Best Mortgage Lenders of 2021

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A mortgage is a huge financial commitment, so you want to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible —and working with a lender that understands your situation. In order to do this, you need to shop around and compare quotes.

The fees and mortgage interest rate you’ll qualify for vary from lender to lender and even day to day. So make sure to compare multiple offers, and if you’re able to find a good rate with reasonable fees you can lock it in.

You also want to work with an experienced loan officer. Having a professional who understands your needs can help you navigate the many choices you have when it comes to mortgage shopping.

To find the best mortgage lenders of 2021, we looked at the largest retail mortgage lenders in the U.S., since they’re most easily accessible to a broad range of consumers. We then narrowed the list  down to the top five lenders based on customer satisfaction data and other factors.

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, you should first figure out what 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.

Best Mortgage Lenders for 2021

How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders

How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender for Your Situation

How to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

Best Mortgage Lenders for 2021

LenderWhy We Chose This Lender
LoanDepot154,000+ loans originated, yet only 0.18 CFPB complaints per 1,000 loans closed, and an A+ BBB rating
Fairway Independent Mortgage151,000+ loans originated, and only 0.13 CFPB complaints per 1,000 loans closed, and an A+ BBB rating
Movement MortgageA+ BBB rating, 99% of loans were retail, and operates in 50 states
PrimeLendingA+ BBB rating, only 17 CFPB complaints, and a 100% retail lender
Finance of America MortgageA+ BBB rating, only 14 CFPB complaints, operates in 50 states

LoanDepot

Overview: LoanDepot is a direct lender licensed in 50 states with more than 200 physical locations.It also provides loans online. The company is headquartered in Foothill Ranch, CA, and was founded in 2010.

LoanDepot originated more loans in 2019 (the latest annual data available) than any other lender on this list. Yet, only 28 consumers filed complaints against it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) over that same time. That’s an average of 0.18 per 1,000 loans closed.

LoanDepot offers some special discounts for repeat customers. If you take out a mortgage with LoanDepot and decide to refinance with it in the future, it will waive the lender fees and reimburse you for the appraisal fees.

LoanDepot offers these types of loans:

Fairway Independent Mortgage

Overview: The Madison, Wisconsin-based Fairway Independent Mortgage operates in all 50 states and has 400+ branches in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The lender was founded 25 years ago and employs more than 2,700 loan originators, which is more than any other lender on this list.

In 2019 alone, it originated over $39 billion in loans. It has the lowest CFPB complaint ratio of any lender on this list with an average of 0.13 per 1,000.

After you apply for a home loan with Fairway Independent Mortgage, it reviews your credit report like any other lender. But if it determines that an increase in your credit score would be beneficial, you have the option to work with Fairway’s CrediTool team. This is a free service that helps you create a plan to improve your credit.

Fairway Independent Mortgage offers these types of loans:

Movement Mortgage

Overview: Founded in 2008, Movement Mortgage is licensed to operate in 50 states and has 650 branches nationwide. The Indian Land, South Carolina-headquartered company was co-founded by former NFL Super Bowl champion Casey Crawford.

Movement Mortgage operates on the “6-7-1” process, where it aims to have a full pre-approval in six hours, fully process the loan in seven business days, and be ready to close within one additional day. While it’s impossible to guarantee the same processing time on every loan, the company claims that over 80% are processed within seven days.

According to the company’s website, the majority of its profits are paid out to the Movement Foundation. The Movement Foundation has invested over $60 million in self-sustaining community projects, such as schools, health clinics, and housing projects.

Movement Mortgage offers these types of loans:

  • Conventional loans
  • FHA loans
  • Renovation loans
  • VA loans
  • Refinance loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • Reverse mortgages
  • USDA loans
  • Construction loans

PrimeLending

Overview: The Dallas-based PrimeLending is a subsidiary of Plains Capital Company and licensed to operate in all 50 states. It was founded in 1986 and now has more than 1,200 loan origination officers nationwide.

PrimeLending has a few interesting offers for borrowers, including a float-down rate lock. Once your mortgage rate is locked in, if rates begin to drop you may qualify for a one-time reduction in your rate within 20 days of closing.

The company also has its own closing cost assistance program known as NeighborhoodEdge. It provides up to $2,000 in closing cost assistance to qualifying low and moderate income borrowers.

PrimeLending offers these types of loans:

  • Conventional loans
  • FHA loans
  • VA loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • USDA loans
  • Construction loans
  • Refinance loans
  • Renovation loans

Finance of America Mortgage

Overview: The Pennsylvania-headquartered Finance of America Mortgage has been in business since 1984. It employs more than 1,300 loan advisors located across the country who serve all 50 states.

The company doesn’t have a clean centralized online application process. It may be easier to start your application with one of its loan advisors either over the phone or in person. 

In spite of the lack of a simple online application, the company closed on more than 53,000 loans in 2019. Over that same time period it had 14 CFPB complaints.

