Even more impressive, owning a home in Manatee County is as easy as falling off a log, especially for veterans, service members, and eligible spouses. "But how?" – you may wonder.
If you are a veteran or in active military duty, you might qualify for a VA home loan – a government-backed, zero-down mortgage designed to help you own a home.
Are you a Hometown Hero? Find out your eligibility for the Hometown Heroes Loan Program in Manatee County, Florida.
Types of VA Loans
VA loan programs offer several home financing options, which include:
VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)
The VA loan program's Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL) is the most common among veteran homeowners and constitutes one of the two VA refinance options. It's also referred to as the VA streamline refinance loan because it can be completed quickly and accommodate applicants without an appraisal, income verification, or credit underwriting.
This loan is proposed for veterans who have an existing VA loan to help convert it from adjustable- to fixed-rate or refinance it to a new VA loan, but this time with a reduced interest rate.
VA Energy Efficient Mortgage
This mortgage enables eligible veterans to cover the cost of energy efficiency home enhancements as part of a refinance or a home purchase. Qualified improvements include cooling and solar heating systems, heat pumps, and thermal or storm windows.
However, you can't use the VA Energy Efficient Mortgage to acquire window air conditioning units, appliances, or other impermanent add-ons.
VA Purchase Loan
The VA Purchase Loan enables service members and veterans to buy an existing or new home without requiring a down payment. Typically, you can leverage this mortgage to purchase multi-unit properties, manufactured homes, condos, single-family houses, or even finance new construction.
But remember, VA loans are backed by the Department of Veteran Affairs but issued through participating lenders, who have varying guidelines and policies. For example, some lenders may not accommodate some property types, which others do.
VA Cash-Out Refinance
The VA Cash-Out Refinance is a loan designed to help veteran homeowners refinance their mortgages and turn a portion of their home equity into cash. Unlike the IRRRL, all veterans, including those without existing VA loans, can qualify, and those that do can refinance up to 90% of their property's value.
Nonetheless, loan-to-value requirements and lending procedures may vary among lenders. Surprisingly, it's not a requirement of this program for homeowners to take out cash. This means eligible veterans with conventional loans can use this loan to get rid of the pricey mortgage insurance (that tends to accompany other loan types), evade an adjustable-rate loan, or capitalize on the reduced rates.
VA Loans Eligibility
VA loans can be a steal for veterans who qualify, especially given that a down payment isn't required. Additionally, they don't require monthly mortgage insurance and feature interest rates relatively lower than other mortgage programs with similar terms.
While it's up to lenders to determine their eligibility requirements, VA loans' credit qualifications are more accommodating and lenient, unlike most mortgage programs. However, qualifying for a VA loan is not a free pass for everyone who has been in the military.
Instead, you can only be considered eligible if:
You've been in active service for at least 90 days during wartime.
You've been in active service for at least 181 days during peacetime.
You've been in service in the Army Reserves or National Guard for over six years or under Title 32 for 90 days, 30 of them being consecutive.
- You're a spouse to a service member that died from a service-related disability or in the line of duty. Generally, you can't be remarried, but there are exceptional cases and other criteria to be met for you (the spouse) to qualify for a VA loan.
VA Loan Limits
Before 2020, loan limits were imposed on VA home loans, but that's not the case anymore. In other words, the VA no longer mandates loan limits unless in instances of affected entitlement, where a borrower has either lost a previous VA mortgage to foreclosure or has one or more existing VA loans.
Whenever they apply, these limits are based on those of conventional loans, which sit at $647,200 (minimum) for most states as of 2022. However, the limits may be relatively higher in some areas, specifically high-cost areas.
Suppose you need a much higher amount; consider getting a VA Jumbo Loan instead. The program boasts a reduced rate and, like other regular VA loans, doesn't necessarily need a down payment.
VA Funding Fee
While mortgage insurance isn't required for VA loans, most feature an additional cost referred to as a funding fee.
This fee is payable directly to the VA department. It is set by the federal government to keep the program alive for military and veteran homebuyers in the future, not to mention help lessen the burden on other veterans and taxpayers.
