Best of

4 Tips for Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lenders

Marilyn LewisJuly 2, 2019

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not 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.

Technology is making it faster and simpler to get a mortgage. You still may have to dig up some physical documents, but you can’t beat the convenience of applying for a home loan, say, on your phone during a lunch break.

How to look for an online mortgage lender Since not every lender offers a fully digital mortgage and your experience can differ from one lender to the next, it’s a good idea to find a company that offers an online experience that meets your expectations.

These four tips will guide you to the right fit. Read more about each tip below the list of lenders.

  1. Know the mortgage you need. The loan type that’s right for you will depend on your credit score and other financial qualifications.

  2. Evaluate customer service options. Make sure you can get the help you need, even after the loan closes.

  3. Decide if an online application is right for you. Complex financial situations might not be suited to a hands-off loan process.

  4. Apply for preapproval to test digital tools. Getting preapproved lets you peek behind the curtain of a lender’s online lending process.

NerdWallet has researched some of the top online mortgage lenders to help you quickly find the right one for your needs.

Summary of 4 Tips for Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lenders

Logo

at Rocket Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans: NMLS#3030

Logo

Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

at Rocket Mortgage


Why we like it

Good for: borrowers who appreciate smartphone and online convenience for a fully digital home loan experience powered by Quicken Loans.

Pros

  • Caters to self-service users who want to apply for a home loan online and talk to a human only as necessary.

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

  • Offers document and asset retrieval capabilities.

Cons

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

  • Getting a customized interest rate requires a credit check, which can lower your credit score by a few points.

Read Full Review
Logo

at Guaranteed Rate

Guaranteed Rate: NMLS#2611

Logo

Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

at Guaranteed Rate


Why we like it

Good for borrowers seeking conventional or government-backed loans, and a totally online experience.

Pros

  • Offers the ability to securely upload and digitally sign loan documents.

  • Displays detailed sample rates for many of its loan products.

Cons

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

Read Full Review
Logo

at Quicken Loans

Quicken Loans: NMLS#3030

Logo

Min. Credit Score

620

Min. Down Payment

3%

at Quicken Loans


Why we like it

Good for: borrowers looking for just about all of 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 many working Americans.

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

  • Provides a wide variety of loan types, including renovation loans and all government-backed mortgage products.

Cons

  • Quicken Loans doesn't offer home equity loans or HELOCs.

  • Quicken's lender fees can be stout and they don't offset those fees with particularly low mortgage rates.

Read Full Review

SunTrust: NMLS#2915

Logo

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 wide variety of loan options, including special programs for doctors, entrepreneurs and other professionals.

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

  • Sample rates and fees are easy to find on the website.

Cons

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

  • Branches are limited mostly to the Southeast.

Read Full Review

Bank of America: NMLS#399802

Logo

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.

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

Cons

  • Does not offer renovation loans.

Read Full Review

PNC: NMLS#446303

Logo

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

  • Can't complete a full mortgage application online.

  • Doesn't offer renovation mortgages.

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

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.

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 $510,400.

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

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.

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 the 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 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 five key areas we evaluated include the variety of loan types and products offered, online conveniences, online mortgage rate information, and the rate spread and origination fee 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 4 Tips for Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lenders