Home Buying » Compare Mortgages » Best Online Mortgage Lenders of 2021
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Best Online Mortgage Lenders of 2021

Online mortgage lenders can be a great solution, especially now. Compare top online lenders of 2020 and choose the right loan for your needs

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Using an online mortgage lender makes finding the perfect loan so that you can purchase your perfect home. When you are looking for a mortgage lender you want someone that is trustworthy and easy to work with.

However, going online and looking for this perfect lender is much easier said than done. Just typing in a search engine is going to bring up so many results, you will be drowning in options.

This is why we are here, to help you find the right online mortgage lender to get you your new home. We have looked into several online lenders to help you narrow down your options.

Once you feel you are comfortable with a lender, all that is left to do is straighten out the paperwork. Which just so happens to be something we took into consideration when making this list, just how easy the lenders are to work with. 

Here are The Smart Investor select’s picks for the top online mortgage lenders:

Sofi Mortgage

  • Overview
  • Loan Details
  • Pros & Cons

Sofi Mortgage is a solid loan partner for the best loans in the market. The Company specializes in personal finance, and its products are geared towards providing financial empowerment for individuals seeking loans. Sofi requires a minimum credit score of 660 and a minimum down payment of 10%.

Sofi provides full digital support for clients and does not require private mortgage insurance for jumbo loans. Some of the loan plans offered by the provider include Jumbo loans, adjustable-rate mortgage, FHA loans, VA loans, cash-out refinance, and fixed mortgages. The initial process to get a loan can be started online, and once the preapproval has been passed, you will be assigned a loan officer who will work you through the loan process.

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage
  • Mortgage Refinancing
  • Jumbo Loans
  • FHA & VA Mortgage
  • Minimum Down Payment: 10%
  • BBB Rating: A
  • Full Online Loan Process
  • Underwriting Process
  • No Hidden Fees
  • Ideal for No credit history/First Time Homebuyers
  • Online Only Lender
  • Higher Rates
  • Lacking in Loan Products
  • Not a National Lender

Suntrust

  • Overview
  • Loan Details
  • Pros & Cons

Suntrust is best suited for the borrower who can deal with technology, meets reasonable standards for credit score (620+), can qualify based on their income and demonstrate down payment and reserve requirements for Suntrust’s programs.

You do not have to have the highest credit scores or significant cash down payment for their loans.  Suntrust has a solution for most borrowers, including some that require no cash down and a workaround for jumbo borrowers who cannot meet the reserve requirements.

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage
  • Mortgage Refinancing
  • Jumbo Loans
  • FHA & VA & USDA Loans
  • Broad Set of Products
  • Website
  • Complete Loan Application on Suntrust’s SmartApp
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Turnaround Times
  • Limited Retail Branches

LoanDepot Mortgage

  • Overview
  • Loan Details
  • Pros & Cons

LoanDepot is a physical and online lender with over 150 branches and is available in all the 50 states nationwide. The Bank also gives an end-to-end online product, Mello smart loan program, which enables the borrowers to have a completely online experience when obtaining a loan.

For individuals that value speed, the Mello smart loan program makes use of proprietary digital technology that speeds up the online application and closing process.

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage
  • Mortgage Refinancing
  • Jumbo Loans
  • FHA & VA Mortgage
  • Minimum Down Payment: 3%
  • BBB Rating: A
  • Variert Of Loan Products
  • Cutting-edge technology
  • Website
  • High customer satisfaction
  • Turnaround times
  • Doesn’t offer programs for bad credit

Better Mortgage

  • Overview
  • Loan Details
  • Pros & Cons

Better Mortgage provides an excellent online service where resources, loan approval, and rates are readily available. It also offers different mortgage and loan options for individuals that want to buy a home; Better provides a coherent and easy to navigate loan application process and does not charge any fee.

Better uses an outstanding digital mortgage experience, which makes it easy to get a rate quote immediately and verified preapproval within 24 hours. The Better Business Bureau rating is  A+  with four stars out of five stars from 238 customers that provided reviews.

