To the first-time home buyer, or even to the seasoned homeowner looking to refinance, applying for home loans can be a daunting process. But VA loans are specifically designed to make the loan process quicker, easier, and smoother for veterans (and this is just one benefit of VA loans). In this article, we’re going to take you through the steps of applying for a VA home loan, both with a concise checklist and with in-depth discussions of each step.
How Do I Apply for a VA Home Loan?
Applying for a VA loan can be split into two main efforts: proving your VA eligibility, and actually applying for the loan. Before you can be approved for a VA loan, you’ll have to make sure you’re eligible for VA benefits in the first place. We’ll go into these eligibility requirements in a moment. For now, here are some general requirements concerning who VA loans are intended to help and who can receive them:
First, VA loans are obviously required by law to go to eligible veterans only. But the law also states that VA loans must go towards an eligible cause. Generally, the rule is that VA loans can only be used for primary-resident homes, as opposed to commercial or investment properties. So, in order to be approved for a VA loan, the potential borrower must occupy the house in question, or at least intend to occupy it once the loan has closed.
Here’s a checklist of steps within the VA home loan process and everything we’ll cover in this article:
Step 1: Get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
Step 2: Compile all underwriting documents
Step 3: Fill out an application
Step 4: Post-approval procedures, including appraisal, inspection, and credit review
Step 5: Closing
The Department of Veterans Affairs has compiled a similar checklist in the form of an info-graphic, which you can view here. Now let’s go into detail with each of these steps and talk about what they entail for you, as the borrower.
Step 1: Get Your Certificate of Eligibility
Your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is probably the most important part of your application. Without it, you can’t receive a VA loan, no matter how impressive your credit score or income. That’s because VA loans are only for qualifying veterans of the United States military, so you need to prove that you fit that category. There are a couple of ways you acquire this certificate; you can get it either online or in person from your VA lender.
Get Your COE Online
To order your COE online, visit this link. Login with an existing account or register if you don’t have one. For help, you can contact the eBenefits helpdesk at 1-800-983-0937, Monday through Friday, between 8 AM and 8 PM EST.
Get Your COE through Low VA Rates
We at Low VA Rates can order and process your Certificate of Eligibility through our Web LGY system. However, in order for this system to work, the VA will have to have a sufficient amount of your personal information. So, if there’s a problem with this method, it’s probably because the VA is lacking information about your service.
The VA has published a detailed chart on their website that indicates what sort of evidence you’ll need to provide to get your COE based on what type of veteran you are. Here’s a trimmed-down version of that chart:
|Category||Evidence Needed to Apply|
Current or former activated member of the National Guard or Reserve
|DD Form 214|
|Active Duty Service Member
Current National Guard or Reserve member who has never been activated
|A current statement of service signed by your unit commander, the adjutant, or personnel office containing your personal information|
|Discharged member of the National Guard who has never been activated for federal active service||NGB Form 22, Report of Separation and Record of Service, for each period of National Guard service
NGB Form 23, Retirement Points Accounting, and proof of the character of service
|Discharged member of the Selected Reserve who has never been activated for federal active service||Copy of your latest annual retirement points statement and evidence of honorable service|
Surviving spouses of veterans who died in combat or because of a service-related injury or disability are eligible for VA loans. If you’re a surviving spouse, you can obtain a COE via mail. Simple fill out a VA Form 26-1817, also known as the Request for Determination of Loan Guaranty Eligibility – Unmarried Surviving Spouses. Then, mail this form to:
VA Loan Eligibility Center
Attn: COE (262)
PO Box 100034
Decatur, GA 30031
Step 2: Compile Underwriting Documents
It’s usually a good idea to compile all the documents that loan underwriters will need before you start your application. It makes the process go that much faster. Underwriters are the people at the lending office who look at your personal and financial information and determine its validity. Here are some forms you’ll want on hand when you apply for a VA loan:
- Your tax returns from the last three years
- Pay stubs
- Bank statements
- Proof of homeowner’s insurance (though you’re only required to have this before the closing date)
VA lenders will pull your credit report themselves when evaluating your application.
Step 3: Apply for VA Home Loan
Once you have your COE, your proof of income, and the perfect house picked out, you can begin filling out a VA home loan application. If you have a real estate agent, counsel with them regarding the size of the offer you’d like to make on the house in question; they’ll be able to judge well what the home is worth and how long certain properties will stay on the market in your area.
Step 4: Post-Approval Procedures
Once you’ve been approved, there are a number of things you’ll need to do before you can close. Your house needs to be appraised, and ideally, inspected by a VA-approved appraiser. The appraisal, and/or inspection process, ensures that the house is safe and that all its features are functioning and code-abiding.
Appraisal and Home Inspection
The appraisal and/or inspection process ensures that the house is safe and that all its features are functioning and code-abiding. While appraisals are required, inspections are not. However, inspections are usually more thorough than appraisals, so we recommend you go ahead and get one just for the added security. Inspections and appraisals can spot needed repairs early on, the cost of which you’ll want to consider before you close on the house.
Step 5: Closing Time!
This is the part where you finally become a homeowner! Closing will take place after all the appraisal work is done and necessary repairs have been made (or at least scheduled to be made). At closing, the property is transferred from seller to borrower, with the help of a closing attorney and a title company as chosen by us, the lender.
How to Get the Great VA Loan Rates
We at Low VA Rates are dedicated to customer service and helping veterans achieve their home buying goals. But in the end, it really comes down to you: by practicing good money management that keeps your credit score high and your stress levels down, you can help us ensure you’re approved for a mortgage at a great affordable rate. For instance, once you’ve closed on your home, or opened any line of credit for that matter, make your payments on time and in full as often as you possibly can. Additionally, it’s a good idea to only open lines of credit that are necessary for building your credit history, and when you do open a line, use it fully and never exceed its limits. These are just a few ways you can save yourself money in the long run and score those low rates! For more information on maintaining your credit and other rate-determining factors like your DTI, give us a call at 855-223-0705
It’s in Our Name: Low VA Rates
The service rendered by veterans and military service members isn’t lost on us here at Low VA Rates. We got into this business of VA loans because we appreciate your sacrifices and seek to honor them every day. Let us help you build a life on stable, affordable financing. If you have more questions about how to Apply for a VA Home Loan, don’t hesitate to call us at 855-223-0705 or click here to get started now!