Are you a veteran who wants to buy a home in Georgia – but you don’t have enough money to do so? Are you having some difficulty getting approved for a traditional mortgage loan?
Whatever the case may be, you’re in luck.
After all, living in Georgia can be a dream come true. As a veteran, you have access to a VA loan, which can make your home-buying dream a reality no matter your financial circumstances.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to get a VA loan in Georgia. It’s easier than you might think!
Georgia VA Loan Limits
First things first, let’s define what exactly is a VA loan limit? Put simply, a loan limit is a cap on the amount of money that the VA will guarantee lenders in the event of a loan default. In other words, it’s the maximum amount of money that borrowers can borrow with a VA loan, without having to worry about making a down payment.
Now, let’s talk about Georgia VA loan limits.
As of January 2023, all borrowers who have their full VA loan entitlement do not have any VA loan limits. This means you can borrow as much as a lender is willing to give you without needing a down payment.
That said, if you do not have your full VA loan entitlement, you’re bound to Georgia’s VA loan limits. The limit, as of early 2023, for all counties in Georgia is $726,200.
Low VA Loans Rates
Veterans and Service members in Georgia can borrow as much as they need to purchase their dream home in this beautiful state.
However, before you start shopping around for mansions, keep in mind that there are some eligibility requirements that you need to meet.
To qualify for a VA loan, you need to be a current or former member of the military, meet a certain length of service requirements, have a credit score of at least 620, and have enough income to comfortably make your mortgage payments. Once you tick all these boxes, you’ll be good to go.
The good news doesn’t end there! There’s some more great news for veterans looking to purchase their homes in high-cost areas below the VA loan limits. The VA has implemented a new policy regarding “jumbo” loans, which allows veterans to borrow more than the conventional loan limits (if they qualify).
But despite having a higher limit, it’s important to note that through the VA loan program, you’ll be paying lower interest rates than conventional loan programs. This, combined with the absence of down payment or pre-penalty charges, makes VA loans an attractive option for many Veterans and Service members.
What is the interest rate, you might ask?
It varies, but at the time of writing this article, it’s right around 6.95% for a 30-year fixed mortgage and 6.21% for a 15-year fixed mortgage.
How VA Loans Work in Georgia
Whether you’re planning to move to Georgia or are already a resident, buying a home is a big decision that involves a lot of planning and preparation. For active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their families, VA loans are a versatile and affordable option that can help make homeownership a reality. But how do they work?
To qualify for a VA loan, you must be an active-duty service member, veteran, or eligible surviving spouse. The requirements vary depending on your length of service and discharge status, so it’s essential to check with the VA to confirm your eligibility. In addition, you must have a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which can be obtained through the VA or your lender.
VA loans do not have a set limit for the amount you can borrow, but the lender will evaluate your financial situation and determine the maximum amount you can borrow based on your income, credit score, and other factors.
Georgia VA loans are advantageous because they have lower-than-average interest rates, and there tend to be lower closing costs. There is also no fee or penalty for prepaying the loan, which means you can pay off the loan early without extra fees.
One of the unique features of VA loans is that they do not require a down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI). Instead, borrowers pay a one-time funding fee, which varies depending on the type of loan and the borrower’s military status.
The fee can be reduced or waived for veterans with a service-connected disability or surviving spouses. It varies from around 1.5 to 3.3% of the loan, on average.
To apply for a VA loan, you’ll need to provide your lender with your Certificate of Eligibility, income and employment information, and other documents, such as tax returns and bank statements. The lender will evaluate your application and determine whether you qualify for a loan and how much you can borrow.
VA Loan Advantages in Georgia
Here are some key advantages of Georgia VA loans.
No Down Payment
You don’t need to have a huge stash of cash under your mattress to qualify for a Georgia VA loan. These loans require zero downpayment. That means you don’t have to scrape every penny or wait for years to buy a house – you can start shopping for your dream home right away.
Competitive Interest Rates
VA loans in Georgia come with lower interest rates compared to conventional loans. This means that you can save money on your monthly mortgage payments for the entire loan term.
FICO Score Requirement
Your FICO score is an important factor in determining your loan’s interest rate. Credit scores and FICO scores are closely related, but they weigh certain aspects of your credit risk a bit differently.
Most of the time, a FICO score of at least 620 is required to qualify for an FHA loan with a 3.5% down payment. Again, if your score is between 500 and 620, you may still be eligible, but with a higher down payment.
No Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Required
When you take out a conventional loan, you often have to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This insurance protects the lender in case you default on your mortgage payments.
With VA loans, PMI is not required. VA loans are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, so you don’t have to shell out extra cash for PMI.
This is a sweet deal for Georgia veterans, as PMI can easily cost you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage.
Flexible Credit Score Requirements
VA loans in Georgia come with flexible credit score requirements. Even if your credit score is lower than conventional loan requirements, you may still qualify for a VA loan. This makes VA loans ideal for Georgia veterans who have had past credit issues or limited credit history.
VA Loan Options for Refinancing Existing Mortgages
As a Georgia veteran, you may already have a home, but you want to refinance your existing mortgage to secure a lower interest rate or a better monthly payment. With VA loan refinancing options, you can do just that. By refinancing your mortgage, you can save thousands of dollars and shorten the term of your loan.
Access to Higher Loan Limits
Again, the Georgia VA loan limit is $726,200 for those who do not have full loan entitlement.
