If you’re in the market to buy or refinance in The Golden State, a small difference between mortgage rates can make or break the bank.
California has one of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S. The West region of the country has a median home sale price of $152,900 above the national average. That’s why it’s imperative you shop and compare a few lenders before committing.
Two similarly qualified borrowers may see a difference of 0.5% between mortgage rates with different lenders, according to the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau (CFPB) — a difference that can add up thousands of dollars over the life of a loan.
To make sure you’re getting the best deal possible, you’ll want to choose the best mortgage lender for your specific situation — and it doesn’t have to be a local California lender, unless you want it to be.
Outside of getting the best price, it’s equally important to find a lender with transparent pricing, online conveniences, accessibility to most borrowers, an extensive product offering, and a reputable history with customer satisfaction.
To help you navigate the process, NextAdvisor reviewed 49 different lenders and scored each one on categories including transparency, accessibility, online convenience, loan product variety, and customer satisfaction.
We then narrowed down the list to the 10 best mortgage lenders available to California residents.
As with all of our mortgage lender reviews, our analysis is not influenced by any partnerships or advertising relationships. For more information about our scoring methodology, click here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The 10 Best Mortgage Lenders In California
- Guaranteed Rate
- Navy Federal Credit Union
- Rocket Mortgage
- Veterans United Home Loans
- North American Savings Bank
- Truist Bank
- Sebonic Financial
- Pennymac Loan Services
- Watermark Home Loans
The 10 Best Mortgage Lenders In California
1. Guaranteed Rate
Best With Fast Preapprovals and Closings, 4.8/5 Stars
Guaranteed Rate is a Chicago-headquartered firm with a strong online presence and 400 branch locations spread across the country. We ranked the company a top choice lender because of its top-of-the-line digital experience, helpful consumer tools, solid customer service, and variety of loan products, including all three government loans.
Guaranteed rate received fewer consumer complaints compared to most other lenders we reviewed. The company logged less than one complaint per 1,000 loans originated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) consumer complaint database, the agency responsible for collecting, monitoring, and responding to U.S. consumer complaints about financial services and products.
Guaranteed Rate’s Standout Feature:
From start to finish, borrowers can complete the mortgage application, upload documents, and even sign closing paperwork online where e-closings are allowed. Guaranteed Rate says it can provide a preapproval letter in around 15 minutes and the company goal is to be clear to close within 10 days.
A Drawback for Guaranteed Rate:
Certain loan products, such as construction loans, reverse mortgages, and home equity products, you can start the application with Guaranteed Rate, but they’ll take the application and broker it to another lender.
2. Navy Federal Credit Union
Best for Military Families, 4.8/5 Stars
Headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, Navy Federal Credit Union serves all 50 states and has 344 branches worldwide. Navy Federal Credit Union was a high-scoring lender by NextAdvisor because of its price transparency, streamlined online application process, and loan product variety. It has a slightly above average complaint ratio of 2.8 complaints per 1,000 loans with the CFPB. But this lender offers no-down payment and flexible credit requirements on most mortgage products to qualified military service members and their families.
Navy Federal Credit Union Standout Feature:
Navy Federal Credit Union offers a unique relock rate option: You can lock in your interest rate and relock it twice if rates improve before closing.
A Drawback for Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union’s footprint is nationwide but only lends to eligible military families.
3. Rocket Mortgage
Top Lender for Customer Satisfaction, 4.6/5 Stars
Rocket mortgage is the online lender for Quicken Loans and is one of the largest mortgage lenders in the U.S. We ranked the Detroit-based company as one of the best mortgage lenders because of its simple online application process, low level of consumer complaints, the transparency and accessibility of its rates and fees, and the company’s wide offering of mortgage loan products.
