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How to choose a mortgage lender in 2023

14 min.

The moment you decide to buy a home, you discover that a plethora of banks, credit union entities, financial institutions, and web-based lenders are more than willing to consider your application. With many mortgage lenders available, it's important to settle on one with the best terms. Applying with the right mortgage lender can be tough if you don't know what to pay attention to. Here, you will find all the necessary information for choosing a suitable mortgage lender.

How to choose a mortgage lender in 2023

Types of mortgage lenders

There are many types mortgage lenders you can choose from, each with their set of features and mortgage products. The most common of the financial institutions in the United States are the following.

  1. Direct lenders. Banks, credit unions, web-based companies, and other entities offer direct loans. Direct lenders create and finance the loans on their own and even service them in some cases. It's the direct lender who establishes interest rates and terms for its mortgage loans. The main advantages of a direct lender are that you only have to deal with one entity and one loan officer. The interest rates they offer are generally lower. The main con is you will have to examine mortgage options and compare rates on your own to find the best offer.
  2. Mortgage brokers. A mortgage broker is an independent, certified specialist that provides matchmaking services, acting as a middleman between mortgage lenders and borrowers. A mortgage broker usually takes home a part of the money borrowed (from 1% to 2%) as payment for the services. The advantage of dealing with mortgage brokers is the fact they will find the best mortgage lender for you without you having to do anything. The biggest drawback is that you will have to pay more due to the fact that there's a commission involved.
  3. Correspondent lenders. This type of lender creates and finances the loan before selling it to a bigger loan provider on the secondary home loan market. If you're trying to find the best mortgage option available, you might find correspondent lenders quite commonly. This brand of mortgage loan providers offers some of the best conditions - low monthly payments, low interest rates, and low lender fees. However, once your loan is sold, there might be a change in some aspects of your situation.
  4. Wholesale lenders. This is a combination of direct lenders and mortgage brokers. Wholesale lenders are direct loan providers that hire brokers to take care of the rest. The rates are generally lower. It's easier to get approval when dealing with this kind of financial institution, even if your financial situation is less than perfect. Also, they routinely offer advantageous rates. The downsides include a potential increase in total expenses because there's a third party involved and the additional stress of dealing with a mortgage broker.
  5. Portfolio lenders. This type of mortgage loan provider uses its clientele's funds in order to finance the loan. The best mortgage lenders within this category are banking institutions, credit unions, and firms that deal with savings. Choosing a portfolio lender gives you an opportunity to turn to a local bank, which is a great option for those failed to qualify for a loan due to harsh financial circumstances. Since these lenders can rarely compete with larger companies or banks, they often offer worse terms.
  6. Hard money lenders. These lenders are frequently used as a last resort by people that didn't qualify for a mortgage loan with a more traditional lender. The repayment window is usually shorter, and the interest rates are higher. The short-term loans provided by these lenders are secured by real estate. The conditions are generally worse, but the requirements are easier. The approval process is also faster. More often this type of financing is used by people that flip houses.
  7. Federal agencies are the ones that deal with government-backed loans. There are many state-funded mortgage programs, including launched by the Federal Housing Administration. The so-called FHA loans usually offer lower payments and less strict requirements. The VA loans (loans backed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs) also give borrowers advantageous terms. Government-backed loans have lower or no down payment, but you cannot avoid mortgage insurance payments. The downside is that it's hard to qualify for these loan programs. Additional consultations might be required to verify that you are eligible for this brand of loan.

The best loan for the first time home buyers

First-time home purchasers will soon realize that zeroing in on the best mortgage lender might be troublesome. Finding the offer that suits your needs and budget is more complex than just finding the best rate. Outside assistance might be required in order to find the best offer tailored to your specific situation.

The best mortgage loan for any first-time buyer is the loan they meet the most requitements for. With a sufficient credit score and a good enough source of revenue, you can afford higher monthly payments and repay the loan faster or purchase a better house. It should also be noted that there are many payment assistance programs available for first-time purchasers.

How to choose a mortgage lender?

Choosing a mortgage lender is both difficult and easy since there are so many options available for just about everyone. There are many aggregator-style websites that help you compare the rates of different lenders. The key points you need to take into consideration while examining loan offers are below.

