A VA (Veterans Affairs) home mortgage loan offers qualified people with a military background the opportunity to get financing to buy a home.
Who qualifies for a VA loan? There are several requirements individuals generally need to meet to qualify for a VA loan. These include a history of military service, passing a credit check, and receiving a Certificate of Eligibility. They must also plan on using the home as their primary residence.
What Is the VA Home Loan Program?
If you’re wondering, what is a VA loan?, here’s what you need to know: The VA Home Loan Program aims to increase access to home mortgages to people who have served in the military. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs created the program for qualified veterans, active-duty service members, and some surviving spouses.
The VA pays a percentage of the loans, lowering risk for lenders so they can offer better rates and terms.
This program not only assists veterans in achieving their dream of homeownership, but also promotes stability and financial security for those who have served their country. Whether purchasing a first home or doing a mortgage refinance, eligible veterans and their families can take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy affordable and accessible financing.
💡 Quick Tip: You deserve a more zen mortgage. Look for a mortgage lender who’s dedicated to closing your loan on time.
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
Pros and Cons of a VA Home Mortgage Loan
As is the case with many different types of mortgage loans, VA home mortgage loans have benefits and disadvantages borrowers should be aware of before applying. These include:
• No down payment: One of the main advantages of VA loans is that they don’t require a down payment.
• Lower interest rates: VA loans often have lower interest rates than other types of mortgage loans.
• No private mortgage insurance (PMI): With conventional loans, if you make a down payment that’s less than 20% of the purchase price of the home, you may have to buy PMI. With a VA loan, there’s no PMI requirement which can help buyers, especially first-time homebuyers, save money.
• Flexible credit standards: VA loans typically have less stringent credit requirements than other types of loans. Borrowers can even qualify after a foreclosure or bankruptcy under certain conditions.
• Streamlined refinancing: The VA has a refinancing program called the Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL).
• Lifetime benefit: Veterans can use the program at any time.
• Funding fee: VA loans come with a one-time financing charge that helps taxpayers cover the costs of the loan program. The amount of the fee depends on the size of the down payment, the type of military service performed, and other factors. Certain veterans, including those who are disabled, do not have to pay the fee.
• Limited to primary residences: VA loans can only be used to buy a first home or primary residence, they can’t be used to buy a second home or investment property.
• Potential seller limitations: Not all sellers or agents understand the VA loan program or want to work with VA loan borrowers. This may make negotiations harder and limit which houses can be purchased.
• Additional property requirements: There are special criteria that properties must meet to ensure they are physically sound, clean, and secure.
• VA loan limits: There are lending limits that determine the maximum loan amount the VA will guarantee. These may differ depending on the state and county.
Recommended: Cost of Living By State
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for VA Home Loan Programs?
Who qualifies for a VA home loan? The Department of Veterans Affairs sets the eligibility requirements for VA home loan applicants. Generally, to qualify for a mortgage in this case, borrowers must meet prerequisites such as proving their military service history, receiving a Certificate of Eligibility, and passing a credit check. Eligibility requirements are different depending on the type of service performed.
💡 Quick Tip: A VA loan can make home-buying simple for qualified borrowers. Because the VA guarantees a portion of the loan, you could skip a down payment. Plus, you could qualify for lower interest rates, enjoy lower closing costs, and even bypass mortgage insurance.†
Minimum Active-Duty Service Requirements
The VA loan eligibility requirements differ depending on the type of military service performed, as follows.
Active-duty service members are eligible for the VA loan program, but may have different requirements than veterans. Service members must have served for at least 90 days continuously in order to meet the minimum active-duty service requirement.
Veterans will meet the minimum active-duty service requirement if they served for one of the following:
• At least 24 continuous months
• The full period (at least 90 days) of active duty
• At least 90 days if discharged for a hardship, or a reduction in force
• Less than 90 days if discharged for a service-connected disability
National Guard Members
National Guard members must have served on active duty for a minimum of 90 days straight
Generally, reserve members are required to have served on active duty for a minimum of 90 days straight during wartime. Or they may qualify if they have served for more than six years.
How to Request a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
There are several steps you’ll need to take to get a Certificate of Eligibility. Here’s how to do it.
1. First, check your eligibility with the VA. Your military service record will need to show that you served for a certain amount of time as indicated above.
2. Next, provide other documents and information, including your Social Security number, proof of service such as dates of service and discharge papers, and a marriage and death certificate for surviving spouses.
3. Apply for a certificate on the VA’s eBenefits online portal. You can also request a COE through a VA-approved lender.
Recommended: Home Loan Help Center
What If You Don’t Meet the Minimum Service Requirements?
There are alternative mortgage loan programs you can apply for if you don’t meet the minimum service requirements for a VA loan. These options include:
• Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans. These may have more lenient credit score criteria than VA loans and could be a good choice for first time homebuyers.
• Conventional loans provided by private lenders, such as banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You may need a higher credit score to qualify for these loans.
• State and city homebuyer aid programs and grants that provide support for down payments, closing costs, and other types of support.
You may also want to consider strengthening your credit score and saving up money for a downpayment in order to qualify for a loan in the future.
The VA loan program is designed to help eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and surviving spouses qualify for a home loan. Key benefits of the program include no down payment required, low interest rates, and flexible credit requirements.
If you’re looking to take out a mortgage to buy a home or to refinance your current mortgage, there are other loan options you can consider as well.
Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.
Who are eligible borrowers on a VA loan?
Eligible borrowers on a VA loan include veterans, active-duty service members, and some surviving spouses. Eligibility depends on length of service performed and the type of home being purchased, among other factors.
What is the major criteria for a VA mortgage?
The major criteria for a VA loan is the individual’s type and duration of military service and their creditworthiness. Also, the applicant needs to show that they have enough income to meet the monthly mortgage payments.
How long do you have to serve in the military to get VA benefits?
Service duration requirements for VA benefits depend on the type of service, but generally one must have served for at least 90 days in a row. For certain situations such as service during wartime, the 90-day requirement may be reduced to as little as 30 days of consecutive military service to be eligible for VA benefits.
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Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.
*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.
†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.