Whether you’re looking to buy a new home or refinance your mortgage in Chicago, there’s good news: Home prices aren’t rising quite as quickly in The Windy City when compared with the rest of the country. The median sale price of a property in Chicago was $340,000 as of August 2021, according to real estate brokerage Redfin — just a 1.5 percent increase from the same time in 2020. The iconic Midwestern city is a major draw, boasting an 18-mile trail of scenic Lake Michigan views and bustling neighborhoods like Logan Square, Bucktown and Pilsen. If you’re looking to call Chicago home, here are some of the best mortgage lenders to consider.
To determine the best mortgage lenders by city, 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 high Bankrate Score and high ratings from borrowers.
Best mortgage lenders in Chicago
- Good if: You’re looking for no fees and a fast closing
Better.com consistently ranks on Bankrate’s list of top mortgage lenders around the country, so it’s no surprise that the lender also sits at the top for Chicago borrowers. Better.com offers 24/7 customer support as you’re gearing up to close, and you won’t pay any lender fees at closing, either. This is a solid option for borrowers looking for a conventional or FHA loan on new properties in The Windy City.
- Preapprovals in a few minutes and closings within 21 days
- No lender commissions or fees
- Great online experience
- Doesn’t offer FHA or USDA loans
- Requires a minimum 620 credit score
- Good if: You’re looking to refinance
Interfirst Mortgage Company is based in Chicago, but you won’t go to a branch office to sort through any paperwork. This online-only mortgage lender can be an especially savvy pick for limiting any upfront costs such as an application or origination fee. In fact, Interfirst doesn’t charge any of those pesky fees, which is a big difference-maker when you’re refinancing and looking to save money.
- No fees
- Easy online rate estimates in a few minutes
- Requires a minimum credit score of 620
- Requires a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 85 percent or lower
- Good if: You’re self-employed or have an unconventional financial situation
Being self-employed comes with the freedom to set your own work hours, but it can come with the challenge of being approved for a mortgage to buy a home. Allied Mortgage Group has loan programs that cater specifically to self-employed borrowers, as well as those who have lost their homes in recent years due to unemployment or medical bills.
- Flexibility to help those who don’t have conventional employment situations
- Offers loans for investors
- Mortgage rates aren’t available on its website
- No branch locations in Chicago
- Good if: You want to work with one of the biggest banks in Chicago (and the entire U.S.)
Chase has approximately 4,700 branch locations across the nation, and many of them are located on corners throughout the city of Chicago. iI you’re looking to get your mortgage at the same place where you might have a checking account or credit card, this is a great option. Plus, if you already do business with the bank, you might be eligible for a discount on your interest rate.
- Locations throughout Chicago
- Potential discounts for banking customers
- Charges lender fees
- Higher credit score requirements (640 for FHA and VA loans)
Local Chicago mortgage lenders
There are quite a few other Chicago-based mortgage lenders with local branches that can provide the support you need when applying for a mortgage. If you’re looking for in-person assistance, consider these options.
- Good if: You need down payment assistance
With several branches across Chicago and more than 70 others throughout Illinois, you won’t have to travel far to find a First Midwest Bank location. The bank has more than 50 mortgage options, and offers down payment assistance between $3,000 and $6,000 to eligible borrowers.
- Good if: You want a fast, tech-friendly borrowing experience
If you live in Chicago, you’ve probably heard of Guaranteed Rate: The lender’s name is plastered on the White Sox stadium on the South Side of the city. While it’s a nationally-known mortgage company, Guaranteed Rate has a local presence with seven branches in the city and plenty more scattered across the suburbs.
- Good if: You’re a first-time homebuyer
Wintrust Mortgage originates more than $4 billion in mortgages each year throughout the U.S., but the bank has deep roots in the Chicagoland area and its corporate headquarters are in Rosemont. In addition to offering down payment assistance, it’s one of the top lenders in the region, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the state’s housing finance agency.
What to know when getting a mortgage in Chicago
While home prices in Chicago aren’t rising as quickly as those in some other major markets, it’s important to set realistic expectations about how much a home will cost, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. The marketshare of homes priced between $100,000 and $200,000 has decreased significantly over the past year, and only 16 percent of homes are under the $200,000 price tag in the area, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.
As you work to set a budget for living in Chicago, you’ll need to account for property taxes, too. The state of Illinois is notorious for having some of the highest property taxes in the country, and Cook County — where Chicago is located — helps drive that reputation.
When you’re ready to search for homes, explore the local housing market to determine which neighborhood fits your lifestyle and price point — but be sure to get preapproved before you actually start viewing properties. Homes in Chicago were on the market for a brisk 22 days as of August 2021, Redfin data shows. You can stand out as a buyer, and potentially snap up a good deal, if you’re prepared ahead of time.