3 Major Updates to the VA Home Loan Program & How It Affects You

Since the original version of the VA loan program was passed by Congress in 1944, the program has been helping veterans afford and purchase homes.

There also haven’t been very many changes made to the laws that define the VA loan. Major amendments have only been made a handful of times.

However, three significant updates to the VA loan program have already been passed, or are on their way to passing, in Congress. In general, these updates will have a positive impact on veteran borrowers, though some veterans might see costs rise temporarily.

Update #1 – Changes to the Funding Fee

There are technically two separate changes being made that will affect the funding fee:

  1. Removal of the funding fee for Purple Heart veterans
  2. Changes to the fee percentages for certain categories of veterans

Both changes are being made as part of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which was signed into law by President Trump on June 25, 2019. However, the law doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2020.

Fee Removal for Purple Heart Veterans

Purple heart medal resting on an American flagOnly veterans with a disability award used to be able to waive the funding fee.

Because it was a separate process, having a Purple Heart wasn’t a guarantee of disability status, which meant that many veterans still had to pay a funding fee of anywhere between 1% and 2.15% on their first VA loan.

However, thanks to the new law, Purple Heart veterans will automatically be able to waive the funding fee regardless of their disability status.

The exact percentage depended on the type of home being purchased and whether they were putting any money down

Changing Fee Percentages

The main purpose of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 is to award all Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange the disability benefits they were previously denied because of inconsistencies in legislation.

However, this increase in disability benefits costs money, which is why the 2019 act includes a section that will temporarily increase the funding fee for all veterans who served in one of the five main branches of the military, as well as those who were in the National Guard or reserves who are getting a subsequent VA loan with $0 down.

These temporary fee changes are shown below:

In addition to the increases, veterans who served in the National Guard or reserves will actually experience temporary fee decreases:

These changes are only in effect for two years, from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. On the first day of 2022, the increased percentages revert back to their prior amounts and will stay that way until 2029, when they drop all the way to 1.40%.

As for decreased percentages experienced by members of the National Guard or reserves, they won’t revert back to their prior amounts in 2022. Instead, they will drop again so that they match the percentages for all other servicemembers.

Part of the act’s intent is to eliminate the fee differences between full-time servicemembers and those who serve in the National Guard or Reserves. So when the fees drop again in 2029, the percentages between these two groups will continue to match.

How These Changes Will Affect You

Purple Heart veterans who will now be able to waive the funding fee on their loan could potentially save thousands of dollars in closing costs.

Here’s an example of what that might look like on the median sale price of homes in the US as of June 30, 2019:

Description: For our calculation, let’s say our Purple Heart veteran served in the regular military (not the Guard or Reserves). It’s their first time using their VA home loan benefit, and they’ve decided to purchase a single-family home without putting any money down.

Before the changes to the law, our Purple Heart veteran in this example would have had to pay or finance over $5,000 just for the funding fee. But with the new law, that’s over $5,000 they get to save!

As for the veterans who will experience increased funding fees, the cost of what they pay at closing will, of course, increase. Here’s an example of what those increases might look like for veterans who served in any of the five main branches of the military:

And as for veterans of the National Guard or reserves, here’s an example comparing what they would have paid for the funding fee before the law changed versus now:

Update #2 – Changes to VA Loan Limits

The VA Guaranty
All VA loans are backed by the VA, which means that if you default, they will repay your lender a portion of the original loan amount. In simple terms, your lender is guaranteed to recoup at least part of the loan.

Another area of the VA loan program that was affected by the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 is the VA loan limit for each county.

Prior to this change, the VA would only guarantee loans that matched the “conforming loan limit” set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These limits have always been based on the average price of a home in each area.

So, if a veteran wanted to buy a home that exceeded their area’s conforming loan limit, the VA would only guarantee 25% of the limit. The veteran would then be required to make a down payment equal to 25% of the difference.

Here’s an example:
A veteran wants to buy a $900,000 home in Washington, DC, where the 2019 VA loan limit was set to $726,525.

However, because of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which goes into effect on January 1, 2020, the VA loan guaranty will no longer be linked to the conforming loan limits set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This example calculation was a two-step process:

  1. $900,000 – $726,525
  2. $173,475 x 0.25

How This Change Affects Veterans

Essentially, this change eliminates VA jumbo loans, effective January 1, 2020. Now all VA loans, regardless of the size or how it relates to the average cost of a home, will receive the full 25% guarantee from the VA.

Going back to our example, here’s what it will look like under the new law:

This change will allow veterans to have more versatility in choosing the home they want to buy, especially in high-cost areas. It also saves veterans a ton of money when they choose a more expensive home—over $43,000 in closing costs in our example.

It also means that every VA loan is truly a $0 down loan, which is one of the biggest benefits of the VA home loan program and part of what differentiates it from almost every other type of mortgage.

However, there may also be some negative consequences.

One of the hallmarks of the VA loan program is its exceptionally low default rate. In the second quarter of 2019, the delinquency rate for a VA loan was only 4.24%, according to the most recent National Delinquency Survey (as of this publishing) by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

Compared to the 9.22% delinquency rate for FHA loans, it’s easy to see how much more stable the VA loan program has been for veterans.

Part of the reason the VA default rate is so low may be the fact that veterans have typically been prevented from buying homes they can’t afford, thanks to the loan limits. With this barrier removed, it is possible that the delinquency rate may rise for VA loans.

It’s still important to note, however, that this is all just speculation. There is no way to tell for sure if the VA delinquency rate will rise. It may continue to remain low as veterans make responsible choices about the type of home they can realistically afford.

Update #3 – Allowable Income for Veterans in the Marijuana Industry

The only change that hasn’t fully passed into law, there is currently a bill making its way through Congress that would allow veterans working in the cannabis industry to count that money as income.

As of right now, there is a ban on allowing veterans to count any income they earn working in the cannabis industry, even if they live in a state where it’s legal. For many veterans, this means they don’t have the income needed to qualify for a loan, VA or otherwise.

The proposed bill has currently been approved by the US House of Representatives, but it has yet to go before the Senate.

How This Change Would Affect Veterans

As more states legalize marijuana, more and more veterans are choosing to legally work in the industry. However, these veterans cannot include this income when they apply for a VA home loan.

If their job in the marijuana industry is their primary source of income, not being allowed to report it on their application increases the likelihood they will get denied for a loan, despite the fact that they’ve earned this benefit through their service.

However, if this law passes the Senate and is signed by the president, the VA home loan benefit would open back up for these veterans—along with all of the program’s incomparable perks, such as a $0 down payment and a lower interest rate.

VA Homes Loans for Even More Veterans

Our veterans have sacrificed so much. The VA home loan program is just one small way to try and thank them for all they’ve given.

That’s why we’re excited for these upcoming changes, both confirmed and potential.

In general, they will expand the benefits of the VA loan program to an even greater number of servicemembers, including Purple Heart veterans, Vietnam veterans, those living in high-cost areas, and those legally working in the marijuana industry.

If you’re interested in learning about your qualifications for a VA home loan or you’d like to take advantage of all the benefits of one, you can give one of our expert loan officers a call at (866) 569-8272. You won’t be obligated to get a loan from us. We’re simply happy to answer your questions.

We’d also love to know what you think about these changes. Are there any you’re most excited about? Are there any that concern you? Let us know by dropping a comment!

Your Comprehensive Guide to Veteran Property Tax Exemptions by State

When you own a home, one of the additional expenses you have to budget for each year are your property taxes. This is often a multi-thousand dollar payment, depending on the tax rate for your county and the assessed value of your home.

Your home’s assessed value is determined by a tax assessor and is often different than the appraised and/or market value of your home.

In fact, it’s often lower than both of these numbers, which is good news because that means you pay less in property taxes. (And don’t worry—it won’t affect how much your home is worth if you want to sell it.)

How Are Property Taxes Determined?

The assessed value of your home is usually reviewed and updated every year. After this value is determined, your local property tax rate is applied in order to calculate your property taxes.

Most often, property tax rates are determined redby county. For example, in Utah, the tax rate for Utah County is 0.615%, while in Salt Lake County it’s 0.750%.

How Is My Property Tax Exemption Calculated?

Most commonly, property tax exemptions are applied by reducing your home’s assessed value. Not every state does it this way, but it is the most common way you’ll see property taxes exempted.

So how does it work?

Let’s say you live in a state that offers a $5,000 property tax exemption off of your home’s assessed value. This doesn’t mean you’ll save $5,000 on your home property taxes. Instead, it works by reducing your home’s assessed value by $5,000 before applying your local tax rate.

Here’s an example:

Your home’s assessed value is $125,000, and you live in Jefferson County, AL, where the tax rate is 0.65%.

If you qualify for the exemption, instead of paying $806.25 in property taxes [$125,000 x 0.0065], you’ll pay $774 [($125,000 – $5,000 exemption) x 0.0065].

Exemptions to Property Taxes

Despite the fact that county governments are typically in charge of assessing and collecting property taxes, state law still typically governs them, which is why many states include exemptions in their legal codes.

While these exemptions can vary from state to state, nearly all of them have some kind of exemption for veterans who own a home. Click your state below to learn more about the veteran property tax exemption(s) that you may qualify for:

If you live in Delaware, there is not currently a property tax exemption for veterans or members of the military.

Alabama Veteran Property Tax Exemptions

Alabama has one veteran-specific property tax exemptions that you could potentially qualify for. This exemption allows you to be 100% exempt from all property taxes.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the 100% exemption, you must:

  • Qualify to receive a specially adapted housing (SAH) grant from the federal government
  • Own and occupy the home

If a qualified veteran has passed away, their widow or widower may still qualify, as long as they have not remarried and are still living in the qualified home.

How to Apply

To apply for this exemption, you will need to visit your county’s Revenue/Reappraisal Office. They’ll be able to answer any questions you have, inform you of deadlines, and walk you through the entire application process.

Other Property Tax Exemptions

If you don’t meet the SAH grant qualification, you could still potentially qualify for Alabama’s Homestead Exemption, which provides:

  • A 100% exemption of state property taxes
  • A $5,000 reduction of your home’s assessed value for county property taxes

While this exemption is not exclusive to veterans, you can still qualify if you are an Alabama resident who meets all of the required conditions in one of the following columns:

AGE EXEMPTION DISABILITY EXEMPTION BLINDNESS EXEMPTION
  • 65+ years old
  • Make < $12,000/year
  • Permanently & totally disabled
  • Must be retired
  • Can be any age

If you have questions about this homestead exemption, you can contact the Alabama Department of Revenue’s Property Tax Department by calling (334) 242-1525.

Alaska Veteran Property Tax Exemption

If you live in Alaska, there is a disabled veterans property tax exemption [AS 29.45.030(e)] that frees you from paying property taxes on the first $150,000 of your home’s assessed value.

The law also allows for a refund of your property taxes if you are granted the exemption after already making the payment.

How to Qualify

This exemption is available for servicemembers with a disability that has been rated 50% or more by the VA. In addition, you must also:

  • Be disabled because of your service
  • Own the home
  • Live in the home as your primary residence for at least 185 days each year

If the veteran passes away, the exemption can still be used by their surviving spouse, as long as they are at least 60 years old.

How to Apply

Because property taxes and exemptions are administered by the municipal government and not the state government, you must contact the assessor’s office for your borough in order to apply.

Each borough is allowed to set its own deadline and procedures for the application. This includes determining what supporting documentation is necessary to prove your VA disability rating and whether you will need to reapply every year.

Arizona

Arizona does not have a veteran-specific property tax exemption. However, you could still qualify for the state’s property tax exemption for widows, widowers, and those who are disabled.

The base amount for this exemption is set at $3,000. However, the law allows for this amount to be adjusted annually by each county based on the GDP price deflator.”

Because each county can adjust the exemption amount separately from all other counties, the total exemption amount each year can vary depending on which county you live in.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the exemption, you must:

  • Be totally and permanently disabled
  • Live in a home with an assessed value at or below the annually adjusted amount
  • Meet the annually adjusted income requirements

The income limitations vary based on a variety of factors, including whether or not you have a child living with you who is either totally and permanently disabled or under 18. Additionally, your VA disability pensions should not be counted as part of your income for the purposes of these limitations.

In addition, the exact amount of the annually adjusted limitations for your property’s assessed value and income is calculated separately by each county. The best way to find out the current amounts in your area is to contact your county assessor, as will be explained in the next section.

How to Apply

Because property taxes in Arizona are handled on a county-by-county basis, you will need to contact your county assessor using the links below:

They’ll be able to tell you the deadlines, forms, and any supporting documentation you will need for your application. If you have any questions about your income or other qualifications, they will also be able to help you through that part of the process.

Arkansas

In Arkansas, the disabled veterans property tax exemption relieves qualified veterans of ALL state property taxes.

How to Qualify

A veteran can qualify for the exemption as long as they receive monthly payments from the VA for one of the following disabilities:

  • Total blindness in one or both eyes
  • Missing or paralyzed limb(s)
  • 100% permanent service-related disability

Dependent children and unremarried surviving spouses can continue to receive the exemption after the veteran dies. They can also qualify if the veteran is missing in action or died while serving.

How to Apply

To claim your exemption, you will need to submit a letter from the VA that verifies your eligibility to your county’s collector. Surviving spouses and dependent children will also need to supply a similar letter. For more details, you can contact your county collector.

California

In California, property tax relief for disabled veterans is available through the Disabled Veterans’ Exemption. How much you qualify for depends on total household income; for the “basic” exemption, there is no maximum limit, while for the “low income” exemption, you must earn $62,614 or less:

LOW INCOME EXEMPTION
$209,156
BASIC EXEMPTION
$139,437

While California law sets the income limit at $40,000, it also allows for it to be adjusted each year to account for inflation. The same is true of the actual exemption amounts.

Disabled Veteran Criteria
  • Blind in both eyes
  • Loss of use of at least 2 limbs
  • 100% VA-rated disability that is service-connected

How to Qualify

In order to be eligible for the exemption, you must:

  • Qualify under one of the disabled veteran criteria
  • Own and live in the home as your principal residence (with exceptions made for veterans staying in a hospital or care facility)
  • Not have a dishonorable discharge
  • Meet the service requirements in §205.5(b)(1)(A)

How to Apply

As soon as you are eligible, you can file your claim for the exemption. The deadline to submit your initial filing is either January 1 of the following year or 90 days after becoming eligible, whichever gives you the most time.

If you qualify for the basic exemption, you will only need to apply once by contacting your county assessor for a copy of the Claim for Disabled Veterans’ Property Tax Exemption (BOE-261-G) form.

If you qualify for the low income exemption, you will need to apply again every year using the same form and process as the basic exemption. The deadline for the annual filing is January 1–February 15.

Late filings are accepted for both initial and annual filings; however, you will not be granted the full exemption if you miss a deadline. Depending on your filing date, you will receive either an 85% or a 90% exemption.

Colorado

Disabled veterans in Colorado can receive a 50% exemption on the first $200,000 of their home’s assessed value.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for this exemption, you must:

  • Have a 100% disability rating from the VA
  • Be discharged from service under honorable conditions
  • Own & live in the home as your primary residence

Veterans of the Colorado National Guard can also qualify, as long as they have been ordered into active duty by the federal government.

In addition, if a qualified disabled veteran passes away, their surviving spouse can continue to receive the exemption.

How to Apply

If you’re a veteran applying for the exemption, you must fill out the Property Tax Exemption Application for Qualifying Disabled Veterans form. If you need help filling out the application, there are instructions available online.

Once you finish filling out your application form, you will also need to gather a copy of your VA award letter as proof of your 100% disability rating. Both the application form and your award letter must be submitted to your county treasurer by the July 1 deadline.

If you’re applying as a surviving spouse, you will need to complete the Property Tax Exemption Application for Surviving Spouse of a Qualifying Disabled Veteran. Instructions for filling out this form are included at the top.

Because the exemption does not renew automatically, so you will need to reapply for it each year.

Additional Property Tax Relief for Active Military

Active duty servicemembers can also receive property tax relief by deferring their property tax payments to a future date. If you qualify, the State Treasurer’s office will pay your taxes for you and create a loan you can pay back later.

You can keep deferring your property tax payments for as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements or until the deferred amount reaches the assessed market value of your home.

The qualifications for the deferral include:

  • Not earning income from the home
  • Being up-to-date on all previous property tax payments
  • Being active duty on January 1 of the year you’re filing the claim for
  • Owning and living in the home as your primary residence

The deadline to apply for the deferral is April 1. You will need to contact your county treasurer for the application form and process.

If you do not currently own and live in the home, you may still qualify if you are currently in the process of purchasing it.

Connecticut

Wartime veterans in Connecticut can qualify for at least a $1,000 property tax exemption under CGS §12-81(19).

In addition, Connecticut also offers supplementary exemptions based on income and disability that can add on to and increase this exemption amount.

How to Qualify

To qualify for the basic $1,000 exemption, you must:

  • Have an honorable discharged from the military
  • Have served for at least 90 days during an approved wartime period
  • Be a Connecticut resident

If you do not have an honorable discharge because you are still actively serving in the military, you can still qualify for the exemption as long as you meet the other conditions.

How to Apply

To apply for the basic exemption, you must contact the tax assessor’s office for your municipality.

They will have the forms you’ll need to fill out and can help you make sure an original copy of your DD-214 form is properly filed with your town’s land records. They will also be able to answer any questions you may have.

The best way to find this office’s contact information is to visit your town’s website. Under the “Departments” menu option, you should find “Assessor,” which should provide the information you need. You can also Google your town’s name + the word “assessor” if you are struggling to navigate through your town’s website.

You must reapply every two years. The deadline to file your application is always October 1 of the year you apply or reapply, and you can start your application as early as February 1.

Additional Exemptions for Veterans

As mentioned earlier, Connecticut also offers exemptions that can add on the basic exemption amount. These supplementary exemptions are based on your income level and/or disability rating.

The income-based exemptions fall into one of two categories:

Regular Income

(See CGS §12-81g(d))

Low Income

(See CGS §12-81g(a))

Additional Exemption Amount + $500 + $2,000
Total Exemption Amount $1,500 $3,000

In order to qualify for the low income exemption in 2019, a your 2018 income must not have exceeded $36,000 if you are unmarried or $43,900 for if you are married and have a joint income filing.

There are also two disability exemptions allowed by CGS §12-81(21) for veterans with severe service-connected disabilities that resulted in paralysis or amputation. Which one you receive will depend on the extent of your injuries:

Lost the Use of
One Limb
$5,000
Lost the Use of Two or More Limbs
$10,000

Finally, if you are disabled and meet the low income qualifications you can receive an additional exemption amount of either “twice the amount of the exemption” if you are below the income limit or “one-half the amount of the exemption” if you are above it.

You will apply for the supplemental exemptions at the same time you apply for the basic exemption.

You can also qualify if you meet Connecticut’s legal definition of total blindness.
The citations for these portions of the law are CGS § 12-81g(a) and CGS § 12-81g(d), respectively.

Florida

There are three main exemption categories for disabled veterans living in Florida:

$5,000

reduction of assessed value

100%

exempt from taxation

Variable

depending on disability rating

A separate section of Florida’s legal code, §196.101, also allows for a 100% property tax exemption for veterans who meet specific conditions; these conditions will be covered in the following section.

The discount is determined by your VA disability rating. So, if you have a 90% disability rating, you will receive an exemption equal to 90% of your property taxes.

How to Qualify

All three main exemptions require that the veteran:

  • Has a service- or combat-connected disability
  • Has an honorable discharge from service
  • Is a Florida resident
  • Owns and occupies the home

However, each exemption also has its own unique eligibility requirements:

Partially Disabled Veterans
  • Have at least a 10% disability caused by wartime service
Totally Disabled Veterans
  • Have a disability rated “total and permanent” by the VA
Elderly Disabled Veterans
  • Be 65+ years old
  • Have a permanent disability that’s been rated by the VA

Finally, even if you don’t have a “total and permanent” disability rating from the VA, you can still qualify for a 100% exemption of your property taxes under §196.101 if you:

  • Are quadriplegic, paraplegic, hemiplegic, legally blind, or need a wheelchair to get around
  • Fall under the maximum income limitation adjusted for that year

For this 100% exemption, there is no requirement that the disability be service-connected.

If the veteran passes away, their unremarried surviving spouse is still qualified to receive the exemption.

How to Apply

All four exemptions use the same application form: the Original Application for Homestead and Related Exemptions (DR-501). The deadline for these exemptions is March 1.

