Best Mortgage Lenders of May 2021

Wendy Wilson

Before choosing a mortgage, it’s important to look around for the best possible mortgage rate, term, and fees. A mortgage will most likely be the biggest loan you take on in your life, which will require you to make payments for several years. Check out our list of top mortgage lenders and reach out to multiple lenders to compare costs.

Axos Bank Mortgage

axos bank logo
NMLS #524995
5

620+

Min. Credit Score

3%

Min. Down Payment

Overview

Axos Bank offers a pure online experience, and you can own a home without meeting a mortgage specialist in person. The bank also uses a leading technology that pre-qualifies your application and gives you an underwriting decision in approximately 10 minutes or less.

What we like

  • Personalized home loans to fit your current financial situation
  • Interest-only loans for lower monthly payments
  • Pure online experience from start to closing
  • Earn 3% cash back annual credit on mortgage payments
  • Lender fee waived for customers and non-customers1

What we don't

  • Cash back on loan requires an Axos checking account
  • Does not offer in-person services

1Axos Bank™ will waive its lender fee ($995) or reduce its lender fee on new first lien mortgage loans under the following conditions: 1) The customer must have an existing or open a new Axos Bank™ Checking Account during the loan application process; AND 2) the new mortgage loan must be for $250,000 or more; OR 3) if the new mortgage loan is less than $250,000, Axos Bank™ will reduce its lender fee by $200 if the customer has or opens a new Axos Bank™ Checking Account during the loan application process. The customer will be responsible for all third party fees and all prepaid items. The $2,500 average savings is based on a national average for lender fees presuming a $250,000 loan amount and 1% origination fee.

New American Funding Mortgage

new american funding logo
NMLS #6606
4.8

620+

Min. Credit Score

3%

Min. Down Payment

Overview

New American Funding focuses on personalizing loans to the borrower's situation. If you're self-employed, have lower than average credit scores, or even a first-time home buyer, the lender will work with you to customize the most suitable product.

What we like

  • Customized loans to meet your financial situation
  • Helping underserved communities become homeowners
  • Variety of loan products for lower credit score borrowers
  • Consider self-employed and freelancers for a mortgage
  • Complete transparency on total mortgage costs

What we don't

  • No automatic quote or online approval
  • Not available in New York and Hawaii

What are the requirements for a mortgage?

Home sellers require a pre-approval letter from buyers indicating their willingness to buy a home. A pre-approval letter confirms that your lender has checked all the requirements and verified your application for approval of a certain loan amount. A lender requires the following items to pre-approve your mortgage: 

  • Proof of income:  Most lenders require W-2 wage statements for the past 24 months that show your year-to-date income and tax returns. 
  • Proof of assets: You need to obtain bank statements for your checking, savings, and investment accounts. This guides lenders in determining if you have funds for the downpayment, origination fee, and other related costs. 
  • Good credit: Credit scores vary depending on the type of loan and lender. Generally, a credit score of 620+ is required for conventional loans. Borrowers with good credit scores enjoy lower interest rates whereas low credit scores tend to get higher rates.
  • Employment verification: Most lenders give consideration to borrowers with stable employment and will contact your employer to verify your status and salary. Self-employed borrowers will need to provide additional paperwork in regards to their business and proof of their income stability. 

These items vary in terms of minimum or maximum depending on the lender and type of mortgage.

How does the mortgage process work?

A mortgage is a loan for real estate purchases when buyers are unable to make a full purchase upfront. Instead, a mortgage allows you to make payments to finance your home. However, obtaining a mortgage can sometimes be tedious for first-timers. To familiarize yourself with the process, we have described some important terms below:

  • Fixed-rate mortgage: Fixed-rate mortgage loans have a specific interest rate for the entire term of the loan. For instance, if you have a mortgage plan of 30 years with a 5% interest rate, the 5% will apply for the full 30 years. Fixed-rate mortgages range between 10 and 30 years, depending on your provider and terms. 
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages: These types of mortgages usually have a fixed rate for the first few years and change to a fluctuating rate based on market dynamics. For Instance, if you have a 5/1 ARM, you will pay a fixed rate for the first 5 years (indicated by “5”) and your rate will adjust annually (indicated by “1”) until the loan is paid off. Some mortgage providers have a rate cap that limits the monthly payments from exceeding specific amounts.
  • Prequalification: The lender evaluates your ability to qualify for the mortgage and helps the lender to determine the borrower’s loan limit and terms. 
  • Co-borrower: If you do not qualify for a loan due to low credit or poor financial history, you may need a co-borrower with a good credit history and debt to income (DTI) to improve your chances. Both the borrower and co-borrower are obligated to pay off the mortgage loan, and the names of both individuals appear on the title of the property. 
  • Interest Rates: This refers to the amount a lender charges on the mortgage loan. This amount is often expressed as a percentage of the principal amount. Interest rates are noted annually and termed as annual percentage rate (APR).
  • Origination fee: Borrowers are sometimes required to pay a fee to process their loan application based on a percentage of the loan.

