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What is a VA Guaranteed Loan?

These loans are made by a lender, such as a mortgage company, savings and loan, or bank. VA's guaranty on the loan protects the lender against loss if the payments are not made, and is intended to encourage lenders to offer veterans loans with more favorable terms. The amount of guaranty on the loan depends on the loan amount and whether the veteran used some entitlement previously. With the current maximum guaranty, a veteran who hasn't previously used the benefit may be able to obtain a VA loan up to $417,000 ($625,500 for loans in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and U.S. Virgin Islands), depending on the borrower's income level and the appraised value of the property. Your VA Regional Loan Center can provide more details on guaranty and entitlement amounts.

What Can a VA Loan Be Used For?

  • To buy a home, a condominium unit in a VA-approved project, or to purchase a unit in a cooperative (co-op).

  • To build a home.

  • To simultaneously purchase and improve a home.

  • To improve a home by installing energy-related features such as solar or heating/cooling systems, water heaters, insulation, weather-stripping/caulking, storm windows/doors, or other energy efficient improvements approved by the lender and VA. These features may be added to the purchase of an existing dwelling or by refinancing a home owned and occupied by the veteran. A loan can be increased up to $3,000 based on documented costs or up to $6,000 if the increase in the mortgage payment is offset by the expected reduction in utility costs. A refinancing loan may not exceed 90 percent of the appraised value plus the costs of the improvements. Check with a lender or VA for details.

  • To refinance an existing home loan up to 90 percent of the VA-established reasonable value or to refinance an existing VA loan to reduce the interest rate.

  • To buy a manufactured home and/or lot.

Who is Eligible?

Veterans with active duty service, that was not dishonorable, during World War II and later periods, are eligible for VA loan benefits. World War II (September 16, 1940 to July 25, 1947), Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 to January 31, 1955), and Vietnam era (August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975) veterans must have at least 90 days of service. Veterans with service only during peacetime periods and active duty military personnel must have had more than 180 days of active service. Veterans of enlisted service which began after September 7, 1980, or officers with service beginning after October 16,1981, must in most cases have served at least 2 years.

Gulf War. Basically, reservists and National Guard members who were activated on or after August 2, 1990, served at least 90 days and were discharged honorably, are eligible. VA can assist with eligibility questions.

Members of the Selected Reserve, including National Guard, who are not otherwise eligible and who have completed 6 years of service and have been honorably discharged or have completed 6 years of service and are still serving, may be eligible. Contact the VA Eligibility Center to find out what is needed to establish eligibility. Reservists will pay a slightly higher funding fee than regular veterans. (See paragraph entitled "Costs of Obtaining a VA Loan.")

Had a VA Loan Before?

Remaining Entitlement

Veterans who had a VA loan before may still have "remaining entitlement" to use for another VA loan. The current amount of entitlement available to each eligible veteran is $36,000. This was much lower in years past and has been increased over time by changes in the law. For example, a veteran who obtained a $25,000 loan in 1974 would have used $12,500 guaranty entitlement, the maximum then available. Even if that loan is not paid off, the veteran could use the $23,500 difference between the $12,500 entitlement originally used and the current maximum of $36,000 to buy another home with VA financing. For certain loans in excess of $144,000, the basic $36,000 entitlement can be increased to a maximum guaranty equal to 25 percent of the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit for a single family residence, minus any previously used entitlement.

Most lenders require that a combination of the guaranty entitlement and any cash downpayment must equal at least 25 percent of the reasonable value or sales price of the property, whichever is less. Thus, in the example, the veteran's $23,500 remaining entitlement would probably meet a lender's minimum guaranty requirement for a no-downpayment loan to buy a property valued at and selling for $94,000. The veteran could also combine a downpayment with the remaining entitlement for a larger loan amount.

Restoration of Entitlement

Veterans can have previously-used entitlement "restored" to purchase another home with a VA loan if:

  • The property purchased with the prior VA loan has been sold and the loan paid in full, or

  • A qualified veteran-transferee (buyer) agrees to assume the VA loan and substitute his or her entitlement for the same amount of entitlement originally used by the veteran seller. The entitlement may also be restored one time only if the veteran has repaid the prior VA loan in full, but has not disposed of the property purchased with the prior VA loan. Remaining entitlement and restoration of entitlement can be requested through the VA Eligibility Center by completing VA Form 26-1880.


 
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