Best VA Loan Lenders | How To Choose The Right Mortgage & Lender
VA loans help active-duty service members or veterans purchase homes. They require no minimum credit score or down payment, making them more affordable and accessible than other loan types. VA loans also offer competitive interest rates, a low annual percentage rate (APR), and various discounts.
However, these terms will vary from lender to lender – that’s why it’s essential to shop around and find the right one for you. In this guide, you’ll learn about the best VA loan lenders in 2021 and what to consider when choosing one.
What Is A VA Mortgage?
A VA mortgage is a government-backed loan insured by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is available to active-duty military service members, veterans, and surviving spouses looking to buy a home, renovate a property, or refinance a mortgage.
VA loans don’t require a minimum down payment or credit score, nor do they charge private mortgage insurance (PMI). However, they charge a VA funding fee that borrowers can pay upfront or roll into their loan. This funding fee costs 2.3% of your total loan amount.
How Do You Qualify For A VA Loan?
Being a military service member isn’t enough to qualify for a VA loan. You must also fulfill the following requirements:
You have completed:
90 days of active-duty war-time service, OR
181 days of peace-time service, OR
Six years in the National Guard or Selected Reserve
A surviving spouse of a deceased veteran who died in service, a prisoner of war, or a military member missing in action (MIA) can also apply for a VA mortgage.
Applicants must submit a certificate of eligibility (COE), which is attainable via the VA’s eBenefits portal or through a VA-approved lender. Depending on whether the borrower is an active-duty member or veteran, they may also have to prepare other service-related documentation.
Where Can You Get A VA Loan?
VA loans are typically available through a bank, credit union, mortgage company, or private lender. Private companies such as Veterans United Home Loans partner up with ex-military members to provide veterans with homeownership programs. These programs teach borrowers how to apply for different types of VA loans and also offer credit counseling.
Some companies will offer a mix of mortgage types that include VA loans, whereas others (such as the USAA) only offer VA lending. Lenders do not have the same eligibility criteria, nor will they provide identical rates. You should compare multiple lenders before deciding on one to get the best deal possible.
How To Choose The Best VA Mortgage Lenders
No two VA loan lenders are alike. For instance, one lender might offer more competitive interest rates, while another might impose more relaxed property requirements. When shopping for the right VA home loan program and lender, here are a few things you’ll need to consider.
Compare VA Loan Lenders
Though the VA itself doesn’t have a minimum credit score, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, or down payment requirements, some lenders won’t be as lenient. The typical VA lender will require a credit score of at least 620 and a debt-to-income ratio no higher than 41%.
Compare at least three VA lenders, noting their funding fee, closing costs, and other associated dues. Additionally, you should choose a lender who has VA experience and can clearly and concisely explain the application process.
Know Your Financial History
Before you can secure the right lender, you have to know the details of your financial history. By studying your credit score and DTI ratio, you can determine whether you qualify with a particular lender.
If these numbers aren’t where you want them to be, you can work on improving them before you apply for a VA loan. Knowing how much you’re making and spending each month can also help you determine how much mortgage you can afford.
Calculate Your APR
An annual percentage rate (APR) tells you how much you’ll have to spend on a loan each year. It considers all costs, such as interest, closing costs, discount points, and funding fees, among other things.
When comparing lenders, calculating your potential APR can put the entire cost of the loan into perspective. For example, you might think that a lender offering a lower interest rate makes for a better choice when their APR turns out to be more than you can afford.
You can use this mortgage loan calculator to determine your APR.
Know What Type Of VA Loan You Need
There are varying types of VA loans that serve different purposes. Part of selecting the right mortgage lender is knowing what kind of VA loan you need.
If you want to buy a new property without making a down payment, a VA purchase loan might be best suited for you. If you need to access your home equity to pay off a debt or build up your savings, you might apply for a VA refinance loan instead.
Always choose a lender who specializes in the type of loan you need.
The Best VA Mortgage Lenders In 2021
Shopping for the best VA loan lenders can be challenging. Simplify your choice by taking note of the top picks listed below.
Veterans United - Best Overall
Veterans United Home Loans is a 75-year-old program that specializes in VA mortgages. Focused primarily on military members, Veterans United is known for its superior customer service and comprehensive loan offerings.
