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By: and
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Published: Aug 03, 2023 24 min read
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Top 10 Independent Mortgage Lenders

According to most recent national statistics from the CFPB

Numbers reflect a percentage of the largest independent lenders volume.

A mortgage is one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make — and one you’ll be paying off for years. Finding a reputable lender and a loan that fits your needs is essential.

Before settling on a lender, it’s important to consider different loan programs and compare terms like mortgage rates, lender fees and closing times. There are approximately 11,000 mortgage lenders in the United States. To help you narrow the field, Money has reviewed eight of the best mortgage lenders in America right now.

Our picks offer competitive interest rates and a range of loan products that cater to different needs. They also have simple mortgage pre-qualification, pre-approval and application processes and a strong customer satisfaction record.

Read on for our reviews of the best mortgage lenders in America.

Our Top Picks for Best Mortgage Lenders of 2023

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Best Mortgage Lender Reviews

  • First-time homebuyers can pay as little as 3% down
  • Best in customer satisfaction in J.D. Power study
  • Representatives are available every day of the week
  • No home equity lines of credit available
  • No brick and mortar locations
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score

Why we chose this company: Rocket Mortgage (NMLS: #3030), formerly known as Quicken Loans, stands out for its quality of customer experience. Customers in all 50 states can fully process their loan online but are also able to speak with one of the company’s 3,000+ mortgage bankers 24/7.

Moreover, Rocket services 99% of the mortgages it originates instead of handing customers off to another company as is the industry norm. This means customers get consistent support from start to finish.

Don’t just take our word for it: Rocket ranked first in customer satisfaction in J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study.

Rocket is one of the largest retail lenders in the country by loan volume, offering a variety of mortgage options, including conventional mortgages, FHA, VA and jumbo loans. In addition to the usual 15- and 30-year mortgage term lengths, the lender offers flexible terms between eight and 29 years through its unique YOURgage program.

Finally, if you’re looking for a low down payment, Rocket has options — some loans allow first-time homebuyers to put as little as 3% down. The lender also recently introduced a 1% down loan option, called One+, for borrowers who earn 80% or less of the area median income and meet qualifying income requirements.

  • Compare offers from over 1,500 lenders in minutes
  • Comprehensive learning resources available
  • You could receive multiple phone calls or emails from different lenders competing for your business
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA (specifics vary by lender)
Minimum Down Payment
Varies by lender
Minimum Credit Score
~585 (recommended)

Why we chose this company: LendingTree’s (NMLS #1136) large network of lenders and straightforward quote comparison process make it our pick for the best marketplace.

LendingTree lets you compare mortgage products from over 1,500 lenders, through a simple three-step online process that consists of answering a series of questions, comparing offers side-by-side and discussing your options with a loan officer.

You’ll need to provide your social security number and information about your income, assets, education, debts and work history to get started. LendingTree then runs a soft credit check and uses your FICO score to match you with lenders. Finally, you’ll be contacted by up to five lenders with preliminary quotes.

LendingTree also offers plenty of educational resources regarding mortgages and loans, including a glossary of loan terminology, current rates for all types of home loans, several calculators and a national loan officer directory. It also features reviews so users can read about experiences other customers have had with each lender.

  • Competitive interest rates
  • No down payment or PMI required
  • Online credit counseling program available for borrowers with poor credit history
  • No home equity loans available
  • Only has physical branches in 18 states
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score

Why we chose this company: Veterans United’s (NMLS: #1907) robust online platform and online credit counseling program make it a solid choice for active-duty military members who may not have the ability to visit a physical branch.

Veterans United specializes in loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and is a great option for service members and reservists, as well as veterans and their families.

The lender offers free online credit counseling through its Lighthouse Program, which pairs customers with a credit specialist who helps them map out a credit score improvement plan.

Its mortgages are available nationwide, though Veterans United only has physical branches in18 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Unlike some of its VA loan competitors, Veterans United doesn’t offer home equity loans or home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), though they do offer VA Cash-Out refinance.

  • No origination, underwriting, or application fees
  • Assistance programs for down payment and closing costs
  • Representatives available every day until 9 pm ET
  • Doesn't offer customizable terms
  • No VA, USDA, home equity, or home improvement loans
  • Not available in Nevada
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, HELOCs
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score

Why we chose this company:Better Mortgage (NMLS: #330511) offers a fast and streamlined document submission process, which results in faster closing times for many customers.

Consumers can obtain a rate quote and a pre-approval letter in just a few minutes. Better also says that it has an average loan closing time of 32 days, which is faster than the national average of 50 days as of December 2022. While these claims are difficult to verify, customer reviews mention closing times between one and two months.