If you need a bigger loan amount, you can often still get approved for a VA loan by making a down payment equal to 25% of the difference between the loan limit and the purchase price.
As a point of contrast, conventional lenders usually require a down payment of at least 3-20% of the purchase price, depending on the borrower’s creditworthiness. As a result, VA loans can provide an excellent solution for veterans who want to buy a more expensive home or refinance a high-cost mortgage.
Assistance for Georgia Veterans with Past Credit Issues or Limited Credit History
While conventional lenders can be picky about borrowers’ credit scores, VA-approved lenders tend to be more lenient towards veterans with past credit issues or limited credit history.
Although VA loans require a minimum credit score of 620, some lenders may consider borrowers with scores as low as 580 if they have a steady income and a good debt-to-income ratio.
VA Loan Eligibility for Surviving Spouses of Georgia Veterans
Eligible surviving spouses of Georgia veterans who died while on active duty or due to a service-related disability can also benefit from VA loans. Spouses who have not remarried, served themselves, or dishonorably discharged from service can get a VA loan as well.
Requirements for VA Home Loans in Georgia
Now that you know what a VA loan is and how you might benefit from one, how do you get one? Here’s what you’ll need to qualify.
A Valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for the VA Loan Program
To prove you’re eligible for a VA home loan, you’ll need to obtain a COE. This certificate can be obtained through the VA or approved lenders, and it confirms your length and character of service. You’ll need to meet certain requirements, based on your branch of service, the dates you served, and the reasons for discharge.
Minimum Credit Score Requirements Set by the Lender
Like any mortgage, VA home loans require a minimum credit score. Unlike conventional loans, there is no mandated minimum credit score set by the VA. Instead, lenders set their own requirements. To increase your chances of being accepted by many lenders, you may want to aim for a credit score of 620 or more.
A Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio
Your DTI ratio is the percentage of your monthly income that goes toward paying off debts. This includes credit card bills, car loans, and any student loans. Your DTI ratio is key in determining whether lenders will approve your VA home loan application.
While there is no specific number required by the VA, many lenders prefer a DTI ratio of 41% or less.
Proof of Income and Employment History
When applying for a VA home loan, you’ll need to provide documentation that proves your income and that you’re a reliable employee.
Lenders will typically look at your employment history for at least the past two years. In addition, you will need to provide pay stubs, W-2 forms, tax returns, and bank statements.
Get Pre-Qualified for a VA Loan in Georgia
Pre-qualification is essentially a lender’s estimate of how much you can afford to borrow, and it’s based on your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, and other factors.
You don’t want to start house hunting blindly without knowing how much home you can afford. Pre-qualification gives you an idea of what you can and cannot afford. This information can save you time, disappointments, and unplanned expenses.
Besides giving you an estimate of your budget, pre-qualification also speeds up the loan process. Pre-qualification eliminates some steps in the loan approval process, which includes verifying your credit score, assets, and employment.
Since these details are already verified, the lender can focus on the underwriting process. This way, the underwriting process becomes faster, saving you a lot of time.
Pre-qualification also boosts your negotiating power. You can tell real estate agents that you are pre-qualified for a VA loan, which puts you in a better position to negotiate for lower home prices.
This leverage can save you thousands of dollars on your property purchase. A pre-qualified VA Loan borrower is more attractive to a seller than an unqualified buyer because they have proof that they can afford the property they want.
Steps You’ll Need to Take When Applying for a VA Loan in Georgia
Here are the steps you’ll take to get a VA loan in Georgia.
Select a VA-Approved Lender
The first step is to select a VA-approved lender. It’s essential to understand that not all lenders are VA-approved, and some have more experience in handling VA loans than others.
Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
The next step is to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This certificate verifies that you are indeed a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran who has served in the Armed Forces. There are three ways to obtain a COE: through your lender, through the VA, or via mail. Make sure to have all the necessary documents ready, including your DD-214, and submit your application as soon as possible.
Pre-Qualify for Your Loan Amount (Optional)
Pre-qualifying for your loan amount is optional. However, it’s a good idea to have it on hand if you want to know your estimated purchasing power before beginning your house hunt.
Go House Hunting and Sign a Purchase Agreement
After pre-qualifying, it’s time to start house hunting – the fun part! You may want to work with a real estate agent who understands the VA loan process. Once you have found your dream home, work with your real estate agent to sign a purchase agreement, which will be contingent upon the VA appraisal.
Lender Processes Application and Orders VA Appraisal
Once your purchase agreement is signed, your lender will begin processing your loan application. Part of this process is ordering a VA appraisal, which will determine the home’s current market value.
The VA appraisal is important because it ensures that the home is worth the purchase price and that it meets the VA’s minimum property requirements.
Close on Your Loan and Move In
The final step is to close on your loan and move in! During closing, you will have to sign all the necessary paperwork and pay any applicable closing costs. After closing, you will receive the keys to your new home, and the homeownership journey will officially begin.
Then all that’s left to do is celebrate and enjoy your new home!
Apply for a VA Loan in Georgia
Applying for a Georgia VA loan can be a long, complex process, but the good news is that, with the right information and the right people on your side, you can navigate the process and become a proud homeowner.
Consider giving the mortgage brokers at Andes Mortgage LLC a call today. We’d love to help you find the home of your dreams with a Georgia VA loan.
Good luck – and thank you for your service.
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