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7 Essential Tips for VA Home Buyers in Hawaii

home buyers

Veterans and military members understand the power of preparation better than most.

That’s good news considering most home buyers still lack a solid grasp of what it takes today to land a home loan.

VA loans tend to feature more flexible and forgiving requirements than other loan types. But this no-down payment program is also a specialized option for home buyers.

Here’s a look at seven essential tips for veterans and service members considering a VA home loan.

1. No COE to start

You don’t need your Certificate of Eligibility to begin. You don’t even need to know if you’re eligible for a VA loan to start.

Lenders will typically obtain this critical document for you using an automated system.

2. Pre-approval is critical

This shows sellers and real estate agents you’re a serious buyer. Some agents won’t even accept an offer on a home without a copy of your pre-approval letter.

Pre-approval also gives you a clear sense of what you can afford and how much house you can buy. The last thing you want is to get under contract only to learn you can’t afford the payments on the home.

3. Find VA-knowledgeable agents

Real estate agents play a key role in the home buying process. But some know VA loans better than others.

VA-savvy agents can help borrowers avoid properties likely to pose a problem for the VA’s appraisal process. They can also lean on their understanding of VA closing costs to maximize your dollar.

4. Prepare for upfront costs

Most VA buyers take advantage of the $0 down benefit. That’s a huge opportunity that helps get veterans into homes now.

But homeownership can come with other upfront expenses, from making an earnest money deposit and paying for an appraisal to possibly covering a portion (or all) of your closing costs.

5. Understand closing costs

You can negotiate with the seller to pay some or all of your closing costs. There’s no limit to how much they can contribute to cover loan-related costs.

In addition, sellers can pay up to 4% of the purchase price to pay for things like prepaid property taxes, insurance and HOA Fees.

6. Buying condos

Veterans can only purchase condos in VA-approved developments. Lenders can help try to get an unapproved one on the list, but the process can take some time. In Hawaii there are several VA Approved Condo Buildings.

Adjust your home-buying timeline accordingly.

7. Not a one-time benefit

Veterans can use the VA loan program over and over again. It’s even possible to have more than one at the same time.

Veterans who’ve lost a VA loan to foreclosure may be able to buy again, too.

Its great to plan ahead and know you have a chance at Home Ownership when you PCS to Hawaii.

For more information please feel free to contact us today.

Our Team with having over 45 years of experience helping Military Buyers and sellers in Hawaii, We would like to Thank you for your service.

Mahalo

Ryan Riggins (RA)

John Riggins Real Estate

808-330-9105


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PCS – Before and After arrival

You know when it comes to getting the correct info this is a great blog. Big Mahalo for sharing your info and your viewpoint on PCS here to Hawaii

PCS to Hawaii - a Military wife's Journey

We arrived in Honolulu on May 31 and I have a lot to share.  I’m going to start with the flight and finish up with what I’ve learned so far about  temporary lodging allowance (TLA), entitlements and reimbursements.

As I posted in my previous blog, animals traveling between May 15 and September 15 will need to be shipped as cargo.  Because of this, we had to be at Air Cargo 2 1/2 hours before our flight left.  We had a rental car since we shipped our POV out the day before we left.  We had intended to use curbside check in for our luggage, but when we tried, we were told by the Sky Valet that unless we checked our bags at the ticket counter, we would incur extra baggage fees even though we were allowed 4 checked bags each since we were traveling on orders.  I’m going to spare…

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PCS to Hawaii?

It seems so many military families are PCS’ing to Hawaii . It is because of this, that even though I absolutely hate this place that I feel it important to discuss some of the most important questions in relation to coming here. Throughout the months I have been listening and watching the Army Wife 101 fan page and I have compiled many of your questions for these types of posts. I hope you find it helpful.

In this post I will discuss questions in relation to housing and living offpost.

How long is the waiting list for housing onpost?

As I always tell spouses never ask another spouse that only because the wait time varies greatly. You will hear stories of people who PCS’ed here and within a a week they had housing. Then you will hear from those who moved here and lived in lodging for 2 -3 months. Your best bet is to call the housing office and they can give you a round about estimate. You can be placed on something close to a waiting list. When you arrive you will jump ahead of those who have NOT arrived on island yet.  As of the time this post was written you can call the main housing office at 877-487-4323 or visit their site at http://www.islandpalmcommunities.com

Where will I stay while I am waiting for housing?

