How to Apply for a VA Loan

Thomas Short
Military VA Loan contributor

Mortgages can be difficult to understand. They’re fairly complex, mostly because they’re used for very large purchases.

However, if you’re new to mortgages or VA loans, then the process might not be as complicated as you think.

VA loans are often considered to be the best mortgage option available to those who are eligible. However, they also have some specific steps you’ll need to take before you can apply for the loan.

To make sure that you have everything ready to apply for a VA loan, it’s best to start from the beginning of the entire process.

Check your VA home buying eligibility. Start here (May 29th, 2024)

VA loan requirements

Before you consider applying for a VA loan, you’ll need to prove that you’re eligible. For the most veterans who served in the Vietnam War and earlier, it’s safe to assume that a minimum of 90 days of active duty will suffice.

For anyone after the Vietnam War, a minimum of 24 months of enlistment will be required. For National Guard or Reserves, 6 years will be required.

However, there are other ways to be eligible. Surviving spouses are eligible for VA loans, and servicemembers who were discharged from active duty because of disability will also be eligible in less time.

If you’re uncertain whether or not you’re eligible for the VA loan program, you can check the VA’s guidelines.

It’s also worth noting that many military members and veterans don’t meet the criteria listed but can still be eligible. The VA understands that everyone’s situation is unique, so eligibility can go beyond their laid-out requirements.

Certificate of eligibility

Most veterans will be able to tell early on if they’re eligible for the VA loan. Once you determine you are, you’ll have to get a certificate of eligibility (COE) to prove it.

The information you’ll need to supply differs depending on when you served, but the process shouldn’t be too difficult for anyone who is eligible.

You can get your certificate through the mail and even through a lender, but the best way for most is probably to apply online.

Once you have this taken care of, you should being your home search.

Check your VA mortgage rates. Start here (May 29th, 2024)

Searching for a home

For first-time home buyers, it’s important to know that you should start your home search prior to applying for a VA loan.

The home search is one of the exciting parts of purchasing a home. You likely have a good idea of what you’re looking for, and you’ve already got a few homes in mind.

The hardest part of the home search is budgeting to make sure you don’t overspend on a house. If you want to get a better idea of how much home you can afford, a pre-qualification is the best option.

Basically, a pre-qualification tells you how much a lender is willing to give you with a mortgage based on your unique financial situation. It’s a good way to narrow your home search from the beginning, and you can get pre-qualified without committing to a lender or a home.

Finding a lender

Once you’ve got your COE and you’ve found a home within your price range, it’s time to find the right lender.

Picking the right lender is an important step since this person will be helping you make your big purchase. While many people are tempted to go through their bank, that might not be the best option.

One way people find a good lender is by asking friends or family who have purchased a home in the area. A good referral means that this lender did an excellent job on the mortgage, which is a promising sign. If you find a lender this way, make sure that they also have experience with VA loans. VA loans are more complicated for everyone involved, so finding an experienced lender will keep the process moving.

Another way to find a lender is to search for them online. There are many lenders, both local and national, that have experience with VA loans. When you compare lenders online, you can also learn more about their terms and mortgage rates they offer. This can help you shop for the best VA loan for your situation.

Check your VA home buying eligibility. Start here (May 29th, 2024)

Applying for the loan

Once you’ve picked a lender, then you begin the actual application process. While you don’t need a lender to apply, it’s best to have everything planned out ahead of time. Also, when you apply through a lender, they’ll be able to help you along the way, saving you time and energy.

Along with your COE, you should have all other necessary documents – such as bank statements and proof of income – ready. If you’ve approached the entire situation right, then the application process should be fairly painless.

After you application gets approved, the loan will be processed and you’ll become a proud new owner of a home, all thanks to the VA loan.

Check your VA mortgage rates. Start here (May 29th, 2024)