The Best Mortgage Lenders of 2020
My Top Pick
CHRISTOPHER RESHETAR with HomeTown Lenders
Get Qualified With Chris Now
Chris has stood out in the Carolina’s as a local leader in the mortgage industry both as an advocate for today’s buyer and as a top industry professional. Chris has been in the mortgage business for just over 20 years now. His real desire is to help his clients navigate the lending process with care, concern, and with a positive attitude. He wants to make sure his first-time buyers have access to the local programs that make homeownership possible and also wants to ensure his senior clients seeking a reverse mortgage get the attention and explanations they deserve.
Chris has been ranked in the top 1% of America’s originators (Mortgage Executive Magazine), has earned the industries Five-Star Professional Award many times, and even hosts his own radio show on ESPN 730 The Game every Sunday at 10:00 AM called Reshair Radio (www.reshairradio.com). Chris’s expertise includes the standard Conventional/FHA/Va loans to Renovation/Reverse/Down Payment Assistance. He is your one-stop-shop for your local lending needs. Call Chris, The Mortgage Genuis at 704-277-4463.
Money’s Top Picks
Quicken LoansBEST MORTGAGE COMPANY
The reason we chose Quicken as our best overall mortgage lender is simple: their nationwide reach combined with excellent customer service. In 2019, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Veterans Administration reported that the company originated the highest percentage of loans in almost every category, from conventional to VA loans.
That being said, we all know size doesn’t necessarily equal quality. Quicken, though, has significant strength in customer service and a surprisingly low level of complaints for an institution of its size. Quicken is rated “Among the Best” according to JD Power’s Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study, which takes into account each company’s application and approval process, communication, loan closing, and loan offerings. In fact, Quicken has consistently ranked highest in customer satisfaction for loan originations with JD Power for 10 consecutive years.
Quicken’s YOURgage program is another thing that sets it apart from the pack. YOURgage allows borrowers to choose the term of their fixed-rate mortgage and get a loan of up to $510,400. First-time homebuyers can pay as little as 3% down. This is especially helpful for first-time homebuyers who may not have 20% saved for a down payment.
Finally, as Quicken has completed 96% of all electronic mortgage closings in the country, the company has a wealth of experience completing the process online, which is highly convenient for most applicants these days.
Size, reach, and options are important, but only if the company has the customer service chops to back it up. We chose Quicken as the “best overall” mortgage lender because it is most likely to be available to you and offers solid service at the same time. However, if you’re looking for something more focused on your area or needs, read on.3rd Party Ratings#1 MBA Ranking
JD POWER RATINGAmong the BestCompany Credit CheckMINIMUM CREDIT SCORE
620DO THEY CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE
No. They consider credit scores and DTI Ratios.LATEST NEWS
Quicken and Covid-19
For clients who have been impacted by COVID-19, Quicken Loans is offering an initial forbearance, which temporarily stops mortgage payments. Clients can fill out an application for assistance by visiting RocketMortgage.com. Once the crisis is over, Quicken Loans will work with clients to determine the best course of action when they are ready to resume payments. Clients won’t experience an impact to their credit as a result of the forbearance.
As for closings and appraisals, Quicken is taking precautionary measures to ensure that their signing agents and appraisers do not have COVID-19. According to their statement, in some cases, they are not required to enter your home for the time being.
Guild MortgageBEST MORTGAGE COMPANY FOR
FIRST-TIME HOME BUYERS
We know how daunting it can be to purchase your first home, particularly if things like student loans and other financial burdens are affecting your credit score and budget. That’s why Guild’s range of credit options made it our top pick as the best mortgage lender for first-time homebuyers.
Guild also offers government-backed FHA, VA, and USDA loans, as well as programs that specialize in down-payment assistance. In fact, according to the MBA, Guild is among the nation’s top five FHA lenders, making it a great option for qualifying borrowers with a credit score of 600.
For first-time homebuyers who think their credit scores or down payment amounts aren’t enough to get a mortgage, Guild offers the best 3-2-1 Home program, which is a mortgage specifically designed for borrowers who meet low-income requirements or live in low-income areas; it features a nifty incentive which accepts a minimum 3% down payment, awards borrowers a $2,000 Home Depot gift card and a $1,500 grant that can be used for the loan’s down payment or closing costs. The 3-2-1 program will be available until May 1, 2020.3rd Party Ratings#12 MBA Ranking
JD POWER RATINGBetter Than MostCompany Credit CheckMINIMUM CREDIT SCORE
620 is the standard, with minor exceptionsDO THEY CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE
Yes, such as utility bills and rental payment histories.LATEST NEWS
Guild Mortgage and Covid-19
Guild Mortgage company is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation and has suspended foreclosures and evictions for the next 60 days following Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and HUD guidelines. Guild will not adversely report customer loans to credit bureaus through March and April and will be waiving late charges for all borrowers for the months of April and May. If you expect COVID-19 to impact you for a while, Guild Mortgage, in partnership with investors, is offering an initial forbearance option.
