VA Home Loans: Home Buying and VA Loan Rates for Military and Veterans in 2019
Owning a home is something most people dream about from childhood. It’s a huge, important part of life.
Unfortunately, many think it’s much more difficult as it is.
As an active duty service member or veteran, it’s even easier for you than for the average person. That’s because one of your most valuable benefits – the VA home loan – offers:
- No-down-payment home buying
- Zero monthly mortgage insurance
- Incredible interest rates
- More lenient credit guidelines
The VA home loan is an amazing benefit available only to current and former US armed forces service members who meet eligibility requirements. In 2019, the VA home loan will continue to be one of the most popular VA benefits.
Because VA home loans are backed by the federal government, VA-approved lenders can lend with greater flexibility. Your status as an eligible service member or Veteran lets you take advantage of this home buying benefit that is not available to just anyone
VA Home Loans Require No Down Payment, No Mortgage Insurance
VA home loans require zero down payment which significantly reduces out-of-pocket expenses. Qualified buyers can purchase a home costing up to $484,350 – or even higher with a VA jumbo loan – without a down payment.
Also, VA loans do not require mortgage insurance. Most other loan types require you to pay a significant amount each month to a private mortgage insurance company if you make a down payment of less than 20% of the purchase price. A VA loan eliminates that cost, freeing up that money for other expenses.
Current VA Home Loan Rates
VA mortgage rates are some of the lowest we’ve seen in years. It’s a great time to buy a home and take advantage of these low VA rates.
A low rate on your mortgage means you qualify for more house. Today’s lower home prices combined with low rates means you might qualify for the home you’ve always dreamed of.
VA Eligibility Service Requirements
There are several ways you may be eligible. General guidelines are that you have the following service history:
- 90 days in wartime while in active duty
- 181 days in peacetime while in active duty
- 2 years or the full time called if enlisted after 9/7/1980
- You were separated from service due to a service-connected disability
- You are an unmarried surviving spouse of a service member who was KIA/POW/MIA.
This chart details wartime/peacetime periods.
|Wartime Service||Peacetime Service|
|WWII: 9/16/1940 – 7/25/1947||7/26/1947 – 6/26/1950|
|Korean: 6/27/1950 – 1/31/1955||2/1/1955 – 8/4/1964|
|Vietnam: 8/5/1964 – 5/7/1975||5/8/1975 – 8/1/1990|
|Gulf: 8/2/1990 – TBD|
Additionally, eligibility may be established for those who have served in the Selected Reserves or National Guard, Public Health Service officers, cadets of the United States Military, Air Force, Coast Guard Academy, and others.
How Do I Know if I am Eligible?
The only way to be 100% sure that you are eligible to purchase a home with a VA loan is to receive a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA. There are two ways to obtain your COE:
- Have your lender obtain your COE through VA’s eligibility website. Typically a loan officer can obtain your COE in just minutes, often without a DD-214 (if separated from service) and your Request for COE Form 26-1880, although sometimes these forms are needed. Calling a VA-approved lender is the quickest and easiest way to obtain your COE. Complete a short contact request form or call (866) 240-3742.
- You can order your COE by visiting VA’s eBenefits website. This process may take longer.
If you are an unmarried spouse of a veteran who was killed in action, you may be eligible for VA financing. You will need to complete Form 26-1817.
What Do I Need before I Contact a VA Lender?
For your initial call or contact request to a VA lender, you don’t need any documentation. Most of the initial information the lender will ask about, you already know.
The lender will request your COE, so they will need your service history information.
To get pre-approved, the VA loan officer will need information on your monthly income, the approximate amount in your checking and savings accounts, and a few other personal details. This is all part of the VA home loan qualification process. Our lenders are pre-screened and reputable, so your information is safe and secure.
What Types of Properties can I buy?
The VA home loan allows you to buy many types of properties:
- Single family homes (non-connected)
- Two- to Four-unit homes
- Attached townhouses (VA approved projects only)
- Condominiums (VA approved projects only)
- Mobile Homes/Manufactured Homes (provided the home comes with land, is permanently affixed, and the structure is at least 20 feet wide and 700 square feet if a double-wide.)
- In some cases, you can buy land or a home in need of repairs, with the intent of constructing or repairing the home.
VA loans are only valid on a home that you plan to keep as your primary residence. They cannot be used to obtain a rental home, investment property, or second home. They can, however, be used to purchase a 2- to 4-unit property even if you live in one unit but rent out the rest.
Homes must also meet Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs), which are standards for the condition of the home. For an in-depth look at MPRs, see our blog post or contact one of our VA loan professionals.
Ways You can use a VA Purchase Loan
- To purchase a new or used move-in ready home
- To purchase land and finance construction of a home
- To purchase a home and finance repairs needed
- To purchase a home and finance energy improvements and upgrades
11 Steps to Buying Your Home with a VA Loan
The process to purchase a home with VA financing is much like purchasing a home with any kind of loan. You may encounter is a few extra steps, however, like obtaining your COE (usually done by the lender), and completing/obtaining VA forms such as the 26-1880 and DD-214. Here are some useful tips on the home purchase process:
- Do some budgeting. Figure out how much you are comfortable paying each month. Be sure to factor in expenses that go along with being a homeowner: property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, home repairs, increased utility costs, higher commuting costs, etc. Make sure you don’t commit to a bigger home payment than you can afford.
