How to Get the Best Mortgage Deal as a Veteran

For many veterans, the dream of homeownership is made more attainable through the VA loan program. Backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA loans offer exclusive benefits designed to help service members and their families secure affordable mortgage financing. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore strategies to help you maximize your VA loan entitlement, shop for the best rates, and navigate the home buying process with ease.

How to Get the Best Mortgage Deal as a Veteran

Key Takeaways

  • VA loans offer exclusive benefits, including no down payment and no private mortgage insurance.
  • Eligibility requirements vary based on your military service and discharge status.
  • Shopping around and comparing rates from multiple VA-approved lenders is crucial for securing the best deal.
  • State and local programs can provide additional assistance with down payments, closing costs, and tax exemptions.
  • Understanding your VA loan entitlement and maximizing it can help you avoid loan limits and secure better terms.

How to Get the Best Mortgage Deal as a Veteran

Purchasing a home is a significant financial milestone, and finding the right mortgage deal can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. As a veteran, you have access to unique lending options that can give you a competitive edge in the housing market. Below are the processes you must follow as a veteran in other to get the best mortgage available:

1: Shopping for the Best VA Mortgage Rates

While VA loans generally offer competitive rates, there can be significant variations among lenders. To ensure you’re getting the best deal, it’s essential to shop around and compare rates from multiple VA-approved lenders.

2: Getting Pre-Approved by Multiple VA Lenders

The pre-approval process is a crucial step in securing a VA loan. During this process, lenders will evaluate your credit, income, and employment history to determine your eligibility and the loan amount you qualify for.

It’s recommended to obtain pre-approvals from at least three different VA lenders. This not only allows you to compare rates but also gives you a better understanding of the loan terms and fees each lender offers.

3: Comparing Rates: Banks, Credit Unions, and Online Lenders

When shopping for VA loan rates, it’s important to consider a variety of lender types, including:

  • Banks: Both national and local banks offer VA loans. Large banks may have more stringent credit requirements but can offer competitive rates.
  • Credit Unions: Credit unions are member-owned financial institutions that often provide lower rates and fees for their members.
  • Online Lenders: Online lenders can be a convenient option, offering a streamlined application process and competitive rates. However, exercise caution and thoroughly research online lenders before proceeding.

4: Factoring in Lender Fees and Closing Costs

In addition to comparing interest rates, it’s crucial to consider the various fees and closing costs associated with each lender. These can include:

  • Origination fees
  • Appraisal fees
  • Credit report fees
  • Title insurance fees
  • Discount points (optional fees to lower your interest rate)

When you evaluate the total costs, including fees and closing costs, you can make an informed decision and ensure you’re getting the best overall deal.

5: Negotiating the Best Deal

Once you’ve received pre-approval offers from multiple lenders, you’re in a position to negotiate for the best possible terms.

6: Strengthening Your Bargaining Position

Having multiple pre-approval offers gives you leverage in negotiations. Lenders are more likely to offer competitive terms if they know you have other options.

7: Asking About Lender Credits and Rate Buy-Downs

During negotiations, inquire about lender credits, which can help offset closing costs, and rate buy-downs, which involve paying upfront fees to secure a lower interest rate over the life of the loan.

8: Timing Rate Locks Strategically

Interest rates can fluctuate daily, so timing your rate lock strategically is essential. Once you’ve negotiated the best terms, lock in your rate to protect yourself from potential rate increases while you finalize the home purchase process.

What is Your VA Loan Eligibility?

Now that you’ve seen the steps above lets take a look at another very important thing in obtaining a VA loan, which is to determine your eligibility. Generally, you must meet one of the following service requirements:

  • Active duty for at least 90 consecutive days during wartime
  • Active duty for at least 181 consecutive days during peacetime
  • Six years or more of service in the National Guard or Reserves

In addition to these service requirements, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable. Surviving spouses of veterans who died while in service or from a service-related disability may also be eligible for a VA loan.

Advantages of VA Loans Over Other Mortgage Options

VA loans offer several advantages over conventional and FHA loans, making them an attractive option for veterans:

  1. No Down Payment Required: One of the biggest benefits of a VA loan is the ability to purchase a home without making a down payment. This can significantly reduce your upfront costs and make homeownership more accessible.
  2. No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI): Unlike conventional loans with less than a 20% down payment, VA loans do not require private mortgage insurance, saving you hundreds of dollars each month.
  3. Competitive Interest Rates: VA loan rates are often lower than conventional loan rates, translating to substantial savings over the life of the loan.
  4. Flexible Credit Requirements: VA lenders typically have more lenient credit score requirements than conventional lenders, making it easier for veterans with less-than-perfect credit to qualify.

Example: Cost Savings with a VA Loan

Let’s compare the costs of a $300,000 home purchase with a VA loan and a conventional loan:

Loan Type Down Payment PMI (Annual) Interest Rate Monthly Payment
VA Loan $0 $0 4.5% $1,520
Conventional Loan $60,000 (20%) $1,800 5.0% $1,610

By choosing a VA loan, you would save $60,000 in upfront costs and avoid paying $1,800 per year in PMI, resulting in significant long-term savings.