Navy FederalBEST MORTGAGE COMPANY FOR
As the world’s largest credit union, the fourth-ranking VA loan originator in the country, and one of the best mortgage lenders by customer satisfaction according to J.D. Power, Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is our top pick for military service members.
While it doesn’t take the lead on VA loan originations, NFCU does offer more in terms of accessibility and convenience than similar competitors. Unlike other VA lenders, it has 343 branches around the world for those wanting in-person assistance and, as a credit union, NFCU is a member-owned non-profit entity, so its main interest is serving its customers as opposed to the business’ bottom line.
NFCU also services all of its mortgages in-house for the life of the loans, which can be important for customers looking to do business solely with the lender they have researched and chosen. In fact, according to J.D. Power, having their loans involuntarily transferred to a new servicer can be a pain point for many consumers.
While VA loans are government-backed, they don’t feature the same interest rate across lenders. However, borrowers looking into mortgage products through NFCU can take advantage of its rate match. If you find a better rate elsewhere, NFCU will match it or give you a deduction of $1,000 off your closing costs.
Membership is open to active-duty military members as well as reservists, veterans, retirees, and annuitants.3rd Party Ratings#13 MBA Ranking
JD POWER RATINGAmong the BestCompany Credit CheckMINIMUM CREDIT SCORE
620 is the standard, but they accept less than perfect credit scores for certain loan productsDO THEY CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE
Yes, it considers data such as utility bills and evaluates a member’s tenure or loyalty to the company.LATEST NEWS
Navy Federal and COVID-19
Navy Federal is offering eligible members a three-month forbearance, which temporarily suspends mortgage payments for three months. Members will also be provided options to make payments missed during forbearance.
“We understand that some Navy Federal members are going through an unprecedented experience right now. Our commitment has been and will continue to be to support our members the best we can,” said Janelle Allison, Vice President of the Mortgage and Equity Resolutions Branch at Navy Federal. The latest details on NFCU’s forbearance for mortgage borrowers can be found on NavyFederal.org’s website by clicking on the COVID-19 Response button near the top of the main page.
Additionally, closing a mortgage loan may take longer than usual, but Navy Federal is honoring initial locked rates in light of COVID-19. For more information regarding other personal loans, checks or transfers, visit their COVID-19 response blog.
ANOTHER GREAT OPTION
Veterans United Home LoansLARGEST
U.S. VETERAN LENDER
Veterans United Home Loans is the country’s top VA loan originator, surpassing even industry giant Quicken Loans. While the fact that it specializes in loans backed by the U.S. Department Veterans Affairs makes it a great option for those looking into this type of mortgage, it doesn’t offer home equity loans, and services only some of its loans. Additionally, Veterans United has branches in only 18 states.
BEST MORTGAGE COMPANIES
Top Mortgage Lenders by Region
Avg. Credit Score & Mortgage Amount
Total Loans Originated per Company
When we got started in January, the fact that there weren’t more borrowers taking advantage of the historic plunge in mortgage rates gave us food for thought. This led us to look into market trends and interview economists, real estate professionals, loan officers, and mortgage brokers, to better understand the elements at play in the current mortgage market.
It also led us to look at the qualification requirements of some of the largest mortgage lenders in the industry in an attempt to identify which banks offered the best deals to ordinary borrowers.
With this in mind, our research process began with gathering data from the Mortgage Bankers Association and JD Power to identify the nation’s top mortgage lenders based on originations as well as overall consumer satisfaction. This narrowed down our preliminary list of 100 national mortgage lenders to 24.
Using the same data, we calculated the median number of purchase originations, including those for government-backed loans, and eliminated any lenders that fell well below average. This further narrowed down our best list to 11 mortgage companies, including brick-and-mortar banks, credit unions, and online lenders.
