As a member of the United States Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, or Navy, you valiantly and selflessly fought for your nation’s freedom. Your bravery made it possible for others to pursue their dreams — and now that you’ve returned home, it’s time for your nation to do all it can to repay you for your heroism!
Being an active or retired military service member comes with many benefits. One of the most notable perks is having having access to mortgages that make buying, building, or modifying a home of your own more achievable. No matter your location, your budget, or your unique needs (including disabilities related to your service), there are programs that will help you and your family put down roots and settle into your very own home sweet home.
Keep in mind that in addition to your veteran status, there are other requirements you’ll need to meet. Factors like your credit score, debt-to-income ratio (DTI), down payment amount, and home-purchase budget will come into play when you apply for these mortgages. The requirements are less restrictive than for civilians with most of these loans, but you may still need to save up for a down payment and take steps to improve your credit score. Don’t worry — even if you have bad credit or a tight budget, there are specialists whose mission it is to help our nation’s heroes navigate the process from start to finish.
Mortgage Assistance Programs for Veterans
While there is only one federal program dedicated specifically to helping military service members, there are a few additional government-backed options that make the home-buying process more accessible to active and former military service members.
VA Home Loans from the Veterans Administration
VA home loans from the United States Veterans Administration are the only mortgages exclusively available to military members. Lenders all over the country partner with the VA to offer these loans, which offer benefits that include:
- Lower interest rates than standard mortgages
- No down payment or private mortgage insurance (PMI) required
- Refinancing options for current homeowners
As part of their home-loan offerings, the VA also provides other helpful programs:
- Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans (IRRRLs), also known as Streamline Refinance Loans, can refinance vets’ current mortgages to lower their monthly payments and interest rates.
- Native American Direct Loans (NADLs) are available to veterans who are members of eligible Native American tribes purchase, build, improve, and refinance homes on Federal Trust Land.
- Adapted Housing Grants help veterans with service-related disabilities purchase or modify homes to accommodate their special needs.
Visit your local bank or credit union to find out if it offers VA home loans, or contact your local VA office to find a lender near you.
FHA Loans from the Federal Housing Administration
While FHA loans are available to Americans regardless of veteran status, they’re a popular option for vets. Benefits of this type of mortgage include:
- Lower credit score requirement (580 or higher) than most other mortgage loans
- Smaller down payment needed (as low as 3.5 percent of the home’s purchase price)
- Options for those purchasing manufactured housing, such as mobile homes
Your local financial services provider can help you obtain an FHA mortgage loan.
USDA Loans from the United States Department of Agriculture
USDA loans are also available to civilians, but they are especially beneficial to service members. Perks of these mortgages include:
- Waived down payment for qualified buyers
- Wide availability in rural areas
- Option to roll closing costs into loan
Your personal banker can help you apply for the USDA loan that works best for you.
Financial Services Companies for Veterans
In addition to federally-funded programs, there are financial institutions with branches all over the country that provide services exclusively to veteran and current servicemen and women. These financial services companies offer everything from banking to personal loans to mortgages, so they may be able to help you with all of your monetary goals:
- Air Force Federal Credit Union (AFFCU)
- Andrews Federal Credit Union
- Armed Forces Bank
- Navy Federal Credit Union
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed)
- Security Service Federal Credit Union
- Service Credit Union
- United Services Automobile Association (USAA)
Some of the largest banks in the world also have departments just for military members and their families:
- Military Banking by Bank of America
- Military Banking by Chase Bank
- Worldwide Military Banking by Wells Fargo
Other Assistance for Veterans
In addition to the programs above, there are many free sources of support that can help you budget for and purchase a home. If you’re just beginning your homeownership journey, working with any of these specialists is a great place to start:
- Your VA social worker – Veterans Health Administration (VHA) social workers are available to help you thrive in just about every area of your life, including housing. In addition to working with you to find the right budget and loan program, they can help you find funding to make any necessary home modifications.
- Your personal banker – Whether or not you work with one of the institutions listed above, personal banking services are usually free for bank members. Your banker can provide you guidance on mortgages you qualify for through the bank (which are usually provided at discounted rates to members), the price range of homes you should be looking for, how to save up for a down payment, and more. Don’t worry if you’ve never used personal banking services before and don’t have a point of contact. Simply call your local branch, and let them know you’d like to make an appointment to discuss your home-buying options and overall financial wellness with a specialist.
- Your financial advisor or financial planner – If you work with a financial planner, he or she can help direct you to mortgage lenders that may be right for you. This professional can also help you adjust your other investments in order to set aside the needed funds to purchase your dream home. (Note: these professionals are different from personal bankers. They usually charge fees that are based on the size and success of your stock, bond, and/or mutual fund investments, but they may also charge for consulting services. Be sure to check the terms of your agreement so you understand exactly what, if any, charges to expect when utilizing them to discuss your home lending options.)
You’ve served the United States with honor, and now it’s time for the country to help you reach your dreams outside of the armed forces. Whether you’re a veteran or an active military member, take advantage of the programs, lenders, and specialists available to help you purchase and settle into the home you’ve always dreamed of.