VA loans provide a home loan guarantee and other related benefits, including buying, repairing, building, retaining, and adapting your home for personal occupancy. Private lenders provide VA loans at favorable terms allowing applicants to experience an easy home buying experience.
The US government created VA loans in 1944 to help post-action service members buy homes without excellent credit or a downpayment. The program has helped over 25 million applicants buy or refinance their homes, including active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their families.
VA loans are still vital since they've provided a vital helpline for military personnel, and veterans who had difficulty buying homes without home financing get enough financing. However, the 2020 global pandemic has made it hard for applicants to get financing since most lenders have tightened their guidelines.
VA loans are specialized loan products that are more lenient than other home loans. This guide is meant to help veterans with (or without) financial challenges find an easy time getting appropriate funding to help them through their home buying process.
Read on to learn more about what you can do to apply and qualify for a VA loan in Madison County, Florida.
Are you a Hometown Hero? Find out your eligibility for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Madison County, Florida.
What is a VA guarantee?
A VA guarantee is a federal program that guarantees private lenders, enabling them to provide loans to veterans, service members, and select spouses at subsidized rates. VA guarantee protects lenders against total loss if approved applicants default on their loans. This incentivizes them to provide home purchase VA loans with better terms.
Types of VA loans
There are four types of VA loans. They include VA IRRRL, purchase loans, cash-out refinance, and energy-efficient mortgages. These four loans provide a wide range of powerful financing options for qualified applicants looking to purchase homes with streamlined requirements and subsidized rates.
VA purchase loan
Service members and veterans can apply for VA loans to obtain funding with zero down payment to buy new or existing homes. Qualifying applicants can quickly get funds to buy condominiums, single-family homes, new constructions, multi-unit properties, or manufactured homes.
Policies and guidelines for the loans vary depending on the lender, and some lenders may not provide all of the VA purchase loans mentioned above. Applicants are advised to apply for the relevant loans based on available options.
VA purchase loans provide various benefits. They include:
Applicants can get VA loans to buy homes with zero down payment if their home's appraised value is lower than the sales price. According to a property expert's review, the appraised value is the home's value.
VA purchase loans have better interest rates and terms than loans from mortgage companies, private banks, and lenders (credit unions).
VA purchase loans enable qualifying applicants to borrow up to the Freddie Mac/ Fannie Mae conforming loan limit with zero down payment in most areas, including a few high-cost countries. They allow qualifying applicants to borrow more than the amount they need to make a down payment.
VA loans don't require a PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance) or MIP (Mortgage Insurance Premiums). PMIs insure the lenders if the applicant defaults and are usually applicable for individuals with a less than 20% down payment on the total mortgage. MIPs are paid to self-insure FHA loans against future loss.
Zero penalties if you pay off the loan early.
- Fewer closing costs that the seller may pay.
VA purchase loans can be used to:
Buy a condo through a VA-approved project
Buy a (or up to 4 units of) single-family homes
Purchase a manufactured home or lot
Purchase a home and improve it
Construct a new home
- Add new features or make changes to your home that'll make it more energy-efficient, i.e., adding solar power.
Qualifying applicants can also:
VA IRRRL (Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan)
This is the option most veteran homeowners choose. They are known as VA streamlines because of their simplicity and low-cost refinance and sometimes don't require an appraisal, income verification, or credit underwriting. They are meant for veterans with an existing VA loan.
The loan is designed to reduce monthly mortgage payments and make them more stable. Eligible applicants can replace their current loans with new ones under better terms. For applicants to qualify, they must have an existing VA home loan and use the VA IRRRL to refinance their existing loan.
They should also certify that they live or used to live in a residence covered by the loan. Additionally, those with a second mortgage on their home should ensure the holder agrees to make the new VA-backed loan the first mortgage. There are two reasons you may want to get a VA IRRRL. They include:
Applicants can borrow up to the Freddie Mac/ Fannie Mae conforming loan limit in most locations on zero down payment loans. Applicants can borrow more than this if they want to place a downpayment.
It would help if you remembered closing costs when refinancing a loan since they can add up and become quite costly. You should divide the closing costs by how much cash you plan to save monthly by refinancing and see if it's worth it. Your lender will advise you on the transaction's benefits and costs; however, you'll have to understand what you're getting into to make the best decisions.
How to get an IRRRL
You'll have to find a lender through a mortgage company, private bank, or credit union. The terms and fees may vary between lenders, and you'll have to double-check your options. Be wary of lenders offering very low-interest rates or claiming you can skip a few payments. This may sound quite appealing, but it could be misleading.
Next, you should provide your lender with all required information and documents to ease the procedure. For instance, you should provide the COE (Certificate of Eligibility) you used to get the primary VA-backed home loan as proof of prior use of entitlement. You could ask the lender to electronically obtain the COE from the VA home loan portal if you don't have the original copy.
You may have to pay the VA funding fee, which can help lower the loan's cost for US taxpayers since the program doesn't require applicants to make monthly mortgage insurance or down payments. Applicants will have to pay the closing fees and loan interest charged by the lender.
Applicants can include these costs in the new loan, so they don't have to pay any cash upfront. Or, they can choose to increase the interest rate and transfer the costs to the lender. However, your monthly payments will increase.
VA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)
This VA loan enables veterans to apply for additional funding to make energy improvements to their homes as part of a refinance or home purchase. Veterans can finance projects up to a maximum of $6000 to cover various qualified improvements like thermal or storm windows, solar heating, heat pumps, and cooling systems.
The loan is used to make homes energy efficient and save on utility bills. Energy-efficient homes protect occupants against cold, heat, moisture, and pollution. They are also great at reducing your carbon footprint. This loan can not be used to buy window air conditioning units, appliances, or non-permanent additions.
