Q&A about VA Loans

Military Father and Son

VA loans are $0 down payment mortgage options available to veterans, service members and select military spouses. VA loans are issued by private lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Since its inception in 1944, more than 22 million VA loans have helped veterans, active duty military personnel and their families purchase homes or refinance mortgages.

How does a VA loan compare to a traditional/conventional home mortgage? Read on.

What is the down payment?

  • VA loans: 0% down.
  • Conventional loans: Up to 20% down.

Do I have to pay mortgage insurance?

  • VA loans: VA loans do have a form of mortgage insurance, the VA Funding Fee. It is usually 3.3% and financed into the loan up front. If the borrower separated from the military with a qualifying disability, the funding fee is waived to 0%.
  • Conventional loans: If buyers do put down less than a 20% down payment, they must pay for private mortgage insurance.

Are the interest rates for VA loans competitive?

  • VA loans: The VA backing gives lenders a greater degree of safety, which means the interest rates can be more competitive than non-VA loans.
  • Conventional loans: Without government backing, banks take on more risk with conventional loans, which can result in less-competitive interest rates.

How easy is it to qualify for a VA loan?

  • VA loans: Because the loan is backed by the government, banks assume less risk and have less stringent qualification standards for VA loans, making them easier to obtain.
  • Conventional loans: Conventional loans require stricter qualification procedures that can put homeownership out of reach for some homebuyers.

Can I do a cash out refinance? 

  • VA loans: Borrowers can do a cash out refinance up to 100% of their home’s value.
  • Conventional loans: Borrowers with conventional loans must leave some equity in their home when doing a cash out refinance.

What else should I know about VA loans? 

  • VA eligibility is re-usable. A lot of people think they are only eligible for a VA loan one  time, but they are able to get VA loans more than one time.
  • You can have more than one VA loan at a time. It’s a myth that you can only have one at a time.
  • VA loans are assumable.

 You or someone you know may be the perfect fit for a VA loan. Contact a loan officer today to learn more about VA loans and other types of home loans that may be a good fit for you.

Do you want more information about VA loans or grants? Find it here or call us today.  

 

Things You Should Do Immediately When You Move into a New Home

Shaking Hands

You have a new home. Here are some great tips for things to do when you first move in to start saving money. Once the boxes are unpacked, tackle these tasks next.

Check the insulation in your attic. You should have about six inches of insulation throughout the attic. If you need more, get more! Click here for a guide from the Department of Energy on proper attic insulation.

Make sure the vents in all rooms are clear of dust and obstructions. Covering vents with anything makes your heating and cooling system work harder. And a quick dusting will help you remove dust and dust bunnies to keep these cleaner. If you need to, have a professional come out and clean all of your duct work.

Mark cracks in the basement with masking tape. It’s not unusual for basements to settle and for the floor to crack. But if you do have a problem with settling and cracking, you’ll want to take care of that sooner rather than later. Cover up the ends of cracks with masking tape. In a few months, if the cracks have grown outside of the original tape, call a professional for some repair work before the problem grows.

Plant some shade trees near your home. Get a natural cooling system working for you. Plant some trees near your house to add shade. Lowering the external temperature of your home can save you from running the air conditioning hard and all the time, when the sun is shining in the summer heat. The sooner you plant them, the sooner they can grow and help cool your home.

If you have to buy new appliances, buy energy efficient. You’ll likely pay more up front for these, but you’ll save money in the end. For example, a refrigerator that uses little energy and lasts 20 years is much less costly over time.

Check your toilets and under-sink plumbing. You don’t want these pipes leaking or discover you have a toilet that is constantly running. A dripping pipe may seem harmless enough, but the cost adds up in water and you may end up creating a mold problem.

Create a home maintenance checklist and run through it for the first time. And then run through it every month. Include things you want to check monthly or quarterly. Check plumbing, vents, outlets, paint, windows, etc. And while you’re at it, include a checklist for changing batteries in smoke detectors, something you should do at least once a year.

These are just a handful of tips to save money. Want more?
Read 18 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money.

Your Attic May Be the Storage Solution You Are Looking For

 

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Your attic may be the solution to your storage problems. But not all attics are the same, so before you begin using the space above your house, make sure you do some careful planning. Here are some tips to get you started.

