Do You Need PMI for a VA Loan?

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private mortgage insuranceInterested veterans may be concerned about private mortgage insurance (PMI) and if it’s required with a VA loan. The following information will help you to better understand VA loans and PMI.

What is a VA Loan?

Potential homeowners have many loan options available when they’re getting ready to buy a home. The VA (Veteran’s Administration) loan is a very popular choice for eligible individuals.

A VA loan helps veterans purchase a home without many of the requirements of conventional home mortgage loans. VA loans are guaranteed by the government. So many lenders are more willing to provide financing to potential buyers. Home buyers are typically required to provide a down payment of up to 25%. However, this is not the case with VA loans because of the government guarantee.

If the veteran cannot pay for the loan, the bank is not stuck with the loss. The VA will pay the balance. Because of this guarantee, VA loans generally come with lower interest rates and better terms. This makes them very popular options for eligible individuals

The maximum loan amount for a VA loan is $424,100. Of this amount, the VA will guarantee up to $104,250, which is 25%. The following list of individuals are eligible for VA loans:

• Veterans
• Reserve members
• Active-duty personnel
• National Guard members
• Spouses of veterans

Dependent children are not considered eligible.

What About Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI?

PMI or private mortgage insurance is a type of insurance homebuyers must purchase for conventional home mortgage loans. The purpose of PMI is to guarantee the lender that they will get their money even if the homeowner should default. It may be required up front at the time of the loan signing. It also may be added onto the loan. This can really increase the amount of the monthly mortgage payment. PMI can become very costly to the homeowner.

One of the great things about VA loans is that PMI is not required. The loans are already guaranteed by the government. This benefit is equally as important to potential homebuyers as the no-down payment benefit.

How Do I Get a VA Loan?

Obtaining a VA loan can be easier than one might think. Although homebuyers still need to be approved, the process is relatively simple and uncomplicated. Below are the steps potential homebuyers must take.

• Determine your eligibility to obtain a VA loan
• Find a home to buy
• Find a lender and show them your VA loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
• Provide the lender with income and employment information for credit approval
• Fill out an application

Your VA loan may be approved on the same day. Once it is, the lender will arrange for an appraisal to be done on the property. You will not have to do anything until the day you come in for closing.

San Diego VA Loans – Debt-to-Income Ratio

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debt ratioOne of the many advantages of VA loans over traditional mortgages is that the qualification process is easier. Historically, the VA loan program has had one of the lowest delinquency rates compared to other loans. This is due to its commitment to time-tested lending guidelines. One guideline is the debt-to-income ratio or debt ratio.

What is the Debt Ratio?

The debt-to-income ratio is a percentage of the borrower’s overall monthly debt obligations divided by the household’s gross income.

As an example, if your monthly income is $8,000 and you have debt obligations like credit card payments, a car loan, a student loan payment, and your new housing payment that total $3,000, your debt ratio is 37.5% ($3,000 divided by $8,000).

Here’s another way to look at the debt ratio:

  • Your annual income is $48,000.
  • Your monthly income is $4,000 ($48,000 divided by 12).
  • The maximum debt obligation you can have to qualify is $1,640 ($4,000 multiplied by 0.41).

VA Loan Debt Ratio Guidelines

The VA has set a maximum debt ratio of 41%. This means your debt-to-income ratio must be 41% or lower to qualify for a mortgage. Under the VA’s rules, your new housing payment will consist of the following: interest and principal payment, one month’s property taxes, and one month’s homeowners’ insurance plus any HOA or condo fees.

The VA has guidelines on which types of debt must be included in this calculation. Monthly obligations that are included to qualify you include:

Credit card payments (minimum due)

  • Installment loans and leases (e.g., car loans)
  • Student loans
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • Children’s day care

Monthly responsibilities that do not count in the debt-to-income ratio include utilities, cell phone, food, electricity and more.

What if Your Debt Ratio is Higher Than 41%?

VA lenders can make allowances to make a loan with a debt ratio higher than 41%. But other considerations must be made in terms of residual income, employment, and credit rating. In this case, the underwriter will do a careful inspection of your application.

You can still qualify if your residual income is at least 20% higher. Also, if your debt-to-income ratio is higher than allowed due to tax-free income.

