The Department of Veterans Affairs sponsors the VA loan program to help military members and surviving spouses become homeowners. If you’re interested in how to get a VA loan, you’ll need to first make sure you meet the government’s requirements and then find a VA-approved lender and seek preapproval for a loan.
Getting preapproved for a home loan can give you an idea of how much you’ll be able to afford. Having a VA loan preapproval letter in hand can also give you some leverage when it’s time to make an offer. Here’s a closer look at how to get preapproved for a VA home loan.
What Is a VA Loan?
A VA loan is a mortgage loan that’s backed by the federal government. The Department of Veterans Affairs works with a network of approved lenders that grant VA loans to military members and surviving spouses. Should a borrower default on a VA loan, the federal government steps in to help the lender recoup some of its losses.
What is a VA loan good for? There are four ways that borrowers can use them.
• VA purchase loans allow you to buy a home through an approved lender.
• Native American Direct Loans (NADL) help Native American veterans or veterans married to Native Americans buy, build, or improve a home on federal trust land.
• Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRL) can help make existing VA-backed loans more affordable through interest rate reductions.
• Cash-out mortgage refinance loans can help eligible borrowers tap into their home equity to withdraw cash, while refinancing into a new loan.
In terms of how to get a VA loan, each of these options has different requirements that borrowers need to meet.
💡 Quick Tip: Apply for a VA loan and borrow up to $1.5 million with a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage. The flexibility extends to the down payment, too — qualified VA homebuyers don’t even need one!†^
How Does VA Home Loan Preapproval Work?
Mortgage loan preapproval simply means that a lender has reviewed your financial situation and made a tentative offer for a loan. It doesn’t constitute final approval for a mortgage, but getting preapproved is often beneficial, as a mortgage preapproval letter can give you an edge if you’re vying with another buyer for a particular property.
VA home loan preapproval works much the same as any other type of mortgage preapproval, with one extra step: Before you apply for the loan, you’ll need to get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA. This document shows your lender that you’re eligible for a VA loan, based on your service history and duty status. The minimum service requirements for a COE depend on when you served. You can request a COE online through the VA website.
After you have the COE, you’ll need to give the lender some basic information about your household income, assets, and how much you’re hoping to borrow in a process called prequalification. This will allow you to see — often in just a few minutes — what kind of mortgage terms you might qualify for. From there, you can choose a lender and go through the next step, preapproval.
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
How to Get a VA Home Loan Preapproval Letter
Getting a VA home loan preapproval letter is a relatively straightforward process. Here’s what you’ll need to do.
• Obtain your COE from the Veterans Administration.
• Choose a VA-approved lender.
• Complete the lender’s preapproval application.
Let’s get into the details of securing a VA home loan preapproval. First, you’ll need certain documents on hand to apply for the COE, and those documents are specific to your military status. If you are a veteran, you’ll need a copy of your discharge or separation papers. Active-duty service members will need to furnish a statement of service signed by their commander, adjutant, or personnel officer. This statement needs to include your full name, Social Security number, date of birth, date you entered duty, duration of any lost time, and the name of the command providing the statement. You can find full details and an online COE application on the VA website.
Once you have your COE and have found a prospective lender, the lender will likely ask to see certain documents to verify your income and financial situation, including:
• Tax returns
• Pay stubs
• Bank account statements
• Investment account statements
You’ll also need to provide a valid photo ID, your date of birth, and Social Security number. This information is needed to process a hard credit check, which can impact your credit score.
After your lender has everything it needs to process your preapproval, it will review your finances and complete a hard check of your credit history. Assuming your credit score and income check out, and there are no issues with your COE, you should be able to get a preapproval decision within a few days.
How to Buy a Home With a VA-Backed Loan
Home mortgage loans offered through the VA are attractive for a few reasons. For one thing, you can buy a home with no down payment required. For another, VA loans can offer more attractive interest rates than other types of mortgage loans.
Now that you know how to get a VA home loan, if you’d like to buy a home with a VA-backed loan, getting preapproved is the first step. Again, VA loan preapproval can give you an idea how much you’ll be able to borrow, which can help you narrow down your search for a property. Once you find a home that you’re interested in, making an offer is the next step.
You can use a VA-backed loan to buy:
• Single family homes with up to four units
• Condos in a VA-approved project
• Manufactured homes
VA loans can also be used to build a home. You’ll need to have the home inspected and appraised to make sure that the property is structurally sound and that its value aligns with the amount you want to borrow. If there are no issues, you can move on to the closing to sign final paperwork and pay the VA loan funding fee.
This fee is a one-time payment VA borrowers are required to make to help cover the costs of the VA loan program. The amount you’ll pay for the funding fee depends on whether you’re a first-time homebuyer and how much money you put down on the home, if any. Some buyers may pay no fee at all, or have it refunded.
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Who Is Eligible for a VA Loan?
Eligibility for a VA loan is a two-pronged test. You’ll need to be able to obtain a COE from the government on one hand, and on the other, you’ll need to be able to meet the lender’s credit score and income requirements.
