Navy Federal Review | Mortgage Lenders

·15 min read
Money; Getty Images
Money; Getty Images

With membership nearing 12 million, Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) is one of the nation’s largest credit unions. That is a feat, considering its membership is limited to military personnel, Department of Defense members, veterans and related parties.

Navy Federal has five mortgage options to choose from and plenty of educational resources to help potential borrowers with the mortgage process. Additionally, Navy Federal’s representatives are available online, by phone or at one of its 348 branches worldwide.

Read on to learn more about Navy Federal Credit Union and its mortgage lending services.

Table of Contents

  • Navy Federal’s Services

  • Navy Federal’s Credentials

  • Navy Federal’s Accessibility

  • Navy Federal’s Customer Satisfaction

Navy Federal Credit Union Mortgage Lenders Overview

Pros

  • Five types of mortgage loans with varying eligibility requirements

  • Real estate agents available, plus potential savings, through the RealtyPlus program

  • No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) required for any of its mortgage loan products

  • Mortgage refinance loans available

Cons

  • Membership is only open to military personnel and related parties

  • No FHA or USDA loans offered

  • No down payment offered on some loan types

Founded in 1933 by Navy Department employees, Navy Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union headquartered in Vienna, Virginia. Its approximately 12 million owner-members receive benefits from surplus funds in the form of dividends, lower interest rates and discounts with partner companies such as Liberty Mutual and the auto rental services Enterprise and Hertz. Membership is open only to military personnel and related parties.

NFCU offers a variety of financial products, including banking services, credit cards, personal loans, loan refinancing, current mortgage refinance, investment property and second home loans, home equity loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and mortgages.

Its services are available online, through its mobile app, phone and at its 348 branches worldwide.

Navy Federal’s Mortgage Lending Services

Navy Federal Credit Union offers five mortgage options: VA Home Loans, Military Choice, Homebuyers Choice, Conventional Fixed Rate and Adjustable Rate Mortgages.

Potential borrowers must meet eligibility qualifications to join the credit union, which requires a $5 minimum in a Navy Federal savings account, before applying for any mortgage loans. If you qualify, you will get a preapproval letter to show your initial approval amount as you begin your home search.

What Navy Federal offers

  • VA Home Loans and four other mortgage loan options

  • Rate match guarantee or $1,000 (some conditions apply)

  • Cash back bonus if you use the RealtyPlus program

  • Freedom Lock program, where if rates improve within 60 days of the original preapproval, you can relock your rate up to two times for a maximum interest rate reduction of 0.50%

What Navy Federal doesn’t offer

  • Loans for non-members

  • Guarantee of approval for any of its mortgages

Navy Federal mortgage loan types

VA Home Loans – A VA Home Loan is a 10-to 30-year term loan backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This no-down-payment mortgage is a great choice for borrowers with good credit looking for low interest rates. NFCU’s VA mortgage loan includes refinance options.

Military Choice – A military choice loan is a fixed-rate loan with the possibility of no down payment, depending on the borrower’s creditworthiness. The loan term is between 16 and 30 years. This loan type is recommended for people who have exhausted their VA loan benefit. Jumbo loans, or mortgage loans greater than $647,200 (the exact number varies by state), are also available through Military Choice.

Homebuyers Choice – No down payment is required for qualified borrowers for this fixed-rate loan. The loan terms are 10 to 30 years for a regular Homebuyers Choice loan and its jumbo loan version.

Conventional Fixed Rate – A down payment of at least 5% is required for this loan. The interest rate will stay the same throughout the life of the loan, which can be either 15 or 30 years. Jumbo loans are also available under the same loan terms in the Conventional Fixed Rate program.

Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM) – This loan carries a fixed interest rate for a specified time. When that term ends, the interest rate is adjusted according to the lender. Navy Federal’s loan terms for ARMs are 10 to 30 years, and down payments range from 0 to 10%, depending on borrower creditworthiness.

Eligibility requirements for Navy Federal mortgages

In addition to membership with Navy Federal Credit Union, two of the mortgage lender’s loan types require specific military or Department of Defense history or relationship to either.

VA Home Loan

  • 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime

  • 181 days of active service during peacetime

  • More than six years with the National Guard or Reserves

  • Current spouse of a service member who died on duty or as a result of a service-related disability

Military Choice

  • Active duty

  • Reservists

  • Veterans

Membership eligibility

  • Active duty or retirees of the armed forces: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard and Space Force

  • Recruits enlisted in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), ROTC members, and Department of Defense Officer Candidates

  • Members of the Department of Defense reservists and annuitants (survivors of former active duty military members)

  • Family members of military personnel

  • Department of Defense civilian personnel

Underwriting process for Navy Federal mortgages

Loan officers look at several factors when determining mortgage approval. Here are a few key elements:

  • Credit score

  • Credit report

  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

  • Loan-to-Value

  • Income

Costs and fees

These are some of the fees associated with NFCU mortgages. Be sure to read the fine print to ensure you’ve considered all costs.

