Top 10 Best VA Lenders of 2018

Getting a VA Home Loan can be difficult. After applying ourselves and seeing firsthand how the VA Home Loan process can be, we decided to help out the Veteran community by creating an easy step-by-step guide. This guide includes some of the best VA Lenders, the VA Home Loan process, and some helpful tips to consider along the way.


Veterans United

Launched in 2002 with just four employees in Columbia, Missouri, Veterans United has grown to be one of the leading lenders in the VA Loan industry. In 2017, they financed over $10 billion in loans, making it possible for thousands of military families to own their dream home.

Also, for the third consecutive year in a row, Fortune Magazine has ranked Veterans United as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Why you might like Veterans United:

  • Veterans United is the nation's #1 VA Home Purchase Lender
  • 97.8% of those surveyed would recommend VU to family and friends
  • VU Loan Specialists undergo extensive training on the VA loan process

Why you might keep looking:

  • Veterans United is located in just 20 states
  • You might prefer to work with a VA lender in your area
  • Interest rates somewhat higher than other non-bank VA lenders

See rates for Veterans United

Quicken Loans

Quicken Loans Inc. is the nation’s largest mortgage lender. Between 2013 and 2017, the company closed more than $400 billion in mortgage loans across all 50 states. Quicken Loans moved its headquarters to downtown Detroit in 2010, and now more than 17,000 of its team members work in the city’s core.

In addition, Quicken Loans ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction for Primary Mortgage Origination” in the United States by J.D. Power for the past eight consecutive years, 2010 – 2017. It also ranked highest in customer satisfaction among all mortgage servicers the past four years, 2014 – 2017.

Why you might like Quicken Loans:

  • Strong record of customer satisfaction in loan and payment servicing
  • Quick and convenient loan process
  • Quicken Home Loan Experts work directly with the VA

Why you might keep looking:

  • You might prefer to work face-to-face with a VA lender in your area
  • Sales and marketing people can be somewhat aggressive
  • VA Loans are not their primary business

See rates for Quicken Loans

J.G. Wentworth

J.G. Wentworth has more than 20 years of experience assisting people with their financial needs, and is one of the fastest growing mortgage companies in the United States. Since its founding in 1992, the company has closed on over $10 billion in loans, while maintaining an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

The company is known for its VA loan expertise and also for its technologically advanced web and mobile tools which support a more flexible loan process.

Why you might like J.G. Wentworth:

  • Fewer mortgage complaints than bigger banks
  • Digital servicing allows for efficient loan processing and mortgage tracking
  • More of a direct online lender versus a brick and mortar company

Why you might keep looking:

  • Average mortgage rates and fees on most loan types
  • Not licensed to lend in HI, ID, MO, NV and NY
  • You might prefer to work face-to-face with a VA lender in your area

See rates for J.G. Wentworth

Lending Tree

LendingTree is a leading online loan marketplace with one of the largest networks of lenders in the nation. LendingTree provides consumers a way to connect with multiple lenders for a number of financial borrowing needs, including those who are seeking a VA loan.

Consumers can fill out one simple form and are able to shop, compare, and save on the loans they need. Since its inception, LendingTree has facilitated more than 65 million loan requests, and the company has also developed an array of online tools and information to help consumers find the best loan possible.

Why you might like Lending Tree:

  • Easier qualification compared to conventional loans
  • Quick, easy application process
  • Get the best rates by letting banks compete for your business

Why you might keep looking:

  • Cannot explain the underwriting process as it varies from lender to lender
  • Sales and marketing people can be somewhat aggressive
  • You might prefer to work face-to-face with a VA lender in your area

See rates for Lending Tree

NASB

North American Savings Bank F.S.B. (NASB) was chartered in Kansas City in 1927. Today, NASB has assets of over $1.2 billion and has closed nearly $9 billion in residential loans since 2008.  Nationally, NASB is one of the top 25 VA lenders and one of top 100 mortgage lenders. NASB is also one of the top Internet real estate lenders in the U.S. and the company offers home loans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition, NASB prides itself on providing customers with fast, courteous and professional service, while providing them with highly competitive rates and minimal lender fees.

Why you might like NASB:

  • Rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau
  • S.A.F.E. Act accredited loan consultants
  • In-house processing for faster approval times

Why you might keep looking:

  • Online payment fees without an NASB checking or savings account
  • You have to speak with your loan officer to keep track of your application
  • Short on online educational material beyond basic loan descriptions

See rates for NASB

Cross Country Mortgage

CrossCountry Mortgage, Inc. was established in 2003 in Cleveland, Ohio, and today the company is licensed in all 50 states. Also, for four years in a row (2012-2015), CrossCountry Mortgage was recognized as one of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies on the Inc. 5000 List.

CrossCountry offers a wide range of loan products, outstanding customer service, and an experienced team of professional loan originators.