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage
  • Mortgage Refinancing
  • Jumbo Loans
  • FHA Loans
  • HomeReady
  • Minimum Credit Score: 620
  • Better Business Bureau Rating: A+
  • Website
  • Low Fees
  • Competitive Interest Rates
  • Communication
  • Limited Types Of Loans
  • Turn Times

Quicken Loans

  • Overview
  • Loan Details
  • Pros & Cons

Quicken Loans is best suited for the borrower who embraces technology, meets reasonable standards for credit score (+620), and can qualify based on their income and ability to demonstrate down payment and reserve requirements for Quicken Loans’ programs. 

If you have low credit scores or unverifiable income, Quicken Loans is probably not where you would go for your financing.  Otherwise, they are the industry gold standard.

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage
  • Adjustable-Rate Mortgage
  • Mortgage Refinancing
  • Government Loans
  • Reverse Mortgage
  • Bad Credit
  • Minimum Down Payment: 3%
  • Volume
  • Simple, Friendly App
  • Customer Service
  • “Rate Shield Approval”
  • No Retail Branches
  • No Bad Credit Options

Reali (Lenda) Mortgage

  • Overview
  • Loan Details
  • Pros & Cons

Reali (formerly Lenda) has no physical branch; this implies that all the lending process is done solely online, and the application process is fast. Reali provides easy, transparent, and free of fees and commission home loans. Reali also provides loans for both investment and residential properties.

Reali offers refinance loans, purchase loans, and fixed-rate loans of 15 years and 30 years. However, at this time, the Bank does not provide the following loans; jumbo loans, adjustable-rate, home improvement loan, home equity loan, or government-backed loans.

  • Fixed-Rate Mortgage
  • Mortgage Refinancing
  • HARP Loans
  • Pre-qualification
  • Minimum Down Payment: 5%
  • Customer Service
  • Competitive Rates
  • Turn Times
  • Available Only In 12 States
  • Limited Loan Types

Find the Best Online Mortgage?

These days many of us try to do practically everything online. From shopping and socializing to working. But, it is possible to arrange your mortgage online?

Here we’ll explore the best online mortgage lenders and the practicalities of arranging your mortgage online.

How Does An Online Mortgage Work?

As you’re browsing the internet, you may have come across advertisements for online mortgages and deals. This may leave you wondering how an online mortgage actually works.

There is a misconception that it is possible to complete the entire mortgage application process online. There are only a couple of lenders who allow this. In many cases, the process merely starts online. The website is a way to make initial contact with a lender.

Once you submit your online application, it starts the process, but there are certain things that cannot be done online. These include:

  • Speaking to a loan officer (this is usually on the phone)
  • Providing original documents
  • Having the closing documents notarised

However, many companies are aiming to make the process easier. So, while the application process is not completed online with faxes, email and mobile notary services, you may not need to visit physical office premises to complete all your mortgage paperwork.

Buying a home is considered one of the most stressful events in life after the death of a loved one or a divorce. So, what are the most difficult steps of the home buying process. In this chart of 2020 NAR Trends data, the most common difficult step was finding the right property.

Over 50% of home buyers found this stressful. However, paperwork, savings for a down payment and understanding the purchase process also ranked highly. On the positive side, almost 30% of those surveyed experienced no difficult steps.

Most Difficult Steps of Home Buying Process

When Should You Consider an Online Lender?

Generally, using an online lender for your home loan application tends to be a bit more simplified. The application is designed to allow you to supply the necessary information, but the questions are worded with less jargon compared to dealing with a mortgage broker or large financial institution.

If you’ve ever had a one on one meeting with a mortgage broker, you’ll be aware that the broker will often stop to explain exactly what information the lender needs. With an online application, you can usually figure this out for yourself.

So, one excellent reason to consider an online lender is to save time. You can complete the initial application in your own time without a need to schedule an in-person meeting with a broker.

