Home buying should be a cinch. After all, you made it through basic training, deployment, redeployment, and more, overcoming countless obstacles along the way. Just how hard can getting a loan and buying a home be, anyway?

The truth is, you’re going to need all the help you can get navigating the choppy waters of the real etate market. But with the seasoned experts of Mortgages.com there to guide you through the process, it’ll be as close to smooth sailing as a person could hope for.

Quick Access
What is a VA Loan?
VA Loan Qualifications
How to Apply for a VA Loan
Getting Your Certificate of Eligibility
How Can You Use Your VA Loan?

What is a VA Loan?

A VA loan assists servicemen and women with the purchase of their home. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not issue home loans, it does guarantee those distributed by VA-approved third-party lenders, like Veterans United.

What does this mean, exactly? As a guarantor, the US government agrees to cover expenses associated with part of a home loan in the event that the owner defaults on his or her payment.

Benefits

With risk diminished significantly up front, lenders are able to offer veterans a range of added benefits through their home loan packages. These can include:

  • No required down payment
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No monthly mortgage insurance premiums
  • Limits on closing costs from sellers

Disabled veterans and surviving spouses of deceased service members also qualify for VA home loan assistance. Potential benefits for these two borrower types include:

  • VA funding fee waivers
  • Zero-percent down payments
  • Lower interest rates
  • Mortgage pre-payment penalty fee waivers
  • Private mortgage insurance waivers

What’s more, disabled veterans may be entitled to exemption from property taxes and can take advantage of Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants (which generally run between $5,000 and $10,000) to make accessibility improvements to their residences. Disabled veterans can utilize their SAH grants up to three times.

What can it be used for?

As it turns out, VA loans are as versatile as they are financially beneficial for veteran borrowers. In addition to home buying, recipients can use VA loans for:

  • Refinancing
  • Home construction
  • Additions to an existing residence
  • Mobile and manufactured home purchases

Cost to use

Borrowers are expected to pay funding fees in order to receive VA home loans. Funding fees are intended to offset loans that go into default—they are paid up front or are wrapped into your monthly mortgage payment. The amount that you pay depends on your military service, disability status, and other factors.

We'll walk you through it: Estimate your funding fee using our VA Loan Calculator

VA Loan Qualifications

Nine different branches of the US military are eligible for VA home loan benefits, including the Reserves and the National Guard.

Think you qualify? Veterans and active duty service members who have served honorably for at least 90 consecutive days during wartime, or for at least 181 days during peacetime, are eligible for these benefits.

Reserves and National Guard

Service length stipulations are far greater for those in the Reserves and the National Guard, at six years. If you’re in either of those two branches, then you must meet one of these additional requirements in order to qualify:

  • You’re currently a part of the Selected Reserve
  • You were honorably discharged
  • You were placed on the retired list
  • After honorable service, you were transferred to the Standby Reserve or a division of the Ready Reserve (other than the Selected Reserve)

Qualifying as a spouse

It’s not just veterans who can take advantage of this program, either. Surviving spouses qualify if their service member partner

  • Was killed in action
  • Is missing in action
  • Was taken as a prisoner of war
  • Died from a service-related disability

The VA takes it one step further. Even applicants with poor credit, a history of bankruptcy, and past instances of foreclosure on their financial record remain eligible for home loan benefits.

Apply for a VA Loan

What are the steps to applying for a VA loan? First, find a VA-approved third-party lender.

Specialty mortgage providers that focus on veteran home buyers, like Veterans United, have a built-in expertise that you won’t be able to find elsewhere—unlike mortgage companies that support the general civilian population.

After you’ve nailed down the right third-party lender, gather all of the supplemental materials necessary to submit along with your application. These could potentially include:

  • Bank statements
  • Employment history
  • Paystubs
  • Tax returns

You’ll also need to secure a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA. (For more information on obtaining this Certificate, explore the section below.)

With all of these documents in hand, you’re ready to arrange a meeting with your lender of choice to verify that you’re truly qualified. Then you’re ready to start house hunting!

Getting Your Certificate of Eligibility

If you’re a qualified borrower applying for a VA home loan, then you’re going to need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) before you submit your final mortgage application.

What it is

The COE is proof of your honorable service—it’s the VA’s way of showing your third-party lender that you are indeed who you say you are, and of indicating how much money they’re willing to guarantee on your loan.

How to get it

Needless to say, in order to get a COE, you’ll have to go through the VA. Their documentation requirements can differ drastically from applicant to applicant (whether you’re a Reservist, say, or a surviving spouse), so be sure to check their website for more information on that front.

In general, though, you’ll have to provide the following:

  • Name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Time and dates served
  • Evidence of honorable service (usually a DD Form 214, or a current statement of service signed by the adjutant, personnel office, or the commander of the unit)

Once you’ve gotten your documentation in order, you can either mail in your papers (along with a Request for Certificate of Eligibility form), apply online through the VA’s eBenefits portal, or use your lender’s internet-based webLGY system to access your COE instantly.

How Can I Use My VA Loan?

It’s important to remember that there are restrictions on what you can and cannot buy with a VA home loan.

You can’t, for instance, buy rental property—at least, you can’t buy rental property that you don’t intend to live on yourself.

You can, however, purchase a multi-unit home (like a duplex), so long as you intend to use one of the units as your primary residence.

When it comes to getting approval for your VA home loan, there are dozens and dozens of small, important distinctions like this.

Whether you’re a widow of a service member, a disabled veteran, a recently deployed future homeowner, or in some other category entirely, Mortgages.com has the answers you need when navigating this tricky process.

We'll walk you through it: Using Your VA Loan