A VA mortgage loan is a military benefit that doesn’t require a down payment or mortgage insurance. However, your credit score and credit history may still affect whether a lender is willing to offer you a loan with zero down payment.
Our guide to the best VA loan lenders covers the type of loans available, a step-by-step guide to the application process, and the Veterans Affairs (VA)’s service requirements.
Our Top Picks for Best VA Loan Lenders
- Veterans United Home Loans - Best for Loan Variety
- Quicken Loans by Rocket Mortgage - Best Online Loan Lender
- USAA - Best for Low Fees
- PenFed Credit Union - Best for Low Rates
- Navy Federal Credit Union - Best for First-Time Home Buyers
- Veterans First Mortgage - Best for Online Loan Accessibility
- Lending Tree - Best for Comparing VA Loan Rates
- New American Funding - Best For Low Credit
- Freedom Mortgage - Best for Streamline Refinancing
Best VA Loan Lenders Reviews
- Fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages, FHA loans, USDA loans, jumbo loans, refinance loans, and cash-out loans
- Online pre-qualification and application process
- Education resources for veterans with the collaboration of former senior enlisted military leaders
- Free credit counseling services for homebuyers through Lighthouse program
- Access to over 6,000 real estate agents specialized in VA home purchases through Veterans United Realty
- High fees and rates
- Limited in-person service
- No home equity loans or HELOCs
Veterans United offers every mortgage loan product available under the VA loan program except home equity loans or HELOCs. We liked the lender’s focus on customer experience, with a robust education section on their website, user-friendly online approvals, and 24/7 help over the phone.
Veterans United has slightly higher rates and fees than other lenders on our list, and only offers in-person service in 18 states. However, in the JD Power 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Survey, this lender would have had a high rating had it been able to qualify.
- Offers purchase, refinance, jumbo, fixed, adjustable, FHA, and 15-, 25-, or 30-year fixed-rate VA loans for purchase or refi
- Features an easy online application process through the Rocket Mortgage platform
- Offers VA loan approval even for DTI ratios as high as 60%
- Features Instant employment and income verification
- Offers custom fixed-rate loan terms through YOURGage loans
- High fees and rates
- No home equity loans and home equity lines of credit
Quicken doesn’t offer home equity loans or home equity lines of credit because they’re a non-depository lender. Their rates and fees are also a bit higher than average.
Nonetheless, it has been the highest-ranked lender in the J.D. Power U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study for eleven years running.
- Offers conventional mortgages, FHA loans, and VA primary, refinance, jumbo, and cash-out loans
- Provides access to real estate professionals through their USAA Real Estate network
- No underwriting or documentation fees
- Low minimum credit score
- Must be a military or military spouse
- Lacks fully online application process
USAA charges no fees, except for the VA- mandated 1% origination fee on home loans.
USAA also pays for the appraisal, title, and VA funding fee for their streamlined mortgage refinance loans, meaning no additional out-of-pocket expenses for their customers.
USAA’s online platform allows customers to determine loan eligibility, upload documents, estimate how much they qualify for, and get pre-approved. However, the application cannot be finalized online.
The lender favors phone service and employs dedicated loan officers that guide customers through every step of the borrowing process.
- Offers 30-and-15-year fixed-rate VA mortgages, and refinancing for existing VA loans
- No lender fees
- Offers lender credit for purchase mortgages
- Features member discounts on asset protection programs, home security systems, tax preparation services, and car, life or home insurance
- Serves members in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, Germany, Spain, Italy, Okinawa, and the UK
- Additional fees apply to VA loan except the lender fee
- Lacks fully online application process
PenFed offers lower, more competitive rates for their VA loans. However, although PenFed has low rates and no lender fees, some additional fees do apply, including the VA funding fee, title, appraisal, and tax services fees, and more.
Anybody that opens a savings account can apply for a VA loan, since PenFed has an open national membership charter.
PenFed also has a number of conventional financing options for customers who aren't eligible for VA loans, or military members looking to purchase a second home.
We especially liked the educational efforts of the PenFed Foundation, a non-profit focused on financial literacy, short-term financial assistance, credit-building, and homeownership. Its assistance and resources are accessible to active-duty service members, veterans, and Wounded Warriors.
- Offers home equity loans and HELOCs
- Offers purchase, refinance, jumbo, fixed, adjustable and VA loans
- Provides loan rate lock-ins with Freedom Lock
- Features memThe RealtyPlus program helps you find a VA real estate specialist and get up to $8,000 in cash-back
- Real Match Guarantee will match another lender's lower rate or they'll deposit $1,000 into your account
- Membership is limited to current and former military, their spouses, and certain federal employees, contractors, and retirees
The Navy Federal Credit Union offers two mortgage products designed specifically for members of the military or military families who don’t meet the minimum requirement for a VA loan or are first-time homebuyers.
