What Every Veteran Should Know About the VA Mortgage

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1 What Every Veteran Should Know About the VA Mortgage

2 P a g e 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS COMMON QUESTIONS VA MORTGAGE ELIGIBILITY VA ENTITLEMENT (Loan Limit) QUALIFICATION - Credit QUALIFICATION - Occupancy QUALIFICATION - Employment PROPERTY REQUIREMENTS YOUR VA MORTGAGE TEAM

3 P a g e 3 What Makes the VA Mortgage So Great? The VA Guaranteed Mortgage is one of the best benefits you may receive as a veteran. There are many aspects of the VA Mortgage that make it one of the best loan programs available today. A few highlights include 1. The VA Mortgage makes it possible for most veterans to purchase with ZERO DOWN PAYMENT, depending on credit. 2. There is NO MORTGAGE INSURANCE charged on VA Mortgages, saving veterans hundreds of dollars each month. 3. The VA Mortgage has LESS STRICT CREDIT REQUIREMENTS, helping more veterans to purchase a home for themselves and their families. 4. There is NO LIMIT TO THE NUMBER OF TIMES as veteran can use the VA Mortgage to purchase a primary residence. It can be used over and over again. 5. The VA Mortgage benefit NEVER EXPIRES for a veteran, helping veterans of all ages purchase a home, sometimes for the first time. What Does a Veteran Need to Qualify? Every veteran s situation is different, but there are a few basic things that will determine one s ability to use the VA Mortgage to purchase a home. 1. Is the veteran VA ELIGIBLE? 2. How much VA MORTGAGE ENTITLEMENT does the veteran have? 3. Does the veteran QUALIFY FOR THE VA MORTGAGE based on credit, income, and assets? 4. Does the proposed property meet the VA S MINIMUM PROPERTY REQUIREMENTS? 5. Money for CLOSING COSTS, unless the seller agrees to pay those. Available VA Loan Programs Although the VA will guaranty these loan types, it is up to the individual lender which loan programs they make available: Traditional Fixed-Payment Mortgages: Lenders usually offer 15- and 30-year loan programs. Other terms may also be available. Adjustable-Rate Mortgages: These mortgages can be fixed for a period of one (1) to ten (ten) years. Rates are based on the same indexes as other adjustable mortgage programs. Energy-Efficient Mortgages: A veteran may purchase a home and borrow additional funds to make improvements that will improve the energy-efficiency of the home. **There are several requirements and stipulations on this loan, so your lender should be consulted. Some lenders will not offer this loan program.

4 P a g e 4 VA MORTGAGE ELIGIBILITY How is Eligibility Determined Veterans are eligible to use the VA mortgage benefit based on their time in the military and their character of service. Eligibility is determined by the VA, not by the lender. Your lender should be able to assist the veteran in obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). General VA Eligibility requirements are ~ 1. Acceptable Character of Service / Type of Discharge. Type of Discharge for Active Duty Veteran Honorable (HON) Under Honorable Conditions (UHC) General (GEN) Other Than Honorable (OTH) Bad Conduct Dishonorable Reserve / National Guard Honorable (HON) All other types of discharge 2. MINIMUM AMOUNT OF SERVICE TIME. Action Acceptable Acceptable Acceptable Requires Adjudication Review Requires Adjudication Review Unacceptable Action Acceptable Unacceptable *A Veteran who has served less than the minimum required period of service or was discharged because of a service-connected disability or reduction in force may be eligible for home loan benefits. Other categories of exceptions can be found in Chapter 2, section 5 of the Lender s Handbook Era Dates Minimum Service World War II 9/16/40-7/25/47 90 Continuous Days Peacetime 7/26/47-6/26/ Continuous Days Korean War 6/27/50-1/31/55 90 Continuous Days Post-Korean War 2/1/55-8/4/ Continuous Days Vietnam War 8/5/64-5/7/75 90 Continuous Days Post-Vietnam 5/8/1975-9/7/ Continuous Days Post-Vietnam 9/8/80 8/1/90 2 Years Persian Gulf 8/2/ current 2 years or period called to active duty, not less than 90 days 6 Years may be less if Reserves or activated. Eligibility National Guard Any Dates determined by Any Era Retirement Points Currently Active Duty Current 90 Continuous Days or 181 during peacetime. Service that does not count toward minimum service: 1. Active duty for training in Reserves 2. Active duty for training in National Guard, unless activated under authority of Title 10, US Code.

5 P a g e 5 Early Discharge MAY be Eligible A veteran may still be eligible, even if they were discharged early, if it was for one of the following reasons - Discharged for a service-connected disability Discharged for the convenience of the government after completing at least 20 months of a 2-year enlistment Completed not less than 90 days (any part during wartime) or 181 continuous days (peacetime), and were discharged because of a hardship Discharged or released from active duty for a medical condition which preexisted service and has not been determined to be service-connected Received an involuntary discharge or release from active duty for the convenience of the Government as a result of a reduction in force Discharged or released from active duty for a physical or mental condition not characterized as a disability and not the result of misconduct but which did interfere with your performance of duty Marriage Requirements In order for a spouse to be included on the VA mortgage there must be proof of the marriage, submitted to underwriting before a final approval of the file can be given. The guidelines for providing the VA mortgage benefit to same-sex couples are changing as federal and state laws become better defined. As of June, 2014, the eligibility of same-sex couples follows state law. So, even though federal benefits may be available, the spouse may only be on the mortgage if the marriage is recognized in the state the home is purchased. Mortgages with Two Veteran Borrowers If two non-married veterans would like to purchase a home with a VA mortgage, they will split the entitlement between the two veterans. Both veterans must have enough entitlement available to accommodate half of the new VA mortgage. Even if both veterans have their full entitlement, they are still limited to the maximum guaranty for the area where they are purchasing a home. See guarantee limits in Entitlement section. What is Certificate of Eligibility? The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a document issued by the VA and establishes the veteran s eligibility for the VA home loan. There are several ways to obtain a COE: 1. The veteran may create an account on the VA s ebenefits ( site and make a request electronically. 2. The veteran may complete and mail the VA form , Request for a Certificate of Eligibility, to the VA Eligibility Center for Processing. This must be accompanied by a copy of the veteran s DD214 (discharge papers), retirement point statement (for Reserves and National Guard) or a Statement of Service letter if on active duty. See appendix for VA National Eligibility Center contact info. 3. The lender may request the COE electronically.

6 P a g e 6 What if the Veteran Does Not Have a Copy of their DD214 or Retirement Point Statement? A copy of a DD214 can be requested from the National Archives. The necessary forms and instructions can be found at This can take several weeks, so the veteran should request this at the beginning of the whole process. If a veteran is currently a member of the Reserves or National Guard, they should have online access to their Retirement Points Statement via the benefits website or their HR office. What is the VA Funding Fee? The VA Funding Fee is a fee that the VA charges to administer the VA Mortgage program. The VA Funding Fee (VAFF) is a one-time fee, and can be added to the loan amount. It is acceptable if the loan amount exceeds the appraised value of the home, if it is due to adding the VAFF. The VAFF is a percentage of the amount borrowed. It is based on the type of military service, the amount of down payment, and how many times the entitlement has been used. Down Payment 1 st Time Use Subsequent Use Less than 5% 2.15% 3.30% Regular Military 5% - 10% 1.50% 1.50% 10% or More 1.25% 1.25% Reserve or National Guard Less than 5% 2.40% 3.30% 5% - 10% 1.75% 3.30% 10% or More 1.50% 1.50% When compared to mortgage insurance, financing the VA funding fee is considerably less expensive. ***The VA funding fee is WAIVED for a veteran with a VA DISABILITY RATING as low as 10%.

7 P a g e 7 VA ENTITLEMENT (Loan Limit) The VA loan limit, also known as the basic entitlement, is $417,000. In certain areas of the county, the VA Loan Limit has been extended due to the higher cost of housing. A full list of the most current VA Loan Limits can be found in the in this appendix or the most current list of limits can be found online at In the state of Utah, the VA Loan Limit is $417,000. Until 2015, there were a few counties in Utah with higher loan limits. Be sure your lender is aware of the change, especially if your client is purchasing a home in Salt Lake County, Summit County or Tooele County. Although this is referred to as the VA loan limit, there is actually no limit on the loan amount of a VA mortgage. If a veteran wants to borrow more than their entitlement will guaranty, the veteran will be required to put a down payment equal to 25% of the amount that exceeds their maximum loan amount. Example of Purchase Price / Loan Amount EXCEEDING Loan Limit (Entitlement): Purchase Price + VA Funding Fee: $500,000 Available Entitlement: $417,000 Down Payment Calculation: $500,000 - $417,000 = $83,000 x 25% = $20,750

8 P a g e 8 QUALIFICATION - Credit Although the VA loan is much more liberal than other loan programs, as far as credit requirements, many lenders still have their own credit requirements, in addition to the VA s requirements. Check with your lender to find out their particular requirements. Credit Score There is no minimum credit score requirement to obtain a VA mortgage, although most lenders will require a minimum credit score of The VA requires the lender to review the whole file of a VA borrower to make approval decisions. As a general rule, a borrower is required to have little to no derogatory credit within the last twelve months. Judgments & Collection Accounts A VA loan cannot be approved with an unpaid judgment, regardless of other factors. A borrower with collection accounts may be approved, depending on the status of the collection and the circumstances surrounding the collection account. Bankruptcy The fact that a bankruptcy exists in an applicant s (or spouse s) credit history does not in itself disqualify the loan. Develop complete information on the facts and circumstances of the bankruptcy. Consider the reasons for the bankruptcy and the type of bankruptcy filing. Chapter 13 a paid as agreed history for twelve months and a letter from the trustee would constitute reestablished credit, assuming no other derogatory items. The Trustee or the Bankruptcy Judge must approve of the new credit. The lender must also determine that cause of the bankruptcy was out of the control of the borrower, such as a medical bankruptcy or a job loss. Chapter 7 more than 2 years since discharge - Bankruptcy may be completely disregarded if discharged more than 2 years ago. Chapter 7 between 1 and 2 years since discharge - If the bankruptcy was discharged within the last 1 to 2 years, the lender must determine that the applicant or spouse is a satisfactory credit risk. Both of the following requirements must be met: The applicant or spouse has reestablished credit and can show a clean credit history over the most recent 12 months. The bankruptcy was caused by circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or spouse such as unemployment, prolonged strikes, medical bills not covered by insurance, and so on, and the circumstances are verified. **Divorce is not generally viewed as beyond the control of the borrower and/or spouse. Chapter 7 Less than 1 year since discharge - If a veteran or spouse has been discharged in bankruptcy within the past 12 months, it will not generally be possible to determine that the borrower or spouse is a satisfactory credit risk. Foreclosure Foreclosure basically has the same guidelines as a chapter 7 bankruptcy. Keep in mind that if the foreclosed mortgage was a VA mortgage, some of the veteran s entitlement may be tied up until the VA is paid back the loss.

