Mortgage Lender Review Methodology

Our method for choosing the best mortgage lenders

Buying or refinancing a home is a major decision. There are dozens of mortgage lenders to choose from if you want to buy or refinance a home, and quite a few different types of mortgages. Conventional, jumbo, FHA, USDA—the number of options can be overwhelming.

We developed a set of scoring criteria to cut through the noise, and rated the top 45 mortgage lenders based on a variety of important factors. Each lender received an overall score of 0 to 5.

See the results of our methodology by browsing our picks for the best mortgage lenders available today.

Our Review Process

To judge our chosen 45 mortgage lenders fairly, we looked at these major categories and weighted them as such:

  1. Quality of Service: 55%
  2. Operational Features: 27%
  3. Types of Loans Offered: 12%
  4. Accessibility: 6%

Companies were rated on a scale of 0 to 5 using a variety of criteria in each category, including whether or not they offer first-time homebuyer grants, the types of loans they offer, and how long it takes them to close. All scores were combined to create an average score for each company.

Data Collection

We collected over 1,200 original data points, and looked at data from the NMLS, HDMA, and Scotsman databases. A customer satisfaction survey was conducted of 1,195 mortgage borrowers to better understand opinions about lenders, along with 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 looked at the following quality of service criteria with the accompanying weights:

  • Overall customer experience: 42.5%
  • Benefits and grants: 5%
  • Online application: 5%
  • Application assistance online: 2.5%

Overall Customer Experience

In our survey we asked mortgage borrowers about their satisfaction with mortgage lenders, and gave each lender a score of 0 to 10. The mortgage process can be lengthy and difficult, so providing a good experience for customers is important; this factor accounted for 42.5% of the total score.

Benefits and Grants

Some lenders offer special programs for new and first-time homebuyers, like low or no down payment loans. We gave companies a score of 1 if they offer such programs, and a score of 0 if they do not; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Online Application

We scored companies on whether or not they offer an easy, online application, or if you have to contact a loan officer to get started; companies with an online application scored higher. This factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Application Assistance Online

Many people would like some form of assistance while completing their mortgage application, even if it’s online. We scored companies on whether or not they offer online application assistance, with a score of 0 if they do not and a score of 1 if they do. This factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.

Operational Features

We included 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 that are licensed in more states, with more loan officers and originators, scored better overall. Altogether, operational features accounted for 27% of the total score.

State Licensing

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

Loan officer availability can affect how soon you can progress through your application, although the number of loan 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

We scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on how many loan originators they have; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Brick-and-Mortar Branches

Although many borrowers may be comfortable applying online, some may prefer to meet their loan officer in person, We rated each company 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

There are many types of loan, designed to meet the needs of borrowers in different situations. We rated lenders based on whether or not they 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 large conventional loans that surpass the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA); they typically require good credit and a low DTI. We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer jumbo loans, and a score of 1 if they do; this factor amounted to 4.5% of the total score.

FHA Loans

FHA loans are backed and insured by the Federal Housing Administration, and they’re typically easier to get than other loan types. 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

Tthe U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers VA loans 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

Adjustable-rate mortgages have interest rates than can vary over time, rather than being fixed from the start. 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.

Accessibility

The following company features are related to the accessibility of mortgage loans; we gave them the accompanying weights:

  • Days to closing: 5%
  • Debt-to-income ratio: 1%

We gave the most accessible lenders the highest scores for these criteria. Together, these factors accounted for 6% of the total score.

Days to Closing

You probably don’t want to wait 60 days for the lender to close your mortgage. A long closing time can be a problem, so we scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on how the average time it takes them to close a mortgage; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Debt-to-Income Ratio

The portion of your monthly income that goes to paying back your debts is known as your debt-to-income ratio. Different loan types and different lenders have different DTI requirements, so comparing lenders by this factor can be useful. We gave companies higher scores for having lower DTI ratio requirements for conventional loans; this criterion accounted for 1% of the total score.

Choosing the Best Mortgage Lender for You

How do you find the right mortgage lender? There’s no shortcut to exploring several companies and comparing the offers you get. A home is likely to be the most expensive thing you ever buy, so taking the time to check your options and find the best rate can pay off. 

Start your search by looking at the lenders that rose to the top based on our methodology, with our picks for the best mortgage lenders available today.