- Get Preapproved. Your lender will tell you how much you qualify for after receiving all your information. You should always have a lender-approved purchase price in hand before looking for a home. Your lender may need your 26-1880 and DD-214 to issue a preapproval. To get pre-qualified now, contact one of our VA loan professionals. During the prequalification process is also a great time to educate yourself about VA fees, loan limits, and requirements.
- Shop Around for Lenders. Just because you have a pre-approval from a lender or loan officer does not mean you need to use him or her. You can shop around with other VA-approved lenders to make sure you are getting the best rate and fee combination.
- Find a Reputable Buyer’s Real Estate Agent. The best thing about being a home buyer is that your real estate agent is usually free to you. In most cases, the seller pays both the buyer’s and the seller’s real estate agent commissions. That means you get to choose a great agent who will help you find a home, do the paperwork, negotiate, and guide you through the real estate aspects of the transaction – for free. There’s no reason not to find a great buyer’s agent. Hint: don’t use the agent who is selling the home. He or she will not have your interests at heart, but the seller’s.
- Shop for a Home and Make an Offer. This sounds simple, but can be the longest part of the process. And rightly so. Don’t settle for a home you know won’t suit you for years to come. It’s worth the extra time and work to find the right home. Your buyer’s agent is more than happy to show you as many homes as you’d like to see. Once you’ve found a home, your agent will write up a purchase contract. If the seller accepts your offer, you can proceed with your home purchase.
- Deposit Earnest Money. Many first time homebuyers are surprised that they have to deposit somewhere around 1%-5% of the purchase price of the home when they make an offer. Earnest money is usually required because it tells the seller that you are “earnest” about your desire to buy the home. The earnest money is applied toward the down payment or closing costs when the transaction closes. If you are not making a down payment and all closing costs are covered by credits, your earnest money will be refunded to you.
- Get a home inspection. This will help you avoid costly repairs after you’ve purchased the home. Typically you can back out of your offer and receive your earnest money back as long as there is an “inspection contingency” written into the purchase contract.
- Submit updated documentation to your lender. When your purchase contract is signed by you and the seller, send it along with updated documentation to your lender. If you’ve taken some time to find a home, any documentation you’ve already submitted may be expired. At this point, you may need to sign some loan disclosures. Your lender will submit your file to underwriting. Underwriting will issue a conditional approval, meaning the loan is approved but needs additional documentation. It’s also a good time to call your insurance agent and get your homeowner’s insurance details squared away.
- Submit underwriting conditions to your lender. Your loan officer will ask for “conditions” – items that were missed upfront or that the underwriter needs more clarification on. Don’t be surprised if you have to supply quite a few pieces of additional documentation at this point.
- Sign final paperwork. Once the lender’s underwriter gives your loan a final approval, they will send final loan documents to the escrow company. You will most likely go to an escrow agent’s office to sign everything. Be sure to review the documentation in regards to interest rate, payment, loan amount, and other vital terms. Check the “HUD-1,” also called the settlement statement, for a breakdown of all the fees. If something doesn’t look right, be sure to call your lender to get your questions answered. If you need to pay any money to close the loan, make sure you have the funds available and bring the cashier’s check or other certified funds to escrow when you sign documents. Your escrow company will tell you the amount to bring.
- Check on the status of loan funding. Your loan is not complete when you sign documents. Your lender could take a few days to up to a week or more to finalize your loan and disburse funds. Once the lender funds the loan, the seller and all other parties are paid and the deal is almost done. The final step is when the transaction is recorded in your jurisdiction’s official records, and the home is yours!
I’m Ready to Take Advantage of my VA Home Loan Benefit
As an eligible veteran, you’ve earned the privilege of using a VA home loan, one of the best mortgage products available today. As a VA buyer, you have an advantage over most home buyers: you don’t need a down payment.
If you’re ready to proceed with buying your home with a VA home loan, call (866) 240-3742 to speak with a licensed lender who can answer any questions that you might have and who can help you find the lowest rate on a loan. The home of your dreams is made better with a great loan.
Want to know More?
More Information about VA and non-VA Loan Types
If you’re curious about various types of VA and non-VA loans available for your home purchase or refinance needs, here’s a summary of some popular loan types.
VA Home Loan: Purchase and Refinance Options
- VA Streamline Refinance – Otherwise known as a VA IRRRL, it’s the fastest refinance option for current VA mortgage holders. If you are interested in lowering your interest rate and saving as quickly as possible, this is your best bet.
- VA Cash-out Refinance – If you have built equity in your home and would like to take cash out against your home value, the VA-specific cash-out refinance is a great option. This loan can also be used to pay off your existing conventional, FHA, or another type of mortgage.
- VA Home Purchase Loan – If you haven’t purchased a home yet but are VA eligible, find your perfect loan here! Intended for those looking to purchase a home using the VA benefits.
If you don’t qualify for a VA loan, here are some options that will better suit your buying or refinancing needs:
- FHA Home Loan – Intended for those who are looking to purchase a home with as little money down as possible. This loan makes the buying process quick, simple, and affordable.
- Conventional Purchase Loan – Intended for home buyers who have money saved for a down payment and have great credit.
- FHA Refinance – One of the most affordable home loan refinance options. This type of refinance is meant to work exclusively with those who currently have an FHA home loan.
- Conventional Refinance – If you don’t have an FHA home loan, there are still several options available to help you save quickly and easily by lowering your home loan interest rate.
- HARP Refinance – This recently-implemented refinance program is intended to help those who are underwater on their home loans. If you owe more than 80% of your home’s value, up to and including negative equity, this is the best refinance option to help you save money on your loan.