Deciding you’re ready to start seriously considering a home purchase is a great feeling. But there’s almost always an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty, which only feels natural, right? For most people this is the single largest purchase they’ll ever make.
The time to start your VA loan is now. But one of the first questions people have is: How and where do I start?
I’ve written before about the chicken-or-egg problem of whether to talk first to a real estate agent or a lender. As I mention in there, I obviously have a dog in this fight, but I truly believe starting with a lender is the way to go. So then what?
Starting without the COE
A lot of veterans and active military will automatically consider their Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This is a formal VA document that explains what VA loan entitlement you have. The COE is available online through the VA’s benefits portal or by contacting a VA Regional Loan Center and taking care of the requisite paperwork.
But it’s important to know that you don’t need the COE to start the process. Lenders can usually obtain your Certificate of Eligibility for you, and many will prequalify and even preapprove you before they actually confirm the eligibility. This is in part because loan preapproval is a non-binding step that in no way guarantees you a mortgage.
So if you read or are told that you need to start the VA loan process by obtaining your Certificate of Eligibility, that’s not exactly the case. You certainly can make that your first step, but it doesn’t have to be.
Instead, many veterans will reach out to a VA-approved lender to obtain prequalification and preapproval, two important and vastly different stages of the process. With preapproval, prospective buyers will get a clear sense of how much they can afford and their likely purchasing power. Starting the homebuying process here helps ensure veterans know at the outset what kind of financial outlay and obligations most likely work for their budget and lifestyle.
It’s no fun to look at a bunch of $175,000 homes only to discover later your price ceiling tops off at $150,000.
Evaluate multiple lenders on everything from rates and costs to understanding and expertise when it comes to the VA home loan program. Bottom line is these are specialized loans that require specialized knowledge.
Most lenders will prequalify you online or over the phone in minutes. Our simple online form has three basic steps and will ask you to estimate your approximate loan amount and your credit score. You can also talk to a loan specialist at 855-524-7279.
Starting the process here is also important because it can save you time. A loan specialist can tell you within minutes whether you have good enough credit to prequalify for a loan. The sooner you know that, the sooner you can start working to repair it if necessary.
Veterans who contact us and fall short of that 620 credit benchmark can work with our Lighthouse Program, a unique wing of the company that works with veterans and active military for free to boost their scores and get on the path to prequalification.
To learn more about the overall process check out our VA Loan Comprehensive Guide.
Photo courtesy of Wesley Fryer