9 P a g e 9 Short Sale Where many loan programs consider a short sale the same way they consider a foreclosure, the VA looks at a short sale as a derogatory credit item. There is no minimum time between a short sale and the purchase of a new home, although some lenders may require a certain period of time pass before approval usually 2 years. Federal Debts All federal debts must be paid in full, in an uncollectable status or on a repayment plan which is current. Lenders will run a CAIVERS (Credit Alert Interactive Voice Response System) report for every VA borrower, so even if a federal debt does not show up on a credit report, the lender will find it. Divorce Although divorce is not viewed as beyond the control of the borrower and/or spouse as a reason for a bankruptcy, delinquent payments made after the assignment of responsibility to a spouse may be disregarded. This assignment must be made on a legal document, such as a divorce agreement QUALIFICATION - Occupancy Primary Residence The intent of the VA Home Loan Program is to provide shelter to veterans. It is not intended to allow the veteran to build a portfolio of income properties. Therefore, occupancy is one of the most important requirements of the VA home loan program. The veteran recipient of a VA guaranteed loan must certify that he or she intends to personally occupy the property as his or her primary residence. Occupancy Deadline VA loan occupancy requires that the veteran move into the home within a reasonable time. But what does that mean? The VA requires that the borrower move into the home within 60 days after the VA loan closes. There are exceptions to that rule. The 60-day rule may be waived if you meet both of the following conditions: You certify that you will occupy the property at a specific date after your VA loan closes There is a specific event in the future that will make it possible for you to occupy the property on that date Generally, the VA does not make exceptions if you want to set an occupancy date for more than 12 months after your loan closes. **All exceptions to the 60-day rule should be discussed with a lender and must be approved by the VA. Spouse Occupancy The occupancy requirement is satisfied if your spouse will be living in the home while you are on active duty or otherwise unable to personally occupy the home. A spouse may also satisfy the occupancy requirement if the veteran cannot due to long distance employment issues.

10 P a g e 10 Dependent Occupancy A dependent child may occupy the home while their parent or parents are deployed or on active duty away from the home. It s important to note that just by having the dependent in the home does not satisfy the requirement. You must take additional action by having your attorney or dependent s legal guardian make the occupancy certification. Please keep in mind that many lenders will not recognize dependent occupancy as satisfying the VA loan occupancy requirement. Occupancy During Deployment If a member of the military is deployed after purchasing a home, their occupancy status is not affected by the deployment. They are considered to be in a temporary duty status and are able to provide a valid intent to occupy certification. This requirement is met regardless of whether or not a spouse will be occupying the property during the deployment. Occupancy After Military Retirement If a veteran will be retiring within 12 months from the date of loan application, they must include a copy of their application for retirement and proof of retirement stability. Although the VA requires moving in to the home within a reasonable time, retiring veterans may be able to negotiate a later move-in date. They have the option to apply for a delay (up to 12 months) in the occupancy requirements. Failure to Meet Occupancy Requirements If a veteran home buyer does not occupy the home as agreed under the terms of the VA loan, what happens next is at the discretion of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Even though it seems as if there are a lot of if, then rules to define occupancy, it s really not as complicated as it appears. The VA works hard to help borrowers understand how to fit their situation into these guidelines. Understanding a veteran s rights and benefits is something that a qualified Home Loan Expert should be able to verify with the VA. Remember to always work with a lender who is skilled and specialized in the nuances of VA loans.

11 P a g e 11 QUALIFICATION - Employment Employment History As with other loan programs, the VA mortgage requires that a borrower have a minimum employment history of 2 years. If a borrower has not had the same job for the last 2 years, a borrower should at least be in the same field of work. Generally, employment less than 12 months is not considered stable and reliable. However, it may be considered stable and reliable the applicant s training and/or education equipped him or her with particular skills that relate directly to the duties of his/her current position. Part-time Employment Reserves & NG The VA s main consideration when determining if part-time income can be included is based on the likelihood that the employment will continue. This is usually determined by a 2-year history of having the part-time job. Recently Activated Members of the Reserves & NG If an activated member of the Reserves/NG applies for a mortgage, the general guidelines state that the military income will be used if the orders are for more than 12 months. If orders are for less than 12 months, most lenders will usually use the lesser of the two incomes military or civilian income. This is left to the individual underwriter s discretion. Active Duty Military Active duty military members must have an ETS date listed on their LES which is at least 12 months after the close of the mortgage. Only Enlisted members of the military will have an ETS date listed on their LES. Officers do not have an ETS date. If the date is within 12 months of the anticipated date that the loan will close, the loan package must also include one of the following four items, or combinations of items, to be acceptable: 1. Documentation that the service member has already re-enlisted or extended his/her period of active duty to a date beyond the 12-month period following the projected closing of the loan. 2. A statement from the service member that he/she intends to reenlist or extend his/her period of active duty to a date beyond the 12 month period, plus a statement from the service member s commanding officer confirming that the service member is eligible to reenlist or extend his/her active duty as indicated, and the commanding officer has no reason to believe that such reenlistment or extension of active duty will not be granted. 3. Verification of a valid offer of local civilian employment following the release from active duty. All data pertinent to sound underwriting procedures (date employment will begin, earnings, and so on) must be included.

