A VA loan can be an excellent way to buy a home. The government-backed mortgage program has several unique features that save borrowers cash both up front and every month. In fact, it’s one of the few programs out there that allows for 100% loan to value (LTV), meaning you could finance the full price of your home. What’s more, private mortgage insurance (PMI) is never allowed – even when you put zero down.
Who wouldn’t love a loan with no down payments and no PMI? Of course, most would, but it is important to remeber that borrowers still pay a VA Funding Fee and the zero-down option depends on the borrower's entitlement.
These loans aren’t for everybody – VA loan eligibility must be earned.
Find out if you’re eligible for a VA loan. Get in touch with an approved lender now.
1. VA Loan Eligibility is Something You Earn
Most service members are told that they will be eligible for a VA loan if they stay in the service long enough. Generally, service requirements are as follows:
- 2 years for regular service members
- 6 years for Reservists and National Guard members
- 90 days active duty during wartime
- 181 days active duty during peacetime
Are You Eligible For Home Loan Benefits?
If you’re not sure if you served long enough, don’t worry! You may still be eligible for a VA loan.
2. Seven Uniformed Services Have VA Home Loan Benefits
When most people think of VA loan eligibility, some military branches may come to mind. But did you know there are seven uniformed branches in all that have home loan benefits? Here they are:
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Public Health Service (USPHS)
For commissioned officers of NOAA and the USPHS, you may have access to VA loans. Please check the VA website for full details.
3. Reserve/National Guard Members Can Be Eligible Too
Weekend warriors can earn eligibility for VA loans. If you are currently serving your country in the Reserve or National Guard, you are eligible for this great benefit after six years of service.
If you served active duty, it may get you there faster. During the Iraq War a great number of Reservists were deployed to active duty. If you were, you could be eligible under active duty wartime (90 days or period ordered) rules.
Here’s how the Reserve and Guard members typically earn eligibility:
- Six Years of Service, and
- Discharged honorably, or
- Placed on retired list, or
- Transferred to Standby or Ready Reserve after honorable service, or
- Continue to serve in Selected Reserve
Again, be sure to check the VA website for more information.
4. You Can Earn Benefits Quicker with Active Duty
If you’re on active duty, or called up for active duty service, you may be on the fast track to earning your home loan benefits. (Requirements vary for periods.) Here is a summary of active duty requirements:
- 90 continuous days for active duty servicemembers
- 90 days of active service for current Guard and Reserve servicemembers
- 90 total days for wartime Veterans until 05/07/1975
- 181 continuous days for peacetime Veterans until 09/07/1980 (10/16/1981 for officers)
- At least 181 days or full call for peacetime Veterans 09/08/1980 – 08/01/1990 (10/17/1981 beginning date for officers)
- At least 90 days or full call for Gulf War Veterans 08/02/1990 - present
It may be hard to keep all the dates straight to determine your own eligibility. If you need help, just get in touch with us and we can help.
5. Surviving Spouses Can Earn Eligibility
Military spouses play an active role not just holding down the home front, but also as a support unit to their loved ones who serve. At times, spouses can experience uncertainty, stress and even tragic loss.
Surviving spouses can be eligible for VA loans if a husband or wife died on duty or from a duty-related injury. Additionally, when a Veteran dies of any cause, a spouse may apply for a VA loan if the Veteran lived with a duty-related condition for a period designated by the VA, and is eligible for compensation at the time of death. You may be eligible for a VA loan if you’re a spouse who survived the one of the following:
- Veteran who died on duty, or of duty-related causes
- Disabled Veteran eligible for compensation
- POW or MIA
Surviving spouses should strongly consider checking with the VA about all bereavement benefits during this difficult time.
6. Certain Other Members Can Earn Eligibility
Did you know: Veterans of the seven branches, National Guard/Reservists and surviving spouses aren’t the only people who are eligible for VA loans? In fact, several other groups may be eligible, including:
- Academy Cadets
- West Point
- Air Force Academy
- Coast Guard Academy
- POW and MIA
Of course, certain rules apply. However, if you fall into one or more of these categories, you may be able to receive a VA loan.
For more details on VA loan eligibility, just fill out our quick online form and one of our representatives will get in touch with you.
7. Your Home has to Meet Eligibility Requirements Too
You should know that the home you buy has to meet VA minimum property requirements (MPRs), and that only certain kinds of homes can be financed with a VA loan.
What Can You Buy with a VA Loan?
During your application process, a VA-certified appraiser will check to make sure the property meets MPRs. At a minimum, the home must be safe, sound, and sanitary with a good foundation, structure, and roof. The appraiser will also look for basic requirements like clean water, heat, power, and no health hazards. Any home with pests, mold, rot, or broken windows will not pass muster. The home must also have year-round access on a well-maintained road. Other requirements include distinct living areas for sleeping, cooking, dining, and bathing. Check with your real estate agent for additional requirements.
8. If Your Service is Cut Short, You May Still Be Eligible
It is possible to earn benefits if you have not met the minimum service requirements, and were discharged due to one of the following:
- Government convenience
- Reduction in force
- Certain medical conditions
- Service-connected disability
If you were discharged early for a reason other than dishonorable, it’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible.
9. A COE in Hand Will Put Any Doubts to Rest
If you have any doubts that you’re entitled to home loan benefits, a certificate of eligibility (COE) will clear it up. A COE is proof you’re eligible. If you think you may be eligible, get your COE. Lenders need this document before they can consider you for a VA-backed loan.
VA Loan Eligibility
There are many different ways to qualify for a VA loan. Take our quick assessment to see if you meet the basic eligibility requirements for a VA loan.
How Can I Get My COE?
You can get a COE printed instantly through your lender if the VA has sufficient data for you and if the lender has access to the VA’s system, called VA LGY. If you are not in the system, your lender can still help you obtain your document. Ask your lender to get you the proper forms to fill out and expedite the process.
Certificate of Eligibility
Your VA mortgage application will require a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which the VA calls ”the only reliable proof of eligibility”.
The document can be obtained in three different ways.
Request by Phone
Request by Mail
Best For:Those who are actively serving or have a DD-214
Best For:Separated servicemembers who do not have a DD-214
Best For:Surviving spouses of servicemembers
Request by Phone
Best For:Those who are actively serving or have a DD-214
Best For:Separated servicemembers who do not have their DD-214
Request by Mail
Best For:Survivng spouses of servicemembers
10. Eligibility is Just Part of the VA Loan Process
Eligibility is just one part of VA loan qualifying. Four key parts make up the process. If you’re eligible and want to buy a home, get ready to prove that you also have the ability to pay your mortgage and any costs related to purchase. Your lender will likely run a credit report very early in the process, and they will ask about your financials including assets and income up front. Be prepared to back up any claims with paper.
VA loan qualifying is fairly straightforward. While individual lender qualifying guidelines can vary, a credit score of around mid-600s is generally needed, along with a debt to income (DTI) ratio of 41% or lower. Exceptions to the DTI rule do apply, such as if you have more than enough residual income. You’ll need to have enough money left over to live after paying all your monthly expenses, including your new mortgage. An approved lender has an obligation to meet standards which demonstrate you have the ability to pay for your loan.
4 Keys to VA Loan Approval
For more information about VA loan eligibility or to obtain your COE, contact our VA loan team.