Better is an online alternative to brick-and-mortar lenders. Thanks to this business model, Better has lower operating costs, which it says translates to savings for consumers. Despite this focus on the digital, borrowers do gain access to a dedicated loan officer.

The lender also offers a One-Day Mortgage — which allows customers to lock in a rate, submit their financial details and obtain a commitment letter stating they’ve been approved for a mortgage within 24 hours. You can also take advantage of the Better Price Guarantee, which promises to match any valid competitor’s offer and credit you $100 — if they can’t match the price, you get to keep the $100.

  • One of the nation's top five lenders of FHA loans
  • Home improvement and manufactured home mortgage loans available
  • Specific programs for low-income borrowers available
  • Matches customers with down payment assistance
  • No current mortgage rates available on its website
  • No home equity products available
  • Not available in NY and NJ
Types of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score

Why we chose this company: Guild Mortgage (NMLS: #3274) has low credit score requirements and down payment assistance programs that make it a great choice for first-time homebuyers.

In addition to conventional loans, Guild Mortgage offers government-backed FHA, VA and USDA loans. The lender also works with local governments across the U.S., and more than 500 down payment assistance programs specifically designed for first-time homebuyers.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), Guild is among the nation’s top lenders of FHA loans, making it an excellent option for qualifying borrowers with credit scores as low as 540 (provided they put at least 10% down).

Guild can originate loans in all but two states — New York and New Jersey. Additionally, the company can fully close mortgages online via its digital platform, MyMortgage, which can speed up the closing process.

  • 324 branches nationwide, catering to military members, reservists, veterans, retirees, and annuitants
  • Up to 100% financing and 0% down payment options available
  • Rate loan match available
  • Doesn't offer customized rates unless you apply
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score

Why we chose this company: With 324 branches nationwide, Navy Federal Credit Union (NMLS: #399807) is our pick for best in-person lender for military members.

Borrowers can also take advantage of NFCU’s rate match guarantee. If you find a better rate elsewhere, NFCU will match it or discount $1,000 from your closing costs.

First-time applicants have access to the Freedom Lock feature, which allows you to lock in a lower interest rate if one becomes available. Borrowers are allowed up to two locks with a minimum interest decrease of 0.50%.

Navy Federal’s HomeBuyers Choice program is a standout option in the company’s line of financial products. It offers 100% financing, a fixed interest rate, and a seller contribution of up to 6%.

NFCU also services every mortgage it originates in-house for the life of the loan, which means customers do business solely with their chosen lender. Navy Federal membership is open to active-duty military members as well as reservists, veterans, retirees and annuitants.

  • One of the largest selections of mortgage loans on our list
  • Some loan programs have low credit score options
  • Program available for self-employed customers
  • No home equity loans available
Types of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score
580 for VA loans

Why we chose this company: Caliber Home Loans (NMLS: #15622) offers a program tailored specifically for self-employed individuals that makes it much easier for borrowers to prove how much they earn even if they don’t have traditional income sources.

Caliber also has a low minimum credit score requirement and accepts non-traditional credit information when evaluating loan applications. Caliber says borrowers with this alternative credit data can secure down payments as low as 3% on conventional loans.

Caliber’s online application process is another standout feature. Customers can apply online by answering a few questions about themselves, their finances and their housing budget. A representative then contacts applicants shortly after. The process can reportedly take as little as 15 minutes.

  • Thousands of branches nationwide
  • Down payment and closing costs assistance program available
  • Application can be done digitally
  • Rates shown are for a credit score of 740 or higher
  • Fee information isn't available online
  • No renovation loans available
Type of Loans
Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA
Minimum Down Payment
Minimum Credit Score

Why we chose this company: With more than 4,300 branches and 2,900 lending centers, Bank of America (NMLS: #399802) is one of the most accessible lenders on our list, especially for clients who prefer face-to-face interaction.

Bank of America’s diverse selection of mortgage options, competitive closing costs, interest rate estimates and broad reach makes it a solid lender choice overall. It can be an even better choice if you have existing accounts with Bank of America, as the bank may offer customers discounts on origination fees or other perks.

Borrowers can apply and pre-qualify online. Bank of America’s Home Loan Navigator, which can be accessed through the bank’s mobile app, lets users sign, submit and track documents online.

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Other mortgage lenders we considered

The following lenders were considered for our list, but ultimately didn’t make the cut:

Guaranteed Rate: Good for fully online loan applications

  • Allow borrowers to upload and e-sign documents
  • Provides sample rates for many of its loan products
  • Participates in down payment assistance programs: HomeReady, HomePossible®, Fannie Mae 97%, and Freddie Mac HomeOne
  • Over 350 branches across 50 states
  • No home equity products
  • Not available in Mississippi, Vermont, or West Virginia

Guaranteed Rate (NMLS: #2611) is an online mortgage lender with a fully digital process that can be tracked via an interactive checklist. The lender also has more than 500 physical branches across all states.