Once you fill out this form, you will need to bring it, in person, to your local county assessor’s office, along with the required supporting documentation.

No matter which exemption you’re applying for, you will need to provide all of the documents listed in the first box below. Two of the exemptions also require extra documents in addition to this basic list; these are provided below in the second and third boxes.

Supporting Documentation for All Exemptions
  • A certificate of disability or a letter from the VA stating your disability % and gives evidence that it is combat-related
  • A copy of your DD-214 form showing your honorable discharge
Add. Supporting Documents for Elderly Disabled Veteran Exemption
Add. Supporting Documents for §196.101 Exemption
  • Disability certification from two licensed VA or Florida doctors
  • A sworn statement of annual gross income
  • Copies of the past year’s federal income tax returns
  • Copies of the past year’s W2 forms

The exact wording for this certification is available at the end of §196.101
A copy of these documents must be submitted for each member of the household

If you’re unable to file your exemption in person, a family member or legal representative is allowed to file on your behalf.

Additionally, if you have questions about any of these exemptions, including the application process, documentation requirements, getting a refund for missed exemptions, and whether or not you will need to reapply each year, your county assessor’s office can help.

Additional Military Property Tax Exemption

In addition to the exemptions available to veterans, Florida also provides active duty servicemembers with a special benefit that can offer property tax relief when they’re away from home.

The deployed servicemembers exemption is for servicemembers stationed outside of the continental US. The exemption amount is related to the percentage of time deployed during the year. Basically, if a servicemember was deployed for half the year, they’d receive an exemption equal to 50% of their property taxes.

In order to qualify for the exemption, you must be deployed outside of the US as part of an approved military operation. The deadline is March 1 of the year following your deployment.

To apply, you will need to fill out the Deployed Military Exemption Application (DR-501M) form. You should also attach any documents that prove your deployment was qualified, as well as the dates you were deployed.

Georgia

Disabled veterans in Georgia can qualify for a property tax exemption. The exact amount changes year to year, based on inflation, but the amount for 2019 is $85,645.

How to Qualify

In order to be eligible to receive Georgia’s disabled veterans exemption, you must:

  • Be a resident of Georgia
  • Own and occupy your home
  • Have an honorable discharge from service
  • Have a qualified disability

Georgia’s legal code outlines what constitutes a qualified disability, and you only need to meet one of the requirements. They include:

  • A disability rated at 100% by the VA
  • A disability that receives 100% VA compensation because of individual unemployability
  • A disability that is eligible for an award from the VA because it includes the loss of use of one or more of the following: hand, foot, or eye (including permanent vision impairment)

If you’re qualified and you pass away, your surviving spouse and minor children can also receive the exemption. However, they must continue living at the property (or at a property in the same county). In addition, your spouse will only remain eligible as long as they do not remarry.

How to Apply

The deadline for the application is usually April 1. If you apply after this date, you won’t receive the exemption until the next year.

Before you apply, you must first obtain a letter confirming your eligibility. To do this, visit your local GDVS Veterans Field Service Office with the following documentation:

  • Proof of qualifying service
  • VA disability rating letter
  • Proof of state residency

After you receive your eligibility letter from a GDVS service officer, you’ll need to take it to your county tax commissioner’s office. They can help you fill out and file an application form.

You’ll only need to apply once; once you qualify for the exemption, it will be applied automatically every year.

If you qualified for the exemption in past years but didn’t know it, you can apply for a refund of your property taxes for up to three years in the past. This refund is equal to the exemption, and you must apply for it within three years of your property tax payment.

Hawaii

Hawaii doesn’t have a state-level property tax exemption for veterans because property taxes are only levied at the county level and not at the state level. However, each county has some version of a property tax exemption for disabled veterans:

Hawai’i County
(See County Code Ch. 19, Section 19-73)
Honolulu County
(See County Code 8-10.6)
Maui County
(See County Code 3.48.475)
Kaua’i County
(See County Code 5A-11.6)
Only pay minimum tax
Only pay special assessments
Only pay $150
Only pay $100 minimum tax

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the exemption in your county, you must:

  • Be totally disabled because of your military service
  • Own a home occupied by either you or your spouse
  • Not sublet more than one room to a tenant

If the veteran died from service-related causes, the spouse can continue to receive the exemption as long as they don’t remarry.

How to Apply

Each county has its own form that can be downloaded online:

If you have any questions, you can contact the department using the information on your county’s form.

Additional Military Property Tax Exemptions

Maui County also has a full property tax exemption available to active-duty servicemembers who get deployed to a combat zone or hazardous duty area for any part of a tax year. You can apply for this exemption by filling out and submitting the Claim for Deployed Active-Duty Military Exemption form.

Idaho

Veterans in Idaho can qualify for a partial property tax reduction that can range anywhere from $150 to $1,320, depending on their income level. The different income brackets for 2019 are available online.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify, you must meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • A disability rating of at least 10% for a service-connected disability
  • A non-service-connected disability that qualifies you for a pension from the VA
  • Status as a former POW

In addition, veterans with a service-connected disability rated at 100% can receive an additional property tax exemption that does not have any income limitations.

How to Apply

You must apply for your property tax deduction every year by April 15th.

To apply, you must contact your county assessor for an application packet. You’ll need to include documents that show proof of your:

  • Income
  • Medical expenses
  • VA-rated disability

However, if you have any questions about the application or any of the additional documentation, your county assessor’s office will be able to help. There is also more general information available online from the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Illinois

The main property tax exemption in Illinois is available to disabled veterans. Depending on your disability rating, you could receive as much as a 100% exemption of your property taxes.

There are also other exemptions available to veterans living in specially adapted housing and mobile homes. Even active duty servicemembers may qualify to receive a special exemption.

How to Qualify

The requirements for the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption are outlined in 35 ILCS 200/15-169. They include:

  • Having a service-connected disability rating of at least 30%
  • Receiving an honorable discharge from active duty in the Armed Forces, service in a reserve component, or service in the Illinois National Guard
  • Owning the home and living in it as your primary residence
  • The home having an equalized assessed property value (EAV) of less than $250,000

This exemption works by reducing the amount of your home’s EAV. The amount you qualify for depends on your disability rating and is separated into three tiers:

30% Disability Rating
50% Disability Rating
70% Disability Rating
$2,500
exemption
$5,000
exemption
100%
exemption

Because each exemption amount is organized into tiers, the disability rating listed is the minimum amount. Each tier includes all other disability ratings up to the minimum rating for the next tier.

What Is EAV?

Illinois law requires that assessments for property taxes be equalized to a median level in order to make property taxes fairer across different housing markets throughout the state.

To calculate EAV, your home is multiplied by 33.33% to reach the assessed value (10% in Cook County). Then the assessed value is multiplied by the state-assigned equalization factor for your county or township.

For the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption, the amount you qualify for isn’t subtracted until after your home’s EAV is calculated.

Then, once it is subtracted, the adjusted taxable value is multiplied by your county’s property tax rate. The result of this calculation is what you will owe for your property taxes.

The requirements for the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Exemption are covered in 35 ILCS 200/15-165 of the Illinois legal code, and they include:

  • Having received a specially adapted housing (SAH) grant from the federal government under 38 U.S.C. 2102
  • A veteran (or their surviving spouse) owning and living in the home as their primary residence

Because this exemption works by reducing your home’s assessed value by up to $100,000, you can be fully exempt from property taxes if your home is assessed at $100,000 or less.

The requirements for the Veterans Tax Exemption for Mobile Homes are provided by 35 ILCS 515/7.5. To be eligible, a veteran must:

  • Be disabled
  • Own and use the home as their primary residence
  • Have received a specially adapted housing grant for a prior home
  • Be a permanent resident of Illinois

All three of these exemptions can be extended to the surviving spouse after the veterans death as long as they don’t remarry.

However, to continue the SAH and Mobile Home exemptions, the surviving spouse must continue to own and live in the home. For the Disabled Veterans exemption, they may transfer it to another property.

How to Apply

To apply for the Disabled Veterans’ Standard Homestead Exemption, you will need to contact your county assessor. The application deadline varies from county to county, so you will need to contact your assessor to determine when your application is due and what documentation you will need to supply.

To apply for the Specially Adapted Housing or Mobile Home exemptions, you will need to contact the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs about your eligibility certification. Once this is established, they will forward the certification to your local assessing officials.

If you receive any of these three exemptions, you must reapply for it every year following the same procedures. Also, please note that if you qualify for both the SAH and standard homestead exemptions, you can only receive one of them.

Additional Military Property Tax Exemptions

In addition to the exemptions available for veterans who have separated from service, combat veterans who are still members of the Armed Forces can also receive a property tax exemption for the year they return from active duty service in an armed conflict.

This Returning Veterans’ Homestead Exemption provides a $5,000 reduction of their home’s EAV and can be added on top of any other exemption they qualify for.

In addition to the armed conflict requirement, a veteran is only eligible for this benefit if they:

  • Own and occupy the home as their primary residence
  • Are liable for real estate property taxes on their home
  • Served with a branch of the Armed Forces, Reserves, or Illinois National Guard

To apply for this exemption, you will need to contact your county assessor for details about your county’s specific application deadline, as well as any documentation needed.

Indiana

There are two main property tax deductions that disabled veterans can qualify for in Indiana. Both deductions work by reducing the assessed value of your home by the amount(s) below:

BASIC DISABLED VETERANS DEDUCTION

ADDITIONAL DISABLED VETERANS DEDUCTION
$24,960

$14,000

The additional exemption is only for homes with an assessed value of $175,000 or below

Veterans who qualify for the additional deduction should already qualify for the basic deduction, which means they can receive a total property tax deduction of $38,960.

Finally, in addition to these two main property tax deductions, a third deduction is also available for a very specific demographic of veterans. It is only available to those who were gifted their home by a nonprofit organization. The amount of the deduction depends on the veteran’s disability rating:

Disability Percentage
Deduction Amount
100%
100% of assessed value
90%
90% of assessed value
80%
80% of assessed value
70%
70% of assessed value
60%
60% of assessed value
50%
50% of assessed value

How to Qualify

The qualifications for each deduction include having a service-connected disability, being the owner of the home (or under contract to own it), and receiving an honorable discharge from military service. In addition, each deduction also has its own unique qualifications:

Basic $24,960 Deduction
Additional $14,000 Deduction
Gifted Home Deduction
Served during an approved wartime period
Be 10% or more disabled

Served for at least 90 days
Be totally disabled or at least 62 years old with a 10% or greater disability

Served for at least 90 days
Be 50% or more disabled
Received the home for free from a tax-exempt nonprofit

Surviving spouses may also qualify for the basic and/or additional deduction if their veteran spouse was eligible to receive it at their time of death. However, in order to do so, they must own the home or be under contract to buy.

They may also receive the additional $14,000 deduction, even if their veteran spouse didn’t qualify for it, but only if the veteran was killed in action, died while on active duty, or died during training.

How to Apply

The deadline to apply for any of the veteran property tax deductions is December 31st.

In order to apply, you will need to contact your county auditor for the proper application form(s). Once you have the form filled out, you will need to turn it back in to your auditor, along with one of the following documentation options as proof of your eligibility:

  • A pension certificate
  • A compensation award letter from the federal VA
  • A disability compensation check issued by the federal VA

You can also apply for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Indiana VA; once you have the certificate back from them, it can serve as your proof of eligibility documentation.

If you have any questions, including about whether or not you will need to refile each year, your county auditor will be able to help you.

Iowa

There are two different property tax benefits available to veterans in Iowa:

DISABLED VETERAN HOMESTEAD TAX CREDIT

IOWA MILITARY EXEMPTION
100%
exemption of tax levied on the home

$1,852
maximum exemption of taxable value

How to Qualify

The full homestead exemption is only available to veterans who own their home. You must also have an honorable discharge from any branch of the Armed Forces, which can include the National Guard of any state, as long as you meet all other conditions defined by Iowa’s legal code.

In addition, you must also qualify under one of the following requirements:

  • You have a 100% rating from the VA for either a service-connected disability or individual unemployability
  • You have received specially adapted housing assistance from the federal government

The surviving spouse or child of a veteran can also qualify for this exemption if they receive Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA.

To qualify for the Iowa Military Exemption, you must:

  • Have an honorable discharge
  • Have served for at least 18 months
  • Be a resident of Iowa

You can still qualify for the exemption if you served for less than 18 months because of a service-related injury.

In addition, the unremarried surviving spouse, dependent parent, or minor child(ren) can also qualify for the exemption if the veteran passes away.

How to Apply

The deadline for both exemptions is July 1. You only need to apply once; after being approved, the credit should renew each year automatically. However, you may occasionally be asked to provide documents that show you are still qualified.

The local assessor for your county administers both exemptions. However, the process and required documentation for each exemption is slightly different.

If you’re applying for the Disabled Homestead Credit, you will need to fill out the Application for Disabled Veteran Homestead Tax Credit form. Once it’s filled out, you will need to submit it to your county assessor before the deadline, along with the following documentation dated within the last 12 months:

  • A copy of your DD-214 form
  • Your benefits summary letter detailing your disability or unemployability rating (if applicable)
  • Documentation of specially adapted housing assistance (if applicable)
  • Documentation of DIC payments (if applying as the surviving spouse or child)

If you’re applying for the Iowa Military Exemption, you will need to fill out the Application for Military Exemption form. You should also submit a copy of your DD-214 form with this application.

If you have any questions, you can call your county assessor. There is also an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions specifically about the Disabled Veteran Homestead Credit that you can check out on the Iowa Department of Revenue’s website.

Kansas

Disabled veterans (and their surviving spouses who have not remarried) can receive a refund of their property taxes up to $700 through the state’s Homestead Act.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for Kansas’s property tax refund, you must be a resident of Kansas and meet the following requirements:

  • Have an honorable discharge
  • Have received a 50% (or greater) disability rating from the VA
  • Have a Veterans Disability Determination letter from the VA
  • Have been disabled for the entire year you are requesting the refund for
  • Have a total household income below $35,000 in the year you’re applying for the credit

You will also need to have owned and occupied your home for the entire year you are claiming the refund for.

How to Apply

You can apply for a Homestead claim between January 1 and April 15 every year. To apply, you can either fill out and mail in the Kansas Homestead Claim form (K-40H), or you can submit your claim electronically using the Department of Revenue’s Homestead Claim portal.

Regardless of the method you use, you will also need to include any required documentation, including one of the following:

  • A letter from the VA that provides your disability date and percentage
  • An original Veterans Disability Statement
  • The Schedule DIS form completed by your physician

It is also recommended that you include the following documentation with your claim:

  • An original social security card or official government document that contains your full SSN
  • A copy of your photo ID
  • A copy of your real estate tax assessment statement from your county treasurer
  • A copy of your federal and/or state income tax returns for the current and prior year
  • Proof of income, including W2 forms and tax documents for pensions, social security income, SSI payments, food stamps, etc.

Finally, if you would prefer to receive a direct deposit of your refund, you will also need to include a voided check or deposit slip that includes both your bank’s routing number and your account number on it.

If you have questions about any of this documentation, you can contact the Kansas Taxpayer Assistance Center by calling 785-368-8222 and choosing option 4, followed by option 3. Or you can view their list of frequently asked questions online.

Kentucky

There is no veteran-specific property tax exemption in Kentucky. However, veterans can qualify under the state’s Homestead Exemption, if they are 100% disabled or 65 and older.

In 2019 and 2020, the exemption amount is for $39,300 of the home’s assessed value.

How to Qualify

There are two ways veterans can qualify for the homestead exemption; however, you only need to meet one condition to qualify:

  1. You have a 100% total disability rating from the VA (and receive VA compensation)
  2. You’re 65 years of age or older

In addition, you must also own and occupy the property as your primary residence.

How to Apply

To apply, you must fill out the Application for Exemption under the Homestead/Disability Amendment (Form 62A350). The deadline for your application is December 31.

In addition to the application form, you will also be required to submit documentation of either your age or VA disability status, depending on the requirement you qualify under.

After you’ve completed the application form and gathered your supporting information, you will submit this documentation to your local property value administrator (PVA) using the online alphabetical listing.

Veterans who qualify for the exemption do not need to reapply for the exemption every year, unless their disability is not service-related.

If your condition improves and you become no longer totally disabled, you must notify your PVA of the change in your disability status.

Louisiana

In Louisiana, 100% disabled veterans can receive an additional property tax exemption on top of the state’s standard homestead exemption.

To understand how these exemptions work, it’s important to know that the assessed value for a home is 10% of the home’s fair market value. So, if your home is worth $200,000, then its assessed value is $20,000.

Under Louisiana law, 100% disabled veterans can receive a total exemption of $15,000 of their home’s assessed value ($7,500 standard exemption + $7,500 disabled veterans exemption).

Because the
assessed value is only 10% of your home’s market value, this essentially means that you are exempt from property taxes on the first $150,000 of your home.

How to Qualify

To receive both the disabled veteran and standard exemptions, you must:

  • Have a 100% service-caused disability rating (or 100% unemployability rating) from the VA
  • Own and occupy the home as your primary residence
  • Not own more than 160 acres of land

The surviving spouse of a 100% disabled servicemember is also eligible for the exemptions.

How to Apply

In order to apply for these exemptions, you will need to visit the assessor’s office for your parish in person. This should be done as soon as you own your home or otherwise qualify for the exemptions.

When you visit your assessor’s office, you will need to bring the following documentation with you:

  • The recorded Act of Sale or Warranty Deed as proof of ownership
  • A government-issued ID or driver’s license
  • A recent unpaid bill for the property that is addressed to you (because not all parishes accept Sewer & Water bills, another type of bill that’s accepted in all parishes is recommended)
  • Proof of your VA disability rating

Once you are awarded the exemptions, you will not need to reapply as long as you live at the address. Instead, you will receive a renewal card in the mail each year. Simply review the information to make sure it’s still accurate and then return it.

If you move, you will need to notify the assessor that you changed primary residences. You will also need to reapply for the exemption on your new home.

Other Property Tax Benefits

If you are a 50% or more disabled veteran with an income below a certain level, you can also qualify for a “Special Assessment Level.” As long as you remain eligible for the special assessment, it freezes your home’s assessed value so it cannot increase beyond what it was when you first qualified.

The required income level is adjusted every year, so the best way to make sure you qualify is to contact the assessor’s office for your parish.

Maine

In Maine, there are two main exemptions available exclusively to veterans. Both are included under the section of Maine’s legal code that discusses the estates of veterans.

BASIC VETERAN EXEMPTION

PARAPLEGIC VETERAN EXEMPTION
$6,000
exemption of the just value

$50,000
exemption of the just value

In Maine, the “just value” has been interpreted by the courts to be the same as the market value.

How to Qualify

To qualify for the basic exemption, you must meet one of these eligibility requirements:

  • Be 62 years of age or older with military service during an approved wartime period
  • Be a veteran who receives a pension or compensation from the government for a total disability (does not have to be service-connected)
  • Have a service-connected disability (any rating) that qualifies you for VA compensation

To qualify for the paraplegic exemption, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Have military service during an approved wartime period
  • Meet the definition of paraplegia in 38 U.S.C. 2101
  • Have received a SAH grant from the federal government

In addition, for both exemptions, you must have been discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, be a resident of Maine, and own the property.

Both exemptions can also be passed on to the surviving spouse, minor children, or surviving parent of the veteran after they pass away, if they become the recipient of that veteran’s compensation. However, surviving spouses and surviving parents only qualify if they are also an unremarried widow or widower.

How to Apply

To apply for either exemption, you will need to fill out the Application for Maine Veteran Property Tax Exemption. You will also need to gather and submit a copy of one of the following documents:

  • Your DD-214 form
  • Your benefit summary letter from the VA

Once you have completed the form and gathered the necessary documentation, you will need to submit it to your local government (typically your municipality’s assessors office) by April 1. To find this information, you can find your municipality’s website, then navigate to the Assessor’s page.

After you have received the exemption, you will not need to reapply in subsequent years.

Other Military Property Tax Exemptions

Active duty servicemembers stationed in Maine can also qualify for Maine’s $20,000 homestead tax exemption.

Maine’s legal code for this exemption requires that you be a “permanent resident” in order to qualify. However, the law expands the definition of a permanent resident to include active duty servicemembers who are permanently stationed at one of the state’s military or naval posts .

