A VA home loan (VAHL) is a mortgage loan that is guaranteed by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, also known as the VA. The VAHL program began in 1944 through the original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, or the GI Bill of Rights. The GI Bill provided veterans with a federally-guaranteed home loan with no down payment, making the dream of homeownership a reality for millions of veterans and their dependents.
VAHL are made by private lenders, such as banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies. Contrary to popular belief, there’s little red tape involved with getting a VA loan. In fact, the application process for a VAHL isn’t much different from the application process for any other kind of mortgage. If you’re a veteran who’s interested in buying a home, here are the steps you need to take in order to obtain a VAHL.
Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility
Get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) by completing VA Form 26-1880 (Request for a Certificate of Eligibility for VAHL Benefits) and submitting it to the VA Eligibility Center along with proof of military service. If you’ve already begun the loan application process, you could even ask your lender to assist you in obtaining the COE. Check the status of your application for a COE in 10 days.
Find a Lender
Locate lenders that participate in the VAHL program. Shop around for a good lender because interest rates, closing costs, and discount points vary widely from one lender to the next. Get pre-approved for a loan, so you can determine how big of a loan you’ll get. The lender will review your credit history and income information to determine whether you qualify for a home loan. Consider looking for VA Lender Appraisal Processing Program (LAPP) lenders because they can process VA loans faster than other lenders.
Find a Home You Want to Buy
Shop around for homes and decide on a home that you want to buy. You could use the services of a state-licensed real estate agent to take tours of different homes and find a home that suits your requirements. Make sure that your purchase and sales agreement includes a “VA Option Clause,” which is also known as a financing contingency. This clause makes the contract subject to approval for a VA guaranteed loan.
Order an Appraisal
Typically, your lender will order an appraisal from the VA. Your lender will send a VA form to a state-licensed real estate appraiser, who will visit the home to determine the market value of the property. Bear in mind that the VA’s appraisal is not a home inspection or guaranty of value – the VA doesn’t guarantee the condition of the house. Furthermore, lenders cannot request specific appraisers and the appraisers are not VA employees. The lender will review the appraisal and the borrower’s credit, income, and assets to decide whether or not the loan should be granted.
Close the Sale and Move into Your New Home
If the loan is approved, you need to contact a state-licensed insurance agent. Typically, the title of the home is examined and insured by a title insurance company that may also prepare closing documents and enter them into public records. Once that’s all taken care of, you can move into your new home!
The GI Bill provided veterans with a federally-guaranteed home loan with no down payment, making the dream of homeownership a reality for millions of veterans and their dependents. If you’re a veteran who’s interested in buying a home, here are the steps you need to take in order to obtain a VA home loan