Rocket Mortgage’s Standout Feature:
Rocket Mortgage stands out for the company’s high level of customer satisfaction. Rocket Mortgage originated over one million loans in 2020, making it the largest lender we reviewed by total volume. Despite its magnitude, the company has lower-than-average consumer complaints registered on the CFPB consumer complaint database. We found 0.48 complaints per 1,000 loans — or less than half a complaint per 1,000 loans occurred. This figure is very low compared to the average complaint ratio of 2 complaints per 1,000 loans among other lenders we reviewed.
A Drawback for Rocket Mortgages:
It’s not clear on the Rocket Mortgage site which types of loans it offers or what the minimum credit score requirements are for different mortgages. The FAQ lists a few types of loans and its requirements, but there isn’t a complete public list of every loan offered. So you’ll have to call or chat with a representative to get some critical questions answered.
4. Veterans United Home Loans
Top Lender Among Military Families, 4.6/5 Stars
Veterans United Home Loans, headquartered in Missouri, is a mortgage lender that specializes in VA home loans in all 50 states. Veterans United is incredibly active in the VA loan space. The U.S. the Department of Veterans Affairs has listed Veterans United in the top three among VA loan lenders by volume for five consecutive years. While the company focuses heavily on VA loans, it also offers conventional, jumbo, FHA, and USDA loans.
Veterans United has a fully digitized and easy online application process. Compared to other lenders we’ve reviewed, the company had one of the lowest complaint ratios logged with the CFPB: Less than half of one complaint per 1,000 loans originated.
Veterans United Standout Feature:
Veterans United provides a wealth of information on its website regarding the loan process. This information covers topics on the eligibility requirements and benefits of a VA loan, such as 0% down payment, no private mortgage insurance (PMI), and competitive interest rates despite credit blemishes. The webpage also has articles detailing what to expect through the loan process, closing, how to prepare for homeownership, home loans basics, credit, and underwriting.
A Drawback for Veterans United:
Veterans United seems to focus heavily on VA loans, and although the website was easy to navigate, it was difficult to find information on their other loan offerings for conventional, jumbo, FHA, or USDA products. A customer service representative confirmed they are available.
5. North American Savings Bank
Best for the Non-Traditional Borrower, 4.8/5
Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, North American Savings Bank (NASB) is a full-service bank that lends in all 50 states. North American Savings Bank has an extensive mortgage menu than most, including options for veterans, first-time homebuyers, self-employed people, and borrowers with less-than-perfect credit histories. That’s because the bank offers VA loans, FHA loans, and mortgages for people who don’t fit conforming loan standards. NASB also has a streamlined online application process with transparent pricing for browsing borrowers.
NASB’s Standout Feature:
NASB has several programs that can help non-traditional borrowers get a home. For instance, its non-conforming home loans advertize flexible underwriting guidelines for borrowers with credit issues. Another unique loan product is the Bank Statement Loan. It allows self-employed borrowers to show income using bank statements rather than tax returns.
A Drawback for NASB:
NASB’s minimum credit score requirements for the VA and FHA loans is 620, which is slightly higher than some competitors.
6. Truist Bank
Best for Full Service Banking, 4.5/5 Stars
Truist Bank, now merged with Suntrust and BB&T under its name, has an extensive footprint across the U.S. through its thousands of brick-and-mortar branches and online presence. Along with the company’s solid menu of mortgage products, easy-to-use online application process, transparency of rate and fee information, and average number of complaints compared to other reviewed lenders, the brand’s website is easy to navigate with several useful resources to help with the borrowing process, such as calculators, videos, and sample mortgages.
Truist Bank’s Standout Feature:
Truist offers a comprehensive menu of online or in-person banking accounts such as checking, savings, money market, and CDs. If you are in the market for a bank, looking to switch banks, or already have a Truist account, there is an allure of convenience to also have your mortgage through the same institution. Some lending institutions also give incentives or discounts to existing account holders.
A Drawback for Truist:
Because Suntrust and BB&T are still in the process of merging under the Truist brand, gathering mortgage product information online is slightly confusing navigating between each individual site. We recommend sticking to the Truist site for ease of use.
