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VA Loans Demystified


2011
04.19

Pre-Loan Frequently Asked Questions General questions about VA loans that may arise BEFORE you get one

Q: What is a VA Guaranteed Home Loan?

A: VA guaranteed loans are made by private lenders, such as banks, savings & loans, or mortgage companies to eligible veterans for the purchase of a home which must be for their own personal occupancy. The guaranty means the lender is protected against loss if you or a later owner fail to repay the loan. The guaranty replaces the protection the lender normally receives by requiring a down payment allowing you to obtain favorable financing terms.


Q: What is pre-purchase counseling and why is it helpful?

A: Pre-purchase counseling gives a person information on (1) the process of buying a home, (2) the key players in the home buying process, and (3) debt management. The goal is to create a more well informed homebuyer. While VA does not require such counseling, we strongly recommend it. There is usually no charge for the housing counseling. An excellent online source of information for first time homebuyers is provided by Ginnie Mae. To locate a housing counseling office call (800) 569-4287. or visit HUDs website. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains both the phone number and website.


Q: Does my entitlement guarantee that I will get a home loan?

A: No, VA cannot compel a lender to make a loan that would violate their lender policies. Lenders must also comply with VA income and credit standards. If a lender is unwilling to make a loan to you, we can only suggest that you try other lenders.


Q: How much is my entitlement?

A: Your basic entitlement is $36,000. For loans in excess of $144,000 to purchase or construct a home, additional entitlement up to an amount equal to 25 percent of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for a single family home may be available. This loan limit can change yearly. The conforming loan limit for 2008 is $417,000 ($625,500 for Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands). This means that qualified veterans could get a no down payment purchase loan for those amounts.


Q: How do I get a Certificate of Eligibility?

A: ACE (automated certificate of eligibility): It may be possible to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from your lender. Most lenders have access to the ACE system. This Internet based application can establish eligibility and issue an online Certificate of Eligibility in a matter of seconds. Not all cases can be processed through ACE – only those for which VA has sufficient data in our records. However, veterans are encouraged to ask their lenders about this method of obtaining a certificate. You can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility by submitting a completed VA Form 26-1880, Request For A Certificate of Eligibility , to the Winston-Salem Eligibility Center, along with proof of military service. In some cases it may be possible for VA to establish eligibility without your proof of service. However, to avoid any possible delays, it’s best to provide such evidence.


Q: How do I obtain a VA Home Loan?

A: Here are the steps:

  • Select a home and discuss the purchase with the seller or selling agent. Sign a purchase contract conditioned on approval of your VA home loan.
  • Select a lender, present them with your Certificate of Eligibility and complete a loan application.
  • The lender will develop all credit and income information. They will also request VA to assign a licensed appraiser to determine the reasonable value for the property. A Certificate of Reasonable Value will be issued. Note: You may be required to pay for the credit report and appraisal unless the seller agrees to pay.
  • The lender will let you know the decision on the loan. You should be approved if the established value and your credit and income are acceptable.
  • You (and spouse) attend the loan closing. The lender or closing attorney will explain the loan terms and requirements as well as where and how to make the monthly payments.
  • Sign the note, mortgage, and other related papers.
  • The loan is sent to VA for guaranty. Your Certificate of Eligibility is annotated to reflect the use of entitlement and returned to you.

Q: What are the benefits of a VA home loan?

A: There are many benefits of a VA Home loan:

  • Equal opportunity.
  • No down payment (unless required by the lender or the purchase price is more than the reasonable value of the property).
  • Buyer informed of reasonable value.
  • Negotiable interest rate.
  • Ability to finance the VA funding fee (plus reduced funding fees with a down payment of at least 5% and exemption for veterans receiving VA compensation).
  • Closing costs are comparable with other financing types (and may be lower).
  • No mortgage insurance premiums.
  • An assumable mortgage.
  • Right to prepay without penalty.
  • For homes inspected by VA during construction, a warranty from builder and assistance from VA to obtain cooperation of builder.
  • VA assistance to veteran borrowers in default due to temporary financial difficulty.

Q: What can VA not do?

A: Guarantee that a home is free of defects. VA guarantees only the loan. It is your responsibility to assure that you are satisfied with the property being purchased. The VA appraisal is not intended to be an “inspection” of the property. You should seek expert advice (a qualified residential inspection service), as necessary, BEFORE legally committing to a purchase agreement. If you have a home built, VA cannot compel the builder to correct construction defects although VA does have the authority to suspend a builder from further participation in the home loan program. VA cannot guarantee that you are making a good investment. VA cannot provide you with legal services.


Q: Is a guaranteed loan a gift?

A: No, it must be repaid, just as you must repay any money you borrow. If you fail to make the payments you agreed to make, you may lose your home through foreclosure.


Q: Can I get a loan for a home outside of the United States?

A: Unfortunately, the law only allows VA to guarantee loans on property in the United States, its territories, or possessions.


Q: Can I get a VA loan if I have had a bankruptcy in the last few years?

A: The fact you and/or your spouse have been adjudicated bankrupt does not in itself disqualify you for a VA home loan.

The following rules apply:

  • If the bankruptcy was discharged more than 2 years ago, it may be disregarded
  • If the bankruptcy was discharged within the last 1 to 2 years, it is probably not possible to determine that you and/or your spouse are a satisfactory credit risk unless both of the following requirements are met:
    • you and/or your spouse have reestablished satisfactory credit, and
    • the bankruptcy was caused by circumstances beyond your and/or your spouses control (such as unemployment, medical bills, etc.)
  • If the bankruptcy was discharged within the past 12 months, it will not generally be possible to determine that you and/or your spouse are satisfactory credit risks.

Q: Why do I have to pay a fee for a VA home loan? Since I paid a fee for my first loan, why is there a larger fee for my second loan?

A: The VA funding fee is required by law. The fee is intended to enable the veteran who obtains a VA home loan to contribute toward the cost of this benefit, and thereby reduce the cost to taxpayers. The funding fee for second time users who do not make a down payment is slightly higher. The idea of a higher fee for second time use is based on the fact that these veterans have already had a chance to use the benefit once, and also that prior users have had time to accumulate equity or save money towards a down payment. Second time users who make a down payment of at least 5 percent pay a reduced funding fee of 1.5 percent, the same as first time users making the same down payment. For a 10 percent down payment, the fee drops to 1.25 percent. The effect of the funding fee on a veteran’s financial situation is minimized since the fee may be financed in the loan. National Guard and Reservist veterans pay a slightly higher funding fee percentage. To determine the exact funding fee percentage, please review the funding fee table.


Q: I want to buy a house with a VA loan. Do I need to occupy the property?

A: The law requires that you certify that you intend to occupy the property as your home. This requirement is considered satisfied if you actually intend to occupy the property as your home and in fact so occupy it when the loan is closed or within a reasonable time afterward.


Q: I am a single veteran stationed overseas and want to buy a home in my home town. My friends who are married can do this with their spouses occupying the property in their place, but VA says I can’t do this with my parents or other relatives occupying on my behalf. Isn’t this discrimination against single veterans?

A: The law specifically provides that occupancy by the veteran’s spouse satisfies the personal occupancy requirement. The law makes no provision for occupancy by any other relatives as a substitute for personal occupancy by the veteran.


Q: May a veteran join with a non veteran who is not his or her spouse in obtaining a VA loan?

A: Yes, but the guaranty is based only on the veteran’s portion of the loan. The guaranty cannot cover the nonveteran’s part of the loan. Consult lenders to determine whether they would be willing to accept applications for joint loans of this type. Lenders that are willing to make these types of loans will likely require a down payment to cover risk on the unguaranteed, nonveteran’s portion of the loan. Unlike other loans, the lender must submit joint loans to VA for approval before they are made. Both incomes can be used to qualify for the loan. However, the veteran’s income must be sufficient to repay at least that portion of the loan related to the veteran’s interest in (portion of) the property and the nonveteran’s income must be adequate to cover the rest.


Q: If a veteran dies before the loan is paid off, will the VA guaranty pay off the balance of the loan?

A: No. The surviving spouse or other co-borrower must continue to make the payments. If there is no CO-borrower, the loan becomes the obligation of the veteran’s estate. Mortgage life insurance is available but must be purchased from private insurance sources. Eligibility Frequently Asked Questions Questions about who is eligible for a VA loan and reuse of eligibility for another VA loan.


Q: How do I apply for a VA guaranteed loan?

A: You can apply for a VA loan with any mortgage lender that participates in the VA home loan program. At some point, you will need to get a Certificate of Eligibility from VA to prove to the lender that you are eligible for a VA loan.


Q: How do I get a Certificate of Eligibility?

A: Complete a VA Form 26-1880, Request for a Certificate of Eligibility: You can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility by submitting a completed VA Form 26-1880, Request For A Certificate of Eligibility For Home Loan Benefits, to the Winston-Salem Eligibility Center, along with proof of military service. In some cases it may be possible for VA to establish eligibility without your proof of service. However, to avoid any possible delays, it’s best to provide such evidence.


Q: Can my lender get my Certificate of Eligibility for me?

A: Yes, it’s called ACE (automated certificate of eligibility). Most lenders have access to the ACE (automated certificate of eligibility) system. This Internet based application can establish eligibility and issue an online Certificate of Eligibility in a matter of seconds. Not all cases can be processed through ACE – only those for which VA has sufficient data in our records. However, veterans are encouraged to ask their lenders about this method of obtaining a certificate.


