First-time Homebuyer in the Military? Answers to Your Top 6 Mortgage Questions

First-time Homebuyer in the Military? Answers to Your Top 6 Mortgage Questions

Veterans and military members are pretty lucky when it comes to buying a home. For one, they have a mortgage program designed just for them — one only homebuyers who are veterans or currently in the military can take advantage of. 

Even better? It’s arguably the best mortgage product out there.

Dubbed the VA loan (Veterans Affairs loan), these military mortgages come with low interest rates, require no mortgage insurance, and have no down payment requirement whatsoever, as long as the sales price isn’t higher than the home’s appraised value. Considering other mortgages require at least 3% down (usually more), that amounts to some serious savings right off the bat.

Are you considering buying a house and using your military mortgage benefits?

6 answers to your top VA loan questions

1. Is a first-time homebuyer in the military eligible for a VA loan?

Not right away. To use a VA loan, you must have served in the military for a designated amount of time. The exact amount you need to have served depends on when you entered the military, but if you’re currently on active duty now, it needs to be at least 90 continuous days of service. Veterans will need 90 to 181 days, depending on the period of time in which they served.

National Guard and Reserves members can also qualify for VA loans, though they need to have served at least six years. Here’s a full breakdown of the requirements from the VA.

2. Is it hard to get a VA loan when you’re a first-time homebuyer in the military?

Qualifying as a borrower isn’t typically hard. The VA doesn’t have strict credit score minimums on these mortgages, instead asking lenders to consider the borrower’s entire application — not just one facet of it. The VA also allows for a debt-to-income ratio of up to 41%, meaning your debts can take up 41% of your monthly income and you’ll still qualify for a loan.

Ensuring your property qualifies is another story, though — especially if you’re buying an older home or a fixer-upper. With a VA loan, your lender will require that a VA-approved appraiser evaluates the property —  both its value and its condition. The home will need to meet strict property and safety standards before a VA loan can be issued.

3. What are the benefits of using a VA loan over other mortgage options?

There are lots of reasons you’d want to use a VA loan over other mortgage options. First and foremost, it lets you buy a home without making a down payment (as long as the sales price isn’t higher than the home’s appraised value). On conventional mortgages, you need at least 3% if you’re a first-time homebuyer — or $7,500 on a $250,000 home. FHA loans require even more.

Another perk is the low interest rates that VA loans come with. Usually, VA rates are among the lowest of all major mortgage products, and a lower rate? That means a smaller monthly payment and big savings over time.

Finally, you won’t need mortgage insurance with a VA loan. On other mortgage programs — particularly low-down-payment ones, you’ll pay a mortgage insurance premium upfront and, many times, monthly, too. 

4. How much can I borrow?

Without a down payment, you can borrow up to the conforming loan limit for your county and property size. This varies quite a bit (higher-cost markets have higher limits), but for most counties in the U.S. at the time of publication, it’s $548,250 for a single-family home.

5. How do I apply?

To apply,  you’ll need to work with a VA-approved mortgage lender (only certain companies are approved to issue these loans.) You will also need a Certificate of Eligibility from the VA, which proves your military service and shows you’re eligible for the VA loan program. You can get this from your eBenefits portal or your VA lender can help you request it.

6. Can I only use a VA loan once as a first-time homebuyer in the military?

Your VA loan benefit can be used time and time again throughout your lifetime. For example, if you sell your home down the road, you should be able to use a VA loan to purchase your next property (as long as you’ve paid off the first loan, of course). In some cases, you may be able to have two VA loans at once. 

The bottom line

VA loans are a great option for veterans and military members — particularly those buying a home for the very first time. Not only are they affordable, but because they require no down payment whatsoever, they can often help you buy a home much sooner than you think.

Are you considering buying your first home? Think you may qualify for a VA loan? Get in touch with an Embrace Home Loans office in your area today. Embrace is an approved VA lender who can help.

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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.