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By José Omar Rodríguez and Andrea Agostini
Updated: May 7, 2021 1:51 PM ET
Veterans United VA Loans

Our Partner

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Minimum Credit Score

650

Mobile App

No

Loan Types

30-year Fixed-Rate, IRRRL, 30-year Cash-Out, Fixed Jumbo, 30-year Streamline Jumbo, 30-year Cash-Out Jumbo

Quicken Loans VA Loans

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Check Price
Minimum Credit Score

620

Mobile App

Yes

Loan Types

15-year Fixed-Rate, 25-year Fixed Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

USAA Bank VA Loans

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Check Price
Minimum Credit Score

620

Mobile App

Yes

Loan Types

15-year Fixed-Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

PenFed VA Loans

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Minimum Credit Score

N/A

Mobile App

No

Loan Types

15-year Fixed-Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

Navy Federal Credit Union VA Loans

Check Price
Minimum Credit Score

N/A

Mobile App

Yes

Loan Types

15-year Fixed-Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

Minimum Credit Score

650

620

620

N/A

N/A

Mobile App

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Loan Types

30-year Fixed-Rate, IRRRL, 30-year Cash-Out, Fixed Jumbo, 30-year Streamline Jumbo, 30-year Cash-Out Jumbo

15-year Fixed-Rate, 25-year Fixed Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

15-year Fixed-Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

15-year Fixed-Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

15-year Fixed-Rate, 30-year Fixed-Rate

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 covers the Veterans Affairs (VA)’s service requirements and offers a list of the best VA loan lenders of 2021 to give you a good starting point. We also include the types of VA loans available and a step-by-step guide to the application process.

Our Top Picks for Best VA Loan Lenders

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$0 Down VA Loans for Veterans, active-duty and surviving spouses
VA Loans to buy a home without a down payment. Click on your state to get started.
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Best VA Loan Lenders Reviews

Veterans United Home Loans – Best for Loan Variety

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
640 $0 for qualifying borrowers
Pros Cons
Fixed and adjustable-rate mortgages, FHA loans, USDA loans, jumbo loans, refinance loans, and cash-out loans High fees and rates
Online pre-qualification and application process Limited in-person service
Education resources for veterans with the collaboration of former senior enlisted military leaders No home equity loans or HELOCs
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

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.

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Quicken Loans– Best Online Loan Lender

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
620 3% on conventional loans
Pros Cons
Offers purchase, refinance, jumbo, fixed, adjustable, FHA, and 15-, 25-, or 30-year fixed-rate VA loans for purchase or refi High fees and rates
Features an easy online application process through the Rocket Mortgage platform No home equity loans and home equity lines of credit
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

Quicken Loans provides simultaneous online support through their Rocket Mortgage platform and personal support through their 3,000 mortgage bankers.

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, Quicken has been the highest-ranked lender in mortgage origination satisfaction in the J.D. Power U.S. Primary Mortgage Origination Satisfaction Study for eleven years running.

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USAA – Best for Low Fees

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
620 $0 for qualifying borrowers
Pros Cons
Offers conventional mortgages, FHA loans, and VA primary, refinance, jumbo, and cash-out loans Must be a military or military spouse
Provides access to real estate professionals through their USAA Real Estate network Lacks fully online application process
No underwriting or documentation fees
Low minimum credit score

USAA stands out for their lack of fees. However, they do charge the VA- mandated 1% origination fee on home loans.

USAA 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.

PenFed Credit Union – Best for Competitive Rates

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
620 3% on conventional loans and $0 on VA loans
Pros Cons
Offers 30-and-15-year fixed-rate VA mortgages, and refinancing for existing VA loans Additional fees apply to VA loan except the lender fee
No lender fees Lacks fully online application process
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

Though 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 ineligible 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.

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
640 $0 for qualifying borrowers
Pros Cons
Offers home equity loans and HELOCs Membership is limited to current and former military, their spouses, and certain federal employees, contractors, and retirees
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

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.

Veterans First Mortgage – Best for Online Loan Accessibility

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
660 0%
Pros Cons
Offers low- or no-down-payment mortgages, fixed and adjustable VA loan rates, jumbo loans, and refinancing No home equity loans and home equity lines of credit
When you apply, you’ll be assigned a dedicated VA loan specialist High credit score requirements
Specialized in VA loans and military borrowers Rates are not disclosed online
Licensed in 50 states and Washington, DC

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.

LendingTree – Best for Comparing VA Loan Rates

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
N/A N/A
Pros Cons
Offers access to many other financial products, even debt relief programs Not a loan servicer
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

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.

