As the most populous state in the Union, California has hundreds of mortgage lenders to choose from. We examined dozens of the best lenders doing business in the state to figure out which ones make the most sense in different situations, such as your first home purchase, or if you have particular priorities, including a need for in-person service.
- Best Mortgage Rates in California
- Best Mortgage Lender for First Time Homebuyers
- Best Online Mortgage Lender
- Best Lender for In-Person Service in California
- Best Lender for a VA Home Loan
Best Mortgage Rates in California
With so many lenders serving California's busy real estate markets, it's no surprise that we found significant variation in the lowest interest rate offers for our hypothetical mortgage. Using the state median home value of around $400,000, we compared lender estimates on a conventional home loan to identify the best deals currently available.
Lowest Mortgage Rates for California
|Watermark Home Loans||3.75%||3.75%||$1,482||$0|
Estimates on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for $400,000 with 20% down payment and 740 credit score.
Mortgage rates change constantly and follow broad national trends, but on the whole California's rates fell slightly below the U.S. average at the time of our analysis. The lowest mortgage rates were found at online lenders, who typically provide more detailed loan information in their websites than do brick-and-mortar lenders. This doesn't mean you won't find a better mortgage estimate by walking into your local bank branch, but it is proof that you shouldn't discount the possibility of saving money by searching for home loans online as well as locally.
Moreover, the interest rate is just one of many factors you ought to think about when shopping for a mortgage. While it's one of the most intuitive and popular ways to rank loan options, your mortgage rate in California and elsewhere depends on your individual situation, with everything from credit score to your personal debt influencing the final quote. On top of that, an interest rate doesn't tell you anything about the lender's approach to loan fees or ongoing customer support. To that end, we analyzed California's top mortgage lenders according to both the upfront cost of their loans and their ability to deliver reliable month-to-month servicing for borrowers.
Best Mortgage Lender for First Time Homebuyers: Quicken Loans
The newest powerhouse in mortgage lending, Quicken Loans makes our list of recommended California home lenders as the best choice for a first-time home purchase. The company's online origination platform, Rocket Mortgage, is designed to maximize the user's ability to understand the product and manage the loan application.
First-Time Purchase Mortgages in California
|Lender||Rate||APR||Monthly Payment||Down Payment|
|Bank of America||3.88%||4.36%||$1,974||5.0%|
Estimates for a $400,000 loan amount with minimum down payment and 740 credit score.
If you're looking at buying your first home, Quicken's best value can be found in its FHA loan. This is a government-backed home loan that allows first-time homebuyers bypass the higher credit score and down payment requirements of a conventional mortgage. When we compared Quicken's version of the FHA loan with the lowest down payment offers available at several major California banks, Quicken quoted the lowest interest rate of the group. However, we recommend Quicken for more than its rate: it also topped the list of companies in JD Power's study of consumer satisfaction in the mortgage industry.
Realistically, Quicken isn't for everyone. Traditionally-minded consumers may be put off by the company's online-only mortgage process, which means its customer service is limited to telephone support and web-based support. But if Quicken's industry-leading origination volume and service scores are any indicator, it appears that more and more people are finding the company offers a good solution to their home financing needs. And since you have the option to check your Rocket Mortgage estimate with no cost or commitment, there's no harm in checking out what loans you might have access to through Quicken.
Best Online Mortgage Lender: J.G. Wentworth
For Californians seeking an affordable online mortgage lender, J.G. Wentworth's home loans are a great place to start. Though the company is most famous for providing structured settlements, the company's recent entry into the mortgage business has already seen it produce competitive home loan rates and a feature-laden online platform to help customers figure out their options.
J.G. Wentworth Mortgage Loans
|Loan Type||Rate||APR||Monthly P+I|
|30-Year VA Loan||3.49%||3.67%||$1,435|
Estimates for a $400,000 purchase loan with 20% down payment and 740 credit score. The APR and monthly costs for ARMs can increase based on changes in the index rate.
J.G. Wentworth's convenient online mortgage tool allows you to see all of the fixed rate mortgages and ARM loans the company offers for your location, along with the required down payment percentage and credit score. This is a much quicker way to begin researching specific loan estimates than speaking with a loan officer, and it equips you with better information prior to starting a conversation with an industry professional. J.G. Wentworth supplements its online loan processing with home loan specialists who are available by telephone, to answer specific questions.
If you decide to move forward with J.G. Wentworth, you're able to save the progress you've made on your loan application by signing into the company's website. Logging in takes you to a portal where you can manage the information you submit, communicate with loan officers and upload the documents required for mortgage approval. If you find yourself too busy to accommodate repeated phone calls or meetings to move your mortgage forward, a model like J.G. Wentworth's will enable you to adjust the home financing process to your schedule, rather than the other way around.
Best Lender for In-Person Service in California: Chase Bank
If you're not sold on the idea of obtaining mortgages with no face-to-face contact with a professional, Chase Bank's mortgages are your safest bet for a reliable in-person service experience in California. Chase branches can be found all up and down the I-5, and the bank has managed to provide home loans at decent rates and keep customers satisfied without any of the major scandals that have plagued its biggest rivals, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
Mortgage Loans at Chase Bank
|Loan Type||Rate||APR||Monthly Payment||Est. Closing Costs|
Estimates for a $400,000 purchase loan with 20% down payment and 740 credit score
Of the three largest U.S. banks, Chase has the best combination of mortgage affordability and servicing in California. Chase's customer satisfaction ranks higher than its major rivals, and has avoided the high-profile missteps that have damaged the reputations of the other two banks. And unlike dedicated mortgage lenders, the bank strives to serve its customers with multiple products, including credit cards and deposit accounts. It treats mortgage lending, then, as an amenity rather than as a profit-driving operation, so its loan officers are more likely to deal with you fairly and accommodate your individual needs.
That said, Chase doesn't give you the best shot at getting the lowest interest rate on your home loan, and its loan fees are fairly standard, as well. But if you already have a banking relationship with Chase, you may find it very convenient to obtain your mortgage from the same institution where you keep the deposit accounts you'll use to pay it off. In addition, Chase and other brick-and-mortar banks often grant customers discounted mortgage rates as a bonus to people who already do business with them in other products.
Best Lender for a VA Home Loan: Navy Federal
Navy Federal is California's largest VA lender in terms of loan volume, thanks to its preferential home loan rates and fees. As a not-for-profit credit union exclusively catering to the families of qualified veterans and active servicemembers, Navy Federal is able to provide both good value and high-quality loan servicing.
Best VA Lenders in California
|Lender||Mortgage Rate||APR||Monthly P+I||Estimated Points and Fees|
Fixed-rate estimates for a 30-year VA loan of $225,000 with 0% down payment, 2.15% VA funding fee and credit score of 740.
We chose Navy Federal credit union as the top provider of VA loans in the state thanks to its deft balance of affordability and quality. First and foremost, it produced the lowest VA loan rate offer among the top mortgage providers that we surveyed in our study of VA loan options specific to California. Second, Navy Federal is one of several lenders that will finance the VA funding fee, which otherwise requires you to pay an additional percentage on your loan as part of the mortgage closing costs. Although this slightly increases your mortgage balance, it's often a crucial benefit if you're leaning on the VA loan to minimize your upfront expenses.