Another scenario when you should consider an online lender is if you are looking for a more cost effective deal. Online lenders typically undercut the traditional brokers, particularly on fees. There are usually lower closing costs, as the lender does need to cover the same overheads, such as fancy premises and on site offices.

You may also wish to consider an online lender if you don't have an excellent credit score. Online lenders don’t always use the same underwriters as the big banks. This can provide greater flexibility to have your application accepted.

How Can I Get A Mortgage Online?

The exact process for obtaining a mortgage online varies from lender to lender. Generally, the process follows these steps.

  • Complete the online application: Once you’ve found the website for a lender offering the most favorable terms for your circumstances, you will need to click apply and complete the online application form.
  • Import Your Financial Details: Some lenders have a feature where you can connect your payroll portal and bank account to import your pertinent financial details.
  • Submit Your Documentation: The lender will provide a list of additional documentation that is required to support your application. You may be able to upload this to the lender’s application portal. If this is not available, you will need to fax or post the documents or take them to a local branch.
  • Arrange Inspections and Appraisals: As with a traditional lender, you will also need a home inspection and your lender will order a home appraisal. These are necessary to confirm the valuation and condition of the property. 
  • Provide Proof of Insurance: You will also need to obtain homeowner’s insurance for the property and provide proof of the policy to your lender.
  • Closing: Finally, you will need to attend a closing appointment. This may be online or you could need to attend an appointment in person. At this stage, you will also need to pay the closing costs and make your down payment.

As you can see, while some lenders do have a fully digital process with document e-signing and video chats with digital notaries, other lenders do require in person meetings at a real estate office or local branch.

If you want to complete the entire process online, you will need to check the specific lender terms to check that all the procedures are in place to accomplish this.

Even if a lender has a dedicated application portal, there is no guarantee that you won’t be required to attend an in person appointment or fax some documents.

The most advanced online lenders have direct relationships with banks, payroll processors and other financial institutions. This allows them to pull financial paperwork directly from your employer and vendors.

This not only eliminates a great deal of hassle, but it also significantly speeds up the process.

What to Look for in an Online Mortgage Lender

There are a number of things to look for when choosing an online mortgage lender. These include:

  • Realistic Lenders: While it may appear great to find a lender that will allow you to borrow more than you need or more than you thought you would qualify for, it could be a warning flag. There are disreputable companies out there that try to lure you in with unrealistic borrowing rates. So, always look for a lender that is realistic in their borrower requirements and limitations.
  • Offering Pre-approval: If you’re planning on purchasing a property in an in demand area, pre-approval will showcase that your offer is legit to both home sellers and real estate agents. So, if you haven’t already found a property or had your offer accepted, pre-approval is something to look out for.
  • Offering Different Types of Mortgages: The ideal type of mortgage for you will depend on your circumstances. However, you may not be aware which options are best for you. So, it is important that your chosen lender offers different types of mortgages. The most common include conventional mortgages, adjustable rate mortgages, fixed rate mortgages, FHA loans, interest only mortgages or VA loans.
  • Attractive Rates and Terms: The loan term and interest rate offered by a lender is an important consideration. A long term, fixed rate loan can add predictability to your monthly payments, while you may prefer to benefit from a reduced rate with an adjustable rate mortgage. You also need a loan with a term that suits your future plans and current finances. The most common mortgage term is 30 years, but some lenders offer terms shorter and longer than these.
  • Reasonable Fees: Most lenders charge fees for their services. The most common is a loan origination fee that is a percentage of the total loan amount. There can also be credit report fees, home inspection fees, document preparation fees. All of these fees can really add up, so it is important to choose a lender that has a reasonable fee structure. There is no point in saving 0.25% on your rate if you need to pay thousands more dollars in fees.

Online Mortgage Lenders vs Banks

We have already discussed the potential benefits and drawbacks of online lenders, but how do they compare with traditional banks.

Online lenders do offer convenience and can typically provide a quicker application process. However, traditional banks also have some advantages.

You may already have a relationship with your bank, so you may find that your bank offers you favorable terms. Additionally, your bank may provide access to a mortgage advisor. This can allow you to benefit from expert advice, who can not only guide you through the application process, but also help you to decide which type of mortgage product best suits your circumstances and requirements.