Maximizing Your VA Loan Entitlement

Your VA loan entitlement is the amount the VA guarantees to the lender in case of default. This entitlement amount can impact the loan amount you qualify for and the terms you receive. To maximize your entitlement, consider the following strategies:

  1. Calculate Your Entitlement Amount: The basic entitlement amount for most veterans is $36,000. However, this amount can vary based on your service history and whether you’ve previously used a VA loan.
  2. Understand the Impact of Funding Fees and Down Payments: Making a down payment or paying the VA funding fee upfront can increase your entitlement and potentially allow you to purchase a more expensive home or secure better terms.
  3. Explore Additional Entitlement Options: If you’ve reached your entitlement limit, you may be eligible for additional entitlement through the VA’s Bonus Entitlement or Remaining Entitlement programs.

By understanding and maximizing your VA loan entitlement, you can avoid loan limits and potentially secure better terms on your mortgage.

State and Local Home Buying Programs for Veterans

In addition to the VA loan program, many states and local governments offer assistance programs specifically designed for veteran homebuyers. These programs can provide valuable benefits, such as:

  1. Down Payment Assistance: Some programs offer grants or forgivable loans to help veterans cover down payment and closing costs.
  2. Closing Cost Assistance: Other programs may provide assistance with closing costs, reducing the upfront expenses associated with purchasing a home.
  3. Tax Exemptions and Rate Discounts: Certain states and localities offer property tax exemptions or discounted interest rates for veteran homebuyers.

Be sure to research the programs available in your area and inquire with your lender about eligibility requirements and application processes.

Other Mortgage Alternatives for Veterans

While VA loans offer unique benefits, they may not be the best option for every veteran’s situation. In these cases, alternative mortgage options, such as FHA, USDA, and conventional loans, may be worth considering.

FHA Loans

FHA loans, insured by the Federal Housing Administration, can be a viable alternative for veterans who don’t meet VA loan eligibility requirements or prefer a lower down payment option (as low as 3.5%).

USDA Loans

If you’re looking to purchase a home in an eligible rural area, the USDA loan program may be an option. USDA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and offer low or no down payment options.

Conventional Loans

Conventional loans, which are not backed by the government, may be suitable for veterans with strong credit scores and stable incomes. While a higher down payment is typically required (often 20%), conventional loans can offer competitive rates and flexible terms.

When considering alternative mortgage options, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each loan type. Factors to consider include:

  • Down Payment Requirements: VA and USDA loans offer the benefit of no down payment, while FHA loans require as little as 3.5% down, and conventional loans typically require at least 20% down.
  • Mortgage Insurance: VA loans do not require private mortgage insurance (PMI), while FHA and conventional loans with less than a 20% down payment will require PMI, adding to the monthly cost.
  • Credit Score Requirements: VA loans tend to have more flexible credit score requirements compared to conventional loans.
  • Interest Rates: VA loan rates are generally competitive, but FHA and conventional loan rates may be lower in certain circumstances.
  • Loan Limits: VA loans have county-specific loan limits, while FHA and conventional loans may have higher or no loan limits, depending on the lender.

It’s also important to consider the mortgage term that best suits your financial situation. While 30-year mortgages are the most common, opting for a shorter term, such as a 15-year mortgage, can result in significant interest savings over the life of the loan, albeit with higher monthly payments.

Steps for a Smooth VA Loan Process

Once you’ve selected the right mortgage option and lender, it’s important to understand the steps involved in the VA loan process to ensure a smooth transaction.

  1. Get Pre-Approved and Understand Debt-to-Income Ratios: The pre-approval process will involve evaluating your debt-to-income ratios, which are key factors in determining your loan eligibility and amount.
  2. Select a VA-Approved Home and Get an Appraisal: VA loans require the home you’re purchasing to meet certain minimum property requirements. An appraisal will be conducted to ensure the home’s value meets the lender’s guidelines.
  3. Understanding the VA Funding Fee Calculation: The VA funding fee is a one-time fee charged on VA loans to help fund the program. The fee amount varies based on your down payment amount, military service, and whether you’ve previously used a VA loan.

By being prepared and understanding each step of the process, you can minimize delays and ensure a smooth transaction from pre-approval to closing.


As a veteran, you have access to valuable mortgage benefits through the VA loan program and other state and local assistance programs. By taking the time to understand your eligibility, maximize your VA loan entitlement, and shop around for the best rates and terms, you can secure a mortgage deal that makes homeownership more affordable and attainable.

Remember, the key to getting the best mortgage deal is to:

  • Research and compare rates and fees from multiple VA-approved lenders
  • Negotiate for better terms by leveraging your bargaining position
  • Explore state and local programs for additional assistance
  • Consider alternative mortgage options if they better suit your situation
  • Understand and follow the steps involved in the VA loan process

With dedication and the right guidance, you can navigate the home buying process with confidence and achieve the dream of homeownership on terms that work for you and your family.

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