7. Sebonic Financial
Best Online Application Process, 4.5/5 Stars
Sebonic Financial is the mortgage lender division of North Carolina-headquartered Cardinal Financial. Sebonic Financial scored well with NextAdvisor because of the company’s high-end digital borrowing experience, full mortgage product lineup which is available in all 50 states, and the lender’s history of below-average customer complaints with the CFPB. Based on 2020 data, Sebonic has less than one complaint per 1,000 loans originated in the same year.
Although Sebonic’s mortgage rates and fees are not listed on the company website, the online system, Octane, makes it easy to access a quote without a credit check or drawn-out process.
Sebonic Financial’s Standout Feature:
Sebonic’s proprietary borrowing platform, Octane, is a standout feature. With Octane, borrowers can get a fast rate quote, start an application, upload documents, and sign closing documents, with real-time updates along the way. We found Octane to be one of the best online application processes compared to other lenders we’ve reviewed. It’s easy-to-use, high-tech, and we appreciate the ability to have a full-online digital experience with the option to speak to loan officers.
A Drawback for Sebonic Financial:
Mortgage rates aren’t published on the lender’s website. After filling out a rate-quote form online, someone from Sebonic will call or email you with available rate offers. You’ll answer a few qualifying questions, but won’t need to do a credit check before getting the rate quote.
8. Pennymac Loan Services
Best Online Experience, 4.5/5 Stars
Pennymac Loan Services isn’t a well-known name. But the California-based mortgage lender stands out for its convenient online application process, ability to get a rate quote without a credit check, transparency of rates and fees, and low frequency of consumer complaints with the CFPB. In 2020, the CFPB reported less than 0.30 complaints per 1,000 loans. Pennymac offers most major mortgage products and all three-government loans in 49 states, with 16 brick-and-mortar branch locations.
Pennymac’s Standout Feature:
The brand had one of the lowest complaint ratios among lenders we reviewed, but the more noticeable standout feature is the overall online experience. At NextAdvisor, we value price transparency and accessibility. Pennymac met this expectation with daily rate and fee updates and customizable rate quotes on its user-friendly webpage.
A Drawback for Pennymac:
Pennymac does not carry niche products such as home equity loans, construction loans, renovation loans, jumbo mortgages, and reverse mortgages.
9. Watermark Home Loans
Best for the Self-Employed Borrower, 4.5/5 Stars
Watermark Home Loans based out of Irvine, CA, and currently licensed in 38 states. The company is named one of NextAdvisor’s best mortgage lenders of 2022 because of its streamlined online application process, transparent and accessibility of pricing, lower-than-average consumer complaints, and solid loan product lineup.
Borrowers can receive a customized rate quote by filling out a form online with basic information such as your income, address, and estimated home value. You will get an email with a few different quote options to review with options for discount points, lender credits, or closing costs options. Watermark Home Loans advertises national daily rate averages along with data indicators of how much each loan type’s rate has moved up or down in the last 30 days.
Watermark has a lower-than-average number of consumer complaints: Less than one complaint per 1,000 originated loans in 2020, according to the CFPB’s consumer complaint database.
Watermark Home Loans’s Standout Feature:
Watermark Home Loans advertises a “Non-QM loan,” or “Non-Qualified Mortgage.” According to the website, non-traditional borrowers, such as the self-employed, those with a history of bankruptcy, or those with less attractive debt-to-income ratios can use this loan type to potentially qualify for a mortgage.
A Drawback of Watermark Home Loans:
Watermark does a great job with providing a rate quote with closing fees, however a breakdown of lender closing fees is not provided with the rate quote. You will have to call or go through a credit check and get a Loan Estimate to get that information.