Types of EEI (Energy Efficient Improvements)
VA EEM is an excellent way to finance your home improvements, primarily when used with other VA loan products like IRRRL. There are various home improvement projects you can make in your home, including:
Adding solar panels
Installing or insulating your current solar water heater
Modifying your furnace for increased efficiency
Weatherproofing your home
Installing storm windows and doors
- Adding insulation to the ceiling and walls
EEM loans for home improvements should be used to make permanent energy-efficient improvements to the property. For instance, window air conditioning units aren't considered permanent. Additionally, a central air conditioning system will not likely increase your home's energy efficiency.
Other ineligible upgrades include:
- A/C units
- Energy Star-rated appliances
- New shingles or roof
- Vinyl siding
Pros and cons of VA EEM
There are various benefits to improving your home's energy efficiency, especially using the VA. However, you'll still have to recognize the upfront costs of such a procedure even though you'll reap lots of benefits in the future.
- Reduced pollution and noise
- Added comfort in all seasons
- Potential increase in resale value
- Overall improved health
- You'll have to borrow money to cover the costs
- It takes years to recoup costs
- It has a $6000 spending limit
EEMs' 3 cost tiers
VA's EEMs have three cost tiers:
Improvements totaling $0-3000 - This is the most accessible tier for approval. All you need to do is a quote itemizing the costs or present a copy of the contractor's bid and manufacture information for the products.
Improvements totaling $3001-6000 - You'll have to get an energy audit showing your home's utility average costs in addition to the information provided in the first section. The VA will review the documents and determine whether the suggested improvements will significantly impact the utilities to make positive results.
- Improvements of over $6000 - It's challenging for applicants to get approvals for EEMs bigger than $6000. Such requests have to be approved by the VA and lender.
Approved applicants must complete their VA Energy Efficiency Improvements six months after approval. Applicants can take care of minor fixes before closing, or the lender may choose to set up an escrow account for the home improvement funding.
Benefits of a VA loan - Zero Downpayment
VA loans have lots of benefits. For instance, they provide a zero down payment with no mortgage insurance. Most mortgages have a 3.5 down payment; however, the VA's guarantee allows lenders to provide favorable loans with lots of perks, including zero down payment.
Additionally, they have forgiving credit guidelines, are flexible, and provide the industry's lowest average fixed interest rates. VA loans also allow borrowers to roll in closing costs into the loan, easing the process for approved applicants.
The VA entitles qualified veterans to apply and get approved for any amount of loans the lender is willing to extend without a downpayment. Loan limits are only applicable to buyers without full entitlement. This could be because they've defaulted or had an active (or more) VA loan.
VA funding fee
VA funding fees go to the VA program and are used to ensure the program keeps running to help future generations of military and veteran home buyers. This fee varies depending on the applicant's circumstances. For instance, you can get a 2.3 % funding fee if it's your first time using the programs.
Approved applicants are charged a 0.5% fee on Interest Rate Reduction Refinance loans regardless of how many times they've used the benefit. Subsequent users are charged a 3.6% fee. Approved applicants can roll these costs into the overall loan amount. Additionally, the VA limits closing costs for approved veterans allowing sellers to pay all (or most) of the costs.
Lastly, the VA exempts surviving spouses and some veterans from paying the funding fee. One standard exemption is veterans with service-connected disabilities and VA-eligible surviving spouses. However, only the VA can make these calls to determine funding fee exemptions.
Applying for a VA loan
Applying for a VA loan isn't complicated; however, it would help to communicate with a trusted lender for detailed information on how to do it. By visiting the VA website, you must know if you qualify for a VA loan. Individuals that may qualify for loans include veterans, reserve members, National Guard members, and service members.
Things to do in Madison County, Florida
If you are a veteran or reservist looking for the best place to relax and build a home, then Madison County, Florida, could be what you are looking for. There are lots of fun activities you are sure to enjoy, including:
Treasures Of Madison County
This museum has several exhibits dedicated to showing and sharing Madison county and the surrounding region's history and lifestyle. Various featured topics include the region's agricultural history, military display, school artifacts, movie theaters, etc. The museum also has an expanding photographic archive that most history buffs are sure to find enjoyable.
Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park
This family campground is situated in North Florida! The park offers tent & RV sites and rental cabins. You could do lots of fun family activities in the park, including enjoying the water slide, fishing in the lakes, and playing basketball & volleyball. In addition, you'll get to participate in themed weekends for various events and holidays, including Easter, 4th of July, Hawaii, Pirate, etc.
O'Toole's herb farm
O'Toole's herb farm opened in 1990 and is perfect for organic and natural food seekers. The garden was built to promote simplistic living and overall well-being. It is centered on spiritual purification and hosts property tours, weekly yoga sessions, and other healthy activities. It is the perfect destination for individuals who cultivate a healthy body and mind.
Madison's Antique Market & Interiors
Visit Madison's antique market and interiors to find some of the finest antiques in Madison county. The shop displays some of the USA's best craftsmanship and provides an unparalleled glimpse into the past that's sure to be enjoyed by individuals of a similar taste. The shop features various high-end vintage furniture, lighting, glassware, and jewelry that will take you down memory lane.
Madison Golf & Country Club
Finally, if you want some alone time with friends, Madison golf and country club could be it. The newly renovated 9-hole course offers special rates for retired and active military, clergy, firefighters, law enforcement, etc. It's the perfect place for veterans to mingle, make new friends, and create great memories.
There are lots of fun things to do in Madison County, Florida, and getting a VA loan to help you buy a home for your family is only a bonus. As mentioned above, VA loans are easy to acquire if you have the correct documents and qualify for the loan.
The loans are perfect because of their low-interest rates and the fact that they have a zero down payment. Apply for a VA loan and become the latest homeowner in Madison County, Florida, today!