Other qualifications for this exemption include:

  • Owning your Maine homestead for a continuous 12-month period (or longer)
  • Living in the home as your permanent residence by April 1

You can apply for this exemption by filling out the Application for Maine Homestead Property Tax Exemption form and submitting it to your local assessor by April 1.

You will only need to apply for the exemption once; it will remain in effect until the home is no longer your primary residence. If you move or receive PCS orders, you must notify your local tax assessor.

Maryland

Disabled veterans in Maryland can qualify to receive a 100% property tax exemption.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the full exemption, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You have a permanent service-related disability
  • Your disability is rated at 100% by the VA
  • You received an honorable discharge or were released under honorable conditions

You can also qualify if you are the unremarried surviving spouse of a servicemember who died while serving or because of their disability.

How to Apply

While there is no set deadline for your application, it is recommended to apply as soon as you qualify. You can download the application online.

After printing and filling out the form, you should mail it to your county’s assessment office. These addresses are provided on the second page of the application, as well as online from Maryland’s Department of Assessments & Taxation.

You can also call your local office if you have any questions about the application.

Massachusetts

Disabled veterans in Massachusetts can qualify for a property tax exemption that ranges from $400 to a FULL exemption. The exact amount you will qualify for depends on which conditions you meet, as defined by the following clauses in Massechussetts’s legal code:

Clause 22
Clause 22A
Clause 22E
Clause 22B
Clause 22C
Clause 22F
$400
exemption
$750
exemption
$1,250
exemption
$1,250
exemption
$1,500
exemption
100%
exemption

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for any of the exemption amounts, you must:

  • Own the home
  • Have a service-connected disability or injury sustained in the line of duty
  • Have been discharged under conditions that were not dishonorable
  • Have occupied the home as your primary residence by July 1 of the year you’re applying for
  • Have lived in Massachusetts for at least six months before you entered the military or for the two consecutive years prior to applying for the exemption
  • Be a current resident of Massachusetts

In addition to these general qualifications, each of the exemption amounts also has its own requirements outlining which veterans are eligible:

$400 Exemption
$750 Exemption
$1,000 Exemption
A 10% or greater disability rating from the VA
Was awarded the Purple Heart

Loss the use of one foot, hand, or eye
Received the Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, or Air Force Cross
Former POW status

A 100% disability rating from the VA

$1,250 Exemption
$1,500 Exemption
Full Exemption
Loss the use of both feet, hands, or eyes

Received a specially adapted housing (SAH) grant for a total disability

A 100% disability for blindness
Has paraplegia

The spouse of a qualified veteran may also receive one of the above exemptions if they own the home or if their veteran spouse passes away. Additionally, Gold Star parents may qualify for the $400 exemption.

How to Apply

No matter which exemption amount you qualify for, you will need to contact your local assessor’s office for the application. This application is due by either April 1 or three months after your tax bill is mailed, whichever is later.

To continue receiving the exemption, you must reapply for it every year. If you have questions, you can contact the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services.

Michigan

Veterans in Michigan can receive a full property tax exemption if they meet the requirements outlined in the next section.

In addition, veterans and servicemembers who do not qualify for the exemption may be eligible for a property tax credit of up to $1,500. If you qualify, you must pay your property taxes and then apply for the credit, which will be paid out through your state income tax return.

How to Qualify

To qualify for the full property tax exemption, you must have an honorable discharge and be a resident of Michigan. You must also meet one of the following requirements:

  • Have a service-connected disability that qualifies for 100% compensation from the VA
  • Have received, or are currently receiving, specially adapted housing assistance from the VA
  • Have an “individually unemployable” rating from the VA

Surviving spouses may also qualify if their veteran spouse was eligible before their death, as long as they remain unmarried and are a Michigan resident.

The property tax credit is available to both active duty servicemembers and veterans (or their surviving spouses) who either own, rent, or lease a home.

There are a variety of factors that will determine the amount you receive from the credit, including your disability rating and income. However, the following eligibility requirements must still be met:

  • Your home’s taxable value is $135,000 or less
  • You do not exceed the maximum income levels ($7,500 for some veterans and up to $60,000 for others)

Because the acceptable income levels can vary depending on your age or disability status, the best way to determine if you meet the requirements is to contact the Michigan Department of Treasury by calling 517-636-4486, or you can also read through the General Information document.

How to Apply

To apply for the property tax exemption, you will need to fill out and file Form 5107. You will also need to gather the necessary supporting documents:

  • A copy of your disability awards letter from the VA (if individually unemployable or 100% compensated)
  • A certificate from the VA verifying your specially adapted housing assistance (if applicable)

You must reapply for the exemption every year by submitting the form and your supporting documentation to your local assessor’s office. The easiest way to find this information is to do an online search of your town’s name + assessor.

You cannot file until after December 31; however, the actual deadline varies depending on when your municipality’s December Board of Review concludes their annual meeting, though it usually occurs during the second week of December.

To apply for the property tax credit, you should fill out either Form MI-1040CR-2 or Form MI-1040CR each year. You will want to complete and file the form that gives you the larger credit amount.

The deadline is April 15 each year. To apply, you will need to include the completed form with your income tax return (Form MI-1040). However, if you don’t owe income tax and do not need to file a state income tax return, you can file your property tax credit form as soon as you know what your total household income and property taxes were for the prior year.

Once all the necessary forms are complete, you will mail them to:

Michigan Department of Treasury
Lansing, MI 48956

Other Military Property Tax Relief Options

There are three main additional types of property tax relief options for servicemembers and veterans in Michigan:

  1. Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) – Active duty servicemembers who own a home in Michigan but are stationed outside of the state may qualify for a PRE of their property taxes for up to 3 years.
  1. Active Duty Property Tax Relief – If you are unable to pay property taxes because of your tour of active duty, you can apply for property tax relief through your city or town’s treasurer.
  1. Deferment of Property Taxes – There are two main types of deferments in Michigan: the summer tax deferment and the deferment of special assessments. Which one you qualify for will depend on your age, disability level, income, and service.

If it sounds like you might qualify for any of these additional property tax relief benefits, the links above provide more information about how you can apply, including the application forms and deadlines.

Minnesota

In Minnesota, disabled veterans can receive a property tax exclusion for a portion of their home’s market value. The amount of the exclusion depends on the veteran’s disability rating:

70% Disability Rating

100% Disability Rating
$150,000
exclusion of market value

$300,000
exclusion of market value

If your home’s market value is below or equal to your exclusion amount, then you will be fully exempt from all property taxes.

How to Qualify

The main requirement for either exclusion is your disability level. For 100% disabled veterans, your disability must also be permanent. Outside of your disability rating, you must also:

  • Have an honorable discharge
  • Own the home and live there as your primary residence

Surviving spouses of deceased veterans may also qualify for up to eight additional tax years if they remain unremarried and continue to own the home, as long as they meet the specific conditions outlined by the law. Some of these conditions include receiving DIC payments and having a spouse die during active service, among others.

How to Apply

To receive the exclusion, you must contact your county assessor to get the proper form. If you qualify with a 70% or greater disability, you will want to request form CR-DVHE70. If you have a 100% disability, you will want to ask for form CR-DVHE100.

After getting the proper form, you will need to fill it out and return it to your county assessor along with the following documentation:

  • A copy of your DD-214 or other official discharge document that verifies your honorable discharge status
  • A copy of your disability award letter or other official VA document that verifies your disability rating

The deadline for your application is July 1. Applications received after this date will be counted toward the next assessment year.

You will need to reapply every year if you have a 70% disability. If you have a 100% permanent and total disability, you will only need to apply once; after your initial application is approved, the exclusion will be granted automatically each year.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, a totally disabled veteran can qualify for a property tax exemption of $7,500 of the assessed value of their home. This benefit is described in Mississippi’s legal code, specifically §27-33-67(2) and §27-33-75(2).

Because Article 4, Section 112 of Mississippi’s constitution sets the assessed value of single-family, owner-occupied homes at 10% of their true value, this means you are exempt from paying property taxes on the first $75,000 of your home.

How to Qualify

In order to be eligible, you must:

  • Have a service-connected total disability
  • Have been honorably discharged

The unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran who meets the above conditions can also qualify.

How to Apply

To apply, you will need to contact your county’s tax assessor to get an application. As part of your application, you must provide a copy of your Veteran’s Consent of Release (Form 72-042) as proof of your disability.

Finally, your application will need to be filed between January 1 and April 1. However, you will only need to apply once, as long as there are no changes in your homestead status (for example, a change in marital status or ownership).

Missouri

Veteran homeowners (and some renters) in Missouri could get a property tax credit up to $1,100.

How to Qualify

In order to receive the property tax credit, you must:

  • Have a 100% disability rating
  • Have served in any branch of the Armed Forces
  • Meet the income requirements

The easiest way to check your qualifications is to use the state’s Property Tax Credit Qualification Chart.

How to Apply

You will need to apply for the refund every year, typically by mid-April, though the exact date may change from year to year. The forms are available online, but they can sometimes be difficult to find.

If you cannot find the form, you can call 800-877-6881 to request it. Or you can email PropertyTaxCredit@dor.mo.gov with specific questions.

When you fill out the income section of the form on page 2, you can leave line 4 blank if your disability is service-connected. However, if you are 100% disabled but not because of your military service, you will need to include your VA payments.

You will also need to include a letter from the VA that states the amount of your disability and whether or not it was service-connected. If it is not service-connected, the letter will also need to include the total amount of benefits you receive.

You may also be required to include other documents with your application. You can find out what these documents are as you fill out the different sections of the form.

When the form and all supporting documents are ready, you will mail it to:

Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 2800
Jefferson City, MO 65105-2800

Montana

Disabled veterans in Montana can qualify for a program that reduces their property taxes.

The reduction is calculated by multiplying your property taxes by a percentage that is determined based on your income level and marital status. For example, if you are single and earn less than $40,389 per year, your property taxes are multiplied by 0%, which would give you a full, 100% reduction.

There are four different multiplier amounts, which end up equaling a 50%, 70%, 80%, or 100% reduction of your property taxes.

How to Qualify

Only 100% disabled veterans can qualify. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • Your disability must be service-connected
  • You must own your home, or be under contract to buy one
  • You must live in the home as your primary residence for at least seven months of the year
  • You must meet the income requirements (as adjusted for inflation) for that year

If you live on agricultural or forest land, your home and up to one acre of land can qualify for the reduction.

In addition, unremarried surviving spouses can also qualify for the reduction if their spouse died while on active duty or because of a 100% service-related disability.

How to Apply

To apply, you will need to fill out the Montana Disabled Veteran Property Tax Relief Application and turn it in to a Department of Revenue office near you, along with the following documentation:

  • An official letter from the VA that states your 100% disability rating
  • Your most recent federal income tax return, if you’re a new Montana resident
  • Documentation of your income if all of it comes from nontaxable sources (like your veterans’ benefits or Social Security)

Surviving spouses who are applying will also need to include a letter from the VA with their application. This letter should verify how their spouse died; specifically, it should define whether is was during active duty or from a 100% service-connected disability.

The deadline for your application is April 15. You will not need to reapply every year unless you sell your home or move. The state will, however, mail you a letter each year that states your current status.

Nebraska

In Nebraska, qualified veterans can receive a 100% exemption of their property taxes.

How to Qualify

There are three categories of veterans who can qualify for the exemption. However, you must meet all of the eligibility requirements in your category in order to receive the exemption. The categories and their requirements are:

Veterans with a 100% Disability (NOT from Service)

(Category 2)
Veterans with a 100% Service-Connected Disability

(Category 4)
Veterans without the Use of Two or More Limbs

(Category 5)
Owning & occupying the home from Jan. 1 – Aug. 15
Meeting income limits
Being a wartime veteran

Owning & occupying the home from Jan. 1 – Aug. 15

Owning & occupying the home from Jan. 1 – Aug. 15
Living in a home acquired with help from the DVA

Surviving spouses under the age of 57 who have not remarried, as well as those who did remarry after 57, can also qualify based on the category their veteran spouse would have qualified for.

For veterans in Category 2, you will only qualify for the 100% exemption if your income falls below that year’s limit. However, if your income is higher, you can still receive an exemption for a portion of your property taxes; the exact percentage you receive will depend on where your income actually falls.

How to Apply

Regardless of which category you qualify for, you will still need to submit Form 458 your county assessor between February 1 and June 30 every year. The first time you apply, you will also need to include certification from the VA verifying your disability status.

In addition, if you qualify under category 2, you will need to fill out and submit Form 458, Schedule I every year in order to verify your income.

The contact information for your county assessor, including the address where you will need to mail your application form(s), is available online. They can also answer any questions you might have.

Other Property Tax Exemptions

If you are a veteran who owns and occupies a mobile home in Nebraska, you can receive an exemption of your property taxes. In order to qualify, you must:

  • Have an honorable or general (under honorable conditions) discharge
  • Have a service-connected disability

Your disability must meet one of the conditions outlined in Nebraska law, and you must apply for this exemption by April 1 every year.

New Hampshire

Property Tax Credit for Wartime Veterans & Surviving Spouses
You can get a property tax credit if you’re a wartime veteran or the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran. To be eligible for this credit, you must:

Have an honorable discharge from the military or have been released because of a service-related disability
Have served for at least 90 days on active duty in a qualifying war or armed conflict (which can include Title 10 training if you’re a member of the Reserves or Guard)
Be a resident of New Hampshire

Unremarried surviving spouses of veterans who were killed during active duty can qualify for a different (larger) property tax credit.

Property Tax Credit for Disabled Veterans & Surviving Spouses
Disabled veterans living in homes that have not been specially adapted can also qualify for a property tax credit. The amount can range from $700 to $2000. To be eligible, you must:

Be a veteran who is paraplegic or has with a permanent and complete service-related disability or , a double amputation,, or paraplegic or be an unremarried surviving spouse of a deceased veteran
Live in the property as your primary residence

To find out if you can get this tax credit, you can contact your county tax assessor.

Property Tax Exemption on Specially Adapted Homesteads
You may be completely exempt from paying real estate property tax if you and your home meet the following qualifications:

You are a veteran with a permanent and total service-related disability, including blindness, paraplegia, or double amputation
You own a specially-adapted property that you bought with VA assistance (or that you bought using the money you earned selling a previous property that you bought with VA assistance)

If you’re the surviving spouse of a veteran who was eligible, you may also be eligible. Check with your county tax assessor to learn more.

New Jersey

Property Tax Deduction for Veterans
You may qualify to get a deduction on your property taxes every year if you meet one of the following conditions:

You’re an honorably discharged veteran of wartime
You participated in peacekeeping operations or missions
You’re an unmarried surviving spouse or partner of a veteran

You can apply for this deduction with your municipal tax collector.

Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans
Some veterans may even qualify for a full exemption from property taxes. To be eligible, you must:

Live on the property as your main residence
Have a complete and permanent disability
Be a wartime veteran or a veteran of certain peacekeeping operations or missions

Unmarried surviving spouses and other partners may also qualify. To apply for the exemption, you will need to turn in the form to your municipal tax collector.

New Mexico

If you’ve been rated by the VA with a 100% complete and permanent disability, you may qualify for a waiver of the property tax on your primary residence. You must be a legal New Mexico resident.

To apply for this benefit, you can fill out the application form and submit it to the address at the bottom of the form, along with:

Proof of your New Mexico residency
Your military discharge document showing the character of your discharge

If you’re the surviving spouse of a deceased veteran and haven’t remarried, you may be eligible for this tax break. Some documents you’ll need include:

Proof of your New Mexico residency
A copy of the veteran’s death certificate
The veteran’s discharge document

You’ll need to fill out the same application form that veterans use, and then send it and the above documents to the address at the bottom of the form.

New York

New York offers several property tax exemptions for veterans, which can apply to taxes from your county, city, town, village, and/or school district. Exemptions are in the following categories:

Cold War Veterans’ Exemption – For the residential property taxes of a veteran who served in the Cold War, with additional benefits for veterans with service-related disabilities.
Alternative Veterans’ Exemption – For the residential property taxes of a veteran who served during certain wartime periods or campaigns, with additional benefits for veterans with service-related disabilities.
Eligible Funds Exemption – For a partial exemption on property that a veteran or other eligible person buys using money from a pension, bonus, or insurance.

Check with your local tax assessor or clerk for more details on these benefits or to apply.

Additionally, your state locality may extend your property tax payment period if you have been ordered to active duty because of a declaration of war, period of combat defined by executive order, or hazardous duty. Speak with your local property tax office to learn more.

North Carolina

NC Home Advantage Tax Credit
This credit helps first-time homebuyers and military veterans save on annual property taxes, allowing you more money to put toward your mortgage payment. Using an MCC, you can save up to $2,000 annually.

Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption
North Carolina offers eligible veterans with disabilities a real estate property tax exemption of the first $45,000 of your assessed real property value. You may be eligible if you are:

An honorably-discharged veteran with a service-related complete 100% disability or are VA-rated as Permanently Individually Unemployable OR
An unremarried, surviving spouse of a veteran who was disabled and areis receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

To apply for this benefit, fill out the NCDVA-9 form, submit it to the address on the form, then submit the returned and certified form to your county tax office before the deadline listed on the form.

North Dakota

There are two possible property tax exemptions veterans or their unremarried surviving spouses may qualify for in North Dakota:

Disabled Veterans Credit
(see NDCC 57-02-08.8)

Paraplegic Veterans Exemption
(see NDCC 57-02-08, para 20.a)
$3,375–$6,750
reduction of tax value, based on disability %

$120,000
exemption of market value

While these exemptions seem to be for very different amounts at first glance, they actually end up being quite comparable because of how North Dakota calculates property taxes.

How Property Taxes Are Calculated in North Dakota

First, assessors determine the fair market property value, which is what people would be willing to pay to buy the home.

The home’s assessed value is then calculated based off of the market value. In North Dakota, the assessed value is always 50% of the market value.

Next, the taxable value is determined. In North Dakota, the taxable value of a home is only 9% of the assessed value.

Finally, the taxable value is multiplied by your county’s property tax rate.

To more accurately compare the two different types of veteran exemptions, let’s say we have two veterans living in Fargo. Both live in homes that have a market value of $200,000. Veteran 1 is 100% disabled. Veteran 2 is paraplegic.

When Veteran 1’s property taxes get calculated, they look like this:

$200,000 x 0.50 = $100,000 assessed value –>
$100,000 x 0.09 = $9,000 taxable value –>
$9,000 – $6,750 exemption = $2,250 adjusted taxable value –>
$2,250 x 0.01629 (tax rate for Cass County) = $36.65 in property taxes

But when Veteran 2’s property taxes get calculated, they look like this:

$200,000 – $120,000 exemption = $80,000 adjusted market value
$80,000 x 0.50 = $40,000 assessed value –>
$40,000 x 0.09 = $3,600 taxable value –>
$3,600 x 0.01629 (tax rate for Cass County) = $58.64 in property taxes

How to Qualify

To qualify for the Disabled Veterans Credit, you will need to:

Be at least 50% or more disabled
Have an honorable discharge or be retired from the Armed Forces
Own & occupy the home you’re claiming the credit for

To qualify for the full amount ($6,750), you will need to have either a 100% disability rating or an extra-schedular rating that brings your total disability rating to 100%.

The amount you qualify for depends on your total rating:

Disability Percentage
Taxable Reduction
100%
$6,750
90%
$6,075
80%
$5,400
70%
$4,725
60%
$4,050
50%
$3,375

To qualify for the paraplegic veterans exemption, a veteran must either be paraplegic or have been awarded specially adapted housing by the VA.

How to Apply

If you qualify for the 50% (or greater) disabled veterans exemption, you will apply by filling out the application form. The deadline is February 1, but you only need to apply once, unless your disability rating changes or as requested.

When you apply for the first time, you will also need to include copies of the following documents with your application:

Your DD-214 form
A certificate from the VA that states your disability percentage

Once everything is ready to go, you should send it to your county’s Tax Equalization office.

Contact the same office They’re also who you’ll need to contact to get more information and instructions on how to apply for the paraplegic veterans exemption.if you qualify for the paraplegic veterans exemption

Ohio

Disabled veterans in Ohio can qualify for a property tax exemption of $50,000.

This exemption works by reducing the home’s market value before the assessed value is calculated. So, if you have a $200,000 home, you will only end up paying property taxes on $150,000 of it.

How to Qualify

All veterans, including those who served in the reserves or as a member of a National Guard unity, can qualify, if they also meet the following conditions below. They must have:

Have a total disability rating for a service-connected disability
Received a A military discharge that was under honorable conditions
Have bBeen disabled on or before Jan. 1 of the year they’reyou’re seeking the exemption

Surviving spouses who live in the same home the veteran lived in can also qualify.

