The Top VA Lenders of 2019
The VA loan program is a benefit exclusively offered to active duty and veteran members of the military. Once approved, mortgage lenders can provide financing to eligible military service members with 0% down payment requirement, and the most flexible approval guidelines of any mortgage product available for buying a residential home.
LendingTree reviewed data from hundreds of lenders across the nation that offer 30-year fixed rate VA mortgage loans to come up with the top five best lenders of 2019. Our ratings are based primarily on the interest rate terms offered to purchase borrowers on LendingTree over the last 12 months, and then we took into account the quality of information each lender provides on their websites. You can read up on our full methodology below.
Here are the top five 30-year fixed rate VA purchase lenders in 2019.
| The Federal Savings Bank
The Federal Savings Bank is federally chartered bank with the ability to provide mortgage financing in all 50 states. In addition to mortgage financing, the bank offers deposit product as well such as checking, savings, CDs and money market accounts.
The Federal Savings Bank offered a median 30-year fixed VA purchase rate of 4% on the LendingTree platform.
The website provides product information on the home page, with detailed home information available by clicking on each type of loan program offered. Consumers can read more detailed informational articles by clicking on articles featured under the mortgage section of the website.
There is also a wide array of mortgage calculator options, as well as investment calculator options for topics as unique how to save a million dollars, and tips on savings in general. This information provides added value to a customer who might be searching for information helpful to how to save for a down payment.
There is no “Apply Now” button on the home page, although the “Get Started” button takes the customer to a page where they can fill out loan application information.
| BNC National Bank
Located in Bismarck, North Dakota, BNC National Bank was originally established as Bismarck National Bank in 1990. The company operates community banking, mortgage banking and wealth management services and conducts business in Arizona, Minnesota, North Dakota, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri.
BNC National Bank offered a median 30-year fixed VA purchase rate of 4.25% on the LendingTree platform.
The website landing page features general mortgage product and loan type information under the “Programs” tab. Each listed program are linked to individual pages with more detailed explanations about the programs. The “Mortgage Basics” tab provides additional information about mortgage-related topics, and a glossary of mortgage terms.
Although the site not feature an “Apply Now” option, the “Apply Online” button is easy to find and takes the customer to a link to fill out a complete loan application.
| Fidelity Bank
Fidelity Bank opened its doors in 1888 under the name Fidelity Cooperative Bank. It is a full-service depository bank, offering standard banking products such as checking and savings accounts, and investment and insurance services, in addition to mortgage financing.
Fidelity Bank offered a median 30-year VA purchase rate of 4.14% on the LendingTree platform.
The homepage doesn’t reference mortgages specifically, but the information about the bank’s mortgage offerings is found by clicking on the “Our Solutions” button and selecting “Mortgages.” There, the user will find very basic information about mortgage programs and loan types.
There are financial calculators in this section as well, and a small “Apply Now” link next to the first three categories of loan types. There are informative mortgage and homebuying-related articles in the links titled “Home is where the SMART is,” although the reader doesn’t know what topic is until clicking the link.
| KS StateBank
KS StateBank was founded in 1969, with headquarters in Manhattan, Kansas. The bank has mortgage origination offices in Kansas, Minnesota, and Arizona.
KS StateBank offered a median 30-year VA purchase rate of 4.21% on the LendingTree platform.
The homepage does not have a menu specifically for mortgages, but the information about KS StateBank’s mortgage offerings can be found under the “Personal” menu, and then by clicking through to “Lending Solutions.” Loan types and product information can be found by clicking on the “Home Loans” link on this page.
The Home Loans page also features additional links with a documentation checklist for items needed to apply for a home loan, as well as a glossary of mortgage terms and mortgage calculators. There is no “Apply Now” button, however, the Lending Solutions menu features a “Find a Lender and Apply Today” link with individual contact numbers and web pages for loan officers at different KS StateBank branches.
| Third Federal Savings and Loan Association
Third Federal Savings Bank opened its first location in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1938, where it is currently headquartered. The bank offers mortgages in 25 states plus Washington, D.C.
Third Federal Savings Bank offered a median 30-year fixed VA purchase rate of 4.26% on the LendingTree platform.
The homepage of the website features purchase and refinance links with basic information about loan programs. The “Resources” tab provides guides about mortgage and homebuying related topics, an assortment of mortgage calculators and an FAQ section with more in-depth explainers on a variety of home financing topics.
There is an “Apply Today” button on the homepage, however you have to click around a drop-down menu to get to the purchase or refinance options, which will then lead you to another page where you can fill out an online application.
How we choose our “best of” lenders
A mortgage is likely the largest debt you will take on in your lifetime. That’s why it’s so important to gather as much information as possible.
Our “best” winners aren’t selected based on rate alone, but also with a unique rating developed by our editorial staff called “Online Information Quality,” or OIQ. We’ve taken extra time to review the information you can access online, including how easy it is to access loan product information, use mortgage tools like mortgage calculators, and fill out a loan application.
To determine the best 30-year fixed-rate VA mortgage lenders, we analyzed data from actual loan terms offered to borrowers on LendingTree by lenders. We filtered by lenders active in at least 25 states, then chose the top five lenders by rate for the last 12 months. Finally, we gave the lenders an OIQ rating based on answers to the following when accessing the lenders main website. One point was given for each yes answer.
Is there general product information on the website?
If the website features both basic terms of the loan (30 year, 15 year, adjustable rates) and program offerings (FHA, Conventional, FHA, VA), it scores a full point.
Is there general home loan information on the website?
