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How Bonus Entitlement Helps Veterans Buy Homes in California

california homeOne of the most common misconceptions of VA lending guidelines is how a VA Loan can help to buy a home in an expensive state like California. Whether you’re looking to buy near a local ski resort, a beach-side community, or your own slice of heaven somewhere in the middle, the cost of homes is heavily influenced by location. The good news is that the VA hasn’t set a maximum for the amount you can borrow with a VA Loan. The bad news is that there are or course, limits to how much “liability” the VA is willing to take on, and this will indeed affect the amount of money you can borrow. That brings us to the subject of your VA Entitlement.

First, let’s be clear that the Veteran’s Administration (the VA), is not in the business of loaning you money to buy a home. A mortgage Lender will loan you the money to finance your home, and all the VA does is “guaranty” those funds … up to a specific amount. This is what makes the VA Loan so appealing to mortgage Lenders; there’s little risk involved in making a loan with a VA guaranty. But this guaranty is limited to the lesser of 25% of the County Loan Limit or 25% of the actual Loan Amount. In situations where your credit and income are eligible and you know the specific amount of your Entitlement, you can multiply that amount by 4 and you’ll know exactly how much you can pay for a house without any down payment. Conversely, you can start with the Loan Limits for the County in which you’re looking to buy, then divide that amount by 4 and you’ll know precisely how much your Entitlement must be in order for you to buy a home in that County without a down payment. And since the VA Loan Limits are the same Loan Limits as the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), it’s quite easy to discover the limits in your area. You can find them here.

If you haven’t yet discovered what exactly your Entitlement is, take a look at my previous blog on that topic. In short, there are two types of VA Entitlement; Basic and Bonus. According to the VA website, “The basic entitlement available to each eligible Veteran is $36,000.” Using the 25% rule discussed above, four times that is equal to $144,000 – your maximum purchase price with no down payment. This made a lot more sense in 1944 when the VA first started guaranteeing home loans. However, since that time, both property values and loan limits have increased substantially throughout the country. Now, the Basic Entitlement by itself won’t do much if you’re trying to buy a $500,000 home. This is where the Bonus Entitlement comes in.

va loan calculatorAnd before we go any further, it’s important to know that the eligible Veteran will have their full VA Entitlement determined by adding the Bonus Entitlement to their Basic Entitlement, even if their Basic Entitlement is $0.00. Initially, every eligible Veteran is given sufficient entitlement to adequately cover the VA guaranty up to the FHFA Conforming Loan Limit. For example, The Loan Limit in San Diego County, CA is $612,950. Therefore, the VA guaranty is 25% of that, or $153,237.50. In this situation, if the eligible Veteran has the full $36,000 Basic Entitlement, the Bonus Entitlement is the difference between the VA guaranty and the Basic Entitlement ($153,237.50 – $36,000 = $117,237.50).

How the VA Jumbo Loan Program Works

One final piece on this. If the eligible Veteran is looking to buy a home that is priced above the Loan Limit for the County in which it’s located, they will need to finance 25% of the difference in cash “out of pocket”, as a part of their Down Payment. Remember, the VA Guaranty is only 25%, so they won’t need to cover the entire difference.

Let’s do a quick example:

The eligible Veteran has “Full Entitlement” available to them and is buying a home for $700,000 in a County where the Loan Limit is $636,150.

  • VA Guaranty is 25% of the lesser of the Loan Limit and the Loan Amount ($636,150 ÷ 4 = $159,037.50)
  • 25% of the Purchase Price is equal to $175,000 ($700,000 ÷ 4)
  • Down Payment Required: $175,000 – $159,037.50 = $15,962.50

VA requires that a combination of the VA Entitlement and any cash down payment must equal 25% of the appraised value or the purchase price, whichever is less. So in the example above, the eligible Veteran would like to buy a home that costs more than the 100% financing Loan Limit for that County, and using the Jumbo VA Loan Program, they can still do it using a relatively small down payment.

Despite the rising prices of homes across the state, using a VA Loan to finance your next home purchase, will allow you to keep most of the cash in your pocket and finance the bulk of your purchase price with rates that are still at historically low levels. Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions. And thank you for serving our country.

Authored by Tim Storm, a California Loan Officer specializing in VA home Loans. MLO 223456. – Please contact my office at the Home Point Financial. My direct line is 949-640-3102. 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 the your scenarios so that you are able to fully understand the numbers BEFORE you have started the loan process.