Veterans United offers nine VA loan programs, which include:
The Lighthouse Program: This scheme provides credit counseling services for first-time homebuyers or military members struggling to qualify for conventional loans.
The Veterans United Realty: This network consists of over 6,000 private lenders who specialize in VA mortgages.
All Veterans United lenders work with ex-military leaders who counsel applicants and guide their home-buying decisions.
Pros & Cons
It boasts high customer satisfaction and excellent ratings.
It offers nine loan programs.
It provides free counseling and financial tools.
There is no mobile application.
Applications require a minimum credit score (620).
The loan pre-approval process can take anywhere between 30 and 45 days.
Veterans First Mortgage - Best For First-Time Homeowners
First-time military homeowners can expect excellent customer service from Veterans First Mortgage. This VA home loan program focuses on military members and their families. They also allow you to complete your application process online.
Veterans First Mortgage specializes in VA loans, but it is most praised for its purchase and cash-out refinance mortgages. It assists military members deployed overseas through a fully digital application process. It provides a wide variety of VA home loans that include:
Fixed-rate terms over 15, 20, 25, and 30 years
Pros & Cons
Online application process provides accessibility for overseas active-duty service members.
It has extensive loan offerings.
The company has experience in working with military borrowers
Mortgage rates and additional fees are not listed online – applicants have to contact the lender directly. This makes the rates difficult to compare.
Quicken Loans/Rocket Mortgage - Best Online Lending
Quicken Loans is the largest mortgage lender in the country and in second place for VA loan origination. Its online platform Rocket Mortgage is among the top picks for fully digital applications. Applicants can also work with mortgage advisors before selecting a loan product.
Quicken Loans is known for its speedy online application process and ability to verify employment and income information instantly. It also approves a debt-to-income ratio of 60% – the highest percentage any VA loan program accepts.
Quicken Loans offers highly competitive interest rates and extended customer service hours. You can apply for customizable fixed-rate loans and select a term between eight and 30 years.
Pros & Cons
Completely online application is among the fastest in the country. Borrowers can also transact over the phone.
Fixed-rate VA loan products are highly customizable.
Debt-to-income ratio requirements are lenient.
Lender fees and mortgage rates are higher than average.
Applicants cannot purchase foreclosures.
It does not offer loans that allow access to home equity.
Navy Federal Credit Union - Best 15-Year Fixed Loans
The Navy Federal Credit Union is a non-profit financial institution that offers the best 15-year fixed-rate VA loans. This veteran-focused credit union makes loan application simple for service members on tour abroad or stateside.
The NFCU has several unique loan features that include:
Freedom Lock: This feature allows borrowers to lock in new, lower rates without private mortgage insurance or a down payment.
Home Squad and Realty Plus: This program connects applicants to VA real estate experts who can facilitate the loan process. Home Squad officers oversee pre-approval, help obtain documents such as COEs, and analyze your financial history. These specialists can also provide up to thousands of dollars in cash-back.
Real Match Guarantee: If applicants secure better rates with other lenders, the NFCU guarantees a match. If the NFCU isn’t able to match this rate, they deposit $1,000 into your account upon closing with the new lender.
Pros & Cons
15-year fixed-rate loans have the lowest rates among VA lenders.
Unique programs allow borrowers access to the lowest possible mortgage rates.
Real estate experts help guide the loan application process.
Offers many affordable loan types to military members.
Applicants must first apply for a membership to avail of a loan.
The website does not outline customized mortgage rates.
PenFed Credit Union - Best 30-Year Fixed Loans
The Pentagon Federal Credit Union is a non-profit group that offers financial assistance and many different loan types to military members and their families. Its highly sought-after 30-year fixed-rate VA loans offer the lowest rates without carrying any lender fees.
The PenFed Credit Union is part of the PenFed Foundation, which provides financial education, assistance, credit-building services, and homeownership guidance for service members. It also offers additional banking services for its members.
PenFed also assists military members looking to purchase a second home via conventional loans and other financial options. Though primarily known for its 30-year loan offers, PenFed offers different loan types to suit your financial circumstances. These loans include 15/15 adjustable-rate mortgages that lock- in your rate for the first 15 years.
