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16 Oct 2021

Revealed: the best mortgage lenders of 2021

First Direct and Nationwide named Which? Recommended Providers

First Direct and Nationwide Building Society have been named the best mortgage lenders of 2021, based on a combination of customer feedback and Which? analysis of the best deals on the market.

We spoke to more than 3,500 homeowners and analysed thousands of mortgage deals to find which providers combined great customer service and unbeatable mortgage rates.

First Direct and Nationwide performed so well that we named them Which? Recommended Providers.

Read on to discover how other major mortgage lenders fared, plus the key things to look for when comparing mortgages.

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The UK's best mortgage lenders

First Direct received five out of five stars for overall customer service and consistently offered some of the cheapest deals on the market.

Homeowners gave First Direct top marks for all aspects of its service, including value for money, payment flexibility and online access.

Our other Which? Recommended Provider (WRP) is Nationwide, which has now won the title eight years in a row.

Nationwide achieved five-star ratings for value for money and clarity of its mortgage statements.

Coventry Building Society also achieved five stars for customer service and a great customer score of 81%, but missed out on becoming a WRP as it doesn't offer enough market-leading deals.

Mortgage lender reviews: the results

The table below shows how lenders ranked for key elements of customer service. You can find the full table in our guide to the UK's best mortgage lenders.

Mortgage providerWhich? customer scoreCustomer serviceValue for moneyOnline access
Coventry BS81%5/55/53/5
First Direct*81%5/55/55/5
Skipton BS79%---
Leeds BS73%4/54/5-

Notes: *Which? Recommended Provider. Customer scores based on an online survey of 3,504 members of the public conducted in July 2021. Providers must receive a minimum sample size of 30 for inclusion in the table. Where a '-' is shown, we had an insufficient sample size to calculate a star rating.

How Which? rates mortgage lenders

In July, we surveyed 3,504 members of the public to find out how satisfied they were with their mortgage lender. We received enough responses to rank 16 banks and building societies.

We combined these customer ratings with a comprehensive analysis of which providers offered the cheapest deals.

Our experts compiled 206 'top 10' tables, based on a range of borrowing scenarios, and counted each time a lender featured in a table.

This meant that we could rate lenders based on the quality of both their products and their customer service.

You can find out more about how individual lenders fared in our mortgage lender reviews, which provide details of the types of mortgages each lender offers, including average rates and lending criteria.

Are UK homeowners happy with their mortgage providers?

Overall, 87% of mortgage holders told us they were satisfied with their provider, and 83% said they would recommend their lender to a friend or family member.

But despite this vote of confidence, 24% of homeowners also told us they'd had a problem with their lender.

The main issues raised included poor customer service, a lack of flexibility and poor interest rates.

What are borrowers looking for in a mortgage?

Price and familiarity were crucial factors for homeowners when they chose their current mortgage lender.

Around one in five (21%) respondents said they chose the lender due to the size of the monthly repayments, while the same number (21%) said the overall cost of the deal was key.

Another 16% said an existing relationship with the lender (eg having a bank account with the provider) was a key factor. Overall, 48% of respondents said they applied directly to their lender, while 44% used a mortgage broker.

When it came to choosing a deal, cost and flexibility were key factors. The chart below shows which features homeowners considered important when comparing deals.

Mortgage lending during Covid-19

Customer service has become even more important since the start of the pandemic, with millions of borrowers contacting their lenders to request mortgage payment holidays.

One in five (18%) of respondents to our survey took a payment holiday, with nearly half (45%) of them pausing payments for three months.

Of those who took payment holidays, more than half (53%) sought additional help, such as extending the mortgage term to reduce monthly repayments (21%), changing the type of the mortgage (16%) or getting a temporary freeze on interest (15%).

Concerningly, some borrowers reported having issues securing credit after a payment holiday. One in four (24%) said they'd been refused a credit card since their payment holiday, while one in five (21%) were refused a mortgage.

Should a payment holiday affect my credit score?

Formal payment holidays taken out during Covid-19 shouldn't be recorded as missed payments on your credit report.

Any additional support beyond the maximum six months of payment holidays - such as term extensions or freezing of interest - will be flagged as 'arrangements' on your report.

This means banks will be able to see the support measures in place, and factor them into their decisions on whether to lend to you in the future.

Which? advice on getting a mortgage

If you're looking to get a mortgage and don't know where to begin, we're here to help.

Our mortgage guides provide advice on everything from saving for a deposit to finding the best deal and applying for a mortgage.

If you're already a homeowner, you can find advice on switching deals in our guides on remortgaging to get a cheaper dealor to release equity.