If you’re hoping to buy a home in Florida, you’ll have to deal with the current cloud hanging over The Sunshine State: a lack of housing inventory. Single-family listings are at their lowest since Florida Realtors began tracking supply in 2008, according to the state Realtor association. That’s pushed prices upward, with the median single-family price reaching $314,900 in March, a 16.6 percent increase compared with the same time last year.
That surge in prices makes comparing mortgage lenders in Florida more important than ever. Here are some of the best lenders in the state that have earned high marks from Bankrate and positive feedback from borrowers.
To determine the best mortgage lenders by state, 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 Florida
With a 4.9 Bankrate Score out of 5, Better.com is one of the best mortgage lenders out there, provided you’re looking for a conventional or FHA loan; the lender doesn’t offer VA or USDA loans at this time. Better can afford to offer some of the most competitive rates due to low overhead — it has no branch locations. In addition to low rates, the lender doesn’t charge fees for your application or an origination fee, which it estimates saves borrowers approximately $3,500.
You won’t pay an origination fee with First Mortgage Direct, the online lending division of First Mortgage Solutions, or any other hidden fees. The lender also prides itself on doing business the same way, every day of the week: There are no special limited-time offers that might force you to act faster than you’d like. According to the lender, you’ll typically hear back from a loan officer with a prequalification in 24 hours, too, and most borrowers close within 30 days.
Operated by Sun West Mortgage, LowRates.com stands out for its rates, scope of loan options and timing. The lender provides a variety of loan types, from conventional and government-insured loans to construction and renovation loans; offers 20-day closings, which is significantly faster than most closings, and approval within 24 hours. While the LowRates borrower experience is primarily based online, Sun West Mortgage has three branch locations in Florida, in Miami, St. Augustine and St. Petersburg, if you’re looking for in-person support.
For members of the military and their families, Navy Federal Credit Union is a front-runner. If you qualify to be a member, you’ll enjoy no loan processing or underwriting fees, plus cash back options for using the credit union’s real estate services and loan options that don’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance. You can also take advantage of additional options for your everyday banking needs, including surcharge-free ATM access at locations like 7-Eleven and Publix. The credit union also has a branch presence in certain areas of The Sunshine State.
You’ve probably heard of Rocket Mortgage, the Quicken Loans-affiliated brand. The lender has shelled out big bucks to advertise during the Super Bowl, and that’s paid off with lots of customers who’ve been happy with their experience: Rocket Mortgage earns a 4.9 out of 5 based on more than 2,100 borrower reviews. One highlight: You don’t have to take out a traditional 30-year mortgage, thanks to the lender’s “YOURgage” product. Instead, you can choose a term between eight and 29 years.
Encountering a delay in closing your mortgage can be stressful, but Wyndham Capital Mortgage offers reassurance you won’t hit that hurdle: a $10,000 limited guarantee that your loan closes on time. Wyndham offers other conveniences, too, such as automated, on-demand preapprovals and absolutely no lender fees or “unnecessary charges” to factor into your closing costs. The lender provides several options for every Florida borrower, including FHA loans for first-time homebuyers and refinancing options for homeowners.
Florida conforming loan limits
Before you start looking for a home, you should have a solid understanding of your price point. That’s not just about your budget, either.
Depending on the type of loan you use to purchase your home, it might be subject to conforming loan limits. If it’s a conventional mortgage, the amount is capped at $548,250, which is the limit imposed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency in 2021. If your loan is backed by the FHA, the loan limits are different, and in some areas, might be surprisingly higher. For example, in Monroe County, home to Key West, the FHA limit for 2021 is $608,350. In most places in Florida, though, you’ll need to adhere to the FHA’s standard limit this year of $356,362.
Check out Bankrate’s county-by-county listing of conforming loan limits in Florida to see what applies to you.
Florida first-time homebuyer programs
Buying your first home can be especially daunting, but you might be able to qualify for some extra help to ease your worries from Florida Housing, the state’s housing finance authority. The organization works with lenders to offer a range of programs that can help you lock in competitive rates on 30-year loans, pay less for mortgage insurance and get access to cash to cover down payment and closing costs.
To take advantage of any of Florida Housing’s offerings, you’ll need to meet income and purchase price requirements and complete a homebuyer education course. You can learn more about Florida first-time homebuyer programs here.
Tips to get the best mortgage rate
Mortgage rates can look similar at first glance. What’s the difference between 3.5 percent versus 3.7 percent, you might ask? A lot. Over the course of 30 years, even slight variances in your rate can meaningfully affect your total interest paid.
It’s not just about the rate the lender advertises, though. You can make all the difference in getting the best mortgage rate by improving your credit score, saving more for a down payment and putting in the work to compare offers from a few different lenders. This can help ensure you get the lowest-cost option based on your credit and financial situation.