This is a common question and in my experience I’ve learned you will hear various answers. The first place you definitely want to contact is Schofield Lodging. You can visit them atwww.innatschofield.com. The way it goes is that you need to contact them first and see if they have space available, if they don’t then they will issue you a statement of nonavailability and you will usually wind up at a hotel close to Honolulu Airport. You will hear some people say that they went and stayed at the freaking Ritz Carlton or the Hilton Hawaiian and the Army paid for it. My advice, do it the proper way this way you are guaranteed to receive your TLA and have no issues. PCS’ing to Hawaii is not the time to play around financially.

What does housing look like on Schofield?

Fortunately for me I live in new housing and I will post a few pictures of that below.  Unfortunately you have a great chance of being put in what they call “New Old Housing” which is not that bad in comparison to the old stuff that let’s just say you have to see it for yourself. Housing can also place you in what is known as military reservations. Wheeler is Schofield’s airfield and is right outisde the main gate. They have very new housing and extremely old housing. Let me just say when I say old housing I am talking about Pearl Harbor Era. Some of the housing on Wheeler are considered of historical value and cannot be torn down. At that point they try to revamp the inside but their is only so much revamping you can do to a house that old.

Helemano Military Reservation is about 15 minutes from post near the North Shore. I hear mixed reviews on it but personally Schofield is far enough , I wouldn’t want to be even further at Helemano. The other place they can place you at is AMR. I have friends who live there and they have new housing but there is old housing there as well. AMR is very hilly and high up , but the good thing is you are right near Honolulu . It seems like you have to go to Honolulu to have any kind of life here. Keep in mind in Hawaii military can live in any branches housing, but there are always stipulations on everything . For instance Army can live in Navy housing but they might not be able to get new navy housing.

Many wives ask me what housing areas on Schofield they should ask about when at the housing office. I always say Kaena, Porter, Moyer and Kalakua. Those are the newest housing areas to my knowledge.

Here are a few pictures of a new 3 bedroom home on Schofield in Kaena (my home)

You can view more here if you have Facebook

Do I keep my BAH when I live onpost?

Uh No…I wish! Now when I first arrived here, there was some pretty crappy housing that they actually were giving some onpost residents 15% of their BAH back. Generally speaking your BAH is taken out of your check and that’s that. if you live offpost you get to keep your BAH and utilize it as you wish for a mortgage or rent and possibly utilities.

Do we pay utilities onpost?

You can read my previous post about Mock Light Billing here.

In regards to other utilities it’s the same as any other post. You pay for your cable and phone. Water is free  I wonder for how long.

Who takes care of the lawn maintenance onpost?

I am still trying to figure that out myself because since my husband has returned from his deployment we have cut our own yard, Yet and still we see the landscaping guys in our backyard and cutting our bushes.

Best places to live offpost?

If had to live offpost the 4 places I would look into are Mililani, Ewa Beach, Pearl City, and Kapolei. If you wanna know about the site . Read my post about Offpost Housing. I know many people are quick to want to live off post but please be aware Hawaii is very expensive. I know because we looked and I gladly would take on post housing considering the prices, and the utility cost I have heard about here.

See there look at how fair I was and I didn’t even talk about how much I hate it here 🙂

I think I just about covered all the common housing questions. If I missed one feel free to share it in the comments section.

Thank you Army Wife 101 for this awesome post.


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Army Releases New PT Uniform Design

The U.S. Army rolled out its new physical fitness uniform Monday.  The new black and gold Army Physical Fitness Uniform, or APFU, will replace the current black and gray Improved Physical Fitness Uniform in 2017.

The APFU consists of a jacket, long pants, shorts, short-sleeve T-shirt and long-sleeve T-shirt. The new uniform is scheduled to cost about $3 less than the current uniform, Army officials said.

“Its design is based on soldier feedback,” Col. Robert Mortlock, program manager, Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said in an Aug. 11 press release.

