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5 Best Mortgage Lenders in 2021

5 Best Mortgage Lenders in 2021

There are a variety of mortgage lenders available, including banks, non-bank lenders, credit unions, and others. Some are entirely online, with the application process administered digitally, while others offer both an online and a physical presence, allowing you to speak with a loan officer in person or complete some aspects of the procedure using your smartphone.

Lynn Greenspan
Aug 13, 2021

Table of Contents

There are a variety of mortgage lenders available, including banks, non-bank lenders, credit unions, and others. Some are entirely online, with the application process administered digitally, while others offer both an online and a physical presence, allowing you to speak with a loan officer in person or complete some aspects of the procedure using your smartphone.

Bankrate compared mortgage providers based on various factors, including affordability (interest rates and fees), expediency (approval and closing timelines), and experience (including customer service support). The best mortgage lenders, on average, have a Bankrate Score of 4.5 or higher out of five stars.

Better.com

Better.com logo

Better.com is an online mortgage lender available in 46 states and Washington, D.C. Its loan products include:

  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Conventional loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term and cash-out)
  • Bridge loans
  • Investment property loans

Better.com had some of the best mortgage rates among the lenders who publish their rates and were rated by Bankrate. Better can issue pre approvals in three minutes and closes in 21 days using a 100 percent online process, and it doesn't charge commissions or fees, saving customers an average of $3,500, according to the lender. According to ICE Mortgage Technology, the average closure was 53 days as of May 2021.

Better.com also offers the Better Price Guarantee in addition to no fees and a rapid process. If you find a lower rate, the lender will match it and give you $100 (you retain the money if it can't match the rate). However, the guarantee is only offered to customers who apply directly through the lender.

Better also placed highly on Bankrate's rankings of best refinancing lenders and best cash-out refinance lenders if you're looking to refinance at a lower rate. Bankrate's best jumbo lenders and best online mortgage lenders lists both include the lender.

On the negative, Better.com does not provide FHA, VA, USDA, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), or home equity loans, so you'll have to look elsewhere if you're looking for one of these. Similarly, if you appreciate an in-person experience, a fully online approach might not be for you — though the lender does provide comprehensive help for those who need it, seven days a week online and by phone.

Pros

Low rates

Low price guarantee

No origination fees

Fast pre-approval

Fixed rate and adjustable rate options

Cons

Doesn't offer government-backed loans

No customizable terms

Top Perks

  • Low rates and price guarantee

Better Mortgage already outperforms many other lenders' rates, but its price guarantee ensures that the lender will continue to outperform competition. Better will match an offer from a competitor and try to beat it by $100. If the lender is unable to assist you, the $100 is yours to keep. A $150 discount on closing costs. Apply through The Ascent site to get a $150 reduction on closing expenses or refinancing closing charges. This exclusive benefit can help you keep more money in your pocket while also lowering the cost of the lender's already low costs.

  • No origination fees

Many mortgage lenders impose a fee for obtaining a loan. Better doesn't charge an origination fee, which might save you money on your overall closing expenses, which can range from 0.5 percent to as much as 2% depending on the lender.

  • Pre-approval and quick loan estimates

Better provides rate quotes and pre-approval letters in seconds, making it easy to compare lenders quickly. In a competitive market, prospective homeowners can also act quickly on a new house acquisition. A pre-approval letter from other lenders can take several days to arrive. Better uses automated technology to digitally underwrite your loan so that when you make an offer on a house, you may be more competitive because the seller will know that you're properly underwritten.

  • Lock in your interest rate on demand

During the loan procedure, applicants can lock in their interest rate at any time. Most lenders won't guarantee the rate you get in your initial quote, but Better will hold the rate for you so you can finish your application confident that it won't change by the time you close.

  • 100% online application process

The majority of the closing process is completed entirely online (with the exception of signing the final documents). Simply complete and submit their online application form, as well as any required papers, through their secure system.

LowRates.com

LowRates.com, often known as LowRates, is a brick-and-mortar and online mortgage lender run by Sun West Mortgage Company, serving borrowers in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.

