This article includes links which we may receive compensation for if you click, at no cost to you.
If you’re either an active duty member of the US military or a veteran, and you’re looking to either purchase a home or refinance the loan on your current property, you should give a VA Home Loan first priority.
They have benefits, which we’ll cover in this guide, that are specific to current and previous members of the military and unavailable with other mortgage types.
The process starts with working with the best VA loan lenders, who will be able to guide you through the entire process.
Working with the right lender – one that specializes in VA loans – will be 90% of your success in getting the right loan for you.
The 5 Best Lenders For VA Loans
Here are the top 5 nationwide VA loan lenders for 2020:
Veterans United Home Loans
Veterans United Home Loans tops the list at least in part because it’s the single largest VA mortgage lender in the country, originating $12.8 billion in VA home loans in 2019.
But size alone doesn’t account for Veterans United Home Loans taking top honors. The company specializes in VA mortgage loans, to the point of working with former senior enlisted leaders from each branch of the US armed services. Not only does that keep Veterans United on the cutting edge of developments in VA lending, but the personnel provide an important bridge for loan applicants to get the most suitable financing for their needs.
They even have a program – Veterans United Lighthouse – that offers credit counseling to help borrowers build their credit. In many cases, the education provided can enable an applicant to qualify who otherwise won’t. The program has helped over 30,000 applicants improve their credit.
Veterans United Home Loans can also provide direct assistance in the home buying process. This is done through its affiliate, Veterans United Realty. This is a network of real estate agents who specialize in working with veterans in the home buying process. Much like mortgage lenders, not all real estate agents are well acquainted with the intricacies of the VA mortgage process. By using a combination of both real estate agents and a lender that specializes in VA home loans can make the home buying process smooth and stress-free.
Veterans United Home Loans also placed second on the J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey, scoring 891 out of a potential 1,000 points. And while USAA was number one on the list (at 900 points), I’m giving the nod to Veterans United Home Loans based on their specialization in VA home loans.
Rocket Mortgage is the online platform for Quicken Loans, the largest mortgage lender in the country. Quicken Loans launched Rocket Mortgage in 2016, and thanks to its ubiquitous advertising campaign, it’s become one of the most recognizable mortgage loan sources in the country. What makes this lender unique is that they offer an all-online mortgage application process.
Rocket Mortgage is available in all 50 states, and offers all types of mortgages. That includes:
- VA Loans
- USDA Mortgages
The all-online process makes Rocket Mortgage one of the fastest mortgage processes in the industry. You can both prequalify for a mortgage and make a full application using the mobile app. As a veteran, the company will work directly with the VA to obtain your Certificate of Eligibility, the document required for all veterans to obtain VA financing. They offer all types of VA loans for both purchases and refinancing.
However, the online process may be somewhat uncomfortable for applicants purchasing their first home. You won’t have the advantage of an in-person representative, and you will be required to upload any required documentation.
But Rocket Mortgage offers certain unique advantages. This includes a $500 flat fee, as opposed to a laundry list of miscellaneous lender fees and origination points. They also offer their RateShield Approval, which allows you to lock in your interest rate for 90 days while you shop for a property.
If you’re familiar with the mortgage process, particularly for a VA home loan, and your primary concern is processing speed, Rocket Mortgage is your lender.
One of the factors that distinguish USAA as one of the best VA home lenders is the fact that the company specializes in providing financial products and services to active duty military members and veterans, as well as their families.
And not only do they provide VA home loans, but they also offer:
That makes USAA a virtual one-stop-shop for anyone who is currently or previously a member of the US armed services.
As you might expect, a company specializing in providing financial services to military personnel and veterans is an obvious go-to choice for VA home loans. But another advantage they offer is that they also provide conventional loans. This is an important option, since VA home loans don’t cover vacation homes and investment properties. If you’re interested in purchasing or refinancing either property type, you’ll need to use a conventional loan. If so, USAA can help.
USAA offers all types of VA mortgage loans, including loans for both purchases and refinances. You can take advantage of either fixed-rate mortgages or adjustable-rate loans, and VA Jumbo loans are available for the purchase or refinance of higher value properties. And if you’re looking to do a simple refinance, they also specialize in the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) that offers a streamlined application process, with less credit and income documentation, as well as no appraisal.
Because it offers so many financial products and services, USAA can be especially valuable to active duty or new or recently separated veterans to begin the process of building a firm financial foundation in life.
Navy Federal Credit Union
One of the best types of financial institutions you can establish a relationship with is a credit union. Because they are owned by members – not stockholders – they can provide the benefit of paying the highest interest rates on deposits, while charging the lowest on loans. And unlike banks, they don’t hit their members with a plethora of mysterious fees.
Despite the name, Navy Federal Credit Union is a credit union available to current and former members of all branches of the US military. In fact, it’s the single largest credit union in the country.
Like the other mortgage lenders on this list, they specialize in VA home loans. But as a credit union, they also offer all the advantages of credit union membership. That includes:
On the mortgage front, they offer conventional financing as well as VA mortgage loans. But VA mortgage loans are the mortgage type they specialize in. In addition to offering all types of VA mortgages, the company also provides some of the lowest interest rates in the industry.
And much like Veterans United Home Loans, Navy Federal Credit Union can also help you in the home buying and selling process. They do this through their RealtyPlus program, which connects you with real estate agents who specialize in the purchase of properties using a VA mortgage.
And whether you are buying or selling a property, you can get $400 to as much as $8,000 in cash back after closing on the property. (The amount of cash is based on the value of the property. For example, the purchase or sale of a $250,000 property will be $1,475 in cash back. A $2 million property will earn $8,000.)