The Homebuyers Choice Mortgage is a fixed-rate 30-year loan with no mortgage insurance premiums and 100% financing. It is specifically tailored to first-time buyers.
The Military Choice Mortgage has the same advantages as the Homebuyers Choice, but with added benefits. It offers special pricing on interest rates and origination fees to active-duty borrowers and veterans.
- Offers low- or no-down-payment mortgages, fixed and adjustable VA loan rates, jumbo loans, and refinancing
- When you apply, you'll be assigned a dedicated VA loan specialist
- Specialized in VA loans and military borrowers
- Licensed in 50 states and Washington, DC
- No home equity loans and home equity lines of credit
- High credit score requirements
- Rates are not disclosed online
Though Veterans First rates are slightly higher than others on our list, they’re still competitive — and total loan costs tend toward the lower end of the spectrum.
Veterans First stands out for its focus on customer service and online loan accessibility. Military customers who might be deployed overseas can take advantage of their online loan application, track and upload documents, and e-sign important papers.
- Offers access to many other financial products, even debt relief programs
- Features an easy-to-use mobile app
- Partners with 1,500 potential lenders
- Features 0% down payment options
- Allows you to receive competing quotes from multiple lenders with a single form
- Not a loan servicer
LendingTree’s peer-to-peer lending marketplace offers a wide array of VA mortgage options. Its platform allows military borrowers to compare competing quotes all in one place. This comes in handy with rarer loans, such as ARMs (adjustable-rate mortgages) since using a marketplace can help you consolidate offers.
Not only is LendingTree free to use, accessing competing offers won’t affect your credit score, while still allowing you to comparison shop.
- Offers purchase, refinance, home equity, reverse, jumbo, fixed, adjustable, FHA, and USDA loans
- Features fully online application, rate quotes, and document tracking
- Lends to people with "nontraditional credit"
- Branches in 31 states
- Not available in New York State or Hawaii
- Loan fees and rates are not disclosed online
New American Funding uses manual underwriting to look at each borrower’s financial situation more comprehensively, lending to borrowers with credit scores as low as 580. NAF evaluates your creditworthiness by looking at “nontraditional credit”, like on-time payments of utility bills and rent.
NAF offers a 14-day closing guarantee and will often work with down payment assistance programs to help customers fund the down payment and closing costs. Despite this, NAF’s lender fees are not significantly lower than other lenders.
- Offers conventional, FHA, USDA, and jumbo loans
- Includes benefits for surviving spouses
- Provides the option to visit brick-and-mortar branches or set up online appointments
- Features online support to upload documents, provide an e-signature and track your loan
- No home equity loans or HELOCs
- No option to pre-qualify online
Freedom Mortgage offers loans to veterans with lower credit scores if they meet other financial and income criteria. If you are looking to reduce your current mortgage interest rate, Freedom Mortgage offers the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) program, also called a streamline refinance program.
The benefits of a VA streamline refinance include lower rates, better terms, low funding fees, no income verification, and no home appraisal. Your savings will depend on your current interest rate, the new interest rate, the closing costs and more.
Other Companies We Considered
When we looked at the VA lending industry, we found that many of the biggest or most talked-about lenders didn’t necessarily offer the best products, though they might excel in other areas.
