Unfortunately, Gulf County doesn't have the cheapest homes. That means affording property in this area may be impossible unless you make a ton of money.
But there's good news: if you are an eligible veteran, surviving spouse, or active-duty service member, the Veterans Affairs (VA) can help you buy a house in this county through its home loans program.
Keep reading to find out more about VA home loans and how to check if you qualify for these solutions. We also have a bonus section explaining why living in Gulf County is a grand idea.
Are you a Hometown Hero? Find out your eligibility for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Gulf County, Florida.
Introduction to VA Loans
VA loans are zero down payment mortgage solutions introduced in 1944 as part of the GI Bill of Rights, aka Servicemen's Readjustment Act. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the entire home loan program on June 22, and it's been in action ever since.
Simply put, VA home loans level the playing field for active-duty service members, veterans, and eligible spouses. They offer these individuals the financial resources needed to successfully transition into homeownership and live a decent, comfortable life.
Since its inception, the VA home loan program has undergone massive transformation and change. For instance, in the past, Veterans Affairs guaranteed 50% of loan amounts equal to or less than $2,000 in the 40s. However, today, the department's 50% guarantee covers home loans up to $45,000.
VA loans fall under two broad categories: VA-backed and direct loans. VA-backed home loans originate from private lending institutions like banks and mortgage companies, but Veterans Affairs backs a certain percentage against default. On the other hand, direct loans come directly from the VA.
Overall, over 24 million service members now own decent homes thanks to VA-backed and direct VA loans. If you want to join this massive group, the section below will introduce you to the VA loan options at your disposal.
VA Home Loan Options
If you think a VA home loan is what you need to make your homeownership dream a reality, try any of the following options:
VA purchase loans are what they sound like: mortgages tailored for applicants looking to buy homes. If there's a single-family house you've been eyeing, you can use this solution to grab it, provided it has less than four units.
Besides a single-family home, you can also use a purchase loan to buy a condominium unit in a VA-approved complex or a manufactured home.
And what if you prefer building a new home rather than purchasing an existing house? The purchase loan program can also help you if that is the case. The same applies to improving a home you just bought or incorporating new features to make it more energy-efficient.
Native American Direct Loans
Native Americans, popularly known today as Indigenous Americans or American Indians, have heavily influenced the way of life in the US. Their influence can be felt in many aspects, ranging from government and law to music and art.
In 1992, the government decided to show its appreciation for Indigenous Americans who have served this great nation by introducing the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program.
NADL allows Indigenous American Veterans and non-American Indian service members married to Native Americans to take out VA home loans. Borrowers can use Native American Direct Loans to purchase, improve, or build homes on federal trust land.
But this program only caters to eligible Indigenous Americans whose tribal authorities have already dictated how they want the NADL program to work on their trust lands and signed an agreement or MOU (Memorandum of Understanding).
Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans
Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan is a pretty lengthy title, no lie. If you have trouble memorizing this name, call this solution the IRRRL or Streamline refinance. Both are accepted titles and known to most experts and lending institutions.
The IRRRL loan program's objective is to help qualified participants stabilize monthly mortgage payments and enjoy relatively lower interest rates. What's the catch, you wonder? This solution is only for individuals that already have VA-backed home loans.
Cash-Out Refinance Loans
Money shortages often manifest at the worst time possible. For example, you may run short at the start of a school year or realize you don't have enough after your home's roof has caved. If you are in such a situation, the VA may help you dig your way through the cash-out refinance loan program.
Cash-out refinances allows service members and entitled surviving spouses to take cash out of their home equity and use it to take care of liens, debts, renovation projects, etc. Most lenders allow qualified participants to obtain up to 100% LTV (loan-to-value) where the VA cash-out refinance loan program is involved.
And to top it all off, this program allows participants to cash out and migrate to a VA-backed loan, thereby getting rid of mortgage insurance, refinancing out of an outrageous loan program, and consolidating existing mortgages.
VA Loans vs. Conventional Loans
At this point, you likely wonder what separates VA loans from traditional mortgages. The answer to that involves zero down payment, lenient credit requirements, no PMI, and streamlined refinancing.
Zero Down Payment
In their first year, most enlisted service members make less than $20,000 annually.
With that in mind, most institutions require homebuyers to pay a 5-6% down payment on a house. So, if you plan to buy property in an area like Gulf County, where the median listing price is +$600,000, be ready to put down around $30,000. Do you see why some service members can't afford down payments?
But you can get a VA loan if your financial status prevents you from putting money down on a home. The VA home loan program demands zero down payment for any eligible property selling for a price that doesn't exceed the actual appraised value.
But the VA program doesn't discriminate against individuals that prefer paying down payments. If you can afford it, no one will stop you from making the payment.
Lenient Credit Requirements
Service members and their families are often vulnerable to financial problems, especially after relocations and deployments. Many go into significant debt while trying to solve pertinent issues and provide for their loved ones. And the problem with too much debt is it hurts your credit score.
If you are a veteran or service member with bad credit, you'll be glad to know the VA has no minimum credit score. Moreover, although most private lenders require applicants to have at least 620, you may get a VA home loan with less.
Note that the chances of getting a VA loan with bad credit are higher if you can prove that factors like service-connected disabilities or deployments influenced the situation.
No Private Mortgage Insurance
Did you know that most lenders require homebuyers to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance) if they cannot put down at least 20% of a property's purchase price? The reason is that institutions often use the PMI to recoup their investment when borrowers default.
But, if you are eligible for a VA loan, the PMI shouldn't be a problem because the program doesn't require it.
