VA Loans

Definition

This is a home loan available to for active-duty military personnel and veterans, as well as their families. It is designed to make it easier for present and past servicemembers to purchase a home.

Quick Summary

VA loans are similar to FHA loans, but with a much narrower scope: By focusing on service members, they are able to offer unique benefits for mortgages. This includes the ability to buy a home with no down payment, refinance a home, find a lower interest rate, get a property tax reduction, and much more. Like FHA loans, these mortgages are available through a number of different lender options, so you don't have to worry about availability. Eligibility extends to reservists, surviving spouses, and National Guard members as well.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-Available for many home-related purposes. VA loans are structured to provide borrowers with different options. They can be used to buy a first home, or to refinance an older VA loan with as much as 120% of your equity – a great option for something like debt consolidation.

-One of the best deals around. The lower rates and fees, the ability to purchase without a down payment, and the ability to reuse this loan option combine to make this one of the more favorable loan choices for those who want to save and don't have a lot of available cash.

Cons

-Not always easy to plan out. Particularly for active-duty service members, these loans may be more difficult to coordinate. Sometimes it's better to wait for the right time to use this mortgage option.

-Zero down payment isn't always an advantage. This makes it easier to buy a home, but it may also increase the amount you need to borrow – which in turn increases the interest that you will have to pay.

What Else Should I Know?

There are several different categories of VA loans you should be aware of if you are shopping for loans. Streamline loans, for example, help you refinance an older loan. Adapted Housing Grants are made for veterans with disabilities, and help them find houses that have been adapted to their disability (or pay for such improvements to an existing house). Other loan options provide particular benefits for Native American veterans. In addition, states often have their own veteran programs that can help lower costs if you are buying a home. Look thoroughly at your options to save as much as possible.