- Large selection of government-backed loan options in all 50 states, including State Housing Finance Agency Loans
- Multiple online tools, including a Mortgage Information Center and several calculators
- Wide selection of conventional loans for purchase and refinance
- Specialty products include loans for construction and renovation, multiple properties, high balances and a jumbo adjustable-rate option
- High number of complaints in the CFPB
- Home equity line of credit charges an annual fee of $75
- Posts current rates on its website
- Home Insight® Tracker helps borrowers track and update their application
- PNC Bank services most of its home loans
- Mortgage application can't be completed online
- In-person service not available in every state
- Does not publish minimum credit requirements
- Published rates assume a 700 credit score, and it can't be customized
- Has digital income, asset and employment verification
- Over 200 affiliated branches nationwide
- Proprietary software allows for a fully digital mortgage
- Rates and fees not available online, only by speaking with a loan officer
- No home equity loans or lines of credit
- VA loans not a major focus
- Loan eligibility criteria not disclosed
- Low credit requirement of just 580 for VA loans
- Collaborates with many down payment assistance programs
- Services its own loans
- Not licensed in New York or New Jersey
- Loan origination fees can be high for conventional loans
- Nationwide reach, but physical branches in just 25 states
- Doesn't disclose fees
- Large variety of eligible property types for VA loans
- Offers fixed- and adjustable-rate VA mortgages, as well as VA cash-out refis and VA IRRRLs
- Rates not disclosed online without an application with personal information
- Not available in Alaska or West Virginia
- Rates and fees are generally middle of the road, rather than low
- Minimum credit score for VA loans is 580, though shown rates assume a score of 680
- Online application, documentation, and loan management
- Below industry average in JD Power's 2020 Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study
- Limited VA loan offering
- No home equity products
- Offers VA 15- and 30-year fixed-rate, VA IRRRL and VA Cash-out Refinance mortgages
- Streamlined underwriting process
- Allows 100% funding of the property
- Rates and fees not available online
- Sparse consumer education resources
- Quick processing times don't necessarily apply to government-backed loans
- VA loans, VA IRRRL, and VA refinance loans are a focus area for the NBKC
- Features customized rates and fee estimates without needing to input personal information
- Application process and loan tracking can be done fully online
- Best for borrowers with fair to good credit - minimum credit score of 640 for VA loans
- Home equity products and construction loans only available in the Kansas City area
- No home renovation loans
- Lack of transparency around fees
- Considers alternative credit data in some cases
- Specializes in VA lending
- Ample educational resources and clearly outlined qualification requirements
- No online resources for application or loan tracking
- High origination fee of $995 on all home loans except VA mortgages
- Branch network limited to 11 offices in Missouri
- No renovation mortgages or home equity products
VA Loans Guide
How do VA loans work?
VA loans are mortgage loans that are issued by private lenders, but guaranteed by the Federal government through the Department of Veteran Affairs.
As part of the guarantee, the government will repay part or all of the loan if the borrower were to default on the loan. VA loans also offer a number of benefits to qualifying military service members.
Who's eligible for a VA Loan?
The VA home loan program and its military benefits are available for:
- Active-duty military members
- Past and present members of the National Guard
- Surviving spouses of military personnel who died in combat
A VA home loan does not have a credit score minimum, but most participating VA loan lenders do require a minimum credit score of 620. Our advice? Always check your credit report and your debt-to-income ratio before applying for a loan and improve it if you can. For more information, read our 5 tips for getting a VA loan, as well as our guide on how to remove items from your credit report.
Veterans and active-duty service members need to have served at least 90 days during wartime, or 181 days during peacetime.
National Guard members must have served at least 90 days of active-duty service during wartime or six years of creditable service in the Select Reserves or Guard.
Once you have been deemed eligible, you must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE proves to the VA mortgage lender that you meet the VA’s eligibility requirements.
Types of VA Loans
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers four different loan types (purchase loan, interest rate reduction refinance loan, cash-out refinance loan, Native American direct loan), each with its own set of requirements and limitations. Evaluate all loan options before deciding which best VA mortgage lender suits your needs.
|Used to purchase a primary residence, make energy-efficient upgrades to an existing home, or buy property to construct a home, these loans can be fixed-rate or adjustable-rate.|
|The former means monthly payments remain the same through the life of the loan, whereas adjustable-rate loans feature interest rates and mortgage payments that may change.|
|Purchase loans cannot be used to buy a vacation home, rental property, or a fixer-upper in need of major repairs.|
|The VA itself no longer places maximum loan limits, but your VA mortgage lender might.|
|In most US counties, the maximum loan amount for 2021 is $548,250 but it can be as high as $822,375 in more expensive areas.|
|Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)|
|Designed to refinance an existing VA mortgage. Streamlined refinance can get you a lower interest rate, reduce the loan term, or go from a variable-rate to a fixed-rate mortgage.|
|Cash-out refinance loan|
|A VA cash-out refinance replaces an existing VA loan and changes its terms to take advantage of home equity. The cash-out option also serves to refinance a non-VA-backed loan into a VA-backed loan.|
|Native American Direct loan (NADL)|
|NADL is the only VA loan that is managed and funded directly by the government entity. Veterans who are Native American (or whose spouses are Native American) are eligible for this loan. It can be used to buy, build, or improve a home on federal trust land.|
|As of July 1, 2021, there is no limit to the amount of money that can be borrowed with this program (aside from the limits imposed by creditworthiness, DTI, and general Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac conforming limits, though borrowers can access higher limits if they choose to make a downpayment).|
If you also want to explore other options or check out the current mortgage rates, our page of the best mortgage lenders can be a good place to start.
How do you choose the right VA loan?
When shopping for a VA loan, consider the advantages and disadvantages of this type of loan. For example, although VA loans offer lower interest rates than a traditional mortgage, they are not necessarily the best choice for buying, improving, building, or refinancing rental properties. Read below to find out more about the pros and cons of VA loans.
