When trying to choose the best mortgage lender for your purchase or remortgage, it can be difficult to identify which is the best one. While the interest rate is a key consideration, you also need to factor in the fees the lender charges, the minimum deposit it requires, how much it will lend you, customer service and, vitally, whether its lending criteria means it is likely to approve your application.
In this article we highlight the lenders we consider to be leaders in their field, based on the requirements of a cross-section of different borrowers. This analysis is based on the core features of each lender's proposition, as well as the parts of its offering that we believe lift it above its competitors.
Best mortgage lender for first-time buyers
Nationwide has several features that are appealing to those buying their first property, not least the £500 cashback it offers upon completion of the purchase. In addition, it has a range of 95% LTV mortgages, which means buyers don't need to have as much of a deposit as with higher LTV alternatives. Nationwide considers applicants who have not had a mortgage for 3 years or more as first time buyers, widening the scope for buyers to qualify.
Its stand-out feature, however, is its "Helping Hand" mortgages specifically designed for first-time buyers. It provides income multiples up to 5.5 times annual salary for 5 or 10-year fixed rate deals.
You can read our full review of Nationwide mortgages in our article "Nationwide mortgage review: is it the best option for borrowers?"
Best mortgage lender for self-employed
Self-employed borrowers can sometimes face difficulties when applying for a mortgage, with restrictions from many lenders on the amount they are willing to lend, the deposit required and acceptable forms of proof of income. Skipton Building Society offers multiples of 5 times your income but more impressively, Skipton is likely to offer a mortgage for a number of different self-employed groups. These can include sole traders, company directors, shareholders, landlords, contractors, professional sportspeople, health bank staff as well as those on zero-hours contracts.
With some very competitive fixed-rate deals and up to 95% LTV available for residential mortgages up to £600,000, Skipton offers competitive and flexible lending for those who are self-employed.
Self-employed borrowers can sometimes face difficulties when applying for a mortgage, with restrictions from many lenders on the amount they are willing to lend, the deposit required and acceptable forms of proof of income. Aldermore Bank, however, markets itself as a specialist in self-employed mortgages, servicing both sole traders and limited companies. As such, it doesn't cap the LTV for self-employed borrowers, can include retained profits as part of the income assessment and offers multiples of up to 5.5 times income for sole and joint applicants with an income of at least £60,000 per year.
As a specialist lender that also approves applications from people with less-than-perfect credit scores - all defaults over 3 years old are accepted and each case is individually underwritten - it is only available through an intermediary. If you are looking for a mortgage broker, we rate online option Habito*, or you can find an in-person financial advisor near you through VouchedFor*.
Best mortgage lender for bad credit
If your credit score is stopping you from being able to secure a mortgage from a mainstream lender, there are still options open to you. One of those is using a specialist lender, which caters to "sub-prime" borrowers. These range from those for people with very low credit scores, such as Bluestone Mortgages, to lenders for people with less impaired credit scores. Of these, we rate Kensington Mortgages because of the innovation in its product range and the potential to be able to borrow at higher income multiples for some customers.
In addition to the products you would expect from a mortgage lender, Kensington Mortgages is one of only two lenders in the UK to offer 40-year fixed-rate deals. It also has products specifically for those in "hero" professions, such as in the emergency services, teaching or the armed forces, as well as "eco" options that give cashback for those buying or renovating highly energy-efficient homes. Moreover, it can give up to 6 times income multiples for those in certain professions, including doctors, lawyers and chartered accountants.
The full review can be found in the article "Kensington Mortgages review: is it the best specialist lender in the market?"
Best mortgage lender for income multiples
Habito started life as a mortgage broker before also becoming a lender. It has established itself as a disruptor, challenging the status quo of the mortgage industry. Its Habito One range is a good example, offering 40-year fixed rate deals and lending at up to 7 times income multiples. The higher income multiple is offered to those working as a firefighter, nurse, paramedic, doctor, police, accountant, barrister, teacher, engineer, lawyer, dentist, architect, surveyor or vet earning at least £25,000. All other professions need to be earning at least £75,000 to qualify.
An added benefit of the Habito One mortgage is the fact it doesn't have an early redemption fee if you choose to pay it off early or swap to another lender. This enables borrowers to take out a longer-term fixed-rate deal (up to 40 years), without the risk of being trapped if they want to change in the future.
Read our full review here.
Best mortgage lender for buy-to-let
Buy-to-let is a competitive area of the mortgage market, with lenders keen to tap into the large number of property investors in the UK. Accord Mortgages, the intermediary-only arm of the Yorkshire Building Society, stands out for its relatively low rates and often features in our buy-to-let best-buy table. In addition to the rates, it also appeals to some borrowers because of the flexibility of its underwriting process, which aims to take into consideration the nuances of individual applications rather than taking a blanket approach to how it applies its lending criteria.
You can read more in our full review of Accord Mortgages. Alternatively, our article "What is the best buy-to-let mortgage?" provides a frequently updated guide of the cheapest deals in buy-to-let mortgages.
How to find the best mortgage for you
While there are some lenders that are particularly good in certain areas - for example, for first-time buyers or buy-to-let - the best lender for you will largely depend on your individual circumstances. There are, however, several steps you can take to help work out the type of mortgage and lender you are looking for.
Identify the type of mortgage you want
By taking stock of the sort of borrower you are and what your requirements are, it can help guide your search for the right lender. Are you, for example, looking to buy a property to live in or do you want to rent it out? Is this your first property, are you moving or are you remortgaging? What level of income do you have and how much do you have saved up for a deposit? Are you in full-time employment or self-employed? How old are you and over what period would you like to pay the mortgage off over? How good is your credit score with the main credit reference agencies?
Once you have pinned down the type of borrower you are, you need to think about the mortgage that would suit you best. If, for example, you like the certainty of knowing what your monthly repayment is going to be for the lifetime of the mortgage, you may prefer a fixed-rate deal. If, however, you want more flexibility and believe interest rates will stay low and even perhaps fall, a tracker mortgage may be better for you. We have more information on each of these options in our articles "What is a fixed-rate mortgage? Everything you need to know" and "What is a tracker mortgage and is it right for you?"
Check your credit rating
A huge factor in determining whether you can opt for a mainstream lender or if you'll need to use a specialist lender is your past financial behaviour and how this is reflected in your credit rating with the three main credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If you have an impaired credit history, perhaps because of late or missed payments on previous loans, CCJs, IVA or bankruptcy, you should still be able to secure a mortgage, but it may end up costing you more and require a larger deposit.
An important step is checking your credit file with each of the agencies as they may have slightly different information about you and calculate their scores based on their own metrics. Check out our guide to the best ways to check your credit score for free, which includes using ClearScore* and MSM Credit Monitor* to view your Equifax and TransUnion reports, respectively.
Consider using a mortgage broker
Although you can approach many lenders directly and also use resources such as our mortgage best-buy table to research on your own, using a good mortgage broker can save you time and money. They will have an in-depth knowledge of the ever-changing mortgage market, including the most competitive rates and the nuances of each lender's lending criteria. They can also provide you with access to exclusive deals that are only available through an intermediary.
A good option if you like to manage your finances online is Habito*, which offers independent, whole-of-market advice at no cost to the end user. If, however, you prefer face-to-face interaction with a mortgage adviser, use VouchedFor* to locate someone near you who can help.
If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses - MSM Credit Monitor, Habito, VouchedFor, ClearScore,