New American Funding – Best for Low Credit

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
580 3%
Pros Cons
Offers purchase, refinance, home equity, reverse, jumbo, fixed, adjustable, FHA, and USDA loans Not available in New York State or Hawaii
Features fully online application, rate quotes, and document tracking Loan fees and rates are not disclosed online
Lends to people with “nontraditional credit”
Branches in 31 states

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.

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Freedom Mortgage – Best for VA Streamline Refinancing

Minimum credit score Minimum down payment
580 3%
Pros Cons
Offers conventional, FHA, USDA, and jumbo loans No home equity loans or HELOCs
Includes benefits for surviving spouses No option to pre-qualify online
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

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. Use Freedom Mortgage’s refinance calculator to estimate your savings.

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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.

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

How do you choose the right VA loan?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers four different loan types, each with its own set of requirements and limitations. Evaluate all loan options before deciding which best VA mortgage lender suits your needs.

Purchase loan
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 January 1, 2020, there is no limit to the amount of money that can be borrowed with this program (aside from the limits imposed by creditworthiness and DTI).
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VA Loan Eligibility

The VA home loan program and its military benefits are available for:

  • Active-duty military members
  • Veterans
  • 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. Read our 7 tips for getting a VA loan for more information.

Service requirements:

  • 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.

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 Wen LGY 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.

In the case of Native American Direct Loans, you’d have to apply for your COE and contact your state’s regional VA loan center to start the process directly with the government.

If they decide to accept your application, the lender will 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 that is 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
  • Appraisals
  • 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.

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

COVID-19 and VA Mortgage Loans

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) protects VA home loan borrowers by allowing:

  • Mortgage forbearance
  • Moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions
  • Credit score protection

On February 16, 2021, the Federal government announced the extension of Covid-19 forbearance and foreclosure moratorium until June 30, 2021. As the deadline approaches, homeowners should keep an eye out for new updates.

You can request forbearance by calling your VA mortgage lender. There is no documentation required. However, we recommend you continue making your loan payments, if you are able to.

If you find yourself in danger of losing your home once the moratorium ends, you should contact the VA for immediate help.

Protection for your Credit Score Through CARES

The CARES Act provides protection by establishing rules for how VA loan lenders report information to the credit bureaus:

Forbearance for Borrowers Up-To-Date on their VA Payments Forbearance For Borrowers Behind on their VA Payments
Your VA mortgage lender is required to report your account as “current” Your VA lender is required to maintain “delinquent status” until payments are up to date
The account can be marked as being in “forbearance” Your credit score will reflect the impact of the delinquency
Forbearance will not negatively affect your credit score Forbearance will not impact your credit score any further

Best VA Loan Lenders FAQ

What is a VA loan?

A VA loan is a no-down-payment mortgage military benefit partially backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Borrowers can use the loans for the purchase of a primary residence or to refinance an existing mortgage.

How to apply for a VA loan?

To get a VA loan, borrowers must meet the basic VA loan requirements outlined above. To start, select an eligible VA loan lender, apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), apply for pre-approval and shop the housing market. After signing a purchase agreement with the seller, you can submit your application and the lender will order an appraisal. If the underwriting process goes smoothly, you can finally close your loan.

Buyers interested in NADLs must begin the process directly with the government by contacting their state’s VA loan regional center.

How to qualify for a VA loan?

To qualify for a VA loan, you or your spouse must meet the basic service requirements set by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), have a valid Certificate of Eligibility, and meet the lender’s income and credit requirements.

How many times can you use a VA loan?

You can use a VA loan more than once but only to purchase or refinance a principal residence, provided you meet the availability requirements. However, you may be able to use a partial entitlement for a second loan, if you haven't used it all on your first mortgage. Bear in mind that using a partial entitlement may mean you'll need to shell out a down payment, and a higher VA funding fee.

How long do you have to live in a house with a VA loan?

The veteran must either personally live in the property or intend to personally move into the property within a reasonable time. VA considers 60 days “reasonable time” for homebuyers to occupy the home after the loan closing.

Do sellers prefer VA loans?

There used to be some resistance from sellers regarding VA loans but many of the reasons — slow-closing times, and sellers having to pay all closing costs — are no longer true.

It’s true that VA loan homebuyers cannot be required to pay closing costs, but these are often wrapped into the lender’s origination fee. Further, the VA does allow borrowers to pay up to 4% in buyer's costs if they so choose.

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.

Customer Service

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 May 2021

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