A one-story single-family home with front-facing garage

Patricia Marroquin/Getty Images/Illustration by Bankrate

With home prices in California among the highest in the country, owning a piece of property here likely means you’ll need to borrow some money. You shouldn’t just borrow from the first mortgage lender you find, though. Compare mortgage lenders in California to find an option that’ll help lower your costs — and stress — on the road to closing. Here are some of the best lenders in the state that have earned high marks from Bankrate and positive feedback from borrowers.

Best mortgage lenders in California

Lender Credit requirements Down payment minimum Bankrate Score
Veterans United Home Loans 620 for conventional and VA loans 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans 4.9
Bethpage Federal Credit Union 620 for conventional loans, 500 for FHA loans 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans 4.9
Wells Fargo 620 for conventional loans 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans 4.8
First Mortgage Direct 620 for conventional loans, 580 for FHA and VA loans 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans 4.8
New American Funding 620 for conventional loans 3% for conventional loans, 3.5% for FHA loans, none for VA and USDA loans 4.8

How to find the best mortgage lender in California

While the best mortgage lender ultimately depends on individual circumstances and what feels “right” to you, it’s helpful to narrow down your options. Here are some tips:

  • Set your priorities. Do you want to talk to a loan officer in person? Do you need a faster closing? Want to apply for and track your mortgage status through an app? Consider these and other questions as you come up with your short list of lenders.
  • Get prequalified or preapproved. If you haven’t determined a homebuying budget, get prequalified for a mortgage first. This can help you understand how much a lender might allow you to borrow based on some preliminary financial information. If you’re ready to shop for homes, skip the prequalification and ask for a preapproval, which involves a credit check.
  • Ask about first-time buyer and down payment assistance. Many mortgage lenders in California work with the state’s housing finance agency to connect eligible borrowers with more affordable mortgages and down payment help. Some programs are available to both first-time and repeat buyers, too. Compare what different lenders offer and how that might impact your budget.

California conforming loan limits

Depending on the type of loan you use to purchase your home, it might be subject to conforming loan limits:

  • Conventional loan: $766,550 in most counties
  • FHA loan: $498,257 in most counties

Check out Bankrate’s county-by-county listing of conforming loan limits in California to see what applies to you.

California first-time homebuyer programs

If you qualify as a first-time homebuyer — meaning you haven’t owned a home in the last three years — see if you’re eligible for one of California’s programs designed to put purchasing a home within your reach. The California Housing Finance Agency, also known as CalHFA, offers a range of options geared toward buyers with low or moderate incomes for the area. You might be able to qualify for a loan with a low interest rate and/or a deferred loan to help cover a down payment and closing costs.

Certain cities might offer additional help, so be sure to search for municipal housing authority options, too. In Sacramento, for example, the Community Homeownership Initiative offers grants up to $22,000 for certain low-income first-time homebuyers.

  • To determine the best mortgage lenders by state, Bankrate evaluated lenders based on affordability, availability and borrower experience. The best lenders generally have a Bankrate Score of 4.8 or higher. Learn more about our methodology.

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