The most common scenario with a high debt ratio is a higher residual income requirement. Residual income is the amount of money you have remaining each month after paying major expenses. When a borrower’s debt ratio exceeds 41%, the residual income requirement is raised by 20%.

Reducing Your Debt Ratio

If your debt ratio is right at 41%, you can reduce your ratio by paying down debt, lowering your house payment, or borrowing less. Increasing your income can also reduce your debt ratio. However, it’s difficult to earn extra income that will be counted by your lender. To reduce your debt, try these techniques:

Pay more than your minimum monthly payments to pay down debt faster.

  • Shop around for better rates on car insurance, internet, and cell phone service. This allows for more money to pay down your debt.
  • Eliminate unnecessary expenses such as subscriptions you do not use.

What is an Escrow Account?

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escrow accountWhen something is in escrow, it means it is held by a third party, and an escrow account is one set up to hold money, documents and other items related to a transaction. Escrow accounts are most common in real estate and they are used for a couple of different purposes.


At Sale and Closing

When you agree to buy a home, you usually are asked to put down a “good faith” deposit that shows you are serious about going through with the sale. This money will be held in an escrow account until the transaction closes. Also, any funds you have to contribute to the closing, such as real estate taxes, also will be held in escrow until the sale closes and all aspects are settled.

Mortgage Escrow

The type of escrow account with which most people are familiar is the escrow account related to your mortgage. Lenders prefer — and some require — an escrow account into which you pay a monthly amount toward your real estate taxes, homeowners insurance and mortgage insurance if you have it. A lender can legally require you to have an escrow account if you have less than 80 percent equity in your home. If your equity is 80% or more, then you can opt out of escrow. It is best to opt out when you get the loan, because it’s very difficult to do so later. However, your lender can charge a waiver fee or bump up your interest rate if you decide to opt out.

How Does It Work?

When you have an escrow account, your lender divides your home insurance premium, real estate tax bill and mortgage insurance premium by 12 and then adds those totals to your mortgage principal and interest payment so that you pay all those amounts in one payment each month. Then your lender is responsible for paying your taxes and insurance when they are due. Your lender also is responsible for adjusting your payment up or down to account for increases or decreases in your taxes and insurance.


There are big advantages to escrow accounts for both lenders and borrowers. For the lender, having an escrow account assures that the house is insured and that taxes are being paid so no liens are filed on the house. For the borrower, it offers the convenience of one monthly payment and not having to budget for big once- or twice-a-year tax payments.


There really is no disadvantage to the lender of having an escrow account, other than the time and expense needed to administer it. For borrowers, the one big drawback is the potential lost earnings on the money put into escrow. The federal government does not require lenders to pay interest on money put into escrow and only a handful of states do. That means you are missing out on some potential interest and investment returns on the money you put into escrow. However, many people are willing to give that up in exchange for the convenience.

Discount Points – Do VA Loans Include Them?

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discount pointsWhen deciding to buy a home you want to get the best mortgage possible for your circumstances. Veterans and service men and women have an advantage in the financing step because they are exclusively eligible for discount points VA Home Loan. The loans are offered by mortgage companies and banks. But the VA guarantees a part of the loan, enabling you to get a loan with better terms than a typical mortgage.

About Discount Points


VA loans require you to have adequate income, suitable credit, and a completed valid Certificate of Eligibility to establish that you qualify for the benefits of a VA home loan. Lenders ideally prefer that you have a credit score of at least 620. But exceptions can be made with additional stipulations in certain circumstances. You must also intend to live in the home as your primary residence. The funds can be used to buy a home, buy and improve a home, purchase a manufactured home or to build a house. You do not qualify if you have received a dishonorable discharge. The service requirements vary based on dates of service and minimum days of active duty required. Specific information regarding eligibility can be found here.

Benefits of a VA Home Loan

  • No down Payment – Conventional mortgage companies require buyers to put down at least 20% of the purchase price to avoid having to obtain private mortgage insurance or PMI. For example, if you are looking at a home for $100,000, you would be required to have $20,000 up front on top of other fees.
  • No Private Mortgage Insurance – PMI ranges from .3 to 1.15% of the total amount of the loan which can add thousands of dollars to the overall cost of the loan. It is paid for the duration of the mortgage. Its purpose is to protect the lender from loss, but since the VA guarantees a portion of the loan, borrowers are exempt from the requirement. You’ll build equity in your home much faster without this fee.

