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5 Steps to Finding the Right VA Lender

Published September 19, 2017
5 min read

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.

We’ve ranked the top VA purchase lenders by category:

By Loan Volume

By Customer Ratings

By Percent of VA Loans

Best VA Refinance Lenders

It’s easier to get a great deal on a mortgage when you come to the table with excellent credit and room in your budget for a new house payment. Your credit scores not only affect your ability to qualify, but also 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 the way these loans are processed. That means VA loan expertise on the part of your lender could make or break your home buying experience.

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

1. VA Loan Expertise

As you navigate the home buying 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, his or her VA loan expertise will be crucial in ensuring things go smoothly.

  • 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 the unique needs of military homebuyers.

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 great 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 that has plenty of mostly positive reviews for a better shot at a great home buying 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 important feature for many military homebuyers. With a dedicated team, you can stay focused on your big move. For starters, you’ll always talk to someone you know.

In addition, your Loan Officer and real estate agent will work together to coordinate with third parties, taking some of the burden off you during this exciting but stressful time. Your real estate agent, the sellers’ agent, title agent, homeowners insurance agent, underwriter, and even the VA appraiser all have a hand in getting you to closing.

4. Compare Rates

Getting the lowest available 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 to a lesser extent your debt-to-income ratio, can impact the rates that are 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 of your priorities that ranks rate, fees, VA experience, and customer satisfaction in terms of what you find most important 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. Use our tool to start comparing lenders now.

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