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Best Mortgage Lender for First-Time Homebuyers: Quicken Loans
One of the superpowers of 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 your ability to understand the product and manage the loan application at your own pace. With this approach, Quicken has earned the top spot in J.D. Power's survey of mortgage borrower satisfaction for several years running.
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 Mortgage Lender for Refinancing: Bank of America
Bank of America is the best choice if you're looking to refinance the debt on your home, as its wide variety of home loan products offer both value and flexibility to borrowers. Bank of America's offerings are suitable whether you're seeking a lower rate or cashing out on the equity you've already built. If you're already banking with Bank of America, the benefits increase: you receive $200 or more in discounts on any mortgage origination fee so long as you have a checking account and at least $20,000 in total deposits for three months.
While it's not the newest or most innovative mortgage lender, Bank of America is one of the nation's largest, which means it has the resources and motivation to invest in digital services. The Bank of America Digital Mortgage Experience represents the bank's efforts to complement its ubiquitous brick-and-mortar services with an online application that allows customers greater customization and flexibility. And while it ranks slightly below average in J.D. Power's national study of consumer satisfaction in home lending, Bank of America has at least avoided the major breaches of trust that have plagued similar giants like Wells Fargo in recent years.
The Best Mortgage Rates Among California Lenders
If you want to find the best mortgage rates in California, start with the lenders in our table below. The APR and loan costs here are based on a home purchase of $300,000, with a down payment of 20% and a credit score of 740.
Shopping for the lowest rates is an easy way to sort through different mortgage options, but it shouldn't be your only method of finding the right mortgage lender. The closing costs you pay upfront and the customer service you receive during the course of your home loan also play a major role in determining the value of a given lender. In addition, the type of loan you need can vary based on your own finances. We've looked at a dozen of California's most prominent mortgage companies to figure out which ones represent the best fit for borrowers in a number of different situations.
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'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 In-State Mortgage Lender: 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.
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 VA Loan Lender: 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 to military families in areas like Camp Pendleton and Travis Air Force Base.
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.
Best FHA Loan Lender: New American Funding
New American Funding is our recommendation for borrowers in California seeking the advantages of FHA financing. New American's participation in the government-sponsored FHA home loan program provides opportunities for borrowers who want to minimize down payment expenses and improve their chances of loan approval. The company is among the most active in originating FHA loans for California homebuyers.
New American combines its extensive experience in originating FHA loans with a strong reputation for customer satisfaction. Unlike many other mortgage companies, New American Funding services the vast majority of its home loans for the entire duration of the loan. This helps borrowers avoid the friction and confusion that sometimes results when they must deal with two separate companies before and after closing their mortgages. Finally, New American is one of very few lenders that offers services in Spanish—a useful benefit for many Californians.
How We Chose the Best Mortgage Lenders in California
Choosing the best mortgage lenders in California wasn't as simple as sorting a list of companies from lowest APR to highest. While interest rate is critical to understanding the overall cost of any loan, it almost never tells the full story by itself. A home loan typically lasts as long as three decades, which makes it important to approach mortgage shopping as the first step in a long-term relationship. This complexity explains why we rated the lenders above on multiple criteria:
- Cost: Closing costs and interest rates
- Servicing: Transparency, customer ratings and complaint data
- Options: Loan types, features and lender flexibility
While the cost of a mortgage is easily understood through its interest rate and closing fees, the quality of a lender's customer service requires more in-depth investigation. We looked at things that a borrower would experience in the course of shopping and applying for a home loan, such as the number of available loan options and the platforms provided by lenders in order to keep applicants looped in during the origination process. Our research also included data from reputable outside sources, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public database of consumer complaints.
Most Popular Home Loan Companies in California
In our research on California's mortgage lenders, we were also able to find data on which companies originated the most home loans over the past five years. The following table lists the most popular and active mortgage lenders in the state since 2013.
Top 5 California Residential Mortgage Lenders, 2013-2018
|Company||Mortgage Originations||Average Mortgage Amount|
|Bank of America||362,351||$365,281|
While these lenders are certainly popular choices for both purchasing homes and refinancing mortgages, not all of them were selected as one of the "best" options in our assessment. If you haven't found a lender that makes sense for you in our article, we suggest you continue your search at one or more of these lenders. Use our methodology as a starting point to better evaluate these and other mortgage companies.
Mortgage Brokers Near Me in California
If you're still having trouble finding a lender that makes sense for you, consider looking into mortgage brokers in your area. A mortgage broker is a licensed professional that helps borrowers find lender offers in exchange for a commission. Brokers will ask for rates from multiple lenders in order to find you the best offer, and they also help you with much of the paperwork that you'd normally have to manage yourself. If you'd prefer to pay for the expertise of a local mortgage broker, try some of the companies below that are in your area.
|Mortgage Broker||Address||Phone Number|
|Black Oak Group Inc.||(310) 405-4849|
|Synergy One Lending||(760) 402-3472|
|Fidelity Bancorp Funding||(310) 418-4444|
|Pacific Sunrise Mortgage||(951) 462-7376|
|O2 Mortgage||(408) 610-3210|
|All California Mortgage||(510) 761-7071|
|California Capital MLO||(916) 456-1000|
|JVM Lending||(925) 855-4491|
|Supreme Lending||(925) 348-5086|
|California Funding & Investments||(559) 917-7111|