Advantages of VA loans
- Lower interest rates and credit score requirements than required for conventional loans
- Higher chances of approval despite high debt amount
- No down payment, meaning fewer out-of-pocket costs
- No need for private mortgage insurance (PMI) or mortgage insurance premium (MIP)
- More lenient refinance options than conventional loans
- Access to mortgage relief options like mortgage modifications or a forbearance period
Disadvantages of VA loans
- Lenders may have additional requirements for homebuyers since the VA only covers 25% of the loan
- Closing costs aren’t covered
- The VA funding fee is non-negotiable
- VA loans may exceed the market value of the home after adding up the funding fee
- VA loans cannot be used for rental properties
- The home must pass VA safety requirements, including inspections for termites, water quality, and more
Choosing the Right Lender
When shopping for a VA loan lender, we recommend the following steps.
First, choose a lender that can address your economic needs. If you’ve had financial trouble in the past, focus on VA lenders with lower credit minimums. Second, get prequalified, as this lets you know if you’re eligible for a VA loan, and how much you can borrow with the lender. Finally, compare quotes from at least three different companies, since this lets you see how much you’d be spending if you committed to a specific lender.
VA loan terms, rates, monthly payments, and closing costs vary greatly from provider to provider, so having multiple quotes can help you choose the one that hits all your financial goals.
- Choose lenders that work with your economic needs in mind
- Get prequalified
- Get and compare quotes from at least three lenders
How to apply for a VA loan
After confirming eligibility for a VA loan, take the following steps to apply:
- Gather the information you need to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility(COE). You can apply online, through your lender using a WebLGY system, or by mail by downloading a VA Form 26-1880.
- Submit your loan application. The lender will request a VA appraisal of the house. The lender reviews the appraisal and your credit income and decides if they accept your loan application.
- Apply for your COE and contact your state’s regional VA loan center to start the process directly with the government, in the case of Native American Direct Loans.
Once your lender accepts your application, they'll work with you to select a title company (or entity) to close on the house.
If you have any questions that your lender can’t answer, please call your VA regional loan center at 877-827-3702. You can also watch a video about VA home loans and how to apply.
What are the costs associated with VA loans?
The VA Funding Fee is an upfront mortgage insurance provision added to the mortgage amount.
The fee can range from 1.4% to 3.6% of the loan, but the exact percentage will depend on the down payment, loan type, and whether it is your first time using a VA-backed loan. The funding fee is added to the mortgage amount and can be either financed over the term of the loan or paid upfront at closing.
It may be waived for veterans on a service-related disability, or active-duty service members that can provide proof of being a Purple Heart recipient at closing time.
Other closing costs associated with VA loans include:
- Real estate commissions
- Brokerage fees
- Loan origination fees
- Discount points
- Title fees
VA mortgage lending rules allow a property seller to make “seller’s concessions," that is, to contribute to the veteran’s closing costs for up to 4% of the total loan amount. The veteran can also cover the closing costs through a gift from a family member.
To help calculate how much you'd pay for a new mortgage, check out our mortgage calculator.
If you're looking into refinance, our mortgage refinance calculator can give you an idea of how much you'd pay.
VA Loan mortgage rates
Mortgage rates for VA loans are typically lower than conventional mortgages and even FHA loans. However, interest rates are set by private lenders, not the federal government, and are subject to daily market fluctuations.
Rates will also vary slightly for each VA loan type (fixed, streamline, cash-out and jumbo) and term (15-year or 30-year).
As of May 2021, the VA loan mortgage rates from some of our featured lenders range from 2.519% to 3.834% APR.
Many lenders list their mortgage rates online, but others give you the option to file for an online quote or contact one of their representatives for more information.
How We Chose the Best VA Mortgage Lenders
Experience in VA Loans
We prioritized VA mortgage lenders that process many VA loans. The home buying and mortgage application processes can be complicated. Having a VA mortgage lender who is familiar with this process ensures that every step is taken care of in a timely manner.
We highlighted VA mortgage lenders that excel in customer satisfaction and provide first-time homeowners step-by-step guidance throughout the pre-approval, application, and loan closing process.
Summary of Money’s Best VA Home Loan Lenders of September 2021
- Veterans United Home Loans – Best for Loan Variety
- Quicken Loans – Best Online Loan Lender
- USAA– Best for Low Fees
- PenFed Credit Union – Best for Competitive Rates
- Navy Federal Credit Union – Best for First-Time Home Buyers
- Veterans First Mortgage – Best for Online Loan Accessibility
- Lending Tree – Best for Comparing VA Loan Rates
- New American Funding – Best For Low Credit
- Freedom Mortgage – Best for Streamline Refinancing