Three Steps to a VA Loan

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VA loan application (Getty image)
VA loan application (Getty image)

This article is sponsored by Navy Federal Credit Union.

Service in the military earns you many benefits, and among the most important of them is the VA home loan. If you’re a veteran and are looking to settle down in a new home, or refinance an existing home, you can use the VA home loan in several ways:

  • Purchasing an existing property or a new construction home
  • Refinancing a current mortgage
  • Repairing or improving your existing home, or installing home efficiency measures

The many advantages the VA loan offers include a VA guaranty for loans with little or no down payment, guaranteed loan limits of over $450,000 (or even higher, depending on your location), and lower closing costs.

As a veteran, you know that the best way to tackle a challenge (whether you’re in the military or transitioning to civilian life) is to come up with a plan. If you’re going through the VA home loan process for the first time, we offer these three steps to firm up your home-buying plan.

Step 1. Preparation: Learn the Ins and Outs of Home Loans

Just as transitioning service members schedule pre-separation counseling, arrange for a final medical exam, and attend employment workshops to prepare themselves for civilian life, it’s time to get yourself up to speed on home buying. Determine what your needs are (i.e., buying a house or refinancing an existing property) and your budget limits. This is also the time to determine your eligibility for the VA home loan — follow these guidelines to determine your eligibility. Homebuyers can also use this financial goal planner, which provides a complete overview of the home purchase and mortgage process.

Step 2. Unlocking Your Loan: Paperwork and Pre-qualification

Paperwork plays an important role in military life – now is the time to make it work for you, so you can pre-qualify for your VA loan benefit. The key document you need is your Certificate of Eligibility (also known as Form 26-1880) which proves to your lender that you are qualified to receive the loan. Any potential lender can get you the form, which should then be submitted with your proof of military service (DD Form 214). You should also gather together other important paperwork you will require for the loan – see the Navy Federal Credit Union checklist on their VA Loans page for tips on what you should have ready for your loan application.

Step 3. Making the Move: Select Your Loan Provider

Just as you would use careful deliberation when it comes to deciding on a civilian career and finding a place to settle down once you leave the military, take your time to research the best loan provider for you. Once you are pre-qualified for a loan, and have narrowed down your mortgage range for a home (use these mortgage calculators to determine your home budget), follow these tips to find the right lender:

  • Make sure the lender is VA-approved; if you can, seek institutions that are known as “Automatic Non-Supervised Lenders”, which means that they are lenders authorized to approve VA loans on their own
  • Make sure your loan officer has plenty of experience servicing VA mortgages – talk to prospective loan officers and gauge how much they know about the VA loan program, and how responsive they will be to your particular needs
  • Some lenders are rated more highly than others – check with sources such as the Better Business Bureau to see which financial institutions have better reviews

Once you’ve completed the above steps, you’re well on your way to making full use of your VA home loan and making your big home purchase or refinance – not a bad way to get your veteran years off to a good start.

For more on home purchasing options and programs using the VA home loan, visit Navy Federal Credit Union’s VA Loan section.

For more tips and guides on getting a VA loan, visit Military.com’s VA loan section.

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