Assess your space. If you have never used your attic for storage before you’ll want to really take a good look at the space you have. How much room is usable? Is it structurally sound for storage? How much weight can it hold? Storing a few holiday decorations is very different from storing furniture. This may be a good time to contact a contractor for some professional advice.

Test the weight it can hold. Some attics have solid, structurally sound floors. Others may require some good reinforcement. If you are able to walk in your attic, do so carefully. The supports may not be as good as your regular floors. Try to walk where you know there are beams.

Check for needed repairs. This space is often forgotten by homeowners, but not by squirrels and mice. Check for signs of rodents, including rodent droppings. And check all electrical wiring. Rodents often chew wires so be extra cautious.

Buy plastic storage bins. Use plastic bins rather than boxes to keep rodents away. They also will provide better protection if your roof leaks.

Hang hooks and shelves. This should be an easy task because the walls are usually unfinished so you can see exactly where to hang these.

Check out the nooks and crannies. You can usually push storage crates into some unusual areas.

Plan carefully for what to store in an attic. This space can be a great hiding place for items you don’t use often. It’s not a good space for candles, photos, paintings or other items that can be damaged by fluctuating temperatures and changes in humidity. Although it may be tempting to store family heirlooms in the attic, you may want to consider places that have more consistent temperatures and humidity levels for preservation.

Whether you use your attic space for storage or not, make sure you check the space out periodically. You don’t want to be surprised by squirrels making their home or leaks you didn’t know about. A good once-over every few months will keep this space ready for you when you need it. 

Look No Further for the Perfect Gift for the New Home Owner

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Are you looking for the perfect gift for friends or family who have just purchased a first home or are moving to a new home? Welcome them to their new neighborhood with one of these gift suggestions for new home owners.

Welcome Mat: Help them welcome guests and give them a place to wipe their feet before coming inside with a new welcome mat. You can find these at any home goods store or have a special mat customized with their name or initials. In either case, you’ll be welcome to their home any time.

Tool Gift Basket or Toolbox: Who isn’t looking for the right sized screw or nail when the move into a new home? And who really remembers where they put the picture hooks? Help the new homeowner get started on some household chores with a hammer, screw driver set, nails, screws, picture hanging kits, painters tape and other odds and ends. And if you know it’s a person’s first home, a new toolbox with the basic tools is even better.

Video Doorbell: If your budget is a bit bigger, new homeowners may like an extra layer of home protection with a video doorbell. These gadgets often have several options with different add-ons and price points.

Home Repair Book: Of course YouTube is filled with how-to videos for home repairs. But how are you supposed to remember exactly what to do when you’re under the kitchen sink? A book of basic how-to fixes is perfect for the new home owner to make quick references.

A Day of Childcare: How much can parents get done in a home when their kids are being entertained by a friend? How about taking the kids out for a day of play at the zoo, museum or park, so Mom and Dad can use the day to the fullest.

Houseplants: A houseplant brightens any room and breathes a little life into a new space. Even if your gift recipient doesn’t have a green thumb, there are some plants that are easy-to-grow with little maintenance. If your homeowner has pets, make sure you pick out a plant that is safe if ingested.

Room Humidifier: A lot of homes don’t come with built-in humidifiers and in dryer climates and in the winter when the heat is running, it’s nice to have the option to pump in a little humidity.

Gift Certificates: A gift certificate to a home improvement store is always welcome by any home owner whether this is their first home or their fifth home. Gift certificates for a restaurant or grocery store make great gifts, too, as they look for a night of relaxation or start stocking the refrigerator.

No matter your budget, big or small, there’s always a little room for a housewarming gift. 

 

 

Your Offer Can Beat a Cash Offer!

couple in front of new house

The word on the street is that the sellers’ market is slowing down. But that doesn’t mean cash offers are a thing of the past. For a seller, cash offers may mean a faster closing, but they also may mean a lower offer and extra demands in the deal. Here are some ways you can still “win the deal,” even if you’re not paying cash.

1. Prove you are ready to buy: Get a Performance Guarantee with Universal Lending. Our Performance Guarantee is a conditional loan commitment that guarantees your earnest money up to $10,000. Essentially, you’re putting in an offer that has already gone through underwriting. Other homebuyers may offer a pre-approval letter, but a Performance Guarantee is even better.

