Mortgage Lender Review Methodology

If you’re looking to buy or refinance a home, you’ll find a wide range of mortgage lenders to choose from. They offer many similar products, but the details are slightly different in each case. How to find the right one for you?

To help you narrow down the field, we’ve researched the most important characteristics of the top 45 mortgage lenders in the country. Each was given a score from 0 to 5, based on the following methodology.

Our Review Processes

To fairly judge companies, we looked at the following main categories with accompanying weightings:

  1. Quality of service: 55%
  2. Operational characteristics: 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, such as whether or not they offer online applications, how many states they are licensed to issue mortgages in, and whether they offer or not loans like jumbo and FHA. Each criterion was weighted according to its importance and the scores were combined to create an average score for each company.

Data gathering

We collected information on 45 mortgage lenders, consisting of over 1,200 original data points and information from the NMLS, HDMA and Scotsman databases. A survey was conducted of 1,195 mortgage borrowers to better understand customer satisfaction, amounts borrowed, interest rates, and mortgage terms, among other factors. We also reached out to company representatives for more information on their coverage.

Quality of service

We examined the following quality of service criteria with the corresponding weightings:

  • Overall customer experience: 42.50%
  • Benefits and subsidies: 5%
  • Online application: 5%
  • Help with online application: 2.50%

Companies that provide better quality of service to customers scored higher; overall, service quality factors accounted for 55% of the total score.

Overall customer experience

We asked mortgage borrowers about their experiences with mortgage lenders and assigned each lender a rating from 0 to 10. Getting a mortgage loan is an important and potentially stressful life event. This criterion therefore represented 42.50% of the total score.

Benefits and Subsidies

Some lenders offer special programs for new and first time buyers, such as Home Possible and HomeReady loans. We gave companies a score of 1 if they offer benefits and subsidies, and a score of 0 if they don’t; this criterion accounted for 5% of the total score.

Online application

Having a simple online application is important today. We rated companies on whether or not they offer such a feature; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Online application help

Mortgage applications are complicated and can be confusing. the best lenders offer some form of assistance to applicants online, such as help from a loan officer via chat. We gave companies a score of 0 if they don’t offer online application support, and a score of 1 if they do; this factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.

Operational characteristics

We looked at the following operational characteristics with accompanying weights:

  • State License: 12%
  • Number of loan officers: 5%
  • Number of loan originators: 5%
  • Physical branches: 5%

Companies with a broader reach and more loan officers and originators performed better overall. In total, operational characteristics accounted for 27% of the total score.

State license

The more states a company is licensed to lend to, the more available it will be to the average customer. We rated companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on the number of states in which they are licensed to lend; this factor accounted for 12% of the total score.

Number of loan officers

Most lenders require you to work with a loan officer to complete your mortgage application, so the availability of loan officers is important. The number of agents employed by a lender can change often. We scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on the number of loan officers they have; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Number of loan issuers

Mortgage originators also play an important role in the process. We scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on the number of loan originators they have; this criterion accounted for 5% of the total score.

Physical branches

We scored companies based on the number of active physical branches they have; the more branches, the higher the score. This factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Types of loans offered

We looked at whether or not lenders offered the following loan types, with corresponding weightings:

  • Non-conforming jumbo loans: 4.5%
  • FHA loans: 2.5%
  • VA loans: 2.5%
  • Adjustable rate loans: 2.5%

In total, the availability of loan types accounted for 12% of the total score.

Non-Conforming Jumbo Loans

Giant Loans are those that exceed the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). We gave companies a score of 0 if they do not offer jumbo loans, and a score of 1 if they do; this criterion accounted for 4.5% of the total score.

FHA Loans

FHA loans have more lenient requirements, making them a bit easier to get. We gave companies a score of 0 if they don’t offer FHA loans, and a score of 1 if they do. This factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.

VA Loans

VA loans are offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to eligible military personnel, veterans, and their families. We gave companies a score of 0 if they don’t offer VA loans, and a score of 1 if they do; this factor accounted for 2.5% of the total score.

Adjustable rate loans

The interest rate of a adjustable rate mortgage may vary over time, unlike a fixed rate mortgage. We assigned firms 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

We looked at the following characteristics related to mortgage affordability, along with their accompanying weights:

  • Closing days: 5%
  • Debt to income ratio: 1%

The more accessible the lender, the higher the scores; overall, these factors accounted for 6% of the total score.

Closing days

Some mortgage lenders can take much longer than others to complete a loan; this can be a problem if it takes too long as your lock rate could expire. We scored companies on a scale of 0 to 1 based on the average time it takes them to close a mortgage; this factor accounted for 5% of the total score.

Debt to income ratio

Your debt to income ratio refers to the amount of your monthly income that is used to pay off your debts. Different lenders may have different DTI ratio requirements, although they tend to be quite similar across the board. We scored companies based on their minimum DTI ratio requirement for conventional loans, with lower DTI requirements scoring higher. This factor accounted for 1% of the total score.

Choosing the best mortgage lender for you

It can be difficult to compare mortgage lenders, especially because important information about rates and potential fees is usually not readily available. In many cases, but not always, you must go through the application process and be pre-qualified to see your rates.


Our reviews and roundups aim to provide the latest information on the best mortgage lenders available today. See the results of our methodology here: