The Ultimate Guide to VA Mortgage Loans
If you're a veteran or active-duty service member looking for a mortgage, you've come to the right place. VA loans offer great benefits, including no down payment and no closing costs. But what makes them so special? And how do you get one? Here's everything you need to know about VA mortgages: how they work and how to apply for one.
What is a VA Mortgage?
The VA home loan program, also known as a Veterans Affairs (VA) mortgage, is a government-backed mortgage that helps veterans and service members purchase homes. The VA loan is available to veterans, active duty military and their families. A portion of the loan can be used to buy a home or refinance your current home purchase.
The VA mortgage provides 100% financing for the purchase of homes and land with no down payment required. The borrower pays no monthly private mortgage insurance premiums (PMI). Interest rates on these loans may be fixed or adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).
Advantages of VA Home Loans
VA borrowers don't need to make a down payment, and may be exempt from paying mortgage insurance. There are no minimum credit score requirements for VA mortgages, either.
VA loans are also exempt from the following limits:
- Maximum loan amounts (although your lender may have its own maximums)
- Maximum income limit (or cap on how much military income will be considered)
Eligibility Requirements for VA Home Loans
In order to qualify for a VA loan, you must be:
- A U.S. Veteran
- Have served at least 90 days of active duty
What You Need to Know About Mortgage Insurance on VA Loans
One of the reasons people love VA loans so much is that they do not require PMI. If you can get a conventional loan, however, you will almost always be required to purchase mortgage insurance.
If you decide to go this route, there are two types of mortgage insurance: private mortgage insurance and government-sponsored mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is typically paid by borrowers who purchase homes with less than 20% down payment, while government-sponsored mortgage insurance is provided through FHA or VA loans and covers up to 97% of the home’s value.
What Credit Score Do You Need for a VA Loan?
The VA loan program has no minimum credit score requirement. However, your lender may have its own requirements for approving a VA loan.
For example, Fannie Mae requires a 620 minimum credit score to qualify for certain mortgages. If you don’t meet that requirement, then you can still apply for a loan through the VA but it will go through Fannie Mae instead of being issued directly from the Department of Veterans Affairs or any other federal agencies.
Tips for Improving Your Credit Score for a VA Loan
When you're trying to get a VA loan, your credit score will play a large role in whether or not you can qualify for the loan. While there are no official requirements for what kind of credit score is needed for approval, lenders will typically look at your FICO® Score and consider it when determining whether or not to accept your application. If you have an average or below-average score, there are certain things you can do to improve it before applying so that you have more options available once approved.
FICO Scores range from 300-850 and are calculated based on how well someone manages their finances over time. A good way to improve this number is by paying bills on time; having enough open accounts with positive balances; keeping credit card balances low (less than 30% of the total limit); having some history with renting vs buying homes; and making sure all reports show no errors (e.g., late payments).
How to Apply for a VA Mortgage
- Get pre-qualified
- Obtain a Home Appraisal
- Begin to look for a home that meets your needs and budget
- Arrange for the home inspection of your new loan property before the closing date of your purchase or refinance transaction
- Sign all necessary loan and related documents
Find out if you're eligible for a VA loan and learn how to apply.
VA loans are available to veterans, active duty service members and certain surviving spouses.
VA loans can be used for the purchase or refinance of a home, as long as it's your primary residence. Mortgage terms generally range from 15 to 30 years and interest rates below 5%. For VA loan amounts up to $453,100 (in most areas), no down payment is required.
VA loan eligibility requirements vary by state; in some states there are no income limits on who can receive a VA loan; in others there are maximum income thresholds ($50,000 per year). To learn more about eligibility requirements in your area, visit our mortgage calculator or contact an accredited lender directly if you're ready to apply for one now!
If you’re a veteran or active service member, the VA loan program can be a great option for financing your home. It offers lower down payments and no upfront mortgage insurance, so it can be more affordable than other types of loans.