The Bottom Line: Personal guidance from Veterans First loan officers helps vets choose the right loan for their needs.
Veterans First Mortgage
Min. Credit Score
Min. Down Payment
Loan Types and Products
Purchase, Refinance, FHA, VA
Pros & Cons
Specializes in VA loans and working with military borrowers.
Offers several low-down-payment government loan options so borrowers can choose the best fit.
Website helps borrowers estimate their VA loan fees.
You can't get an instant rate quote online.
Doesn't offer conventional home loans.
Has only five loan centers in a handful of Western states.
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.
A look at Veterans First Mortgage products
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.
Building relationships to stay competitive in a digital world
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.
Niche expertise for military borrowers
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.”
NerdWallet's star ratings for mortgage lenders are awarded based on our evaluation of the products and services that lenders offer to consumers who are actively shopping for the best mortgage. The six key areas we evaluated include the loan types and loan products offered, online capabilities, online mortgage rate information, customer service and the number of complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a percentage of loans issued. We also awarded lenders up to one bonus star for a unique program or borrower focus that set them apart from other lenders. To ensure consistency, our ratings are reviewed by multiple people on the NerdWallet Mortgages team.