Cardinal Financial review: A good option for first-time homebuyers

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Cardinal Financial mortgage loans at a glance

  • Conventional loans: Yes
  • FHA loans: Yes
  • VA loans: Yes
  • USDA loans: Yes
  • Jumbo loans: Yes
  • Refinancing: Yes
  • Adjustable rates: Yes (5/2 ARM, 7/2 ARM, 10/2 ARM)
  • Fixed rates: Yes — 10 to 30 years

Cardinal Financial offers a wide variety of home loans, with the option to get up to 100% financing with some loan options. The lender also offers some specialized loans, such as disaster relief loans, for people with specific needs.

Cardinal lends in all 50 states, and you can start the application process by visiting one of its 118 branches, going online or making contact by phone.

Pros

  • Long list of mortgage loans available
  • Nationwide availability
  • Solid options for first-time homebuyers

Cons

  • Must talk to a loan officer first to apply
  • Doesn’t offer home equity loan options

5 things to know about a Cardinal Financial mortgage loan

Cardinal Financial may be a good option to consider if you’re a first-time homebuyer or you need a specific type of home loan that isn’t available everywhere. Here are some key features to consider as you decide whether Cardinal Financial is right for you.

1. Long list of mortgage loans available

Whether you want to buy a new home or refinance your existing home loan, Cardinal Financial provides several options, including conventional, government-backed and jumbo loans. The list also includes loans for people looking to buy a tiny home, manufactured home or container home.

Cardinal Financial also provides financing for new home construction and renovations, as well as disaster relief loans, which can help you purchase or rebuild a home after a calamity. With so many financing options available, you’re more likely to be able to find a mortgage that fits your situation.

2. Nationwide availability

Not all lenders offer home loans in every state, so it can be frustrating if you start the application process only to find out that you don’t qualify based on where you live. Cardinal Financial operates in all 50 U.S. states, so it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to buy a home in your current state or a different one — they’re all covered.

3. Solid options for first-time homebuyers

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, it can be challenging to scrape enough cash together for a large down payment. The good news is that Cardinal Financial offers conventional loans with a minimum down payment of 3%. If you qualify for a Veterans Affairs or U.S. Department of Agriculture loan, you may even qualify for a home loan with no money down at all.

If you’re struggling to make a 3% down payment, Cardinal Financial also may be able to connect you with its down payment assistance program. You need to be a first-time homebuyer to qualify, and the most popular forms of assistance include the following:

  • Deferred payment loans
  • Loans paid in parallel with your first mortgage
  • Loans forgiven after a certain number of years
  • Lender credits
  • Grants

Check out our home affordability calculator to get an estimate of what you may be able to afford.

4. Must talk to a loan specialist to apply

It’s possible to request a free rate quote online for both purchase and refinance loans. But you won’t actually get to see the rate quote on the lender’s website. Instead, Cardinal Financial will have a loan specialist reach out to you to provide the quote and start the application process.

If you’ve consulted with a loan officer and decide to proceed, you’ll get access to a platform that can collect your financial statements and other documents online, but there’s no way around the requirement to speak with a specialist.

5. No home equity loan options

If you’re looking for a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, you’ll need to look elsewhere. While Cardinal Financial offers home renovation loans, it doesn’t provide any loan options that allow you to tap into the equity you may already have in your home.

Who is a Cardinal Financial mortgage loan good for?

Because of its versatility and specialized offerings, Cardinal Financial may be worth considering for many homebuyers. Because of its low- or no-down-payment loans and down payment assistance programs, it may be an especially good option for people who are buying their first home.

The lender is also a good choice for homeowners who are looking to refinance their existing loan. But it’s not a good fit if you want to borrow against your current home’s equity, since Cardinal doesn’t offer home equity loans or HELOCs.

Cardinal Financial’s requirement that you speak with a loan officer over the phone or in person may be a good feature for people who prefer that experience or have a lot of questions. But if you’d rather complete the entire application process online, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

How to apply for a Cardinal Financial mortgage

You can start the application process by visiting a Cardinal Financial branch in your area, calling to speak with a loan specialist or requesting a rate quote online.

You’ll need to submit some basic information about yourself, as well as the property you’re interested in. Once you officially apply, Cardinal will check your credit with a hard inquiry and verify your income.

Once you submit the information, you’ll receive a call from a loan specialist, who will ask some more questions to determine the right course of action.

If you decide to proceed, you’ll get access to the lender’s online platform, Octane, where you can get a live quote, upload documents and complete your to-do list for the mortgage process.

Credit requirements can vary based on the loan you’re applying for. For example, credit scores for a conventional loan can be as low as 620. FHA and USDA loans may be available with credit scores as low as 580, while credit scores as low as 550 may be accepted for VA loans. If you want a jumbo loan, credit scores as low as 660 may be accepted.

Not sure if Cardinal Financial is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

If you’re shopping for a mortgage, you have a window of time where multiple hard inquiries are only counted as one for your credit scores — anywhere from 14 days to 45 days, depending on the credit-scoring model. Here are a couple of other lenders to consider.

  • Better Mortgage: This lender offers completely digital home mortgage loans — no phone calls required.
  • U.S. Bank: You’ll get access to several other loan options, including home equity loans and HELOCs.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Cr… Read more.