First, VA guarantees the loan for 100% of the appraised value of the property (technically, the loan is for the Notice Of Value amount, which in most cases is the same thing). This guarantee means that the lender is willing to make the loan. The loan amount for 100% financing goes as high as the maximum amount in each county.
Veteran buyers can get a loan for more than the county maximum; they just have to pay 25% of the amount above the county maximum. In pricey California, for example, a veteran could buy a home for $800,000 with a $40,963 down—roughly 5%. Which brings me to the next reason to get a VA loan:
There is no mortgage insurance. A buyer with a 700 credit score will pay about $400 per month for mortgage insurance if he puts 3% down on a conventional loan.
The rates are slightly lower in some cases. Also, underwriting standards are easier. Where conventional loans use dent-to-income ratios to qualify, VA loans use "residual income." This looks at how much money they actually have available each month after meeting normal expenses from their take-home pay. Conventional loans are typically capped at a 45% debt ratio (or thereabouts). VA loans can many times be approved above 50% depending on the overall strength of the borrower.
When rates drop, refinancing is easy. VA loans offer a "streamline" refinance option, called an Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL). This allows the veteran borrower to reduce his or her rate with no appraisal, and very little underwriting of income. The primary criterion for approval is that the borrower has an acceptable payment history and that they are improving their position.
If a veteran wants to refinance and get cash out of his or her equity, there is no pricing adjustment for that process. A conventional loan will typically be about .25% higher in rate to get cash out.
For anyone who is a qualifying veteran, NOT getting a VA loan would be a costly mistake.
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SR Loan Consultant