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5 Tips for Finding the Best Mortgage Lender

Before house hunting, shop around for the best mortgage lenders. Get tips on finding the right lender for you, and see our top picks for a variety of needs.

By
Phil Metzger
Nov 3, 2023

Some or all of the mortgage lenders featured on our site are advertising partners of NerdWallet, but this does not influence our evaluations, lender star ratings or the order in which lenders are listed on the page. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners.

5 Tips for Finding the Best Mortgage Lender

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Lender
NerdWallet Rating
Min. credit score
Min. down payment
Learn more
Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate: NMLS#2611

Top 3 most visited 🏆
Learn moreat Guaranteed Rate
at Guaranteed Rate
Home loans overall
Best for jumbo loans
Easy custom rates
Low rates

620

3%

PNC

PNC: NMLS#446303

Read review
5.0
/5
Home loans overall
Best for first-time home buyers and FHA loans

620

3%

4.5
/5
Home loans overall
Best for FHA and VA loans
Easy custom rates
Low rates & fees

620

3%

Pennymac

Pennymac: NMLS#35953

4.5
/5
Home loans overall
Best for FHA loans
Easy custom rates
Low rates
Good for Jumbo loans

620

3%

Andrews Federal Credit Union

Andrews Federal Credit Union: NMLS#410421

5.0
/5
Home loans overall
Best for first-time home buyers

620

3%

Guaranteed Rate
Learn moreat Guaranteed Rate
at Guaranteed Rate
Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate: NMLS#2611

5.0
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood for: borrowers seeking a broad menu of loans, including jumbo and interest-only options, renovation loans and government-backed mortgages, as well as home equity lines of credit.
Pros
  • Offers a one-day mortgage approval process.
  • Offers a generous selection of loans, including government-backed, interest-only, ITIN, jumbo, and renovation loans.
  • Advertises a HELOC that can be funded in as few as five business days.
  • Receives high marks for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power and Zillow.
Cons
  • Origination fees are higher than average, according to the latest federal data.
  • HELOC has a relatively short draw period, which may not provide flexibility for someone who wants the option of accessing home equity over a longer period.
Read Full Review
PNC

PNC: NMLS#446303

5.0
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood for: borrowers with low to moderate incomes or limited down payments, as well as home buyers seeking mortgages in higher-priced regions of the nation.
Pros
  • Offers several low-down-payment loan options, including FHA, VA, USDA and the PNC Community Loan.
  • Receives high marks for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power and Zillow.
  • Mortgage rates are lower than the industry average, according to the latest federal data.
  • Jumbo loans available with 5% down payment.
Cons
  • Doesn't offer renovation mortgages or home equity loans.
  • In-person service is not available in every state.
  • You’ll have to create an account or supply personal data to get answers by phone.
NBKC

NBKC: NMLS#409631

4.5
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood 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.
Pennymac

Pennymac: NMLS#35953

4.5
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood for: rate-conscious borrowers who want to shop and compare a wide variety of mortgage types online.
Pros
  • Rates are on the low side, according to the latest federal data.
  • An online tool makes it easy to customize a rate quote online, with no contact information required.
  • “Lock & Shop” lets you secure a rate for up to 90 days while you house-hunt, and switch to a lower one if rates drop while you shop.
Cons
  • Origination fees are on the higher end, according to the latest federal data.
  • Doesn't offer home equity lines of credit or renovation loans.
  • Online chat is available only in the logged-in experience.
Andrews Federal Credit Union

Andrews Federal Credit Union: NMLS#410421

5.0
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItFirst-time home buyers and military borrowers in the Mid-Atlantic looking for a lender with deep roots in their local communities.
Pros
  • Caters to first-time home buyers with incentives and education.
  • Provides extra support for military borrowers, including branches near bases in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • Offers HELOCs and home equity loans at competitive interest rates.
Cons
  • Physical branches in the U.S. are limited to Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
  • Does not offer renovation or construction home loans.
Truist

