Getting the best mortgage rate and term possible is absolutely critical to the finances of buying a home. Housing is one of the largest expenses for American households and as such you need to do a lot of planning and research to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal. If you’re a beginner or intermediate home buyer who hasn’t been on the market for a mortgage in some time, this is the article for you. The best mortgage comparison sites have easy to use user interfaces and detail fees and cost to mortgages before you move on to get a personalized qualification for your loan.
Before we get into the sites themselves for comparison, we need to give some context about the mortgage and refinance rate comparison process and what it means for you in terms of your preparedness to get a mortgage, the impact on your credit score, and what the different loan terms mean for you.
Mortgage & Refinance Application Process
The mortgage application process has several phases only one of which we’ll explore in the search sites below. The general process has three steps which are outlined in order below:
- Online customized rates & quote (what we expect from these sites)
- Detailed report with a hard credit score pull
- Request for hard documents:
- Recent W2’s for proof of income and employment
- Tax Returns
- Other documents
As you can see we’re only after how to get customized rates and quotes at this point to shop around for the best mortgage while the remainder of the process will occur with whichever bank you choose to move forward with.
Mortgage Terms & What They Mean for Rates
Shopping for mortgages can be a little confusing if you’re new to the process and don’t know the jargon. To help you understand some of the loan and mortgage types, we cover some of the basics below:
- 30 Year – Most borrowers opt for a 30-year mortgage which lasts over a 30 year period before all the interest and principal are paid off. They have a higher interest rate than a 15 yr mortgage meaning that you will pay more interest over the course of the loan, however you will have lower monthly payments as a result.
- 15 Year – Those borrowers who want to aggressively pay off their debt will opt for this mortgage option (or a 10-year mortgage, which aren’t as common). They have higher monthly payments than a 30-year mortgage but you’ll pay far less interest over the course of the loan as it is a smaller time period and generally lower rates.
- 5/1 ARM – Depending on the time period, 5/1 ARMs can have higher or lower rates during their fixed-rate period than other mortgage options. However, those using this type of mortgage must be aware that once the 5-year fixed term is up, the payments become variable meaning they can fluctuate month to month as interest rates change.
- Traditional – Traditional mortgages generally require anywhere from 5% to 20% down payments and can be taken out with any of the mortgage terms above (plus a few others)
- FHA – FHA mortgages come with more restrictions, for instance, you have to be a primary residence in the property you’re buying for a year, and potentially additional fees such as private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI is normally charged when a buyer pays for a property with less than 20% down through an FHA loan. These loans are usually great offers for first-time homebuyers.
- VA – VA, or Veterans Affairs loans, are only for those with veteran status and have similar mortgage terms to other loans, but usually have slightly better rates and better terms in case you go into foreclosure on the property you purchase.
- Jumbo – These are home loans usually require higher credit scores and are for higher value mortgage loans than traditional loans, usually just over $510k. They come with different guaranteed and terms than traditional mortgages and have stiff payment requirements.
Though this list is alphabetical, we’re starting with the best mortgage comparison site out of luck. Bankrate‘s mortgage rate tools are industry-leading and accessible to first-time, intermediate, and advanced home buyers or refinancers.
You’ll be greeted on the site with a tool to enter the mortgage type you’re looking for (Mortgage or Refinance), a field to enter your zip code, a field to enter your purchase price and downpayment amounts, your credit score range, and the loan term(s) you’re most interested in getting a mortgage on. The results for your search will populate with as many participating banks that Bankrate’s search can provide along with the rate, APR, monthly payment estimate, and a total of upfront costs associated with the quoted mortgage. For refinances, the process is very similar except that you enter the property value and your existing loan amount instead of a downpayment amount in the entry fields.
The results you get are competitive as they come from both big banks and smaller credit unions which can sometimes out-compete the bigger banks with more favorable rates and fees. A nice point of comparison for the rates you receive is a comparison table with rates provided on weekdays with the most current rates from a survey of multiple banks. There are then several banks mortgage rates listed along with the date the rates were pulled.
Once you’ve done some comparison between the initial quotes on the site you can move to the first party site of each bank to get a personalized quote and more detailed service directly from the mortgage provider.
Interest.com & MortgageCalculator.com
Interest.com & MortgageCalculator.com sites are a little less advanced than some of the other rate comparison sites. They shows current mortgage rate trends, which are regularly updated, to give you a sense of the national average before you even get started assessing rates on a bank-level offering.
The process to get an initial quote across banks is actually provided by Bankrate’s mortgage comparison engine, so you’re really just using Bankrate’s tool on Interest.com. What does make the site slightly unique is that it includes the weekly Freddie Mac survey data for 30 year, 15 year, and 5/1 ARM rates over time to show how rates are trending. It also includes some high level analysis about what is going on in the mortgage market.
LendingTree has many products including home mortgages and refinances, personal loans, credit cards, and more.
When you land on the site you’ll immediately see the Freddie Mac mortgage rate trends survey data and can select how to view the data for different credit score and loan purposes (mortgage or refinance). The data is summarized nicely and helps users understand the overall market conditions, but from here you get to jump right into the good stuff.
To compare rates from top lenders in your local area, you can quickly select your location by your zip code and enter similar details that you would find on other search sites such as loan type, home price, down payment amount, home type, and credit score range. You can then quickly see results on competitive rates. If there are none, which happens on occasion when there are major economic changes occurring (Fed rate changes, coronavirus issues, etc.) you can select “Get My Rate” to get a personalized set of results emailed to you at a later time.
NerdWallet is a solid competitor to BankRate and has a different suite of banks that show up in its search results, making it a great point of comparison to BankRates results.
Here you enter similar information to the above to get your initial quotes including your: zip code, purchase price, downpayment amount, loan type, credit score – but also the property type, home purpose, your veteran status and whether you’d be eligible for an FHA loan. Your search results will be sorted by interest rate and usually, the first result is the best in terms of monthly payment performance, total interest expected on the loan, and fees you’ll incur by choosing a loan with that lender. Again, all of these are preliminary quotes. Just as in all of these aggregator sites, you’ll have to visit the lender directly to get a real quote which involves handing over your email address and name for more information.
Zillow has many features and is used primarily for those shopping for new homes or places to rent. It’s most powerful feature is actually providing custom rates in realtime next to new property listings while you’re viewing potential homes. However, you can use Zillow to simply find lenders initial quotes to get started with your shopping process.
Zillow’s field entry for getting a mortgage or refinancing is just as simple as BankRate’s or LendingTree’s with some fields that will take you less than a minute to fill out if you know the information in advance.
Your results can be compared by a few aspects including expected fees, interest rate, and monthly payment.
What you won’t find on Zillow is some of the high level trend and mortgage rate summary data that you may otherwise see on LendingTree, BankRate, or NerdWallet’s site.
The best mortgage comparison sites all have similar features, but their results and comparing them to one another is really where the value of shopping around comes into play as a new home buyer or someone refinancing.
All these sites require some barebones information to process the customized rates before they send you to the lender’s site directly to get a personalized quote. As we mentioned earlier, it’s very important to shop around with the rates and fees that you may incur with a new loan as they can impact your finances for years to come.