Best Mortgage Lenders & Rates of 2020

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If home ownership is your dream, home financing can make it a reality. A house is likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, and odds are that you will need a mortgage. The best mortgage lender is different for everyone, but you should trust and feel comfortable with the lender you choose.

If you need a mortgage, the coronavirus pandemic is a good news, bad news situation. Mortgage rates are near all-time lows, yet homebuyers can expect stricter credit, income and down payment requirements as lenders guard against risks posed by the pandemic.

When you’re ready to shop for a mortgage, this guide provides an overview of the best overall U.S. mortgage lenders and helps you choose the best mortgage for your needs. What you’ll learn:

  • What are today’s mortgage rates?
  • What are the best mortgage lenders?
  • Which mortgage is best?
  • What should you do before you apply for a mortgage?
  • How can you compare the best mortgage lenders?

What Are the Best Mortgage Lenders of 2020?

Best Lender for Veterans Affairs Loans

Veterans United Home Loans is a full-service mortgage lender. Veterans United Home Loans specializes in VA loans and is the largest VA home purchase lender.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, ARM, VA, FHA, USDA, refinance
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 620
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Varies
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Not rated

Best Features

  • Military membership not required.

See full profile

Best lender for no minimum loan amount.

A major financial institution serving homeowners nationwide, Bank of America has good customer satisfaction ratings. The bank has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and a J.D. Power rating of four, which is better than most.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, VA, FHA, refinance, home equity
  • Minimum FICO score: 620
  • Maximum loan-to-value ratio: 100%
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 55%
  • Loan amounts: Up to $5,000,000
  • Total closing costs: Varies
  • J.D. Power overall satisfaction rating: Four out of five

Best Features

  • Bank of America has a wide variety of mortgage products.

  • The lender offers annual percentage rate or closing cost discounts for qualifying Bank of America and Merrill Lynch clients.

  • Home equity lines of credit have no annual, balance transfer or cash advance fees or closing costs.

See full profile

Best lender for up to $3,000 cash at closing with a grant and education course.

Chase Bank is a major financial institution with several mortgage options, including adjustable-rate mortgages. Borrowers can choose from 5/1, 7/1 and 10/1 ARMs.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, jumbo, ARM, VA, FHA
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 620
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Three out of five

Best Features

  • Down payments as low as 3% are accepted.

  • Fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages are available.

See full profile

Best lender for customer service.

Fairway Independent Mortgage was established more than 20 years ago and has funded more than $50 billion in loans. The lender has excellent customer satisfaction ratings and offers most mortgage products, including USDA loans.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, ARM, FHA, USDA, VA, Refinancing (conventional)
  • Minimum FICO credit score: N/A
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: N/A
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Five out of five

Best Features

  • Selection of mortgages includes VA and USDA loans, which have no down payment requirements.

  • Good customer service ratings.

See full profile

Best lender for 3% down loans.

Guild Mortgage serves homebuyers nationwide with multiple mortgage options. Mortgage shoppers can choose from conventional or agency loans with this lender, which has an A+ BBB rating and a four out of five J.D. Power satisfaction rating.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, FHA, VA, USDA, ARM, Home equity loans, Refinancing (conventional), Refinancing (FHA), Refinancing (VA), Refinancing (USDA), First-time homebuyer program, Jumbo, renovation, expanded (non-qm)
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 620
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Four out of five

Best Features

  • Good customer service ratings.

  • A broad range of mortgage products.

  • Special mortgage programs including ones for first-time homebuyers and buyers of manufactured homes.

See full profile

Best lender for borrowers with a FICO score as low as 500.

