How do you get a VA loan? Not every eligible Veteran takes the same path to homeownership, but those that follow a roadmap will have an easier time than those that go about buying a home in willy-nilly fashion. Knowing the steps and following them before you begin looking at homes will help to keep you from experiencing frustration when you find out you don’t qualify for the neighborhood you’ve been searching in.
Review your Household Budget
Knowing where your dollars are going is very important. You should have your budget under control before you buy a home. How much are you currently spending on housing/rent? How much for groceries? Dining? Entertainment? Utilities? Car, gas, insurance? And how much are you able to save each month? Some people use software to track their finances, but all you really need to do is right down the numbers on a sheet of paper. Or create your own spreadsheet. Make an honest assessment of your finances. Determine what mortgage payment you could handle. You may find that there are areas of your budget that you can cut back on and you may want to increase your savings.
Now that you have a good grip on your budget, it is time to contact an experienced, local, California VA Loan Officer. The loan officer will help you determine how much of a VA loan you will qualify for. The Loan Officer should be able to give you custom VA loan scenarios with a complete breakdown of the numbers. You will want to see how much the full PITI (Principal, Interest, taxes, and insurance) is for the home price you are Prequalified for. The Loan Officer will also be able to educate you on the numbers.The more you know prior to making an offer on a home, the better chance you will have of getting your offer accepted and eventually, closing the transaction. Too often loan real estate transactions fall apart because the buyer didn’t understand something with the payment or didn’t realize how much money would be needed to close on the purchase of their home. While using VA financing does not require a down payment up to the county loan limit, there are still closing costs that the buyer is responsible for. There are escrow, title, appraisal, credit report, and recording fees. Money is also needed for prepaid expenses such as interest, taxes, and insurance. There are ways to have those fees covered, either by negotiating to have the seller pay some or all, or having the lender adjust the interest rate higher to then get a lender credit. Either way, knowing what your strategy is going to be PRIOR to making an offer on a home is critical. And an experienced California VA Loan Officer will be able to get you the numbers you and your real estate agent will eventually need to confidently make an offer and buy a home.
Retrieve your VA Certificate of Eligibility
To make sure you are eligible for a VA loan you will need to retrieve your Certificate of Eligibility. The easiest way to do this is to have the VA lender pull it for you. VA Lenders can retrieve your COE in minutes since they have access to VA’s Automated Certificate of Eligibility (ACE) portal. The COE will verify your eligibility. It will also verify whether your VA Funding Fee is waived, or if you will have a subsequent user Funding Fee. The COE also will show if your Entitlement is not fully restored from a previous loan. These are all important things to know BEFORE you make an offer on a home.
Get PreApproved for your VA Loan
Now that you are already talking with a California VA Lender and the loan officer has created custom VA loan scenarios, it is time to start the VA Loan PreApproval. These days in California, a home seller will probably not even entertain an offer from a potential buyer who is not already PreApproved. PreApproval can be a different thing to different lenders, but at the very least you should be submitting your income and asset documentation to the lender along with a completed loan application. The lender will run your credit report and get an Automated Approval. Hopefully, the lender will also have an actual VA underwriter review the documentation to verify the numbers entered on the loan application. Once you have been PreApproved for your VA loan, the lender will issue a PreApproval Letter which can be submitted with any home offers you make.
Find a Real Estate agent who is comfortable with buyers using VA Financing
Not all real estate agents understand what it takes to get an offer accepted for a buyer using VA financing. Your California VA lender may be able to refer you to a real estate agent who has experience working with Veterans to buy a home. The real estate agent should know whether or not you will need the seller to pay your closing costs. And the agent should also make sure to include certain things in the purchase contract that are required by VA (like a clear termite report).
Find a Home
You are now ready to find a home that meets your qualifications, budget, payment comfort level, and other personal requirements. If you are planning to buy a condo then you will want to keep your California VA Loan Officer in the loop. The condo project needs to be VA approved for a VA loan to close. It will be easier to limit your search to those condo projects that are already VA approved. Your lender and help you and your real estate agent narrow down the search. The home search can take 1 day or 12 months. It just depends on the current real estate market and your qualification and needs. Once you find a home you will make an offer through your real estate agent. The California real estate market has been hot for the last few years, so it may take a few offers before you have an accepted offer and are “in escrow”.
You are “In Escrow”
When you are “in escrow”, this means you have an accepted offer and have given a deposit to the escrow company to “open escrow”. It typically takes between 30 and 45 days to close escrow. During escrow, the appraisal and inspections are completed, a title search is completed, and the loan is fully approved. Once the loan closes you will be given the keys to your new home. Depending on the terms of your sale contract, the sellers of the home you buy may have a few days to move out before you can move in. But at this point, you are a new home owner.
The entire home buying process can take several years for some people but may only take a month or two for those with a clear idea of the steps towards home ownership and a clear idea of the type of home (and location) they want to buy. The biggest hurdle for most home buyers is the down payment. For California Veterans, that hurdle is mostly eliminated since VA does not require a down payment up to the county loan limit. So for those California Veterans who are thinking of buying a home, figure out what your budget is and talk to a California VA Loan Officer who will prepare custom VA loan scenarios for you today.
Authored by Tim Storm, an Orange County VA Loan Officer specializing in VA Loan. MLO 223456. – Please contact my office at the Home Point Financial. My direct line is 949-640-3102. www.CaliforniaVALoanExpert.com. I will prepare custom VA loan scenarios which will be matched up to your financial goals, both long and short-term. I also prepare a Video Explanation of your scenarios so that you are able to fully understand the numbers BEFORE you have started the loan process.