How to Apply

You will need to download and fill out the application form. As proof of your eligibility, you will also need to submit some additional documents, including with your application form. These include a copy of your DD-214 form and your awards letter that shows your disability rating.

Once your application is complete, you will need to send it to your county auditor for filing by December 31. If you have any questions about the exemption, or if you need help completing the application, you can give them a call, and they can assist you.

Your application only needs to be filed once. After being approved for the exemption, you will continue to receive it automatically.

Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, qualified veterans or their surviving spouses can be fully exempt from property taxes. The exemption applies to the fair cash value of their homestead, and is given as part of Oklahoma’s Constitution (Article X, Section 8E).

How to Qualify

In addition to those who served in a branch of the Armed Forces, Oklahoma’s homestead exemption also applies to veterans who have served in the Oklahoma National Guard. Regardless of your specific branch, in order to be eligible, you must also meet all of the following conditions in order to be eligible:

Have an honorable discharge
Have a service-connected disability
Be 100% disabled, as certified by the VA
Be a current resident of Oklahoma

You’re also required to own the home and have lived in it since January 1 of the year you’re applying for the exemption. In addition, evidence of your ownership, such as the deed, must be recorded with your county clerk’s office by February 1.

How to Apply

If you qualify for this exemption, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA) should have already sent you a letter stating that you’re qualified. If you haven’t received this letter and you believe you are qualified, you can call the ODVA at (888) 655-2838.

Once you have the qualification letter from the Oklahoma VA, you can apply for the exemption by filling out the Application for 100% Disabled Veterans Real Property Tax Exemption. Once you fill out the application, you will need to submit it to your county assessor along with the following documentation:

The original qualification letter from the Oklahoma VA
Your original awards letter from the VA that states your disability and/or compensation rating

You only need to apply for the Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption once. After that, the benefit should continue each year automatically.

To find out where to submit your application and supporting documents, you should contact the tax assessor for your county. They can also answer any questions you might have.

Oregon

Exemptions for Veterans with Disabilities or Surviving Spouses
If you’re an Oregon veteran with disabilities or a surviving spouse/registered partner, you may qualify to exempt a portion of your home’s value from property taxes. The amount you can receive for the exemption is substantial, equaling thousands of dollars and rising by 3% annually.

You may be eligible if:

You’re a veteran with a certified disability of at least 40%
You’re the surviving spouse/partner of a veteran (the veteran spouse/partner does not need to have been disabled)
Your total gross income in the last year was not over the limit, which is 185% of the poverty guidelines

Apply for this exemption through your county assessor, or by completing and following the instructions on and completing the Disabled Veteran or Surviving Spouse Exemption Claim. On the form, you’ll also find more about eligibility requirements and other details.

Exemptions for Active Duty Servicemembers
Active duty servicemembers in Oregon may be eligible for a property tax exemption as well. You may qualify if you:

Are on active duty (including if you’re in the Guard or Reserves)
Are an Oregon resident who lives in the home as a primary residence
Have served for over 178 consecutive days under Title 10 status or EMAC deployment (a regular tour of duty or regular active enlistment does not qualify).

Apply for the active duty exemption by filling out and following the instructions on the Oregon Active Duty Military Service Member’s Exemption Claim form. Included on the form is more information about exemption requirements, amounts, and other details.

Pennsylvania

Disabled veterans who are residents of Pennsylvania can qualify for a 100% property tax exemption, which means you would owe $0 for your property taxes.

How to Qualify

In order to receive this exemption, you must meet one of the following disability requirements:

Be 100% disabled, as rated by the VA, for a service-connected disability
Be bilaterally paraplegic of either your upper or lower extremities
Be blind (three-sixtieths or ten two-hundredths worse than normal vision)

You will also need to meet the service requirements, which include service during specific dates and an honorable release or discharge.

Other requirements include establishing financial need as well as owning and living in the home as your primary residence.

How to Apply

To apply, you will need to contact your county’s Veterans Affairs Director. They can provide you with the application and the information necessary to complete it. If you have any questions, they can answer those for you as well.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island law allows veterans to receive property tax exemptions and credits. However, The amount ofhow much the exemption or credit is for depends on which city/municipality you live in.

To find more details on some of the options in your location, the Rhode Island Department of Revenue has put together a report for the main types of veteran exemptions and their amounts in each municipality.

How to Qualify

The basic qualifications for the general exemption are:

A discharge other than dishonorable
Service during an approved wartime period

Additional exemptions may have their own eligibility criteria. For example, you could qualify for a Prisoner of War exemption in Barrington if you live there and were a POW.

How to Apply

Because there are so many possible veteran exemptions in Rhode Island, the easiest way to find out which ones you’re eligible for—and how much you’re eligible for—is to contact your town’s tax assessor. They’ll be able to let you know the deadlines and help you through the application process.

When you contact them, be prepared with a copy of your DD-214 form, as it will likely be required as documentation of your eligibility.

South Carolina

According to South Carolina’s legal code §12-37-220, a veteran can receive a full property tax exemption of their home and up to five acres of land.

How to Qualify

In order to be eligible for the exemption, you must fall under one of these categories:

Veteran with a service-connected disability that is total and permanent
Prisoner of War (POW) during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, or the Vietnam War
Recipient of the medal of honor

Only those in the first category receive the five-acre land exemption. Only one acre of land is exempt for those who qualify because they are a former POW or Medal of Honor recipient.

The surviving spouse of a servicemember may also qualify for the same exemption if they remain unmarried and receive ownership of the home. They must also continue living there.

How to Apply

You will need to fill out the Property Tax Exemption Application for Individuals form (PT-401-I). In addition to the application form, yYou will also need to include additional documentation, including:

A copy of the recorded deed for the home
Proof of legal residence in the home
A letter from the VA

Depending on which category you qualify under, the VA letter will need to include specific information. If you’re a POW or Medal of Honor recipient, the letter simply needs to verify this fact.

However, if you are qualifying as a disabled veteran, you can either send a Summary of Benefits letter, or another letter from the VA that contains:

The effective date of your disability
Verification that your disability is total, permanent, and service-connected
The signature of your County Service Officer

After you have filled out the application form and gathered the necessary documents, you can submit everything in one of four ways:

EMAIL
Property.Exemptions@dor.sc.gov
MAIL
South Carolina Department of Revenue, Government Services Division
PO Box 125
Columbia, SC 29214
FAX
803-896-0151
IN PERSON
Taxpayer Assistance Office†

†A list of local taxpayer offices can be found online.

If you have any questions about the application or additional documentation, you can call the South Carolina Department of Revenue at 803-898-5700.

South Dakota

In South Dakota, veterans can potentially qualify for one of two property tax exemptions:

Disabled Veterans Credit
(see NDCC 57-02-08.8)

Paraplegic Veterans Exemption
(see NDCC 57-02-08, para 20.a)
$150,000
exemption of assessed value

$120,000
exemption of market value

South Dakota has set up special property tax exemptions for eligible veterans. Visit their website to see if any of the exemptions below fit your living situation.

To apply for exemptions, look for the appropriate application on the South Dakota Department of Revenue website.

Totally Disabled Veterans and Their Widow or Widower
This benefit exempts $100,000 of the value of a home from taxation if a totally disabled veteran owns and lives in it—as long as the veteran became disabled because of their service. This exemption can also apply to a surviving spouse of the veteran.

Exemption for Paraplegic Veterans or Their Surviving Spouse
This benefit gives a property tax exemption on a home (usually on less than one acre of land) that was designed for paraplegics and is wheelchair-friendly. This type of exemption applies if a veteran has lost the use of both lower extremities, and has they’ve owned and lived in the home for at least one full calendar year. TIf the veteran has passed, the exemption can also be granted to their veteran’s widow or widower, if the veteran has passed.

Totally Disabled Veterans and Their Widow or Widower
This benefit exempts $100,000 of the value of a home from taxation if a totally disabled veteran owns and lives in it—as long as the veteran became disabled because of theirhis or her service. This exemption can also apply to a surviving spouse of the veteran.

Visit their website to see if any of the exemptions fit your living situation.

To apply for exemptions, look for the appropriate application on the South Dakota Department of Revenue website.

Tennessee

Property tax relief for veterans in Tennessee comes in the form of a reimbursement on the first $175,000 of your home’s full market value. You are required to pay your property taxes in full every year, and then apply for a reimbursement.

For qualified veterans, the reimbursement is calculated in a series of steps:

Multiply the first $175,000 of your home’s value by the applicable appraisal ratio
Multiple the answer in Step 1 by Tennessee’s appraised value rate of 25%
Multiply the answer in Step 2 by your local tax rate(s) to determine your reimbursement amount

Property Taxes in Tennessee
In Tennessee, you generally pay property taxes to both the county and the city. These amounts are calculated separately because they have different tax rates.

In Real Numbers
Say your home in Memphis has a fair market value of $200,000, so your home’s assessed value is $50,000. The property tax rate for Memphis is $3.195986 for every $100 of the assessed value, which means you would pay a total of $1,597.99 to the city. In addition, the tax rate for Shelby County is $4.05 for every $100, so you wouldpay a total of $2,025 to the county. All together, you’d pay $3,622.99 in property taxes.

However, when the reimbursement on this home is calculated for Shelby County, it should look like this:

$175,000 x 0.8808 Shelby County appraisal ratio = $154,140
$154,140 x 0.25 appraised value rate = $38,535
$38,535 ÷ 100 x $4.05 = $1,560.66 reimbursement

And when the reimbursement gets calculated for Memphis, there is no applicable appraisal ratio for us to apply, which means the calculation for your reimbursement would look like this:

$175,000 x 0.8808 Shelby County appraisal ratio = $154,140
154,140 x 0.25 appraised value rate = $38,535
$38,535 ÷ 100 x $3.195986 = $1,231.57 reimbursement

All told, your total property tax reimbursement would be $2,792.23† in this example.

†This is not an official estimate; the calculations performed by your county/city may be more exact and are the only official calculations.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the veterans property tax exemption in Tennessee, a veteran cannot have been dishonorably discharged, and they must live in and own the home. In addition, they must have a service-connected disability that meets one of the following conditions:

AHas a permanent and total disability determination from the VA
A Is rated as 100% permanent and total disability rating resulting from and was caused by being a POW
A disability that iIncludes the paralysis or amputation of two or more limbs, paraplegia, or legal blindness

Surviving spouses may also qualify if the veteran was eligible at the time of their death, if they died from a combat-related cause, or if they died while deployed. However, eligibility will only continue as long as the spouse continues to own the home, doesn’t remarry, and only uses the property as a home.

How to Apply

Because property taxes in Tennessee are administered and paid at the county and city levels, you will need to contact your county trustee for instructions on how to apply and to access to any forms you will need to fill out. Make sure you ask if there’s also a city reimbursement you could qualify for.

You can begin your application each year after receiving the property tax bill for your city and/or county. Typically, the application deadline is 35 days after the delinquency date, though your county trustee will be able to confirm the specific deadlines in your area.

Texas

Depending on your disability rating, veterans in Texas can qualify for a full or partial property tax exemption.

Full exemptions are reserved for 100% disabled veterans, while partial exemptions are available to veterans who have a disability rating from 10–90%. The partial exemption can range anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000; this amount is always applied as a reduction of your home’s assessed value.

How to Qualify

To qualify for a full property tax exemption, you must:

Have a service-connected disability
Receive a 100% disability compensation from the VA
Have a 100% disabled or individual unemployability rating
Own and live in the home

To qualify for a partial exemption, you will need to have a disability rating from the VA that’s between 10 and 90%. How much you qualify for will depend on your disability percentage, which falls into four tiers:

Disability Percentage
Reduction of
Assessed Value
70%
$12,000
50%
$10,000
30%
$7,500
10%
$5,000

In addition, veterans can actually receive the largest reduction of $12,000 even if they don’t meet the 70% disability minimum, as long as they meet just one of the following additional qualifications :

Be 65 years or older with a 10% (or greater) disability rating
Be totally blind in one or both eyes
Be unable to use one or more limbs

Finally, surviving spouses can qualify for either the full or partial exemption after their spouse dies as long as they remain unmarried and are the owner and occupier of the home. They will only qualify for the amount the veteran would have received (or was already receiving).

In situations where the veteran dies while on active duty (and therefore never received a disability rating), the surviving spouse will qualify for a $5,000 assessed value reduction. However, if the veteran is killed in action, their spouse can receive a total property tax exemption.

How to Apply

To apply for the full exemption, you will need to print and fill out the Residence Homestead Exemption Application (Form 50-114). You will also need to provide a copy of your driver’s license (or state ID) and documentation that verifies your 100% disability rating.

To apply for the partial exemption, you will need to print and fill out the Application for Disabled Veteran’s or Survivor’s Exemption (Form 50-135). You’ll then submit the completed form, along with a letter from the VA detailing your most recent disability rating.

The deadline for both applications is April 30 of the year you’re requesting the exemption, though you are legally allowed to submit a late application if it’s within one of the following two timelines:

Up to two years after the deadline has passed for the full exemption
Up to five and five years after the deadlineit has passed for the partial exemption.

Your application and supporting documents should be sent to your county’s Aappraisal Ddistrict office. In addition, you can contact them with any questions and to find out if there are local county exemptions you may also qualify for.

Utah

In Utah, disabled veterans can receive a property tax exemption. The exact amount of the exemption depends on your disability rating, with the maximum amount being $266,670 of your home’s taxable value.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the property tax exemption, you must:

Have a 10% or greater service-connected disability
Own and live in the home as your primary residence
Have an honorable discharge from service

Surviving spouses of a qualified veteran may also qualify after the veteran passes if they own the home and do not remarry.

How to Apply

You will need to contact your county’s tax assessor for the application. Once it’s complete, return the application form back to your county assessor, along with proof of your VA disability rating.

Other Military Property Tax Exemption

In addition to the exemption available for disabled veterans, Utah also offers a property tax exemption for active duty military members. This exemption applies if you own a home in Utah but are currently stationed in another state.

If you qualify, you must apply for the exemption by September 1. To get a copy of the application, contact the county tax assessor where the property is located. Once you’ve completed the application form, you will need to return it to the county assessor, along with a copy of your military orders. You are requiredYou will then need to reapply annually for the active duty exemption.

Vermont

In Vermont, qualified veterans must receive a $10,000 minimum property tax exemption [32 V.S.A. § 3802(11)(A)], though you could receive up to $40,000 depending on the town you live in.

This exemption works, regardless of the specific amount, by reducing the appraised value of your home before your county’s property tax rate is applied.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the exemption, you must be a veteran, or the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran, who meets one of the following criteria:

Have a 50% or greater service-connected disability for which you receive VA compensation
Receive Improved Pension payments from the VA
Collect permanent medical retirement pay from the VA

You must also own the home and live in it as your primary residence.

How to Apply

To apply, you will need to fill out the Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans and Their Survivors form and gather documentation from the VA or Department of Defense that verifies your disability rating, pension payments, or medical retirement pay.

Once the form is complete and you have the required eligibility documentation, you are ready to submit your application. The deadline is May 1, and you must either mail, fax, or drop it off in person at Vermont’s Office of Veterans Affairs.

The form and eligibility documentation must be filled out and submitted every year unless you have:

Received a total and permanent disability rating from the VA
Been 50% or more disabled for 10 consecutive years
Received a permanent medical retirement
Qualified as a surviving spouse and have not remarried

Virginia

Disabled veterans in Virginia and surviving spouses of some veterans can qualify for a complete property tax exemption on their home if they meet the eligibility requirements.

How to Qualify

The eligibility requirements for Virginia’s veterans property tax exemption state that the veteran must:

Have a service-connected disability that is permanent and total
Be 100% disabled or have a 100% individual unemployability rating
Have been alive on or after January 1, 2011
Own and occupy the home as their principal residence

In addition, the spouse of a veteran who met the above requirements before passing away or dieds or wais killed in action can also qualify, as long as the spousey does not remarry.

While the surviving spouse of a servicemember killed in action or who died of wounds can transfer the exemption to another property, the surviving spouse of any other qualified veteran must continue living in the home in order to keep the exemption.

In both cases, the veteran must have been alive on or after January 1, 2011 for their spouse to qualify.

How to Apply

Because property taxes in Virginia are managed by local governments and not the state, you will need to contact the Commissioner of Revenue through your local tax office for deadlines and instructions on how to apply.

Virginia’s state tax website provides an interactive map of Virginia’s counties. ; when you cClick on your county to, you can find a link to your local government’s website, where you should be able to access find the contact information for your Commissioner of Revenue.

Washington

In 2019, Washington amended its property tax exemption laws to expand the eligibility to a greater number of disabled veterans. The amount of your exemption will fall into one of three categories, depending on your income level:

Income Threshold 1
Income Threshold 2
Income Threshold 3
$60,000 or 60%†
of your home’s valuation
$50,000 or 35%†
of your home’s valuation
All Excess Property Taxes‡

†The amount granted is whichever is greater (however, for income threshold 2, it is capped at $70,000)
‡Excess property taxes are defined as those that have been approved by voters to fund a specific purpose, such as public schools, maintenance levies, county increases to the regular property tax, etc.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for the property tax exemption, you must:

Have an 80% or greater service-connected disability
Own the home and occupy it as your principal residence for at least nine months of the year†
Meet one of the three income threshold requirements‡

In addition, surviving spouses can also qualify, as long as they are at least 57 years old, and meet the ownership, occupancy, and income requirements.

†If you do not live in your home because you have been confined to a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, or a relative’s home for long-term care, you will still meet the occupancy requirement.

‡The calculation of your disposable income for purposes of the income threshold categories does not include military pay, disability payments, dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC), etc. Certain types of medical care costs can also be deducted.

How to Apply

To apply, you will need to download and fill out the Application for Senior Citizen and Disabled Persons Exemption from Real Property Taxes form. You will also need to submit written proof of your disability rating from the VA or, if you prefer, a completed Proof of Disability Affidavit form.

Once your application form and supporting documentation are ready, you will submit them to your county assessor’s office. Because the application deadline varies by county, you will want to contact them early to find out what it is in your area.

In addition, if you have any other questions about the exemption or the application process, your county assessor will be able to answer them.

Other Property Tax Relief Programs

In addition to the property tax exemption, Washington also offers a Property Tax Assistance Program for Widows or Widowers of Veterans.

The requirements for this program are very similar to the requirements for the disabled veterans exemption, with parts of the law even referring to RCW 84.36.381.

However, unlike requirements for veterans, the widow(er) needs to be 62 and does not need to meet any income requirements. The program also expands eligibility based on the manner of the veteran’s death.

There are also other tax relief programs available that, though they’re are not specific to veterans,. However, are worth learning about since you may still qualify. You can contact your county assessor to learn more about each of these options.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, disabled veterans can receive a property tax exemption on their home that subtracts $20,000 from the assessed value.

How to Qualify

In order to receive this benefit, your disability must be:

Caused by your military service
Rated 100% by the VA
Permanent and total

How to Apply

You will need to verify that your disability meets the above conditions by contacting the VA for a written certification. After you receive that letter, you will need to contact the Tax Assessor for your county to get the application form.

Wisconsin

Eligible veterans in Wisconsin can receive a credit for the full amount of their property taxes on their primary residence and up to one acre of land.

You will need to pay your property taxes in full; the credit works by refunding you the amount after they’ve been paid.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for Wisconsin’s Disabled Veterans and Unremarried Surviving Spouses Property Tax Credit Program, you must:

Have a service-connected disability
Be rated 100% disabled or have a 100% individual unemployability rating
Have served active duty under honorable conditions
Have been a Wisconsin resident when you entered active duty or for five consecutive years after entering into service
Be a current resident of Wisconsin

After you die, your surviving spouse can also continue to receive the credit, as long as they don’t remarry and they qualify for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) from the VA.

How to Apply

To start the application process for the very first time, you will need to verify your eligibility with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA) before doing anything else. You can do this by filling out form WDVA 2097 and mailing it to the Wisconsin VA’s office, along with the following documents:

An original version of form WDVA 1805
A copy of your DD-214 form
A copy of your service-connected disability notification letter from the federal VA, dated within the last 12 months

If a surviving spouse is applying, they will also need to submit a certified death certificate and a certified marriage certificate.