Guaranteed Rate has a full suite of comprehensive educational resources, including a Know Your Neighborhood feature that gives borrowers the ability to view market and population trends by zip code, as well as school data and taxes.

  • Loan Types – Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA
  • Minimum Down Payment – 3%

Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation: Good for online and offline resources

  • Proprietary FairwayNOW app serves as a one-stop shop for documents, communications, and more
  • Offers physician mortgage loans
  • Flexible term options for fixed-rate loans
  • No home equity loan or lines of credit available
  • Interest rates and minimum credit score requirements not available upfront

Fairway Independent (NMLS: #2289) has more than 650 branches across 48 states and the District of Columbia, along with a comprehensive mobile app. Their FairwayNOW app helps streamline the document submission process while also providing calculators and direct communication with your loan officer.

Fairway offers flexible mortgage terms of 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. Its most notable products are physician loans, which are designed to help medical professionals currently saddled with student loan debt.

While Fairway Independent receives overall favorable reviews, it doesn’t publish any of its rates, credit score requirements and minimum down payments online. Instead, you must reach out to an agent in order to access this information.

  • Loan Types - Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, ARM, FHA, Reverse Mortgage, USDA, VA
  • Minimum Down Payment - 5%

PrimeLending: Good for home renovation loans

  • Proprietary Loanplicity® app guides borrowers through the entire process, from application to closing
  • Ample selection of mortgage products
  • Participates in over eight closing cost and down payment assistance programs
  • No lending fees on any VA loan, including renovation
  • Float-down rate lock option available within 20 days of closing, if rates drop
  • No home equity products
  • Must speak with a loan officer before an online application
  • Qualifying requirements not published

PrimeLending (NMLS: #13649) has a broad selection of loan products, including some unique options, such as pool escrow loans, energy-efficient mortgages and FHA 203(k) renovation loans. Additionally, with its Neighborhood Edge program, low- to moderate-income borrowers can receive up to $2,000 in closing credits, based on income and area.

While PrimeLending’s selection is wide, the lender could be more transparent regarding its requirements for borrowers. Further, though the company touts its online availability, potential homebuyers must first speak with a loan officer before completing an application.

  • Loan Types – Purchase, Jumbo loans, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Renovation, Manufactured Home
  • Minimum Down Payment – 3%

Flagstar Bank: Good for loan variety

  • Over 2,000 mortgage brokers in the U.S. and service loans in every state
  • Offers some options that don't require down payments
  • Has several specialized products, such as multiple properties or high balance loans
  • Borrowers are assigned a single loan advisor and loan processor
  • Rates easily accessible
  • Home equity products not available nationwide but primarily concentrated in Michigan
  • Home equity products have an annual $7 fee and must be taken out in person
  • A high number of complaints in the CFPB database related to trouble during the payment process

Though better known as a mortgage servicer than an originator, Flagstar Bank (NMLS: #417490) offers a full suite of loans, including home equity products and several specialty loans.

Some examples of the latter include the Professional Loan, aimed at recent graduates with high earning potential. In some cases, Flagstar may even exclude some student loan debt from its DTI calculation.

  • Loan Types – Purchase, Jumbo, Refinance, Fixed, Adjustable, FHA, VA, USDA, Home Renovation, Manufactured Homes
  • Minimum Down Payment – 3%

Mortgages Guide

Purchasing a home and taking on a mortgage loan can be intimidating, especially for first-time buyers. The process requires a firm knowledge of your personal finances and a long-term financial commitment. This basic information will help you start with confidence and find the best lender for you.

If you need more guidance during the home-buying process, a professional mortgage banker or mortgage broker might be able to help.

How Do Mortgages Work?

Mortgages are secured loans that use the value of the home you’re buying as collateral.

Loans are secured with a down payment, and the minimum amount requirements vary by lender. Borrowers typically need 20% of the purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance. However, it is often possible to get a loan with as little as 3% down.

Mortgages are repaid over time with interest, and loan terms can run from eight to 30 years. Most Americans need a mortgage to afford a home. The drawback of a mortgage is if you’re unable to make your monthly payments, the lender can seize the property.

If you’re already a homeowner and thinking about refinancing your mortgage, check our mortgage refinance calculator and our list of the best mortgage refinance companies to get started.

