If you’re looking to buy or refinance a home, you’ll find a vast landscape of mortgage lenders to choose from. They offer many similar products, but the details are slightly different in each case. How do you find the one that’s right for you?
To help you narrow down the field, we researched the most important features of the top 45 mortgage lenders in the country. Each one was given a rating from 0 to 5, based on the following methodology.
Our Review Processs
To judge companies fairly, we looked at the following major categories with the accompanying weights:
- Quality of Service: 55%
- Operational Features: 27%
- Types of Loans Offered: 12%
- Accessibility: 6%
Companies were rated on a scale of 0 to 5 using a variety of criteria in each category, like whether or not they offer online applications, how many states they’re licensed to issue mortgages in, and whether or not they offer loans like jumbo and FHA. Each criterion was weighted based on its importance, and the scores were combined to create an average score for each company.
We collected information on 45 mortgage lenders, consisting of over 1,200 original data points and information from the NMLS, HDMA, and Scotsman databases. A survey was conducted of 1,195 mortgage borrowers to better understand customer satisfaction, amounts borrowed, interest rates, and mortgage lengths, among other factors. We also reached out to company representatives for more information about their coverage.
Quality of Service
We examined the following quality of service criteria with the accompanying weights:
- Overall customer experience: 42.50%
- Benefits and grants: 5%
- Online application: 5%
- Application assistance online: 2.50%
Companies that provide a better quality of service for customers scored higher; altogether, quality of service factors accounted for 55% of the total score.
Overall Customer Experience
We asked mortgage borrowers about their experiences with mortgage lenders, and gave each lender a score of 0 to 10. Getting a mortgage is an important and potentially stressful life event, so this criterion accounted for 42.50% of the total score.
Benefits and Grants
Some lenders offer special programs for new and first-time homebuyers, like Home Possible and HomeReady loans. We gave companies a score of 1 if they offer benefits and grants, and a score of 0 if they do not; this criterion accounted for 5% of the total score.
Having an easy, online application is important today. We rated companies on whether or not they offer such a feature; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.
Application Assistance Online
Mortgage applications are complicated, and they can be confusing; the best lenders offer some form of assistance for online applicants, like help from a loan officer via chat. We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer online application assistance, and a score of 1 if they do; this factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.
We examined the following operational features with the accompanying weights:
- State licensing: 12%
- Number of loan officers: 5%
- Number of loan originators: 5%
- Brick-and-mortar branches: 5%
Companies with a wider reach and more loan officers and originators scored better overall. Altogether, operational features accounted for 27% of the total score.
The more states a company is licensed to lend in, the more available it’ll be to the average customer. We rated companies on a scale from 0 to 1 based on how many states they’re licensed to lend in; this factor accounted for 12% of the total score.
Number of Loan Officers
Most lenders require you to work with a loan officer to complete your mortgage application, so availability of loan officers is important. The number of officers employed by a lender can change often. We rated companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on how many loan officers they have; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.
Number of Loan Originators
Mortgage originators also play an important role in the process. We scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on how many loan originators they have; this criterion accounted for 5% of the total score.
We scored companies based on how many active brick-and-mortar branch locations they have; the more branches, the higher the score. This factor accounted for 5% of the total score.
Types of Loans Offered
We examined whether or not lenders offer the following loan types, with the accompanying weights:
- Non-conforming jumbo loans: 4.5%
- FHA loans: 2.5%
- VA loans: 2.5%
- Adjustable rate loans: 2.5%
Altogether, availability of loan types accounted for 12% of the total score.
Non-Conforming Jumbo Loans
Jumbo loans are those that exceed the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer jumbo loans, and a score of 1 if they do; this criterion accounted for 4.5% of the total score.
FHA loans have more lenient requirements, making them a bit easier to get. We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer FHA loans, and a score of 1 if they do. This factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.
VA loans are offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for eligible servicemembers, veterans, and their families. We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer VA loans, and a score of 1 if they do; this factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.
Adjustable Rate Loans
The interest rate of an adjustable-rate mortgage can vary over time, in contrast to a fixed-rate mortgage. We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer adjustable rate mortgages, and a score of 1 if they do; this factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.
We examined the following features related to the accessibility of mortgage loans, with the accompanying weights:
- Days to closing: 5%
- Debt-to-income ratio: 1%
The more accessible the lender, the higher the scores; overall, these factors accounted for 6% of the total score.
Days to Closing
Some mortgage lenders can take much longer to close a loan than others; this can be a problem if it takes too long because your rate lock could expire. We scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on the average time it takes them to close a mortgage; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.
Your debt-to-income ratio refers to the amount of your monthly income that goes toward paying back your debts. Different lenders may have different DTI ratio requirements, although they tend to be fairly similar across the board. We scored companies based on their minimum DTI ratio requirement for conventional loans, with lower DTI requirements scoring higher. This factor accounted for 1% of the total score.
Choosing the Best Mortgage Lender for You
It can be tough to compare mortgage lenders, especially because important information about potential rates and fees isn’t usually easily available. In many cases, although not always, you need to go through the application process and get pre-qualified to see your rates.
Our reviews and roundups are intended to provide the latest information about the best mortgage lenders available today. See the results of our methodology here: