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    Your Complete Guide to the VA Home Loan

    As a military veteran, active-duty service person, or surviving spouse, you have access to home loans with no required down payment, no private mortgage insurance, and some of the lowest interest rates on the market. These benefits can put home ownership easily within your reach.


    Achieve the American Dream

    While the details of the “American dream” may change somewhat over time, its basic premise remains the same. We all hope that, by setting goals and working hard, we’ll be able to carve out our own place in this world while combining our determination and compassion to make our communities better, safer places for others. And when the security of the American dream is threatened, we turn to the fine men and women of our armed forces, who willingly protect the freedoms our country holds dear.

    Although we at Fortress VA Loans can never fully repay the sacrifices made by United States military members (and their spouses and families), we know that many of these brave men and women ultimately dream of owning their own home, and we’re committed to making those dreams come true. We know that realities of military life, such as multiple deployments and/or frequent moves, can make it difficult to build credit and savings, but the financial benefits of VA loans can vault you past these issues.

    The VA Loan Process

    While there may be a little variation from situation to situation, the basic process for obtaining a VA loan is a simple one:

    • Prequalification – Contact Fortress VA Loans to get started, and we’ll ask you some questions to gain a sense of your financial situation and your goals as a home buyer.  You’ll fill out several forms and provide documents such as bank statements, W2s, and your Certificate of Eligibility. This paperwork will prove to lenders that you’re financially able to purchase a home.
    • Employ a real estate agent – It’s important to find a real estate agent whom you trust and who is familiar with both the area where you plan to live and the particulars of VA loans. They’ll help you find a home that you love.
    • Make an offer – Once you’ve found your perfect home, your real estate agent will help you make an offer and negotiate a contract with the seller.
    • Processing and closing – The property you want to purchase will be appraised, and all of your documents will be reviewed by an underwriter to make sure everything is in line with VA requirements. Once the loan is approved, you’ll close on the property – sign all the paperwork, finalize the loan, and receive the keys to your new home.

    Use Your Loan to Find Your New Home

    Many military members and families are surprised to find out how flexible VA loans are. Home purchase loans guaranteed by the VA can be used in a number of ways, including:

    • Buying a stationary home (house, condominium, or townhouse)
    • Buy a modular home or manufactured home (mobile home)
    • Buy a multi-unit home, as long as one of the units will be your primary residence (no more than a four-plex unless more than one military member is going in on the deal)
    • Buy a lot and build a new home on it
    • Buy and immediately make improvements to a home, as long as they will increase energy efficiency

    Refinance Through the VA

    In addition to purchasing options, the VA offers an excellent refinancing program for qualified veterans, active-duty military personnel, and surviving spouses. If you already own a home and are still paying on your mortgage, there are two ways you can refinance with backing from the VA.

    The first is the cash-out refinance, which allows you to receive cash against the equity you’ve built up in your home. You may be able to receive up to 100% of your home’s value in cash, and you can use it to cover other expenses, such as tuition costs, medical bills, and credit card debt. You can obtain a cash-out refinance whether or not your original loan was backed by the VA.

    The second refinancing option is an interest rate reduction refinance loan, also known as “IRRRL” or “streamline refinance.” This allows you to replace an adjustable-rate mortgage with a fixed-rate one, or to replace a high-interest-rate mortgage with a lower one. Streamline refinances are only available to borrowers whose original loan was a VA loan.

    Contact Us Today

    If you want to become a home owner, then Fortress VA Loans wants to help you. If you’re a veteran or active-duty service member dreaming your own version of the American dream, our family of VA loan specialists and lenders can help you achieve that goal. We’ll be with you through every step of the process, from first contact until you receive your new keys. We’re also looking for clients who want to refinance existing mortgages in order to better care for their families’ needs, whatever those needs may be. Our friendly, knowledgeable team understands the unique challenges faced by military families in the United States today, and we’re honored to be able to give back to these extraordinary heroes by helping them achieve their dreams.

    What is a VA Loan ?

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    The Department of Veterans Affairs offers a loan guaranty program to veterans, current military members, and their families to assist them in becoming home owners during or after their time of military service. This program was begun in 1944 to aid returning service members who had fought in World War II. During the past seventy-plus years, over 20 million eligible individuals and families have taken advantage of the benefits VA loans offer over conventional mortgage solutions.

    Today, VA-backed loans are helping more people than ever. After the housing market crash that began in 2008, many U.S. lenders tightened their requirements to qualify for home loans, but VA loans still offer more lenient requirements and other great financial benefits, such as no private mortgage insurance and lower interest rates.

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    VA Loan vs.Traditional Mortgages

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    The benefits of VA loans are broad and offer borrowers less stress and significant savings. See how they compare with more traditional lending options:

    VA Loans

    No Required Down Payment

    (for qualified borrowers)

    There are practically no other sources for home loans in the U.S. that don’t require a down payment.

    No PMI

    Because the government guarantees VA loans, lenders don’t require borrowers to pay private mortgage insurance on top of their regular loan payments.

    Low Interest Rates

    The VA guaranty makes lenders feel more comfortable with offering borrowers lower, more competitive interest rates.

    Easier Qualification

    VA loans are less risky for lenders because of the government backing, so requirements for VA borrowers are somewhat relaxed.

    Conventional Loans

    Up to 20% Required Down Payment

    Conventional loans almost always require a down payment, sometimes up to 20% of the total value of the home. This requires a large sum of money up front, creating problems for many borrowers.

    PMI Required

    Borrowers who put less than 20% down at the time of purchase will have to pay private mortgage insurance on top of their monthly loan payments.

    Higher Interest Rates

    Lenders take on more risk when they offer loans to borrowers who aren’t backed by the government, and this usually translates to higher interest rates on such loans.

    Standard Qualification Requirements

    Without the government backing, lenders will hold conventional borrowers to a tighter standard before approval, making it impossible for some people to receive a loan.

    Regulations and Fees

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    In general, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not directly lend money to veterans, current military service people, and surviving spouses. Instead, it offers a guaranty on loans to qualified borrowers that are given by approved private lenders. The government’s guaranty gives lenders an incentive to offer you better loan terms and more competitive rates, since the lenders will be protected from total loss in case you should default.

    Funding Fees

    Most VA loans include a funding fee, a relatively small sum of money that goes directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs. This fee keeps the VA loans program functioning for future generations without placing a large burden on taxpayers, many of whom are the very people the VA is trying to help. The amount of the fee varies from loan to loan, and veterans with service-connected disabilities are exempt. Usually, the fee for first-time VA borrowers will be 2.15% of the purchase price of the home, while people who have previously used their VA home loan entitlement will pay 3.3%.

    The funding fee can be rolled into the total amount of your loan. Because the VA limits closing costs for borrowers and allows sellers to cover some or all closing expenses, many VA borrowers don’t have to put any money down when they close their loan.

    Loan Limits

    In general, the VA limits loan amounts to $417,000 for borrowers who choose not to put any money down at the time of purchase. However, in U.S. counties where closing costs are higher than average, loan limits may be much greater. To find out the loan limit in the area you’re interested in, call Fortress VA Loans at (832) 215-9253.

    To calculate your VA Funding Fee, use Fortress VA Loans Home Loans’ Funding Fee Calculator, or learn more about VA Loan eligibility in our next section.