Additional Benefits of a VA Home Loan

  • Competitive Interest Rates – Interest rates are primarily focused on the risk the lender takes by loaning you the money. A lower interest rate is always favorable because it requires a lower monthly payment, while an interest rate that has a reduction of as little as .5 or 1% saves thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. VA home loans also have discount points, which reduce the interest rate of the loan by making an upfront payment equal to a percentage of the loan’s value. This is typically a .25% interest reduction for each point, costing 1% of the overall loan. Points are beneficial if you intend to remain in the home for a while, otherwise, they can be a waste of money and not worth the investment.
  • No early payment penalties – A VA home loan ensures that you cannot be penalized if you decide to pay off the loan earlier than the term of the mortgage.
  • Closing costs are regulated. They include things such as appraisals, credit report checks, application fees, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and a VA funding fee, which varies based on your initial down payment, type of service and whether this is your first time getting a VA loan. These also can be paid by the seller if decided during negotiations.

Process to get a VA Loan

  • Contact a VA-approved lender to begin the paperwork and eligibility screening
  • Bring your preapproval letter with you as you look for homes or use a real estate agent who specializes in VA loans
  • Make an offer on the home
  • Complete the closing process with appraisals and inspections. The final process involves signing the paperwork, paying the fees and getting your new keys

How Do You Qualify for a VA Loan?

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va loan qualificationsBuying a home is a great investment, an effective way to build long-term wealth, and an effective hedge against inflation. When buying a home, most people will need to take out a mortgage to finance their purchase. And complete VA loan qualifications. And, while there are many different mortgage programs available to consumers, veterans have an extra option. Which is designed specifically to help them buy real estate. That is the VA Home Loan program.

VA Loan Qualifications Overview

A VA home loan is a mortgage loan that is guaranteed by the Veteran’s Association. Making them a low risk option for lenders, which allows them to offer attractive rates to borrowers. These types of loans are guaranteed by the VA. But can be received through banks, savings and loans providers, and mortgage companies. The VA loan products available offer the same options as traditional mortgages. Including adjustable rate mortgages, fixed rate mortgages, second mortgages, and refinanced mortgages. While VA home loans are normally used to buy single family homes. They can also be used to purchase condos, townhomes, or even manufactured housing.

Service Time Requirements

Once a loan is approved and booked it acts just like any other mortgage. However, the VA loan qualifications process is much different than the process for a traditional mortgage. The main qualification that all borrowers must satisfy is related to the amount of time in the service. To qualify for a VA home loan, you must have 90 days of consecutive service in the US Armed Forces during wartime, 181 days of consecutive service during peacetime, or have spent more than six years in the National Guard or National Reserves. The VA program is also available to the spouse of a service member who passed away in the line of duty or as a result of a disability related to an incident that occurred while in service.

Certificate of Eligibility (COE)       

When looking to purchase a home by taking out a VA home loan, the first thing you should do is apply for and receive a Certificate of Eligibility also known as a “COE”.  A COE is a certificate that will provide lenders with verification that you have met all the service obligations necessary to qualify for a VA home loan. The certificate application can be received from either a VA Loan specialist or directly through the Veteran’s Association.

Other Requirements

Beyond providing a COE that proves your service-time qualifications, you will also have to meet other various qualifications set forth by the VA. The Veterans’ Association does not necessarily follow the same rigid underwriting guidelines that a bank or mortgage company does but they do have some underwriting rules that they tend to follow. In most cases, the VA will want a borrower to have a housing debt-to-income ratio of 41% or lower, which is higher than most banks offer. However, the VA will also spend more time reviewing your “after expense monthly cash flow” to ensure you have enough money to meet your basic expenses. The VA will also take into consideration your credit score, although they do not have the same requirements for a high credit score as a bank does.

VA Loan Homeowners Insurance Requirements

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Homeowners insurance requirementsMaking a home purchase can be a very exciting experience. But before a veteran begins looking for a home, it is important for him to know the homeowners insurance requirements. Mortgage companies and the VA have specific requirements on loans; before settlement the new homeowner must be aware of these regulations.

