Best mortgage lenders in October 2021

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There are many mortgage lenders out there, from banks and non-banks to credit unions and more. Some are based completely online, with the application process digitally managed, while many have an online and physical presence, where you can consult with a loan officer in person or handle some parts of the process through your smartphone.


Methodology

To determine the best mortgage lenders, Bankrate evaluated lenders based on several criteria, including affordability (APR and fees); expediency (approval and closing times); and experience (including customer service support). In general, the best mortgage lenders have a Bankrate Score of 4.7 stars or higher out of five stars. Based on those scores, here are the best mortgage lenders in October 2021.


Best mortgage lenders

Better.com

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
  • FHA loans
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term and cash-out)
  • Bridge loans

Better.com boasted some of the lowest mortgage rates among the lenders who make rates public and were scored by Bankrate. Through a 100-percent online process, Better.com can issue preapprovals in three minutes and complete closings within 21 days, and doesn’t charge commissions or fees, which amounts to an average $3,500 in savings, according to lender. By comparison, as of July 2021, the average closing took 48 days, ICE Mortgage Technology reports.

Along with no fees and a quick process, Better.com also offers the Better Price Guarantee. If you find a lower rate, the lender will match it and give you $100 (and if it can’t match the rate, you keep the money). The guarantee is available only to borrowers who apply directly through the lender, however.

If you’re looking to refinance to a lower rate, Better.com also ranked highly on Bankrate’s lists of best refinance lenders and best cash-out refinance lenders. The lender also makes an appearance on Bankrate’s best FHA lenders, best jumbo lenders, best no-fee lenders and best online mortgage lenders lists.

On the downside, Better.com doesn’t offer VA loans, USDA loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) or home equity loans, so if you’re in the market for one of those, you’ll have to go elsewhere. Likewise, if you value an in-person experience, an entirely-online process might not be for you — although the lender does offer robust support, seven days a week online and by phone, for those who need it.

Direct Home Lending

Direct Home Lending is a regional mortgage lender available to borrowers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Oregon and Washington, with both in-person and online service. Its loan offerings include:

  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Conventional loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • FHA loans and VA loans
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term, cash-out, FHA and VA)
  • Investment property loans
  • Reverse mortgages

Direct Home Lending’s emphasis is service. If you’re a homebuyer in one of the states the lender operates in, you can nab a custom quote through its website and get preapproved quickly (usually within 24 hours, provided you qualify), apply in as few as 15 minutes and close in as little as two weeks — much faster than the typical timeline. Plus, if you’re on the hunt for an investment property, the lender can connect you with a real estate agent in addition to providing financing.

Another highlight: If you’re looking to finance a more expensive property, the lender can fund jumbo loans up to $10 million, a higher threshold compared to what many other lenders offer.

Unlike other no-cost tech-forward lenders, however, Direct Home Lending charges fees, such as an underwriting fee, depending on the type of loan, and is only available in a handful of states, not nationwide. It doesn’t offer USDA loans, HELOCs or home equity loans, either, which won’t be helpful to some borrowers.

Navy Federal Credit Union is a credit union for armed forces members and their families, with more than 10.7 million members worldwide. It has 346 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
  • Jumbo loans
  • VA loans
  • HomeBuyers Choice loans and Military Choice loans (100-percent financing)
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term, cash-out and VA)
  • Investment property loans

Navy Federal ranked highly on Bankrate’s list of best VA lenders, and also as a best jumbo lender. Like the other lenders on this list, Navy Federal offers preapprovals in record time, and doesn’t charge an application fee. It can charge a funding fee, though, depending on the loan product.

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

Some drawbacks, however: The credit union is limited to members, and it doesn’t offer FHA loans or USDA loans. Due to the pandemic, it has also suspended home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans, so you’ll have to search for these options with another lender at this time.

Ally Home

Ally Home is the mortgage operation of Ally Bank, available to borrowers in more than 35 states and Washington, D.C. Although Ally is an online bank and lender with many products and services, in the home loan space, it offers a more basic lineup compared to that of other lenders:

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

Ally Home advertised very competitive rates at the time of Bankrate’s review, although its rates were not the lowest of all the lenders scored. Another bright spot: The bank recently eliminated fees, so you’ll pay less in closing costs overall.