The Army launched the APFU program after a February 2012 Army Knowledge Online survey of some 76,000 soldiers found that soldiers had issues with the IPFU, he said. They liked its durability but believed the IPFU’s textiles had not kept pace with commercially-available workout clothes.

Soldiers, both male and female, also had concerns with other things, particularly modesty issues with the shorts, especially in events like sit-ups, Army officials said.  The issue was of such concern that soldiers were purchasing spandex-like under garments to wear beneath the trunks, Mortlock said.

Another issue was that there were not enough female sizes in the IPFU, he said.  The APFU introduces multiple sizes, including female sizing, and has solved the modesty issue, Mortlock said.

PEO Soldier worked closely with the Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center to develop a new PT uniform that met soldier concerns but did not cost more than the IPFU. The APFU met the goal of controlling costs and improving performance by adopting lighter high-tech moisture wicking fabric, Army officials said.

The fabric of the trunks will continue to be made with durable nylon fabric, but it is lighter than and not as stiff as the IPFU trunks. Also, there will be a four-way stretch panel inside the trunks, sort of like bicycle pants, which eliminates the need for soldiers to purchase their own under garments. The trunks include a bigger key pocket and an ID card pouch.

In all, some 34 changes were made to the new APFU. Officials said soldier feedback determined the form, fit and function of the APFU, but it also determined its look. Soldier feedback was also solicited about the design features as well as the preferred color scheme.

The Army made prototypes of the APFU in a variety of colors and designs and taken to a series of soldier town halls at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Then, the Army launched a second AKO survey, in which more than 190,000 responded, Mortlock said. Soldiers overwhelmingly favored a black T-shirt with gold lettering and a black jacket with gold chevron and the Army logo.

About 876 Soldiers at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Join Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Bragg, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Hood and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, wore the APFU during PT for a three-month period, providing feedback on areas such as form, fit, comfort, Mortlock said. The APFU also was tested for things like durability, laundering, fiber strength, color fastness and color maintenance after laundering.

A key part of testing addressed the concern of some soldiers that a black shirt may cause over-heating. Instrumented tests showed that the lighter weight material and superior moisture wicking fabric more than compensated for any increased heat from the dark material, Army officials said.

The response to the APFU was “overwhelmingly positive,” Mortlock said, particularly with the trunks.

The APFU will come in two types, the Clothing Bag variant, and the Optional APFU, which will be visually the same as the APFU Issue variant, but uses some different materials. The individual items of the two variants can be mixed together. The Optional APFU variant will become available first when it arrives in Army military clothing sales stores sometime between October-December 2014.

The Clothing Bag issue variant will be issued to soldiers from the clothing initial issue points, starting between April to June 2015, and to Reserve, National Guard, and Senior ROTC from July-August 2015. The APFU will be phased in as the IPFUs are used up and worn out. The mandatory wear date will go into effect approximately October 2017, or about three years after the APFU is introduced.

The Army reached out to soldiers at “multiple touch points to ensure we got this right,” Mortlock said. “The message is we’re listening to soldiers. We’re continuing to listen to Soldiers, and this is the soldiers’ selection and Army leaders went along with this.”

Thank you to all our Service Members Aloha your 808 Oahu Realtor

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Making an Offer on a Short Sale? What You Need to Know

Are you looking to buy a new home? Are you thinking that now’s a great time to find bargains? Before you make an offer, it pays to know a little about the seller’s situation.

If a home is being sold for below what the current seller owes on the property—and the seller does not have other funds to make up the difference at closing—the sale is considered a short sale. Many more home owners are finding themselves in this situation due to a number of factors, including job losses, aggressive borrowing against their home in the days of easy credit, and declining home values in a slower real estate market.

A short sale is different from a foreclosure, which is when the seller’s lender has taken title of the home and is selling it directly. Homeowners often try to accomplish a short sale in order to avoid foreclosure. But a short sale holds many potential pitfalls for buyers. Know the risks before you pursue a short-sale purchase.

