Established in 1944 as part of the G.I. Bill of Rights, VA loans were created to make home ownership more attainable to service members returning from war.
The Department of Veterans Affairs sets basic eligibility guidelines and guarantees up to 25% of each loan, while a private mortgage lender, such as banks and credit unions, originates the loan. With a VA loan, the buyer can finance 100% of the cost of the home.
Unlike conventional mortgages, VA loans do not have a down payment requirement and do not need private mortgage insurance (PMI). Those perks, plus competitive interest rates, can save home buyers thousands of dollars. Additionally, the government’s promise to pay a portion of the loan in the event of default makes lenders more comfortable with the relaxed eligibility requirements.
What are the VA home loan eligibility requirements?
VA loan requirements are less strict than other mortgage loan types. Still, because mortgage lenders originate VA home loans, buyers must meet their eligibility requirements and those set by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Generally, VA home loans are available to Veterans, their living spouses and active-duty service members who:
Have completed at least 90 days of continuous active duty if you’re a current service member
Have completed at least 24 months of continuous service or 90 days of ordered active duty for Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t have set credit scores or income requirements, but the lender will take those details into account before approving a VA loan. Applicants should expect to provide proof of stable, recurring income.
How do I apply for a VA home loan?
The first step in applying for a VA home loan is to apply for a certificate of eligibility (COE) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A COE is obtainedonlineor by postal service.
From there, the process is the same as applying for any other mortgage – research and select apreferred lenderand follow their loan process.
VA Home Loan Frequently Asked Questions
How many times can you use a VA loan?
There’s no limit to the number of times an individual can use a VA loan if it’s the applicant’s primary residence and they meet eligibility requirements.
Do VA loans have PMI?
No. One of the perks of VA home loans is that they do not have a private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirement.
Can you refinance a VA home loan?
Yes. Homeowners can refinance their VA home loan seeking a lower interest rate or to tap into their home’s equity.
Are VA loans assumable?
Yes. VA home loans are assumable, which means the mortgage note is passed to another qualified individual. In most cases, the new borrower must also be a Veteran, their surviving spouse or an active-duty service member to assume a VA loan. However, civilians can assume a VA loan in some instances.
Can you buy land with a VA loan?
Yes. VA loans can be used to buy land if you're building a home at the same time. However, this loan product is called a VA construction loan and is different than a VA loan.
Can I pay off a VA loan early?
Yes. There are no prepayment penalties with VA home loans.
Can I have a co-signer on a VA loan?
Yes. You can have a co-signer on your VA home loan if they're a Veteran or active-duty service member.
How much can you borrow with a VA loan?
How much you can borrow depends onentitlement statusand the lender’s assessment of your application.
If you havefull entitlement status, there's no limit to the amount you can borrow for a VA home loan over $144,000. In this case, a down payment is not required and the government will pay the lender up to 25% of the loan amount if you default.
If you have remaining entitlement, there are borrowing limitations based on the county you live in. The government will pay the lender up to 25% of the county’s loan limit, minus whatever entitlement amount you’ve already used.
With no money down or PMI required, plus 100% financing and 25% loan guarantee from the US government, VA loans are an attractive option for qualified buyers.
If you’re ready to begin the home-buying process, theDepartment of Veterans Affairswebsite is the first step in securing a VA loan. As an added resource, using a Mortgage Loan Calculatorwill help you estimate your monthly mortgage payment and determine how much home you can afford.