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The best VA mortgage lenders of July 2021

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The best VA mortgage lenders of July 2021

A VA mortgage is a home loan for active military, veterans, and their family members. You can buy a home without making a down payment, and the VA doesn’t limit how much you can borrow. You’ll also probably pay a lower interest rate than you would on a conventional mortgage.

The best VA

mortgage lenders
have low minimum credit score requirements. Most have strong customer satisfaction and trustworthiness scores. And many have special features such as live online chat or digital closing options.

Here are our favorite VA mortgage lenders:

Bank of America

The pros of Bank of America:

The cons of Bank of America:

  • Doesn’t accept alternative forms of credit — you must show your credit score
  • You can’t refinance into a VA mortgage unless you’re already a Bank of America customer

Carrington Mortgage Services

The pros of Carrington:

  • Qualify for a VA loan with a low credit score
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit, such as proof you pay bills on time
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB

The cons of Carrington:

  • Not available to residents of Massachusetts or North Dakota
  • Can’t see personalized rates online

Fairway Independent Mortgage Company

The pros of Fairway Independent:

  • Available in all 50 states
  • Qualify for a VA mortgage with a low credit score
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit, such as proof of paying bills
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Option to close on your mortgage digitally instead of in person

The cons of Fairway Independent:

  • Rates aren’t posted online

Movement Mortgage

The pros of Movement Mortgage:

  • Available in all 50 states
  • Qualify for a VA mortgage with a credit score as low as 580
  • May accept alternative credit data if you don’t have a credit score
  • A+ in trustworthiness from the BBB

The cons of Movement Mortgage:

  • No customized mortgage rates shown on the website
  • Doesn’t accept alternative forms of credit if you have a low credit score

The pros of Navy Federal:

  • Available in all 50 states
  • Plenty of options for military members, including VA loans, Military Choice loans, and Homebuyers Choice loans
  • High score in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey (Navy Federal doesn’t qualify to rank because it doesn’t meet certain criteria, but JD Power notes that the credit union would rank highly if eligible)
  • Accepts alternative credit data
  • Although Navy Federal’s minimum credit score is technically 660, the lender looks at your financial profile as a whole and has some flexibility

The cons of Navy Federal:

  • You must qualify to join Navy Federal Credit Union to get a VA loan
  • The BBB doesn’t give it a rating in trustworthiness as the business’ profile is still under review. 

NBKC Bank

The pros of NBKC:

  • Available in all 50 states
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Live online chat makes it easy to speak with an expert about your questions

The cons of NBKC:

  • Doesn’t accept alternative forms of credit, such as utility bills

Rocket Mortgage

The pros of Rocket Mortgage:

The cons of Rocket Mortgage:

  • No physical locations
  • Doesn’t accept alternative credit data — you must show your credit score to get a mortgage

Veterans United

The pros of Veterans United:

  • Available in all 50 states
  • High score in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey (Veterans United doesn’t qualify to rank because it doesn’t meet certain criteria, but JD Power notes that the credit union would rank highly if it were eligible)
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB
  • Accepts alternative forms of credit if you have a low/no credit score

The cons of Veterans United:

  • Difficult to find information for non-VA loans on its website, which makes it difficult to compare your options

US Bank

The pros of US Bank:

  • Available in all 50 US states
  • Offers VA loans to people with low credit scores
  • A+ rating in trustworthiness from the BBB

The cons of US Bank:

