"What is your interest rate?" This is the most frequently asked question in the lending world. Without a doubt, personal experience compounded with all of the social media questions prove the point every single day. Because I take an educator-first mindset, it is imperative to explain why this is only one small piece of a much larger puzzle when comparing lenders.


An interest rate can be manipulated to look better than it actually is by throwing on origination fees, processing fees, underwriting fees and points to lower the rate. All of these things mean you are actually paying to have a lower interest rate. The VA regulations allow for up to one percent of the loan amount to be charged by the lender in addition to reasonable discount points. This one percent is outside of the other fees paid to outside parties such as an appraisal, credit report, title examination, title insurance and more. This flat (up to) one percent is specifically designed to cover the lender's services.

While the VA may allow up to a one percent fee, that doesn't mean that it is necessary. Many lenders, including myself, will never charge a veteran a fee for doing a VA loan. It's just not how we envision taking care of each other looks like. Additionally, many financial institutions that typically do charge this fee will occasionally run promotions that eliminate it for a short window of time. It is important to read the fine print when looking up any advertised interest rates, as many will have a disclaimer such as "Rates quoted above require a 1.00% loan origination fee. The origination fee may be waived for a 0.25% increase in the interest rate".

The origination or other lender fees like in the above scenario are similar to discount points, but are not tax deductible. This is yet another downside of lender fees. Discount points, however, are a tax deductible fee in exchange for a lower interest rate. One point is equal to one percent of the loan amount, and will reduce the interest rate by .25%. Let's practice some mortgage math on a scenario I pulled up today from an undisclosed lender's website:

"VA 30 yr fixed loan - Interest rate as low as 3.625% - discount points 2.00

*Rates quoted above require a 1.00% loan origination fee. The origination fee may be waived for a 0.25% increase in the interest rate"

As the disclaimer states, to not pay an origination fee of 1%, the rate goes up by .25%. Now the rate is at 3.625 +.25 = 3.875 … but we still have those two points to deal with!

2 points *.25 each = .5 increase to rate without paying for them. 3.875 +.5= 4.375

That 3.625 advertised rate comes with so many points and fees that it is actually a TRUE rate of 4.375 - a far cry from what was seen on the surface. In a $300,000 home loan, this would make the difference of $129 each and every month if you chose not to pay any of those fees, OR $9,000 upfront, out of pocket in addition to the regular closing costs.

Even if you have a motivated seller offering to pay your closing costs, you have a choice to use that money to pay a lender's fee or you could use that money to buy down points with a lender that doesn't charge. That 1% lender's fee could actually be you saving .25% off of the interest rate elsewhere if the seller's contributions aren't already maxed out. This is just one way to make your closing cost contributions work for your bottom line instead of your lender's. All financial matters are based on trust, and this is likely your largest life purchase, so it's important to be in the know!