Skip to Content
ICB Solutions, a division of Neighbors Bank: Not affiliated or endorsed by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs or any govt. agency. NMLS #491986. Not available in NY. Legal

5 Steps to Finding the Right VA Lender

When you're ready to take the first official steps toward using your VA home loan benefits—assessing your eligibility and getting prequalified—you'll need the help of a VA-approved lender.

It's easier to get a great deal on a mortgage when you come to the table with an excellent credit score and room in your budget for a new house payment. Your credit scores affect your ability to qualify and your ability to take advantage of the best interest rates available.

If you aren't sure where you stand in terms of credit scores or debt-to-income ratio, getting prequalified with at least one lender will help you determine the best way to make improvements. Some lenders may even offer credit education, allowing you to continue working toward homeownership while improving your credit or paying down debt.

How to Compare Top VA Lenders

Getting a VA loan isn't more complicated than getting a conventional mortgage, but there are some minor differences in how these loans are processed. That means VA loan expertise on the part of your lender could make or break your homebuying experience.

We've ranked the top VA purchase lenders by:

  • Loan Volume
  • Customer Ratings
  • Percent of VA Loans
  • Best VA Refinance Lenders

While most large national bank chains offer VA loan products, VA homebuyers would be wise to shop around before settling on a lending partner. Below are some valuable parameters to use when comparing VA lenders.

1. VA Loan Expertise

As you navigate the homebuying process, your loan officer will act as your advocate and educator. When it comes to obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility, locking in a low-interest rate, and ultimately getting underwriting approval, your lender's VA loan expertise will be crucial in ensuring things go smoothly.

Be sure to keep these things in mind when shopping for a VA lender:

  • VA Percentage and Loan Volume: Ask prospective lenders how much of their business comes from VA loans. The higher the percentage, the more likely they are to understand the ins and outs of VA-backed home loans.
  • VA Training and Education: Some VA-specialized loan officers may have received specific training on the VA loan program and military homebuyers' unique needs.

2. Customer Service and Satisfaction

Interest rate comparisons and stats about VA loan volume are useful, but they don't paint a complete picture. Customer reviews are another excellent resource for hopeful homebuyers as they shop for a lending partner.

Reviews can tell you more about the actual experience of working with a lender, including the overall attitude and culture of the staff.

Independent third-party review sites like Better Business Bureau and Trustpilot can also provide an objective look at what real customers are saying. A high volume of negative vs. positive reviews is a red flag, but so is a low volume of reviews overall. Look for a lender with plenty of positive reviews for a better shot at a great homebuying experience.

3. Assembly Line vs. Dedicated Loan Team

Many large financial institutions run their loan process like an assembly line, meaning that you could get passed from person to person as you move along. In those cases, you may find yourself juggling phone calls and emails from many different parties. Lenders that provide dedicated loan officers tend to provide more personalized service, an essential feature for many military homebuyers.

With a dedicated team VA loan team, you can stay focused on your big move. For starters, you'll always talk to someone you know.

Your loan officer and real estate agent will also work together to coordinate with third parties, taking some of the burdens off you during this exciting but stressful time. Your real estate agent, sellers' agent, title agent, homeowners insurance agent, underwriter and even VA appraiser all have a hand in getting you to closing.

4. Compare Rates

Getting the lowest available VA loan interest rate is a top priority for many homebuyers — and rightfully so. Over the course of a 15- or 30-year mortgage term, what seems like a small difference in rates could cost you thousands.

You can start your rate comparison online to get a sense of where the market stands, but your credit score and debt-to-income ratio can impact the rates available to you. That means you'll need to speak with lenders to get a better idea of the rate they're able to offer based on your specific scenario. Lenders won't be able to lock your rate in until you're under contract for a home.

5. Ask the Right Questions

Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions when you're speaking to prospective lenders for the first time. By asking the right questions, you'll get a much clearer idea of the type of service you can expect.

Here are a few that we suggest:

  • What kind of credit score do I need to qualify?
  • What kind of debt-to-income ratio do I need to qualify?
  • What will happen if my scores or debt-to-income ratio fall short?
  • Do you provide any homebuyer education?
  • Do I need to obtain my own Certificate of Eligibility?
  • How much of your business comes from VA loans?
  • Do you have an in-house underwriting staff?
  • How do your rates compare to other lenders?
  • What fees will you charge?
  • What is your average customer service rating?
  • Do your loan officers have any special VA loan training?
  • Are your loan officers familiar with the needs of military homebuyers?
  • Will my loan officer work closely with my real estate agent?
  • Will I work with the same loan officer from start to finish?

Make a list ranking your priorities between rate, fees, VA experience, and customer satisfaction when buying a home. When you're comparing lenders, your list will make it easier to choose the one that aligns with your specific needs.