COE requirements depend on your duty status and time served. Generally, you’re eligible if you are:
• An active-duty service member who has served at least 90 days continuously.
• A veteran who served at least 24 months continuously or 90 days of active duty.
• A National Guard member who has served at least 90 days of active duty.
• A Reserve member who has served at least 90 days of active duty.
These requirements assume that you served between August 2, 1990 and the present day. If you’re a veteran, National Guard member, or Reserve member who served before August 2, 1990, the service requirements are different.
You may also be able to get a COE under other conditions. Here are a few examples (find a complete list on the VA website):
• Are a surviving spouse of an eligible service member
• Are a Public Health Service officer
• Served as an officer of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
• Served as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy
If you don’t meet any of the requirements to get a COE for a VA loan, then you’ll need to consider other home loan options.
How to Get Preapproved for a VA Home Loan
VA loans can be attractive to buyers since the VA doesn’t require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. If you’re wondering how to get approved for a VA loan, here are a few tips to qualify for a mortgage.
• Consider your credit. The VA loan program has no minimum credit score requirement but the higher your score, the better your odds of being approved. A higher credit score can also help you get a lower interest rate on your loan.
• Know your budget. Estimating how much you can afford when buying a home is important for ensuring that you don’t go over budget. If you know that you’re going to be looking at homes in the $300,000 range, for instance, then you wouldn’t want to ask for $500,000 when you’re trying to get preapproved.
• Check the lender’s requirements. Researching VA lenders can help you find the one that’s the best fit for your needs and situation. Comparing minimum credit score requirements and income requirements can help you weed out lenders that are less likely to approve you.
Ideally, you should request preapproval from just one lender but that doesn’t mean you can’t shop around first by prequalifying with several lenders to compare rates.
💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.
How to Find a VA Lender
The simplest way to find a VA lender is to use the resources available on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. You can also search for VA-approved lenders online. For instance, you might try searching for “VA lender near me” or “VA lender online application” to see what results turn up. If you aren’t sure a VA loan is right for you, check out a home loan help center to get more ideas for how to finance a home purchase.
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How to Choose the Best VA Lender for You
One of the most important considerations when weighing how to get a VA loan is choosing a lender to work with. Comparing VA lenders is similar to comparing lenders for different types of mortgage loans, including conventional or FHA options. Here are some key things to consider as you shop around:
• VA loan interest rates
• Closing costs the lender charges, including origination fees
• Minimum credit score and income requirements
• Whether you have the option to buy points if that interests you
• How long it typically takes for the lender to close a VA loan once you’re approved
It’s also a good idea to check out reviews from previous buyers to see what they have to say about a particular lender. The better the lender’s reputation is overall, the easier they might be to work with.
Tips on the VA Home Loan Preapproval Process
VA home loan preapproval may seem a little tedious with all the information that you need to provide. But it’s important that you don’t skip this step, as preapproval can work in your favor when it’s time to buy a home.
Here are a few tips for ensuring that your VA home loan preapproval goes as smoothly as possible.
• Carefully read through the instructions for completing the application before you begin.
• Organize your documents beforehand so that you’re not scrambling to find information later.
• Review your application before submitting it to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything and there are no errors.
• Opt for an online application process if possible, which could save you some time.
How long does it take to get a VA loan? While you might be able to get preapproved the same day or the next business day, closing can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days. That’s important to know as you plan out your home purchase.
VA loans can offer some attractive benefits to homebuyers and getting preapproved is usually to your advantage. It’s important to take your time to find the right lender to work with so you can get the best loan terms possible.
SoFi offers VA loans with competitive interest rates, no private mortgage insurance, and down payments as low as 0%. Eligible service members, veterans, and survivors may use the benefit multiple times.
Our Mortgage Loan Officers are ready to guide you through the process step by step.
Can you get preapproval for a VA loan?
Yes, it’s possible to get preapproved for a VA home loan. You’ll need to find a VA-approved lender to work with and verify that you’re eligible to get a loan through the VA program. Having VA loan preapproval doesn’t guarantee that you’ll qualify for a mortgage, however.
What do I need to get preapproved for VA loan?
To get preapproved for a VA loan, you’ll need to find a VA-approved lender. Next, you’ll need to provide the lender with some information about your finances, along with a Certificate of Eligibility. You can obtain this document from the Veterans Administration.
How long does it take to get a VA loan preapproval?
Assuming that you have all of the necessary documents and information to process your preapproval application, it may be possible to get a decision the same day. VA loan preapproval shouldn’t take more than a few days to obtain if you’ve checked off all the lender’s requirements.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
†Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
^SoFi VA ARM: At the end of 60 months (5y/1y ARM), the interest rate and monthly payment adjust. At adjustment, the new mortgage rate will be based on the one-year Constant Maturity Treasury (CMT) rate, plus a margin of 2.00% subject to annual and lifetime adjustment caps.