The VA's no PMI policy has numerous benefits, the most outstanding being fewer expenses. Remember, PMI can cost anywhere from 0.5% to 1% of the mortgage amount. Besides, PMI doesn't benefit you or your heirs; therefore, using the VA to avoid it is a grand idea.
There are many reasons to refinance an existing mortgage. But most people do it to enjoy lower monthly payments and fixed rates.
Unfortunately, refinancing is more challenging now than ever. This solution has become an unfathomable nightmare for many reasons, including ever-increasing paperwork and complicated procedures. And the pandemic has made things worse by battering the mortgage sector and making it difficult for lenders to allow refinancing.
Luckily, the VA has streamlined refinancing (IRRRL). The program is more favorable than other alternatives because it involves quicker closings and less paperwork.
Minimum Requirements for VA Loans
Most VA home loan programs have the following requirements:
VA home loan service requirements differ depending on whether you are on active duty, a veteran, a National Guard member, or a Reserve member.
If you are on active duty, you can get a VA home loan provided you've served no less than 90 consecutive days, with no service break. But things are a little complicated for other groups. Take veterans as an example.
The minimum service requirements for veterans vary depending on the time of service. For instance, if you were involved in the Vietnam war (between Aug 5, 1964, & May 7, 1975), you must prove you served a minimum of 90 days or be the victim of a service-connected disability and a subsequent premature discharge.
Veterans Affairs also uses the time of service to assess the eligibility of National Guard and Reserve members.
Certificate of Eligibility
Although you don't need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to start applying for a VA home loan or get a pre-approval letter, closing can't happen without it. Simply put, no COE= no VA home loan.
If you don't have a COE, talk to your lender. If they are approved by Veterans Affairs, tapping into the department's ACE (Automated Certificate of Eligibility) database won't be a problem. Once they've done that, getting your COE will take a couple of minutes.
But if getting the certificate via your lender is implausible, you can visit the eBenefits website and apply by yourself. The other alternative involves downloading and filling out the VA Form 26-1880 and mailing it to the address included.
Most people don't know that the VA conducts appraisals and inspects properties before financing. That means you can only get a VA home loan after the program has ascertained that the house you plan to buy meets set standards.
The VA allows borrowers to get financing for homes with safe mechanical systems, quality heating systems, and functional roofing. Getting a VA loan may also be problematic if the house you plan to buy has discernible signs of termite damage, dry rot, water leaks, or lead-based paint.
How to Apply for and Use a VA Home Loan in Gulf County, Florida
If you meet all VA requirements and are ready to apply for a VA-backed home loan, follow these steps:
- Find a VA-approved lender
- Get a COE
- Undergo pre-qualification
- Go house hunting with an agent
- Sign a purchase agreement
- Close the sale
Top 5 Things to Do in Gulf County, Florida
One of the best Florida counties to live in is Gulf County. The reason is that this area has countless spots and places that allow you to enjoy the following outdoor activities:
Did you know that several reputable institutions now use kayaking to rehabilitate veterans? Generally, the programs encourage service members to trade weapons for paddles, get on the water, and learn new skills while having a blast.
That proves this activity is indispensable, especially for disabled or unwell veterans. Besides, civilians too can benefit from kayaking because it's ideal for weight management, building upper body strength, improving heart health, and much more! So your loved ones can reap too from partaking.
Gulf County has numerous spots kayakers can exploit and grow to love, including St. Joseph Bay and the Dead Lakes.
Are you a biking enthusiast? If not, you are missing out. Biking is a splendid outdoor activity you could be using to work out, explore, and improve overall wellbeing. If you become a cyclist today, expect to see positive changes in your cardiovascular, psychological, and physical health.
One of the features that make Gulf County a paradise for everyone, including veterans and service members, is top-notch biking trails. This area has many of those, including the Loggerhead Run Bike Path and the Port City Trail.
Active-duty service members can only perform when they are in optimum health and peak shape. And the only way they can attain that is through exercise and physical activities. Luckily, swimming ranks among the best.
People who swim regularly learn vital survival skills and improve their cardio health. That is why you should consider becoming a swimmer. Plus, the activity ensures you are cool in soaring temperatures and can help you tackle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If you enjoy swimming and are afraid moving to Gulf County will deter you from partaking, worry no more. Fantastic swimming spots are abundant in this area, the most popular being St. Joe Beach.
Gulf County has plenty of fishing destinations, from Port St. Joe to Cape San Blas. The species available in this area include spotted seatrout, red drum, sheepshead, and Spanish mackerel. Is this enough reason to move to Gulf County? Most definitely.
Although some people downplay fishing, it comes with myriad benefits. For example, the activity is a stress reliever and a good workout. Plus, it helps you improve coordination, motor planning, and perseverance.
Does horseback riding on the beach sound enticing? In that case, you'll have plenty of time to gorge yourself on this beautiful adventure when you buy a home in Gulf County.
Gulf County residents often ride horses on Cape San Blas and other beautiful spots. You, too, can do it and create lifelong memories when you choose to live in this area.
On top of all that, horseback riding in Gulf County will enable you to reap many mental and physical health benefits. These include better core strength, more muscle tone, enhanced moods, and lower stress levels.
Use a VA Loan to Buy a Home in Gulf County, Florida Today
There are plenty of reasons to move to Gulf County, live here, and enjoy a wonderful life. And the best part is that nothing can stop you now, not even financial strains. Veterans Affairs has numerous home loan programs you can use to finance a home purchase! Why?
Hopefully, you've gone through all we've discussed and are now familiar with everything the VA home loan program offers. If you have, and meet all requirements, go ahead and apply for a mortgage today! If it goes through, buy a lovely home in Gulf County and enjoy the rest of your life.