Many traditional banks have moved with the times and now offer some degree of online mortgage loans. For example, Bank of America now offers online loans. You can start the application process, and even pre qualify. So, you can gain the benefit of working with a familiar banking brand and a simplified application process.

For this reason, it is a good idea not to rule out traditional banks. You may find that you can obtain a great deal with a bank or find more favorable terms with an online mortgage lender.

Benefits and Drawbacks 

As with any financial product or company, there are both potential pros and cons. It is important to assess both to determine if it is still the right choice for you. The benefits and drawbacks of an online mortgage include:

Benefits:

  • Quicker: Since you can complete the application online and may be able to upload the appropriate documents, you can save valuable time. Lenders waiting on documents can often delay a mortgage application for days or even weeks. So, being able to do all of this online will prevent any untimely issues.
  • Lower Fees: As online lenders don’t have the same overheads as conventional lenders, they can offer more attractive fees and charges for their customers. Closing fees can vary from 2% to 5% or more. So, if you can choose a lender with the lowest closing fees, you could save thousands of dollars.
  • More Flexible Requirements: Online lenders don’t always use the same underwriting services as their high street counterparts and traditional lenders. This means that you may be able to obtain a great deal even if you have a less than perfect credit score.

Drawbacks:

  • Minimal Help With the Application Form: While being able to complete the application form online at any time can be very convenient, there is a possible drawback. If you do run into any issues while completing the form or have a query, you may not be able to get immediate help. Since most of the work is done online, these companies typically have limited phone or chat support.
  • Possibility of Costly Errors: This leads on from the last point, but if you misunderstand a question on the application, it could result in a costly error. Failing to read the fine print or misinterpreting a question could invalidate your approval later or trigger higher fees.
  • Increase Chances of Scams: While it is illegal, it is common for online lenders to promote very low rates to encourage people to complete an application. The sting comes when you start the application process and you’re informed the great introductory rate is not available now. So, you need to ensure that you choose a reputable online lender.

How Much Can I Afford?

To determine how much you can afford for your mortgage and new home, you will need to work out your finances and budget.

You will need to work out how much you earn each month between yourself and your co buyer. Then list your estimated house costs and total down payment. Think about insurance costs, annual property tax and estimated mortgage interest rate.

Finally, look at your monthly expenses. The difference between your income and expenses will show how much you can afford, but you don’t want a mortgage payment that eats up all of this difference.

You need breathing room, so be realistic about your expected expenses and your monthly income. For this reason, aim to employ the 28/36 rule. This works out as spending 28% or less of your gross monthly income on your housing expenses and less than 36% on your total debt.

This is a good base line to ensure affordability. So if your monthly income is $5,000, your maximum monthly payment for your housing expenses is $1,400.

One of the most important factors mortgage lenders use to make a decision is income. Many lenders have a strict policy of only allowing less than 30% of income on mortgage costs. In this chart with 2020 NAR Trends data, it shows the household income of homebuyers. The most popular income bracket is $100,000 to $125,000. Conversely, the lowest income bracket of homebuyers was less than $25,000.

Household Income of Homebuyers

Should I Use an Online Mortgage Lender?

There is no hard and fast answer for this question. As with all financial decisions, the ultimate answer will lie in your particular circumstances and requirements. Using an online mortgage lender has both potential benefits and possible drawbacks. So, you will need to determine for yourself whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

It is important that you are prepared to read through all the terms and conditions, and feel confident in your ability to understand which product is best for you. If you feel that you may need additional guidance, you may be better suited to speaking to a mortgage broker and getting their input.

The speed and simplicity of using an online mortgage lender should not be the only reason for choosing this type of lender. You will also need to consider whether the terms are favorable and the interest rate is fair.

You will need to perform your due diligence to ensure that an online lender can offer you convenience, low fees and favorable terms.

