First-time homebuyers often have a lot on their plate, from sizing up neighborhoods to securing the right financing. Military borrowers are often grappling with even more, given the nature of their service and sacrifice for our country.
But for veterans and service members in particular, buying a home doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. In fact, qualified borrowers have access to a long-cherished home loan program that’s helped expand homeownership opportunities for veterans for nearly 70 years.
Today, in a time of tight credit, the VA home loan program is in many ways more important than ever. Here’s a look at five key steps in the process.
Check your credit
Before looking for houses or real estate agents, veterans need to make sure that their credit scores and histories are acceptable. While the VA Loan program has no credit requirements, lenders have tightened their eligibility requirements to achieve more sustainable lending practices and will typically require a mid-range credit score of at least 620 for applicants to become eligible. If you find that your credit score is below 620, take the time to rebuild your credit before applying for a loan. Doing so will increase your chances of eligibility and help you obtain the loan with the interest rate and terms you desire.
Seek loan preapproval
To make your loan application process easier should you find a home you wish to purchase, seek loan preapproval. The loan pre-approval process will help you collect all necessary financial and eligibility documents in advance, and will give you a clear sense of what you can afford and what a lender is willing to extend. A preapproval letter also shows home sellers and real estate agents that you’re a serious buyer.
Find a real estate agent
Finding a home that suits all your needs is difficult, especially if you find yourself moving to an area that you are not completely familiar with. To help you find a home more quickly that also fits your needs, hire a local real estate agent with knowledge of the VA loan program. A real estate agent of this caliber will be able to find you a home that meets your standards, as well as the VA’s, which should make the home buying process run much smoother.
This may be a no brainer, but many people become so concerned they won’t qualify for a loan that they never apply to begin with. While the application process does require various documents and financial statements to be submitted, but the list of necessary documents is easy to find, and any VA loan officer will be happy to help you obtain those documents as well. Don’t be afraid to apply simply because the paperwork seems daunting. Instead, educate yourself on the VA loan process, and contact a specialist to help.
A VA home loan can be secured in as little as 30 days, but it is best to keep patience in mind when choosing to buy a home. Your patience will prevent you from stressing out and will make the overall process run more smoothly and quickly. Hiccups and bumps in the road can occur, but lenders and loan specialists who truly know the ins and outs of this program can play a critical role in bringing your loan home.
I’d also encourage you to pick up a free downloadable copy of “The Book on VA Loans: An Essential Guide to Maximizing Your Home Loan Benefits.” I wrote this book to help educate veterans, service members, and their families about their hard-earned VA home loan benefits and the incredible advantages it offers. You can also check out The Book on VA Loans Video Guides, which will walk you through the book’s seven chapters.
Chris Birk is a former journalist and author of “The Book on VA Loans: An Essential Guide to Maximizing Your Home Loan Benefits.” He is also the content development director for Veterans United Home Loans, the VA home loan destination for millions. Connect with Chris on Google+ .