Why you might like Cross Country Mortgage:

  • Free personalized rate quotes
  • Approved Equal Housing Opportunity Lender
  • Mortgage Bankers Association Member

Why you might keep looking:

  • You might prefer to work face-to-face with a VA lender in your area
  • Slightly higher than average regulatory actions and complaints
  • Services are geared towards borrowers who start their application online 

See rates for Cross Country Mortgage

Rocket Mortgage

Developed by Quicken Loans, Rocket Mortgage is an online and mobile-friendly mortgage application process. Rocket allows customers to go through the loan process at their own pace. Also, there is on-demand assistance from licensed mortgage advisors available with just a tap, and one of its major selling points is that the entire application process can be completed with no paperwork.

In addition, when using the online mobile app from Rocket Mortgage, there is no cost to apply for the loan or to lock in interest rates.

Why you might like Rocket Mortgage:

  • Loan pre-approval takes just minutes
  • Gives step-by-step help that’s particularly useful for first-time home buyers
  • User-friendly, intuitive online loan process

Why you might keep looking:

  • You might prefer to work face-to-face with a VA lender in your area
  • If you’re not comfortable with applying for a loan online
  • Rocket will not consider alternative credit history, such rent payments

See rates for Rocket Mortgage


What is a VA Loan?

A VA Loan is a mortgage loan issued by approved lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program was created to benefit active service members currently serving in all branches of the U.S. military, as well as American veterans, reservists and eligible surviving spouses.

The VA does not originate the loans, but it establishes the guidelines to determine who may qualify. In addition, the VA establishes the rules and regulations under which mortgages may be offered, and then it financially guarantees the loans that qualify under the program. VA loans can be used to purchase single-family homes, manufactured homes, multi-unit properties and condominiums.

The United States government created the VA Loan program in 1944 to help returning service members from World War II to purchase homes without the need of a down payment or qualifying credit. To date, this historic program has guaranteed more than 22 million loans, which has allowed active duty military members, veterans, reservists, and their families to purchase homes or to refinance their existing mortgages.

In many respects, the VA Loan program is more important today than ever to military service members. In the wake of the recent housing market collapse, lenders have substantially tightened their lending standards, and often prospective military homebuyers have difficulty meeting those stringent lending requirements. As a result, the VA Loan program is a lifeline to those who are challenged by strict credit and down payment requirements.

The Advantages of a VA Loan

For many veterans, military service members and their families, the VA Loan program is the most advantageous home loan program on the market. These government-backed loans come with numerous benefits that allow homeownership to exist for those who might otherwise struggle to qualify for financing.

The VA Loan program has become increasingly popular, owing to its signature benefits, which include the following:

No Down Payment

Military service members are typically on the move, depending on their deployments, so establishing credit and saving money can often be difficult for them. Recognizing this problem, the VA Loan program allows qualified borrowers to finance 100 percent of the home's value – meaning no down payment is required. This is a substantial benefit for them, given that most lending institutions require down payments of at least 5% of the purchase price for conventional home loans.

No Private Mortgage Insurance

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is an insurance policy that protects lenders in case of borrower default, and conventional lenders typically require borrowers to pay for PMI, unless they are able to put down at least 20% of a home’s value as a down payment. Again, for many active service members, this is a difficult task to achieve.

However, since the federal government insures all VA Loans and assumes the risk on behalf of the borrower, no PMI is required. This feature is a major benefit to VA Loan borrowers because it allows them to build equity in their homes at an accelerated rate, and it also saves them thousands of dollars over the life of their mortgage.

Competitive Interest Rates

Lenders determine their rates of interest based on the amount of risk inherent in each loan – the higher the risk, the higher the interest rate will be. Because each VA Loan is fully backed by the federal government, lending institutions have less risk, and so they can offer interest rates that are typically lower than conventional rates, usually by at least 0.5 to 1 percent.

Basic Allowance for Housing

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) is a housing assistance program that is provided to many active duty military members. The assistance is offered to qualified members so they can provide housing for themselves and their families. However, BAH is only provided to those members who are not currently occupying government quarters or barracks.

BAH is non-taxable money that is paid to recipients on a monthly basis. In terms of the VA Loan program, this is significant because lenders are permitted to treat BAH as effective income to the borrower, which means BAH can be used to pay some or all of a mortgage loan’s monthly costs.

No Pre-Payment Penalty

With many conventional loans, paying off a home loan before it matures results in a pre-payment penalty. The terms of a pre-payment penalty will stipulate what the borrower is allowed to pay off and when. Most conventional mortgage lenders allow borrowers to pay off up to 20% of the loan balance each year.

The justification for a pre-payment penalty is that if a loan is paid off early, lenders miss out on additional opportunities to collect interest payments. A pre-payment penalty is a way for financial institutions to recoup some of that lost money.