Finance of America Mortgage offers these types of loans:

  • Conventional loans
  • FHA loans
  • VA loans
  • Jumbo loans
  • USDA loans
  • Renovation loans
  • Refinance loans
  • Reverse mortgages
  • HELOC

How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders

To find the best mortgage lenders of 2021, we began by looking at the 20 largest mortgage lenders by loans closed, according to the most recent Scotsman guide rankings from 2019, a leading mortgage industry publication. We narrowed down the list by requiring that 80%+ of the lender’s business comprise retail mortgages, which are issued directly to consumers. In addition, our top lenders had to operate in 40 states or more and have a top A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Finally, we reviewed the number of complaints filed against each lender with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2019. We divided that number with the total number of loans closed over the same time period to get an average number of complaints for all of the lenders. Each of our top five lenders had an average of 0.30 complaints or less per 1,000 loans closed.

What about mortgage rates, fees, and minimum credit scores?

When comparing lenders, we did not take into factors like rates, fees, and minimum credit scores. 

Mortgage rates and fees vary from day to day and person to person. This is one reason why many lenders don’t advertise mortgage rates on their sites. Two people applying with the same lender are likely to get loan offers with wildly different rates and fees. And rates vary from one area to the next based on laws and lender costs.

So comparing the average mortgage rate or credit score of the loans a lender issues may actually tell you more about the borrowers who worked with that lender than it does the lender itself. 

And your credit score is only one of the many factors that lenders look at when underwriting mortgages. For example, you could have a score well above the minimum requirement and be denied for a loan if you have an unreliable source of income. 

How to Find the Best Mortgage Lender for Your Situation

When you’re narrowing down what mortgage lender is best for you, it’s important to take a look at your personal circumstances. Depending on your goals and needs as a borrower, one lender could be a better fit than another.

Types of mortgages available

One of the first steps to narrowing down the list of lenders you’re considering is figuring out what type of mortgage you need.

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. Other loans, such as USDA loans and VA loans, offer 100% financing with no down payment required. If you want to take advantage of any of these government-backed loan programs, then you’ll need to find a lender that offers these types of loans.

The loan repayment term can also impact the lender you choose. Most lenders offer 15-year or 30-year mortgages, but if you want a 10-year mortgage or a 40-year mortgage, your options will be more limited. 

Loan officer experience

The biggest mortgage lenders have hundreds of locations and are staffed by thousands of loan originators. So within the same lender, you could have a wildly different experience depending on the individual loan officer you work with.

Talk with a loan officer to ensure not only that she has experience in the industry, but also has 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.

Homebuyer assistance programs

Homebuyer assistance programs can provide you with tens of thousands of dollars to put toward your down payment and closing costs. For many first-time home buyers this assistance is the difference between being able to buy a home or needing to continue renting.

A lender may offer its own special loan product or fee credits that are designed with first-time buyers in mind, and these are worth asking about. But most of these programs are managed by government agencies or non-profit organizations and they have their own guidelines you need to meet in addition to the lender’s. This makes the process of getting a mortgage more complicated.

So as you’re comparing lenders be sure to ask if they have worked with the program(s) you’re using before. And be sure that the assistance you’re receiving is allowed with the type of mortgage you want. Some loans have restrictions on the type of assistance you may receive.

How to Get the Best Mortgage Rate

The mortgage lender that you end up choosing will largely depend on the rate and fees. Every lender will analyze your finances slightly differently, so shopping around and comparing offers is vital.

Because there are so many factors that go into determining your mortgage rate, lenders won’t be able to give you an accurate estimate until you apply for a mortgage. Once you apply, you’ll get a Loan Estimate from the lender that breaks down all of the fees and your interest rate.

Pro Tip

When shopping for a mortgage pay attention to the lender’s fees. Two loans with the same interest rate can have wildly different fees.

When lenders decide the mortgage rate you qualify for, these are the most important factors.

Credit score

The higher your credit score, the better your interest rate. You may be able to qualify for a mortgage with a credit score under 700, but you’ll pay a premium for the loan.

To get the lowest mortgage rate you’ll want a credit score of 740 or higher. Building your credit score can take some time, but it can make homeownership much more affordable in the long run.

Loan-to-value ratio (LTV)

The size of your down payment, or how much equity you have in your home if you’re refinancing, is an important consideration for lenders. Mortgage lenders want to know that you have something invested in your property. It’s also easier for the bank to make its money back if you stop making payments if the property is worth more than the mortgage loan balance.

An LTV of 80% of less will help you secure the best mortgage rate, and allow you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI) on conventional loans. So if your home, or future home, is worth $200,000, the mortgage should be for no more than $160,000, if you want the lowest possible interest rate.

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

How much debt you have will limit the amount you can borrow and will have an impact on your mortgage interest rate. Because your mortgage is paid monthly, lenders typically look at your monthly debt payments and calculate it as a percentage or your income. This is known as your debt-to-income ratio, or DTI.

The maximum allowable DTI varies by loan type and can be as high as 50%. But the maximum DTI you’re allowed to have isn’t necessarily ideal. You want to make sure you’re purchasing a home you can afford, and as your DTI increases, your mortgage rate can move up right along with it. You should target a DTI of 36% or less, including your future mortgage payment.

Fees and annual percentage rate (APR)

When deciding what lender is best for you, you can’t just look at the interest rate. This is because lenders charge upfront fees for taking out a mortgage, and two lenders can advertise the same mortgage rate but charge wildly different fees.

It’s important to read each lender’s Loan Estimate carefully to understand what fees you’re paying. One quick way to get a handle on the fees you’re paying 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.