How To Find Out If Your Condo Is VA Approved | 2021
Can you use a VA loan to buy a condo or townhome unit instead of a single-family home?
Simply put, the answer is yes.
When the condo is located within a VA-approved condo development, you can use a VA loan just like you would to buy a single-family home.See if your condo is VA-eligible (Oct 26th, 2021)
VA condo approval requirements
The Department of Veterans Affairs helps veterans and active-duty service members buy their own homes. These homes can be condos but only within complexes that have earned the VA’s approval.
The VA cares about the condo complex you choose because condo complexes have a lot of common areas that affect the value of your unit.
VA condo approval checklist
To be approved by the VA, the condo your condo development must meet these requirements:
- At least 50% of the units must be occupied by their owners. In other words, less than 50% of the units can be rented out to tenants.
- Less than 15% of the unit owners are behind on their Homeowners Association dues.
- For newly constructed condo developments, or projects recently converted from apartments, at least 75% of the units must be sold.
- The project must consist of more than one unit.
- No single entity (individual, investor, or company) may own more than 10% of units in the development.
Navigating the VA-approved condo list
If you’ve decided a condo is ideal for you, your next move will be to browse all condo complexes in your preferred location that have been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It’s easy enough to find out whether a condo is on the list of VA-approved condos. When you go to this page on the VA’s website, you should see this screen:
How to find your condo’s report on the list
Here’s how to use the form above, which is part of va.gov, to find VA-approved condo developments:
- First, click the ‘Approved’ box on the first line so you’ll see only condo developments who have earned some level of VA approval.
- If you’re looking for a specific complex, enter the first few letters of the condo name in part 2 of the form. If you’d rather see a list of condo developments in a city or state, leave space 2 empty.
- In part 3 of the form, it’s easiest to leave the default selection “All Offices” unless you’d prefer to work with a specific VA office.
- You’ll have to enter your state. You could put in your county and city if you’d like to narrow the results further.
Next, we’ll look at a specific example.
VA condo approval search example
Let’s say you’d like to buy a condo with a VA mortgage loan in Raleigh, N.C., but don’t already have a specific condo complex in mind. You could enter only the city and state in part 4 of the form.
If any condo developments match your search query, you should see this screen after submitting:
On this day, the search showed 96 condo complexes in Raleigh. To see the status of any one of the developments, you’d need to click the “Plus” sign on the right column.
Clicking the “Plus” sign for a development will show you its approval status:
In this case, you can see the New Bern Condominium complex has been “Accepted Without Conditions” as of July 30, 2021. This complex meets the VA’s guidelines, and you could buy a unit with a VA loan.Check your eligibility for a VA home loan. Start here (Oct 26th, 2021)
VA condo approval types
Not all approved VA condo complexes have the same approval status. So let’s dig in a bit further and explain what each status means.
Accepted without conditions
When you see this status, you can proceed with your VA loan as if you were buying a single-family structure. The complex meets the VA’s requirements for a mortgage loan.
Accepted with conditions
Accepted with conditions means the VA has approved the complex, but it has concerns about at least one aspect of the complex’s application. For example, one person may own almost 10% of the units, or the complex may be approaching the tipping point of tenant-occupied units.
This shouldn’t stop you from using a VA mortgage loan, but you may have to fill out an extra form or two stating you understand the conditions and want to move ahead with your loan anyway.
Historically, the VA accepted any condo project that was FHA-approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
This changed more than a decade ago, but older complexes that earned HUD approval prior to December of 2009 can still qualify for a VA loan.
But this isn’t guaranteed. Ask your VA loan officer to find out for sure before proceeding with your application.
Units in condo communities that are “unaccepted” are not eligible for VA financing. They have never gone through the VA approval process or have gone through review for approval but were denied by the VA.Check your VA condo buying eligibility. Start here (Oct 26th, 2021)
What if the condo is not VA-approved?
If a condominium project you are excited about is not on the VA-approved list, you can ask your lender to file documents for an inquiry into the property to see whether it meets approval requirements.
At this point, your VA lender would begin negotiations with the property manager or the condo’s Homeowners Association to see whether they are willing to undergo the VA approval process.
The process itself can take a couple of months or longer, depending on a variety of factors. Even if the property manager or HOA agrees to seek the VA’s approval, there is no guarantee the complex will earn the approval.
For this reason, if the condo isn’t already approved by the VA, it’s often best to pass on it and look for another unit in a VA-approved complex.
Approving a condo can take lots of time, energy, and resources, and it is generally the responsibility of the condo Homeowners Association leaders to pursue VA approval in the first place.
Some condo projects may be unaccepted for not complying with the VA approval standards mentioned above. But in other cases, there could be serious issues with living conditions or ownership rights, in which case you probably don’t want to live there anyway.
Should I buy a condo?
Before applying for a VA loan for a condo, homebuyers should know for sure whether they want to buy a condo instead of a traditional, single-family home.
Condos offer perks, but the perks do not always fit everyone’s needs. To give you a better idea of whether a condo unit is right for you, here are some notable differences between owning a condo and owning a traditional home:
Condos tend to have lower median sales prices than detached homes, meaning lower monthly payments, and an overall better deal on square footage.
But most VA-approved condos require you to pay monthly Homeowners Association (HOA) fees that may increase over time. If you are concerned about price points, you will want to calculate the overall difference before you decide.
One of the major pros of condo living is how easy they are to maintain. Compared to a house, which requires interior and exterior maintenance at the hands of its owner, a condo’s HOA will take care of landscaping, exterior building maintenance, and sometimes even indoor repairs. This ease of upkeep often translates to peace of mind, especially for active-duty military service members.
Condo units provide less space than detached houses — less square footage and less space between neighbors.
Likewise, condos rarely come equipped with a garage or extra storage space. For people who need extra storage or care more about personal space, a condo may not be the right choice.
Condominiums often include amenities such as gyms, pools or saunas, barbecues, inside and outside common areas, and more. These are some reasons why HOA fees may increase over time, but paying for access to them in a condo is far less expensive than installing them in a single home.
Condos also tend to be located closer to urban centers, so those hoping to live “in town” and closer to its facilities may prefer a condo.
Many condo boards require owners to adhere to complex-specific guidelines. Before choosing to buy, it’s good to have a clear sense of what the community rules are to see whether you would be a good fit.
You may even want to talk to a few current owners within the complex to ask about quality of life.
For those concerned about feeling safe, condo complexes do an excellent job of securing the premises via gates, guards, and cameras.
My condo is approved. What about me?
Finding a VA-approved condo complex is just part of the homebuying journey. You’ll also need to qualify as a VA loan borrower.
Most veterans and active duty service members do qualify for the VA home loan program. Many members of the National Guard and Reserves also qualify. Some surviving spouses of deceased veterans can use the program, too.
Qualifying borrowers will need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA to show lenders they can use the loan program.
But qualifying for the VA loan program doesn’t mean you automatically qualify to buy a condo. The VA partners with private lenders who lend the money, and your VA-partner lender will have to approve your loan application.
Your VA lender will check your:
- Credit score: The VA doesn’t set a minimum credit score, but lenders do. Typical VA lenders look for scores of at least 580 to 620
- Debt-to-income ratio (DTI): Lenders compare your current monthly debt load to your monthly income to see what size house payment you could afford. Typical VA lenders look for DTIs in the 41% range
- Income stability: Lenders want to know you have a steady source of income, so they’ll ask to see pay stubs, W-2 forms, or tax forms
These factors sway your eligibility to borrow money for your condo purchase. They also influence the size of your condo loan. The VA doesn’t set loan limits anymore, but your lender will cap your loan size based on your personal finances.
Buying a VA-approved condo
Assuming you have a Certificate of Eligibility to use the VA home loan program, let’s review the steps for buying a condo with a VA loan:
- Look for VA-approved condo developments: Search the VA’s condo database to find complexes that meet the VA’s standards. You could ask a non-approved condo development to seek the VA’s approval, but this is time-consuming and there’s no guarantee it’ll work.
- Shop around for the best VA lenders: VA-authorized lenders can set their own rules within the VA’s guidelines. This means one VA lender may give you a better deal than another. Shopping around can lead you to your ideal VA lender.
- Get your VA loan pre-approval: Your preferred lender can run your financials through its system to see whether you qualify. If you do, you’ll see a condo shopping price range based on your financial life. This helps you know which condos you could afford. It also tells sellers you’re making a serious offer.
- Make an offer and negotiate: When you’ve found the right place, it’s time to make your offer. Be prepared to negotiate with the seller, especially if you need help paying closing costs. A real estate agent can help a lot.
- Make your VA loan application official: With your sales price pinned down, it’s time to formally apply for your loan. Your loan officer should guide you through the process, from application to closing on your new home loan.
If you don’t have your Certificate of Eligibility yet, you could ask your loan officer to apply on your behalf. Or you can get it yourself in advance.
Common reasons a condo may not have VA approval
If your condo doesn’t have the VA’s green light, here are some common reasons why:
- The complex hasn’t applied to the VA: Lots of developments are governed by condo association boards that meet monthly. These boards would have to agree to seek the VA approval and then follow up on a months-long application process. Many complexes simply haven’t made this happen
- The complex doesn’t meet the standards: Even if a complex applies, it might not meet the VA’s standards. For example, in a 10-unit complex, one person may own two units which would exceed the VA’s limit
- The complex is too restrictive: If a condo association has the authority to prevent an owner from leasing out a unit, the VA won’t approve the complex. The VA does this because it wants military members who have been deployed to be able to rent out their units quickly.
If your desired condo complex meets the VA’s requirements, there’s a good chance it is — or it can become — VA-approved.
How can you find out for sure? Check the development’s status in the list of VA-approved condos.
VA-approved condos FAQs
How do I find out if a condo is VA-approved?
You can search for VA-approved condo developments using this form. You don’t have to enter text in every field. If you’re simply browsing developments, just enter your city or county. (You’ll have to enter a state to submit the form.)
Is there a VA-approved condo list?
Yes, the VA maintains a database of approved condo and townhome developments. To see approved condos in your area, you’ll need to search the list.
What does it mean for a condo to be VA-approved?
The Department of Veterans Affairs insures condo loans, making them more affordable for military service members and veterans. But the VA won’t insure a loan for a single-unit condo unless the entire condo development meets the VA’s standards. The entire development matters to the VA because it affects the value of each single unit.
How much does it cost to get a condo VA approved?
There’s no cost to you, the homebuyer, to get a condo approved for a VA loan. The condo development’s Homeowners Association or board of directors will have to apply for the VA’s approval.
Does VA allow condo spot approval?
No, unlike the Federal Housing Administration, the VA will not spot approve a single-unit within a non-approved condo community. To use a VA loan, the entire condo project will need the VA’s green light.
Why would a condo not be VA-approved?
The VA could deny a condo development for a variety of reasons including:
- The development has too many tenant-occupied compared to owner-occupied units
- Too many condo owners are behind on their HOA fees
- One person (or a single financial entity) owns too many units within the development
Do VA IRRRLs require condo approval?
No, the IRRRL is a streamline refinance loan. It reduces your interest rate or extends your loan term on your existing VA condo loan. IRRRL borrowers already went through the VA purchase process, so the VA already knows the condo qualifies.
A VA-approved condo can lower barriers to homeownership
Condos can be a great way to own a home at a lower cost than you might expect. And your VA benefit means you can buy a low down payment — or even no down payment.
Just like detached homes, condos appreciate in value. So borrowers can use any future equity to move up later on in their homeownership journey.
Speak to a VA condo expert to check VA condo interest rates. Getting a pre-approval can help you make an offer on the right condo when you find it.Click here to check today’s VA mortgage rates (Oct 26th, 2021)