Veterans United Home Loans Review

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Veterans United Home Loans

Overall Rating

9.5

Bottom Line

Veterans United excels with VA loans, especially for applicants who need a little extra help becoming eligible to borrow. But they also offer other mortgage options such as FHA and USDA loans.

Pros

  • VA Loan Experts
  • Great Educational Resources
  • Great Online Portal

Cons

  • Limited in Person Support
  • No HELOC option

Online Access

10.0

Customer Support

10.0

Loan Options

9.5

In Person Support

8.5

Veterans United Home Loans exists to write VA mortgages. This lender now leads the nation in VA loans.

Let’s take a close look at their products, prices, and procedures to find out whether the nation’s leading VA lender should be your lender.

About Veterans United Home Loans

Veterans United Home Loans started back in 2003 in Columbia, Missouri. Within six years, the company topped $1 billion in VA lending volume.

Now the lender has exceeded the $10 billion mark, leading the nation in loan originations.

But a lot of lenders issue VA loans — which are backed and regulated by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. So what makes them so successful?

I believe the success comes partly from their flexibility. Yes, the lender has underwriting standards, and it follows the VA guidelines laid out by the federal government.

But the lender also excels at seeing each applicant as an individual with unique challenges.

If either your credit score or your debt-to-income ratio does not meet the standards of a typical VA mortgage lender, Veterans United may still be able to make it work.

Veterans United Home Loans Features

Veterans United has created an outside-the-box underwriting process. You’ll still have to meet qualifications and prove your income and your ability to repay the loan.

But a couple of the lender’s features allow the underwriting process to bend a little to fit your life:

Residual Income

Many lenders, especially online mortgage lenders, rely exclusively on hard data — your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio, for example — when analyzing your financial life to determine your ability to repay a loan.

Veterans United adds a new number — residual income — to this mix. Residual income is the amount of money you have each month after paying your big obligations, such as the rent, utilities, and other loan payments.

A healthy residual income could compensate for a slightly lower credit score and get your loan application back into the realm of possibility.

Lighthouse Program

Still can’t get a prequalification? Veterans United will probably refer you to its Lighthouse Program.

This free (for veterans) one-on-one credit counseling service can get you back on the path to a credit picture healthy enough to sustain a new mortgage.

Each year Lighthouse helps thousands of veterans get prequalified for a mortgage by helping repair their credit scores.

Task Portal

Once you’re pre-qualified and on the path to a new mortgage, Veterans United has a nice system in place to help you gather the required documentation for the underwriting process.

You’ll set up an account and see a variety of “tasks” in your Veterans United portal. With so many documents required to process a loan, this simplified, task-by-task process helps keep you on task.

Veterans United Fees

The VA sets limits on how much a mortgage lender can charge in fees to a veteran or active duty military member closing a VA loan.

Your lender’s fees should not exceed 1 percent of your loan amount.

Let’s say you’re borrowing $150,000 to buy a home. Your lender’s fees from Veterans United should not exceed $1,500.

However, the VA itself also charges a funding fee, which could be as high as 3.6 percent of your loan amount.

The fee will be highest when you’re putting no money down, which is possible with a VA mortgage.

Here’s a breakdown of the VA funding fee:

1st VA mortgage fee 2nd+ VA mortgage fee
Less than 5% down 2.3% of loan 3.6% of loan
5-9.99% down 1.65% of loan 1.65% of loan
10% or more down 1.4% of loan 1.4% of loan

So with a $150,000 loan with no money down, using a VA mortgage for the first time, you’d pay a fee of 2.3 percent — an extra $3,450 — upfront for the loan.

Combine this with the 1 percent, $1,500 lender’s fee, and you’d be looking at $4,950 in fees due at closing.

Why Pay a VA Funding Fee?

Even with the benefits of VA borrowing, paying $4,950 in fees seems too excessive for many borrowers.

So let’s put this price tag in context. Without a VA loan, getting a no-money-down mortgage may be impossible. Even if you could do it — with a USDA rural loan, for example — you’d be paying Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) premiums.

PMI insures your lender in case you default on the loan, but you pay the premiums, which can reach as high as 1 percent of your loan each year.

The VA funding fee is a one-time expense to replace the ongoing PMI expense, so it’s actually a really good deal.

How to Pay a Loan’s Fees

Good deal or not, coming up with $4,950 in cash to close on a loan can be difficult. It’s tempting to roll this expense into the loan itself, making the $150,000 loan a $154,950 loan.

This isn’t always a terrible idea. Your mortgage payments won’t be much higher, especially on a 30-year mortgage.

But it is a bad idea if there’s a chance you could sell the home within the first year or two. You’d be setting yourself up to lose money. You may not even be able to sell the home for enough money to pay off the loan.

Over time, as your home appreciates in value and your mortgage debt declines, this imbalance will begin to resolve itself.

But it’s still never ideal to roll up-front fees into your loan. Ideally, your money should be cutting into the price of your home and not adding to the price of your home.

If you’re struggling with the idea of paying these fees to borrow with a VA mortgage, you could also consider:

  • Saving Up the Money In Advance: If you can plan ahead and save up the cash you’d need to pay the loan origination and funding fees, you’d be helping yourself in the long run.
  • Using a Separate Loan: A lot of banks and credit unions offer low-interest, unsecured convenience loans, which you could pay off in a couple of years. This method would keep your funding fees separate from your mortgage itself. This could be helpful if you need to sell the home quickly.

Veterans United Loan Types

VU is not a bank, so it does not offer home equity lines of credit or home equity loans.

Here are the types of home loans Veterans United features:

  • VA Loans: Most of this review is about Veterans United as a VA lender because they excel with these loans. VA loans give qualifying veterans access to no-down-payment or low-down-payment mortgages. VU has 15- and 30-year VA loan terms.
  • USDA and FHA Mortgages: These loans work a lot like VA loans, but non-veterans can also qualify. USDA has a no-down-payment option; FHA offers a 3.5-percent down option. Both loans get backing from the federal government, but they do require private mortgage insurance, unlike VA loans. VU has 15- and 30-year terms.
  • Conventional Loans: They also offer conventional mortgages, which do not get backing from the federal government. Less red tape makes the process of applying and closing easier, but you’ll rely more heavily on your creditworthiness. With a 20-percent down payment, you can avoid paying PMI. These loans come in either 15-year or 30-year terms.
  • Adjustable Rate Mortgage: Most homebuyers like to lock in a mortgage rate for the life of the loan. They also offers a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). You’ll be able to lock in a rate for five years; after that, your rate will change with the market every year. ARMs tend to work best when you plan to re-sell the home within the introductory rate period.
  • Jumbo Mortgages: Jumbo Mortgages are for homebuyers who need to borrow more than $510,400.
  • Mortgage Refinance: While you won’t find traditional second mortgages such as a home equity line of credit, VU does have cash-out refinancing, which replaces your current mortgage with a new loan. The “cash-out” happens when you borrow more on the new mortgage than you owe on your current mortgage.

Veterans United Interest Rates

Lending fees have a direct impact on your wallet when you borrow, but interest rates matter more year after year. Your interest rate quietly creates the context for your loan’s repayment over years or decades.

An extra 0.5 percent on your interest rate could add tens of thousands of dollars to the actual cost of your loan by making your payment just $50 or $100 higher.

Over time — 30 years equals 360 monthly payments — this extra cost adds up.

Veterans United’s rates tend to be slightly higher than the lowest rates in the industry, but they are almost always competitive.

Published rates on the lender’s site assume you have a 720 credit score. If your score is actually 620, Veterans United won’t extend the same rate.

