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4 Tips for Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lenders

Marilyn LewisJuly 2, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Online mortgage lenders make borrowing simpler and faster. These four tips will help you get what you need when borrowing a home loan online.

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at Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage: NMLS#3030

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Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

at Rocket Mortgage


Why we like it

Ideal for anyone who appreciates smartphone app service, support and time savings. Rocket Mortgage offers a fully digital home loan experience with a large variety of mortgage products.

Pros

  • The site caters to self-service users who want to apply for a home loan without talking to a human unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  • With your authorization, accesses asset statements from 98% of U.S. financial institutions.

  • Tells you the loan amount you’ll qualify for within minutes.

  • Rocket Mortgage’s document and asset retrieval capabilities can save you a bunch of time and hassle.

Cons

  • Doesn't offer home equity loans or HELOCs.

  • If you’re a “look me in the eye” type of customer, you’re out of luck.

  • Doesn’t consider alternative credit data. It just looks at credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, the way most mortgage lenders always have.

Read Full Review

Guaranteed Rate: NMLS#2611

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Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%


Why we like it

Ideal for borrowers who are looking to apply for a mortgage and manage the process through online tools, whether buying or refinancing. Guaranteed Rate offers FHA, VA and USDA loans for borrowers who meet robust guidelines.

Pros

  • Works with most borrowers as long as they have good credit scores and incomes.

  • Provides a user-friendly digital platform that’s thorough in covering all types of borrowing scenarios.

  • Has a 95% customer satisfaction rate, according to company data.

Cons

  • Charges some fees, such as a $1,290 lender fee, which includes a $150 application fee.

  • Offers many products, which might confuse or overwhelm borrowers.

  • Several click-throughs required for personalized rates.

Read Full Review
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at Quicken Loans

Quicken Loans: NMLS#3030

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Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

at Quicken Loans


Why we like it

Ideal choice for convenience and quick-response customer service. Quicken Loans provides just about all the services your neighborhood lender does — with online convenience.

Pros

  • Quicken Loans couples a fully online application with available mortgage advisors for those who want a human touch.

  • Instantly verifies employment and income for more than 60% of working Americans.

  • Offers custom fixed-rate loan terms that are between eight and 30 years.

  • Provides FHA-backed loans, USDA loans as well as products offered by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that require down payments as low as 3%.

Cons

  • Doesn't offer home equity loans or HELOCs.

  • If you’re a “look me in the eye” type of customer, you’re out of luck.

  • Doesn’t consider alternative credit data. It just looks at credit scores and debt-to-income ratios, the way most mortgage lenders always have.

Read Full Review

SunTrust: NMLS#2915

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Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%


Why we like it

Ideal for first-time home buyers, including those with little money saved for a down payment. SunTrust's online portal offers information and tools in English and in Spanish.

Pros

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

  • Has plenty of loan options to choose from and competitive interest rates.

  • Provides customer service in its physical locations, online, via chat and by phone.

  • Has a Doctor Loan Program for medical professionals who have high earning potential but little cash for down payments.

Cons

  • Has a limited number of physical branch locations in 11 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Does not consider alternative scoring data, such as rent or utility payments, in standard underwriting.

Read Full Review

Bank of America: NMLS#399802

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Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%


Why we like it

Ideal for borrowers who prefer a traditional bank. Bank of America offers a wide array of mortgages and online account management tools. It also has first-time home buyer loans with low down payments and no mandatory mortgage insurance.

Pros

  • Allows borrowers to apply entirely online.

  • Offers down payment and closing cost assistance programs.

  • Accepts alternative credit data for some loan types.

  • May give existing customers a discount on mortgage lender origination fees.

Cons

  • Charges an application fee of $1,170, on average.

  • Has a high volume of consumer complaints, even for a big national bank.

Read Full Review

PNC: NMLS#446303

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Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%


Why we like it

Ideal for borrowers with low-to-moderate incomes or limited down payments. PNC offers a low-down-payment loan with no mortgage insurance.

Pros

  • Considers nontraditional credit history like rent payments.

  • Online tools help you estimate mortgage payments and track application progress.

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

Cons

  • It's not possible to complete the entire mortgage process online.

  • Offers mortgage loans nationwide, but has branches in only about two dozen states.

Read Full Review

4 tips for finding the best online mortgage lenders

1. Look for a lender with loans to match your qualifications

Finding the best mortgages and online lender experience for you depends on understanding your financial situation. It’s easy to find generic mortgage rates online. But to learn the rates you may qualify for, you’ll need to know your credit score. Knowing what you can afford to spend on a home and how much you can borrow round out the financial picture.

» MORE: See how much house you can afford

With these details in hand, you’ll be able to see if you meet the qualifications for different mortgage products and determine which lenders offer the loans you need.

Options offered by online lenders can vary greatly. For instance, that company with the cool app may not offer the 30-year fixed-rate Federal Housing Administration mortgage with a low down payment that you need. Lenders also may not offer jumbo loans, which, in most parts of the country, are mortgages over $484,350.

As you shop, verify online or ask each lender right away if it has the types of mortgages that might work best for you.

» MORE: Find out how much you can borrow

2. Evaluate the lender's customer service options

Even if they work and bank online, many customers still like being able to phone a lender or go into a branch office with their mortgage questions. See if you’ll have these options:

  • Web chat. Chat support is handy while completing an online application. Check for it on a lender’s site and test it out.
  • Customer service. Is a customer support number readily available? Call it to see if you can easily locate someone who’s knowledgeable about mortgages. Verify customer service hours on weekends and evenings if you anticipate you may need help at these times.
  • Face-to-face support. Might you want in-person help? Check whether there are branches near you and whether they have in-house mortgage experts.

3. Decide if an online application is right for your situation

Some of the platforms that process online applications are made to handle standard, uncomplicated loan requests — perfect for borrowers who, for example, want a conventional mortgage, have good credit and whose income is reported on W-2 forms.

Not everyone fits that mold. That means, for instance, if you are self-employed, are buying a home that’s unique and hard to appraise, or have a history of credit problems or a low credit score, your application could stand the best chance with a lender that supports borrowers with more complicated situations. Online lenders you are considering should have loan officers who can help you decide if their loan products and online application process are a good fit.

» MORE: How to apply for a mortgage

4. Test-drive online lender platforms by getting preapproved

When you’ve found two or three online lenders you like, try out their online systems by applying online for a mortgage preapproval with each. It involves giving a lender permission to view your credit report and financial history so you can receive written offers of loan amounts and interest rates.

Getting preapproved requires producing much of the same information you’ll need when applying for a mortgage:

  • Borrowers’ Social Security numbers
  • Income and tax records
  • Down payment amount and sources
  • Salary and employer information
  • Bank and investment account information
  • A list of outstanding debts

Getting and comparing several preapproval offers saves money by giving you a chance to compare annual percentage rates and other loan terms. It’s best to complete all of your applications within 14 days so that they show up on your credit report as a single inquiry.

Making these applications also gives you a chance to size up a lender’s digital platform. The right digital platform and mobile app let you manage the whole process online, from beginning (pre-qualification, preapproval or mortgage application) to the end (managing your brand-new mortgage).

Depending on a lender’s technological prowess, features to look for include the ability to order an appraisal, upload and download documents, sign paperwork electronically, schedule the loan closing and sign the closing papers — all online. Explore and compare lender websites to see which tools and approaches you prefer. Also, find the lender mobile apps that are compatible with your device and read user reviews.

More from NerdWallet

Last updated on July 2, 2019

Methodology

NerdWallet's selection of mortgage lenders for inclusion here was made based on our evaluation of the products and services that lenders offer to consumers who are actively shopping for the best mortgage. The six key areas we evaluated include the loan types and loan products offered, online capabilities, online mortgage rate information, customer service and the number of complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a percentage of loans issued. We also awarded lenders up to one bonus star for a unique program or borrower focus that set them apart from other lenders. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's 4 Tips for Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lenders

  • Rocket Mortgage: Best for online mortgage lenders overall
  • Guaranteed Rate: Best for online mortgage lenders overall
  • Quicken Loans: Best for online mortgage lenders for first-time home buyers
  • SunTrust: Best for online mortgage lenders for first-time home buyers
  • Bank of America: Best for online lenders with a traditional mortgage background
  • PNC: Best for online lenders with a traditional mortgage background