Homeowners Insurance Requirements: Protecting Your Property

Obtaining a loan through the VA means the VA approved lender has a guarantee for the payment of the loan in the event the borrower defaults on the mortgage. The purchase of insurance is one of the most important things new homeowners can do for themselves. A home is a large investment for anyone to make. And, as such, it is essential to protect your home from any accidents that might occur. Purchasing homeowners’ insurance is the best way to accomplish this.

All lenders require borrowers to obtain homeowners insurance requirements. To protect the home’s value and the lender’s investment in the property. Insurance ensures the homeowner that if anything happens that would lower the home’s value. The insurance would cover the cost to restore the property to whatever value was in existence. Prior to the incident that caused the devaluation.

Problems with Lack of Sufficient Insurance

Any homeowner who fails to purchase homeowner’s insurance coverage risks losing his or her investment. If the insurance coverage is not sufficient to cover the current value of the home. The proceeds will go to the mortgage company while the homeowner may not receive anything. This is the reason a homeowner must ensure the insurance coverage limits are sufficient. To cover the entire value of any property increases that have occurred within the real estate market.

In some areas, specifically those where natural disasters are quite common, additional insurance may be necessary. If the property falls under what is called “Special Flood Hazard Area,” both the mortgage company and the VA will require the purchase of flood insurance.

Protect Your Property from Disaster

Even if a home is paid-in-full, there is still a need for homeowners’ insurance because accidents do happen. Unfortunately, homeowners’ insurance has become more difficult to obtain, especially in states where things have happened that have resulted in an increase in the numbers of claims. Another problem is VA mortgages may necessitate special coverage that many companies are not willing to provide. For instance, many homeowners’ policies have a “vacancy clause” that comes into the picture if the homeowner is gone for a long time. What happens in this case is some of all the insurance coverage may not cover potential losses which might be incurred. What a specific homeowners’ policy deems as “vacancy” may vary, as will the length of time it covers, so the homeowner must be certain to know and understand the terms of the policy.

Some policies also fail to cover what they call “natural disasters” unless addendums to cover those items are defined specifically. This includes damage from military action, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and even lightning. The best protection a homeowner can provide is knowing the exact terms of insurance coverage on the property.

How to Find the Best VA Loan Broker

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va loan brokerVeteran Affairs mortgage loans, which are widely known as VA loans, are great financial options for U.S. veterans who are interested in securing viable fixed-rate loans with little or no money down. The federal government guarantees these loans and they are made by private lenders around the country. The process to take a VA loan is more complicated than a conventional loan which causes some U.S. veterans to forfeit obtaining these viable loans. But giving up your VA loan for no solid reason is not an option that you should consider. With a credible VA loan broker on your side, you can obtain VA loans with ease. If you want to find the best VA loan broker, here are some of the major steps you should follow.

Choose VA-approved Brokers

VA loans have certain unique guidelines so working with a VA-approved mortgage broker is very important. If a loan officer accepts your VA loan application which does not meet these guidelines, it could be held up during the approval process or, in the worst case scenarios, be turned down when it could have received an approval if you had used a VA-approved loan broker. You can carry out an online search to find and evaluate many customer reviews recorded about different lenders before you choose one who is accredited and has the best reputation.

Evaluate Offers from VA Loan Brokers

Whenever you receive loan offers from VA-approved loan brokers, you should first decide which loan program you will use when comparing these loan brokers. There are several VA loans from which you can choose with a variety of choices from a minimum of a 3/1 hybrid to a maximum of a 15-year fixed rate loan. Scrutinize each one cautiously for qualifications that may exceed VA stipulations. Also, evaluate the offer for VA fees.

When getting quotes from your broker, you must stick to one program. If you are looking for AV hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages, focus on the lock-in periods on the fixed part of the loans. Your aim is to use the same standard so as to get the best combination of rates and fees.

Consider the Variables

VA brokers consider several factors when assigning an interest rate and you should consider each of those factors as well and utilize them to choose your broker. Some of these factors are your credit score, the duration you need the rate for, your loan amount and the broker’s fee charged to you. Though these loans do not require specific credit scores, most brokers require that your score should be no lower than 640, 620. You stand a higher chance to get a better rate if your credit score is above 720 than if it is 635.

Compared to larger loans, lower loan amounts may also have slightly higher rates. Also, the longer you need the interest rate, the higher your interest rate may be. So, the variable should help you make the right decision.