  • Mortgage loan origination fee – The Military Choice loan, Homebuyers Choice loan, Conventional Fixed-rate Mortgages and the Adjustable Rate Mortgage all require a 1.00% loan origination fee. This cost can be waived for a 0.25% increase in the loan interest rate.

  • Funding fee – A funding fee of 1.75% of the mortgage loan amount is required with Military Choice loans and Homebuyers Choice loans. Borrowers can finance this fee into the loan up to a maximum of 101.75% of the loan-to-value (LTV) or waive it for a 0.375% increase in the interest rate.

  • Returned loan payment – This charge ranges from $10 to $29 depending on the loan and state in which it was originated.

  • Late charges – This amount ranges from 2% to 5% of the principal and interest of your loan, depending on the state and the type of loan.

  • Closing costs – In most cases, the closing cost is between 2% and 4% of the loan amount. This amount may include tax service charges, an appraisal, a credit report check and other services required by the lender.

Navy Federal’s RealtyPlus program

Through RealtyPlus, mortgage loan buyers may get between $400 and $9,000 cash back, depending on the home’s purchase price. (In some states, the offer may not be available, or the money returned may not be in cash, but in the form of a Mastercard MAX gift card or a commission reduction.)

Enroll online and a RealtyPlus coordinator will connect you with a real estate agent at one of its partner agencies — Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, ERA Real Estate or Corcoran.

While RealtyPlus limits home buyers to purchases through agents at only these companies, the program is free — save for applicable real estate fees or commissions — and includes helpful information, such as home sale market trends and school rankings.

Note that homes for sale by owner may not qualify. Be sure to ask your assigned agent for further details.

Navy Federal’s Credentials

Navy Federal is associated with the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and has earned various customer service awards. The credit union also publishes a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PcW) annual audit that includes detailed data about its services.

Regarding regulatory actions, there has been one significant legal action against Navy Federal by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, detailed below.

Licenses and registrations

Navy Federal is insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), a U.S. Government Agency. This is corroborated by the NCUA site and the NFCU’s listing on the Nationwide Multi-State Licensing System and Registry (NMLS).

NFCU uses only licensed Mortgage Loan Originators (also known as loan officers). The credit union is also audited annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and those reports are available to the public on the Navy Federal website.

Awards and certifications

Third-party rankings

No information is available from third-party organizations or companies.

Regulatory or legal actions

In October 2016, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) found that Navy Federal Credit made false threats about legal actions and wage garnishment to members with delinquent accounts via letters and phone calls.

Additionally, some 700,000 members with overdue payments on credit products had access to their electronic accounts — including debit cards — disabled. They were also told that their commanding officers would be contacted if they did not make a payment. Navy Federal Credit Union was ordered to pay $23 million in compensation to certain members who experienced these violations.

The CFPB also ordered Navy Federal to correct its debt collection practices and ensure account access to members regardless of their account status. Navy Federal was also required to pay $5.5 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.

According to a Reuters report issued the same year, Navy Federal Credit Union did not deny or admit to the allegations. A representative stated the credit union has cooperated with the CFPB and changed practices accordingly. Navy Federal reportedly settled for $28.5 million in total.

Navy Federal’s Accessibility

Below you’ll find details about various means of contact, whether via online or mobile app, by phone or at one of its brick-and-mortar branches.

Availability

Navy Federal has 348 branches located around the world. The credit union’s services are also accessible online, through mobile apps, the credit union’s Twitter or Facebook accounts and by phone.

Contact information

  • Branches: 348 worldwide, hours vary by location

  • Phone, mortgage applications and servicing: 1-888-842-6328, Monday through Saturday, 7 am to midnight ET and Sundays, 9 am to midnight Eastern Time

  • Phone, general inquiries: 1-877-418-1462 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm Eastern Time

  • Mobile app: App Store, Google Play, or Amazon AppStore

  • Online chat: www.navyfederal.org

  • Secure messaging: available through the online banking page

  • Social media: Facebook and Twitter

You can also reach Navy Federal by mail:

  • Mortgage payments: PO Box 3300 Merrifield, VA 22119-3300

  • Mortgage error resolution/information requests: PO Box 3302 Merrifield, VA 22119-3302

  • General correspondence: PO Box 3000 Merrifield, VA 22119-3000

User experience

Navy Federal’s website is brimming with resources for potential mortgage loan applicants. Beginning at the mortgage section of Navy Federal’s site, choose “View all” to see a summary of all mortgage options, including starting interest rates and loan terms. By clicking “Learn more” on each loan type, you can find further information, such as eligibility requirements and sample rates.

Potential borrowers can use NFCU’s mortgage guidance calculators to estimate closing costs, down payments and monthly payments. There are also calculators designed to compare terms or determine how much a mortgage might save you on income taxes.

However, to apply for a mortgage with Navy Federal, you must be a member. After checking the eligibility requirements and signing up, you can access the mortgage applications on the credit union’s website anytime.