Q: What is acceptable proof of military service? A: If you are still serving on regular active duty, you must include an original statement of service signed by, or by direction of, the adjutant, personnel officer, or commander of your unit or higher headquarters which identifies you and your social security number, and provides your date of entry on your current active duty period and the duration of any time lost. If you were discharged from regular active duty after January 1, 1950, a copy of DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty should be included with your VA Form 26-1880. If you were discharged after October 1, 1979, DD Form 214 copy 4 should be included. A PHOTOCOPY OF DD214 WILL SUFFICE…..DO NOT SUBMIT AN ORIGINAL DOCUMENT. If you are still serving on regular active duty, you must include an original statement of service signed by, or by direction of, the adjutant, personnel officer, or commander of your unit or higher headquarters which shows your date of entry on your current active duty period and the duration of any time lost. If you were discharged from the Selected Reserves or the National Guard, you must include copies of adequate documentation of at least 6 years of honorable service. If you were discharged from the Army or Air Force National Guard, you may submit NGB Form 22, Report of Separation and Record of Service, or NGB Form 23, Retirement Points Accounting, or it’s equivalent. If you were discharged from the Selected Reserve, you may submit a copy of your latest annual points statement and evidence of honorable service. Unfortunately, there is no single form used by the Reserves or National Guard similar to the DD Form 214. It is your responsibility to furnish adequate documentation of at least 6 years of honorable service. If you are still serving in the Selected Reserves or the National Guard, you must include an original statement of service signed by, or by the direction of, the adjutant, personnel officer, or commander of your unit or higher headquarters showing the length of time that you have been a member of the Selected Reserves. Again, at least 6 years of honorable service must be documented.


Q: How can I obtain proof of military service?

A: Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, is used to apply for proof of military service regardless of whether you served on regular active duty or in the selected reserves. This request form is NOT processed by VA. Rather, Standard Form 180 is completed and mailed to the appropriate custodian of military service records. Instructions are provided on the reverse of the form to assist in determining the correct forwarding address.


Q: I have already obtained one VA loan. Can I get another one?

A: Yes, your eligibility is reusable depending on the circumstances. Normally, if you have paid off your prior VA loan and disposed of the property, you can have your used eligibility restored for additional use. Also, on a one-time only basis, you may have your eligibility restored if your prior VA loan has been paid in full but you still own the property. In either case, to obtain restoration of eligibility, the veteran must send VA a completed VA Form 26-1880 to our Winston-Salem Eligibility Center. To prevent delays in processing, it is also advisable to include evidence that the prior loan has been paid in full and, if applicable, the property disposed of. This evidence can be in the form of a paid-in-full statement from the former lender, or a copy of the HUD-1 settlement statement completed in connection with a sale of the property or refinance of the prior loan.


Q: I sold the property I obtained with my prior VA loan on an assumption. Can I get my eligibility restored to use for a new loan?

A: In this case the veteran’s eligibility can be restored only if the qualified assumer is also an eligible veteran who is willing to substitute his or her available eligibility for that of the original veteran. Otherwise, the original veteran cannot have eligibility restored until the assumer has paid off the VA loan.


Q: My prior VA loan was assumed, the assumer defaulted on the loan, and VA paid a claim to the lender. VA said it wasn’t my fault and waived the debt. Now I need a new VA loan but I am told that my used eligibility can not be restored. Why?

Or,

Q: My prior loan was foreclosed on, or I gave a deed in lieu of foreclosure, or the VA paid a compromise (partial) claim. Although I was released from liability on the loan and/or the debt was waived, I am told that I cannot have my used eligibility restored. Why?

A: In either case, although the veteran’s debt was waived by VA, the Government still suffered a loss on the loan. The law does not permit the used portion of the veteran’s eligibility to be restored until the loss has been repaid in full.


Q: Only a portion of my eligibility is available at this time because my prior loan has not been paid in full even though I don’t own the property anymore. Can I still obtain a VA guaranteed home loan?

A: Yes, depending on the circumstances. If a veteran has already used a portion of his or her eligibility and the used portion cannot yet be restored, any partial remaining eligibility would be available for use. The veteran would have to discuss with a lender whether the remaining balance would be sufficient for the loan amount sought and whether any down payment would be required.


Q: Is the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran eligible for the home loan benefit?

A: The unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died on active duty or as the result of a service-connected disability is eligible for the home loan benefit. If you wish to make application for the home loan benefit as a surviving spouse, contact our Winston-Salem Eligibility Center. In addition, a surviving spouse who obtained a VA home loan with the veteran prior to his or her death (regardless of the cause of death), may obtain a VA guaranteed interest rate reduction refinance loan. For more information, contact our Winston-Salem Eligibility Center. [NOTE: Also, a surviving spouse who remarries on or after attaining age 57, and on or after December 16, 2003, may be eligible for the home loan benefit. However, a surviving spouse who remarried before December 16, 2003, and on or after attaining age 57, must apply no later than December 15, 2004, to establish home loan eligibility. VA must deny applications from surviving spouses who remarried before December 16, 2003 that are received after December 15, 2004.] Q: Are the children of a living or deceased veteran eligible for the home loan benefit? A: No, the children of an eligible veteran are not eligible for the home loan benefit.