The Department of Veterans Affairs supports veterans and current service members. One way it does that is by offering affordable mortgages to our veterans. Here’s the inside scoop on finding the best VA loan rates.
The Best VA Loan Mortgage Lenders
What Is a VA Loan?
- No down payment requirement: You must make a down payment of 3.5%–20% for most types of mortgages. You can save significantly by not having to make a down payment.
- No mortgage insurance: You are typically required to purchase mortgage insurance if you make a down payment of less than 20%. Mortgage insurance protects the lender if a borrower defaults. It can add significantly to your monthly mortgage payment.
- VA assistance if you become delinquent: If you run into financial difficulties down the road, the VA will assist you in getting your mortgage back on track.
Private lenders offer VA loans. The VA approves lenders who provide VA mortgages.
Types of VA Loans
The VA guarantees many types of mortgages. The most common types are:
These mortgages have the same monthly payment for the life of the mortgage. This is because the interest rate is the same for the mortgage term. Fixed-rate mortgages have a variety of terms. Your term is how long the mortgage lasts. Fixed-rate mortgages often have 15-, 20- or 30-year terms.
These mortgages have a monthly payment that could change. This is because the lender may increase or decrease the interest rate. Lenders change the interest rate based on market conditions. Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) often have an introductory period with a fixed rate. A 5/1 ARM has a 5-year introductory period. After that, the lender can change the rate once per year.
Lenders may offer VA loans as fixed-rate mortgages, ARMs or both.
Who Is Eligible for a VA Loan?
Many current service members and veterans are eligible for a VA loan. Here are the details on eligibility:
Veterans must meet service length requirements. Veterans who served during wartime typically must have at least 90 days of active duty service, unless discharged due to a service-related disability. You also must not have a dishonorable discharge. Veterans who served during peacetime must have at least 181 continuous days of active duty service unless discharged due to a service-related disability.
Current Service Members
Current service members are eligible after 90 days of continuous active duty service.
Reserve or National Guard
You must have at least 6 years of eligible service unless you were discharged due to a service-related disability.
You must be an un-remarried spouse of a veteran who died while in service or due to a service-connected disability. Spouses of a service member who is missing in action or a prisoner of war may also qualify.
If you are uncertain of whether you meet the eligibility requirements, contact the VA. The VA can confirm your eligibility and provide you with a Certificate of Eligibility if you meet the requirements for a home loan program.
VA Loan Requirements
The VA has a few requirements for the mortgages it guarantees. Lenders must consider:
Your Debt Ratio
Your debt ratio is the total of your monthly debt payments compared to your monthly income. Let’s say your debt payments (car payment, potential mortgage payment, credit card minimums) add up to $1,500 per month. If your monthly gross income is $3,000, then you have a debt ratio of 50%. The VA doesn’t have a maximum debt ratio. If your debt ratio is more than 41%, the VA lender must look for compensating factors, like extra savings or excellent credit history.
Technically, there is no maximum loan amount for a VA loan. The VA only guarantees up to $453,100 in most areas without a down payment. You can visit the VA website to find out the loan limit in your area.
Your credit score is a computer-generated number that gives lenders an idea of your credit history. The VA doesn’t have a minimum credit score requirement. Lenders may have a minimum credit score requirement, though.
The VA has residual income guidelines that lenders must follow to ensure borrowers can afford their home loans. The VA wants lenders to confirm that you have enough income to handle unexpected expenses. The guidelines vary depending on where you live and the amount of your mortgage.
Lenders also look at the property you’re planning to purchase. The property must be safe, structurally sound and sanitary. Many properties fit these requirements, but a serious fixer-upper might not make the cut. You must also use the VA home loan for a primary residence. You can’t use it to buy a vacation home.
VA Loan Rates
What should you expect when it comes to VA loan rates? Here is how a VA loan stacks up against other types of mortgages:
5 Best Mortgage Lenders for VA Loans
To find the best rates, you should contact multiple lenders. Here are our 5 best mortgages companies picks for VA loans:
1. Best Overall: Veterans United
Veterans United earned our top spot because of its excellent reviews from customers. It works closely with leaders from all branches of the military to ensure its borrowers are educated about home ownership and VA loans.
Veterans United has an easy-to-navigate website. Although you can’t complete an application online, you can get an initial quote. You can also view its rates for easy comparison shopping.
2. Best for Online: Rocket Mortgage®
You can complete the mortgage process entirely online with Rocket Mortgage®. If you need help, you can chat with mortgage specialists via the website or talk to them by phone. You can upload documents using its website or mobile app and also take a sneak peek at current mortgage rates on its site.
Take advantage of its helpful educational materials as well. Rocket Mortgage® boasts rave reviews from its customers. It offers fixed-rate VA mortgages with 15-, 25- and 30-year terms.
3. Best for First Time Home Buyers: USAA
If you’re a first time home buyer, it’s best to work with a lender with a variety of mortgage options. USAA is one of the best companies for first time buyers because it offers several mortgages. It has several VA mortgages, conventional mortgages and a special loan option it has designed for first time home buyers.
USAA has a reputation for excellent service. Its loan officers will help you choose the best loan for your needs, whether it’s a VA loan or something else.
4. Best for Experience: Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union is one of the top 5 VA lenders in the country. That level of experience is essential. VA loans have specific requirements, and the documentation involved may be daunting for less experienced VA hoam lenders.
Navy Federal offers fixed-rate VA loans, conventional loans, FHA loans and proprietary products. It works exclusively with military members and their families, so its loan officers understand your unique needs.
5. Best for Low Credit Scores: Caliber Home Loans
Not everyone has perfect credit. Caliber Home Loans works with borrowers with credit scores as low as 580. With a score of 580–619, you may qualify for a fixed-rate mortgage. With a credit score of 620 or higher, you may qualify for ARMs as well.
Caliber Home Loans also offers several other loan products if a VA loan isn’t the right fit for you. Caliber is one of the top nonbank lenders in the country.
Applying for a VA Loan
The first step to getting a VA loan is getting your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Many service members can get their COEs through the eBenefits portal. If you can’t get your COE through the portal, contact the VA for assistance.
After you have your COE, gather the rest of your financial documents. You will need recent tax returns, bank statements and pay stubs. Contact a few lenders and get a quote. Choose a lender for preapproval. After you’re preapproved, look for a home. When you’ve found a home, choose a lender that provides a good rate and excellent service. Finish your application, and once your lender has formally approved your application, you’ll be ready to close and get your keys.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Q: How do I get pre-approved?
First, you need to fill out an application and submit it to the lender of your choice. For the application you need 2 previous years of tax returns including your W-2’s, your pay stub for past month, 2 months worth of bank statements and the lender will run your credit report. Once the application is submitted and processed it takes anywhere from 2-7 days to be approved or denied. Check out our top lenders and lock in your rate today!
2) Q: How much interest will I pay?
Interest that you’ll pay is based on the interest rate that you received at the time of loan origination, how much you borrowed and the term of the loan. If you borrow $208,800 at 3.62% then over the course of a 30-year loan you will pay $133,793.14 in interest, assuming you make the monthly payment of $951.65. For a purchase mortgage rate get a quote here. If you are looking to refinance you can get started quickly here.
3) Q: How much should I save for a down payment?
Most lenders will recommend that you save at least 20% of the cost of the home for a down payment. It is wise to save at least 20% because the more you put down, the lower your monthly payment will be and ultimately you will save on interest costs as well. In the event that you are unable to save 20% there are several home buyer programs and assistance, especially for first time buyers. Check out the lenders that specialize in making the home buying experience a breeze.
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