Best Mortgage Lenders of February 2023

Before buying a home or refinancing a mortgage, shop around to find some of the best mortgage lenders for your circumstances.

By NerdWallet 

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When you buy a home or refinance your mortgage, it's a big financial decision, so it makes sense to find the best mortgage lender you can. To do that, shop for offers from at least three lenders.

Compare mortgage rates and other loan elements such as fees, terms, time to close, the availability of online application and loan tracking, and customer service offerings. Taking the time to make an informed decision can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

To help you choose a mortgage lender, NerdWallet’s business and editorial teams have picked some of the best out there in a variety of categories to help you get the home loan with the best mortgage rate, term and fees.

Best Mortgage Lenders From Our Partners

NerdWallet's editorial picks for the best mortgage lenders

Best for overall mortgage experience

Best for FHA loans

Best for credit union lending

Best for refinancing

Best for jumbo loans

Best for adjustable-rate mortgages

Best for low credit score borrowers

Best for refinancing

Best for cash-out refinancing

Best for VA loans

Best for nontraditional credit histories

Explore our lender roundups

How does a mortgage work?

A mortgage is a loan to purchase a home. The loan is repaid with interest in monthly payments over a certain number of years, such as 15, 20 or 30. If the mortgage isn't repaid, the borrower may lose the home in a multistage process known as foreclosure.

Banks, credit unions and other lenders offer mortgages. To apply, fill out an application and provide documentation about your finances. Lenders consider your income, debts and credit score to decide whether you qualify and the terms to offer.

Types of mortgages

There are a variety of mortgages and home loan programs. Here are some of your choices.

Fixed vs. adjustable rates

There are fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages. The interest rate stays the same for the entire loan term of a fixed-rate mortgage. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, the interest rate stays the same for a certain period, up to 10 years, and then adjusts at a specified interval, usually every six months.

15-, 20- and 30-year mortgages

The most popular mortgage term is 30 years, but 15- and 20-year mortgages are also available. Mortgage payments are spread out monthly through the term. At the end, the loan is paid off and the borrower owns the property free and clear.

Government-backed mortgages

These loans are backed by the federal government:

FHA mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration. They allow down payments as low as 3.5% and have more lenient credit score requirements than other loan programs. Borrowers must pay for mortgage insurance.

USDA mortgages, backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and meant for rural home buyers, do not require a down payment, but borrowers must pay an upfront and annual guarantee fee, similar to mortgage insurance for FHA loans.

VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, are for veterans and active military members. VA mortgages require no down payment, but borrowers pay a one-time VA funding fee, which can be rolled into the loan.

Conventional loans

Conventional loans are mortgages that are not backed by the federal government. Some conventional loans have down payment requirements as low as 3% — but typically, borrowers must pay for private mortgage insurance if they put down less than 20%.

Conventional mortgages can be conforming or nonconforming. Conforming conventional mortgages fall within certain dollar amount limitations set every year by the Federal Housing Finance Agency. They also meet underwriting guidelines set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities that buy conforming loans.

Nonconforming loans don’t abide by those limits and guidelines. For example, jumbo loans are conventional mortgages that exceed the conforming loan limits. They also typically have stricter criteria for approval than other mortgages.

What’s the credit score needed for a home loan?

The credit score needed to buy a home depends on the type of loan and the lender. Most borrowers have scores in the high 600s to 700s. FHA loans generally have the most lenient credit score requirements.

How to compare mortgage rates

You can check current mortgage rates to see the average of what lenders are offering. Then get initial quotes online from some lenders based on your location, loan term, purchase price, down payment amount and other factors.

To get a firm quote, you'll need to apply for preapproval. During the preapproval process, the lender will check your credit and verify your financial information, such as income, assets and debts.

How to shop for a mortgage lender

The time to shop for a mortgage lender is before you start house hunting. Getting preapproved for a mortgage will show real estate agents and sellers that you're a serious buyer. It's smart to get preapproved and then get Loan Estimates from more than one lender. The Loan Estimate provides details about the loan terms, monthly payment and estimated closing costs. With those pieces of information, you can compare offers and choose the best deal.

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Last updated on January 3, 2023


The partner lenders featured at the top of this page were selected by NerdWallet's business team from our lists of Best Mortgage Lenders for First-Time Home Buyers, Best Mortgage Refinance Lenders, Best Lenders for FHA Loans and others.

NerdWallet's content team selected its list of lenders based on the following methodology:

NerdWallet's star ratings for mortgage lenders are awarded based on our evaluation of the products and services each lender offers to consumers who are actively shopping for the best mortgage. The four key areas we evaluated include the variety of loan types offered, ease of application, mortgage rate transparency, and our analysis of the rates and fees lenders reported in the latest available Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best Mortgage Lenders of February 2023

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