Dispelling Myths and Misconceptions
Charlie and I recently went through a training put on by the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals to obtain our Military Veteran Housing Certification (MVHC) designation. In this post I hope to dispel some myths and confusion regarding the VA loan benefit program and its origin, intention, and uses.
In 2010 the results from the National Veterans Survey revealed that 33.6% of Veteran respondents did not know about the VA home loan program, and 8.1% of VA eligible loan seekers had a REALTOR who discouraged the use of the VA home loan. I believe these statistics are a good representation of the population, as Charlie and I faced the same confusion and push back ourselves when we were seeking financing for a new home many years ago.
A brief history of the VA loan:
The VA home loan program was a part of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, which aimed to help Veterans buy homes when returning home after WWII. The program was conceived as a good alternative to a simple cash payment, as it would save the government money and better serve the needs of Veterans. As of 2017 there were over 740,000 funded VA loans totaling over 188 billion dollars in benefits!
What is a VA loan?
A common misconception is that the VA is a bank, and that the VA actually loans the money for and services the VA loan. The reality is, the VA simply guarantees the loan. The VA’s guarantee takes the place of the protection offered when a borrower puts a down payment or purchases mortgage insurance for a typical home loan. Most VA loans are handled by private institutions, and the VA simply provides the ability for the Veteran to obtain favorable financing options by guaranteeing the lending institution is protected from any future losses.
The loan is good for residences that will be purchased or constructed to be occupied by the Veteran, their spouse, or dependent children. Under some circumstances, condos and multifamily residences may qualify for purchase with VA loan benefits. You can find a list of eligible condos in your area here: Veterans Information Portal Condo Report. Or, find out more about VA multifamily eligibility here. The benefit may be used many times, and under certain circumstances an eligible Veteran may have more than one VA loan outstanding at any one time, on multiple residences.
How to find out if you qualify
It is vital to allow the VA to make the determination if the Veteran is eligible for a VA loan benefit. This is not a determination that should be made by a lender. Veterans should obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) form 26-1880 directly from the VA. The COE is the official document that certifies if the Veteran is eligible for the VA benefit, and will indicate the entitlement, or amount the VA will guarantee on a loan, for each individual. The COE can be ordered by the lender online and is available within minutes. if the lender is not able to pull up the COE online it does not necessarily mean the Veteran is ineligible for VA loan benefits, it simply means the system does not have enough information to make that determination at that time.
Once eligibility has been determined, the Veteran is subject to lender determined criteria, called overlays, to determine if and for how much they qualify to borrow through that particular lender. The VA does not set these requirements. The overlays may include but are not limited to; credit score requirements, debt to income ratio, and consideration regarding the handling of collection accounts and bankruptcies. As overlays vary from lender to lender, it is advisable to consult with more than one lender when shopping for a loan to guarantee the Veteran selects the best option for their circumstances.
Allowable and non-allowable Fees
Once eligibility and lender qualification have been determined, there are certain closing costs and fees that must be considered and planned for accordingly to meet VA funding requirements. There is a maximum allowable amount of fees that the Veteran/buyer can pay for. If the seller, agents, or lending institution will not incur the remaining costs, the loan will not be funded. There is a list of reasonable fees the Veteran may pay for, which include appraisal and compliance inspections, title related fees and the VA funding fees, among others. The full list of allowable and non-allowable fees can be found in the VA Policy on Fees and Charges Paid by the Veteran-Borrower.
The VA appraisal and minimum property requirements
The minimum property requirements (MPR) for a VA loan ensures that the home is built to applicable local building codes and that it meets HUD and Federal building requirements and regulations. MPRs ensure the home is safe, structurally sound, and sanitary, and meets the acceptable standards of a home in its particular locality. The VA appraisal involves examining the home for potential safety issues, structural weaknesses, and any sanitation concerns, such as the presence of pests.
The appraisal and MPRs, in our experience, are where seller and agent concerns focus when it comes to considering an offer contingent on a VA loan. In reality, if the house being pursued by the Veteran is in safe, structurally sound and sanitary condition, there is little to fear about the VA loan. The loans can close as quickly as a conventional or FHA loan, and are often less expensive for the buyer. Many underwriting accommodations can be made for Veterans buying or refinancing with a VA loan, which makes them easier to qualify for. In some cases VA loans can be used to finance up to 100% of a home’s value, which can greatly expand a seller’s buyer pool.
As always, it is vital you consult with a lending professional for any specific questions regarding your personal financial situation. If you would like help finding a qualified lending professional to facilitate the use of your VA loan benefits, or contact us any time.
Additionally, you can click here to find out about our real estate services, and learn how working with us will support what we are doing to benefit our local Veteran population.