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Lesson 4.3

VA Loan Entitlement

Chris Birk | Author of "The Book on VA Loans"

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VA Loan Entitlement

Note: The video references a previous VA loan limit. The current limit for most U.S. counties is $453,100, and it's $679,650 for high-cost counties.

The idea of VA loan entitlement can be one of the most confusing aspects of this incredible benefit program.

The government provides a financial guaranty on every VA loan. The guaranty is a promise to repay the lender a portion of the loan – typically 25 percent – in the event a VA borrower defaults.

The guaranty is reflected in a dollar amount known as “entitlement.” Your amount of entitlement determines how much you could potentially borrow before having to factor in a down payment. And your Certificate of Eligibility details your entitlement picture.

There are two layers of entitlement, a basic and a bonus, or secondary, level:

  • The basic entitlement is $36,000.
  • For borrowers in most parts of the country, there’s an additional, second tier of $77,275.
  • Add those together and you get $113,275. That’s the maximum entitlement for VA buyers in all but the country’s most expensive housing markets.

Because the VA guarantees a quarter of the loan, a borrower with full entitlement can borrow up to $453,100 ($113,275 x 4) before having to factor in a down payment. But veterans purchasing in what the VA deems high-cost counties can tap into even more entitlement.

That allows qualified borrowers to purchase well above $453,100 without having to make a down payment. These VA loan limits can change annually.

It’s worth noting that VA loan limits don’t represent a cap on how much you can borrow. Veterans who can afford larger loans can seek what’s known as “jumbo” VA financing.

The VA loan limits just represent how high you can go before the need for a down payment, which must be at least 25 percent of the difference between your entitlement cap and the purchase price.

Here’s a better look at how VA loan entitlement works on the individual level.

Entitlement Example

Let’s say you purchase a home for $200,000 with no money down in a county with the standard VA loan limit of $453,100.

Given the VA’s guaranty, you’ve utilized one-quarter of your entitlement for this property, which comes out to $50,000 ($200,000 x 25 percent). In most places, that leaves you with $63,275 in remaining entitlement ($113,275 – 50,000).

That remaining entitlement is how qualified borrowers can look to have two or more VA loans at the same time. It’s also how VA buyers who lost a home to foreclosure can purchase again using the program.

Continuing our example, let’s say you get PCS orders a couple years after buying the $200,000 home.

Rather than sell the home, you decide to hold onto the property as a rental and buy again at your new duty station in a non-high-cost county (you’d have even more entitlement available if you were buying in a high-cost county).

With your remaining entitlement of $63,275, you could look at getting another VA loan to purchase up to $253,100 ($63,275 x 4) before needing to factor in a down payment.

Again, you could look to buy more house than that. But buying above that $253,100 cap would require a down payment of 25 percent of the difference.

For example, if you wanted to buy a $275,000 home, you’d be on the hook for a $5,475 down payment [($275,000 - 253,100) x 25 percent].

That could still wind up being a great deal compared to conventional and FHA financing, which typically require minimum 5 percent and 3.5 percent down payments, respectively. The $5,475 down payment in our example represents about 2 percent of the purchase price. And, unlike FHA and conventional buyers, VA buyers wouldn’t pay mortgage insurance fees on top of that.

Lifetime Benefit

One important thing to know is your Certificate of Eligibility will not clearly reflect your secondary layer of entitlement. That means you may be able to obtain another VA home loan even if your COE indicates $0 entitlement.

The bottom line is this: The VA loan program isn’t a one-time benefit. Once you earn this, it’s yours for life.

As long as they have sufficient VA loan entitlement available, veterans who use a VA loan can absolutely seek another, either to refinance their current mortgage or buy again. What many buyers and other stakeholders may not know is that it’s even possible to have more than one VA loan at the same time, or to reuse this benefit after losing a previous VA loan to default.

Talk with a Veterans United loan officer at 855-259-6455 to take a closer look at your entitlement situation and what might be possible.

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