Veterans First Mortgage
Veterans First Mortgage is another of the largest VA mortgage lenders in the country but they’re unique in that they also offer FHA mortgages. This is an important consideration for anyone who may have difficulty qualifying for a VA home loan. One advantage FHA loans offer over both VA mortgages and conventional loans is relaxed credit guidelines. If your credit is insufficient to qualify for a VA mortgage, you may still be eligible for FHA financing.
Veterans First Mortgage offers all types of VA home loans, including fixed rate, adjustable-rate, and Jumbo loans. They also provide financing for both purchases and refinances. What’s more, the company has been providing VA home loans since 1985, giving it the type of deep experience in the VA lending process that many mortgage lenders can’t offer.
When you work with Veterans First Mortgage, you’ll be assigned a VA loan specialist. That person can guide you through the entire process, including explaining how VA mortgages work, and providing prequalification. The company website itself does an excellent job as an educational resource, to introduce you to VA loans before you start the process.
Is the VA Home Loan a Good Deal?
In a word, absolutely! Here are the reasons why:
0% Down Payment Required
VA loans offer 100% financing. That makes them the only single mortgage program available that allows you to buy or refinance a home with no down payment or equity. And that’s a perfect arrangement for either active duty military personnel or recently discharged members, who may be short on cash for a down payment.
No Monthly PMI
Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is a monthly premium paid with your house payment with both conventional and FHA mortgages. On FHA loans, it applies to all loans; on conventional loans it’s required when you have a down payment or equity of less than 20% of the property value. VA loans don’t require a monthly PMI premium. And since that premium can often be $100, $200, or more, the monthly payment on a VA mortgage will often be lower than it will be for other loan types.
VA Loans Tend To Be Veteran-Friendly
That is, they accommodate the specific needs of active duty or veteran borrowers. For example, VA loans use two income qualification methods. The first is a debt ratio, and the second is a residual income calculation that takes into consideration the available cash flow you’ll have after paying fixed expenses. The combination of the two gives you a better chance of qualifying for a loan than will be the case with either conventional or FHA financing, both of which strictly use debt ratios. If you’re active duty military, they take into consideration secondary income sources, such as your housing allowance if you’re required to be on base.
VA Loans Are Fee-Friendly
VA loans have the usual mortgage related closing costs. But those costs can be paid by the seller, for an amount equal to up to 6% of your loan amount. The VA also charges what’s known as a funding fee, which is the fee the agency charges to guarantee your loan repayment should you default. For 2020, that fee can range between a low of 0.50% to 3.6%. But it’s typically included in the loan amount, which means you can finance it over the life of the loan rather than paying out-of-pocket.
What Inspections are Required for a VA Loan?
The most basic inspection required for a VA loan is a property appraisal. That will be a formal market analysis done by a professional appraiser to determine if the value of the home is consistent with the contract sale price and loan amount. The cost typically runs between $300 and $500, depending on where you live and the type of property. That is part of the overall closing costs, and not an additional charge.
Additional Inspections May Be Required
An appraiser may also require specific home inspections should any components of the home be determined as inadequate for either safety or livability. For example, the appraiser may require an inspection and certification by an electrician if the electrical system of the home is deemed to be an adequate.
Other component examples include plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and roofing inspections. But if the appraiser has any reason to suspect the property has structural defects, he or she may call for a structural inspection by an engineer.
There will be extra costs for any of these inspections – which could be paid either by the seller or the lender – but it will be well worth the cost to determine upfront if there are any problems that can cost you money after closing on the home.
Ordering Your Own Home Inspection
Though it’s not required, you can also have your own home inspection performed by a professional of your choice. It’s important to remember that the appraiser is primarily looking at the property from a value standpoint. More specific inspections will only be required if obvious deficiencies are identified.
But a home inspection is a way for you, as the future owner of the home, to determine all the details of the property. A certified home inspector will closely examine all the major components of the property, including structure, and provide you with a written report. You’ll not only know what the deficiencies are, but also what it will cost to repair them. This can be a valuable tool, helping you to negotiate the cost of the repairs with the property seller before the closing.
Do You Pay Closing Costs on a VA Loan?
As described earlier, it’s possible to take a VA loan without having to pay any closing costs out-of-pocket. The VA funding fee can be financed with your loan, which will result in only a minimal increase in your monthly payment.
Any other closing costs can be paid by the property seller, for up to 6% of the loan amount.
But even if the seller is unwilling to pay the closing costs, you can also choose what are known as lender paid closing costs. This is a process in which the lender pays your closing costs in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate.
The typical conversion is a 1/8 (or 0.125%) increase in your interest rate that will enable the lender to pay closing costs equal to about 1% of your loan amount. If your total closing costs equal 2% of your loan amount, the lender can cover them with a 0.25% increase in your interest rate. That will result in a very slight increase in your monthly payment, which can save you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket closing costs upfront.
What is The Best Bank for VA Loans?
There are hundreds of mortgage companies and banks across the country that offer VA home loans. But just because a lender offers VA loans doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at making them work.
In fact, many lenders do VA loans only occasionally, even though they advertise themselves as VA mortgage lenders. But a VA mortgage is a unique mortgage product, and requires special handling.
For that reason, I narrowed our list down to the five best VA home lenders. Not only are all five well equipped to handle VA home loans, but each operates on a nationwide basis. That will be important, since finding qualified VA home loan lenders can be a bit like panning for gold. Some may even claim to be specialists, but are nothing of the sort.
You’ll be well advised to go with lenders known for specializing in VA home loans, rather than those that offer them mainly as just another line item on their product list.
So, Is a VA Mortgage Best For You?
If you are an active duty member of the US military or a veteran, and you have VA loan eligibility, it’s one of the very best loan programs you can use to purchase or refinance your home.
Start by choosing one of the best VA home loan lenders in the industry, such as the five listed above. Even if you know nothing at all about VA home loans, one of these lenders can direct you through the entire process.