LowRates has a litany of mortgage products for all kinds of needs, including:

  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Conventional loans
  • FHA loans, VA loans and USDA loans
  • Jumbo loans (one of Bankrate’s best jumbo lenders)
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term, cash-out, FHA, VA and USDA)
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans
  • Construction loans
  • Investment property loans
  • Renovation loans
  • Reverse mortgages

LowRates has some of the lowest rates among the lenders Bankrate evaluated, in addition to its breadth of services. LowRates also offers down payment assistance programs to help first-time homeowners cover expenditures. (In fact, Bankrate named it one of the top lenders for first-time homebuyers.)

In addition, the lender offers the “TRU Approval” procedure, which completes underwriting in 48 hours or less and speeds up loan closings to 20 days or less.

Sun West Mortgage Company has branches in only 22 states, so if you need in-person assistance, it may not be available in your region.

Pros

  • Variety of loans available in 48 states and Puerto Rico
  • TRU Approval program provides complete credit underwriting in under 24 hours
  • Closings in as few as 20 days
  • Down payment assistance available to eligible borrowers

Cons

  • Sun West Mortgage branch locations only available in 20 states and Puerto Rico
  • Corporate website could be more organized and user-friendly
  • Loans not available in Georgia or Massachusetts

Rates

LowRates.com posts rates on its website, which are updated multiple times every day. After answering a few simple questions, you will receive an instant rate quotation.

Reputation

Sun West Mortgage Company, the parent company of LowRates.com, has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Sun West Mortgage Company also has a 3.2-star rating on Trustpilot (with only three reviews).

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union logo

Navy Federal Credit Union is a credit union for armed forces members and their families, with more than 10.5 million members worldwide. It has 345 branches globally and throughout the U.S., and its offerings range widely, from banking and credit cards to loans. Its mortgage products include:

  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Conventional loans
  • VA loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • HomeBuyers Choice loans and Military Choice loans (100-percent financing)
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term, cash-out and VA)
  • Investment property loans

Navy Federal was a top VA lender, as well as a top jumbo lender, according to Bankrate. The credit union, in particular, had the lowest rate of all the lenders.

Navy Federal, like the other lenders on this list, provides pre approvals quickly and does not charge an application fee. Depending on the loan package, it may impose a funding fee.

If you’re a member of Navy Federal and looking for a loan, your benefits include:

  • 24/7 support
  • Freedom Lock, which allows you two free rate relocks
  • Mortgage Rate Match, in which the credit union either matches a competitor’s rate or you’re paid $1,000
  • RealtyPlus, a cash-back incentive for working with an affiliate real estate agent

Pros

  • Offers a wide range of affordable mortgage products designed for military members.
  • Has an online application for pre approval.
  • Offers low rates compared with most lenders.

Cons

  • Website does not provide customized mortgage rates based on credit score or other factors before you apply.
  • Credit union membership is limited to veterans and current military members, their families, and certain federal employees, retirees and contractors.

Online Convenience

HomeSquad, a Navy Federal digital application platform, allows you to get preapproved for a mortgage online. The lender claims that in some circumstances, you can get pre-approved right away. You can use the technology to submit papers, link to your bank accounts to verify assets, receive notifications when you accomplish milestones, get specialized assistance from credit union employees, and check the progress of your loan.

An application can also be started over the phone or in person at a Navy Federal branch. A home loan counselor can assist you in selecting the best mortgage for your needs, regardless of how you apply.

Rate Transparency

Sample interest rates, as well as annual percentage rates, are available on Navy Federal's website for most of the mortgages it offers. You can also view examples of monthly payments for certain products. The website does not provide rate information that is tailored based on geography or credit score.

Rates for purchase loans can be locked in for up to 60 days following preapproval. If you find a better deal with another lender, Navy Federal claims it would match it or give you $1,000 at closing if you find a better rate elsewhere.

SoFi Mortgage

SoFi Mortgage logo

SoFi is a financial services firm that strives to assist customers with all aspects of their financial lives. Personal loans, investing, banking, financial planning, mortgages, and other services are available. Customers of SoFi have access to unique relationship advantages, which may be enough to compensate for the somewhat limited loan possibilities for some borrowers.