You’re a good candidate for a short-sale purchase if:

  • You’re very patient. Even after you come to agreement with the seller to buy a short-sale property, the seller’s lender (or lenders, if there is more than one mortgage) has to approve the sale before you can close. When there is only one mortgage, short-sale experts say lender approval typically takes about two months. If there is more than one mortgage with different lenders, it can take four months or longer for the lenders to approve the sale.
  • Your financing is in order. Lenders like cash offers. But even if you can’t pay all cash for a short-sale property, it’s important to show you are well qualified and your financing is set. If you’re preapproved, have a large down payment, and can close at any time, your offer will be viewed more favorably than that of a buyer whose financing is less secure.
  • You don’t have any contingencies. If you have a home to sell before you can close on the purchase of the short-sale property—or you need to be in your new home by a certain time—a short sale may not be for you. Lenders like no-contingency offers and flexible closing terms.

If you’re serious about purchasing a short-sale property, it’s important for you to have expert assistance. Here are some people you want to work with:

  • A qualified real estate professional.* You may have a close friend or relative in real estate, but if that person doesn’t know anything about short sales, working with him or her may hurt your chances of a successful closing. Interview a few practitioners and ask them how many buyers they’ve represented in a short sale and, of those, how many have successfully closed. A qualified real estate professional will be able to show you short-sale homes, help negotiate the purchase when you find the property you want to buy, and smooth communications with the lender. (All MLSs permit, and some now require, special notations to indicate that a listing is a short sale. There also are certain phrases you can watch for, such as “lender approval required.”)
  • Title officer. It’s a good idea to have a title officer do an initial title search on a short-sale property to see all the liens attached to the property. If there are multiple lien holders (e.g., second or third mortgage or lines of credit, real estate tax lien, mechanic’s lien, homeowners association lien, etc.), it’s much tougher to get that short sale contract to the closing table. Any of the lien holders could put a kink in the process even after you’ve waited for months for lender approval. If you don’t know a title officer, your real estate attorney or real estate professional should be able to recommend a few.

Some of the other risks faced by buyers of short-sale properties include:

  • Potential for rejection. Lenders want to minimize their losses as much as possible. If you make an offer tremendously lower than the fair market value of the home, chances are that your offer will be rejected and you’ll have wasted months. Or the lender could make a counteroffer, which will lengthen the process.
  • Bad terms. Even when a lender approves a short sale, it could require that the sellers sign a promissory note to repay the deficient amount of the loan, which may not be acceptable to some financially desperate sellers. In that case, the sellers may refuse to go through with the short sale. Lenders also can change any of the terms of the contract that you’ve already negotiated, which may not be agreeable to you.
  • No repairs or repair credits. You will most likely be asked to take the property “as is.” Lenders are already taking a loss on the property and may not agree to requests for repair credits.

The risks of a short sale are considerable. But if you have the time, patience, and iron will to see it through, a short sale can be a win-win for you and the sellers.


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What Homeowners Insurance Does Not Cover

A homeowners insurance policy offers basic protection from the most common disasters. But because it’s built with the average American household in mind, your policy might not account for some risks associated with your location or cover all your possessions.

Floods

Flood insurance is mandatory when you have a mortgage on a home in a high-risk flood area. Even if you live outside a high-risk area, don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll never experience a flood. In fact, nearly 20% of flood insurance claims come from areas of moderate to low risk, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. Whether it’s a flash flood or just a few inches from a storm, water can cause massive damage to your home and belongings. If you’re not financially prepared, the effects can be devastating. The National Flood Insurance Program has joined with insurers to offer flood insurance. Premiums, which vary depending on where you live, start at just $129 a year.

Earthquakes

Basic homeowners insurance policies don’t offer earthquake coverage. Fortunately, in many states, special earthquake coverage can be added to your policy.

Anyone who has seen the aftermath of an earthquake understands the devastation one can cause. The extensive shaking and cracking can demolish entire buildings, destroying your home and possessions. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, consider strengthening your policy with this coverage.

Home Businesses

Your homeowners policy provides limited coverage for business equipment. Also, you are not covered for liability related to your home business — if, for example, someone gets food poisoning through your catering business or if a student visiting your home trips and breaks an ankle while leaving a piano lesson. If you run a business from home or have expensive office equipment, you may need additional coverage.

Valuable Personal Property

Homeowners policies can offer sufficient coverage for most personal property, but there are limitations. Valuable personal property insurance can take over where homeowners policies leave off. VPP insurance can provide coverage for losses due to fire or theft. It also covers damage or if an item gets lost — say a stone falls out of a ring or the ring falls down the drain. If you own valuable items such as artwork, jewelry, musical instruments, firearms, furs or silver, consider obtaining a VPP policy.