Once the Wisconsin VA receives all of the necessary forms and documentation, they will review the information and, if you qualify, mail you a certification of eligibility.

After receiving this certification, you will finish the application process when you file your state income tax return. You’ll do this by attaching a copy (not the original) of the certification and a copy of your property tax bill for the year you’re trying to receive the credit.

Important Note: Even if you don’t owe any income tax, you still need to file a state return in order to apply for and receive the benefit.

To reapply for the credit in subsequent years, you do not need to recertify your eligibility with the VA, and you do not need to resubmit a copy of your certification letter. Instead, you just need to file your state tax return with an attached copy of that year’s property tax bill.

Have Questions?
You can view a list of FAQs about the credit online, or you can call the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at 608-266-2486 for specific questions about the credit or its application process.

If you have questions about your eligibility, those should be directed to WDVA by calling 800-947-8387.

Wyoming

Disabled veterans living in Wyoming can receive a $3,000 property tax exemption of their home’s assessed value.

How to Qualify

In order to be eligible for the exemption, you must have:

Been honorably discharged from service
Served during one of the approved periods
Been a resident of Wyoming for at least three consecutive years

If a veteran would have qualified for the exemption prior to their death, their unremarried surviving spouse may also qualify.

How to Apply

You can pick up the application form at your local county treasurer’s office. After completing the form, you will need to return it to your county treasurer, along with any of the following documents as proof of your honorable discharge:

DD-214
DD-214N
DD-214MC
WD AGO 53-55
NAVMC 78-PD
NAVPERS-533

The deadline for your application (and supporting documentation) is the fourth Monday in May, and you will need to reapply for the exemption every year.

Are There Any Other Property Tax Exemptions I Can Get?

The short answer is, “It depends.”

The exemptions covered in this post are only those that have been enacted at the state level. However, because many states administer property taxes at the county or municipal level, there may be additional veteran property tax exemptions that are unique to your city or county.

The best way to know what all of the exemptions you qualify for is to contact your local government tax office. Often this is the assessor’s office, but it could also be your county auditor or other similar official.

How Do I Know What to Ask?

Once you track down who is in charge of property taxes in your area, you need to know what questions to ask. Property tax laws are not always the most clear or straightforward, so knowing the right questions can make all the difference. Here are some you’ll want to ask:

Are there any additional property tax exemptions for veterans at the county level?
What about my city? Does it have any property exemptions for veterans?
Can I receive other exemptions and combine them with a veteran-specific one?
Can I apply for a property tax exemption retroactively if I was eligible but didn’t know it, or can I receive a refund equal to the exemption for the years I paid but was eligible?

Here to Help You Save

At Low VA Rates, our goal is always to help save you money and make owning a home more affordable. Even though we don’t personally do a lot with property taxes, we’re willing to step outside of our lane if it can help make your monthly mortgage payment smaller or more manageable.

Because property tax laws can vary so much from state to state and county to county, it can be hard to know what benefits are even available to you. And we would hate for you to miss out on savings simply because you just didn’t know.

To that end, we hope you found a property tax exemption that can save you money on your mortgage payment. If you did, drop us a comment and tell us what you saved. We love hearing a happy ending.

What Is Escrow & How Does It Work with a VA Loan?

What Is Escrow?

Quick Definition of Escrow
Money used for your homeowners insurance, property taxes, or as part of your offer on a home.

During the mortgage process, escrow can refer to both an escrow account and the money you put into that account.

While the VA itself does not require escrow as part of its standards for the VA loan program, you will likely still encounter it when you get a VA loan. That’s because most lenders do require it as part of their internal loan guidelines.

In fact, you may even encounter two different forms of escrow and escrow accounts at different points in the process: once before closing and then after.

Escrow before Closing

The first point in the process where you’ll encounter escrow is often after you’ve found your dream home and decided you want to make an offer.

Because of today’s competitive market for homes, where sellers still have a slight advantage, you’ll need to focus on making your offer as enticing as you can.

What Is Earnest Money?
Money given as a show of good faith when you make an offer on a home that also helps makes your offer more attractive.

One way to do this is by putting what’s called earnest money into an escrow account as part of your offer. Earnest money shows a seller that you’re serious about buying their home—and you have the funds to back it up.

If the seller accepts your offer, your earnest money is taken out of the escrow account and applied to your loan. On other loan types, escrow usually gets applied to the down payment. However, since VA loans don’t require any money down, your funds will usually get applied to your closing costs instead.

If your offer is rejected, you should get your money back, minus a small fee.

Escrow after Closing

The second time you’ll encounter escrow during your VA home loan process is after closing. However, how escrow works in this situation is a bit different than how it works before.

After closing, you won’t be making just one deposit into an escrow account. Instead, every month, a portion of your mortgage payment gets separated and placed into an escrow account by your lender.

Because your payment is made all at once, you might not even realize that you’re contributing to an escrow account. However, most mortgage payments are actually divided into four different parts, often referred to by the acronym “PITI,” which stands for:

  1. Principal
  2. Interest
  3. Taxes
  4. Insurance

It’s the last two of these four that get separated out and held in escrow, and they refer specifically to property taxes and homeowners insurance.

Though your lender takes this money from you, it’s not theirs to keep, which is why it gets placed in a separate escrow account until it’s due. The first two portions (principal and interest), however, are theirs to keep.

Benefits of an Escrow Account

Setting up an escrow account for part of your mortgage payment comes with a lot of pros. Not only does it protect your finances and home in a variety of ways, but it also ends up protecting your lender as well. That makes it a win-win situation for everyone involved!

Budget for Your Insurance & Property Tax Payments

Easily one of the biggest benefits of using an escrow account is the ability to simplify budgeting for your homeowners insurance and property tax payments.

Essentially, your lender does the budgeting for you when they calculate what these bills will be. This calculation combines your home’s property taxes from the previous year and adds them to your homeowners insurance premium. This total is then divided over 12 months.

The number that comes out is the amount you have to budget each month in order to have enough when your taxes and insurance are due.

While this kind of budgeting is certainly something you could do yourself, many homeowners don’t realize how difficult it is when each payment is often thousands of dollars each, and they’re only due once or twice each year.

Having a forced budget that’s integrated into your mortgage payment makes being able to afford your taxes and insurance simple.

Prevent Late Payments & Fees

Because your lender controls your escrow account, they are also responsible for making sure your money gets distributed on time, which means you don’t have to worry about remembering due dates.

It’s easy to forget about things that only come around once per year, especially when life gets busy or stressful. Especially since, as a servicemember or veteran, you have a lot on your plate.

If your due dates happen to coincide with new PCS orders, a deployment, medical appointments, or even just family events, it’s easy to see how you might not remember something that used to be 365 days away.

Avoiding late payments is important because they can have pretty dire consequences. If you are late on your property taxes, for example, you will have to pay late fees, which can sometimes be as much as thousands of extra dollars. In addition, making late property tax payments is usually considered a default on your loan agreement, which means your home could be placed in foreclosure.

Paying your home insurance late could also cause you to lose coverage. So, if your home were damaged, you’d have to pay for repairs out of pocket, which can also be incredibly expensive.

When you use an escrow account, you don’t have to worry about these issues. By turning the responsibility over to your lender, they also become financially responsible for any consequences of being late.

Protect Your Home from Liens & Disasters

In general, lenders are highly motivated to remember your payments and due dates—and not just because they don’t want to pay the late fees for you. They also want to avoid more serious consequences.

One of these additional consequences is that not paying your property taxes can lead to having a lien on your property.

Because this lien is placed by the government, it actually takes priority over the VA loan you owe to your lender. So, until your property taxes are paid and the lien is removed, your lender won’t be able to recoup the money you owe them.

Then, when it comes to insurance, your lender needs your home to be protected because it serves as collateral on your loan. Normally, this means that if you don’t pay your loan, the lender can resell the home to regain most of the money they lose out on when you can’t pay. But if the house is damaged (and uninsured), then they have no way to get that money back.

With an escrow account, a lender knows that your home will be insured against damages and you’ll have the money to cover your property taxes. It also means that you won’t have to worry about losing your home because of a government lien or natural disaster.

Problems with Escrow Accounts

While escrow accounts have more positives than negatives, they aren’t perfect. While some concerns are more serious than others, it’s important to be aware of all the issues you could potentially face so that if you do encounter them, you won’t be surprised or unprepared.

Did You Know . . .
The account fee might not be the only escrow-related closing cost. Lenders can legally require a deposit for up to 2 months of escrow payments when you close.

Extra Money Due at Closing

Because the company managing your escrow account is a business, they need to make money. Usually, they get paid a small portion of your home’s price, and you pay them just once, when you close on your home.

Even though the additional fee for your escrow account is only about 1–2% of the loan amount, in real cash, it ends up being multiple thousands of dollars extra you have to bring to the closing table. Here’s an example of what those numbers might look like:

As of May 31, 2019, the median sale price for homes in the US was $234,900. At 1–2%, that means you could be paying an extra $2,349 to $4,698 at closing.

That’s a hefty chunk of change for the convenience of using an escrow account. But you might not have to cover all of it yourself.

When you’re negotiating closing costs and who will pay what, you may be able to convince the seller to split the escrow account fee with you. Or, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to get them to pay all of it.

Mortgage Payment Increases Caused by Shortages

Shortages are one of the more serious complications you can experience with an escrow account because they can potentially cause the most financial strain.

When projecting what your property taxes will be next year, your lender has to base them off of what they were this year. However, even though it’s pretty common for property taxes to go up, your lender only finds out about it when they get the bill, which means you’ve been paying less than what’s due.

The good news is that your lender will usually cover the shortage themselves in order to get the bill paid on time. However, you will have to pay them back plus cover the new increased estimate for next year, which means that the property tax portion of your mortgage payment doesn’t just go up, it goes up double.

To help illustrate what that means, here’s an example with some numbers:

A flowchart that illustrates how an escrow shortage increases your monthly payment

Last year your property taxes were $1500. So, this year, to cover that amount, your lender charged you $125 each month as part of your mortgage payment. But when the received your tax bill, your property taxes actually ended up being $2,100, so you were actually short $600.

So, for this year, the new property tax estimate is $2,100, which means your monthly payment will increase to $175 ($50 more per month). But that only covers the future bill. You still have that $600 shortage from last year to cover.

Most lenders will give you time to pay that back over the next year, so they take that $600 and divide it by 12 months as well, which means another $50 increase to your monthly payment.

So now, thanks to just one increase, your monthly payment didn’t just go up $50, it went up by a total of $100.

Luckily there may be a few options here for you. If you are a disabled veteran, you could qualify for a property tax waiver, if your state offers one. However, if you aren’t disabled or otherwise qualify, or if your state doesn’t offer a waiver, you’re still not out of luck quite yet.

One option would be to contest the assessment that made your taxes increase in the first place. However, just be warned that this can be a time-consuming process, and the specific laws regarding how to do it and when it’s due can vary.

Another option would be to work out a different payment plan for the shortage with your lender.

If you happen to have enough extra money, you could just pay the shortage all at once instead of adding it to your monthly payment. In this example, you’d pay the $600 right away and then your monthly bill would only go up by $50 instead of $100.

You could also just pay one part of the shortage and then budget the rest over the next 12 months. So, for the previous example, maybe you have an extra $300 you can give to your lender right away. Now you only have to budget an additional $300 for the next 12 months, and your monthly mortgage payment would only need to go up $75 total instead of $100.

Finally, you could see if your lender would be willing to give you more than 12 months to pay back the shortfall. Just be cautious of going this route, in case your property taxes keep rising. A longer payment plan could mean you just keep getting further and further behind on paying back your lender.

Not Earning Interest on Your Money

If your property taxes decrease, you get the opposite problem of a shortage, which is called an overage. While this might seem like a “good” problem to have because it means you get money back, it can still impact on your finances negatively.

For starters, you only get overage money back from your lender if it’s above a certain amount. If it doesn’t meet that threshold, you lender may hold onto it in case you experience a tax increase in the future. Again, still not the worst problem to have.

The biggest financial issue, however, with an overage is that you are most likely missing out on having that money—typically thousands of dollars—earn interest while it waits to get used.

Currently there is no federal law that requires your lender or escrow company to pay you interest. As for state laws, only 15 states currently require interest on escrow accounts in their legal code:

A map showing the fifteen states (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin) that require escrow accounts to earn interest
Sadly, if you live in any of the other 35 states, you’re out of luck when it comes to earning interest on your escrow money.

How Escrow Works to Actually Pay Your Property Taxes & Homeowners Insurance

The process for how escrow is used to pay your homeowners insurance and property taxes

The process for how your lender uses your escrowed funds to pay your tax and insurance bills is kickstarted when they first calculate your monthly payment.They do this by estimating your property taxes and adding that number to your homeowners insurance premium, then dividing the total by 12.

After calculating what your monthly escrow payment needs to be, they add it into your monthly mortgage payment. Then, when you send your payment each month, they separate out the escrow portion and deposit it into your escrow account.

Did You Know . . .
Escrow refunds during refinance aren’t guaranteed because your lender can pay your taxes early.

The third step occurs when your lender receives your property tax or homeowners insurance bills. This happens once or twice a year for property taxes in most counties and typically just once a year for your homeowners insurance premium.

After receiving your bill, your lender may choose to pay it before the due date, if there is an early payment discount. Otherwise, they’ll simply arrange for the payment to come out of your escrow account closer to the due date.

Still Have Questions about Escrow?

Now that we’ve covered all the basics for the question “What is escrow?,” we hope you have the confidence to move forward through the VA loan process. If you do have any questions about escrow or any other topic, we’re happy to answer them when you call us at (866) 569-8272.

The Coolest New Military Technology & Research Projects

Screen lit up with digital rendering of new technology

The United States military has long been one of the biggest inventors of new technology. In honor of its history and continued role as a place for scientific research and innovation, here are 10 of the coolest new things the military is researching and developing.

1. Infrared Camouflage

Icon of infrared night vision gogglesWith the rapid advancement of technology, the camouflage of the past is no longer sufficient. Even when a servicemember or military vehicle is able to visually blend into its surroundings, infrared sensors can now locate them based on their body heat and the electromagnetic signatures they give off.

During recent testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Army officials shared their plans to continue developing infrared camouflage that can disrupt and diffuse these signatures in order to better protect their troops and vehicles.

To us, it kind of sounds like the real-life version of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

2. Wearable Robot Suits

Icon of soft robotic suit legsThe Soft Exosuit from the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is essentially a wearable, lightweight robot that troops can use to increase their endurance and strength.

With integrated sensors and cables that transmit extra support where it’s needed, the exosuit allows the wearer to move naturally, but with additional support where they need it most. This support is provided automatically and is tailored to the individual wearer’s needs by a microcomputer.

3. Cyborg Insect Spies

Icon of a cyborg mothAs part of another DARPA project, the military is developing technology that would allow them to control the brains of bugs and direct their flight paths.

These cyborg insects (seriously, how cool does that sound?!) would then be used to perform reconnaissance and spying missions in areas people can’t easily access.

4. Self-Guiding Bullets

Icon of three self-guiding bulletsLike something out of a cartoon or comic book, DARPA is also working on developing self-guided bullets that can change their own trajectory in order to hit their target.

Called the EXACTO bullet, which stands for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, it uses optical sighting and guidance systems to adjust its path in real time.

5. Biodegradable Ammunition

Recycling icon representing biodegradable bullet casingsAnother bullet-related development that the Army is looking into is the creation of biodegradable ammunition.

Though only intended to be used for live-fire training purposes (and not combat), the goal of the new ammunition is two-fold: to make the cartridges biodegradable and to have them contain bioengineered seeds.

These seeds will sprout into plants that can remove the toxins and pollutants released into the environment by the training ammunition.

6. Submarine-Stopping Slime

Icon of a submarine being stopped by slimeInspired by the hagfish (Google it at your own risk!), the Navy is currently developing a type of synthetic slime that can be used to stop enemy submarines by clogging up their propellers.

The slime works by expanding up to 10,000 times its original size when it comes into contact with water. It’s primarily made up of two different proteins, one of which is tightly curled until the water causes it to unravel and expand, creating a physical barrier in a matter of minutes.

Another cool part about this slime? It doesn’t have any long-term environmental effects, since it will naturally dissipate with time.

7. Laser Cannons

Icon of a military plane shooting lasersLike something out of Star Wars, the military is looking to arm a variety of its vehicles, including trucks, fighter planes, and Navy ships, with lasers.

The laser cannons on aircraft would allow pilots to overcome the difficulties they face to correctly time and aim at threats approaching from behind. In addition, they could also be used to protect aircraft from surface-to-air missiles.

The lasers mounted to ships would help defend them against attacks by drones and boats, while truck-mounted lasers would neutralize mortar shells or incoming drones.

8. Smooth-Surface Wall Climber

Icon of a man climbing a smooth, vertical wallThe Z-Man wall climber was inspired by geckos’ ability to climb a variety of smooth, vertical surfaces. But we also like to think Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spiderman also played a role.

With the ability to climb up walls—even those made of glass, metal, or fiberglass—troops would have a greater element of surprise, especially in urban settings.

9. Super-Strong Copper & Tantalum Alloy

Icon of a shield made of a super-strong metalIn another development reminiscent of superheroes, the Army has created a new alloy that is incredibly strong—it’s even been compared to Captain America’s fictional vibranium shield.

Just like Cap’s shield, this new alloy is able to withstand extreme impact without deforming, as well as drastic temperature changes. Because of these attributes, it can be used in a variety of capacities, including protective gear for servicemembers.

10. Metal Foam

Icon of a square of metal filled with holes to represent metal foamAnother metal-based technology, a material coined Composite Metal Foam (CMF) has been engineered by the Army as part of a research partnership with North Carolina State University. Like its name suggests, CMF is a metal that is filled with foam-like air pockets.

Thanks to its composition, CMF is much lighter than traditional metal. But it’s also much stronger and better at withstanding ballistic impacts. The holes in the metal disperse and distribute both heat and energy from a collision.

Tell Us Your Favorite Military Innovation!

In addition to these 10 developments, there were many, many others that we could have included. Some honorable mentions are the Visual Eye room mapper, a satellite melter, brain implants that help restore memories, and synthetic lifeforms that can alert and track enemies.

With so much amazing research being performed by the military, we know we’ve probably missed some! If you feel like we left something off the list, comment and let us know. At Low VA Rates, we’re so grateful for the military and all they do—including making the world a better place through new technology.

Is It Harder to Buy a Home with a VA Loan?

Beautiful modern home with a American flag out front

If you’re considering buying a home with your VA loan benefits, you might have heard the rumors that using your benefits will complicate the process.

However, these rumors are just that: rumors. As one of the best mortgage programs for buyers, the VA loan program can help save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, through a lower interest rate, no down payment requirement, and no need to pay for mortgage insurance. And it won’t be any extra hassle for your seller.

Despite these facts, you still might be hesitant to use your VA loan, thinking you could run into trouble. To help ease your mind, and the mind of a seller, here are three truths about using a VA loan to purchase a home.

1. VA Loans Close Just as Often as Other Loan Types

One of the most common misconceptions about VA loans is that they’re less likely to close compared to other loan types.

However, according to Ellie Mae’s Origination Insight Report from February 2019 (the most recent as of this publishing), the rate of closure for VA loans is almost always within 1 or 2 percentage points of conventional loans, as well as the overall average for all loan types. And some months even show a higher close rate for VA loans.

Another fact to keep in your pocket? While a lot of first-time homebuyers like to go with FHA loans, they actually close the least often. From February 2018 to February 2019, VA loans closed at a significantly higher rate than FHA loans.

If the seller of the home you’re interested in buying expresses this concern, now you have the facts to persuade them that using a VA loan does not add additional risks to closing.

2. VA Loans Don’t Take a Lot of Extra Time to Close

While VA loans do, on average, take a little bit more time to close, it’s usually only two or three days longer than the average for all loan types.

However, in order to make sure your VA loan is the quickest it can be, you’ll want to choose the right lender.

Basically, pretty much any lender can do a VA loan. However, only some are able to do them without VA oversight. If your lender is less experienced and doesn’t have automatic authority, they have to submit your loan to the VA, which slows down the process.

So, when choosing your lender, you should find one that is LAPP-approved, which means they’ve qualified to participate in the VA’s Lender Appraisal Processing Program. As a LAPP-approved lender, they’ll have authority to request, process, and approve your appraisal without directly involving the VA.

You’ll also want to find one who has been granted “nonsupervised automatic authority” by the VA. In order to achieve this status, the lender must regularly complete a certain number of VA loans and meet a minimum requirement for years of VA loan experience.

At the risk of sounding too self-promoting in a blog post, we wanted to take a second to mention that Low VA Rates just so happens to be both LAPP-approved and a nonsupervised lender. In case you might be wondering.

3. VA Appraisals Fairly Evaluate the Home

One of the conditions of purchasing a home with a VA loan is that it must meet the VA-specific appraisal guidelines. While the guidelines themselves are a little different, the appraiser doesn’t work for the VA. In fact, they do all types of home appraisals for multiple loan types.

This means they won’t treat the appraisal any different just because it’s being purchased with a VA loan. How they value the home will not be influenced in any way.

The fact is, the determination of home value doesn’t have anything to do with the loan type. It is generally based on the objective condition of the home, the value of the homes around it, and other factors unrelated to how you plan to purchase the property.

The only way your VA appraisal will be different from any other type of home appraisal is that the appraiser is specifically tasked with making sure everything meets the VA’s minimum property requirements (MPRs), which is a slightly longer list that helps ensure the home is “safe, structurally sound, and sanitary.”

Use Your VA Loan to Buy a Home with Confidence

If you’re one of the few who qualify for a VA home loan, you deserve to take advantage of it. Out of all the home loan programs, it offers the most benefits to you as a buyer, so don’t let misinformation or rumors keep you from what you’ve earned as one of our nation’s heroes.

Also, don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have any other concerns or questions about using a VA loan. When you talk to one of our expert VA loan officers, there’s never any obligation to choose us as your lender. We just want to help you, whether that’s by simply providing information or actually originating your loan.

You can speak with one of our loan officers at (866) 569-8272.

Changes to VA Cash-Out Refinance Loans

A veteran's home being considered for a VA cash-out refinance loan

Last year, when President Trump signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory, and Consumer Protection Act into law, all types of VA refinance loans experienced some significant changes.

In mid-December, the VA released a circular outlining the new rules specifically for cash-out refinance loans. These rules define how lenders should put the law into practice so they are in compliance. To put it another way, the rules are a practical application of the larger law.

When the New Rules Go into Effect

According to the circular, the new rules for VA cash-out loans go into effect on February 15, 2019. They apply to all VA cash-out refinance loans that are written on that date or after.

3 Main Changes to VA Cash-Out Rules

On February 15th, there are three main changes that will go into effect:

  1. An update to the requirements for the loan-to-value (LTV) percentage
  2. The addition of a net tangible benefits (NTB) test
  3. A requirement for new disclosures to be given to the borrower

In the sections below, we’ll cover each of these changes, including the history of what they used to be and how they will be changing on February 15th.

1. Changes to the LTV Percentage

The total loan amount for a VA cash-out refinance loan can no longer exceed 100% of the home’s value.

How the LTV Percentage Used to Work for Cash-Out Loans

Historically, one of the benefits of a VA cash-out refinance loan was the ability to refinance up to 100% of your home’s value. Many other cash-out refinance types, including conventional and FHA cash-out refinances, limit borrowers to only taking out up to 80%, or sometimes 90%, of their equity.

However, because VA cash-out loans allow you to roll the funding fee into your loan amount, rather than paying it up front at closing, borrowers who refinanced 100% of their home’s value would end up with a loan amount that was greater than the value of their home.

Here’s an example of how it used to work:

Shaundra wants to do a VA cash-out refinance on her home so she can pay for her son’s college tuition at Yale. She still owes $200,000 on her current home loan, and when she has her home appraised, it comes back with a value of $300,000.

She decides to refinance the full value of her home—all $300,000 of it. Because she’s rolling in her closing costs (which we’ll say end up being $12,000, or 4%, for this example), she’ll get $88,000 in cash back. This will almost cover her son’s first year of tuition.

On top of her loan and the other closing costs, Shaundra also decides to finance the VA-required funding fee into the loan amount. Since she has used her VA eligibility before, for her current home loan, she is charged a 3.3% funding fee, which comes out to $9,900.

By financing the funding fee into her loan, it brings the total amount of Shaundra’s new home loan to $309,900.

As you can see, Shaundra’s new loan ($309,900) is for more than her home is worth ($300,000). While this used to be allowed under the VA’s rules for the loan-to-value ratio of cash-out refinances, their new rules prohibit it.

How the LTV Requirement Has Changed

So what is allowed? The new rule states that the borrower’s total loan amount (including any financed closing costs or funding fee) cannot exceed 100% of the home’s value.

Let’s put that in real terms. The rule is basically saying that if the borrower wants to finance their closing costs and funding fee into the loan amount, it reduces the how much they’re able to get in cash back.

Going back to Shaundra’s example, if she wants to finance her 4% closing costs and 3.3% funding fee into the loan, she can no longer get the full $88,000 in cash out. Instead, the most she could get would be just over $79,500. Here’s how the math works:

If Shaundra finances her home at $279,500, her 4% closing costs come to $11,180 and her 3.3% funding fee totals $9,223.50. Because she is rolling everything into the loan amount, her new total is $299,903.50, which is just under the 100% value of her home.

We can then calculate the LTV percentage by dividing her total loan amount ($299,903.50) by the appraised value of her home ($300,000). This gives us 0.999. Multiplied by 100 to get the percentage, Shaundra’s loan is now at 99.9% of the value of her home, making her loan in compliance with the new rules.

2. Passing the Net Tangible Benefits (NTB) Test

What counts as a “net tangible benefit” is limited to eight defined options; all VA cash-out refinance loans must meet at least one of them to pass.

How Net Tangible Benefits Worked Before

Cash-out loans have always had a net tangible benefit requirement. However, they haven’t always had to pass a net tangible benefit test.

Basically, prior to this rule change, what constituted a net tangible benefit was up to the lender. As long as they could persuade the VA that there was some kind of benefit to the borrower, they could write the loan.

Some unscrupulous lenders would use this to their advantage by saying there was a benefit, but when put into practice in real life, the “benefit” to the borrower was almost negligible. It might even be harmful, if the long-term cost of the refinance put them into a worse financial situation.

The goal of both the Economic Growth, Regulatory, and Consumer Protection Act and the VA’s rules interpreting it is to prevent this kind of situation from ever being able to happen at all.

How Net Tangible Benefits Work Now

The new rules define eight specific situations that count as a net tangible benefit. Together, these eight conditions are called the net tangible benefit test.

What counts as a net tangible benefit is no longer up to the lender, or their persuasive powers. Either the cash-out refinance meets one of the eight conditions, or it doesn’t.

If it doesn’t, then the lender can’t do the loan. But if it does, then the loan passes the test.

So what are these eight conditions? We’re glad you asked:

  1. Mortgage insurance (PMI, MIP, etc.) is eliminated
  2. The loan has a shorter term
  3. The interest rate decreases
  4. Monthly mortgage payments are lower
  5. The borrower’s monthly residual income increases
  6. The refinance is replacing a construction (or other interim) loan
  7. The total loan amount is below 90% of the home’s appraised value
  8. The loan moves from an adjustable to a fixed rate

Again, in order to pass, the cash-out refinance doesn’t have to pass all eight conditions. It only needs to pass one.

3. New Disclosures for the Borrower

Lenders must now disclose additional information about the refinance to borrowers, including what is changing and how it affects them.

Disclosures Before the Rule Change

VA cash-out refinance loans have always had disclosures. This rule change is simply adding to them by outlining new information that must be included.

How Disclosures Are Changing

The VA’s circular lists two specific sets of information that lenders must now give to their borrowers at two specific times during the loan process:

  1. Within 3 business days of receiving the loan application
  2. At closing

The first new disclosure compares key characteristics of the original loan against the refinanced loan. These characteristics are:

  1. The refinanced loan amount vs. the payoff amount of the original loan
  2. The loan type (adjustable, fixed, etc.) for both loans
  3. The interest rate for both loans
  4. The loan term (15 years, 30 years, etc.) for both loans
  5. The total long-term costs for both loans (principal and interest, plus any mortgage insurance)
  6. The LTV for both loans

The second new disclosure should provide an estimate of how much equity the veteran is losing. It must also explain how the loss of this equity may affect them.

What These Changes Mean for Veteran Borrowers

For starters, because lenders are facing more limitations on when and how they can do VA cash-out refinance loans, you may find it a little more difficult to get one.

You will also be more limited on how much money you can get back from the loan, which could affect what you were planning on using it for.

However, these disadvantages are offset by the fact that cash-out loans, when you do get one, will ultimately be a little safer for you. The goal is to make them less risky, especially when it comes to your financial health.

For example, because you can no longer get 100% cash back on your home’s equity, you will never be underwater on your loan due to a refinance (though it could still happen from other external causes).

Thanks to the NTB test, the benefits of a refinance really should outweigh the costs associated with it, putting you in a better overall situation.

And finally, the new disclosures will help make sure you have all the information you need to decide for yourself if a refinance is truly in your best interest.

Have Any Questions?

If you still don’t feel like you understand these changes, feel free to give us a call at (866) 569-8272. When you call us, there is never any obligation or expectation that you have to get a loan with us. We’re simply here to help you, and the honor of writing your loan is just the icing on the cake.

That’s because at Low VA Rates, we believe our veterans should understand the loan process. By arming you with knowledge, we equip you with the tools you need to make the right decision about your home. We like to think that our full transparency makes us unique in the loan world.

Are VA Loans Affected by the Government Shutdown?

House with a flag and text that says "Government Shutdown? Not a problem for VA loans!"

With the government shutdown in place since December 22nd, there was initially a lot of speculation and worry about how VA loans might be affected.

Now that we’re in the fifth week of the shutdown, with no foreseeable end date, it’s clear that VA loans are still going strong.

The VA Continues Processing Loans During the Shutdown

Prior to the shutdown, Robert Wilkie, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, issued a statement where he explained that the VA was already fully funded for the 2019 fiscal year, which allows “all VA operations [to] continue unimpeded.”

The VA is able to make this promise for a few reasons. One is the fact that they are partially staffed during government shutdowns, including the employees who process guarantees and endorsements for VA loans. Because these employees are paid through borrowing fees and not the government directly, they are fairly immune to government shutdowns.

In addition, the VA’s ability to process VA home loans is considered an essential service. It is even included in VA’s Veterans Field Guide to Government Shutdown under the list of services that will not be impacted, even if there were to be a lapse in appropriations.

Because the VA is open and processing loans during the shutdown, we, as a lender, are able to access your Certificate of Eligibility, order a VA appraisal, submit your funding fee, and complete other essential portions of the VA loan process that rely on cooperation with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA Loans Aren’t Funded by the Government

As alluded to in our prior paragraph, another reason why VA loans have been able to continue without interruption during the government shutdown is the fact that the majority of work is done by private lenders, not government workers.

At Low VA Rates, we employee teams of people at nearly every step of the process. In addition to our loan officers, processors, and funders, we also have in-house underwriters that can continue working on your loan, even it happens to require manual underwriting.

Solutions for Holdups with Other Government Agencies

Though we do as much in-house we can, some parts of the the VA loan process occasionally depend on outside government agencies, beyond even the VA.

Some examples of situations that require information from other, currently shutdown government agencies include income verifications from the IRS if you’re self-employed, verification of your Social Security number (SSN) from the SSA, and employment verification for veterans who work for the government.

While these issues will only affect a small portion of VA loan borrowers, at Low VA Rates, we haven’t had any issues being able to verify employment for government employees, SSNs, or income, so there is no need to be concerned about shutdown-related delays to your application.

Homeowners with VA Loans May Be Affected

While VA loans themselves, and the ability to get a VA loan, aren’t affected by the shutdown, homeowners who already have a VA loan could be.

Members of the Coast Guard

Like the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense (DoD) had already been funded prior to the government shutdown. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was not yet funded for 2019 when the shutdown occurred.

This distinction matters because the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force all receive their funding under the DoD umbrella, so servicemembers in these branches are getting paid during the shutdown. However, members of the Coast Guard are funded through DHS.

When the shutdown started, the Coast Guard announced that their servicemembers wouldn’t be receiving their paychecks. Then, on Dec. 28th, it was announced that they would receive their final 2018 paycheck, with no guarantee of future ones during the remainder of the shutdown.

In mid-January, members of the Coast Guard did not receive their first paycheck, and won’t see any for the foreseeable future while the shutdown continues. Without this income, Coast Guardsmen who are homeowners may have difficulty making their monthly mortgage payments.

Veterans Working for Government Agencies

After leaving the service, many veterans find work with the federal government. If they work for an agency affected by the shutdown, they may be required to work without pay or they may be furloughed, which means they are temporarily unable to work at all.

Like with our Coast Guardsmen, this means that they might have a hard time making timely payments on their VA home loans during the shutdown.

What to Do If You’re Unable to Pay Your VA Loan

The VA has recommended that lenders consider being more lenient with borrowers affected by the shutdown. Some specific measures they recommended include waiving late fees, delaying reports of late payments to the credit bureaus, and even forgiving late payments.

At Low VA Rates, we take these recommendations to heart. During this time, it is our internal policy to waive any applicable fees for those affected by the shutdown.

In addition, because we aren’t an actual loan servicer, we don’t ever report to credit rating agencies, whether we’re experiencing a government shutdown or not.

Finally, if you are affected by the government shutdown to the point that you’re worried you won’t be able to make your monthly mortgage payments, you have options. Even if we aren’t your lender, Low VA Rates can help you!

Depending on your situation, there are a couple of different ways we might be able to help you. One option would be to do a streamline refinance and get you in to a more affordable loan with a lower payment.

If we are your lender, you may have a few other options, as well.

If you contact us, we might be able to grant a temporary reprieve where you have two or three months that you don’t have to make your payment. Once the shutdown ends and you receive your back pay, we can then work together to come up with a payment plan to get you caught back up.

A modification of your loan agreement could be another option, where your actual loan agreement is adjusted and changed to accommodate your situation.

No matter what workout option we go with, it is possible to reduce the stress of not receiving your income because of the shutdown. Just remember, it’s better to do it sooner, before you even miss any payments. So, if you think there is even a possibility you’ll need help, reach out now!

Why You Should Get a VA Loan During the Shutdown

As we’ve already discussed, VA loans haven’t really been impacted by the current government shutdown. If you’ve been worried about starting or continuing a VA loan, you can stop stressing. In fact, now might actually be the best time to get a VA home loan.

According to a recent article published by NerdWallet, mortgage rates recently dropped in December, but should only last for a short while. Because you can still get funding for a VA loan, you might want to consider taking quick action and locking down a low rate before they start rising again through the rest of 2019 and into 2020.

If you’re already in the process of a VA loan, keep moving forward! Again, we haven’t experienced any delays, and you could also take advantage of the current lower rates. Even if the government shutdown continues for awhile, we’ll still be able to process and close your VA loan.

Though they’re unlikely, if we do experience any delays with your application, we’ll keep you informed. At Low VA Rates, we believe in communication and transparency. It’s why thousands of veterans and servicemembers have trusted us for their VA loans, and you can too.

Everything You’ll Need to Get a VA Loan

Checklist of info you'll need to get a VA loan

Sometimes it can seem like there’s a lot you have to provide in order to meet the requirements to get a VA loan. However, we’ve put together this list of everything you’ll need so it’s all in one place.

Not only will reviewing this list prepare you to meet with a loan officer, but it will also help you be sure that you’re even eligible for a VA home loan.

Personal Data

There is a variety of personal information you’ll need to fill in when you apply for a VA home loan. Some of it, like your name, phone, number, address, and birthday, you should already know.

Some information, though, you might not remember off the top of your head, so it’s better to make sure you know it before you start filling out an application.

In addition to the information already mentioned, you’ll also need to provide:

  • Your social security number
  • Any past addresses for the last 2 years
  • Your highest grade level completed in school
  • Your ethnicity and race*
  • Your government-issued ID card
  • How many dependents you have, along with their ages
  • What state you want to buy a house in

*This information will not affect your ability to get a loan. However, all mortgage lenders are required, by law, to ask it. It will simply be reported to the government to make sure your lender is in compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA).

Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

Your COE is one of the most important documents needed to get a VA loan. The easiest way to get this information is to actually have your lender request it. However, you may also send in a request yourself, though doing so usually takes longer.

Credit History

Even though a minimum credit score isn’t one of the VA’s requirements for a VA home loan, your score will be pulled by lenders in order to determine your interest rate. In addition, some lenders do create their own internal credit score requirements, but Low VA Rates is not one of them.

Besides checking your credit score, another reason lenders look at your credit history is to make sure you’re not behind on loan payments or collection fees.

When it comes time to have your credit pulled, you’ll want to have the following information ready:

  • The social security numbers for everyone getting a credit check
  • A list of all your debts, including auto loans, student loans, credit cards, and other lines of credit, to make sure they’re correct on your credit report
  • Proof of any errors on your credit report, if applicable
  • The amount you spend on childcare each month, if applicable
  • Bankruptcy and discharge documents, if applicable
  • A way of explaining any late payments, if applicable

Income, Employment, and Assets

In addition to your debts, you’ll also need to be prepared with evidence of your income, assets, current employment, and recent job history. To this end, you’ll need to provide:

  • Your job history for the last 2 years, including the name, address, and phone number for all your employers, and the dates you worked for each
  • Your pay stubs from the last 30 days or your latest Leave & Earnings Statement (LES)
  • Your W2s for the last 2 years
  • Pension, retirement, and/or social security award letters and related 1099s, if applicable
  • Divorce decree and settlement documents, if applicable
  • Bank statements from the last 60 days as evidence of the money necessary for any down payment and/or closing costs, if applicable
  • Statements from your retirement account from the last 60 days, if applicable
  • A list of any real estate you own
  • 2 years of tax returns, if you’re self-employed
  • Any tax returns showing income from commissions or rentals, if applicable

Military Service Information

To prove one of the most important home loan qualifications, you’ll want to gather the following documentation:

  • A copy of your DD-214, if you’re separated from the service
  • A statement of service signed by your commanding officer & your LES if you’re on active duty
  • Evidence of future stable income if you plan to leave the service less than a year after closing on your home

Real Estate Documents

Finally, you can try to gather the following real estate documents:

  • A contract to purchase the real estate, which should be signed by the seller and you
  • A VA appraisal of the property, which your loan officer can order
  • The contact information of your homeowner’s insurance agent
  • The contact information of your homeowner’s association, if applicable
  • An inspection report on the property, which is wise but not required

However, if you’re not able to gather all of these before meeting with your loan officer, don’t worry—they can help you get them.

Contact Low VA Rates to Get Started

Once you’ve gathered all of the information you can, we hope you reach out to us. All of our loan officers are experienced in VA loans, so please contact Low VA Rates today.

Does the VA Loan Program Offer Options for Bad Credit Home Loans?

VA loan application for those with bad credit

Being late or skipping on payments, having accounts that are in collections, filing for bankruptcy, going through a foreclosure., and not having a long enough credit history can all lead to a low credit score.

Sometimes the military lifestyle makes it easier to make these credit mistakes.

Maybe you joined the military right after high school or college and weren’t able to build any credit history. Or you may have owed on a credit card and weren’t able to pay on time while you were deployed. You even might have simply had too much debt already when you joined.

These situations are very common. Some very small mistakes and understandable circumstances can cause low credit scores for veterans.

However, these issues don’t have to stop you from purchasing a home. That’s because the VA loan program helps lenders create loans for veterans with bad credit.

VA Home Loan Requirements

The VA doesn’t require a minimum credit score in order to qualify for a VA loan. It’s even possible to qualify after a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

In addition, veterans home loans also have a more generous and more flexible requirement when it comes to the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. The general rule is that it has to be 41% and under, though there are some exceptions where it can exceed this amount.

Private lenders are the ones who actually issue VA loans based on the VA’s guidelines and some of their own requirements. While some lenders to set their own internal minimum credit score requirements or lower DTI ratios, Low VA Rates doesn’t!

We simply follow the VA’s requirements, which include:

  • Honorable military service
  • Stable income
  • An intention to occupy the house

It’s also important that the home itself meets the VA’s minimum quality standards.

All of these standards exist because, ultimately, the goal is for you and your home to be a worthy credit risk with a great chance that you’ll make your payments.

Benefits of VA Loans

The benefits of veterans home loans include:

  • No down payment
  • Lower interest rates than conventional loans
  • No private mortgage insurance payments
  • No funding fee for disabled veterans
  • A maximum loan amount of up to $424,100 in most counties

It’s definitely worth pursuing a VA loan, even if you think you don’t qualify—you might be pleasantly surprised, and it never hurts to give it a try!

