When you’re a veteran, you can often choose between a VA loan and conventional loan when you want to buy or refinance a home.
VA loans are backed by the government and offered by lenders like Freedom Mortgage. They are only available to veterans, active-duty military personnel, and surviving spouses who qualify. Conventional loans are offered by lenders without a government backing and are available to everyone who meets the requirements.
VA loans are often a better choice when you want to finance a house. That’s because VA loans frequently have lower interest rates, lower down payments, and easier refinancing options compared to conventional loans.
There are houses you can buy with conventional loans you can’t buy with VA loans, however. And both loan types come with requirements and costs you’ll want to understand. Check out our comparison table and read our discussion below!
|VA Loans||Conventional Loans|
|Finance primary home||Yes||Yes|
|Finance second home, rental property||No||Yes|
|Down payments||No in many cases||Yes|
|Interest rates||Can be lower than conventional loans||Can be higher than VA loans|
|Minimum credit score||Between 580 and 620||620 or higher|
|Mortgage insurance||No||Yes if down payment is less than 20%|
|Easier refinancing with streamline program||Yes||No|
VA loans are for primary homes only
You can only buy or refinance your primary residence (which is the home where you live most of the time) with a VA loan. You can finance primary homes, vacation homes, rental properties, and investment properties with conventional loans.
VA loans have no down payments
In many cases, it is possible to buy a home without a down payment using a VA loan. When you buy a house with a conventional loan, you will need to make a down payment.
VA loans can have better interest rates
VA loans have interest rates that are competitive with the rates for conventional loans. Many times you’ll find rates on VA loans are lower than rates on conventional loans too.
VA loans have lower credit scores
Lenders often want a minimum credit score between 580 and 620 to approve a VA loan. They typically want a minimum credit score of 620 to approve a conventional loan. Freedom Mortgage is the #1 VA lender in the United States1 and we help veterans get VA loans with lower credit scores.
VA loans have funding fees
VA loans have funding fees, which you need to pay at closing or add to your loan amount. Funding fees help protect the VA home loan program when a mortgage defaults. The VA funding fee is based on your loan type, loan amount, and other factors. Some veterans and surviving spouses are exempt from paying the fee. Conventional loans do not have funding fees.
Conventional loans have mortgage insurance
You have to pay for private mortgage insurance if you make a down payment of less than 20% when you buy a house with a conventional loan. You don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance with a VA loan.
VA loans and conventional loans have closing costs
Both VA and conventional loans come with closing costs. These costs vary from loan to loan and lender to lender. The Department of Veterans Affairs puts limits on the closing costs you can be charged for VA loans, however.
VA loans have easier refinancing
Homeowners with VA loans may qualify for streamline refinancing, which may allow you to lower your rate with less paperwork and quicker closings. Streamline refinances are also called Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRLs). Conventional loans do not have streamline refinancing. You must complete a full application to refinance a conventional loan.
Talk to Freedom Mortgage about VA loans and conventional loans
1 Inside Mortgage Finance, January to June 2020