Don’t rule out checking out both online and conventional mortgage deals. You may find that one offers far more benefits over the other with your specific circumstances and requirements.

What Can We Learn About Lenders From Trustpilot and BBB Ratings?

Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau are sites specifically designed to allow consumers to learn more about companies and organizations.

The Better Business Bureau or BBB logs and stores company information. This non profit also allows consumers to create reviews. All of these details are used to create a rating. BBB also accredits businesses if they meet its accreditation standards. This includes commitment to make good faith efforts for consumer complaint resolution.

Trustpilot has been operating since 2007 and it has locations around the world. The aim of this review site is to bring companies and consumers together to collaborate, share and improve. The platform is open to all companies and consumers.

On both sites, the company can claim their profile, which will then allow you to see verified contact information including phone numbers and a postal address. You can also see how long the company has been registered, which will give you a sense of the company track record.

You can also learn about other consumer’s experiences with particular lenders. In addition to seeing the company’s rating, you can browse through the reviews to see if there are any red flags that may make you wary of using them.

Who Are the Top Rated Mortgage Lenders?

According to 2020 JD Power research, the top rated mortgage lenders that offer the highest customer satisfaction include Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, Bank of America and Chase.

This reflects an interesting trend, as Rocket Mortgage offers online mortgages. The company aims to provide convenient online access. There is a streamlined application process that syncs with your bank to ensure accurate numbers quickly. Once you’re approved, you can move forward with the loan and get to closing quickly.

J.D. Power U.S. Consumer Satisfaction Study 2020

Rocket Mortgage also offers pre approval. As with many conventional mortgage lenders, you can begin your application to see how much you are approved for. This allows you to shop for a new home and put in an offer, providing the real estate agent and home owner that you are financially in a position to complete the deal.

5 Tips for Finding the Best Online Mortgage Lenders

With so many mortgage lenders on the internet, it can be tricky to find the best companies. So, here are a few tips to help you.

  • Assess Your Credit Score: Credit scores are a major factor that lenders will consider when deciding if they will approve your home loan. Knowing your score will help you to determine which lenders are the best option for you. However, you can maximize your score to gain access to better rates and terms. The most obvious way to do this is to ensure that your credit utilization ratio is under 15%.
  • Take Advantage of the Rate Shopping Window: Many people are wary about getting quotes from multiple lenders as it can impact their credit score. However, FICO has a Rate Shopping Window where you can apply with multiple lenders without damaging your score. This is a 30 day window where lenders can pull your credit and they will only count as one inquiry.
  • Compare Estimates: Online mortgage lenders will all offer a different rate and different terms. So, it is a good idea to get estimates from three or four lenders and compare them. This will allow you to source a competitive rate and favorable terms from the best lender for your circumstances.
  • Check the Company is Reputable: We covered the Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot above, but it is worth mentioning again. It is crucial that you choose a reputable mortgage lender. There are lots of scam companies out there, so you need to ensure that your finances and home purchase are not relying on a dodgy company. If you find an online lender offering great terms, it is worth checking what rating the company has and what consumers are saying about the company.
  • Consider an Online Mortgage Marketplace: You’re likely to find hundreds of online lenders when you perform an internet search. It is almost impossible to try to contact all of them. Even just filling out a contact form on the company websites would be immensely time consuming. So, consider an online mortgage marketplace. These platforms will match you with lenders that best suit your requirements.

Online Mortgage Pre Approval

Pre approval is a great way to support an offer. It can give homeowners and real estate agents the reassurance that you are serious about your offer and have the financial capabilities to close the sale.

Many online mortgage lenders offer pre approval. You’ll need to complete the application on the website and then the lender will contact you with an initial offer. This will confirm how much you can borrow and on what terms.

When you find a property that you are interested in and your offer is accepted, you can then finalize the loan details.

Pre approval is similar to a standard application. You’ll still need to provide proof of income and assets, employment verification, a good credit score and other documentation. This makes pre approval far more valuable than pre qualified.

Although the offer may change if your circumstances alter or the lender is unable to verify some of your financial details, for the purposes of homeowners, it is practically a guarantee that you will be able to complete the sale.