How Low VA Rates Works with People Who Have Bad Credit

Low VA Rates works with veterans with any credit score. We have consistently created bad credit home loans for veterans with credit scores below 600.

We’re able to do this because we lend on a case-by-case basis, so you’ll be seen as an individual, not a credit score. Instead of limiting your financial situation to a single number or isolated, unfortunate events, we prefer to look at your current ability and overall willingness to repay debts. In fact, even a high credit score doesn’t guarantee someone will pay!

We believe that rejecting someone based only on a credit score would be as wrong as planning a vacation to the beach based on the average temperature without taking into account current weather forecasts, hurricane warnings, and so on.

Of course, we’ll still see what your credit score is, but we’ll also look for honorable military service, stable income, a quality house, and other factors.

Contact Low VA Rates today to talk with a knowledgeable loan specialist about how you can get a VA loan even with low credit.

What Are the Lesser-Known VA Loan Guidelines?

A military family stands together on a hill holding a flag

Some VA loan guidelines don’t get talked about enough. Let’s make sure you know about them before you start shopping for properties.

Eligible Properties

You can’t buy just any type of real estate with a VA loan. There are restrictions on the types of properties that allow you to use your entitlement.

For example, cooperative properties, or “co-ops,” are not eligible, and you can’t buy a property to rent out or use as a vacation home.

In addition, vacant land doesn’t qualify for a VA loan on its own, but it can be purchased as part of a package deal with a construction loan if you have a plan to build on it right away.

Finally, houseboats also don’t ever qualify, because they don’t have an immovable foundation.

Some other properties can be eligible, but it depends on your lender.

For example, mobile homes and modular homes are eligible, but not all lenders will want to work with you on them. Low VA Rates, however, can and will help you get this type of home.

Also, many townhomes and condominiums can also qualify, as long as the whole complex meets VA approval. You can check if a property is on the VA’s online list of approved properties.

Funding Fees and Other Closing Costs

One of the most important VA home loan guidelines is that a funding fee is needed to obtain the loan. This fee goes into the fund the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to guarantee VA loans so veterans don’t have to make a down payment or pay monthly mortgage insurance.

Other closing costs may include paying for a credit report and a VA appraisal, the origination fee, a recording fee, and taxes.

You may be able to reduce some of these costs in a couple of ways. For example, some sellers might be willing to help pay for some of them. And some closing costs, including the funding fee, can be rolled into the total amount of the loan to be paid off over time.

Reusing a VA Loan Entitlement

Many veterans may naturally assume that a VA loan is a once-in-a-lifetime benefit. However, you can actually reuse it several times throughout your life.

One way to do this is by completely paying off your VA loan, then requesting to have your full entitlement restored before applying for a new VA loan.

Another way is to sell your home to another veteran who agrees to use their entitlement in place of yours. However, this entitlement transfer will be for the full original amount, not just the remaining balance of the loan. If you find a buyer who agrees to this stipulation, you will then be able to apply to have your entitlement restored.

A third option is to have more than one VA loan at the same time. Some military personnel use this during a move to a new assignment.

This process is a little more complicated, but basically your entitlement can be divided over multiple loans, as long as the total amount borrowed doesn’t exceed the conforming loan limit. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this blog post for a more detailed explanation about how splitting your entitlement and getting a second VA loan works.

How a Past Foreclosure or Bankruptcy Affects VA Loans

You might think that a bankruptcy or foreclosure in your past—or your spouse’s past—will make you lose your chance to qualify for a VA loan. Actually, you can still qualify if you can show a responsible credit history leading up to your loan application.

Some time will also need to have passed, though it’s probably not as much as you think. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, it can be as little as 1–2 years. For a foreclosure, it can happen as soon as 2 years.

The reason for this shorter wait time is that a lender’s main goal is just to make sure you can meet your monthly payments in the future.

We Can Help You Understand All of the VA Loan Guidelines

We hope these explanations of some VA loans guidelines help you make an informed decision. VA loans were set up to help veterans, like you, buy a home, and at Low VA Rates, we want to see that happen for as many veterans as possible.

What Is a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility?

Flying American flag

In order to finish getting a VA home loan, you’ll need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA, even if you qualify for a VA loan in every other way.

That’s because the COE is the official document that proves that your military service entitles you to a VA loan, as well as any conditions of your qualification for a VA loan.

In addition, your COE lists the actual dollar amount of your entitlement. Lenders need to know what your entitlement is in order to determine how much the funding fee should be.

How to Apply for Your Certificate of Eligibility for a VA Loan

Though there are a few ways to get your COE, the easiest and fastest is to let your lender apply for it on your behalf. Lenders have a connection to a VA electronic system and can get a response in seconds.

If you’d like, you can instead mail in an application for a VA loan Certificate of Eligibility yourself. Simply print out VA Form 26-1880 and mail it to the address corresponding to your state, which you’ll find on page 3 of the form.

Most veterans, however, ask lenders to apply for the VA home loan Certificate of Eligibility for them. You can even allow several different lenders to do this while you’re shopping around for different rates and terms.

Using the eBenefits Portal

Another way to apply for a VA loan Certificate of Eligibility yourself is through the VA’s online eBenefits portal. If you’ve never used it, click the blue “Register” button at the top of the page and follow the directions to create your own credentials.

Otherwise, click on “Login” and use your login information. Then, click on “Apply.” Under “Housing,” click on Certificate of Eligibility for Home Loan and follow the instructions.

Special Instructions for Surviving Spouses

Unmarried surviving spouses need to fill out a different form in order to get a VA home loan: VA Form 26-1817. When you complete it, mail it to the address listed for your state on page 2 of the form.

If your spouse was a veteran who died after his or her service, the VA may take 2–3 months to verify that the death was caused by a service-related disability. However, if the VA has already decided on the cause of death, the eligibility approval could come much faster.

Let Us Help You Request Your Certificate of Eligibility

Remember, getting your Certificate of Eligibility is one of the first steps toward getting a VA loan. Luckily, the process for getting yours is usually very simple. If you’d like Low VA Rates to request one on your behalf, simply give us a call today.

VA Home Loan Guide

Picture of a home that could be purchased by following our VA home loan guide

VA home loans are an excellent option for military veterans, servicemen, and families to affordably own their own home.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “What is a VA loan?” or how to apply for one, this guide will get you started so you can discover if one is right for you.

What Is a VA Loan?

VA loans were implemented in 1944 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act.

Basically, VA loans are home loans that help veterans and eligible military servicemen and their families afford to purchase a home.

Unlike conventional home loans, VA home loans don’t require a down payment because the government backs the loan.

This government backing provides security for the private lenders, like banks and mortgage companies, who provide the loans, allowing them to offer lower rates and better financing terms.

Main Types of VA Loans

There are two main types of VA home loans: new purchase loans and refinance loans.

Some of the main aspects for a new VA purchase loan include:

  • Being able to buy a property you don’t already own or have a loan on
  • Qualifying for more competitive interest rates
  • Avoiding having to pay closing costs or a down payment at signing

For VA refinance loans, some of the main features include:

  • Being able to lower your interest rate and/or monthly payment by replacing your current mortgage
  • Changing or improving terms on your mortgage
  • Getting cash out to pay off other debts or to renovate your home

Learning about which loan is right for you will help you understand what to look for when you go to get your VA loan.

VA Loan Eligibility

Now that you’ve learned what a VA loan is, you may be asking yourself what it takes to qualify.

Luckily, VA loan eligibility requirements are pretty straightforward. For starters, you must be either a current servicemember, honorably discharged veteran, or the spouse of a servicemember.

Then, in addition to proof of your military status, you will also need:

  • Evidence that your income is sufficient to cover your mortgage and have a certain amount remaining for other expenses each month
  • A Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
  • Acceptable credit*

If you are unsure of your VA loan eligibility benefits, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs VA home loan eligibility page for more information.

*Please be aware that some companies, like Low VA Rates, do not have a minimum credit requirement to be approved

VA Loan Benefits

VA home loans were created with military servicemembers in mind. The benefits provided by the VA recognize the hard work of our military servicemen and women by helping them afford their own homes. Some of these main VA loan benefits are outlined below.

No Down Payment

Conventional home loans require homeowners to pay up to 20% of the home loan when purchasing their home. Depending on the price of the home, this could mean paying anywhere from $7,500 to $90,000 up front. In comparison, VA home loans do not require any money down when purchasing because the government backs the loan.

In fact, the only fee present at closing is the funding fee, a small, one-time fee of 1.25% to 3.3% of the total loan amount. This fee can be paid up front or it can be rolled into the life of the loan and paid over time, eliminating up-front costs when purchasing.

Fee Regulation

VA home loans are regulated by the government, which sets limits on the fees lenders can charge borrowers. Because lenders cannot raise fees above what the government has established, you have less out of pocket expenses than with a conventional home loan.

Flexible Underwriting

Many borrowers who get a VA home loan wouldn’t have been able to qualify for a conventional home loan. However, they’re able to get a VA home loan because of the flexible underwriting requirements that look at more than just the credit score.

While underwriting requirements can vary depending on where you get your loan, they tend to be less strict across the board because veterans and servicemembers have earned the right, through their service, to become homeowners.

Transferable Benefits

When you sell your home, you can transfer the benefits of your VA home loan to other buyers who may not be eligible for their own VA loan, which could help you sell your home faster.

No Mortgage Insurance Premiums

The government provides the insurance and backing for your loan, which means you won’t have to pay any Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). This can save you thousands of dollars every year on your mortgage payments.

Refinancing

It is perfectly fine to refinance your VA home loan in order to get a lower interest rate or reduce your monthly payments. Unlike conventional home loans, some types of VA refinance loans might not require income verification or a home appraisal.

Lower Rates

VA loans typically offer lower rates than conventional home loans. As of 2017, VA loans had a 4.05% interest rate compared to conventional loans that were around 4.32%. It may seem like a small difference, but over time it can really add up and increase what you save on your loan.

No Minimum Credit Score

Many conventional lenders look for a minimum credit score around 620, though it could be up to 720 in some cases, when they approve home loans.

However, there is no minimum required credit score for VA loans (though lenders can set their own policies that specify a minimum).

But some companies, like Low VA Rates, work with borrowers from all credit backgrounds if they have the appropriate income and job stability.

Lower Delinquency Rates

Because VA lenders look at the overall financial makeup of the borrower, the delinquency rate for VA loans is often lower than the delinquency rates for conventional loans.

Though this may not always be the case at any given moment in time, the general trend is for a lower rate of foreclosures with VA loans. And, even when delinquency rates for VA loans are higher, it is usually only by a small margin.

The Perfect Time to Get a VA Home Loan

VA loan benefits are too good to pass up, and now is a great time to buy. Interest rates on homes are beginning to rise and are predicted to reach 5% by the end of 2018. If you’re thinking about purchasing a home, you’ll want to start sooner rather than later.

Refinance & Loan Options

There are three main types of VA refinance loans. Check out an overview of each of these three loan types below. If one of them sounds like the perfect fit for you, visit Low VA Rates to apply today.

VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL)

Often called the VA streamline loan, there are many benefits to getting a VA IRRRL. However, there are also some requirements you have to meet first:

  • You must be refinancing a current VA home loan
  • Mortgage payments must be current
  • You cannot have more than one 30-day late payment within last 12 months
  • Your current loan must have seasoned for at least 6 months

If you meet these requirements, then you will be able to enjoy the following benefits:

  • VA streamline refinance loans are easy to qualify for and have great rates
  • VA refinance loans does not require income verification, bank statements, or pay stubs
  • A home appraisal is not required
  • There are no out of pocket expenses for the refinance, including closing costs

VA Cash-Out Refinance

Veterans who’ve established equity in their homes and need some extra cash might consider a cash-out refinance.

This type of loan is very useful because it allows you to get cash you can use to make home improvements, pay off bills, lower monthly expenses, and more. You may even be able to refinance up to 100% LTV (loan-to-value) on your home.

In order to be eligible for a cash-out refinance, you must:

  • Verify income and employment with two years of tax returns, proof of income like rental properties or child support, two most recent pay stubs, and proof of employment history for two years.
  • Provide information on your liabilities and assets including your credit report and two months of official bank statements for all accounts.
  • Get home inspection and appraisal to determine the current value of your home.

Veterans who qualify for a cash-out refinance include:

  • Those with an honorable discharge status
  • Current members of the National Guard or Reserve
  • Current servicemembers on active duty
  • Surviving spouses that are have not remarried
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officers and Public Health Officers

You must also prepare and submit your COE and have your DD-214 ready.

VA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) Refinance Loan

VA loan borrowers who are interested in improving the energy efficiency of their home can choose to pursue an energy efficient mortgage (EEM).

This type of mortgage refinance loan allows qualified applicants to improve the energy efficiency of their home. These updates and improvements must be completed within six months of closing on the loan.

Some updates are not allowed as part of an EEM. However, many are, including:

  • Solar-powered cooling and heating
  • Improvements to insulation
  • Upgrades to thermostats and heat pumps
  • Windows and doors that are energy efficient

Once improvements have been completed, your home will be audited for energy use to determine your estimated annual savings and to make sure your upgrades offset your renovation costs. The auditor will also recommend any additional changes that need to be made to make the home more energy efficient.

Securing VA Loans with Bad Credit

If you’ve ever gone through a bankruptcy, then you know how it seriously damages your credit, and you might feel that it means homeownership is out of your reach.

Thankfully, VA home loans can help you make the journey back into homeownership. Even if you’ve filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may still be eligible for a VA home loan.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy will typically require a 2-year waiting period (after bankruptcy discharge) and Chapter 7 will require a 12-month waiting period before most lenders will approve you for a VA home loan.

Additionally, your VA home loan lender will need the following:

  • Proof of a stable job and income
  • Evidence that you have built up your credit, or are actively building your credit
  • No record of late payments since the bankruptcy discharge

Bankruptcy is a difficult choice and it requires hard work to get back on track. However, it is comforting to know that just because you have faced a bankruptcy doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for a home loan.

Paying Off Your Mortgage

Amidst all the excitement of getting a home, you should still take time to consider how to best pay off your mortgage. Thirty years to pay off a mortgage is a very long time when you sit down to think about it.

There are, however, simple things you can do to pay off your mortgage quicker; one of these methods is to pay your mortgage bi-weekly instead of just once a month.

Making Bi-Weekly Payments

An easy way to make extra payments is to pay half of your mortgage payment bi-weekly, especially if that’s how your work’s pay schedule is already set up.

If you pay half of your mortgage every time you get paid, you end up making 26 payments, which turns out to be an extra full payment on your mortgage every year. This payment can go directly to the principal balance on your loan.

While it may not sound like much, it adds up quickly. If you had a $100,000, 30-year mortgage with a 5.5% interest rate, you would end up cutting 5 years off the total life of your loan and saving around $34,000.

Because VA loans don’t have a prepayment penalty, this type of payment schedule is a great strategy to help you pay off your loan ahead of schedule.

VA Loan Approval

Once you’ve established that you meet VA home loan guidelines, the next step on your journey for VA loan approval is to get your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). You can apply for your COE in one of three different ways:

  1. Online through the VA’s eBenefits portal
  2. By mailing in the completed VA form 26-1880
  3. Through a VA-approved lender

The last option is actually the easiest, so we encourage you to contact one of our team members here at Low VA Rates.

After that, it’s a matter of submitting all of the required documents and waiting the processing time to get your VA loan approval.

And if you aren’t approved? Well, just because one lender doesn’t approve your loan doesn’t mean a different one won’t. We encourage all of our borrowers to shop around to find the lender that best meets their needs and provides the best terms for their specific situation.

(We think that will still probably be us . . . but this way you’ll know for sure!)

Your Experienced VA Loan Experts

Low VA Rates strives to provide servicemen and women with VA home loans that work for them. So, if you’re looking for a VA home loan, apply now and see what we can do for you!

5 Tips to Find the Perfect VA Approved Lender

Map with a marker for finding a VA-approved lender

There are so many different VA home loan lenders out there, and they all say they’re going to do a good job—so how do you decide who you can trust and who will get you the loan you need?

At Low VA Rates, we want you to get the right loan for situation. And while we always hope it’s from us, we know that might not be the case. So, before you commit to one lender, follow these five easy steps to make sure you find the right VA-approved lender for your situation.

1. Ask Around

If you want a VA loan, one of the first things you’ll need to do is to make sure any lender you’re even considering is VA-approved.

A great place to start is by asking your co-workers, friends, or family members who also served. If they’ve bought a home recently, they may have also gotten a VA loan, so they’d be able to tell you if they like their lender.

2. Check Each Lender’s Reputation

Do your own background check on recommended lenders and be sure to read online reviews and even talk to past clients if possible.

Bring up any bad reviews with lenders and see if they have answers or an explanation, because sometimes the reviewers were unfair. If you ask the hard questions now, you can avoid problems years down the road.

3. Research Each Lender’s Experience

Ask possible lenders if they have experience with people who have a background similar to yours. For example, you may only want a VA loan, your credit score is low, and you want to buy your first home. Have they worked with others like you?

Any VA home loan lender you choose should have plenty of experience when it comes to creating VA loans. Because VA loans have unique requirements, you will want to choose a lender who does lots of VA loans as opposed to one here and there.

4. Get Loan Estimates from Several Lenders

Once you narrow down your list, ask each prospective lender for a loan estimate form. With several of those, you can compare the monthly payments, fees, interest rates, and other details offered by each lender.

5. Trust Your First Impression

No matter what a lender’s online reviews say, it matters whether you like and trust them in person. To hone in on that gut feeling, here are some things to consider:

  • Did they answer the phone courteously and talk in a friendly way?
  • Were they prompt in getting back to you?
  • Did they answer all your questions and help you learn more?
  • Do they offer other useful information, even when you don’t ask?

BONUS: A House Hunting Tip

Ok, so this one isn’t really about how to find the perfect lender, but it will come in handy as you get ready to start the search for your dream home.

Learn about the local real estate market!

Knowing what to expect will 100% make house shopping easier. In order to start learning, you should ask questions like:

  • What neighborhood(s) do I want to live in?
  • What are the high, medium, and low prices in those neighborhoods?
  • How many houses are vacant there?

Keep in mind that homes in high-demand areas can be more difficult to get, as multiple bidders can drive up the prices.

Low VA Rates Is Your VA-Approved Lender

Well, there you have it: how to find and evaluate different VA-approved lenders. At Low VA Rates, we wish you luck on your search and hope you keep us in consideration.

We’ve helped many veterans get VA loans all over the country. It’s our #1 focus! We also have a reputation for being friendly, professional, and educational. Contact us today to speak with licensed VA loan officers, some of whom are also veterans, just like you.

How VA Loan Interest Rates Are Different from Other Loans

Picture of a home with a stack of coins representing rising interest rates

You may have heard that VA home loans offer some of the most competitive mortgage rates available. But have you ever wondered why?

To understand loan interest rates on VA loans, let’s first think about financial loans in general and why lenders charge interest.

How Loans Work

In order to understand how loan interest rates work, you first have to understand how a home loan itself works.

Basically, a home loan is a type of secured loan, where the home itself serves as collateral in case you default. What this means is that, if you can’t pay, the lender can sell the home to get back their money.

Because home are expensive, and most people don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, banks or other lenders let an individual borrow the money with the agreement that the money will be paid back over a certain amount of time, with interest.

But why do they charge interest? Why can’t they just loan you the money and let you pay it back, even-steven? Keep reading to find out!

Why There Are Interest Rates

Basically, banks and other lenders charge interest just like landlords charge rent; in other words, interest is the cost of renting the lender’s money.

The lender usually adds the interest amount to the principal (which is mortgage-speak for the amount you originally borrowed). Over time, this increases the amount you’ll need to pay back.

Ok, so now you understand why there are interest rates. But why do they vary from borrower to borrower?

Basically, it’s a way for the bank to protect themselves from losing too much money. Lenders charge higher interest to borrowers who have riskier credit histories, lower income, and so on.

The rationale for this is that those “high-risk” borrowers are more likely to not pay the entire loan back, so the lender wants to make more on the loan before the borrower defaults.

Because lenders are a business, loans are written so they will get back much more than they lent. Basically, they need to make it worth their while, financially, in order to justify the risk.