As an online bank, Ally’s website contains a lot of information and resources for borrowers, and unlike the experience with other lenders, you won’t have to consult with a loan officer first to explore your options. You can view up-to-the-minute rates and monthly payment estimates, as well as get preapproved in just three minutes, all online, and the bank’s app gives you access to your loan so you can manage payments after closing.

These conveniences aside, Ally Home doesn’t offer FHA, VA or USDA loans, which shuts out some borrowers. Still, Ally Bank was named Bankrate’s best online bank this year, so if you’re searching for a new bank and a home loan, it’s a worthwhile contender. (Just be sure to confirm that the bank loans mortgages in your state.)

American Federal Mortgage

American Federal Mortgage is a no-fee online lender operating primarily on the East Coast and in Illinois and Texas. While there are no American Federal Mortgage branches, the trade-off comes in the form of lower rates on many popular products, including:

  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Conventional loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • FHA loans and VA loans
  • Refinancing (rate-and-term and cash-out)

Thanks to its proprietary technology, American Federal Mortgage can grant you a preapproval in 24 hours and help you get a head start on closing through “Close with EASE” (Early Access, Sign Electronically), which allows you to e-sign paperwork, saving you time on closing day. With this process, you’ll only need to spend five or 10 minutes on documents in person, according to the lender.

Notably, American Federal Mortgage also offers a corporate loan program, so if your employer is a participant, you could get a discounted mortgage and access to other perks. Those benefits also apply if you’re a family member or friend of a corporate customer.

American Federal Mortgage isn’t available to borrowers everywhere, however — it’s currently only doing business in Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Costco Mortgage Program

While not a mortgage lender, the Costco Mortgage Program is a digital marketplace that allows borrowers to compare loans from lender partners and take advantage of discounts exclusive to Costco members. As of September 2021, the lenders in the marketplace included ConsumerDirect Mortgage, CrossCountry Mortgage and NBKC Bank, and offered products including:

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

Although it’s a comparison tool, the Costco marketplace ranked on Bankrate’s list of best refinance lenders thanks to the discounted fees it offers: just $250 for executive-level Costco members and $550 for non-executive or Gold-Star members. For executive members, that could translate to over $9,700 in savings, according to Costco’s estimates. (When you’re considering a refinance, how much it’ll cost is one of the most important factors in the equation.)

If you’re not a Costco member, however, you won’t have access to these savings (and if you decide to become one, that comes with its own costs). In addition, the pool of lenders who participate in the marketplace is somewhat limited — less than 10 as of this writing.

LowRates.com

LowRates.com, also known as LowRates, is a brick-and-mortar and online mortgage lender operated by Sun West Mortgage Company, available to borrowers in 48 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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

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

In addition to its depth of offerings, LowRates had, assuredly, some of the lowest rates among the lenders Bankrate scored. For first-time homebuyers, LowRates also offers down payment assistance programs to help cover costs. (The lender even earned a spot as one of Bankrate’s best lenders for first-time homebuyers.)

Plus, to expedite loans, the lender offers the “TRU Approval” process, which completes underwriting in 24 hours or less, and accelerates closings to as little as 20 days.

Sun West Mortgage Company’s branches cover some 20 states, however, so if you’re looking for in-person support, it might not be available in your area.

How to compare mortgage lenders

Your first step to finding the best mortgage lender is to comparison shop. Borrowers who do more upfront research tend to save more money than those who go with the first lender they find. It’s best to get quotes from three lenders, at minimum, so you know your options based on your credit and financial situation. Because rates fluctuate frequently, it’s best to get these quotes on the same day so you have an accurate basis of comparison.

As you compare loan estimates, look at the APR (annual percentage rate) and interest rate quoted by each lender. Consider what’s important to you as far as experience, too. For some, how fast a lender can turn around a preapproval letter or close a loan is critical. If you have specific needs — for example, you want an FHA loan — you might also want to look for the best mortgage lenders who specialize in those products.

Once you determine what your needs and preferences are, get started by comparing mortgage rates and finding a lender in your area through Bankrate.

Current mortgage rates

For a purchase, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is currently 3.310% based on Bankrate’s latest lender survey, while the average 15-year fixed rate is currently 2.650%. The average 30-year fixed refinance rate is currently 3.250% and the average 15-year fixed refinance rate is currently 2.580%.

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