The amount of funding you pay can vary depending on several factors such as your down payment (if any), type of service, whether you're looking to refinance or purchase the property, and whether it's your first time applying.
Typically, the VA funding fee can range from as low as 2.3% to 3.6% of your mortgage amount. However, this fee doesn't apply to everyone – surviving spouses, veterans with a service-connected disability, and active Purple Heart recipients are all exempted from meeting this fee.
Can You Apply for a VA Mortgage More Than Once?
Yes, VA mortgages aren't a one-time option. You can reuse your VA loan repeatedly; if you like, you may even apply for multiple mortgages simultaneously. It's possible to have another VA loan if:
You settle the mortgage and keep the house. Then, get another VA mortgage to buy another home, which will be your primary residence.
You sell the house to another veteran buyer who is open to assuming your VA mortgage.
- You sell the house and repay your VA loan.
Benefits of a VA Loan
VA loans boast several upsides compared to conventional loans. Let's look at some in detail:
No Down Payment Requirement
Alongside USDA mortgages (designed for rural home buyers), VA loans don't require applicants to make a down payment. And by not having to pay a lot of money upfront, you can use the extra to finance other home projects and furnishings or save it.
Reduced Mortgage Rates
Remember, VA loans are government-backed. That translates to minimal risk for participating investors and lenders. Therefore, unlike conventional loans, they boast reduced mortgage interest rates, making them a steal for veteran applicants with credit issues.
No Private Mortgage Insurance
Unlike most mortgages, VA loans don't require borrowers to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), a type of mortgage insurance that lenders ask you to pay if you can't afford to put a 20% down payment. With PMI not being a requirement, you can save roughly 0.5% to 1% of your mortgage amount annually until you attain a 20% equity.
Flexible Eligibility Requirements
Surprisingly, VA loans have no stated limit on the debt-to-income ratio (DTI). The required DTI to qualify will vary with several aspects, such as your payment history on your credit report, down payment, credit score, and income.
But that's not all. Some other factors like foreclosures or bankruptcies may also influence the required DTI. For that reason, it would be best to consult a mortgage expert to help you understand your precise requirements better.
Easy to Qualify
Again, there is no minimum credit score requirement, and as earlier seen, all qualification requirements are up to the lender to determine. It's worth mentioning that VA loans can accommodate veteran borrowers with higher DTIs, allowing them to cut it for a relatively more extensive or costlier home.
Variety of Options
It's surprising to hear how many loan types the Department of Veteran Affairs guarantees – VA Purchase Loans, VA IRRRL, VA Cash-Out Refinance, and VA Energy-Efficient Mortgage.
Therefore, other than using their VA loans to buy homes, veterans and service members can refinance at lower interest rates, turn their home equity into cash, and make energy-efficient enhancements.
No Prepayment Penalties
Some mortgage programs impose a prepayment penalty; a fee borrowers incur by repaying a mortgage before its maturity. That's because by doing so, you deny your lender extra chances to collect interest payments as initially agreed. And in a bid to recoup at least some of those payments, lenders leverage the prepayment penalty.
However, VA loans have no prepayment penalty as eligible veteran home buyers are free to repay their mortgages anytime without having to fret about such.
Applying for VA Loans in Manatee County, Florida
As highlighted throughout this article, owning a home in Manatee County is more than possible for eligible service members and veterans. All you need to do is apply for your VA Loan using the following simple steps:
Acquire a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) - This is required by the lender to determine whether your military service satisfies VA loan requirements. Obtaining the certificate is easy – you can request the document online or by mail. Alternatively, you could have a VA-approved lender get it for you.
Look for a VA-approved Lender - While some lenders offer several VA-loan options, others are tailored for veteran applicants with poorer credit. Quick tip? Consider getting pre-approved with several VA mortgage lenders to ensure you get the best deal in terms of mortgage rates and eligibility requirements.
