BEST OF

Best Mortgage Lenders for First-Time Home Buyers in 2023

These mortgage lenders cater to first-time home buyers with low down payments, grant programs and educational materials.

By Kate Wood 

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For first-time home buyers, finding the right mortgage can be a big challenge. You want to work with a lender that can give you the best rate, the right term and the lowest closing costs, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

NerdWallet has picked some of the best mortgage lenders for first-time home buyers in a variety of categories so you can quickly decide which one is right for you.

Best Mortgage Lenders for First-Time Home Buyers in 2023

NBKC
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at NBKC

NBKC: NMLS#409631

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
NBKC

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%
Learn more

at NBKC


Why we like it

Good for: borrowers who want low rates and fees and an online experience with phone support. VA loans are an emphasis.

Pros

  • Offers government-backed loans and some harder-to-find products, such as construction loans and specialty mortgages for pilots.

  • Offers low rates and fees compared with other lenders, according to the latest federal data.

  • Displays customized rates, with fee estimates, without requiring contact information.

Cons

  • HELOCs and construction-to-permanent loans are available only in the Kansas City metro area.

Read Full Review

PNC: NMLS#446303

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
PNC

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why we like it

Good for: borrowers with low-to-moderate incomes or limited down payments. PNC offers several low-down-payment loans, including one with no mortgage insurance.

Pros

  • Posts current mortgage rates on its website.

  • Has an online application for mortgage preapproval and a digital tool to track application progress.

  • Offers several affordable loan options, including FHA, VA, USDA and the PNC Community Loan.

Cons

  • Doesn't offer renovation mortgages.

  • In-person service is not available in every state.

Read Full Review
Northpointe
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at Northpointe

Northpointe: NMLS#447490

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Northpointe

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

5%
Learn more

at Northpointe


Why we like it

Good for: those seeking an abundance of loan offerings, including a no-down-payment mortgage that helps accelerate home equity accumulation.

Pros

  • A full slate of loan offerings.

  • Offers a no-down-payment loan with a shorter repayment term that helps accelerate home equity accumulation.

  • Digital conveniences include a mobile app.

Cons

  • You’ll need to provide contact information or speak to a loan officer for customized mortgage rates.

  • Origination fees are on the high side, according to the latest data.

Read Full Review

Sebonic Financial: NMLS#66247

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Sebonic Financial

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

5%

Why we like it

Good for: borrowers who want a variety of loan products paired with a smooth digital process.

Pros

  • Convenient online application and loan process updates.

  • Offers a variety of mortgage options, including FHA, VA and USDA loans.

Cons

  • Mortgage interest rates aren't published online.

  • Doesn’t offer home equity loans or lines of credit.

  • Lender fees are on the high side, according to the latest federal data.

Read Full Review

Flagstar: NMLS#417490

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Flagstar

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why we like it

Good for: borrowers who want a wide range of choices — not only among mortgage products, but also in the channel they prefer, whether a branch, online or on the phone.

Pros

  • Offers a wide range of loan types and products, including FHA, VA and USDA.

  • Borrowers can apply and track loan status online.

  • Offers customized online rate quotes with monthly payment estimates, including mortgage insurance, when applicable.

Cons

  • Home equity loans are geographically limited.

  • Origination fees are on the high side compared with other lenders, according to the latest federal data.

Read Full Review

Wells Fargo: NMLS#399801

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Wells Fargo

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why we like it

Good for: existing customers of the bank looking for a wide selection of mortgage products.

Pros

  • Sample rates clearly posted for various loan products.

  • Offers a wide variety of loan types and products.

  • Mortgage rates tend to be on the low side compared with other lenders, according to the latest federal data.

Cons

  • Home loans business is broadly focused on bank customers.

  • Doesn’t offer home improvement loans, or home equity loans or lines of credit.

  • Scandals and government actions have damaged consumer trust in recent years.

Read Full Review

Veterans United: NMLS#1907

4.0

NerdWallet rating 
Veterans United

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

0%

Why we like it

Good for: veterans, active-duty service members and eligible reservists looking for VA loans.

Pros

  • Offers 24/7 customer service over the phone.

  • Offers a free credit counseling service.

  • Mortgage rates are on the low side, according to the latest federal data.

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer home equity loans or HELOCs.

  • Veterans United has physical branch offices in only 17 states.

  • Focus on VA loans, so may not be the strongest choice for those seeking other loan types.

Read Full Review

Guild Mortgage: NMLS#3274

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
Guild Mortgage

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why we like it

Good for: borrowers who value customer service, and first-time home buyers and others who may need the flexibility of a low-down-payment loan program.