LoanDepot was established in 2010 and since then has financed more than $70 billion in mortgages. It offers FHA, conventional and other mortgage options. Borrowers may qualify for a loan with a FICO credit score as low as 580.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, FHA, VA, ARM, Refinancing (conventional), Refinancing (FHA), Refinancing (VA), Home equity loans
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 500 with conditions
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 43% for FHA
  • Maximum combined loan-to-value ratio: 90%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Four out of five

Best Features

  • LoanDepot mortgages have a lifetime guarantee, which means if you ever decide to refinance an existing loanDepot loan, the company will waive the lender fees and reimburse appraisal fees.

See full profile

Best lender for loans up to $5 million.

PNC Bank is one of the largest banks in the United States, serving more than 8 million customers in all 50 states. A full-service mortgage lender, PNC offers most mortgage loan product types.

Highlights

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, ARM, FHA and Va
  • Minimum FICO score: N/A
  • Max LTV: 100%
  • Max DTI: N/A
  • Equity required: N/A
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Three out of five

Best Features

  • Multiple mortgage product lines.

  • No or low down payment mortgages are available.

  • Online home ownership cost tool.

See full profile

Best lender for approval with a debt-to-income ratio of up to 60%.

Quicken Loans is a nationwide mortgage lender with several mortgage options. Known for customer service, the lender has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and received a rating of five (among the best) in the 2018 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study.

Highlights:

  • Mortgage types offered: ARM, FHA, VA, Refinancing (FHA), USDA, Conventional, Refinancing (conventional)
  • Minimum FICO credit score: 580 (FHA), other loans vary
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 60%
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: Five out of five

Best Features

  • Complete loan process available online.

  • Wide variety of mortgage products.

  • Good customer service ratings.

See full profile

Best lender for online mortgages.

SoFi is an online lender offering fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. Refinance loans are also available, including cash-out refinance and refinancing to pay off student loans.

Highlights

  • Mortgage types offered: Conventional, ARM, Refinancing (conventional), Jumbo, Fixed-rate and Adjustable-rate
  • Minimum FICO score: N/A
  • Max LTV: 90%
  • Max DTI: Conforming mortgage/refi loan: 50%; Non-conforming (Jumbo) loan: 43%
  • Closing costs: N/A
  • Equity required: N/A
  • J.D. Power satisfaction rating: N/A

Best Features

  • Down payments as low as 10%.

  • Mortgage limits up to $3 million.

  • Interest rate discounts on additional loans.

See full profile

What Are Today’s Mortgage Rates?

Locking in a low mortgage rate today can save you thousands over the life of your loan. Compare your mortgage rate offers with national average trends.







Loan Types

This Week’s Rate

Last Week’s Rate

30-Year Fixed Rate 3.06% 3.04%
15-Year Fixed Rate 2.59% 2.68%
30-Year Fixed Jumbo Rate 3.1% 3.07%
5/1 ARM Rate 3.29% 3.28%
5/1 ARM Jumbo Rate 3.39% 3.39%

*Rates as of August 10, 2020.

What Is a Mortgage?

A mortgage is a type of loan borrowers can obtain from banks, credit unions or other financial institutions and use for home financing.

The property secures the loan as it is repaid in monthly installments, including interest, usually over 15 to 30 years. The lender holds the title to the house until the loan is paid in full, and then it releases the lien on the property and transfers the title to the homeowner.

If you don’t make monthly payments to the lender and then you default on the loan, the bank can seize your home and sell it to recoup its money.

Mortgage Lending and the Coronavirus

Although the coronavirus has slowed economic activity, homebuying continues. “If you are fortunate enough to be in a position to buy, it is a great time to do so,” says Rob Sickler, loan originator with Mortgage Network Solutions.

But he warns that you’ll need stable income and solid credit. Mortgage lenders, looking to limit their risk because of the coronavirus downturn, have made approval harder.

“The biggest challenge right now is the minimum credit score requirement,” says Brandon Snyder, real estate agent with Selling With The Snyders in Katy, Texas.

The minimum FICO score to buy a home in 2020 will depend on the type and the size of your mortgage. Credit score requirements also vary by lender and loan program. That said, you will need a FICO credit score of at least 620 for conventional loans and at least 580 for government-backed Federal Housing Administration loans.