Broader Personal Liability

Homeowners policies offer limited coverage for liability protection. Given the litigious world we live in, an umbrella insurance policy can provide additional peace of mind. An umbrella policy helps protect you and your earnings if someone, such as a baby sitter or handyman, is injured at your home. It also helps provide protection if you (or a family member) are found liable in a serious automobile accident.

This type of insurance can provide extended liability coverage beyond your home and auto policies. Consider shielding your personal financial assets with additional liability insurance.


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Use your VA loan benefit

No down payment, lower credit score – get approved anyway. Take a second look at this surprising program

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Air Force Tech Sgt. Rhonda Stockstill and her husband, Lendle, in front of the home they bought with a VA loan. (Scott Schaefer)
After a tornado ripped through Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rhonda Stockstill’s house in Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013, she and her husband began the hunt for a new home, thinking they would go through their previous lender to get another VA home loan. That lender told them they would be better off going with a conventional loan that would saddle them with a $160,000 down payment and closing costs. The mortgage company “was making us jump through hoops. We were really discouraged,” Stockstill said. After about four months of trying to work with the previous lender, Stockstill found another, Veterans United, which helped the couple secure a Veterans Affairs-backed loan within about 30 days, with a far lower down payment and a lower interest rate than what their previous lender had quoted. The VA home loan program has guaranteed more than 20 million VA loans in the 70 years since its creation. Numbers fell during the middle of the last decade, coinciding with the rise in conventional loans to people who would not be approved now. But since the subprime mortgage bubble burst and credit rules have tightened across the industry, VA loans are back on the rise. In 2013, VA guaranteed the highest number of loans in the program’s history — 629,312. Yet it’s clear that there are misperceptions about the program. Son Nguyen, who heads the nonprofit Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, notes that there are 1.9 million active VA-guaranteed loans, but more than 1 million troops and 22 million veterans are eligible. Conventional loans may make more sense in certain circumstances, says Chris Birk, Veterans United’s director of VA loan education — like if you have excellent credit, sizable assets and plenty of cash for a 20 percent down payment. But the reality is, for many service members, the VA home loan program is the most advantageous, Birk said — a benefit that can save money for military and veteran homeowners. And its features were designed not only to put veterans in a home, but to make sure they can repay the mortgage and stay in it, said Mike Frueh, director of VA’s Loan Guaranty Service. What’s more, VA has improved the program to make its part of the loan process faster, easier and more transparent. Like the Stockstills, some veterans encounter lenders and real estate agents who try to steer them away from their VA home loan benefit, for a variety of reasons, many of which are misperceptions. Some reminders, little-known facts and tips: ■ Active-duty troops as well as veterans who have left the service qualify, regardless of whether they served in combat. About 17 percent of VA loans went to active-duty troops in 2013. ■ The benefit never expires and can be used multiple times. ■ The VA home loan is the only major type of loan that does not require a down payment as long as the sale price doesn’t exceed the appraised value; 89 percent of VA loans are made without a down payment. In essence, the VA’s guarantee takes the place of a down payment. ■ The program doesn’t require private mortgage insurance, an extra monthly expense when a borrower is not making a down payment of at least 20 percent. A down payment of 20 percent on a $200,000 loan would be $40,000. “By not spending that $40,000, veterans have money in their pockets to take care of unforeseen circumstances,” Frueh said. ■ Veterans usually can get their VA Home Loan Certificate of Eligibility within seconds at www.ebenefits.va.gov. But the lender often can do that for you. In 2013, 463,303 electronic certificates of eligibility were issued. ■ VA does not require a minimum credit score. Instead, the requirements are based on whether a borrower can repay the loan. However, lenders do impose additional requirements for credit scores. “Our minimum credit score is typically 620,” said Veterans United’s Birk. “Generally speaking, 620 is a pretty good barometer. That falls into the ‘fair’ [category], which is a step below ‘good.’ And it’s about 100 points lower than credit scores needed for a conventional loan.” “There’s great misperception that you need sterling credit to use this program. But it was created to level the playing field,” Birk said – to help veterans who may not otherwise qualify for mortgages. ■ Veterans generally pay a funding fee of 2.15 percent of the purchase price for a VA loan. For example, with no down payment for a $200,000 loan, a funding fee of 2.15 percent equals $4,300. For those who were or are in the National Guard or reserves, the funding fee is 2.4 percent. The fee is reduced for those who make down payments of 5 percent or more. ■ Some VA borrowers don’t pay the funding fee at all. They include veterans receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability or those eligible to receive it if they weren’t receiving retirement or active-duty pay, and surviving spouses of veterans who died in service or from a service-connected disability. The VA also has limitations on what lenders can charge borrowers for a loan, to make sure the veterans don’t pay unnecessary fees, Frueh said. Conversely, the VA allows a seller to pay up to 4 percent of certain closing costs, including the paying the VA funding fee. ■ VA doesn’t lend money; it guarantees the loans made by about 1,500 commercial entities such as banks, credit unions and mortgage companies, although the top 11 lenders account for about half of all VA loans. Lenders, not VA, set interest rates, discount points and closing costs, and the rates likely vary among lenders. It’s best to shop around. But overall, average interest rates on VA loans trend even a little lower than those on conventional loans, Birk said. ■ VA home loans can be used to buy a home or a condominium unit in a VA-approved project; to build a home; to simultaneously purchase and improve a home; to buy a manufactured home and/or lot; and to make energy-efficient improvements. ■Veterans can use their VA home loan benefit multiple times. ■ The guarantee limits vary depending on the geographic area, based on the median home price. Generally, the limit is $417,000, but can range up to $1,094,625 in higher cost areas. This is not aloan limit — you can buy a more expensive house, as long as you can handle a down payment of 25 percent of the difference. For example, if the guarantee limit in your area is $417,000 and the house you want costs $500,000, it’s yours if you can pay $20,750 — which is 25 percent of the $83,000 diference – as a down payment. ■ The key is to work with real estate agents and lenders who have worked with VA loans. Tell them upfront that you’re a veteran. Ask questions about how many VA loans they’ve worked with. If the agent isn’t experienced and informed, it could cost you money and time, said Lorraine Santirosa, a real estate agent with Keller Williams SD Metro in San Diego. It could cost you time especially in finding a condominium, because condos must be VA-approved, she said, in order for the buyer to qualify for a VA loan. And if a lender doesn’t understand the rules and details of VA loans, “it could cause the deal to fall apart, or put the veteran in a loan at a higher interest rate.” ■ Do your own research at www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans, or call toll free 877-827-3702. For example, one veteran said he was told he had to have $2,000 or less in debt to qualify, but that is not a VA requirement for a home loan. Armed with knowledge, you can shop around for another lender. ■ VA allows veterans to lower their interest rate by refinancing their existing VA home loan, either through their current lender, if that lender agrees, or through any VA lender. ■ VA’s requirements help ensure that veterans have the financial ability to make their payments and stay in their homes — a major reason why VA loans have the lowest foreclosure rate among loan types, including FHA and conventional. Another reason, Frueh said, is that VA has about 150 staff members nationwide “whose sole job is to help veterans who are behind on their mortgage find a way to become current.” Last year, he noted, VA helped almost 74,000 veterans resolve their delinquencies and in most cases, keep their homes.

Financial institutions that did the most VA loans in 2013:

Lender Total loans Loan amount (billions) Average loan amount
1 Wells Fargo Bank 81,424 $16.8 $206,385
2 USAA 44,828 $10.6 $235,382
3 Quicken Loans Inc. 28,305 $5.8 $205,515
4 Freedom Mortgage Corp. 26,928 $6.3 $233,012
5 Mortgage Investors Corp. 26,614 $4.5 $169,720
6 Navy Federal Credit Union 25,991 $6.4 $246,549
7 Fifth Third Mortgage Co. 19,165 $4.4 $227,921
8 Mortgage Research Center 18,679 $3.9 $206,593
9 Bank of America 16,493 $3.3 $201,744
10 JPMorgan Chase Bank 16,445 $3.2 $195,442

Source: Veterans Affairs Department