VA Loans Have Become The Magic Bullet

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Quite a while ago, when loan standards were other than they have become, I wrote an article with the title Is a VA Loan a Good Deal? Back then, if you could qualify for a loan that was both A paper and full documentation, I could get you a better loan as measured by cost of interest for the same closing cost, maybe even if you didn't have a down payment. Lenders were eager to make loans at 100% loan to value ratio, and since conventional conforming rates have always been the lowest for a given cost, they could beat VA loans despite not being designed for the same situations.

That is no longer the case.

100% financing for ordinary conventional loans has completely self-destructed, at least for now. I am firmly of the opinion that it will be back for full documentation borrowers who can prove actual income via tax returns or W-2 forms, but for right now, it is gone. FHA loans only go to 96.5% Loan to Value ratio, and the down payment assistance programs that formerly enabled people to get FHA loans without a down payment have been put out of business by legislation. This leaves the VA loan as the sole loan program available that currently allows purchase of real estate without a down payment. Not only do VA loans allow over 100% financing, they have absolutely no ongoing mortgage insurance charges. There is a half a percent funding fee charged by the VA, but this is eligible to be rolled into the loan itself, and the funding fee is waived if the veteran has 10% or greater service related disability.

Not everyone is eligible for a VA loan. You must have earned it via time in the armed services. Currently active-duty service-folks are potentially eligible, providing they have met the criteria. In some cases, a spouse of a deceased serviceperson is also eligible for a VA benefit. This still isn't as many people as was true formerly. Thirty years ago, far more people served in the military than currently do. Even though San Diego is a military town, most veterans seem to leave when their tour is over, so the population of discharged veterans is lower than might be expected. They're here, but they have mostly come back because of civilian employment or following spouses who are themselves in the military, rather than choosing to retire here.

Indeed, Active duty servicemembers have an advantage over retirees. They are able to draw a housing allowance if they do not live in military housing - a housing allowance that can pay their mortgage instead of rent, and when reassigned, they can rent the property to another military family, knowing the military family receives that same allowance. A military family that exercises due diligence can retire owning five or more properties, all with positive cash flow, and most likely with huge amounts of equity, if not owned outright. Current BAH allowances for San Diego won't purchase a mansion, but they will cash flow out for quite reasonable properties in desirable parts of town. Since VA loans are all fully amortized, this will eventually pay the mortgage off, leaving them with only property taxes and maintenance for the expense of owning the property.

For a decade or more, VA loans were pretty much useless in high cost areas because of loan limits too low to purchase desirable properties. There for a while, they were only useful for one bedroom condominiums here in San Diego because the price of housing had so far outstripped VA loan limits that that was all that could be bought with them. That has now changed, both because prices have fallen and because VA loan limits have risen dramatically thanks to new legislation. Recent legislation has extended VA loan limits above "regular" conforming loan limits..

The one limit to VA loans is a good one to have: They require documentation of earning enough income to be able to afford the payments, either through tax returns or w2 form. This prevents something that has happened all too often for several years, real estate agents and loan officers selling someone a property that there is no way there are able to afford in the longer term. This was another reason VA loans were often bypassed for about a decade there, but I actually like this protective feature. Debt to Income Ratio is more important to protect the borrower than it is to protect the lender!

So even though not everyone is eligible for a VA loan, if you are one of those who has earned eligibility through service to the country, the VA loan has become the best "magic bullet" currently available to assist you in buying real estate. By not having a mortgage insurance requirement, or boosting the basic rate through adjustments as other loans have, and by requiring full documentation of income, they not only aid the veteran in affording the property, but have a significant protective element.

Caveat Emptor

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on October 23, 2019 7:00 AM.

What Are Recurring and Nonrecurring Closing Costs? was the previous entry in this blog.

How Much Down Payment Do I Need and How Do I Get It? is the next entry in this blog.

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