Other VA mortgage lenders we considered

  • Chase: Chase doesn’t let you speak on the phone with VA loan officers before applying for a mortgage. You must fill out a form online, and it could take up to 48 hours to hear back.
  • Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo has undergone several public controversies in the past few years, including scandals surrounding mortgages.
  • Guild Mortgage: Guild Mortgage doesn’t show any mortgage rates on its website, let alone customizable ones.
  • Freedom Mortgage: JD Power ranks this lender pretty low in customer satisfaction.
  • LoanDepot: LoanDepot is a good VA mortgage lender overall, but it didn’t have the standout features of our top picks.
  • USAA: USAA is a strong VA mortgage lender. But you can’t speak to a loan officer unless you’re already a USAA member, which makes it difficult to shop around and compare USAA to other lenders.
  • PNC Bank: PNC ranks below our top picks on the JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
  • Pentagon Federal Credit Union: You may like PenFed if you want a company that specializes in working with military members. But it doesn’t have some of the unique features our top picks have.
  • Guaranteed Rate: This lender falls below our top picks in both customer satisfaction and trustworthiness.
  • Flagstar Bank: Flagstar also ranks lower on the JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
  • Veterans First Mortgage: Veterans First requires a 660 credit score. So does Navy Federal, which is on our list, but Navy Federal is a bit offers some flexibility if your score is lower.
  • New American Funding: This is a good lender overall, but the lenders on our list have more features that set them apart.
  • North American Savings Bank: This bank requires a 640 credit score. So does Veterans United, which made it onto our list, but Veterans United is more competitive in that is specializes in working with military members.
  • BNC National Bank: You can get a VA mortgage with a 640 credit score and no down payment, or 620 with a down payment.

Methodology

To choose the top VA mortgage lenders, we looked at three main factors:

  • Affordability/credit score. VA loans are known for being an affordable option, with no down payment for qualifying borrowers. They also usually have more lenient credit score requirements than conventional mortgages. We chose lenders that accept low credit scores or are flexible about credit scores if other parts of your financial profile are strong. Many of the companies on our list also accept alternative forms of credit in place of a credit score.
  • Customer satisfaction. If the lender appeared in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey, we looked at its ranking. If it wasn’t in the survey, we read online customer reviews.
  • Ethics. Almost all of our top picks received an A+ from the Better Business Bureau, which measures companies’ trustworthiness. The exception is Navy Federal, which has no rating from the BBB as the business’ profile is still currently under review. 

Are these lenders trustworthy?

To compare each VA lender’s trustworthiness, we’ve examined grades from the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB grades trustworthiness based on responses to customer complaints, transparency about business practices, and honesty in advertising. Here are the scores for our top picks:

With the exception of Navy Federal Credit Union, each of the lenders on our list has an A+ in trustworthiness from the BBB. Navy Federal has no rating from the BBB as the business’ profile is still currently under review. 

A strong BBB grade doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a smooth relationship with a lender, though. You still may want to read online reviews or ask friends and family about their experiences with companies.

You might also consider recent scandals when making your decision. Despite their good BBB scores, some of the lenders on our list have undergone public controversies in the last few years:

  • In 2019, the US Justice Department required Rocket Mortgage’s parent company Quicken Loans to pay $32.5 million for alleged mortgage fraud. The Justice Department claimed Quicken Loans approved mortgage applications it shouldn’t have. Although Quicken Loans paid the settlement, the company never admitted to mortgage fraud.
  • Navy Federal employee has claimed the lender pressured mortgage underwriters to approve loans even if they didn’t have sufficient reason to believe applicants could repay the loans. Then she filed a lawsuit and said Navy Federal retaliated against her whistleblowing by changing her job duties. She dropped the case in late 2020.
  • In 2020, the Department of Justice charged Bank of America for unfairly denying home loans to adults with disabilities, even though they qualified for loans. Bank of America paid around $300,000 total to people who were refused loans. In 2019, the Department of Labor required Bank of America to pay $4.2 million to people who claimed the bank discriminated against women, Black, and Hispanic applicants in the hiring process.

Frequently asked questions

What is a VA mortgage?

The US government created VA loans in 1944 to help soldiers returning from World War II buy a home. Today, a VA mortgage is still a type of loan for military members to purchase a primary residence, and it includes benefits such as low interest rates and no minimum down payment.

VA loans are guaranteed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. You won’t apply directly through the VA — you’ll apply through a private lender, just as you would with most other mortgages. The VA is in charge of compensating the lender should you fail to make mortgage payments. This makes giving a loan less risky for a lender, so it can offer mortgages with no down payment and better interest rates.

You aren’t limited to getting just one VA loan in your lifetime. If you either a) sell your home and pay off the loan, or b) sell your home to another veteran who takes on the VA loan, you can get another VA loan.