This lender is a good fit for: SoFi mortgages are great for current SoFi customers who can take advantage of relationship discounts.

Pros

  • Member benefits
  • Online application
  • Custom rate with soft credit inquiry

Cons

  • Limited low down payment options
  • No ARM mortgages
  • Rate lock is not automatic
  • No home equity loans or HELOCs

Top Perks

SoFi Mortgage provides a variety of benefits to its borrowers and account holders, though eligibility varies based on the benefit:

  • Charge reduction: Eligible SoFi members (current borrowers or investment clients) can receive a $500 processing and fee reduction. If you already have a personal loan with SoFi, you may be eligible for lower lender costs. Maintaining a minimum balance in a SoFi Invest account is another option. Check with your lender to determine whether you qualify for the SoFi member discount if you have a SoFi product.
  • Other financial perks include special invites and discounts on products, services, and experiences, as well as a rate reduction on a future loan (not a mortgage). Rate reductions are not available on home loans.
  • Members have free access to financial advisors as well as specialized career assistance.
  • Members are given access to a secret community.

Online application

The SoFi mortgage application is fully online and can connect to other financial institutions to get some of your required documentation (like account statements) automatically.

Options for low-cost payments

SoFi Mortgage only has one loan package with a low down payment and no down payment help. You can receive a SoFi mortgage with just 5% down, but any conforming loan with a loan-to-value ratio of more than 80% will require PMI. Even if you have a low debt-to-income ratio (DTI) and a high credit score, this is true.

Rate Lock

Even if a borrower completes a purchase loan application and is pre-approved by SoFi's underwriters, SoFi does not offer an automatic interest rate lock. Only after receiving a signed purchase contract or a fully completed refinance application does SoFi evaluate requests for a 45-day rate freeze. Because mortgage interest rates fluctuate daily (or even more often), the lack of a rate lock may make it difficult to evaluate options when shopping around.

Home equity loans, also known as home equity lines of credit, are a type of loan that allows you to borrow money (HELOCs)

Some borrowers would rather take advantage of their equity rather than refinance their current mortgage. Customers with home equity loans are referred to a third party via SoFi.

Axos Bank Mortgage

Axos Bank logo

Axos Bank (previously known as Bank of Internet) is an entirely online financial institution that offers a wide range of deposit and loan options. Axos has specialized in mortgage loans. To that end, Axos Bank Mortgage has a number of intriguing solutions, especially for high-balance loans and customers who don't meet traditional loan requirements.

This mortgage lender is a good choice for: Any borrower seeking for a no-fee mortgage. The Axos Bank Mortgage lender charge is removed for clients who have an Axos Bank checking account, and becoming a customer is simple. If you require a super jumbo mortgage, Axos is an excellent option.

Pros

  • No lender fee for customers
  • Cash back credit on mortgage payments
  • Has hard-to-find loan options

Cons

  • Lender fee for non-customers
  • No in-person service
  • Cumbersome customer service

Top Perks

  • There is no charge to the lender.

A borrower can acquire a house loan with no origination charge from Axos Bank Mortgage. To be clear, the bank charges a $995 lender fee, which is waived if the loan is for $250,000 or more and the consumer has an Axos Bank checking account. If you don't already have one, you can create one throughout the application process. The charge is not waived for account holders who need a mortgage of less than $250,000, but it is lowered by $200. The mortgage interest rates offered by Axos are competitive and comparable to those offered by other lenders.

  • Cash Back Credit

Axos Bank Mortgage stands out from the competition because to its rewards checking account connection. Axos gives mortgage borrowers an annualized 3% cash back credit on principal and interest payments, up to a maximum of $1,200 per year. To be eligible, your Total Loan Rewards Axos checking account must have a minimum average daily amount.

  • Fully online process

Customers may complete the entire streamlined mortgage process online with Axos Bank Mortgage. You can apply for a mortgage online, upload documents, and track the progress of your loan throughout the process.