Types of mortgage loans

To fit the diverse needs of homebuyers, mortgage companies offer products with a range of lengths, interest rates and payment structures. Be sure to compare different types of financial institutions to find the lender that best meets your needs.

Conventional loans: The most common type of mortgage loan, conventional loans are offered by private lenders and are not part of any government insurance programs. Conventional loans can be conforming or non-conforming.

  • Conforming loans meet the standards to be purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are government-sponsored mortgage investors.
  • For 2023, the conforming loan limit is $726,200 in most places. In some expensive areas, the limit goes up to $1,089,300.
  • Non-conforming loans are those that do not meet these standards and therefore stay on the private lender’s books.

Jumbo loans: Jumbo loans are a type of conventional, non-conforming loan for loans above the conforming loan limits of$1,089,300.

FHA loans: A Federal Housing Administration is a government-backed mortgage program popular with first-time buyers.

  • The government offers lender insurance on this type of loan, so FHA mortgage rates tend to be lower than conventional loans.
  • You can also make a lower upfront down payment with this type of loan, typically as low as 3.5% of the purchase price.

VA loans: Another government-backed loan, VA loans are guaranteed by the US Veterans Affairs Department. VA loans are available to service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses.

  • They often come with lower interest rates and don’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. However, it requires a VA funding fee. For more information about VA loans, check out our guide to the best VA loans.

USDA loans: The US Department of Agriculture backs home loans for low-income borrowers purchasing real estate in rural and some suburban areas. No down payment is required, and the program offers competitive interest rates, flexible credit score requirements, and low monthly mortgage insurance.

Reverse mortgage: A reverse mortgage allows homeowners age 62 or older to convert their home equity into cash without having to sell their property.

  • As long as the homeowners live in the house, they don’t have to pay back the loan — however, there are caveats, such as having homeowners insurance and maintaining the property in good condition.
  • Instead of a reverse mortgage, homeowners under the age of 62 can also look into home equity loans, which are similar in concept, though with different repayment rules.

Type of mortgage rates

When looking for a loan, always look at the most current mortgage rates and the APR being offered by the lender to make sure you’re getting the best rate. Borrowers who can qualify for a lower rate will save money on their loan over time.

The annual percentage rate (APR) is a measure of both how much interest you will pay throughout the year and any applicable loan fees, including loan origination and underwriting costs. This is expressed as a percentage of your principal loan amount. There can be a big difference in mortgage interest rates offered by different lenders, so comparing rates is a good idea.

Lenders typically offer both fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages.

Fixed-rate mortgages

  • Interest rate doesn't change over the life of the loan
  • Predictable monthly payments
  • Ideal for long-term homeownership
  • Higher interest rates than adjustable-rate mortgages
  • Harder to qualify for when interest rates are high

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM)

  • Lower interest rates during fixed-rate period
  • Ideal for short-term homeownership
  • Easier to qualify for higher loan amounts
  • Interest rates may go down throughout the life of the loan
  • Monthly payment amounts can change multiple times over the life of the loan
  • Interest rates can potentially double in the span of a few years

How to Get a Mortgage Loan

Your first step toward getting a home mortgage loan is to determine your budget. Check our mortgage calculator and home affordability calculator to see how much you’ll be able to afford in monthly mortgage payments and get an estimate of your ideal purchase price.

Part of determining how much home you can afford is figuring out your down payment. As a general rule of thumb, a 20% down payment is recommended because you’ll avoid paying for private mortgage insurance (PMI) — a policy that will protect the lender in case you default on the loan. Most lenders, however, will have lower down payment requirements.

Before applying for a mortgage, make sure to check your credit score. Lastly, check your debt-to-income ratio before applying. Lenders prefer borrowers with a debt-to-income ratio lower than 36%, and many lenders will not even consider borrowers with a ratio higher than 43%.

It is also important to compare mortgage lenders to make sure you find the one with terms that best fit your financial situation. Once you’ve decided on a lender, gather all the necessary paperwork to help streamline the application process.

Documents needed when submitting a mortgage application include:

  1. Your two most recent pay stubs
  2. Your most recent tax return
  3. W-2 and/or 1099 (lenders may ask for two years, depending on your employment history)
  4. A state-issued photo ID, such as your passport or driver’s license
  5. Statements of all your assets (retirement accounts, investment accounts, checking and savings accounts, etc.)
  6. Bankruptcy discharge documents (if applicable)
  7. A recent credit report (typically obtained by the lender)
  8. Records of any outstanding debts, such as credit cards and student loans
  9. In some cases, lenders may require additional documentation, like a history of alimony payments and gift letters, so make sure to ask before applying

Lenders will perform hard credit inquiries when you apply, making sure there are no red flags in your credit history that may impact your chances of approval. If you apply with multiple lenders within 45 days, your score will not be affected. Credit reporting agencies recognize this as shopping around for the best mortgage rate.

