A VA loan is a mortgage guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. VA loans are designed to help active duty military and veterans qualify for homeownership. They offer lower interest rates and better terms than conventional mortgages, and are offered exclusively to service members and certain military spouses.
Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
The Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, is a military entitlement given to active duty personnel to provide housing for themselves and their families. The BAH is calculated by location and pay grade, and the allowance is designed to provide service members housing compensation equitable to local civilian housing markets. The BAH can be used toward rent or a mortgage, allowing you to build equity in your home, even if you don’t have a down payment to get started.
Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
Borrowers can begin the loan process without the COE, but it is required in order to move the loan through the steps toward funding. Once you’ve contacted a loan specialist, obtaining the COE can be taken care of on your behalf. Otherwise, you can contact the Veterans Administration directly to obtain the certificate. The VA ultimately determines eligibility, and the COE verifies the duration and character of service that qualifies the borrower for the housing benefit.
Since they are insured by the government, VA loans provide access to special benefits:
- No down payment required: For many service members, this is the most attractive feature of a VA loan. You can become a homeowner without having to save for a down payment.
- Lower interest rates: Military borrowers typically receive interest rates well below those of conventional borrowers.
- No monthly mortgage insurance premiums: MI payments can costs borrowers hundreds every month, an expense you’ll never have with a VA loan.
- No prepayment penalty: You can sell or refinance at any time without having to pay a penalty.
- Reduced funding fees: You can qualify for reduced loan fees or exemption from funding fees for Veterans receiving service-connected disability compensation.
- Ability to finance the VA funding fee: The funding fee can be rolled into the entire loan amount.
- Less than perfect credit usually accepted: You don’t need to have perfect credit to qualify for a VA loan.
- 100% cash out refinance: Use your home’s value and pull cash out to pay off debt, make repairs to your home, remodel, or spend any way you wish.
VA loan eligibility typically requires one of the following:
- 90 days of service during wartime
- 181 continuous days of active service during peacetime
- 6 or more years of service in the National Guard or Reserves
- Being the un-remarried, surviving spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty, or as a result of a service-related disability
VA Loan Options
VA mortgage holders may refinance with the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL), aka the VA Streamline refinance, and the VA cash out refinance, to lower their interest rate.
For Veterans who currently have a VA Loan, the VA Streamline Refinance offers:
- Simplified refinance process
- Access to a lower rate and monthly mortgage payment
- No need for submitting bank statements, W2s, paychecks and other documents
The VA cash out refinance allows borrowers to pull cash out of their home’s equity, even if they are currently in another type of loan like FHA or USDA.
- VA loans with a Fixed Rate are great for borrowers looking for a consistent payment for the life of the loan
- An Adjustable Rate Mortgage can be ideal for military borrowers looking to take advantage of the upfront savings offered in an ARM loan, for example borrowers who expect to receive PCS orders within 5 years may consider a 5/1 VA ARM.
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