Along with your credit score, your interest rate with Veterans United will depend on some other important variables:

  • Your Down Payment: Higher down payments lead to lower interest rates.
  • Your Debt-to-Income Ratio: Lower debt-to-income ratios can unlock lower rates.
  • Your Loan Amount: Your loan amount may even impact your rate. Bigger loans may require a higher rate. Unusually small loans may also have a higher rate.
  • Your Loan Type: 15-year mortgages tend to cost less than 30-year mortgages. An adjustable-rate (ARM) mortgage will start with a lower rate. After this introductory period, your rate will fluctuate with the market.
  • Your Home’s Location: Rates vary slightly by ZIP code in many areas.
  • The Broader Market: Interest rates on VA loans vary within the context of the broader economy. Rates tend to be lower in times of economic uncertainty.

Calling Veterans United and talking with a loan officer will give you the best idea about your actual interest rate.

If you’re a well-qualified borrower, you can expect competitive VA loan rates.

Getting Started

Since it serves veterans and active duty military personnel stationed in 50 states and around the world, Veterans United depends on remote access to its clients.

This means you probably won’t meet in-person with a loan officer, though they do have offices in 18 states.

Instead, you’ll access your loan over the phone or online. As a newer lender with a dependence on remote access, Veterans United has solid apps and an easy-to-use Web site.

I already mentioned Veterans United’s task portal. After you’ve started the application process, this portal helps guide you through the complex process of providing documentation.

Having this to-do list can help demystify the mortgage process, whether you’re getting a VA mortgage, another government-backed loan, or a conventional mortgage.

Security

Mortgage loans can get personal. You’ll need to share bank statements, Social Security numbers, and tax forms. More and more loan shoppers are asking about the security of their information.

Veterans United takes these questions seriously. As a high-volume lender, VU has modern cybersecurity measures.

No lender can or should guarantee it will never experience a data breach, but Veterans United does everything it can to keep your data safe.

Customer Support

Veterans United’s customer service stands out in the crowded field of VA lending. The lender gets fewer complaints than other leading VA lenders, including USAA.

Customer service agents work 24/7, which is essential for veterans stationed around the world.

VU’s Web site has a deep well of educational resources, including an efficient video series that teaches the basics of borrowing and even gets into more nuanced territory. You can find discussions about when to lock in or float your rate, for example.

No doubt, some of the lender’s customer service satisfaction comes from Veterans United’s ability to work with borrowers whose creditworthiness isn’t ironclad.

I mentioned the Lighthouse Program above. It’s a free credit counseling program for veterans that helps thousands of applicants get their credit in order, opening the doors of homeownership.

Pros and Cons

Veterans United has become a standard for VA lending, but the lender isn’t for everyone. Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros

  • VA loan experts
  • Educational resources
  • Solid online tools
  • 24/7 customer service
  • Free credit counseling for veterans
  • Alternative sources of underwriting possible

Cons

  • No home equity loans
  • Limited in-person interactions
  • Not suitable for buying second homes or rental homes

Alternatives to Veterans United

Veterans United excels with VA loans, especially for applicants who need a little extra help becoming eligible to borrow.

Homebuyers have a lot of choices, and another lender may suit your specific needs better:

  • Quicken Loans: Quicken also works well for VA loans because the company got its start as a remote lender. Quicken and its new subsidiary Rocket Mortgage make getting a loan simple.
  • USAA: USAA is a military-only financial services association that excels with VA loans. If you’re refinancing with an IRRRL, USAA will pay your VA funding fee.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: Navy Federal has great rates; you’ll need to join first. Members with connections to all branches of the military are now welcome.
  • Chase: This traditional bank may work best if you prefer in-person discussions with a loan officer in a local branch office.
  • LendingTree: If you’d like to compare interest rates and find the lowest offer, give LendingTree a try. Lending Tree doesn’t lend money; it simply connects your application with a variety of lenders.

Who Is Veterans United Best For?

Veterans United is best for a homebuyer who wants a VA loan and doesn’t mind applying over the phone or online.

Yes, Veterans United has non-VA loans such as conventional, USDA, and FHA loans, but other lenders can do as well or better.

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