This is a significant factor because a pre-payment penalty can be triggered by a variety of circumstances. One way to pay off a loan is if a home is sold, or if the loan is refinanced. In addition, one large lump sum payment might exceed the 20% threshold in a single year as well.

VA Loan borrowers do not have to worry about a pre-payment penalty because they do not exist in a VA loan. As a result, VA Loan borrowers are free to pursue future home purchases and refinancing options as often as they choose with no penalties incurred.

The Different Types of VA Loans

VA Purchase Loans

VA Purchase Loans allow veterans, active duty service members and their families to purchase a home, as long as they meet certain income and credit requirements. As previously mentioned, in most cases, these loans can be obtained with no down payment.

VA Refinance Loans

There are two popular types of VA Refinance Loans – The Cash Out Refinance Loan and the Streamline Refinance Loan.

The VA Cash Out Refinance Loan allows a homeowner to access the equity in their home for cash. There could be numerous reasons why a homeowner might choose to tap into their home equity for cash – paying off high interest debt, making home improvements, paying for a child’s education, etc. Whatever the motivation, a Cash Out Refinance is an effective way to easily access needed cash.

The VA Streamline Refinance Loan is designed to help a homeowner take advantage of those times when mortgage interest rates are low. When interest rates are declining, a homeowner can often lower their monthly payment by refinancing their loan to a lower interest rate. A VA Streamline Refinance Loan (also known as an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan) can help homeowners achieve that goal.

With a VA Streamline Refinance Loan, the interest rate on a loan can be lowered without the expense of any out-of-pocket fees. The lender could either cover the closing costs in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate, or the closing costs can be included in the balance of the loan. Either way, a new loan can be generated without any out-of-pocket expenses to the borrower. Also, generally these loans can be processed quickly and usually require much less paperwork to complete.

However, only those individuals who already have an existing VA loan are eligible for a VA Streamline Refinance Loan.

Native American Direct Loan Program

The Native American Veteran Direct Loan (NADL) program provides eligible Native American veterans and their spouses the opportunity to use their VA Loan benefit on Federal trust land. The VA provides direct home loans (not a loan guarantee) to eligible Native American veterans to finance the purchase, construction, or improvement of homes on Federal Trust Land. The program also offers the opportunity to refinance a prior NADL in order to reduce their interest rate.

Housing Grants for Disabled Vets

The VA provides Grants to Disabled Service members and Veterans to help them construct or purchase an adapted home, or to modify an existing home to accommodate a disability. There are two grant programs that exist to facilitate the grants – the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant and the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant.

SAH Grants help Veterans with certain service-related disabilities to live independently in a barrier-free environment. SHA Grants help Veterans with certain service-related disabilities adapt or purchase a home to accommodate the disability.

VA Loan Fees and Regulations

Though a down payment is not required on VA loans, a military service member or veteran is responsible for paying the loan’s closing costs. Generally speaking, VA Loan closing costs average around 1% – 3% of the loan amount on more expensive homes, and typically average 3% – 5% of the loan amount on less expensive homes.

However, an exception to this rule is that a home’s seller is permitted to pay all of the veteran’s closing costs, up to 4% of the home price. So, it is possible for the service member or veteran to close their home purchase loan without any out-of-pocket expenses.

VA Loan Closing Costs

First, it is important to note that the types of fees usually associated with a VA Loan closing vary greatly by geographic location. In order to know precisely what kinds of fees and costs are applicable to your specific loan, it is best to consult with your loan professional.

VA Upfront Funding Fee

The VA Upfront Funding Fee is a fee applied to every purchase or refinance loan. The fee goes directly to the Veterans Administration and helps to defray the costs of the VA Loan program.

The amount of the fee varies depending on several factors – the circumstances of the borrower’s service; whether the borrower has been a recipient of a previous VA loan; and if the borrower has a down payment. Veterans who receive disability compensation for a service-related disability – including those who are eligible to receive disability compensation – are exempt from paying the funding fee.

In general, this upfront funding fee is not paid in cash at the closing, because VA home buyers usually choose to include it in their loan amount.

1% Origination Fee

This fee is paid to the lender as compensation for originating the loan. The VA stipulates that the lender’s compensation cannot exceed 1% of the loan amount. If the lender charges the 1% origination fee, then they are not allowed to charge for other additional fees, such as processing and underwriting services.

Discount Points

Discount points are, in fact, prepaid interest on a home mortgage loan. A borrower can “pay for” discount points as a way to lower the interest rate on their loan. The more points you pay, the lower the interest rate on the loan. Typically, borrowers pay 0–4 points, and this kind of discount point is tax-deductible.

Military service members and veterans can pay for discount points as long as the fee goes directly to reducing the interest rate.

