• The Lenders Network

The Complete Guide to VA Home Loans

If you’re a Veteran then you’ve probably heard about VA home loans.

The mortgage program is the greatest benefit provided to our Nation’s Veterans.

A no down payment home loan with no mortgage insurance.

In this article we’re going to cover everything there is to know about VA loans.

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VA Home Loan Infographic:

Benefits of VA Loans

How Does a VA Loan Work?

  • A VA home loan is a mortgage that is guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

  • They are issued by private lenders that are approved by the VA, the VA does not offer loans, they just guarantee them

  • They do not require a downpayment, you can finance 100% of the price of the home

  • Military service persons and their spouses may be eligible

  • Mortgage insurance premiums (PMI) is not required

  • VA funding fee of 2.15% for first-time buyers or 3.3% for repeat buyers is needed

Who is Eligible

Basic VA Service Eligibility Requirements:

  • 90 days of consecutive active duty service

  • More than 180 days of active duty service during peacetime

  • 6 or more years in the National Guard or Reserves

  • Active-duty Military

  • Cadets of the U.S. Military, Coast Guard Academy, or Air Force

  • U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen

  • Atmospheric and National Oceanic Administration officers

  • U.S. Public Health Service officers

* VA loans are not available to Dishonorably discharged veterans

VA Loan Advantages

  • No down payment

  • No mortgage insurance premium (MIP)

  • Low credit scores may be approved

  • Flexible requirements

  • Lower rate than conventional loans

  • Higher debt-to-income ratios accepted

  • VA negotiates with the lender if you are facing foreclosure

  • Higher loan limits than FHA loans

  • Seller can pay 6% of closing costs

  • Fixed-rate and adjustable-rate loan terms

VA Credit Score Requirements

VA home loans technically don’t have a minimum credit score. The Department of Veterans Affairs will guarantee a mortgage loan regardless of the borrowers FICO scores.

Lenders often set their own minimum credit requirements, most VA lenders want to see at least a 620 score to approved the loan application.

Some lenders may be able to approve credit scores of 580 and higher. Lenders will look at more than just your FICO score. They take into account your entire credit history.

FHA loans are also available for those with lower credit scores.

If you have a credit score below 580 it’s highly recommended that you improve your credit score before applying. Or if you have at least a 10% down payment you may qualify for an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 500.

Credit Guidelines

  • 620 or higher credit score (Some lenders have bad credit VA loans with a 580 score or lower)

  • No more than one late payment in the past 12 months

  • No bankruptcies, foreclosures, or short sales in the past 36 months

  • No mortgage rates in the past 6 months

First-time Homebuyers

Veterans that are also first-time homebuyers appreciate the fact that there is zero down payment and no mortgage insurance.

However, these loans are not just for first-time buyers, veterans can use a VA home loan multiple times throughout their life-time.

VA Entitlement

VA entitlement is a figure that shows how much you are able to qualify for.

If you’re a first time user your basic entitlement will be enough to qualify for a $453,100 loan, or higher in certain high-cost areas.

You need to speak to a VA lender to find out how much of an entitlement you qualify for.

What is the VA funding fee?

Because the VA loan program doesn’t require mortgage insurance, in order to help fund the VA program there is a one time VA funding fee.

The funding fee amount will depend on the amount of the loan, and whether or not you’re using a down payment.

It needs to be paid at closing, you may be able to roll the funding fee into the loan and finance it.

Funding fee not required if you are:

  • Receiving VA payments for a service-connected disability, OR

  • Veteran who would be entitled to receive compensation or if didn’t receive retirement or active duty pay, OR

  • Are a surviving spouse of a Veteran who died in service

VA Certificate of Eligibility

In order to receive a VA-insured mortgage loan you must have a certificate of eligibility from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.

Your mortgage lender can get one on your behalf, or you can visit the VA website to receive your certificate.

Qualifying VA Income

  • W2 Income

  • Overtime and bonus pay

  • Seasonal positions

  • Part-time income

  • Income from a second job

  • LES income

  • Child support

  • Self-employed income

Non-Qualifying VA Income

  • Lottery winnings

  • Gambling income

  • Unemployment benefits

  • All one time income payments inconsistent sources of income

  • Single bonus payment

  • Income from investment properties

VA Streamline Refinance

With a VA mortgage loan you may may qualify to refinance your mortgage using a streamline refinance to reduce your interest rate and lower your monthly payment.

A 210 days after closing you are eligible to refinance your VA loan.

VA streamline refinance loans are quick and easy.

It must have a net tangible benefit in order to close. You must be able to reduce your interest or lower your payments by at least 5% to qualify.

VA Loan Limits

The VA loan limit in low cost areas of the country has been increased to $453,100 in low cost areas, and up to $721,050 in high cost areas of the country.

High cost areas of the country include cities such as, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Denver.

If you are seeking a loan for a home priced above the loan limit you can get a jumbo VA loan.

You can check VA loan limits in your county here.

VA Jumbo Loans

If you’re seeking a loan to buy a home that exceeds the loan limit in your area you may be able to get a VA jumbo loan.

You will need to pay 25 percent of the amount over the loan limit.

For example if you lived in a low cost area like Dallas where the loan limit is $453,100.

And you wanted to buy a home that costs $553,100, which is $100,000 over the limit.

You will need to pay 25% of $100,000. So you will have a down payment of $25,000. Debt-to-Income Ratio

The Department of Veteran Affairs does not state a maximum debt-to-income ratio (DTI ratio).

However lenders typically want to see a DTI ratio at or below 41%. 41% is not a hard cap, these are certain situations in which a lender will allow higher debt-to-income ratios.

Strong compensating factors for high DTI ratio

  • Loan-to-value ratio below 95%

  • High net worth

  • Large amount of cash in reserves

  • No payment shock

  • High income

  • Good credit score

In Conclusion…

The VA home loan program offers a wealth of benefits for many home buyers.

They are easier to qualify for than conventional loans and have lower interest rates.

They are great for all Veterans, especially first-time home buyers because they offer zero down payment and no mortgage insurance making them the cheapest mortgage available.

Do you think you’re ready to buy a new home using your VA benefits?

VA Loans Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a minimum credit score for a VA loan?

While technically there is no minimum credit score the VA requires, lenders set their own credit requirements, usually between 580-640. Some lenders may be able to accept credit scores lower than 580.

How many times can you use a VA home loan?

One of the great benefits of VA loans is that Veterans may use them for life. In some cases you may be able to have two VA loans at the same time, however, there are restrictions.

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