The Department of Veterans Affairs has been helping veterans and their families qualify for home loans since 1944. These loans are not issued by the VA but rather through banks and lenders. However, the VA does guarantee each qualified loan.

military father and son

There are many benefits to taking out a VA loan as opposed to a conventional mortgage. Applicants can apply for a mortgage with no down payment and you don’t have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI).

You’ll likely get a lower interest rate than you would with a conventional mortgage. And you can qualify for a mortgage even if you only have fair credit.

Do I qualify for a VA loan?

You need to be an active member of the military or National Guard to qualify for a VA loan. You’re also eligible if your spouse died while serving in active duty.

However, there are certain specifications you need to meet. For instance, active military personnel needs to have served for a minimum of six months. Members of the National Guard will qualify after six years of service unless called to active duty first. At that point, you become eligible after 181 days of service.

To apply for a VA loan you’ll need to be able to show a valid certificate of eligibility from the VA. And while the VA doesn’t set minimum credit requirements, you’ll need to be able to meet the requirements set by your lender.

What are the best VA loan lenders in 2019?

Even though you’ll get a discount with the VA loan program, it’s still important to shop around for the best deal. In theory, you could apply for a VA loan with any mortgage lender but some are better than others.

You should choose the lender that will give you the lowest mortgage rates and the most flexible repayment terms. Here are the six best VA mortgage lenders:

Veteran First Mortgage

Best overall value

Veterans First Mortgage has been around since 1985 and has worked with more than 175,000 military and non-military customers. The company provides personalized service and competitive loan products and its focus has always been on helping veterans.

At least 90% of the Veteran First’s loan originations are VA loans so the company has the experience to work with veterans. Veterans will have to pay a VA funding fee, which typically ranges between 0.5% and 3.3%.

Veterans First requires a minimum credit score of 600 to apply. The company doesn’t publish its APR range on its website so you’ll have to apply to see what you qualify for. And the company does charge a 1% origination fee.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Best credit union

Navy Federal Credit Union was founded in 1933 and is the largest credit union in the world with more than eight million members. To become a member you must be a veteran, an active member of the military, or employed with the U.S. Department of Defense.

In addition to VA loans, the credit union offers a wide range of affordable loan and banking products designed for military service members. The APR for VA loans starts as low as 3.591%. And Navy Federal will even match you with a top-performing real estate agent in your area.

Navy Federal doesn’t publish its credit score requirements. However, it is willing to consider other forms of credit history, such as income and payment history.

Veterans United Home Loans

Best for focusing on veterans

Veterans United was named the best VA lender for 2018 by the Department of Veteran Affairs. It’s one of the fastest-growing VA lenders in the country and no other bank focuses on veterans the same way they do.

15-year mortgages start at 3.701% APR and 30-year mortgages start at 3.624% APR. You will need a credit score of 620 or higher to apply. But if your score falls below this, Veterans United provides a credit repair consultant to help veterans improve their credit score under the Lighthouse Program.

Veterans that are interested in applying can have a free VA loan consultation either online or in person. And they offer 24/7 customer service so someone is always available to answer your questions.

USAA

Best for VA ARMs

USAA offers banking and home loans to military members and their families. Over the past five years, USAA issued more than 155,000 VA loans. They offer competitive rates starting at 3.791% APR for a 30-year mortgage.

USAA has a VA 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage product that is particularly attractive to those on active duty who have to move every few years. For the first five years, the rate will be around 3.922% APR then it will adjust to market interest rates. However, most people expect that interest rates will be higher in five years than they are today.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer who can’t qualify for a VA loan, USAA offers loans with a required down payment as low as 3%. The bank also offers a number of competitively priced insurance products.

Quicken Loans

Best online features

Quicken Loans offers a number of mortgage options, including VA loans. The company is known for its quick-response customer service and incredibly fast online mortgage application process, called Rocket Mortgage. Quicken can offer instant verification for most applicants thanks to their online loan application process.

A 30-year loan comes with rates starting at 3.877% APR. Borrowers will need a score of 620 or higher to qualify and a down payment of at least 3%. Quicken is a good option but keep in mind that they don’t have the same experience working with veterans as other lenders on this list.

New American Funding

Best for less than average credit

You may not have heard of New American Funding but they are one of the best options for veterans with poor credit. Unlike many online lenders, New American uses an actual person to review the loan and underwriting.

So if your credit score is lower than expected, they will consider other nontraditional credit factors when reviewing your loan application. For VA loans, New American Funding will accept applicants with credit scores as low as 580.

New American Funding doesn’t publish their rates so you’ll have to apply online to see what you qualify for. They do require a minimum down payment of 3%.

How do I get started?

If you’re interested in applying for a VA loan, you’ll need to find a lender and get prequalified first. Once your lender has verified your income and financial information, you’ll receive your pre-approval letter.

Now that you know what you can afford, you can begin looking for houses. Once you find the home that’s right for you, you can put in an offer and begin the negotiation process. It’s a good idea to partner with a real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of VA loans.

When you’re under contract, the VA will do an appraisal of your property. If everything looks good, you are in the clear to close on your new home.