VA Home Loans – Top Lenders, Benefits, & Eligibility Requirements

VA Loans are one of the best ways for military members and veterans to buy a home. VA Loans do not require a down payment, interest rates are generally lower than conventional mortgages, and there is no Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) requirement.
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VA Loan Guide

Get a home loan for up to $484,350 with the VA Loan.

Did you know that if you are currently in the military or are a military veteran, you may be eligible to participate in the VA Loan program?

VA Loans are one of the best benefits programs available to almost all veterans – and one of the best kept secrets!

In this guide, you’ll learn all the steps to qualify, apply, and benefit from a VA home loan.

VA Loan Guide

  1. Best Lenders
  2. What Is It?
  3. Benefits
  4. Eligibility and Financing
  5. Apply
  6. Qualify
  7. Refinance

10 Best VA Loan Lenders in 2021

Something you should know is a VA loan is not offered by the Department of Veteran Affairs, but rather lenders who are backed by the VA.

Here are some of the best VA loan providers right now:

Veterans United Best Veteran-Focused Get Rates
USAA Best Total Package Get Rates
Navy Federal Credit Union Largest Credit Union Get Rates
Quicken Loans Best In-House Loan Servicing Get Rates
JG Wentworth Best Refinance Reduction Get Rates
loanDepot “No Steering” Bias Policy Get Rates
Flagstar Bank Best Full Service Get Rates
Wells Fargo Best Face-to-Face Get Rates
PrimeLending Best For VA Jumbo Loans Get Rates
LendingTree Best For Lender Matching Get Rates

We recommend contacting one of these 10 lenders who specialize in originating VA Loans. The process will go more smoothly than with a local bank who maybe only writes 1 or 2 of these mortgage types each year.

They are generally better able to field your questions, obtain the proper paperwork on time, and coordinate the requirements of a VA Loan.

You can visit one of our trusted partners for more information on VA Loans, such as:

Or, there are companies such as LendingTree, who provide quotes from multiple lenders, which reduces the footwork on your end.

Use the chart to directly apply for a VA loan purchase or a Streamline Refinance from one of our trusted partners.

First time exploring VA loans? Let’s start from the start.

What is a VA Loan?

The VA Loan program is a longstanding program offered by the federal government to military families.

Here’s a quick look at its origins.

History of VA Loans

The VA Loan Guaranty program was created over 65 years ago to honor the service and sacrifice of the nation’s military members.

The VA home loan program was created to spur homeownership among a deserving demographic that has, at times, struggled to find financial stability — current military members and veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

Since the close of World War II, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has helped more than 18 million veterans and their families become homeowners.

How VA Loans Work

A VA Loan is a home loan which is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and can be used to purchase or refinance a home.

VA Loans come with a guarantee from the U.S. government.

The VA agrees to repay about a fourth of a borrower’s mortgage if he or she winds up defaulting.

This limit on potential losses from a VA Loan gives a higher degree of confidence to lenders, who in turn can typically offer qualified borrowers prime mortgages and loan terms.

This would be similar to a USDA loan, FHA loan, or other subsidized VA Loan alternatives.

Benefits of VA Loans

Full Financing

The most popular of all the benefits of VA loans, without a doubt, is that a VA loan does not require a down payment.

In fact, over the past few years, VA loans are the only true mortgages offering 100% financing.

With a VA loan, both active duty service members and eligible veterans are allowed to purchase a home with virtually no money down.

You can even do a VA loan refinance for up to 100% of the appraised value of your current home.

If this describes your situation, a VA loan is the perfect home financing option for you.

But that’s not the only benefit of VA loans.

Flexibility

VA loans can be used just like other types of mortgages.

Depending on the VA loan type you choose, they can be used to purchase or refinance a single-family home, or VA approved condominium.

They can even be used to buy a farm residence, or a multi-family home (up to a four-plex).

But VA loans also have several benefits over other types of mortgages.

All of this, and you may still be able to get some of the best VA loan rates in the marketplace other banks can’t match!

Payment towards Closing Costs

VA loans also enable property sellers to pay up to 4% of the purchase price of a home toward closing costs.