Are There Special Requirements for Online Lenders? 

Generally speaking there are no special requirements for online lenders. As with conventional lenders, you will still need:

  • A completed application: This provides all of the pertinent details for your loan.
  • Income verification: Your lender will need to confirm your income levels from your application. Conventional lenders typically require copies of W-2 forms or pay stubs or income tax returns. However, if you are working with an online lender, they may have the facility to link to your employment portal to obtain the information more quickly.
  • Debts and Assets: Lenders will also calculate your debt to income ratio by checking your debt obligations. You may need to provide copies of bank statements and investment accounts. Again, online lenders may be able to link your accounts to assess your debts and assets.
  • Credit Verification: This is similar for both conventional and online lenders. You won’t need to supply copies of your credit records, instead you’ll need to give permission for a check on your credit history. The lender will check your credit score and this will be used to calculate the rate you are offered.
  • Other Documentation: Your lender may require additional documentation such as details of any bankruptcy, evidence of payments to boost a thin credit file or proof of residency.

Every lender has different requirements, but you shouldn’t find that online lenders have additional requirements. So, it should actually be more straightforward to go through the application process.

Online Mortgage Lenders for Refinancing

With so many online mortgage lenders, it can be tricky to determine which are the best for refinancing. So, here are our top three picks.

  • Quicken Loans: We’ve already touched on Quicken Loans, as it was rated in the JD Power study as the overall best mortgage lender. This company has a streamlined application process through the Rocket Mortgage arm of the business. It is available across all 50 states and the typical closing costs are 3% to 4%. Quicken also has excellent customer support and offers a variety of mortgage options.
  • LenderFi: This online lender offers instant approval, but there is also the option to consult a loan officer by phone. LenderFi can also close a mortgage in just two weeks and offers a variety of refinancing loans. Since this is a non bank lender, LenderFi has cut costs using an interactive online system and eliminating unnecessary fees.
  • Bank of America: Bank of America is one of the largest banks and has an established reputation for reliability and stability. This is a great option for refinancing as they offer both online and branch services. Online mortgage applications include pre approval and pre qualification. Current customers can also qualify for reductions in closing fees.

These are just our top three picks, but depending on your refinancing requirements, you may be able to secure an even better deal.

Online Mortgage Lenders for Bad Credit

If you have less than perfect credit, there are still some online mortgage lenders that can offer you a great deal. In our opinion, the three best are:

  • Guaranteed Rate: This lender approves mortgage applications even if your score is as low as 580. It offers highly competitive rates and is licensed to lend across all 50 states. You can complete your application online or if you prefer working face to face, there are 300+ branches. Guaranteed rate has an impressive variety of mortgage products, so you won’t be stuck with an inappropriate product, simply because your credit score isn’t perfect.
  • Freedom Mortgage: Freedom Mortgage is not a fully online lender, but it does offer some excellent products, particularly VA loans. It may also approve FHA loans if your score is 540. The rates are typically competitive as the company takes into account any non traditional credit history. The company takes a personalized approach, so after the initial online application, you can expect face to face and phone interactions.
  • LoanDepot: While LoanDepot has only been operating since 2010, it is now one of the largest mortgage originators in the USA thanks to its innovative technologies. With a minimum credit score of 580, you can access a variety of mortgage products. LoanDepot may not offer the lowest rates, but they are generally competitive and offer very fast processing with an almost fully automated process.

So, even if you have less than perfect credit, you can still gain access to some great deals and have the convenience of starting or even completing the application process online.

Bottom Line

As we’ve demonstrated there are some excellent online mortgage options. Whether you opt to start the application process online or prefer a lender that has fully automated the process, you don’t need to be restricted to unattractive rates or terms.

In fact, you may find that the fees for online mortgage lenders are less than their conventional counterparts and you can find some great rates even if your credit score is less than perfect. So, don’t be scared of online lenders and consider all your available options before you make any final decisions about your next mortgage deal.