Pros

  • Offers a wide variety of loan products, including home improvement loans and mortgages for manufactured homes.

  • Has retail branches in most states.

  • Receives high marks for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power and Zillow.

Cons

  • Does not offer home equity loan products.

  • Origination fees tend to be higher, according to the latest federal data.

Read Full Review

Truist: NMLS#399803

4.5

NerdWallet rating 
Truist

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why we like it

Good for: first-time home buyers, doctors and other borrowers interested in low-down-payment mortgage options.

Pros

  • Offers a complete suite of online mortgage application tools and loan tracking.

  • Sample rates are easy to find on the website.

  • Offers a wide variety of loan options, including construction loans and programs for doctors.

Cons

  • Customized rates aren't available online without starting an application.

  • For borrowers who prefer to apply in person, branches are limited mostly to the South and East.

Read Full Review

PrimeLending: NMLS#13649

3.5

NerdWallet rating 
PrimeLending

Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why we like it

Good for: borrowers looking for closing cost assistance, as well as those seeking to renovate or to build a new home.

Pros

  • Full online application includes document uploads and automated loan updates.

  • Offers a "float-down" interest rate lock.

  • Offers government-backed mortgage and refinance options, including FHA, USDA and VA loans.

Cons

  • No online mortgage rates — you have to contact the lender for info.

  • Doesn't offer home equity products.

Read Full Review

How do I choose a mortgage lender?

Once you have an idea of the type of mortgage you're looking for, finding the right lender may be easier than you think, especially when you compare at least three lenders and let them compete for your business. It's likely one lender's mortgage package will rise above the others’ — with a lower rate and lower fees.

How do I compare mortgage lenders?

After determining what kind of loan you need, think about what type of service and lending experience is important to you. Maybe you'd prefer to talk to a banker in person at an actual brick-and-mortar bank. Or perhaps minimizing contact is more your style, and you'd like to be able to do almost the entire mortgage process on an app. Depending on what you prefer, you might focus on traditional banks, nonbank lenders, credit unions — or you might decide to have a mortgage broker do the research for you.

Apply for mortgage preapproval with multiple lenders to see how much you might qualify to borrow, what kind of rate you might be offered and also get a taste of what it would be like to work with each lender. In order to see actual interest rates and fees, you'll need to go through with applying for a mortgage with more than one lender. Since that'll cost you an application fee whether or not you go through with the loan, it'll help if you can narrow the field with your preapprovals. Once you've applied for a mortgage, you'll receive a Loan Estimate within three business days. This standard form allows you to compare lenders side by side to see who is offering you the best mix of rates and fees.

How much do I need to save for a down payment?

The amount you'll need for a down payment varies depending on the type of home loan you're using. Conventional loans can offer down payments as low as 3%, though some buyers will make down payments as high as 20% in order to avoid paying private mortgage insurance. FHA loans can come with down payments as low as 3.5%, depending on your credit score. VA loans and USDA loans do not require down payments.

Can I get help making a down payment?

As a first-time home buyer, you may qualify for down payment assistance and other types of first-time home buyer benefits. These programs are generally run by state housing authorities, though depending on where you live, you may find options that are city- or county-specific. Income and residency restrictions may apply, and you'll often have to take a first-time home buyer class in order to qualify for assistance.

More from NerdWallet

Last updated on January 3, 2023

Methodology

The star ratings on this page reflect each lender's overall star ratings. Read more about how we determine those ratings. The lenders on this page are chosen using this methodology:

NerdWallet reviewed more than 50 mortgage lenders, including the majority of the largest U.S. mortgage lenders by annual loan volume (measured among lenders with at least a 1% market share), lenders with significant online search volume and those that specialize in serving various audiences across the country.

All reviewed mortgage lenders that offer programs for first-time home buyers were evaluated based on (1) the portion of their business dedicated to FHA and VA lending, (2) their ability to offer conventional loans with a down payment as low as 3%, (3) their origination fees, (4) their proprietary first-time home buyer loans or assistance (e.g. grants or loans to cover down payment and closing costs), (5) mortgage rate transparency, and (6) the ease of their online application. The highest scoring lenders appear on this page.

NerdWallet solicits information from reviewed lenders on a recurring basis throughout the year. All lender-provided information is verified through lender websites and interviews. We also utilized 2021 HMDA data for origination volume, origination fee, average interest rate and share-of-product data.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Mortgage Lenders for First-Time Home Buyers in 2023

Frequently asked questions