Another good idea is getting a mortgage pre-approval before deciding on a property. Getting a pre-approval letter will save you time and make the mortgage process more manageable.

It is important to note that student loans count against your debt-to-income ratio, which can make applying for a mortgage a tricky proposition for many individuals. However, getting a mortgage when you have student loans is not uncommon, so make sure to thoroughly explore all of your bank’s options to secure the best rates.

Once you’ve submitted your application, the lender will generally provide you with a loan estimate within three business days. The loan estimate is a document that outlines the preliminary terms of the loan you have requested.

Latest News on Mortgage Lenders

The housing market continues to be a challenging one for potential homebuyers.

Current mortgage rates remain close to 7%, straining affordability for borrowers with less-than-stellar credit. What’s more, a lack of available homes for sale helped push home values to an all-time high in June. Homebuyers have lost $60,000 in buying power over the last year, and the upcoming resumption of student loan payments is expected to tighten the squeeze on buyers even more.

Homeowners are facing an even more worrisome trend. The number of homes going into foreclosure is increasing, with cities like Atlantic City, New Jersey and Florence, South Carolina, seeing a jump in filings. Inflation’s impact on the cost of living and rising property taxes are largely to blame.

Mortgage Lenders FAQ

To answer the questions in this section, we contacted Tim Lucas, managing editor for The Mortgage Reports; Jason Sharon, mortgage broker, US Navy Veteran, and owner of Home Loans, Inc; and Andy Harris, owner of Vantage Mortgage Group, Inc.

How much house can I afford?

How much house you can afford will depend on your monthly income and expenses, your credit score, the amount of interest you'll pay and how much money your lender is willing to approve, among other factors. Using an affordability calculator is the easiest way to get a ballpark figure of how much you can comfortably spend on a home purchase.

How to buy a house

There are several steps to buying a house. First, prepare yourself financially: improve your credit score, save enough cash for a down payment and closing costs and have income and employment documentation readily available. Shop around for the best mortgage lender, then get a preapproval letter. Contact a knowledgeable real estate agent to help you find the right property and, when you do, make an offer.

What is private mortgage insurance?

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is an insurance policy that protects the lender from losing money if a borrower can no longer make their mortgage payments and defaults on the loan. It is required whenever a borrower makes a down payment of less than 20% and can add anywhere between $30 and $100 to monthly payments for every $100,000 borrowed. PMI can be eliminated once the homeowner has accumulated at least 20% equity in the home.

What credit score do mortgage lenders use?


The FICO scoring system is most commonly used by mortgage lenders. There are many different versions of FICO Scores. Each of the three credit reporting bureaus — Experian, Transunion and Equifax — will use a different version when it comes to mortgages: FICO 2, FICO 4 and FICO 5, respectively. However, the Federal Housing Finance Agency recently announced that all lenders will be required to phase in the VantageScore 4.0 model, in addition to the FICO 10T score, over the next few years.

Individual lenders will require a minimum credit score that can range between 580 and 660, depending on the type of mortgage (Conventional, FHA, VA, etc) being applied for.

How long does it take to get a mortgage preapproval?

Obtaining a preapproval letter can take as little as a day and as long as 10 days, depending on what lender you choose. Some lenders may issue the letter with a simple credit check based on the information you provide while others may require to see documentation such as pay stubs, W-2s, and bank statements.

How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders

Our ranking methodology was determined based on the following categories:

  • Types of loans offered: We favored companies that offer a variety of loan options, such as fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages, different term lengths, and both private loans and loans backed by government agencies.
  • Customer experience: We favored companies that consider alternative credit data, provide a streamlined application process, offer at least two forms of customer service, and have a variety of resources and educational tools on their websites.
  • Reputation and transparency: We evaluated consumer complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the number of regulatory actions filed with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System

Over the course of our research, we consulted the following expert sources:

Summary of Money’s Best Mortgage Lenders of 2023

Rocket Mortgage - Best Customer Service 620 3%
LendingTree - Best Marketplace ~585 (recommended) n/a
Veterans United - Best Online Lender for Military Members 620 3%
Guild Mortgage - Best for First-Time Homebuyers 620 3%
Navy Federal - Best In-Person Lender for Military Members 620 3%
Caliber Home Loans - Best for Self-employed Individuals 620 3%
Bank of America - Best National Bank 620 3%
Better Mortgage - Best for Fast Closing Time 620 3%