If your credit is good but your job is in limbo, you may still have mortgage options. First, Sickler says, “By all means, continue to pay your bills as you normally would.”

Focus on your payment history – the most important factor in your credit score – because not much can happen with a home loan while you’re furloughed. Most lenders won’t offer a preapproval letter until you’ve been back from a furlough for at least 30 days.

Documentation, such as a furlough letter, could help you get approved, Snyder says. “Lenders need to make sure (you) are going back to work,” he says.

Snyder says he obtained a mortgage for a furloughed client by sending the lender his client’s furlough letter, which contained details such as the return date from the pause in work. This assured the lender that his client would soon be back to work and able to afford the mortgage payment.

If the coronavirus has made mortgage payments difficult, you may have options. Whatever you do, do not stop making a payment without first speaking with your lender.

U.S. News Survey: Mortgage Consumers Are Cost Conscious

How do you choose a mortgage lender? U.S. News asked consumers about their top priorities when selecting the best mortgage lender.

Many consumers said they look at loan costs, including interest rates and fees, and get rate quotes or preapprovals to compare mortgage rates and deals.

The survey says some consumers don’t know what to do after being turned down for a mortgage or how to get back on track after missing a mortgage payment.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 consumers said less than one hour of research is adequate when choosing a mortgage.
  • About 70% of consumers who have closed on mortgages said they clearly understood how much their monthly mortgage payments would be before closing.
  • Consumers preparing to apply for mortgages said saving for a down payment is their top priority.
  • When selecting mortgage companies, consumers said they often look at financial institutions where they already do business, or ask friends or family members for recommendations.
  • About 1 in 5 consumers would simply apply with another lender if they were turned down for a mortgage. Others said they would take steps to improve their credit profiles and then reapply.
  • Consumers are often uncertain about what to do when they can’t make mortgage payments and may not follow expert recommendations.

A major concern for consumers choosing mortgage lenders is loan costs.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

Consumers are split on how much time to spend researching home loans.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

Most consumers take advantage of rate quotes or preapprovals.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

A majority of consumers compare annual percentage rates and closing costs before choosing home loans.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

About 70% of homebuyers have a good idea of how much their monthly mortgage payments will be before closing.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

Saving for a down payment before applying for a mortgage is a top priority for homebuyers.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

Relationships matter when choosing mortgage lenders.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

Applying with a different lender is a top course of action for consumers turned down for a mortgage.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

Many consumers are uncertain what to do if they can’t make a mortgage payment.

Conducted using Google Surveys – February 2020

  • U.S. News ran a nationwide survey through Google Surveys in February 2020.
  • The survey sample came from the general American population, and the survey was configured to be representative of this sample.
  • The survey asked nine questions related to choosing and managing a mortgage.

How Does the Mortgage Loan Process Work?

The mortgage loan process can seem daunting. You can reduce some of the stress by knowing the basic steps of the mortgage process.

  • Submit your mortgage application. Most lenders offer an online application process for home loans.
  • Wait for your loan estimate, which the lender must provide you within three business days of receiving your application.
  • Schedule a home inspection as soon as possible to give you enough time to negotiate with the seller if the inspection reveals any problems.
  • Pay for and arrange a home appraisal. Your lender may offer an appraiser you can use.
  • Sit tight during mortgage processing, which prepares your loan for underwriting. This is mostly a waiting period.
  • Start the underwriting process. Underwriters may use either automated or manual underwriting to approve or decline your loan application. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Review the closing disclosure, which you should receive at least three days before you sign the mortgage documents. Be sure to compare the disclosure with the most recent loan estimate from your lender so you don’t miss any big changes.
  • Purchase homeowners insurance, which is required before your loan can be approved.
  • Complete the last step in the process, which is closing. This is when you and all the other parties in the mortgage transaction sign the necessary documents. Afterward, you become responsible for the loan.