Third Party Fees

In the closing of any loan, there are usually third party companies involved in the transaction. These are companies that provide necessary services in order to close the loan. Below are examples of the kinds of third party companies one can expect to be involved at a VA Loan closing:

  • VA Appraiser
  • Title Report/Title Insurance Policy
  • Recording Fee
  • Credit Report Fee
  • Flood Certification Fee
  • Survey Fee
  • Attorney Fees

Eligibility Requirements For VA Loans

Who is Eligible?

Veterans, active duty service members, National Guard members and reservists are all eligible for a VA Loan if they meet the basic service requirements, as defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ultimately, the VA will determine who is eligible, but their basic eligibility guidelines are listed below. Borrowers may be eligible for a VA Loan if they meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • They have served 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime
  • They have served 181 days of active service during peacetime
  • They have more than 6 years of service in the National Guard or Reserves
  • Spouses of military members who died while on active duty or as a result of a service-related disability may also be eligible

In addition, a borrower must also have proof of sufficient income, satisfactory credit, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan. Also, the home must be for the borrower’s personal occupancy.

VA home loans may be used to:

  • Buy a home
  • Build a home
  • Buy a condominium unit in a VA-approved project
  • Buy a manufactured home and lot
  • Buy and improve a home simultaneously
  • Improve a home by installing energy-related features or making energy efficient improvements
  • Refinance an existing VA-guaranteed or direct loan in order to obtain a lower interest rate

What is a Certificate of Eligibility?

Lenders that issue VA-guaranteed loans are required to validate a veteran’s service record during the VA loan process. The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) serves as that proof, and it verifies that an applicant has officially met the minimum service requirement.

All veterans have to meet one or more of the following service requirements in order to qualify for a VA loan:

  • 181 days of service during peacetime
  • 90 days of service during war time
  • 6 years of service in the Reserves or National Guard
  • Some surviving spouses of service members who have died in the line of duty are also eligible

How to Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility

There are three primary ways eligible VA Loan borrowers can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility:

  1. Ask your lender - The easiest and most direct method of obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility is to ask your lender. VA- approved lenders have access to a special database and they can obtain your COE in minutes.
  2. Apply online - Go online to the eBenefits website (a service provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Defense) and log in or create a new account.
  3. Apply via mail - Print this form, fill it out, and return it to the address on the form.

How To Apply For A VA Loan

Applying for a home mortgage loan can be a daunting task for anyone and, of course, this is also true for military borrowers. But with a VA loan guarantee and by working with a VA-approved lender, the process can be somewhat less challenging. The following 6 steps will help to clarify what to expect at every step:

Select a VA-Approved Lender

There are many companies that are in the business of offering home mortgages but it’s important to note that in order to originate a VA Loan, a lender must be approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Therefore, if you are pursuing a VA Loan, make sure to select a lender that has been VA-approved. Also, some companies specialize in offering VA-guaranteed loans to military clients. By choosing to work with one of those companies, you might find that the process is quicker, easier and more efficient.

Get Pre-Qualified

After you’ve selected your VA-approved lender, consult with them to determine how much house you can afford, based on your income, credit, entitlement and other financial factors. This is an important first step because it will determine the kinds of houses and neighborhoods you can consider for purchase.

Get Pre-Approved

Getting pre-approved for your loan is a major step forward and puts you in command when you find a home you’d like to buy. Your lender will verify all your financial information to determine the extent of your purchasing power. Once everything has been verified, the lender will issue you a pre-approval letter. This letter will demonstrate to home sellers and real estate agents that you are a strong buyer and that you

House Hunting/Sign a Purchase Agreement

This is probably the most enjoyable part of the process for potential home buyers. Working with a qualified real estate professional, they are able to look at homes they might consider buying. Also, just as there are lenders who specialize in the VA process, there are also knowledgeable real estate professionals who are experienced in working VA loans, and they can help a veteran or service member get the most out of their benefits.

Once you’ve found a home that you want, submit an offer and execute a signed purchase agreement. This will allow you to move forward in the VA loan process.

VA Appraisal and Underwriting

Once you have a signed purchase agreement, your lender will order a VA appraisal of the property. Just as with your lender, only an appraiser who has been certified to perform appraisals to VA standards is permitted to evaluate your home for VA financing. The VA appraiser will ensure the price you’ve negotiated for your new home corresponds to its current market value.

Additionally, underwriters will begin the process to evaluate your income and other financial documents. Once everything has been verified and approved, you will be cleared to proceed to your loan closing.

Close on Your Loan and Move In

After being approved by the underwriter, it’s time to close on your loan and to move in. During your closing, the property will legally transfer from the former owner to you. At the closing, you will sign numerous documents stating that you understand and agree to the terms of the loan.

Also, at the closing you will need to provide proof of homeowners insurance and, if required, to pay the closing costs. Once you’ve signed all the closing documents, you will be given the keys to your new home and be able to move in.


Best VA Mortgage Lenders: Summary