12 P a g e 12 PROPERTY REQUIREMENTS Eligible Property Types SINGLE FAMILY HOMES, TOWNHOMES & PUD S This is a traditional home built in a neighborhood. If you are looking at townhomes, be sure that it is listed as a townhome with the county on the property records, rather than a condo. CONDOMINIMUMS If a property is designated as a condominium in the county property records, it must be on the VA approved list in order to get a VA mortgage for the purchase. Check with your real estate agent or lender if you have questions about a particular property. MULTI-FAMILY HOUSING This includes duplexes, triplexes and 4-plexes. One unit MUST BE THE PRIMARY RESIDENCE OF THE VETERAN. Although VA will approve a loan for such a property, it is import to check that your lender will loan on the property. Some lenders will only lend on single-family homes and duplexes. MANUFACTURED HOMES To be eligible for a VA loan, a manufactured home must be - classified and taxed as real property properly affixed to a permanent foundation substantially conform with VA MPRs, and Conform to applicable building code and zoning requirements for real estate. Lender should be consulted, as some lenders will not extend mortgages on manufactured homes MANUFACTURED HOME Often referred to as a Trailer or Double-wide VS. MODULAR HOME Stick-built home where walls are framed off-site in a factory and put together on-site MODULAR HOMES Modular homes are eligible, provided they are covered by a HUD structural engineering bulletin, or constructed to the standards of the State in which the factory is located and receive that State s approval certification. They are delivered to the building site in sections, but are not attached to a chassis supported by wheels. **Lender should be consulted, as some lenders will not extend mortgages on manufactured homes NEW CONSTRUCTION Newly completed properties (completed less than one year and never owner-occupied) are eligible if either covered by a one-year VA builder s warranty enrolled in a HUD-accepted ten-year insured protection plan, or built by a veteran, as the general contractor, for his/her own occupancy. For new construction, the builder must be VA-approved. The process of becoming a VAapproved builder is not difficult and can be done quickly. This builder approved number must be assigned before the appraisal can be approved.

13 P a g e 13 Property Condition In order to obtain a VA Mortgage, an appraisal must be completed by a VA approved appraiser. The appraiser is not selected by the lender. An appraisal order is placed with the VA Regional Office, and the VA assigns the appraiser. Many believe that there is a VA Inspection required before a veteran can purchase a home. The VA does not require a VA home inspection before approving a loan, although buyers are encouraged to have a separate home inspection completed. As part of the appraisal, the VA appraiser will determine if the subject property meets the Minimum Property Requirements (MPR s), as outlined in the VA appraiser guidelines. These requirements are similar to those for FHA properties. Basically, the home must be safe and habitable. This requirement usually eliminates the possibility of a fixer-upper YOUR VA MORTGAGE TEAM As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, every veteran home buyer has a unique circumstance. This is just a guide to some of the basics. It is important to choose A TEAM who understands the VA loan process A TEAM who can cut through all the red tape. Let s find out if you can get your new home with NO Cash out of pocket! For a free consultation or to apply for your VA Mortgage, contact: Stacy Rowlett Maxim Ostromogilsky VA Mortgage Specialist Military Real Estate Specialist Primary Residential Mortgage Equity Real Estate (801) NMLS #833614

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