Better Mortgage Review for 2020

Better Mortgage (Better.com) has a reputation for low rates, next-to-nothing fees, and a seamless online experience. But is it all it's cracked up to be? Read our Better Mortgage review to find out.

Lending flexibility 3.5
Customer service 5.0
Ease of application 5.0
Online experience 4.5
Minimum down payment 3%
Minimum credit score 580
Loan Products Offered

Fixed-rate mortgage
Adjustable-rate mortgage
Jumbo mortgage
FHA mortgage
Fannie Mae "HomeReady" mortgage

Best Features

  • Typically low mortgage rates
  • No loan officer commissions, lender origination fees, application fees, or underwriting fees
  • You can do an entire mortgage application online
  • Mortgage pre-approval and closing time tends to be faster than with many other lenders

Drawbacks

  • Online only; no opportunity to apply for a mortgage in person
  • Not licensed in all states
  • No VA or USDA loans, and no home equity products

Overview

There are a number of 21st-century mortgage lenders. But few have made as much of a stir as Better Mortgage (a.k.a Better.com or simply "Better").

Better was founded in 2014 and began operations in 2016. Yet it has already set up mortgages worth $3 billion and helped many thousands of borrowers.

The company's main draw is its easy online mortgage process. The company says its innovative tech can cut closing times in half, and saves borrowers more than $3,000 on average.

However, there are cons with all those pros. Better is missing some key mortgage products, like USDA land VA loans, and it's not available in all states. And rates won't be competitive for every borrower.

If you want a digital mortgage lender, and if Better has the type of loan you need, it's definitely worth a look. Just remember to check rates with a few other lenders to make sure you're getting the best deal possible.


Better mortgage rates

There are relatively few lenders that consistently offer lower rates or closing costs than their competitors. But Better mortgage may be one of them.

Along with consistently low mortgage rates, Better offers substantially lower fees than other lenders. It even eliminates the pesky “origination fee” altogether (which is typically around 1% of the loan amount).

Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2020)

30-year fixed-rate mortgage estimates at major banks

 
Better Mortgage
Wells Fargo
Quicken Loans
Chase
Average 30-Year Interest Rate, 2019
3.89% 4.22% 4.16% 4.22%
Monthly P&I Payment
$942 $980 $973 $980
Median Loan Costs, 2019
$0 $3,484 $5,075 $3,440
Median Origination Charges, 2019
$0 $1,199 $2,805 $1,279

Better Mortgage also has a “Better Price Guarantee” that says it will either match the competition’s closing costs or give you $1,000 in cash. However, there’s some fine print around that promise (more information below).

Average rate and fee data are sourced from public records required by the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA).

*Monthly principal and interest payment based on a $250,000 home price, with 20% down, at each lender’s average 30-year interest rate for 2019. Your own rate and monthly payment will vary.

Verify your new rate (Sep 24th, 2020)

Better.com refinance rates

Better.com refinance rates are similar to its mortgage rates. They tend to be on par or slightly lower than other big mortgage companies.

But you’ll have to apply to see if you actually qualify for the refinance rate advertised. Your own refinance rate may be higher or lower than what you see on Better.com based on your loan size, credit score, and other factors.

You can get a custom refinance rate from Better Mortgage here

Better.com mortgage lender review for 2020

When asked to contribute to this Better.com mortgage review, a company spokesperson said:

“Our mission is to change the way Americans buy and refinance their home by delivering lower rates, faster closing times and a radically transparent, technology-driven process.

“We prioritize the consumer experience through an online process, with instant loan estimates, honest rate quotes and 24-hour verified pre-approvals, all complemented by support from non-commissioned loan officer.”

And they deliver on that promise for many people. If you’re the kind of tech-first shopper who dreads going into a bank branch to fill out paperwork, Better’s business model might be perfect for you.

But there are some downsides. Better does business almost exclusively online — you can speak to loan officers over the phone, but there are no branches for face-to-face communication.

And, because Better.com was founded so recently, the company is still building out its mortgage offerings. It’s not yet licensed in all states and is missing some major loan types, like VA and USDA loans.

In addition, Better does not offer mortgages for manufactured homes, buildings with more than five units, co-ops, or mixed-use properties So it won’t be the best for everyone.

Working with Better Mortgage

If you hate technology and prefer doing business the traditional way, Better.com probably won’t be for you. Otherwise, it’s worth a closer look.