  • Great for jumbo loans

Axos Bank specializes in jumbo mortgages, or loans that surpass Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's lending limitations. In most U.S. counties, the cap for a single-unit property in 2021 is $548,250. Because the restriction is partly determined by the county's median house value, some high-cost locations have greater limits. For example, in the Washington, DC region or Honolulu, HI, the cap for a single unit property is $822,375.

  • Great for non-conforming loans

The underwriting standards of Axos Bank Mortgage are liberal. Axos can help borrowers who require loans that don't suit traditional lending criteria. "Personalization for complex financial conditions," according to Axos, as well as properties that aren't owner-occupied.

  • Great for interest-only loans

Axos Bank Mortgage offers interest-only mortgages, which allow borrowers to pay only the interest on a loan for a specified length of time. Interest-only mortgages aren't very prevalent, but they can help you keep your monthly payment low in the beginning. When you have an interest-only mortgage, you usually have the option to pay down the debt if you want to. Interest-only mortgages aren't for everyone, although they can be beneficial in certain circumstances.

  • Unusually varied product selection

Axos Bank Mortgage also offers VA and FHA mortgages, HELOCs, jumbo, and super jumbo loans in addition to normal conforming loans. This lender also offers a wider range of non-conforming loan options than most others. This comprises mortgages for foreign nationals, investment property loans, mobile home loans, mixed-use loans, and mixed-use loans. Low- to moderate-income borrowers can apply for Axos' patented HomeReady Loan. Axos provides fixed- and adjustable-rate loans, as well as interest-only mortgages, asset-based lending, and other services.

  • Home equity options

Home equity loans and home equity lines of credit are available from Axos Bank Mortgage (HELOCs). A home equity loan, sometimes known as a second mortgage, is a fixed-rate loan. When interest rates are extremely low, home equity loans are uncommon. A HELOC is a credit line from which you can borrow money as needed (usually at a variable rate).

  • Refinancing

In addition to its extensive list of purchase mortgages, Axos Bank Mortgage also offers mortgage refinancing. A mortgage refi can help a borrower lower the interest rate, take cash out against equity, eliminate mortgage insurance, or a combination of the three.

Online Application

The mortgage qualification process at Axos Bank is entirely online. In only a few minutes, customers can receive a rate quote. A mortgage specialist from Axos will lead you through the simplified application and documentation procedure. Axos wants to complete its mortgages in 30 days or less.

However, you can't know what rate you'd get at Axos unless you apply. You can ask an Axos Bank Mortgage loan officer basic inquiries over the phone, but don't give out any personal information until you're ready to submit applications and compare bids.

Because Axos specializes in non-traditional mortgages such as jumbo and non-conforming loans, lending conditions can be somewhat varied. Individual applications for specialized loans are assessed.

How to Compare Mortgage Lenders

Comparing lenders is the first step in locating the best mortgage lender. Borrowers who conduct more preliminary research save more money than those who choose the first lender they come across. It's a good idea to receive quotations from at least three lenders so you can understand your possibilities based on your credit and financial position.

Examine the APR (annual percentage rate) and interest rate quoted by each lender you're considering as you compare loan estimates.

Consider what's most important to you in terms of experience. For others, the speed with which a lender may provide a preapproval letter or close a loan is crucial. If you have unique requirements, such as an FHA loan, you should seek out the top mortgage lenders who specialize in such products.

Start by comparing mortgage rates and selecting a lender in your area through Bankrate once you've determined your needs and preferences.

Lynn Greenspan | Lynn Greenspan, a 15-year business expert, is a customer service enthusiast. Lynn made a name for herself as a residential mortgage originator, closing up to $100 million in loans per year. Lynn was a top producer for two national mortgage firms, established and sold her own company to a regional bank, and worked as a valued mortgage adviser throughout her career. Lynn has successfully managed numerous companies, including healthcare ventures, and has served on local boards in addition to her mortgage career. Lynn Greenspan is a regular lecturer on this subject for financial institutions, mortgage companies, food service organizations, and a variety of other industries. She's also the author of Get a Safe Mortgage Loan And Pay It Off In 3 Years.

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