How Does Mortgage Interest Work?

Your mortgage interest rate is what you pay to finance your home. Mortgage rates can be fixed or adjustable.

Knowing the differences between the two types can help you choose the right one.

Whether a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage is best can depend on your market conditions, your finances and how long you plan to keep your mortgage.

Fixed rate: A fixed-rate mortgage keeps the same interest rate throughout the entire loan term, and your monthly mortgage payment will stay the same. You don’t have to worry about costs going up, but you can’t benefit if market rates fall unless you refinance.

The monthly payments on a fixed-rate mortgage are typically higher than the initial monthly payments on an adjustable-rate mortgage because the lender can’t increase your interest rate later.

Adjustable rate: The interest rate on adjustable-rate mortgages can change over time, which means your monthly payments can rise or fall based on market rates. Adjustable-rate mortgage interest rates depend on a benchmark rate, such as the prime rate.

When benchmark rates go up or down, so does your interest rate – and your monthly mortgage payment. Adjustable-rate mortgages can make sense when you plan to sell or refinance your home before the rate increases, or if you expect market rates to decrease.

How Is Your Mortgage Interest Rate Determined?

Your mortgage rate is determined by your risk as a borrower. When lenders set your mortgage interest rate, they consider a wide range of factors, including your:

  • Credit history
  • Loan term
  • Home price
  • Down payment
  • Interest type
  • Market interest rates
  • Property type and use

As you’re comparing mortgage offers, you should consider both the interest rate and the annual percentage rate, or APR.

The interest rate is the cost of borrowing money each year, expressed as a percentage. The APR, on the other hand, is the annual cost to the borrower that reflects everything you may have to pay for your loan, such as closing costs, discount points and origination fees.

How Do Mortgage Points Work?

Mortgage points, also called discount points, are fees you can pay the lender at closing to lower the interest rate on your mortgage. Each point costs 1% of your total loan amount and typically lowers your interest rate by 0.25% for every point you purchase.

You can buy points for fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages. The points on an adjustable-rate mortgage provide a discount only on the initial rate, but the points on a fixed-rate mortgage lower the rate for the duration of the loan.

The longer you plan to stay in a property, the more it makes sense to pay points. You’ll benefit from the lower interest rate for a longer period of time.

Which Mortgage Is Best?

Mortgages aren’t one-size-fits-all. Most mortgage companies offer a wide range of loan products so you can choose the mortgage that works best for you.

Your mortgage will most likely fall into one of two camps: either government-backed or conventional loan. The difference is that government-backed mortgage programs reduce risk for lenders and can make qualifying for mortgages easier for borrowers, including first-time homebuyers.

Government-backed programs include:

  • FHA loans
  • VA loans
  • USDA loans

On the other hand, common types of conventional mortgages are:

  • Conventional 15-year fixed loans
  • Conventional 30-year fixed loans
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Home equity loans
  • Home equity lines of credit
  • First-time homebuyer programs

Refinancing or jumbo loans can be either government backed or conventional.

Government-Backed Mortgages

FHA loans: The Federal Housing Administration insures FHA mortgages, which allows you to qualify with a lower credit score and a smaller down payment than on a conventional loan. You could put as little as 3.5% down.

VA loans: The VA offers a loan guarantee to help active-duty service members, veterans and their surviving spouses qualify for mortgages. Buyers can access zero down payment VA loans, and lenders may charge a lower interest rate for these compared with conventional loans.

USDA loans: The USDA’s Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program encourages people to purchase homes in rural areas. Borrowers in these areas can more easily qualify for these loans and at lower interest rates compared with conventional loans because the USDA guarantees the loans.

Conventional mortgages aren’t federally guaranteed and are available from private lenders. These loans can be harder to qualify for because they don’t have a guarantee if you default, but they also don’t have rules limiting who can apply.