With Better.com, the whole idea is an end-to-end online experience. So you can use your phone, computer, or another device to:

  • Prequalify for a mortgage
  • Apply for a mortgage
  • Upload documents securely
  • Close on your home loan
  • Manage your account
  • Sign documents using e-signature

If you get stuck at any of these steps, you can still contact a loan officer by phone. Or you can use Better’s website to schedule a time for them to call you.

But in general, Better tries to keep everything online. This method saves the company time and money — and those savings are largely passed on to borrowers.

Better.com claims you could close on your home loan in as little as 14 days. By comparison, the average mortgage or refinance closes in about 30-70 days.

Better also says that, on average, its customers saved $3,557 apiece on loan costs in 2018. Savings will vary by customer of course. But it’s worth checking rates and costs to see whether Better is competitive for you.

The Better.com Price Guarantee

Better Mortgage strongly promotes its “Better Price Guarantee,” which states:

“If you think another lender has a more competitive price, send us their loan estimate within 3 business days from the date on the loan. If we can’t beat it by at least $1000, we’ll give you $1000 in cash. This isn’t a marketing ploy or a flash sale. It’s simply our promise to you.”

That seems like a pretty good deal at face value. But of course, there’s some fine print too.

So, how does it work? For example, if Better and Wells Fargo offered you the same rate, but Wells had lower closing costs, Better would either have to lower its costs or cut you a $1,000 check.

That sounds simple enough, but collecting your $1,000 is no easy task. You must close your mortgage using the same company and the exact same loan offer that you used to challenge Better’s pricing. And you have to show Better proof of your funded loan within 30 days of closing.

So if your loan amount or sales price changes, or you change loan programs, or you lock in a different rate any time during your loan process, Better’s deal becomes null and void.

All in all, there are a lot of stipulations around Better’s $1,000 offer. But the real point here is that Better Mortgage is extremely confident about its pricing. And a company that’s willing to cut you a $1,000 check based on that confidence is at least worth a look.

Customer service and mortgage servicing

It’s hard to compare Better’s customer service head-to-head with other lenders. That’s because it’s too small to be rated by major agencies like J.D. Power.

However, Better does have a profile with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which records complaints filed against mortgage lenders.

And in 2019, only 8 Better customers out of almost 30,000 filed official complaints.

Company
Mortgage Originations 2019
CFPB Complaints 
Complaints per 1,000 Mortgages
2019 JD Power Rating
Better Mortgage
29,515 8 0.27 Not Rated
Wells Fargo 
1,026,800 342 0.33 837/1,000
Quicken Loans
774,900 187 0.24 880/1,000
Chase
527,600 188 0.36 850/1,000

User reviews also suggest Better is doing pretty well for customer service.

For example, Better is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau. It has an A+ rating, and four out of five stars according to 238 customer reviews.

In addition, Better earns about 4.3 stars out of five on average when reviewed by customers on Bankrate, Zillow, and LendingTree.

That’s a respectable score — although it’s worth noting that bigger lenders like loanDepot, Wells Fargo, and Chase have ratings around 4.9 stars on the same platforms.

Types of loans offered by Better Mortgage

Home loan options from Better.com include:

  • Fixed-rate mortgages: A fixed-rate mortgage locks in your interest rate for the entire loan period. Better offers 15, 20, or 30-year fixed-rate loans
  • Adjustable-rate mortgages: ARMs have an interest rate that’s locked for the first 5, 7, or 10 years. After that, your mortgage rate floats with the market
  • FHA loans: FHA mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration, and let you buy with a down payment as low as 3.5%. They also tend to have easier credit requirements
  • Jumbo loans: Jumbo mortgages are for people who need a bigger loan than the conforming loan limit, which is currently $510,400

Better.com also offers Fannie Mae’s “HomeReady” loan program, which is meant to help borrowers with lower income and limited cash for a down payment.

It’s also worth noting that Better.com might be able to help you if you have above-average levels of debt.

This lender says it will sometimes lend to borrowers with debt-to-income (DTI) ratios as high as 55 percent — depending on their particular circumstances. That’s pretty generous. With most conventional loans, DTI is capped at 43 percent.

