Serving those who’ve served our country is a mission for Veterans First Mortgage. In fact, it’s the whole reason founder Kevin Gates started the company more than 30 years ago and why he’s stayed true to its roots.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Veterans First Mortgage has done more than $21 billion in home loans for more than 100,000 customers — military and nonmilitary — since its founding in 1985. With a goal of creating customers for life, Veterans First asserts that it earns loyalty by offering personalized attention and competitive loan products, and finding creative financial solutions when other lenders might give up.
Let’s see how Veterans First Mortgage stacks up against other mortgage lenders.
AT A GLANCE
- Operates in 46 states and Washington, D.C. (Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York are excluded).
- Offers VA and FHA loans for purchase and refinance in fixed-rate terms of 15, 20, 25 and 30 years.
- Provides online loan application, document exchange and virtual loan tracking.
Veterans First Mortgage’s bread and butter has always been purchase and refinance loans offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Administration. In fact, 90% of its loan originations are VA loans, which can have complex eligibility requirements and processes. There are myriad benefits, however: There’s an option for 100% financing; no private mortgage insurance, or PMI, is required; and the rates are typically lower than for most other loans.
Even though you can get 100% financing with a VA loan, they do have some costs. Military borrowers typically pay a VA funding fee, which can range from 0.5% to 3.3% of the loan amount. The funding fee depends on whether the loan is for a purchase or refinance, past VA loan usage, and the down payment amount, if any. Some borrowers might be exempt from the funding fee altogether, according to the VA. Although Veterans First doesn’t outline its specific loan origination charges, the VA does allow for approved lenders to charge up to a 1% origination fee.
» MORE: Use our VA loan calculator to determine your monthly payment
In addition to VA loans, Veterans First Mortgage also offers FHA loans for home purchases and refinancing, the latter with cash-out and rate-and-term options, as well as a streamline refinance option for VA and FHA customers to reduce the interest rate on the original loan. The lender has fixed-rate terms of 15, 20, 25 and 30 years.
Veterans First recommends that borrowers who are interested in an adjustable-rate mortgage contact a loan officer to see if it’s an option, as its availability is subject to change. An ARM is a loan that’s locked in at a lower, initial interest rate for a fixed period of time and then can reset higher or lower after the introductory period expires.
As more mortgage lenders move to all-digital lending platforms to keep up with the brisk pace of the industry, Veterans First Mortgage has no plans to abandon the personal attention it provides to customers.
Instead, it hopes to incorporate technology and tools that help “enhance the human element in lending, rather than removing it,” said Gates, who is the lender’s president and CEO as well as its founder.
“Some lenders are using technology to interact less with customers, but since our approach to this business is based on building relationships, we’re more interested in how technology can help us interact more with our clients,” Gates said, adding that he wants his company to communicate with customers in a way that’s efficient, timely and helpful.
Online loan accessibility is particularly important for many military customers who might be deployed overseas and unable to meet face to face with a loan officer. Veterans First Mortgage offers online loan application, tracking and document exchange, as well as the ability for borrowers to sign documents electronically. The lender’s site is also mobile compatible.
It’s clear that Veterans First Mortgage prides itself on its lengthy experience working with VA borrowers. It is doing all it can, Gates says, to become the most referred and respected mortgage lender in the military community.
“Most Veterans First loyalists speak to the level of expertise and personal attention they’ve received from us,” Gates said. “The relationship is something they view as a lifelong asset. They’ve been guided through the process step by step by a single point of contact — someone with a specialized understanding of the options available to veterans.”
- It specializes in VA loans and working with military borrowers.
- Veterans First Mortgage has no absolute minimum or maximum loan amounts.
- Its website has thorough, educational articles that detail the VA loan process, eligibility requirements and other facets.
- You can’t get an instant online rate quote; you’ll have to contact someone directly for that information via phone or an online form.
- It doesn’t offer conventional home loans.
- Veterans First has only five loan centers in a handful of states — Arizona, California, Missouri, Nevada and Utah — so expect to process your loan application by phone or online.