Pros & Cons
There are significant member discounts and no lender fees.
The PenFed Foundation provides stellar customer service and financial programs.
Online access and international services are available 24/7.
Applicants must first become members to avail of a VA mortgage loan.
Mortgage loan types are relatively limited.
There is no mobile application.
USAA - Best Bank & Jumbo Loans
Beyond its primary selection of VA home loans, the USAA also offers jumbo alternatives worth up to $3 million. It rolls VA funding fees into the loan and doesn’t charge private mortgage insurance. Among its other products are the VA interest rate reduction refinance loan (IRRRL) and fixed-rate mortgages.
As a full-service lender, the USAA also provides benefits, insurance, member discounts, and investment products. If you apply for a jumbo VA loan, the USAA offers personalized service from pre-approval to closing. While they charge a 1% origination fee, they waive underwriting and documentation charges.
Borrowers can also apply for a streamlined mortgage refinance loan without having to shoulder appraisal, title, and funding fees.
Pros & Cons
They provide access to other full-service banking programs such as investments, financial resources, and advice.
There are no additional out-of-pocket expenses.
It offers cash-back rewards when you work with a VA mortgage lender from the USAA network.
Applicants must first be a member of the USAA to apply for a loan.
It doesn’t offer the lowest interest rates among other lenders.
There is no discount for using its autopay process.
New American Funding - Best For Poor Credit History
New American Funding evaluates its applicants according to non-traditional credit standards, allowing them to qualify with a low credit score and high debt-to-income ratio. It uses manual underwriting to assess creditworthiness but also offers a fully online application.
New American Funding offers competitive rates, even to those with a credit score of as low as 580. If you aren’t up to par with minimum credit score requirements, NAF takes a closer look at other financial aspects to determine the appropriate VA loan rates. These factors might include your income, savings, ability to pay bills, and additional banking information.
Because New American Funding employs human reviewers, the process is more flexible than most. Unlike fully online methods, point persons can help applicants customize their loan terms.
Pros & Cons
Manual underwriting allows for credit flexibility and loan customization.
Applicants can track their loan approval status online.
Applicants can qualify with a credit score of as low as 580.
VA loan rates are only accessible upon application.
Mortgage rates are slightly higher than the government-reported median.
Frequently Asked Questions About VA Loan Lenders
Who is the best VA mortgage lender?
While VA lenders must adhere to restrictions and guidelines set by the Department of Veterans Affairs, no two sets of lenders will have the same standards. The “best” VA lender is someone who can meet your financial goals and housing needs. When shopping for a VA home loan, always compare at least three different lenders.
Are VA loans the same across different lenders?
No, VA loans vary across different lenders. Some lenders will accept a lower credit score, whereas others will impose a higher minimum. Closing costs, origination fees, and rates will also vary.
Are VA loan interest rates lower?
VA loan rates are typically lower than those on conventional loans. However, the interest rate on a VA loan will fluctuate depending on housing market demands and other economic factors. VA mortgage lenders will also charge different rates, which can impact your final loan amount. When selecting a VA loan, calculate the annual percentage rate to get the full scope of your total loan amount.
How do you qualify with a VA loan lender?
Every VA lender will enforce a unique set of eligibility criteria. While a VA mortgage won’t require a down payment, demand a minimum credit score, or consider your debt-to-income ratio, a VA lender might. Most VA loans will require a credit score between 580 and 620 and a DTI ratio no higher than 41%.
How do you choose the best VA loan?
What type of VA loan you apply for will depend on your housing needs and financial capabilities. If you want to buy a home with a lower interest rate, you might work with a lender who offers an adjustable-rate VA home loan. If you want to reduce your overall amount, shop for a lender who accepts discount points. The best VA loan is one that can meet your requirements.
No two pairs of VA loans are the same, and each VA lender will have a different set of eligibility criteria, requirements, and fees. When shopping for the right lender, always consider your financial history, what type of loan you’re interested in, and how much you can afford.
Are you on the hunt for a VA loan? Consult with our advisors at Wesley LLC to find out which loan best suits your needs. For additional resources and online tools, visit our website today!