Best mortgage lenders of 2020

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The first step in 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. 

Compare loan features like APR and interest rate. For some people, how fast a lender can turn around a preapproval letter or close the loan is critical. If you have specific needs — for example, you want an FHA loan — you should also look for the best mortgage lenders who specialize in those products.

Big banks, for example, might be able to meet a wide variety of banking needs, from mortgages to savings accounts, but they might fall short in serving customers with credit challenges or who seek a specific type of loan. Here’s where shopping around can save you time and money.

Bankrate reviewed lenders in all areas of the mortgage industry, from credit unions and big banks to online lenders. We scored these lenders based on three important areas: 

  1. Expediency (approval time, close time)
  2. Affordability (APR, interest rate, fees)
  3. Customer experience (availability, ease of application process)

Here you will find the best mortgage lenders, broken out into specialty categories and ranked. This is a great place to start comparison shopping to find the right loan for your financial needs.

1. PennyMac

Available in all 50 states, PennyMac is a direct lender and servicer, with a bevy of loans to meet the needs of both first-time and repeat homebuyers, investors, veterans and others. The lender’s mortgage offerings include:

  • Adjustable- and fixed-rate mortgages
  • Conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans
  • Refinancing, including streamline refinancing
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans
  • Flex term mortgages
  • Investment property loans
  • Jumbo loans

Although PennyMac does charge fees (based on the borrower and loan product), borrowers have many other perks, including:

  • PennyMac’s Better Rate Promise, which guarantees the lowest possible rate or the borrower gets a $250 Visa gift card
  • PennyMac’s Close On Time Promise, which awards a $500 Visa gift card if the closing is delayed due to the lender
  • A first-time homebuyer program
  • Loan modification programs
  • Partnerships with some employers for discounts on loan products

2. Better.com

Better.com, also known as Better Mortgage, is a completely digital lender, with seven-days-a-week online and phone support. Available in 44 states and Washington, D.C., its loan products include:

  • Adjustable- and fixed-rate mortgages
  • FHA loans
  • Cash-out refinancing and rate-and-term refinancing
  • Bridge loans
  • Jumbo loans

With an efficient and fast online process, Better.com issues preapprovals in three minutes, completes closings within 21 days, and does not charge commissions or fees, which amounts to an average $3,500 in savings, according to the lender.

Along with its proprietary smart technology, Better.com also offers:

  • Better Price Guarantee, with which if the borrower finds a lower rate, the lender matches that rate and gives them $100 (and if Better cannot match the rate, the borrower keeps the $100)
  • A first-time homebuyer program

3. Navy Federal Credit Union

With more than nine million members worldwide, Navy Federal Credit Union has an extensive footprint, with 342 branches globally and throughout the U.S.

Although available to members of the military (and their families) only, Navy Federal’s offerings range widely, from banking and credit cards to loans and mortgages, including:

  • Adjustable- and fixed-rate mortgages
  • Conventional, Military Choice and VA loans
  • Cash-out refinancing and rate-and-term refinancing
  • Home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and home equity loans

Navy Federal completes preapprovals quickly, and does not charge fees for mortgage processing or underwriting, but may charge a funding fee, depending on the loan product. 

Notably, members receive:

  • Navy Federal’s Freedom Lock, which allows two free rate relocks
  • Navy Federal’s Mortgage Rate Match, in which the credit union either matches a competitor’s rate or the borrower is paid $1,000
  • Navy Federal’s RealtyPlus, a cash-back incentive for members who work with a partner real estate agent

Featured image by Kotax San of Getty Images.