A conventional loan is either conforming or nonconforming. Conforming loans:

  • Meet or fall below the county loan limits set annually by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates U.S. mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • Adhere to underwriting rules set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Conventional mortgage lenders, such as banks or credit unions, typically require you to make a down payment of 5% to 20% of a home’s purchase price. Some offer loans, particularly first-time homebuyer programs, with down payments as low as 3%.
But anytime you put down less than 20%, your lender will likely need you to buy private mortgage insurance.

Which Mortgage Term Is Best?

The best mortgage term depends on how much house you want to buy and how quickly you want to pay it off. Most homebuyers choose a loan term – the length of your mortgage, or how long you are scheduled to make payments – of either 15 or 30 years.

Your loan term significantly influences how much you pay each month. With a longer mortgage term, your monthly payments are smaller because you have more time to repay the loan. But longer-term mortgage interest rates are usually higher than shorter-term rates, plus the longer term will cost more in overall interest.

Say you’re trying to decide between a 15-year or 30-year term for a $200,000 loan at a 3.5% interest rate. The 15-year fixed loan means a monthly payment of about $1,400, and the 30-year fixed loan shaves about $500 off that total. But you’ll pay about $57,000 in total interest with the 15-year loan and more than twice that amount if you choose the 30-year mortgage.

As this example shows, doing a little math can tell which term works best for your budget. Owning your home “free and clear” doesn’t help if you don’t have the cash to make ends meet, called house-rich and cash-poor.

What Do Mortgage Lenders Consider?

Mortgage lenders want to know how risky it is to lend you money. Lenders will look at not only your credit but also your income, down payment and other key factors when they review your application.

Credit score: Your credit score is a major factor, but the minimum credit score can vary by lender and loan program. A conventional loan typically requires a minimum FICO score of 620, but some programs allow you to qualify with a lower credit score. You may be able to qualify with a lower score if the lender uses manual underwriting for your application.

Home price and loan amount: The larger your mortgage, the greater the risk for the lender. Lenders limit risk by following government loan limits.

If you want to buy a property that costs more than these limits, you can apply for a jumbo loan, also known as a nonconforming loan. But expect tougher approval standards and higher APRs with jumbo loans because lenders take on more risk.

Down payment: Your down payment is the amount you pay upfront for the property, while the mortgage covers the rest. A larger down payment leads to a lower interest rate on your mortgage. You’ll be borrowing less money, so lenders are taking on less risk.

Loan term: The longer the length of your loan, the higher the interest rate may be. Rates are higher on a 30-year mortgage compared with a 15-year mortgage.

Loan type: Government-backed loans typically charge lower rates than conventional loans, but FHA loans can be more expensive once you factor in other fees, such as mortgage insurance or PMI.

What Should You Do Before You Apply for a Mortgage?

Before you apply, make sure you can qualify for the best overall mortgage possible. Check and improve your credit, compare mortgage rates and best mortgage lenders, get prequalified and then preapproved for a mortgage, and plan for your down payment and closing costs.

1. Check and improve your credit. Review your credit history and fix problems with your credit report before you apply for a mortgage. Contact each of the three credit bureaus separately to dispute errors.

You can improve your credit score by focusing on good habits: making on-time payments and paying down balances. These efforts before you apply for a mortgage can help you get approved and secure better terms, Sickler says.

Still, don’t count yourself out if you have a less-than-perfect credit score, he adds. You can make up ground by finding the right lender and putting together a solid mortgage application.

And no matter your credit history, you will want to avoid piling on more debt if you plan to apply for a mortgage anytime soon. Every loan or credit card application can shave a few points off your credit score and could prevent you from qualifying for the best mortgage rates.

2. Prequalify and compare rates. Do this with several lenders, which will evaluate your creditworthiness and how much home you can afford. Typically, prequalification uses a soft credit inquiry and does not harm your credit score.

If you want support with this step, an independent mortgage broker can help you shop around for home loan options.

