Craig Della Penna, Realtor®'s Blog
There are a number of programs, government-sponsored and otherwise, that are designed to help aspiring homeowners find and get approved for a mortgage that works for them.
Among these are first-time homeowner loans insured by the Housing and Urban Development Department, mortgages and loans insured by the USDA designed to help people living in urban and rural areas, and VA loans, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
In today’s post, I’m going to give you a basic rundown of VA loans, who is eligible for them, and how to apply for one. That way you’ll feel confident knowing you’re getting the best possible deal on your home mortgage.
What is a VA Loan?
VA loans can provide soon-to-be homeowners who have served their country with low-interest rates and no private mortgage insurance (PMI).
If you’re hoping to buy a home soon and don’t have at least a 20% down payment, you typically have to take out private mortgage insurance. This means paying an extra insurance bill on top of your monthly mortgage payments. The downside of PMI is that it never turns into equity that you can then use when you decide to move again or sell your home.
Loans that are guaranteed by the VA don’t require PMI because the bank knows your loan is a safer investment than if it wasn’t guaranteed
VA loans may also help you secure a lower interest rate, or give you some negotiating power when it comes to discussing your interest rate.
Finally, VA loans set limits on the number of closing costs you can pay in your mortgage. And, if you’ve ever bought a home before, you’ll know how quickly closing costs can add up.
Who is eligible?
There are some common misconceptions about who can apply for a VA loan? So, we’ll cover all the bases of eligibility.
If you meet one of the following criteria, you may be eligible for a VA loan:
You’ve served 90 consecutive days during wartime
You’ve served 181 days during peacetime
You’ve served six or more years in the Reserves or National Guard
Your spouse died due to their work in the military
There are some restrictions to these eligibilities. For example, your chosen lender may still have credit score minimums.
Applying for a VA Loan
There are two main steps for applying for a VA Loan. First, you’ll have to ensure your eligibility. You can do this by checking the VA’s official website. Be sure to call them with any questions you may have.
Next, you’ll need a certificate of eligibility. The easiest way to acquire one is through your chosen lender. If you haven’t chosen a lender, you can also apply online through the eBenefits portal, or by mailing in a paper application.
Once you have a certificate, you can apply for your mortgage and you’ll be on your way to buying a home.
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Finding financing for a home could be as simple as applying for a conforming FHA loan or it could be as difficult as having to locate a portfolio loan or even a combo loan. What you need depends on the real estate you are buying. Most people buying a primary residence get a conforming loan, whether it is conventional or government-backed.
Conforming vs. Non-Conforming
The first thing to determine is whether your loan is going to be conforming or not. A conforming loan for a single-family unit must be under $510,400 in most areas and $765,600 in other areas. The Federal Housing Finance Agency sets the rates. If you have to borrow more, you will need a jumbo loan or a piggyback loan. A common piggyback loan is where you pay 15 percent of the price, then take out two mortgages: one for 80 percent of the purchase price, then a second mortgage for 5 percent of the purchase price. You can work the percentages however you need them based on the purchase price. The piggyback loan keeps you from going into jumbo loan territory and possibly paying higher interest rates.
Conforming loans are conventional or government-backed loans. A conventional loan usually has a higher interest rate because it’s riskier to the lender. A government-backed loan, such as a VA or FHA loan is guaranteed by the federal government, thus it is less risky to lenders. Because of the lower risk, you get a better interest rate as long as your credit is good.
Adjustable vs. Fixed-Rate Loans
If interest rates are low and are projected to stay low, you can get an adjustable-rate loan to save a bit on the interest rate. As interest rates change, so does your mortgage payment. Adjustable rates are based on a certain index. For example, if your base interest rate is 4 percent, which means your interest rate will never go lower than that, and the Libor London rate is 1 percent, your rate is 5 percent. If the Libor London increases by a half percentage point, so will your loan. However, if it decreases by a point, your interest rate also lowers by a point.
Adjustable-rate loans are risky for the buyer because you don’t know if the rate will significantly increase over the life of the loan. If you plan on refinancing or selling the home after a few years, an adjustable-rate might be beneficial.
A fixed-rate loan means that your interest rate does not change over the life of the loan.
You might have a hard time finding a loan because you are self-employed, your credit isn’t the best, or you are buying a property that doesn’t conform to most lenders’ standards. A lender doesn’t sell the loan on the secondary market, but instead holds it in the bank’s portfolio. These loans are riskier for the lender and will often have a higher interest rate.
If you’re buying a home for the first time, you have a lot to learn. There are so many decisions that need to be made and new terms to be understood. While you may have been saving up for a downpayment, you’re most likely going to need t finance the majority of the cost of your home. Knowing how to deal with lenders, real estate agents, and other professionals involved in the process of purchasing a home will make your life that much more straightforward. Read on for some mortgage tips that every first-time home buyer should understand.
Know Your Budget
You may find when you apply for a mortgage that you’re able to finance more than you thought you could. Being able to borrow such a significant amount is where many home buyers get caught in a numbers trap. Although the bank may be willing to loan you a certain amount, you might not actually be able to afford it. While the bank looks at many of your financial numbers, the bank doesn’t know your entire budget. How much you spend on groceries each month or the cost of your monthly phone bill are out of the picture when the mortgage company approves you for a loan. Whatever amount of money you borrow to buy your house will result in a monthly payment amount. If you’re only paying $800 per month in rent but your mortgage payment will be $1400, that will result in a significant budget adjustment. Will you be able to come up with the additional $600 each month to pay the mortgage? You need to look at your entire budget seriously to be safe in your mortgage transaction.
Plan For Out Of Pocket Expenses
You know that you need to save for a downpayment on the home of your dreams. What you may not know is that there are many other out of pocket expenses that you need to foot the bill for when you buy a home. These costs include:
Pizza for the people who help you move
Repairs to the home
There are so many expenses that you need to come up with when you buy a home. Don’t merely save enough for your down payment and stop. Make sure you have a financial cushion for emergencies, money to help furnish the house, and more.
Mind Your Credit
When you buy a new home, it may be tempting to buy new furniture, decor, or other items for your property. Hold off on opening any new credit or making large purchases. While a new car will look great in your new driveway, it won’t look so good on your credit score. Be very mindful of your credit score when you are getting ready to buy a home.