Borrowers can make the most informed decisions if they have additional information regarding mortgages in the form of explanation articles, FAQ sections, or links to an information blog. Sites that have additional mortgage information score an extra OIQ point.
Is the general home loan information easy to find?
If the information is available with less than two clicks on the home page, it scores an extra point, since a consumer will be able to get the information easily without having to search extensively through the site.
Are there any education tools (e.g. loan calculators) on the page or at least one click away from the home page?
Mortgage calculators, home value estimators and other tools help consumers to make educated decisions, so landing pages that feature them score an additional OIQ point.
Is it easy to find the “apply now” button?
Mortgage users in the digital age want an quick online way to apply for a mortgage, so if the “Apply Now” button is easy to find on the home page, it will be easy for a consumer to apply once they’ve gotten the information they need to proceed to the next step in the mortgage process.
Best tips for VA mortgage rate shopping
There are lot of moving parts when it comes to getting a mortgage, and a VA loan requires some extra paperwork to confirm your benefit eligibility. You’ll need to provide a DD Form 214 if you’re a military veteran, and a statement of service if you are still serving on active duty.
Tip 1: Know your three Cs
In the world of mortgage underwriting, the “three Cs” are credit, capacity and collateral. These three factors can result in the approval or decline of any mortgage application, so before you get started you need to know how each of them relate to your financial situation.
In order to get an accurate rate quote on any mortgage product, you need to know your credit scores. Lenders analyze if you’ve paid your credit on time, how much credit you have, how long you’ve had it, and what types of credit you have.
Although many lenders have a 620 minimum FICO requirement, VA loan guidelines do not have a minimum credit score requirement, but instead look at how you’ve managed your credit over the past 24 months. Because military veterans may not have developed a credit history, especially while serving overseas tours of duty, the credit guidelines allow flexibility to use a non-traditional credit history.
This includes documenting rental payment history, utilities and other monthly payment obligations that don’t normally report on a credit report like cell phone bills, life insurance and car insurance.
Capacity measures how much pre-tax income you earn every month, compared to how much total debt you’ll have, including your new house payment. This is more commonly referred to as your “debt-to-income” (DTI) ratio, and is even more important than your credit score since it determines how likely you are to repay your loan.
The VA allows for much higher DTI ratios, and uses something called a residual income test as the final measure of ability to repay a loan. Rather than using pre-tax income, the residual income test looks at after-tax earnings, and the subtracts the debt, and a monthly expense for maintenance and utilities based on the square footage of the home.
The amount left-over after these expenses are subtracted from net income is called the residual, and varies based on living expenses different parts of the country and the veteran’s family size. As long as the veteran meets the residual income requirement, they can qualify for a VA loan.
Part of capacity is also determining how much money you have toward a down payment. The VA loan makes it easy to meet the down payment requirement — zero down payment is required for eligible veterans and active duty servicemembers.
The term collateral relates to the type of property you are buying. Purchasing a condominium or manufactured home comes with different rules than buying a single family residence, and to get an accurate rate quote, you’ll need to make sure you price your rate based on the type of property you are buying.
Tip 2: Know the loan programs you qualify for
One of the other unique features of VA loans is they don’t require any monthly mortgage insurance even with a down payment of less than 20%. However, veterans making no down payment will still need to pay a funding fee of 2.15% to 3.3%, depending on whether they’ve used their eligibility before.
This fee may be waived if a veteran can verify they have a service-related disability. This is usually reflected on the veteran’s Certificate of Eligibility, a document provided by the Veterans Administration that not only confirms how much home loan benefit a veteran has access to, but also indicates if they are exempt from the paying a funding fee.
The only way to answer these questions is to learn the minimum requirements for each of these loan programs before you start applying for a mortgage. Using the information you gathered from the three C’s above, you can evaluate the programs that you are most likely to qualify.
Tip 3: Get your rate quotes on the same day, in writing
Interest rates and the costs associated with them fluctuate on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. In order to get an “apples-to-apples” comparison, you also need to make sure you provide the same information to each lender.
If you forget, for example, to mention to one lender that you are buying a condominium, you’ll get a rate quote that looks much lower than the others, and will be unpleasantly surprised when you get a revised loan estimate later at a higher rate, or more costs.
Tip 4: Only compare the lender fees when making your decision
Loan estimates and fee sheets contain a lot of information, but the only items you’ll want to consider as you are shopping is the lender fees. These can include origination, discount, underwriting, processing, appraisals, and credit reports.
Ignore costs like title fees, prepaid interest, property taxes and homeowners insurance and mortgage insurance — those fees will be the same regardless of the lender you choose.
Final decision making
When it’s time to make the final decision, you’ll want to consider a few thing besides the final rate and costs.
- Fast closing times: If you need to close quickly be sure to discuss this with the companies you are shopping. Not all lenders can close in less than 30 days, so if this is important, make sure you let the loan officer know.
- Personalized service: Some customers still prefer a face-to-face meeting with someone, so take this into consideration if you are only speaking to online lenders. It possible you’ll be working with multiple people during the process, so if you want one person to guide you through the process, you may want to choose a local bank or a realtor referred lender.
Get the lock in writing: Be sure to request your rate lock in writing. This is pretty common practice now, but until you receive confirmation of the lock, usually by email, your rate may still be subject to changes as the financial markets change. VA loans can take a bit longer than a standard conventional or FHA loan due to a different appraisal process, and more paperwork that has to be processed through the VA, so make sure you take that into consideration when deciding on the lock period for your loan.
The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publishing.