We then vetted these companies based on the 16 most important attributes of a lender according to a survey of our interviewees. Additionally, we ran a short consumer poll on MONEY’s social media platforms for seven days, in which almost 100 participants told us which type of lender they preferred. That left us with just three mortgage lenders we identified as the best in the business.
Your Mortgage Questions Answered
Should I go for an adjustable- or a fixed-rate mortgage?
I qualify for both conventional and government-backed loans. Which one should I choose?
What documents do I need to apply?
Will I have a higher interest rate because I’m self-employed?
If I want to buy a house, where should I start?
Buying A House In 2020
UPDATE: WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
As of March of this year, the Federal Reserve has taken extraordinary measures to stabilize the market in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The year started off with mortgage rates plummeting to a 50-year historic low — and while rates have risen slightly, they have remained well under 4%.
As we head into spring, interest rates are projected to stabilize as the economy recovers, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). Last month, when rock-bottom mortgage rates caused a boom in applications, the MBA’s Adjusted 2020 Forecast revealed that total mortgage originations would reach a whopping $2.61 trillion — a 20.3% increase from last year.
According to Adam DeSanctis, MBA’s Director of Public Affairs, these projections aren’t expected to change. In fact, their most recent report shows that refinancing is still 195% higher than 2019 as borrowers continue to take advantage of low mortgage rates.
So, if you’re looking to make the most out of the current market conditions and are financially ready to make the dream of homeownership a reality, our list of best mortgage lenders can be a great starting point to help narrow down your options.
Mortgages and COVID-19
On March 18, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced they were taking measures to protect those affected directly or indirectly by the novel coronavirus. This includes:
- A nationwide suspension of all foreclosure sales and evictions
- Additional mortgage relief options and the expansion of forbearance programs to incorporate those affected directly and indirectly by this crisis, effective immediately
- Loan modifications such as loss mitigation, which is usually offered for natural disasters, may be available as well — depending on your mortgage lender
Additionally, as per the Financial Services Forum, some lenders are implementing supplemental relief efforts such as fee waivers and are not reporting negative credit to credit bureaus. If you have a loan with one of the entities mentioned above, please contact your mortgage lender as you may be entitled to some relief programs if you were affected by COVID-19.
Is Now the Right Time to Buy?
There is no single answer to the question of whether or not it’s a good time to buy. There’s no denying that COVID-19 put a halt to the longest period of economic growth in U.S. history. Social distancing has paused the economy, and economists at the Federal Reserve of St. Louis now predict that by the end of Q2, a total of 47.05 million people will be laid off — unlike any other event experienced in the United States in the last 100 years.
In effect, the financial market’s uncertainty has caused mortgage rates and applications to continue experiencing significant volatility, according to Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting.
“The bleaker economic outlook, along with the first wave of realized job losses reported in [last month’s] unemployment claims numbers, likely caused potential homebuyers to pull back,” said Kan in the latest MBA weekly survey. “Purchase applications were down over 10 %, and after double-digit annual growth to start 2020, activity has fallen off last year’s pace for two straight weeks.”
In an effort to recover from the coronavirus, Freddie Mac is working with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), to make it easier to buy, sell, or refinance a home. Specifically, Freddie Mac is relaxing employment verification requirements and offering appraisal alternatives in light of the crisis.
Additionally, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have announced a nationwide relief plan to help borrowers facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, effectively suspending all evictions and offering forbearance plans for up to 12-months.
“We are committed to helping families affected by the virus and we are instructing servicers to work with borrowers who are unable to make their mortgage payments to ensure they are evaluated for a forbearance plan or other appropriate assistance,” said Kevin Palmer, senior vice president of Single-Family portfolio management at Freddie Mac.
So if you want to take advantage of low rates and this window of opportunity, contact your mortgage lender first to evaluate the options that are available to you.
LATEST MORTGAGE NEWS
Sources: Census.gov, Nar.realtor, Mortgage Bankers Association
Market Projections Timeline According to Experts
Where We Were
The 2008 Subprime Crisis, AKA The Great Recession
The United States mortgage crisis was a nationwide financial crisis that began in the mid-2000s and ran until 2010. Borrowers were approved for loans they couldn’t afford and there was a stark rise in foreclosures that led to the bankruptcy of multiple lending institutions across the US, contributing to what is now known as the Great Recession.