- Find a Home - When looking to buy a primary residence using your VA mortgage, it's the lender's responsibility to make sure that the home you pick is structurally sound, safe, and clean, as per VA property requirements. The lender will demand a VA appraisal and analyze your finances to ensure everything is in order. After the appraisal and your application are approved, you may proceed to finalize the arrangement and move in!
Is Using Your VA Loan to Acquire a Home in Manatee County, Fl, a Great Idea?
In all honesty, buying a home in Manatee County is a great idea. The neighborhoods are safe here, and the living costs are low. And for a veteran or service member like you – who may potentially qualify for a zero-down VA mortgage – it can prove even way more manageable.
But what makes Manatee County even more interesting is its richness in outdoor attractions that you and your family need to check out. A few key ones include:
Village of the Arts
The Village of the Arts is a remarkable, lively, and eclectic artists' community situated in the center of the Sarasota-Bradenton area. Spanning across 36 acres, it's the West Coast's largest artist community, boasting over 35 businesses.
As you stroll its charming streets, you'll come across cafes, studios, galleries, bookshops, healing arts, fashion, and jewelry stores, all set in cottages designed back in the 1920s and 30s. You can hardly exhaust what to do and see here, from drinking coffee in sidewalk cafes to dining out, checking out workshops, studios, and art galleries, and wandering the streets to enjoying the pulsating ambiance.
Lake Manatee State Park
Situated 15 miles to Bradenton's east, Lake Manatee State Park is your go-to family-friendly outdoor space. Stretched on 556 acres, this state park offers plenty – picnicking, hiking, swimming and sunbathing, kayaking and canoeing, boating, fishing, name it.
The park boasts natural habitats that constitute pine Flatwoods and sand pine scrub alongside some depression marshes and hardwood forests. A short walk from the lake is a striking picnic pavilion with full camping amenities, including modern washrooms with showers that could come in handy.
Florida Maritime Museum
Known as FMM, the Florida Maritime Museum is a great attraction if you wish to learn more about Florida's maritime history. As a dedicated historic destination, it's housed in an old schoolhouse building dating back to 1912 and on land covering 4 acres of the famous Cortez village.
You can visit the museum to view exhibits showcasing historical instruments, photographs, artifacts, tools, boat models, and more. Further, there's a research library featuring plans, records, ship logs, periodicals, letters, books, and archival material relating to maritime topics.
Tucked in Bradenton's northwest corner, the Robinson Preserve is an excellent destination for wildlife buffs. With 487 acres of mangrove, marsh, and coastal saltern environment, the sanctuary offers you a chance to see rare wildlife such as least terns, bald eagles, white pelicans, wood storks, and roseate spoonbills, all in their natural habitat.
But that's not all there is to try here, with the Robinson Preserve boasting other activities such as kayak and canoe launches, nature tours, biking, and hiking. Moreover, the preserve features amenities such as a visitors' center, picnic areas, observation platforms, and towers that make your time here worthwhile.
TreeUmph! Adventure Course
Are you looking for an adventure park with full-packed fun for the whole family? No need to look past the TreeUmph! Adventure Course.
It is located in the outskirts of Bradenton in a forest, the TreeUmph! Adventure Course swanks an array of exhilarating and fun adventures, from zipline courses for all levels to swinging, climbing, and crawling on suspended bridges.
Impressively, this outdoor destination caters to everyone, regardless of their ability or age, thanks to its broad range of activities. All safety gear is provided, including helmets and harnesses. And training on how to maneuver through the courses efficiently and safely is also offered.
Set to Move to Manatee County?
If you're an active service member or previously served your country – first of all, thank you for your service – and owning a home in Manatee County sounds like a great idea; trust your gut – it sure is! And as we've seen, it's even much easier if you qualify for a VA loan.
Remember that VA loans are zero-down mortgages; you may still cut them even with a poor credit score or debt-to-income ratio. So, in simple terms, there's nothing to stop you from becoming the freshest homebuyer in Manatee County.
By finding the right lender and applying for your VA loan today, you join the many veteran homeowners across the country who have benefited from this program.