Truist: NMLS#399803

4.5
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood for: first-time and low-income home buyers, early career doctors and other borrowers interested in low-down-payment mortgages, especially those in South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Pros
  • Offers a wide variety of loan options, including construction loans, programs for early career doctors, a wide variety of jumbo loans and home equity lines of credit.
  • Proprietary grant program can help borrowers afford down payment and closing costs.
  • Mortgage rates are lower than industry average, according to the latest federal data.
Cons
  • Customized rates aren't available online without contacting the lender.
  • For borrowers who prefer to apply in person, branches are limited mostly to the South and East.
  • Mortgages aren’t available in all 50 states.
Navy Federal

Navy Federal: NMLS#399807

4.5
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
National / regional

National

Min. down payment

0%

Why We Like ItGood for: Military borrowers who’ve exhausted their VA loan benefits and qualified government employees who want to compare mortgage options without down payments.
Pros
  • Offers unique loan options aimed at military borrowers, such as a proprietary loan called Military Choice that works as an alternative to VA loans.
  • 24/7 customer service supports borrowers stationed overseas.
  • Offers home equity loans and lines of credit.
Cons
  • Borrowers must join the credit union before applying for a mortgage.
  • The lender does not offer renovation or construction loans.
  • When we tried their customer service line, we sometimes waited longer than 10 minutes before being connected with a representative who could answer our questions.
Bank of America

Bank of America: NMLS#399802

4.5
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

660

Min. down payment

5%

National / regional

National

Why We Like ItGood for: first-time home buyers looking for low- or no-down-payment options and homeowners interested in a home equity line of credit.
Pros
  • Offers down payment and closing cost assistance programs.
  • May give existing customers a discount on mortgage lender origination fees and HELOC interest rates.
  • Receives high marks for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power and Zillow.
Cons
  • Doesn't offer renovation loans that roll costs into a mortgage.
Flagstar

Flagstar: NMLS#417490

5.0
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood for: Borrowers who may benefit from Flagstar’s unique loan options, such as ITIN loans, loans for manufactured homes or physician loans.
Pros
  • Multiple loans for those who are renovating or building a home, including loans with interest-only payments during construction.
  • Offers home equity loans and lines of credit.
  • Offers down payment assistance and loans for underserved borrowers, including ITIN loans and loans with flexible qualifications in certain communities.
  • Interest rates are on the low side relative to other lenders, according to the latest federal data.
  • Borrowers can enter their information (including their desired loan amount, down payment and zip code) into the lender’s Mortgage Quote Comparison tool and receive a customized rate quote.
Cons
  • Home equity loans are not available in all locations served by Flagstar.
  • In 2022, the lender was fined for violating laws regarding properties in flood zones.
Better

Better: NMLS#330511

4.5
Home loans overall
NerdWallet rating
Min. credit score

620

Min. down payment

3%

Why We Like ItGood for: borrowers who prefer an online experience, prize low rates and are primarily interested in conventional loans.
Pros
  • Offers a one-day mortgage that lets eligible borrowers apply, lock in a rate and get a loan commitment within 24 hours.
  • Average interest rates are on the low end compared to other lenders, according to the latest federal data.
  • Offers a HELOC that can be used for a primary, second or investment home.
Cons
  • Doesn't offer harder-to-find loans, such as construction loans, renovation loans, or USDA mortgages.
  • Finding descriptions of all of the loan offerings on the website requires some digging, and the lender does not have a mobile app.
  • Average lender fees are on the high end compared with other lenders, according to the latest federal data.

5 tips for finding the best mortgage lenders

Here are five tips to find the best lender for you.

1. Get your finances in good shape

The credit score required to get a mortgage varies by the type of loan and the lender. With a higher score, you'll have more choices of loan programs and you'll qualify for lower interest rates.