The credit union’s Homesquad utility connects to your existing NFCU account, streamlining the process from preapproval to uploading documents and tracking your loan status.

For those who prefer the offline approach, you can call a specialist directly at 1-888-842-6328.

Limitations

While online services are available 24/7, you must be a Navy Federal Credit Union member to access the online application for any of its mortgage options.

Applications and servicing help are available at 1-888-842-6328 from 7 am to midnight Monday through Saturday and 9 am to midnight on Sundays (all Eastern Time).

Navy Federal’s Customer Satisfaction

The listing for Navy Federal Credit Union on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site is mostly negative, averaging 1.4 out of 5 stars among 154 reviews. Trustpilot reviews are more gracious and also more numerous. Based on 11,765 reviews, Navy Federal received a rating of Excellent, with 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Customer Complaints

The most common complaint about Navy Federal on the Better Business Bureau page was identity theft. Multiple users stated they had not opened accounts with the credit union, yet their credit reports were hit because of delinquent accounts.

This may have been a result of criminal activity: In August of 2022, a man was charged for aggravated identity theft and bank fraud that specifically targeted Navy Federal. Along with three others, he used the identities of various people to open accounts and receive auto loans. According to the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia, the identity information was sourced from Autotrader and other websites.

Other complaints relate to Navy Federal withholding funds once a check has been deposited into their accounts. The CFPB standard for check withholding is not fixed; the agency says every bank or credit union has its own policy.

Another recurring problem reported by users via BBB is the denial of applications to join Navy Federal Credit Union despite being actual military personnel.

Additionally, on the BBB site as well as the credit union’s Facebook page, there are multiple complaints about customer service quality. Some members have reported waiting more than 30 minutes to connect with customer service representatives by phone. Others have stated they are dissatisfied with Navy Federal’s resolutions of concerns about fees they believed to be inaccurate, payment processing failures and glitches on the website and mobile apps.

Third-party ratings

Navy Federal Credit Union scored 746 out of 1,000 on J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Mortgage Servicer Satisfaction Study.

Navy Federal FAQ

Is it hard to get a mortgage loan with Navy Federal?

Once you've become a Navy Federal Credit Union member, the application process is relatively simple, and guidance from representatives is readily available. However, approval will depend on your credit score, debt-to-income ratio (DTI) and, depending on the type of loan, how much you can spend on a down payment.

What FICO score does Navy Federal Use?

Navy Federal does not list its minimum credit score requirements outright, but in its 2022 annual report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), around 84% of borrowers had FICO scores greater or equal to 610.

What is the minimum down payment with Navy Federal?

Except for the VA Loan, the down payment you must pay will depend on your creditworthiness. Navy Federal's VA Loan does not require a downpayment. Other types of mortgages offered by the credit union may also be free of down payments, while some require between 5% and 10% of the home's total purchase price.

What are the mortgage rates for Navy Federal?

Interest rates are subject to change according to the market, and your actual rate will vary depending on your creditworthiness. However, as of publication time, the starting annual percent rate (APR) is lowest with the VA Loan (starting at 5.088%) and highest with Homebuyers Choice (6.375%). These rates are specific to new mortgages; refinance rates will vary.

Is Navy Federal a good lender?

While there are multiple complaints to the BBB about Navy Federal's customer service, most of these issues are related to banking services rather than the credit union's mortgage lending. Additionally, third-party ratings contradict these reviews: Navy Federal has won several awards from reputable organizations for top-tier customer service in the past few years.

How We Evaluated Navy Federal Mortgage Lenders

Our evaluation process began with scouring the Navy Federal Credit Union site, with particular attention to its mortgage lending pages and the annual PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) audit.

We also looked to the credit union’s social media pages for more information and feedback from members. Third-party sites played a significant role in our methodology, too.

The criteria we considered include:

  • Membership eligibility

  • Variety of loan types and loan terms

  • Reputation

  • Rankings and ratings from third-party sites and industry agencies

Summary of Money’s Navy Federal Credit Union Mortgage Review

Navy Federal Credit Union offers several types of mortgages for military personnel and related parties. The variety is a plus, and the rates for Navy Federal mortgages are generally on par with today’s average rates. Additionally, the educational resources provided — especially the online interactive video on its mortgage landing page — help guide potential borrowers to the type of mortgage that best fits their needs.

Third-party sites have repeatedly awarded Navy Federal with accolades for its customer experience. However, on review pages like the BBB, reports of bad experiences are not uncommon, although many of these complaints are typical of those leveraged against most banks and credit unions.

Navy Federal publishes an annual audit by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), which adds credibility. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau case against Navy Federal is concerning, but Navy Federal settled for $28.5 million total and stated it had changed its practices.

If you choose to become a member of Navy Federal and apply for a mortgage, be sure to ask for total transparency and make sure, as always, to read the corresponding fine print for any of the credit union’s services.

For more mortgage lender options, including conventional and FHA loans, check out Money’s report on the 8 Best Mortgage Lenders.

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