Best Pricing Transparency, 4.5/5 Stars
Headquartered in Calabasas, CA, LenderFi is named one of NextAdvisor’s best California lenders because of the company’s easy-to-use online application process. LenderFi provides a unique feature to its rate quotes: A full, transparent, line-by-line breakdown of all rates and fees before even getting a credit check. Discount points are clearly advertised with how they affect the APR and monthly payment. The quote even estimates homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance (if applicable), property tax costs, and all third-party closing fees.
LenderFi’s Standout Feature:
The company advertises that it does not charge lender fees as part of the closing costs. Third-party closing fees, such as appraisal, title insurance, and inspection costs still apply. But LenderFi says no additional lender costs are passed to the borrowers. Instead, all lender-related costs are rolled into the quoted rate and APR.
A Drawback for LenderFi:
Honorable Mention: Costco Mortgage Program
Best Lender Marketplace, Not Rated
The Costco mortgage program does not originate mortgages, so it was not included in the list of best California mortgage lenders. However, the useful marketplace is worth an honorable mention. Costco members have access to a network of participating California mortgage lenders offering discounts and incentives for borrowing through this channel. Through the Costco mortgage marketplace website, you can fill out a universal application, compare loan offers, and cash-in on discounts or lender fees if you choose a lender through this program. The marketplace platform is easy to navigate with transparent pricing and terms. You can get a rate quote online in minutes and will only be contacted by the lender with your expressed permission.
What Are Today’s Mortgage Rates in California?
For Wednesday, May 25, 2022, here are the current mortgage rates in California. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 5.290%. The average 30-year fixed mortgage refinance rate is 5.240%. Today, the average 15-year fixed mortgage rate is 4.550%.
Looking at variable rate loans, the average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) rate is 3.000%.
This information is from Bankrate’s latest survey of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders.
Current Mortgage Rates in California
How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender for Your Situation
When NextAdvisor evaluated the best mortgage lenders for California, we looked at criteria such as online convenience, transparency, accessibility, loan product variety, and customer satisfaction.
Outside of this list of criteria, narrowing down your choice comes down to what is best for you and your personal circumstances. Depending on your goals and needs as a borrower, one lender could be a better fit than another. For example, a first-time homebuyer that is down payment-challenged may want to go with a lender down payment assistance programs. Another borrower may have a low credit score and may need a lender with a lower credit threshold.
Here is what you can use to evaluate your decision:
Loan Products Available
The first step in a lender search is to consider what type of mortgage you need. For example, USDA and VA loans offer 100% financing with no down payment required. If you have blemishes on your credit report, like a bankruptcy, then an FHA loan is likely to be easier to qualify for than conventional loans. You’ll need to find a lender that offers these types of loans if you want to take advantage of any of these government-backed loan programs.
Loan Officer Experience
Talk with a loan officer to ensure that they have experience in the industry and have dealt with individuals in similar situations to your own. If you’re applying for a VA loan or FHA loan, working with a loan officer who’s familiar with those types of mortgages is even more important.
First Time Homebuying Assistance Programs in California
If you are a first-time homebuyer in California, you may be eligible for down payment assistance programs, loans, grants, or other services if you meet certain qualifications. These programs are often offered by the state of California, or based on county or municipality. Usually, they come with income or asset restrictions, location qualifications, or credit score requirements.
The MyHome Assistance Program through the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) offers a deferred loan for the down payment or closing costs which doesn’t need to be repaid until you sell the home. The maximum benefits amount varies depending on the type of CalHFA mortgage you get. Most borrowers who qualify for this program can receive a maximum benefit of $11,000. However, school employees and fire department employees are not subject to the $11,000 cap.
- You can access eligibility requirements and all available programs on the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) website.
- The CalHFA has a list of first-time homebuyer approved lenders here.
- Visit this page for first-time homebuyer programs by state.
Always Shop and Compare Mortgage Lenders
It’s important to compare offers from a variety of lenders because each will evaluate your financial situation differently. To secure the best rate, fees, and terms for your situation most financial experts recommend comparing at least two to three different quotes.
