The transition from military life to civilian life can be difficult, especially if you’re looking to buy a home for the first time. However, the government has provided options that will make your home buying process easier and cheaper. Here are a few tips to guide you through buying your first property as a veteran.
Consider a VA Loan
A Veteran Affairs (VA) loan is a type of military loan that mortgage lenders give to qualified veterans, active service members, and spouses. This loan is sponsored by the Department of Veteran Affairs. A VA loan offers flexibility and lower requirements such as little to no down payment, lower requirements on credit scores, low-cost mortgages, and lower interest rates. Since they make credit requirements lower, they’re considered non-conventional loans. The VA doesn’t issue this loan, but they decide if you qualify for it and determine who is the best lender for you.
Even though the benefits are great, you may not qualify for a VA loan. It’s important to know the qualifications for it and prepare your finances if you don’t align with the requirements qualify. Below are the qualifications you need to apply for this loan:
- Served 181 days of active service during peacetime.
- Served 90 consecutive days of active service during wartime.
- Served more than 6 years of service with the National Guard or the National Reserve or 90 days under Title 32 with at least 30 of those days being consecutive.
- Are the spouse of a service member who lost their life in the line of duty or as the result of a service-connected disability. You generally cannot have remarried, although there are exceptions.
Chose the VA Loan that Suits You
There are several types of VA loans that you can qualify for. It’s important to choose the one that is the best fit for you and your family. Here are a few types of VA loans and their benefits:
VA Purchase Loan
A VA purchase loan is the most common type of mortgage that can be obtained through a VA loan. This loan helps you purchase a home with no down payment, and has better terms and interest rates than other loans offered by private lenders like mortgage companies, banks, or credit unions. However, terms vary by lender, and this type of VA loan is not available from all lenders.
VA Cash-Out Refinance
A VA cash-out refinance loan allows you to take cash out of your home equity, and use it to pay off your debt, medical bills, school fees, home improvements, or refinance a non-VA loan into a VA-backed loan. This option is available to both borrowers with and without present VA loans, and it can be used as a rate-and-term refinance if desired.
VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)
A VA IRRRL, also known as “VA streamline refinance,” helps you reduce your monthly mortgage payments or creates stability by switching to a fixed interest rate rather than one that changes over time. When deciding whether or not to pursue this option, borrowers should evaluate their closing fees.
VA Native American Direct Loan (NADL)
If you are a Native American veteran or happen to be married to a Native American, you may be eligible to obtain a Native American Direct Loan. This loan allows you to buy, build, or improve a home on federal trusted land. Qualified borrowers can also refinance a current NADL loan to obtain a lower interest rate. Some benefits of this include, limited closing costs, and private mortgage insurance.
It’s imperative to consider which VA loan suits your household needs before investing in your loan. Also, make sure you obtain this loan with a lender that understands these options and can provide favorable rates.
Prepare All Required Documents
As a veteran, you will need certain documents ready before applying for your loan and mortgage. These documents include the Certificate of Eligibility (COE), DD Form 214, and other general information.
The COE document verifies the length of your service to confirm that you qualify to your mortgage provider. It’s important to get this document from the VA through eBenefits early, even though you won’t need to show it at the beginning of the loan process. It’s best to have this document ready to make this process go as swift as possible.
DD Form 214 is a document that confirms your military discharge. Using the eVetRecs filing system, you can request your DD Form 214 electronically.
The General Information you may need for this includes tax returns and W-2s from the past two years, recent pay stubs, bank and investment statements, any rental history you may have, an employment verification letter, and a copy of your driver’s license.
To further expedite this process and reduce stress, we recommend getting pre-approval on your mortgage and all loan-associated documents organized ahead of time. The earlier you start these preparations, the less stressed and more excited you will be throughout this milestone achievement. From there, you can finally start house hunting to find the best home that fits your budget and your preferences.
Purchasing a home is a significant investment toward your future and can lead to some anxiety within a family. It can be challenging for anyone, but especially for veterans if they don’t entirely understand their potential benefits. Make sure you take advantage of all available benefits and resources. This is a huge commitment that will always be remembered so make it worthwhile.