  1. Credit score. Your credit score and your past credit history are very important. Mortgage lending institutions might have different requirements for the minimum credit score required to qualify for their products. Before assessing your mortgage options, it makes sense to improve your credit score by paying off credit card balances and exhibiting other good personal finance habits.
  2. Budget. You need to pay attention to your budget so that you're freely able to afford your monthly mortgage payment. It makes sense to examine what monthly payment ranges are available when comparing lender offers. Study different mortgage loans from online lenders to make sure that your monthly payments don't cripple your day-to-day financial situation. Take unforeseen expenses into consideration when you calculate which monthly payments work for your budget.
  3. Interest rate. On the mortgage options, compare rates. This way, you can estimate how much you will pay back. However, Finding a lender with the lowest interest rates is the simplest way of finding a "better" lender. In reality, a lower interest rate doesn't always equal better conditions, but it makes sense to put at least some importance on it. Based on the volatility of the interest rate, there exist different loan types, including fixed-rate mortgages and adjustable-rate mortgages.
  4. Down payment. Down payment requirements are also very important. A large down payment may impair your ability to handle stressful financial situations because it will burn through your savings faster. If a lender demands a higher down payment on the mortgage, you can adjust your budget, but you need to be aware of this before you lock in the loan. The first payment amount is very important and can influence the way you handle future mortgage payments.

Where to get a mortgage

There are many places you can turn to when trying looking for the best mortgage lenders. Once you finally settle on the lender, it's time for you to prepare the application. There's paperwork needs to be gathered before you can finally qualify for a loan with the lender that you selected.

Besides providing basic information such as your personal details, income, expenses, and contact information, you will be asked to supply paperwork related to employment history, personal assets (bank statements), and more. Understanding the process of qualifying for a loan can help you receive approval faster and perhaps even qualify for better terms. Getting a mortgage can be broken down into the following steps of mortgage process:

  1. Pre-qualification. With pre-qualification, you will need to supply basic information and let the lender assess the data you provided. The lender will send you a prequalification letter with a loan estimate. Keep in mind that pre-qualification is not the same as mortgage preapproval. If you let the lender verify the financial data and provide additional documentation, you will receive a mortgage pre-approval letter containing rates and terms that shouldn't differ much from what you'll get in the final offer. Usually, with pre-qualification, the lenders do soft credit checks on your credit reports. They will determine whether they can approve you based on how much house equity you have. Pre-qualify with at least three lenders to get more loan estimates.
  2. Approval. There are many things that factor into the lender's final decision. Your income, personal debt, credit score, current financial standing, expenses, and many other variables all hold importance in the process of approval. On average, for different loan types, it takes from 25 to 30 days. That, of course, is if you choose to include pre-approval and home appraisal as well. Loan applications are rarely rejected after positive pre-approval, so that's the point when your loan is pretty much set. The most common reasons for rejection include insufficient credit score, low income, high DTI, and other issues. An application can be turned down based on the fact the applicant either purposefully or unknowingly supplied incorrect or misleading information.
  3. Loan agreement. The final stage of getting a mortgage is signing a contract. A mortgage loan agreement is a legal document you should examine with great attention. The document outlines all the terms, such as interest rate, closing costs, private mortgage insurance payments, prepayment penalties, and other details important throughout the life of the loan. Remember that closing costs are due when you pen the final documents on the closing day. This stage is also where most home buyers start shopping for mortgage insurance. Be sure to take care of everything else before closing the deal. After closing, don't forget to save all the documents.


Can you choose your own mortgage lender?

Yes. It's possible to choose your lender. By examining offers from multiple lenders, you can figure out which one is the best, i.e., which offer suits your current situation the most.

How do I know which mortgage lender to use?

You need to see offers from multiple lenders to find the mortgage lender for your needs. The only way to get a perfect offer is to conduct thorough research by turning to different types of lenders, assessing different loan types, and examining requirements, fees, and estimates. Try searching for conventional loans, jumbo loans, adjustable rate mortgage, or conforming loans from credit unions, nonbank mortgage lenders, and banks.

Does it matter which mortgage lender you use?

Choosing the right lender is very important. Your mortgage loan is a major investment, and being stuck with the wrong lender for several decades is less than ideal. You need to be very thorough while choosing a lender and compare loan estimates.

Is it better to get a mortgage with a broker or a bank?

If you want to save time, you should choose a mortgage broker. You can streamline the entire process with a broker by delegating most of the legwork. If you want to save money, you should choose a bank, as a direct loan from a bank will cost less.

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