Make sure to compare not only the interest rate, but all the fees with the cost of closing. Two lenders can advertise the same mortgage rate but charge different closing fees. A low rate with high closing costs can eat away at the savings you thought the low rate provided.
One sure-fire way to evaluate the difference between offers is to look at a mortgage loan’s APR. The APR factors in many of the loan’s fees, in addition to the interest rate, over the loan’s full term.
Using this Home Loan Comparison Calculator, you can enter in all the variables of each offer and see a side-by-side comparison. When entering each loan, make sure to add the closing costs and other upfront fees. Then you can see the actual costs for each loan over time.
Home loan comparison calculator
Compare your payment options side-by-side to see which is right for you and your financial situation.
Find the mortgage that’s best for you by comparing the cost of multiple loans over time.
Is It Better to Go With a Local California Mortgage Lender?
It depends on your personal preference. A local lender versus a national lender has its pros and cons for either choice. A local lender will more likely have local branches where you will have an in-person experience and personal touch. A national lender that conducts most business online can offer ease, speed, and convenience using digital tools that some prefer. Some online mortgage lenders may be able to offer lower rates and fees since, without a physical location, they operate with less overhead.
Pros and Cons of Choosing an Online Lender
Less time consuming process
Potential for lower rates and fees
Less overhead doesn’t guarantee a better deal
No face to face interaction
May be more difficult to get in touch with questions
How We Chose the Best California Mortgage Lenders
To find the best mortgage lenders in California, we first looked at all the mortgage lenders NextAdvisor has reviewed so far. We then eliminated any lender that is not available to California residents.
To score mortgage lenders, we’ve developed a framework using a weighted average score between 0 and 5, with more weight awarded to the criteria we determined to be the most important.
Our list doesn’t take into account key financial factors like mortgage rates, APRs, and fees, because those depend on market conditions and your individual creditworthiness. Instead of focusing on those numbers, it’s best to first determine the qualities you want in a lender and how to find the best mortgage rates. Then you’ll be prepared to find the best lender for you.
The factors we used to evaluate the best mortgage lenders:
- Online Convenience: A lender is scored 1 through 5 based on the company’s online application experience. A 5 is awarded if the company’s mortgage application can be completed fully online with a streamlined process, including uploading documents and a customized rate quote. A lower score is awarded if additional phone calls are needed to process an application or for a poor online user experience.
- Transparency: Lenders are scored 0 through 5 based on the accessibility and transparency of mortgage rates, lender fees, and credit check requirements for rates and/or fees. A 5 is awarded if the lender advertises rates and fees on its websites and doesn’t require a hard credit check to get rates and/or fees. Conversely, a lower score is awarded when consumers cannot easily access rate and fee information and/or must go through a hard credit check to access them.
- Nationwide Availability: Lenders are scored 1 through 5 based on the company’s geographical footprint. A lender can score a 5 if it operates in all 50 U.S. States. Lenders were eliminated from this list if they are not licensed to lend in the state of California.
- Loan Product Variety: Lenders are scored 1 through 5 based on their loan product menu and variety of products offered. A high score of 5 is given if most or all mortgage products are available, with a lower score awarded for a limited mortgage menu.
- Customer Satisfaction: To measure customer satisfaction, we reviewed the number of complaints filed against each lender with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2020. We divided the total consumer complaints with the total number of loans originated over the same time period to get a complaint ratio per 1,000 loans originated. We sourced the total loans originated using publicly accessible data provided under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act and regulated by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
Who is the best mortgage lender in California?
It depends on personal preference. If you are looking for an in-person lending experience, then a local lender with a brick-and-mortar location may be best for you. If you prefer an online digital experience, then a local lender may not matter to you. A mortgage lender may be licensed in California but may not have any branches there or have headquarters in another state. You could find the best of both worlds with a local lender that is also online, such as Watermark Home Loans, Pennymac, or LenderFi.