- Hundreds of US banks went under and, as a result, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two government-sponsored companies, were nationalized to stimulate the housing market
- In 2009, the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) closed more than 100 banks for the first time since 1992
- According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 8.7 million jobs were lost
- Consumer spending declined more than at any time since World War II and, consequently, Americans increased their personal savings as a precaution to potential job loss, reductions in income, confidence, and credit access
- US credit markets came to a sudden halt when the residential housing bubble burst in 2007 – 2008, affecting small American businesses that relied heavily on bank credit
Where We Are Now
Unemployment Rates and The Economy Today
Roaring 20s? According to economists at Goldman Sachs, the start of the decade is looking more like we’re roaring into a recession. A month ago, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that by 2020, job growth would reach up to 94.7 million jobs by 2022. Now, as COVID-19 infections spread in the US, unemployment rates have soared to historic levels.
Goldman Sachs’ Chief Economist Jan Hatzius expects that this recession, however, will be much shorter than the one in 2008.
“The good news is that we don’t think it’s going to last as long as the global financial crisis. This, of course, depends on the medical news and the responses to that,” said Hatzius in a statement.
The effects of the recession that started between 2007-2008, lasted several years after that due to the culmination of a decade or more of financial imbalances that were slowly built up in the economy, more specifically in housing. According to Hatzius, that’s the key difference between the downturn of 2008 versus the economic crisis we’re facing today due to the novel coronavirus.
Hatzius added, “So you had a pretty deep downturn and long lasting downturn and then quite a slow recovery following the crisis. This is much more of a black swan event. There’s a large constraint that has been put on economic activity in a very short period of time, Q1 and Q2 of 2020. But once that is behind us, and once the medical news is improved, the recovery should come swifter and should be stronger than what you saw coming out of 2008.”
For those facing financial hardship as a result of reduced hours or recent unemployment, government entities have already moved to help the nation overcome this temporary blow. The US Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the US Department of Labor have announced several measures as well as new legislation to protect and provide relief to employees and employers during this difficult time.
This includes up to 80-hours of paid leave for sick workers, protections for small businesses, and unemployment insurance flexibilities, to name a few.
What lessons from the recession can we apply today?
In order to better assess this question, we reached out to experts, including Keith Gumbinger, Vice President of HSH Associates and Dr. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research at the National Association of Realtors.
Mortgage Lenders are now more cautious about how much and who they lend money to.
According to Yun, one of the biggest mistakes that led to the subprime mortgage crisis was that mortgage lenders didn’t conduct proper checks on borrowers and their ability to repay their mortgages. Thankfully, new rules and regulations have been established to prevent this from happening and to protect lenders and borrowers alike in case of a recession.
Homebuyers will probably exercise caution in days to come.
According to Gumbinger, it’s probably a good time to exercise caution and reassess finances. Down payment funds that may have formerly invested in the stock market may be no more, and in the case that someone wants to purchase a home they should consider alternatives such as taking a low down payment FHA-backed mortgage rather than a conventional mortgage.
Additionally, home buying plans may be affected by a serious lack of properties for sale in the markets.
“With ‘stay at home’ orders covering perhaps 80 million Americans at the moment, it’s a good bet that even those considering selling their homes this spring may step back from the market until there is greater clarity about the course of the disease and economy,” said Gumbinger.
Insights Into the Mortgage Industry
As interest rates remain low, economic indicators project that people will be more likely to purchase as the economy improves.
It’s worth noting, however, that the market is susceptible to external geopolitical events such as the current coronavirus pandemic. Rate shifts of this kind are not a novel occurrence, as last year mortgage rates dropped in part due to Brexit.
“We’re linked to global capital markets, and that’s sort of a benefit for consumers as it keeps interest rates low,” said Leonard Kiefer, Deputy Chief Economist at Freddie Mac about rate fluctuations in the mortgage market. “But this also means that if there are shocks around the world, that creates volatility in rates.”
But what does that mean for prospective homebuyers? Can we stay ahead of the market and attempt to predict when mortgage rates will drop? According to Shashank Shekhar, founder and CEO of Arcus Lending, geopolitical events have a short-term impact on mortgage rates, but those events can be difficult, if not impossible, to predict.
He gave us the example of the novel coronavirus, which has unexpectedly affected the global markets. “Good news for the economy is bad news for rates and bad news for the economy is good news for rates,” Shekhar said. “Once things get better, rates will go up again to where we started, but that was low interest to begin with,” he added.
Despite the clear influence of world events on mortgage rates, Shekhar believes these factors have little bearing on real estate sales. If mortgage rates decrease by a half percent, that won’t necessarily mean more people will be queuing up to buy homes.
