The loans, guaranteed by the federal government, are available through lenders around the country.
If you're an honorably discharged veteran, are currently serving on active duty or have completed a total of 6 years of service in the National Guard or selected reserves, you may be eligible for a loan. Certain surviving spouses of veterans are also eligible.
"We are seeing a lot of activity in VA loans because there just aren't the alternatives for no-money-down loans that there used to be," says A.W. Pickel III, CEO of LeaderOne Financial, a mortgage broker based in Lenexa, Kansas.
VA guaranteed loans waive the requirement of private mortgage insurance that lenders require for loans with down payments of less than 20%. Sellers may also assume the 3% to 4% closing and administrative costs required as part of the loan and build it into the home's purchase price, making these loans even more attractive. VA purchase loans are available only for owner-occupied homes; VA streamline refinance loans can be used for non-owner-occupied homes.
"In the past, many Realtors have steered borrowers away from government loans, including VA and FHA loans, because of the additional documentation required as part of the appraisal and inspection process," says Steve Jacobson, CEO of Fairway Independent Mortgage Brokers.
"There was a perception that these government-backed loans got more scrutiny and that they take longer to close."
While the process may take longer than a conventional loan, the more favorable terms are worth it, and there are steps you can take to speed it along, such as obtaining your certificate of eligibility before you sign an agreement to purchase a home and ensuring that your purchase price is comparable with other similar homes in the area.
Refis and subsequent purchases
Veterans can use their eligibility more than once to obtain a loan on a new owner-occupied home, but as with subsequent refinancing, subsequent mortgage loans carry higher funding fees, although those fees can be reduced with a higher down payment.