You’ve served our country, and you deserve the best. The Department of Veterans Affairs distributes benefits to veterans and their dependents, and if you’ve served, you’re eligible for special financial programs — including VA loans.
Refinancing a loan can be the best decision —a VA refinance loan can help you lower your mortgage interest rate or take out some much-needed cash. Benzinga’s done the work to boil down the VA refinance process and recommend mortgage lenders to help you start weighing your options.
Best VA Refinance Mortgage Lenders:
- Best Overall for VA Loans: Veterans United
- Best for IRRRL: USAA
- Best for Credit Union Service: Navy Federal Credit Union
- Best for In-Person Service: loanDepot
- Best for Education: Veterans First Mortgage
Best VA Refinance Mortgage Lenders
To find the best rate and terms, contact multiple lenders. Here are Benzinga’s best refinance mortgage companies for veterans and current service members.
Best Overall: Veterans United
Veterans United has an impressive track record for customer satisfaction, making it our pick for the best mortgage company. It’s a top VA lender and offers extensive experience navigating the process.
It offers an easy-to-use website with educational material to help you make an informed decision. You can connect with Veterans United by phone or get a quote started on its website.
Best for IRRRL: USAA
USAA is a financial services organization that exclusively serves members and families of the armed forces. It has a reputation for excellent service, and USAA offers IRRRLs with no origination fee. It also covers the appraisal, title and VA funding fee, which lowers your closing costs.
You can view USAA’s IRRRL interest rates on its website, making it easy to comparison shop. USAA doesn’t have an online mortgage option, so you’ll need to call for more information.
Best for Credit Union Service: Navy Federal Credit Union
Navy Federal Credit Union has more than 8 million members, and it’s been serving members of the armed forces and their families since 1933. It offers VA cash-out refinances, IRRRLs, FHA refinances and more.
Navy Federal Credit Union offers outstanding customer service with representatives available around the clock.
Best for In-Person Service: loanDepot
loanDepot has more than 150 branch locations throughout the U.S., making it easy to connect with a loan officer to review your VA refinance options. loanDepot is a heavy-hitter in the mortgage industry — it offers cash-out refinances and IRRRLs, as well as conventional and VA loan products.
If you don’t live near a branch, you can reach a loan officer by phone or start the application process online.
Best for Education: Veterans First Mortgage
Veterans First Mortgage trains its employees to serve the unique needs of military families. Its loan officers work closely with you to make sure you are satisfied with your refinancing process. Veterans First has served more than 175,000 veteran families over 30 years and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
VA Streamline (IRRRL) Refinance
The Department of Veterans Affairs oversees all VA loan programs, including its refinance programs. Private lenders provide VA loans, and the loans have to comply with VA rules.
Refinancing is when you replace your current home loan with a new home loan. You should only consider refinancing if the new mortgage puts you in a better financial position.
One of the VA’s options for refinancing is called the interest rate reduction refinance loan or IRRRL. This type of mortgage improves your financial position when it replaces your current loan with one that has better terms.
Here are a few of the benefits of an IRRRL:
- No appraisal needed
- The ability to roll closing costs into the new mortgage
- You can choose from any IRRRL lender
You may switch to an IRRRL to secure a lower interest rate or transition from an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) to a fixed-rate mortgage. An adjustable-rate mortgage has an interest rate that can increase over time, while a fixed-rate mortgage maintains the same interest rate.
Another option to refinance mortgage loans is a VA-backed cash-out refinance loan. A cash-out refinance loan allows you to replace your current home loan with a new one and take cash out of your home equity. The cash could help you pay off debt, improve your home, pay for school — anything you might need.
You can use a VA cash-out refinance loan to refinance VA loans and non-VA loans. The amount you can take out in cash depends on the equity you’ve built up in your home. Equity is the difference between how much you owe on your home and how much your home is worth. Let’s say your home is worth $200,000, and you owe $125,000 on your mortgage. In this case, you have $75,000 in equity ($200,000 – $125,000 = $75,000). Your lender can help you determine how much cash you can pull from your equity.
VA Refinance Eligibility
A VA-approved lender is the best place to refinance your mortgage, but which loan options are best? Your best choice depends on your eligibility — check out the requirements for each refinancing option.
To qualify for an IRRRL, you must:
- Have a VA home loan
- Currently live in the home or have previously lived in the home you are refinancing
- Provide the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) used to originally purchase the home
- If you have a second mortgage, the lender must agree to stay in the second position
You may have to pay a funding fee, but you could roll the fee into your new mortgage.
Cash-Out Refinance Eligibility
To qualify for a VA-approved cash-out refinance loan, you must:
- Live in the home you’re planning to refinance
- Qualify for a COE
- Meet your lender’s credit and income requirements
The VA provides a COE based on your service history. If you’re active duty, you need to have served for at least 90 continuous days. If you’re a veteran, the service requirements vary upon when and where you served.
For example, if you served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975, you need to have served for 90 total days. It may be less if you were discharged due to a service-related disability.
If you served between August 2, 1990 and the present, you must have served for 24 continuous months or the full period you were called for active duty. Again, it may be less if you were discharged due to a service-related disability, a hardship or a reduction in force.
The best way to determine eligibility is to apply online via the eBenefits portal.
Choosing a Lender
Choosing the right VA lender is essential. Steer clear of lenders that use high-pressure sales tactics or promise thousands of dollars in cash back. The VA warns that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Look for a lender with a long track record of success with VA loans. IRRRLs have minimal paperwork, but closing is still a process. Cash-out refinances are more involved. In addition to providing your COE, you’ll also need to provide financial information such as:
- Your pay stubs from the past month
- W-2s from the past 2 years
- Your tax returns from the past 1 or 2 years
Your lender will also order an appraisal, which determines the value of your home.
Regardless of which loan you choose, it’s important to review your terms carefully. Keep interest rates, closing costs and the service you need along the way in mind before you make your final choice.
Is a VA Refinance Right for You?
Deciding whether or not to refinance can be tough, but after your years of service, you deserve the best. Approach your refinancing decision by evaluating your goals. A VA refinance loan can put more money back in your pocket with a lower interest rate or help you pay off your home faster with a shorter term. Cashing out your equity can be more complicated, but the right lender can provide you with the information to make your best decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
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!
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.
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.