3. Get preapproved. Once you’ve identified one or more lenders you’re interested in working with, then you should go through the preapproval process. Preapproval offers a more comprehensive review of your credit and solidifies the terms a lender can offer you, including how much you could likely borrow.

A preapproval letter can also make you a more attractive buyer because it shows you are serious and that your offer is less likely to be withdrawn because of a lack of funding.

4. Plan for your down payment and closing costs. Closing costs often range between 2% and 5% of the purchase price, depending on where you live and if you’re paying points to your lender at closing.

Typically, you will pay or wire your down payment a couple of days before closing. The closing agent, either a title company or real estate attorney, will oversee the transaction.

How Can You Compare the Best Mortgage Lenders?

When there are so many mortgage loans to choose from, how can you best compare them? After you’ve prequalified with a handful of mortgage lenders, you will narrow down your choices by seeing how they stack up.

You can evaluate mortgage companies based on four key factors:

  • Interest rates
  • Closing costs
  • Product offerings
  • Customer service reviews

Interest rates. Interest can vary by lender and by product, so when you shop around and compare mortgage rates, you could find a better deal. Choosing a lender that can save you even a few tenths of a percentage point could translate to hundreds or potentially thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Closing costs. When you factor in closing costs, including application, appraisal and loan origination fees, the lender with the lowest rate may not offer the best overall mortgage costs. Compare costs between lenders, using the APR to find out how much you would owe per year for a loan when you factor in all costs.

Product offerings. Your lender may offer many types of loans, such as 30-year fixed loans, FHA, USDA or VA loans, jumbo loans, and first-time homebuyer programs. Look for a lender with options that work for you.

Make sure the lender offers products in your state. National mortgage companies may provide mortgage loans in all 50 states, but regional mortgage lenders can be more limited.

Customer service reviews. Use customer service feedback to research lender performance. Lenders should not only offer great loan rates but also treat customers well.

“Customer service is the most important factor when you’re looking to apply for a loan,” Sickler says. “A mortgage is a pretty standard product. What sets the best lenders apart is that when problems come up, they’re going to give you the personal attention you need.”

How Can You Get a Home Equity Loan?

You might not be shopping for a first mortgage – the primary loan on a property – but need a second mortgage, or a loan that uses the equity in your home as collateral.

If you’ve built up equity in your home, a home equity loan or home equity line of credit allows you to tap that value to cover large expenses. You can get cash out of your home to cover big-ticket items, such as college costs and home repairs or improvements.

A home equity loan gives you a lump sum that you repay in a series of equal monthly installments over, say, 10, 15 or 20 years. If you have sufficient equity in your home and you need to finance improvements that increase the value of your home, this type of loan could be a good idea.

Also, a home equity loan could help you consolidate high-interest debts, as long as you can keep up with your new monthly loan payment. Home equity loans usually have lower interest rates than personal loans, the risk is higher: If you default, you could lose your home.

What Can You Do if You Can’t Make Your Mortgage Payments?

If you’re in a tough financial position and can’t make your mortgage payments, you need to move quickly to protect your home. The good news is that if you’re struggling because of the coronavirus, help is available so you can avoid foreclosure.

No matter the reason for your struggles, reach out to your lender right away to discuss your options if you can’t keep up with your mortgage payments. You may be able to skip mortgage payments under a forbearance or deferment agreement, or modify your loan to make monthly payments for manageable.

Whatever you do, don’t wait until you’ve missed payments before seeking help.

“Servicers understand (that) things happen, and they’re willing to work with you,” Sickler says. “The more proactive borrowers are at the beginning of a problem, the better the results will be.”

Advertising Disclosure: Some of the loan offers on this site are from companies
who are advertising clients of U.S. News. Advertising considerations may impact
where offers appear on the site but do not affect any editorial decisions,
such as which loan products we write about and how we evaluate them. This site
does not include all loan companies or all loan offers available in the marketplace.



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