What are the types of mortgages?

There are several types of mortgages, which vary based on their terms and requirements. They include:

Conforming mortgage loans

The Federal Housing Finance Agency creates standard rules that guide the mortgage loan limit (below $484,350 in most US states). The maximum limit for a conforming loan is usually set by the federal government depending on your geographical location.

Non-conforming mortgage loans

If you are financing a home above $485,350 (usually in most states), you’ll need a jumbo loan as it exceeds the loan limit. These loans do not meet the funding criteria by banks as guided by the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Government insured FHA Loans

These loans are common for first-time home buyers or low-income buyers. Borrowers can have a down payment as low as 3%. The Federal Housing Administration does not finance these loans directly. Instead, it guarantees the loans through its verified lenders. Borrowers are also required to pay a mortgage insurance premium (MIP), which protects lenders from defaulters.

Government insured VA loans

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (USDA) guarantees these loans to eligible military service members and veterans, including their spouses. Borrowers do not need a down payment, PMI, or MIP to qualify. While borrowers need to pay a funding fee, the following members are excluded from the fee depending on the lender:

  • Veterans with a service-related disability
  • Veterans entitled to service elated compensation
  • Spouses of deceased veterans 
  • Service members with a Purple Heart medal

Government insured USDA loans

These loans are guaranteed to homebuyers in rural areas by the US Department of Agriculture. The property must meet the eligibility guidelines set up by USDA. 

What are the costs of a mortgage?

Most lenders recommend that your monthly mortgage payment should be below 30% of your gross income. Also, you need to ensure your total DTI is less than 36%. Lenders consider many factors when determining your mortgage costs, including: 

  • Down payment: You need to pay a certain percentage for the house you are buying. If your down payment is 20% on a $1M house, you will have to pay 20% in equity while the 80% will be financed through a mortgage.
  • Closing costs: These costs include a lender origination fee, courier fees, escrow deposit & withdrawal fees, applications fees, inspection fees, title insurance, attorney fees, homeowners association fees, and application fees. The average closing costs range between 2% to 5%. 
  • Mortgage points: They can also be referred to as discount points. Borrowers who want to lower their interest rate can pay this fee to the lender. Every 1 point is 1% of the loan amount that you’ll need to pay. Each point reduces your interest by 0.25%. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, the points apply only to the initial rate. For fixed-rate mortgages, the points apply to the entire loan term. 
  • Prepayment penalties: Some lenders charge a prepayment penalty when borrowers pay off their mortgage earlier than the term limit.
  • Mortgage Insurance: You’ll need a private insurance mortgage if your down payment is below 20%. Borrowers with conventional loans can avoid purchasing a PMI by paying a minimum down payment of 20%. 
  • Monthly mortgage payment: You need to make your monthly payments to offset your loan. The monthly payments include:
    • Principal: Refers to the total loan amount you borrowed. The principal reduces monthly. 
    • Interest: Interest rates can be fixed or adjustable depending on your loan terms. 

Interest rates are determined based on the borrower’s risk. Lenders consider your crest history, loan term, home value, down payment, interest type, and property type to determine your rate.  

How to choose the best mortgage lender?

Some lenders provide mortgage financial experts that will advise you on the best loan type and amount based on your credit score and needs. Consider the following to get the best mortgage: 

  • Loan type: Government-backed loans have lower interest rates, lower down payment requirements, and credit score compared to conventional loans.
  • Loan term: Your loan term determines your monthly payments. If you want to pay a lower monthly amount, you’ll need to select a longer termloan. However, interest rates on longer term mortgages are higher compared to shorter term mortgages, so you’ll pay less monthly but more interest over the life of the loan.
  • Interest rates: If you feel confident that interest rates will remain low for a while, an ARM will be a better option than a fixed-rate loan.
  • Closing costs: Even though a lender offers the lowest interest rates, you’ll have to take into consideration of other costs, such as closing costs, if it’s worth going with that lender. That’s why it’s important to get quotes from multiple lenders.