By following the above steps, you increase your chances of getting the best VA loan broker and getting the best home loan. However, since quotes can vary from day-to-day, it is advisable to get your rate quotes on the same day around the same time to avoid any last minute surprises.

Can I Buy Land with My VA Loan Benefit?

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va-loan-benefitOne of the most common questions about VA loan benefit involves the purchasing of land. The answer to this question is “somehow.” This is because you have to show commitment to develop the piece of land that you want to purchase. This means that you have to get into a contract to prove that you require land to put a house on it. Most of the VA mortgages are set for condominiums and single family residences. However, the VA program is more flexible and not limited to only these types of properties.

For you to be eligible for VA financing, the property must be occupied by a veteran for some time. This doesn’t mean that the house has to be complete by the time of closing. VA laws allow you to purchase a piece of land and then construct your home. The type of home you construct can be a new one, a mobile home, a pre-fab or original construction.

The actual process of putting a house on a piece of land is trickier than it may seem. For new constructions, prefabs, modular and mobile homes, you will be required to go through a lot of red tape. This includes approval from VA officials through VA inspectors. This process is not only time consuming but also expensive, and most financiers tend not to get involved in such a process. In case you want to install a mobile home, it should have a permanent foundation.

To qualify for a VA loan to purchase land, the land can either have a house situated on it or you plan to have your home constructed there. However, you cannot use a VA loan to purchase land and wait for a long time before you construct your house. This means you cannot use the piece of land that you have acquired using your VA loan for commercial purposes.

Documents You Will Need if You Want to Construct a Prefab or Manufactured Home

  • The specifications of the foundation of the house and a plan similar to that of conventional homes.
  • You may also be required to have details of the line piers if you plan on constructing a double-wide home.
  • A plot of the foundation indicating the location of the supporting piers. Include all drawings of the anchor of the foundation.
  • Prepare a floor plan of the unit and the exterior elevation. It is also advisable to have photographs or drawings of the front and rear parts of the home unless the property is located on the site that is going to be appraised or if the appraiser can access the unit. You can get these documents in the manufacturer’s installation manual.
  • If the state requires that the underside of the property be enclosed, you will need to have all the details of the perimeter enclosure to indicate that you comply with the legal requirements as stated by the authorities.
  • Because site conditions differ from one location to another, provide any revision information on the manufacturer’s installation manual to comply with the local housing requirements.
  • Provide any other construction exhibits for other on-site improvements including decks, garages, enclosed patios and carports to get enough financing.

Keep in mind that your home should comply with the set minimum habitability requirements as stated by the state laws, including things like eating and sleeping areas, permanent cooking, plumbing and septic requirements. Therefore, if the home hasn’t been constructed yet, submit all the construction plans for your VA loan to be approved. You will also need to construct your home according to the building plans you submit.

Additional Requirements by Individual VA Lenders

Individual lenders may have different guidelines compared to federal requirements to approve your VA loan. These requirements are based on their own risk assessment and lending criteria, and some of them include:

  • The builder you choose should provide a 1-year warranty on the newly constructed house.
  • You cannot also construct your VA home on land that is not suitable or safe for a home.

It is possible to purchase land using your VA loan and then construct a home. However, take your time when shopping around for lenders to finance you. Keep in mind that you will find many willing lenders to finance the construction of a modular home than a prefabricated house. This is because prefabs depreciate much faster and this is the reason why most lenders are reluctant to finance them.


Ins and Outs of Assuming a VA Loan

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va loanVA loan assumption is a term that is quite unfamiliar to many people. Mortgage assumption is a purchase where the buyer takes over liability of a given mortgage loan from the seller. An assumption is common among people who desire to get out of liability.


VA Loan Assumption

With a normal transaction, the seller can sell off every liability associated with a mortgage loan. By the end of the deal, the buyer repays his or her mortgage in full. The seller then gets a new mortgage from a lender. Upon sale, the seller also has the option to restore the VA entitlement. However, with a VA assumption, the buyer takes over all the liabilities associated with the loan. The buyer continues to make all the payments as per the original agreement with the lender. For the assumption to take place, the lender must approve the deal.