If you completely pay off your mortgage and move later, you are limited to one more VA loan to buy another home, as long as the new home will be your primary residence.

What is the best VA mortgage lender?

The best VA lender is the one that accepts your credit score, offers a low rate, and charges relatively low fees.

Once you’ve narrowed down your options, consider applying for preapproval with your top few choices. Each preapproval letter will explain how much you can borrow and how much you’ll pay. This makes it easy to compare lenders and find the best deal.

How do I qualify for a VA mortgage?

You must be associated with the military to receive a VA loan, but there are a few restrictions. You may be eligible if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You’re an active-duty member.
  • You’re a wartime veteran who has served at least 90 days in active duty, OR a peacetime veteran who has served at least 180 days in active duty, OR a member of the National Guard or Reserves who has served for at least six years.
  • You’re a spouse of a military member who died in active duty or in another military-related incident.
  • You’re a spouse of a prisoner of war or military member who is missing in action.

You don’t necessarily need to have your Certificate of Eligibility in hand when you apply. The lender should be able to look up your COE electronically to check whether you’ve served enough time to qualify.

You also must meet a couple of criteria for your finances and property:

  • Have the minimum credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and income required by the private lender. Each lender sets its own requirements.
  • Your property must meet VA loan guidelines. It should be your primary residence and meet certain safety standards.

Can I be denied a VA mortgage?

If you meet all the usual qualifications to get a VA mortgage, there’s still a chance your application could be denied. The main reason this would happen is if something changed during the application process.

For example, maybe you’re preapproved, but your credit score drastically drops before you make an offer. Or you change jobs and don’t tell the lender. Then the company might deny you a mortgage.

What are the interest rates on VA mortgages?

Interest rates vary by lender, but VA mortgage rates tend to be lower than conventional mortgage rates.

The experts’ advice on choosing a VA mortgage lender

We consulted mortgage and financial experts to inform these picks and provide their insights about mortgage lenders. You can read their insights at the bottom of this post.

PFI Mortgage expert panel



Insider


Here’s what they had to say about VA mortgages. (Some text may be lightly edited for clarity.)

How can someone decide between a conventional mortgage vs. a government-backed mortgage, like a VA loan?

Anthony Park, author:

“It really depends on if you qualify. If you do qualify for FHA or VA mortgages, those are no-brainers, just because the terms are so favorable. If you don’t qualify, you fall back by default onto conventional mortgages.”

Laura Grace Tarpley, Personal Finance Insider:

“A VA mortgage is a great tool for getting a low interest rate and buying a home without a down payment. But if you want to buy an investment home, vacation house, or home that doesn’t meet safety standards, you can’t use a VA loan.”

What factors should someone take into consideration when choosing a mortgage lender?

Anthony Park, author:

“The canned answer is to just go with the lowest rate. However, you also want to take into account who’s going to serve your loan best. Are repayments going to be easy for you? Who is most likely to be able to help you if you need to take out a HELOC or refinance later, versus somebody who’s more of a one-off type?

“They may have the lowest rates to get you involved, but they might have very, very little hand holding after the fact. I wouldn’t recommend paying an exorbitant amount more for potential services in the future, but just don’t always necessarily go with the rock-bottom lowest rate. There’s sometimes a cost with that.”

How can someone know whether they’re financially ready to buy a home?

Lauryn Williams, CFP:

“You should have funds left over after everything is said and done as it pertains to purchasing the home. So if you don’t have an emergency fund plus a down payment, you’re probably not ready to purchase a home. Another thing I think about is credit card debt. While you can be approved for a mortgage with credit card debt and student loans and very little cash on hand, you put yourself in a very risky situation.”

Julie Aragon, Aragon Lending Team:

“You should have enough money for a down payment and closing costs. You don’t have to have any reserves — you can have no money in the bank. But that doesn’t mean you should have no money left over after your down payment and closing costs. I like to say it’d be good to have three to six months of expenses saved after down payment and closing costs. That might be a good sign that you’re ready.”

Mortgage rates by state

Check the latest rates in your state at the links below. 

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
Washington DC
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

 

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