Historically, there has been little correlation between mortgage rates and home prices or sales, which means the decision to purchase property is also driven by economic, financial, and emotional factors beyond interest rates.
While low interest mortgage rates alone shouldn’t drive a prospective homeowner to take the plunge, being up to date with national economic shifts can give people a good sense of the overall market stability in relation to their financial situation.
Here’s what our experts believe is in store for the mortgage market in the short and long term:
The Mortgage Industry, Short-Term (2020-2025)
Home Prices Will Continue to Rise, But at a Slow Pace
We certainly are tracking a number of markets where affordability is a real challenge. Particularly in some of the coastal markets, home prices were increasing two to three times the rate of wage growth and that just can’t be viable for too long before you scare away potential buyers. Our expectation is that, with the additional units coming on the market the rate of home price growth will decelerate a bit. So prices still increase but more slowly, and we expect that it will actually line up with the rate of wage growth, so that will build a stronger foundation for future increases in sales.Mike Fratantoni,Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of
Industry Research Technology at the Mortgage Bankers Association
Mortgage Rates Will Remain Low, but It’ll Still Be a Seller’s Market
Compared to a year ago, mortgage rates are down a lot, and they have recently been heading down even more. So that’s going to provide a boost for the housing market. For the long-term, that’s going to persist for more than six or nine months.
The US is undersupplied for all types of housing, not just owner-occupied housing, but also rental housing. So the fact that there’s such little supply relative to demand does give sellers in any markets a big advantage, and so that’s probably going to persist.Leonard Kiefer,Deputy Chief Economist at
The Mortgage Industry, Long-Term (2026-2040)
An Increase in Housing Supply
Although there’s still room for improvement, things are looking up in the housing market.
The data on housing is starting to show better conditions and is steadily moving in the right direction of more production. We are not back to normal yet, but at least directionally, we are moving towards a less severe housing shortage with each passing month.Lawrence Yun,Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of
Research at the National Association of Realtors
The more challenging aspect of the current shortage is that more Millennials are also setting their sights on the dream of homeownership.
There’s a wave of people entering their 30s. The challenge here for them is that the generation of Millenials and Baby Boomers are all trying to be homeowners at the same time for the next 5 years.
Then we expect that our Silver Tsunami will kick off opening up units for potential homebuyers as demand increases.Jeff Tucker,Economist
at Zillow’s Research Department
The Silver Tsunami
In the next 10-20 years, more than a quarter (27.4%) of the nation’s currently owner-occupied homes are likely to hit the market as their owners vacate the property or pass away. This phenomenon, referred to as the “Silver Tsunami,” will leave room for Millennials and Gen Xers to purchase homes at affordable rates, providing a boost to the housing market.
By 2037, an estimate of 1 million homes that are currently occupied by seniors aged 60 and above are expected to be vacated each year.
As the Silver Tsunami approaches, we can expect an extra 440,000 units to be released into the market, that’s an increase of 40% by the end of the 2037 timeframe.Jeff Tucker,Economist
at Zillow’s Research Department
According to Tucker, about 700,000 homes were made available to homebuyers each year for the last 10 years.
Areas that are likely to benefit from the Silver Tsunami include Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Tucson, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, and Houston, to name a few.
Millennials and Gen Xers are currently projected to be the primary driving force behind the housing market, accounting for 37% and 24% of current home buyers respectively, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Millenials and Gen X are getting into buying homes and their process has been a bit different. I see that they want to do it on their own. There’s a sense of accomplishment when saying ‘this is mine.’ I do find a lot of people that have spent some time online either filling out their pre-qualification or preliminary approval.
Century 21 Platinum Properties(collaborator on MONEY’s Best Places to Live 2019)
Among all borrowers, the top three reasons provided for liking the online application process were:
In fact, fintech vendor Ellie Mae’s 2019 Connecting with Borrowers Online study reveals that borrowers have increasingly opted to use online resources and tools to research and contact mortgage lenders. Interestingly, however, only 50% of borrowers preferred lenders that offered an online portal or application process.
How Much Will I Pay
To Summarize: Best Mortgage Lenders of 2020
In the end, the best mortgage lender in 2020 is the one that can offer you the best terms and interest rates, plus the lowest fees.
Still, our list of top picks can serve as a starting point to simplify your journey and point you in the right direction, when looking for the right financing option to purchase the home of your dreams.
We’ve included affiliate links into this article. Click here to learn what those are.