What Is a VA Loan?

A VA loan is a mortgage loan backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for those who have served or are presently serving in the U.S. military. While the VA does not lend money for VA loans, it backs loans made by private lenders (banks, savings and loans, or mortgage companies) to veterans, active military personnel, and military spouses who qualify.

There are three types of VA loans: purchase loans, interest rate reduction refinance loans (or IRRRL, also referred to as a VA streamline refinance loan), and cash-out refinance loans. There are many benefits to a VA loan, but one of biggest benefits is that no down payment or mortgage insurance needed to purchase a home. This can make home ownership a reality for active military or veterans who might otherwise not be able to afford it.

 

Who Is Eligible for VA Loans?

VA loans are designed for military personnel, veterans, and military families. The list of those who are eligible for this home-buying military benefit include:

  • Veterans
  • Active-duty personnel
  • Reserve  members
  • National Guard members
  • Some surviving spouses

You must also have suitable credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE). And you must use the home for your own primary residence. Still unsure if you’re eligible? Contact your Loan Officer for a detailed list of eligibility requirements for military service members, veterans, and military spouses.

What Are the Benefits?

The VA loan program offers some of the most attractive and flexible loans available, and they are exclusively for military personnel, veterans and their families. Perhaps the two biggest benefits that make these loan more affordable than a typical loan are that the borrower typically does not need to make a down payment, and there is no private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirement.

Here’s a look at the complete list of benefits, as taken directly from the Veterans Affairs site:

  • No down payment required (unless required by the lender or the purchase price is more than the reasonable value of the property).
  • Negotiable and competitive interest rates.
  • Ability to finance the VA funding fee, if applicable (plus reduced funding fees with a down payment of at least 5 percent and exemption for veterans receiving VA compensation).
  • VA rules limit the amount you can be charged for closing costs.
  • Closing costs are comparable with other financing types (and may be lower).
  • Closing costs may be paid by the seller.
  • No private mortgage insurance premiums are required.
  • An assumable mortgage.
  • Right to prepay your mortgage without penalty.
  • For homes inspected by VA during construction, a warranty from builder and assistance from VA to obtain cooperation of builder.
  • VA assistance to veteran borrowers in default due to temporary financial difficulty.

 

How Can Veterans & Military Personnel Get VA Loans?

Veterans, active military personnel, and military families can follow these steps to get a VA loan:

  1. Make sure you are eligible for a VA loan.
  2. Contact your Loan Officer.
  3. Get a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA to prove you are eligible for a VA loan.
  4. Apply for your VA loan. Your Loan Officer will work with you to complete the steps needed to finance your home.

How Big of a VA Loan Can Veterans & Military Personnel Get?

According to the VA there is “no maximum that an eligible veteran may borrow using a VA-guaranteed loan.” However, there are county limits that must be used to calculate the VA’s maximum guaranty amount for a particular county. In other words, there’s no limit to how much you can spend on your new home with a VA loan, but the VA has limits on how much liability it will assume, which can affect the amount of you will be able to borrow.

Generally, eligible veterans or military personnel can get loans up to $424,100 with no money down. But that number can be much higher in certain counties that have a higher cost of living.