Types of mortgages Better does not offer

There’s no point pretending Better.com has a full portfolio of mortgage products — at least, not yet. Its lack of VA and USDA loans means it will be a non-starter for some borrowers.

Similarly, Better does not offer loans for:

  • Manufactured or modular homes
  • Multi-family homes containing five or more units
  • Co-op units
  • Mixed-use properties
  • Construction projects
  • Homes in foreclosure or owned by a bank

Better.com does, however, offer home loans for investment properties. And it has low-down-payment options for owner-occupied transactions that let qualified borrowers buy with as little as 3 percent of the purchase price down.

Where can you get a mortgage with Better?

Better Mortgage NMLS ID: 330511

At the time of writing — there may be more by the time you read this — Better Mortgage is licensed to lend in the following states (highlighted in green below):

Better.com Mortgage Lending States, from Better.com Mortgage Review from The Mortgage Reports

Better.com is very much an online-only lender. There are no branches and the whole idea is that the systems available to you online are intuitive and easy to use.

Of course, you can get plenty of assistance and support from loan officers over the phone. And these may be more helpful than those employed by many other lenders. That’s because they don’t operate on commission. So they’re closer to neutral advisors than salespeople.

Better.com Mortgage FAQ

What is Better.com?

Better.com is the home of Better Mortgage, an online lender that was founded in 2014. Better.com offers loans to purchase or refinance a home. And unlike most lenders, Better lets you do the whole mortgage process online.

How does Better Mortgage work?

In some ways, Better Mortgage works like other lenders. It prices loans based on your home price, down payment, credit score, and financials. And you’ll have typical monthly mortgage costs.

The big difference is that Better.com handles home loans and refinances entirely online — complete with remote e-signing for closing documents. So the process is likely to be easier and faster. In addition, Better doesn’t charge lender fees, so your closing costs may be cheaper than with other mortgage companies.

Does Better Mortgage charge PMI?

Better Mortgage charges PMI mortgage insurance on conventional loans with less than 20 percent down, like all other mortgage lenders. With a conventional loan, your PMI will be canceled once the loan reaches 78% loan-to-value. Better also offers FHA loans, which always require mortgage insurance. FHA mortgage insurance lasts for 11 years or the life of the loan, depending on your down payment.

How does Better Mortgage make money?

Better Mortgage does not charge lender fees or commission, like most banks and mortgage brokers do. Instead, Better makes all its money by selling the mortgages it creates to “end-investors.” End-investors buy and sell mortgages on the secondary mortgage market, and profit from the interest borrowers pay on their home loans.

Is Better.com the best mortgage lender for you?

So what should you take away from this Better.com mortgage lender review? Well, that Better Price Guarantee may be enough to get you to apply all on its own. Who wouldn’t want the chance to save or make $1,000?

And applying might be a good idea anyway. You may well end up with a better deal than you could find elsewhere.

But there are exceptions. You won’t get far if you want a VA or USDA loan, or if you live in a state where Better isn’t licensed. And you won’t be happy if you hate technology.

The bottom line: As with all lenders, compare the service you’d receive from Better.com as well as the company’s rates and fees. That’s the best way to find out if a mortgage lender is right for you. Get started using the link below.

Compare rates from major lenders. Start here (Sep 24th, 2020)

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  1. Interest Rate: The rate you pay in interest per year based on the current loan balance.
  2. APR: The total cost of getting the loan including the interest rate and closing costs.
  3. Discount Points: Mortgage points, also known as discount points, are fees paid directly to the lender at closing in exchange for a reduced interest rate. - Read More
  4. Mortgage Originations: The number of mortgages this lender closed. The most recent data available is from the 2017 Mortgage Market Activity and Trends, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), published May 2018.
  5. CFPB Complaints: The number of mortgage origination or closing related complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2018. We ignore complaints about issues that don't concern mortgage applications and closings, such as loan servicing, since some lenders don't service loans and therefore would have an unfair advantage in complaint numbers.
  6. Complaints per 1000 mortgages: The number of mortgage-related complaints compared to this lender's total mortgages originated. Due to data availability, we're comparing 2017 originations with 2018 complaints to arrive at the number of complaints per 1000 mortgages originated.
  7. JD Power Rating: On a 1,000 point scale, consumer insight company JD Power scores large banks across six factors: channel interactions, deposit accounts, credit accounts, investment accounts, convenience, and problem resolution.