Before shopping for lenders, find out your credit score and make sure your credit reports are accurate. NerdWallet offers a free credit score and report, updated weekly, using TransUnion data.

You can receive free copies of your reports from each of the three major credit bureaus through the government-mandated AnnualCreditReport.com website. Check the reports carefully, and dispute any errors.

Next, work on improving your credit. Pay bills on time, and work on paying off credit card balances. Lowering your debt will also improve your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, another key element that lenders evaluate. An ideal DTI ratio for a mortgage is under 36%. Reducing your debt payments will also free up money to save for a home down payment.

2. Learn what kind of mortgage is right for you

A variety of home loans are available to satisfy different needs. For example:

  • VA loans can help active and veteran military members and USDA loans are available for rural homebuyers. Neither require a down payment.

  • FHA loans have lower credit score requirements than other mortgages and require as little as 3.5% down.

  • Conventional loans are generally geared to borrowers with good credit, and some require as little as 3% down.

  • Jumbo loans are used to finance properties that are too expensive for most conventional loans.

Home loans also vary by term length, such as 15 or 30 years, and by how the interest rate works. With fixed-rate mortgages, the interest rate stays the same for the entire loan term; with an adjustable-rate mortgage, the interest rate periodically increases or decreases, after an initial fixed-rate period.

Some lenders offer a broad mix of mortgages; others specialize in certain types. Once you understand the general options, you can seek out the lenders that offer what you need.

3. Compare rates from multiple mortgage lenders

Search for the best mortgage rates online from lenders that offer the types of loans you want. Keep in mind that the rate quote you see is an estimate. A lender will have to pull your credit information and process a loan application to provide an accurate rate, which you can then lock in if you’re satisfied with the product.

Once you have several quotes from lenders, narrow the list to those with the lowest rates. The total interest you pay over the life of the loan is a big figure, and a lower rate can save you thousands of dollars.

» MORE: Use our mortgage calculator to find out your monthly mortgage payment.

4. Get preapproved

Apply for mortgage preapproval with more than one lender before you start shopping for a home. A mortgage preapproval letter shows sellers and real estate agents that you're a serious buyer. It's evidence that a lender has evaluated your finances and figured out how much you can afford to borrow.

Getting preapproved now will also save time later. When you're ready to make an offer on a home, lenders will have the information they need to process your home loan.

To get preapproved, you’ll have to provide information about your income, debts and assets. Lenders typically require:

  • Social Security numbers for yourself and any co-borrowers.

  • Savings, checking and investment account information.

  • Information about outstanding debt obligations, including credit card, car loan, student loan and other balances.

  • Two years of tax returns, W-2s and 1099s.

  • Salary and employer information.

  • Information about how large a down payment you can make and where the money is coming from.

5. Compare loan estimates and choose the best deal

A loan estimate is a document a lender must provide after you've applied for a loan and have provided certain information, including the address of the property you want to buy. The document will spell out important details about your loan, including the interest rate, monthly payment, fees and estimated closing costs.

Compare loan estimates from at least three lenders. Read each line to make sure the details match what you expected, and ask questions about anything you don't understand. Then carefully compare costs and terms to choose the best deal for you.

» MORE FOR CANADIAN READERS: How to choose a mortgage lender

More from NerdWallet

Last updated on November 3, 2023

Methodology

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. The highest-scoring lenders in our overall star ratings rubric appear on this page. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's 5 Tips for Finding the Best Mortgage Lender

  • Guaranteed Rate: Best for jumbo loans
  • PNC: Best for first-time home buyers and FHA loans
  • NBKC: Best for FHA and VA loans
  • Pennymac: Best for FHA loans
  • Andrews Federal Credit Union: Best for first-time home buyers
  • Truist: Best for HELOCs
  • Navy Federal: Best for VA loans
  • Bank of America: Best for jumbo loans and HELOCs
  • Flagstar: Best for overall mortgage experience
  • Better: Best for loan variety
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