By contrast, conventional mortgages allow only 3% seller paid closing costs on properties purchased with a down payment of less than 20%.

This is another example of how VA loans save veterans money upfront for the purchase of a home when much-needed cash comes in handy.

No PMI

Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, is another unique benefit of VA loans. Like FHA mortgages, VA Loans require an upfront mortgage insurance premium.

This is called the VA Loan funding fee. But that can be added to your VA loan amount and financed over the term of the mortgage.

More significantly, unlike either FHA mortgages or conventional mortgages, VA loans do not require monthly PMI premiums.

Those premiums can be significant, making it more challenging to qualify for a loan or manage a house payment.

But with the VA loan, no monthly PMI is required.

It’s also generally easier for a veteran to qualify for a VA loan based on income and credit than he or she would be for a conventional mortgage.

VA Loan Eligibility and Financing

VA loan eligibility is restricted to veterans only. There’s a misconception that VA  loans are made by the Veterans Administration.

But in fact, the loans are made by private lenders, and only insured by the VA.

In the event of a loan default, the house will be sold to enable the lender to recover the remaining balance of the mortgage.

But if the proceeds from the sale are insufficient to pay the remaining loan balance, the VA will pay up to 25% of the loan amount.

It’s this insurance coverage provided by the VA that encourages lenders to make loans to veterans.

In most areas of the country, VA loans are available for up to $484,350, as of 2019, and even more in high-cost areas.

To be eligible for a VA loan, you have to meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • You’ve served at least 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime
  • You’ve served at least 181 days of active service during peacetime
  • You have at least six years of service in either the National Guard or the Reserves
  • You are the spouse of a service member who has died in the line of duty, or as a result of a service-related disability

How To Apply for a VA Loan

Applying for a VA loan may seem complicated, but it’s no more so than any other type of mortgage.

For the most part, you won’t be dealing with the Veterans Administration itself, but instead with the mortgage lender, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Apart from completing the application paperwork, you’ll need to supply certain documents, like recent pay stubs, W-2’s, and bank statements.

You’ll also need to obtain your VA Certificate of Eligibility, but the mortgage lender will usually be able to help you with this process.

You’ll need to provide a copy of your discharge papers, showing you are honorably discharged, or a copy of your DD214.

How to Qualify for a VA Loan

Once you have your Certificate of Eligibility, it’s just a matter of qualifying for the VA loan.

Qualifying for a VA loan is similar to the way you would qualify for any other type of mortgage, but it can be even easier since the loan comes with the guarantee from the VA.

It’s essential to understand upfront that having a Certificate of Eligibility doesn’t guarantee loan approval.

It only means you’re eligible to participate in the VA loan or rehab loan program. You’ll have to qualify based on:

  1. your credit
  2. your employment
  3. your income, and
  4. your overall debt level

Active members of the military qualify for VA Loans on the basis of their service-related income, while those looking to purchase a home after military separation will be off their retirement or civilian income.

VA loans use what’s known as a residual income method.

It subtracts your living expenses from your income – including your new house payment – and requires a residual income amount remaining.

Refinancing with a VA Loan

Refinancing with a VA loan can be even more rewarding than either conventional or FHA financing.

You choose a VA loan to refinance to lower your interest rate and/or monthly payment, but you can also do a cash-out refinance.

One of the big advantages of a cash-out refinance using a VA loan is the potential to borrow 100% of the value of your home, up to the maximum loan amount in your area (once again, generally up to $484,350).

You apply for a refinance just as you would for purchase, but the amount of the loan will be based on the value of your property.

By doing what is known as an IRRRL, you can avoid many of the qualification hurdles required in an ordinary refinance.

You may be able to save hundreds of dollars per month by refinancing your VA loan, and tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your loan.

Thank you for your service!

Equal Housing OpportunityEqual Housing Opportunity. The Department of Veterans Affairs affirmatively administers the VA Home Loan Program by assuring that all Veterans are given an equal opportunity to buy homes with VA assistance. Federal law requires all VA Home Loan Program participants – builders, brokers and lenders offering housing for sale with VA financing – must comply with Fair Housing Laws and may not discriminate based on the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin of the Veteran.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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