2. If you don’t have a Performance Guarantee, get a pre-approval letter. Your pre-approval letter says that you are qualified to buy a home. Other buyers will have this letter, so if you don’t, you are at a disadvantage.

3. Choose a lender that can get deals done quickly. Universal Lending is known as a quick-closing lender and our loan officers would like to help your offer beat a cash offer.

4. Make a higher offer. Even if your buyers are eager to sell, more money may sweeten the deal. Cash buyers often offer less for the home, in exchange for the fast closing, but at the end of the day, they are still hoping to get as much money as they can. You may be surprised that you don’t have to offer thousands of dollars to beat the cash offer; a higher offer of just $1,000 may be enough of an incentive.

5. Offer a bigger down payment or more earnest money. The more you put down, the more serious you seem about your offer.

6. Make your best offer your first offer. Assume that there will be little or no negotiation on your offer and make your best offer right off the bat.

7. Learn what the seller’s terms are. A good real estate agent will find out what the seller is looking for. Does the seller need to stay in the home until they find a place to move? Are they looking to sell quickly and move out right away? Knowing this information ahead of time will help you make an offer that has a better chance of getting accepted.

8. Be flexible. Can you be accommodating on a closing date? Can you ask for fewer repairs? A little flexibility may go a long way.

9. Get another vote of confidence from your lender. An updated pre-approval letter is a great start. A phone call or video email from your loan officer is even better. One final push saying how strong of a buyer you are may be the key that helps you close the deal. A confident lender will instill confidence in the sellers.

When you’ve found your dream home, you want your dream home! Make sure you give it your best shot when you make your offer. Happy homeownership!

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part I

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Now is not the time to take a holiday from home safety, but a lot of us do when we light our trees and put spotlights on our homes. Here are some simple tips for keeping your home and yourself safe from burglars and others who want to take the ho ho ho out of your holidays. 

Make smart choices when you decorate. Don’t put expensive gifts in front of windows or doors where they can be seen from people outside. Gifts under a tree are begging for burglars to come on in and open the packages. Keep them hidden.

Don’t take shortcuts on locking up. ‘Tis the season to set the home alarm. Of course you want to be smart about locking doors and windows all year long, but don’t forget to this step when the holidays are in full swing.

Be anti-social on social media if you’re heading out of town. Don’t let would-be burglars know you’re going to be in Michigan for Christmas. Let them think you’re going to be at home. It’s never a good idea to post travel plans on Facebook.

Did you treat yourself to a new 70-inch, state-of-the-art television for Christmas? Take a little extra time when disposing of the boxes and packaging. Break up the box and bring pieces of it to the trash over time. If you toss a box to the curb, you are letting would-be burglars that you have a new toy that they might like.

Light up the outside and the inside of your home. Make it difficult for burglars to sneak around your windows and doors by shining a light on the outside and on the inside. A spotlight or motion sensor may be a smart investment.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

If you live in a place where snow is common, make sure you have someone on standby to shovel your driveway and walkway. A driveway with no tire tracks in it a day or two after it snows tells burglars that no one is home there.

Be smart and stay safe this holiday season and year ’round. Click here for more holiday home safety tips.  

Why Winter May Be the Right Time to Buy Your New Home

Daughter and Father near the Fireplace

It may be turning cold outside but fall and winter just may be the best time for you to get a hot deal on a new home. Don’t let the blues of shorter days keep you from house hunting in the fall winter. There are some good reasons that now may be the best time to buy your new home.

Fewer buyers are house hunting.
Most home buyers shop in the spring and summer, when homes pop up for sale like tulips. Because there are so many fewer buyers, winter home buyers are more likely to get a good deal on the house they want.

Lower prices.
With fewer buyers in the market, home sellers often lower prices to attract the buyers who are out there.

Sellers are motivated.
Motivated sellers may be a great thing for home buyers, as they are more willing to negotiate. When you find the house you are looking for, you may be able to negotiate on price, closing costs, repairs, and even items such as appliances or other items you want included in the sale.

Inspections may turn up more or different items in the different seasons.
You will have the opportunity to see the house at work in the winter. Gutters, windows, heating systems, etc. get put to test during the colder months. You may miss some of the curb appeal of the manicured lawn when shopping in the winter, but you’ll know if the plumbing is working at full capacity and able to handle extremes.

Don’t miss out on buying your dream home because it’s cold outside. Seize the opportunity to put the season to work for you.