying for a VA loan or FHA loan, working with a loan officer who’s familiar with those types of mortgages is even more important.
Homebuyer Assistance Programs Homebuyer assistance programs can provide you with thousands of dollars to put toward your down payment and closing costs. For many first-time homebuyers this assistance is the difference between buying a home or needing to continue renting. As you’re comparing lenders, be sure to ask if they have these types of programs.
Why It’s Important to Shop Mortgage Lenders It’s important to compare offers from a variety of lenders because each will evaluate your financial situation differently. To secure the best rate, fees, and terms for your situation most financial experts recommend comparing at least two to three different quotes. Here is what to consider:
Comparing Rates A difference of 0.50% doesn’t sound like a lot but can save you thousands of dollars over the loan’s life.
Take this example on a 30-year fixed, $300,000 loan:
|Loan Amount||Interest Rate||Monthly Principal and Interest Payment||Total Interest over Loan’s Life|
With this example, the 0.50% difference in interest rate is the difference of $82 a month. Over a 30 year loan, that difference equates to $30,096 in total interest.
Comparing Lender Fees Securing the lowest interest rate isn’t the only factor you need to consider when comparing mortgage lenders. Two lenders can advertise the same mortgage rate but charge wildly different closing fees. A low rate with high closing costs can eat away at the savings you thought the low rate provided.
One sure-fire way to evaluate the difference between offers is to look at a mortgage loan’s APR. The APR factors in many of the loan’s fees, in addition to the interest rate, over the loan’s full term.
Consider this example on a 30-year fixed, $200,00 loan:
|Loan Amount||Interest Rate||Closing Costs||APR|
Loan A is the more tempting offer since it has a lower interest rate but it has higher lender fees. Loan B may be overlooked because of its higher interest rate. But it has lower lender fees and a lower overall APR.
That is why the best apple- to-apples comparison when comparing offers is to compare the APR on each Loan Estimate. The best approach is to do plenty of research, narrow it down to a list of two to three, get prequalified with each, and compare the Loan Estimates side by side.
Don’t wait too long in between applications, though. According to Experian, multiple hard credit inquiries related to mortgages are counted once in a 30-day period.