Transfer of liability

In a VA assumption, the buyer does not obtain a new mortgage, but he or she continues with the mortgage obtained from the seller. Though there is transfer of ownership, the mortgage is still the same, and the buyer is answerable for any loan defaults. The buyer can only be off the hook if the seller issues a written release of liability. Furthermore, the seller‘s VA entitlement could still be linked together with the sold mortgage.


Benefits of VA assumptions

VA assumptions are beneficial if the following conditions exist;

  • When the interest rate of the mortgage sold is lower than the current rates in the market. The buyer will continue to pay using the initial rates.
  • If there are settlement charges, the two parties can avoid them.
  • The buyer has the chance to pay cash for any variation between the sales in the agreement and the current mortgage balance. This is a better option compared to taking a second mortgage, which might be at a higher rate.


VA Entitlement after Assumption

Most people wonder whether they can still use their VA entitlement after an assumption. This is possible as long as the buyer is willing to substitute his or her entitlement with the mortgage. This way, the seller’s entitlement can be free for another use. In case the entitlement is still linked with the VA assumption, the seller can contact a VA mortgage professional to help calculate and determine the entitlement that is remaining.

Should You Consider a VA assumption?

Though it can be convenient and cheap, it is sometimes risky. If a seller leaves an entitlement with the new buyer, his or her eligibility can be affected when a buyer makes poor decisions regarding the property. Also, when a buyer loses the property due to bankruptcy of foreclosure, the seller’s eligibility is affected. In case of a foreclosure, the VA will guarantee part of the loan. The VA will be at a loss whenever the mortgage forecloses. In order to restore the entitlement, the seller has to pay all the VA losses in full. Therefore, you should take time and weigh your options before you consider VA assumption.

VA Loan Funding Fee – Closing Costs Explained

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closing costsA VA loan offers several benefits to buyers. Two major benefits are no down payment and reduced closing fees. While buyers don’t get to skip the closing costs completely, there are limits on the amount of closing costs that can be assessed to buyers on a VA loan. The following information will help buyers understand how much they can expect to pay in costs on a VA home loan.

How Much Can Borrowers Expect to Pay in Closing Costs?

Closing costs on a mortgage loan range from 2-5% of the total purchase price. These closing costs cannot be rolled into the VA loan; buyers will need to write a check at closing to cover these costs. This can come as a huge shock to buyers who are not expecting to pay any money at the mortgage closing appointment. VA loans are especially attractive to those borrowers who don’t have a lot of cash assets and are unable to put a lot of money down on a mortgage loan. As a result, these closing costs may present a hardship for borrowers. However, VA loans offer buyers a way to purchase a home without writing a large check to cover closing costs.

What Are the Limits for Closing Costs on a VA Loan?

Lenders typically charge a 1% origination fee on a VA loan; this fee is paid by the buyer at the time of closing. Lenders can then tack on costs to the loan, such as appraisal fees, costs for credit reports and tax and insurance escrow fees. Lenders are barred from charging closing fees and underwriting fees. They are also prohibited from charging a mortgage broker’s fee or any attorney fees (except attorney fees for title work). VA loans may also not be assessed pre-payment penalties and fees, which is another benefit for veterans.

Are Other Fees Assessed at Closing on a VA Loan?

The VA charges a VA funding fee that can be rolled into the mortgage and factored into the monthly payments on the loan. This funding fee is slightly different for active duty military personnel and veterans, as compared to funding fees for National Guard and Reserve personnel and veterans. Active duty members and veterans can expect to pay a funding fee of 2.15% on a first mortgage with no down payment, or 3.3% on a subsequent mortgage with no down payment. Guardsmen and Reservists and veterans can expect to pay 2.4% on a first mortgage with no down payment, or 3.3% on a subsequent mortgage with no down payment. If a veteran chooses to make a down payment on the loan, the funding fee is reduced slightly depending upon the amount of the down payment.

With a VA home loan, the VA is not providing the funding to purchase the home. The VA is simply guaranteeing the loan in the event the borrower is unable to pay the loan back. Veterans and recipients of VA home loans can choose from a long list of lenders. It is important to research thoroughly potential lenders and make the right choice based on overall costs, loan origination fees and interest rates, and other loan terms. Borrowers should also choose a lender with a solid reputation and a long history of assisting veterans and military personnel with obtaining home loans.