VA Loans Explained

What is a VA Loan?

A VA Loan (Veterans Administration Loan) is a mortgage that is guaranteed by the VA for veterans. VA loans have flexible underwriting and down payment guidelines for veterans and their spouses only. VA loans also have low interest rates, no mortgage insurance, and no down payment requirements for most veterans.

Key Components of VA Loans

VA loans are the best bargain in mortgage financing for qualified veterans. There are some key aspects to these loans that dictate how they can be used.

LTV Max is 100%

The maximum Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV) is 100% for most eligible veterans who have not used their VA financing benefits before. With a sufficiently large seller credit for closing costs, a veteran can buy a house with no money out of pocket. VA loans allow for there to be no down payment and no closing costs out of pocket.

No “As Is” Purchases

All properties subject to VA financing are required to clear a Section I termite inspection. Termite and Pest Inspections are always required for VA loans, unlike FHA loans which can allow for “as is” purchases.

No MI Required

Mortgage Insurance (MI) is not required for VA loans, however, there is an upfront funding fee. These upfront fees vary depending on a veteran’s status and can be wrapped into the total loan amount.

Fees VA Buyers are Not Allowed to Pay

There are some fees that VA buyers are specifically not allowed to pay. Anybody can cover these “unallowable” fees, including lenders, agents, and sellers. A small closing cost credit from the seller or lender will also usually cover the “unallowable” fees.

The VA Loan Process

Using a VA loan to finance a home purchase is fairly simple and usually breaks down into these seven easy steps:

1. Verify Eligibility for a VA Loan

Before applying for a VA loan, veteran borrowers should check with the Department of Veteran Affairs if they meet all the eligibility requirements for home loan benefits. A veteran’s eligibility is dependent on the length of their service, duty status, and character of service.

2. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

VA Loans can be obtained through any lender of their choice, but they must have a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE is an official document that shows their lender that they are eligible for the VA loan program. Veterans can acquire their COE on the Department of Veteran Affairs website in the eBenefits portal. (JVM Lending can also help walk them through this process.)

3. Fill out the Loan Application

After verifying their eligibility and obtaining their COE, they can begin the loan application process. Loan applications are standard for every loan (Form 1003), regardless of what type of loan program they are applying for. Loan applications will ask for basic personal, employment, income information, etc. (JVM offers a simplified 1003 here.)

4. Get Pre-Approved

JVM strongly encourages borrowers to get a Pre-Approval Letter before they begin the house hunt. To get a pre-approval letter, their lender will need to do a deep dive into your income, assets, and credit. We have three big reasons why we recommend their first step in home buying should be a pre-approval letter from JVM:

  • Purchase Price: No one really knows that they can afford until they talk to a lender. We don’t want buyers to get set on a house that they can’t afford. Getting pre-approved first helps buyers know what price range they should be staying within when they begin searching for their home.
  • Payment: There’s what buyers can afford, and then there’s what buyers are actually comfortable with. We like to find the in-between and make sure that buyers are comfortable with what will be coming out of their bank account each month.
  • Offer: It’s a competitive market out there! To have an offer taken seriously, buyers need to have a pre-approval letter from a local lender that’s reputable, that has good reviews, and fast turn times (JVM can close a loan in 14 days!).

5. Make an Offer

Once a buyer find the right home, it’s time to make an offer. We recommend sellers write a strong cover letter, or even a “love letter” to the seller to enhance the offer (check out some of these love letters that have won over sellers in the past). JVM can also offer shorter contingency periods and call listing agents for buyers to provide additional information and tout their financial strength.

6. Home Appraisal

Appraisals are used to determine the current market value on a home. Appraisals are also used to determine a home’s resale value. Lenders usually require appraisals to make sure that buyer’s purchase price is comparable to the home’s worth to ensure it is sufficient collateral for the loan they’re providing.

7. Final Closing

The final closing is the last stage of the loan process! This is where buyers sign the finalized documents relating to the sale of the home and pay any additional closing costs that might be due. After, property ownership transfers from the seller to the buyer.

Questions? While this article covers the very basics of VA loans in California, we can provide additional information to those who request it. You can reach us here, or at (925) 855-4491 or [email protected].

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