Why Average Interest Rates Change Over Time

Banks and other lenders set their loan interest rates based on factors like central bank rates, inflation, and the demand for credit.

Here an explanation of how this works:
The country’s central bank lends out money to other banks, so if the central bank raises its interest rate, the other banks will also have to raise their rates. That makes borrowing more expensive, and consumers want to borrow (and buy) less. Because less people are buying, the economy slows down, which usually encourages the central bank to lower its interest rate again.

Now, with interest rates dropping, borrowers can take out more loans and use that, in combination with their savings, buy more. This increase of spending expands the economy, eventually leading causing the demand for goods to rise higher than supply, which results in price inflation. In order to combat this inflation, the central bank raises interest rates, and the cycle starts over.

So, because the economy is cyclical, you can see why the average interest rates keep changing and are higher or lower depending on various factors.

How a VA-Backed Loan Gives You a Lower Interest Rate

A VA loan interest rate will almost always be lower than the average home loan interest rate. That’s because the VA gives lenders an added piece of security by guaranteeing they’ll be repaid a portion of each loan, even if you don’t pay them back a cent.

So, lenders feel safer, and it’s less risk to them if you default, so they’re confident and comfortable giving out lower interest rates. It also means they can provide other benefits, such as not requiring a down payment.

Why Lower Rates Should Matter to You

Let’s put it simply: with lower interest rates, you’ll be able to keep more of your money each month to spend it on other important things besides housing.

Sound enticing? To find out if you qualify for a VA loan, apply now with Low VA Rates. We’ll guide you through the steps to saving money on your mortgage so you can achieve your home-owning dreams.

Can I Get a VA Loan after Declaring Bankruptcy?

Man looking stressed after declaring bankruptcy

If you declare bankruptcy, this has the potential to affect when and if you can get a VA loan. Part of that has to do with how your credit score is impacted by filing—it can drop your score up to 240 points.

However, despite these challenges, you can still qualify, though the details will differ depending on which type of bankruptcy you filed for.

Getting a VA Loan After Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to wait a full two years from the discharge date before you can qualify for a VA loan. Other requirements after the two year wait time include:

  • Reestablishing a good credit history
  • Compiling a full explanation of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  • Providing proof of a stable job

Even though a Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not eliminate the possibility of a VA home loan, it does create more requirements and wait time.

Getting a VA Loan After Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Because Chapter 13 bankruptcy deals with the repayment of debt rather than the liquidation of assets, it differs slightly from a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Like Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 also has a required wait time before you can receive approval for a VA home loan. However, instead of two years, you can apply for a VA home loan after only a year, as long as you’ve made every single payment on time.

To verify your payment history over the past year, the court trustee must give their written approval for the loan to be approved. In addition, you must still provide a full explanation of the Chapter 13 bankruptcy, just like you would for Chapter 7.

Improving Your Credit after Bankruptcy

While the VA and some lenders, including Low VA Rates, don’t have minimum credit score requirements, some VA lenders do. And even without a minimum requirement, having a good credit score can simplify and streamline the process of getting a VA loan.

That’s why you should spend the waiting period after declaring bankruptcy working to improve your credit score as much as possible. If you’re not sure how to do that, feel free to contact one of our team members at Low VA Rates. We’ve helped veterans improve their score in the past, and would love to help you improve yours as well.

Your Guide for Using a VA Loan to Build a House

Home being constructed for purchase with a VA home loan

It’s possible for a lender to create a VA loan to build a house, if that’s what you want to do. As a veteran, one of the benefits of doing this is that you don’t have to make a down payment.

Not All VA Lenders Work with Construction Loans

Doing a VA loan on top of a construction loan can be a pretty complicated process. For this reason, a lot of VA lenders choose to avoid them. They’d rather just stick with standard mortgages.

That’s because construction loans, in general, are riskier for lenders. Since the home usually serves as collateral, but yours isn’t built yet, they could lose their money if the home is never finished or you default on your payments. Since the VA doesn’t issue loans—it just guarantees a portion of the loan for the lender—private lenders often don’t want this risk.

So, if it’s your dream to own a custom-built home, you might need to shop around a bit for a VA lender who is willing to work with you. Not every lender is aware of—or experienced with—how to help you use your VA home loan benefits for a truly custom-built home. (Good news, though: Low VA Rates happens to be one of them!)

How to Build a Custom Home Using Your VA Benefits

Once you decide on the lender you want to use to help you finance your custom dream home, it’s time to dive in to the process, which usually has a couple of extra steps compared to financing a pre-built home.

First, you will likely need to find the local builder you want to work with and finalize the plans and discuss costs. You also need to make sure that this builder has a VA Builder ID number.

If the builder you really want to work with doesn’t have this ID yet, make sure they get it. It’s simply a matter of submitting a few forms to register with the VA, and then waiting just a day or two for the ID number to be assigned.

Once you’re sure your builder has their ID number and you have the plan and costs nailed down, your VA lender (hopefully it’s us!) can get you pre-approved for the proper amount using a VA loan.

But you won’t be using that VA just yet. With the pre-approval letter in hand, you will actually now need to get a short-term construction loan to cover the actual build. Your builder most likely has banks they’ve worked with before. If you bring that list to your VA lender, they should be able to help you decide which bank to go with.

Once you’ve decided on which bank or lender you want to use for the short-term construction loan, you and your builder can use your VA lender’s pre-approval letter to help get your construction loan approved and building can start.

After the home is finished, that’s when your VA loan comes into play. It will be used to pay off the construction loan and now you’ll be using your VA-benefits to pay off your new home for the next 15 to 30 years, depending on your loan term.

Contact Low VA Rates with Any Questions

Still uncertain about the process of how to build a custom home with your VA loan benefits? Even if you’re not ready to dive right in yet, one of our experienced loan officers would still be happy to talk with you and answer your questions, no obligation.

So give us a call or contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you.

How to Get a VA Home Loan in 6 Easy Steps

Home with an American flag on the porch

If you’re getting ready to start a VA loan application, here are six steps to help you prepare for and finish the VA loan process quickly and smoothly.

1. Make Sure You Qualify for the VA Loan Program

First, make sure you qualify for a VA home loan based on these criteria:

  • You’re a military veteran who meets the VA’s eligibility requirements
  • You plan to live in the house soon after the loan closes
  • After paying your other monthly expenses, you will have enough income left over for mortgage payments
  • You meet the lender’s credit requirements*

*To check your credit, you can get your credit report from one of the big three credit bureaus. In addition, though the VA doesn’t require a minimum credit score for a VA loan, some lenders set their own. However, at Low VA Rates, we do not have a set minimum score, and will do our best to work with you even if your credit score needs some work.

2. Find a VA Lender

Next, contact some VA-approved lenders in your area (like Low VA Rates!).

Make sure you don’t just go with the first VA lender you come across, including us. We want veterans to get the best deal, and we’ve found that the more you look around at different lenders, the more likely that is to happen.

Once you have multiple loan offers from different lenders, compare and contrast their closing costs, settlement costs, and other fees. Give them your credit score and get an estimate of how much they could lend you.

Also look at their customer service and expertise. It’s usually better to go with a lender that specializes in VA loans rather than one that only creates them occasionally. They’ll know how to help you with things unique to the VA loan process, like requesting your Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

3. Pre-Qualify for a Loan

To accomplish this step, you’ll need to run through your income and assets with your lender. This will help you figure out how large of a mortgage payment you could afford and what price of house you should look at, saving you from looking at houses outside of your price range.

4. Select the House and Get a Purchase Contract

Through classified ads, listings, a real estate agent, or online real estate sites, search for a house in your price range.

If you choose to go with a real estate agent, consider working with one who has experience working with VA listings; he or she can help you get the best deals and negotiate for benefits like having the seller pay for certain fees.

Finally, once you choose a house and make an offer that gets accepted, you’ll need a signed purchase agreement in order to finish your VA loan application.

5. Get a VA Appraisal

Now the lender will start to process everything in your application and you will need to order an appraisal.

The appraisal can be ordered in a couple of different ways. First, you could to have your lender send in the order. Or, second, you can seek one out yourself.

However, in either situation, the appraiser MUST be a VA-certified appraiser, which mean they will be assigned by the VA and serve as a neutral third-party not financially invested in the outcome of the appraisal.

The purpose of the appraisal is to estimate the value of the house, which will dictate how much the loan can be written for, and make sure it meets the VA’s minimum property requirements (MPRs).

When it comes to the appraisal, it’s important to remember that it is not an inspection, which you might want to also consider ordering.

6. Close and Sign the Loan

Once the VA appraisal is complete and the home is deemed satisfactory in terms of price and the MPRs, then the lender can approve the loan.

You’ll need to show up and sign the documents, and the lender or closing attorney will go over the terms and monthly payment requirements. At this time you’ll be required to show proof of homeowner’s insurance that meets your lender’s requirements.

The End of the Process

Congratulations, you’re now a homeowner!

Once closing is completed and all of the documents are signed and finalized, ownership of the house will transfer to you. In addition, your COE will also be updated to state that you are currently using your entitlement.

Contact Low VA Rates if you want to get started on this process. We’re here to help you fulfill the American dream of owning your home, and our experienced loan officers will help you complete each of these steps.

Everything You Need to Know about Applying for a Second VA Loan

Person researching things to know about a second VA loan

Have you used a VA loan in the past to purchase a home? If so, you probably know just how helpful these loans can be, both at the time of purchase and during the years of repayment.

Like the majority of Americans, however, you’ll likely purchase more than one home in your lifetime. As you did in the past, you may be interested in applying for a second VA loan.

However, because VA loans are backed by the government, there are some unique aspects of taking out a second VA loan. The following quick tips will cover exactly what you need to know before getting started.

Entitlements: What You Need to Know

As one of the more complex aspects of a VA loan, your entitlement can be difficult to understand even if you’ve already gone through the VA loan process.

Put in simple terms, your entitlement is the amount of money the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) agrees to pay the lender in the event you happen to default on payments. It’s essentially a safety net for both lenders and borrowers in case of default.

The VA limits the entitlement based on two criteria:

  1. 25% of the home loan amount
  2. The conforming loan limit for conventional financing

With the second criteria, the conforming loan limit is determined by county, but for most loans in most counties, it is currently $453,100 in 2018.

So, for most VA homebuyers, it is safe to say that their total entitlement would be 25% of $453,100, which ends up being about $113,275. This entitlement amount, however, can be split into two, called the primary and secondary entitlement, if you do not use it all on your first home.

In general, the primary entitlement is for $36,000. If your first home costs over $144,000, you can dip into your secondary entitlement in order to still receive 100% funding of the loan; it just can’t exceed your county’s conforming loan limit.

Here’s an example: Say your first home cost $220,000. Because your VA entitlement guarantees 25% of the loan, you’ve used $55,000 of your entitlement ($36,000 + $19,000 of your secondary entitlement). That means your secondary entitlement still has $58,275 that can be used on a second home.

You can also sometimes have your primary entitlement restored (by filling out and submitting VA Form 26-1880) in a few specific conditions:

  1. You still own the home but have paid off the loan
  2. You sold the home and used the money to pay off the loan
  3. You transfer the loan to another veteran buyer who substitutes their entitlement for the original amount of entitlement you used

How Having Two VA Loans Works

It’s not uncommon for veterans to have more than one VA home loan at a time. Oftentimes members of the military purchase a home with the primary VA loan and then have to PCS to a new location in which they want to purchase another home.

If you’re in a similar situation, you may want to rent out your first home instead of selling it, which means you’ll be required to make mortgage payments on both houses. In this case, taking out a second VA loan allows you to be financially qualified to own two homes at the same time without worrying about defaulting on mortgage payments.

However, you will still have to qualify for the second loan, which includes:

  • Making sure you’ll meet the occupancy requirements
  • Reviewing the last 12 months of your existing loan payments to make sure they were paid on time and you’re up-to-date
  • Calculating your residual income to make sure you meet those requirements, as well

The lender will also scrutinize your debt-to-income ratio to confirm that you’ll be able to make both mortgage payments. You should not use your secondary entitlement unless you are absolutely certain you can both loan amounts each and every month.

A Second VA Loan Can Help in the Event of Foreclosure

While the second entitlement is available to help you with the purchase of your second home, a second VA loan can also be used if you’ve happened to lose your primary VA loan due to foreclosure.

As long as your entire entitlement is not tangled up in the foreclosure, you should still be able to get a second VA loan. To find out for sure how much entitlement you have left after foreclosure, you can obtain a Certificate of Eligibility.

It is important to note that you cannot get a VA loan immediately after foreclosure. You must wait a minimum of two years after foreclosure before applying for and receiving a new VA loan.

However, once this time period has passed, choosing a VA loan again will likely still save you money over using other loan types. This is because your second VA loan still won’t carry any mandatory form of mortgage insurance, even after foreclosure. And, if enough of your entitlement remains, you also won’t need to make a down payment.

Because getting a second VA loan after a foreclosure has a waiting period, you should use that time to build your credit back up. During those two years, make sure you show a history of paying all of your debts on time so you don’t get turned down for a second VA loan because of concerns with your credit history.

Fees for Your Second VA Home Loan

VA funding fees help the government operate and manage the loan program, and they will be different for your second VA house loan.

That’s because the fees for a VA loan vary depending on a few factors including:

  • How many times you’ve used the program
  • Your individual military service
  • The type of VA loan you’re applying for

In general, if you’re using the VA loan program for the second time and are purchasing a home with $0 down, you can expect to have a funding fee of 3.3% added to your loan amount. As with any other VA loan, the more you put towards a down payment, the lower your funding fees will be.

Now that you understand these key facts about taking out a second VA home loan, you’re ready to get started. Contact one of our loan experts today to learn about how to qualify for our competitive rates.

What Is a VA Home Loan Appraisal?

An VA appraiser completes a checklist for a VA home loan appraisal

VA loan appraisals evaluate the property you wish to purchase and determine its fair market value. This is done by appraising the current state and condition of the home against other comparable homes that have recently sold—or are currently for sale—in the area.

VA appraisals differ from regular appraisals in that the property is required to meet the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs). These are simply guidelines that help ensure buyers purchase a safe home in good condition.

During the VA appraisal, the appraiser uses the MPRs to make sure homeowners don’t buy a home with lead paint, hazardous materials in or around the home, or moisture present in the basement, for example. They also ensure that the home’s roof and structure are in good condition.

Who Needs a VA Home Loan Appraisal?

VA home loan appraisals are mandatory for those seeking to apply for most types of VA loans or refinances. However, some loans, like the VA IRRRL, may not require an appraisal.

As for when the appraisal happens, you will have the option to have your VA lender send an order for an appraisal as soon as you have signed a contract on a home, or you may seek out your own neutral third-party appraiser.

Will a VA Appraisal Cause Delays with My Loan?

If you’re a VA loan applicant, you might be worrying that ordering an appraisal for your new home could delay and slow down how soon you’re able to get into your dream home.

However, we have great news!

Unless the home is in poor condition and requires extensive renovations or rebuilding, there should be no reason for you to expect any delays.

If repairs do end up being necessary, the appraiser may perform a follow-up appraisal, often called a compliance inspection, to ensure that the necessary changes have been made and the home now conforms to the VA’s MPRs.

Why Are VA Appraisals Important?

VA appraisals determine the value of the property you wish to purchase with a VA loan and will provide the fair market value of the property. Knowing the fair market value helps ensure that you don’t receive a loan that is higher than the actual worth of the property.

For example, if your dream home is 2,000 square feet and it costs $200,000, then the price per square foot is $100. If nearby comparable properties are selling for $90 – $93 per square foot, then buying your home for so much more could set you up for financial failure.

If this happens and your dream home is priced higher than comparable homes, you can still get a loan. But you may have to renegotiate a lower price or pay the difference between the VA-appraised value and selling price.

To find out how to get your VA loan appraisal, contact Low VA Rates today. We’ll help you move one step closer to getting into your new home!

5 Things to Know about a VA House Loan

American flag in front of home purchased with a VA house loan

If you’re a veteran or active member of the military, you may have heard about VA home loans. Whether you’re looking to purchase a home now, or in the future, preparing to get a VA home loan will help you achieve your homeownership dreams.

If you’ve ever wondered what a VA house loan was all about, we’ve put together a list of the five most important things you need to know about a VA home loan before you start house hunting.

We’ll cover everything from VA loan guidelines and requirements (including credit scores) to and VA home loan benefits and even some interest rate information so you can begin preparing for your home purchase today.

1. What Is a VA House Loan?

The VA home loan program was originally implemented as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (G.I. Bill) in order to help veterans establish establish their credit and purchase a home.

Because veterans had been away serving their country, they didn’t have as much time to establish the creditworthiness needed to purchase a home when they returned. The VA home loan program helped them catch up with greater homeownership opportunities.

Today, VA home loans still meet this need and can be used for several purposes, including purchasing, building, repairing, or refinancing a home you intend to use as your primary residence.

These loans are backed by the government but are provided by private lenders, like banks and mortgage companies, who get approved by the VA. Because of the government backing, if you happen to default on the loan, the government will pay the lender a portion of what you owe. This added protection allows VA-approved lenders to offer lower interest rates on their VA loans.

2. VA Loan Guidelines for Eligibility

In order to qualify for a VA home loan, you must meet the VA loan guidelines for eligibility. Once you are considered eligible, you can begin the process of applying for your VA home loan.

A full list of those who qualify can be found on the Department of Veterans Affairs website, but Individuals who may qualify include:

  • Veterans
  • Current servicemen and women
  • Spouses of servicemembers who died in the service
  • Spouses of POWs or those MIA
  • Some Public Health Service officers
  • Cadets of the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy
  • Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy

Other eligibility requirements include things like having satisfactory credit, a sufficient income, a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE), and an eligible property.

Understanding if you qualify is the first step towards getting your VA home loan and making your dream of becoming a homeowner a reality.

3. VA Home Loan Benefits

Many service members choose to use a VA house loan because of the numerous benefits they offer. While there are lots of conventional loans and other types of government home loans, they have different benefits than a VA loan and often cost the buyer more in up-front fees. Here are the most common home loans and how VA loans compare.

Conventional Loans

These are the traditional mortgage loans most people get for their homes. They are not government backed and approvals are heavily based on credit. In fact, according to Ellie Mae, the average credit score for a conventional home loan is around 753.

They also require a minimum down payment of 3.5%, but it can be as high as 20% of the total loan amount. For down payments below 20%, you will be required to pay PMI (private mortgage insurance) until your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is 80% or less.

FHA Loans

FHA loans are backed by the government and although there is no minimum required credit score, scores of 620 and up are usually preferred. They are less expensive to purchase initially and only require a 3.5% down payment at closing. However, you will need to pay MIP (mortgage insurance premiums) for the duration of the loan.

USDA Loans

These are also government-backed home loans, but they are only available in rural areas. Again, there is no minimum credit score, but a 660 and up is preferred.

VA Home Loans

VA home loans have many benefits, including no down payment, no mortgage insurance, and no prepayment penalties. There are also limits on how much you have to pay for closing costs, so you might need negotiate with the seller to have them covered.

The myriad of benefits makes it easy to understand why many eligible servicemen and women choose to pursue a VA house loan when looking to finance their home.

4. Credit Score for a VA Loan

Most loans and lines of credit rely on a credit score to determine eligibility. Credit scores range from 300 to 850, and a credit score above 740 is typically considered excellent credit. While many conventional lenders look for excellent credit scores, VA loan guidelines are not so strict.

VA approved lenders often prefer a score of at least 620; however, there is no minimum credit requirement for VA house loans. Some VA-approved lenders, like Low VA Rates, take into account other factors that might be affecting your credit score.

Because credit score is not the end-all-be-all with VA loans, most lenders will also look at your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. A DTI of 41% or lower is usually preferred, but again, VA loans are much more flexible than conventional loans and often allow a higher DTI ratio.

If for some reason you are not approved for a VA home loan, don’t despair. Credit scores and DTI ratios are not set in stone. You can always take some time to improve your credit, pay down some debt, and apply for your VA home loan again.

5. VA Loan Interest Rates

If you are worried about your VA loan interest rate, don’t be. VA loan rates are usually much lower than rates for conventional home loans because they are government-backed. The rate you are approved for will vary, depending on your loan terms, type, and other factors.

In general, 15-year VA home loans have lower interest rates that 30-year VA loans. Additionally, adjustable rate mortgages also tend to offer lower initial rates than fixed rate mortgages, but they can fluctuate over the life of the loan and go up, so keep that in mind as you search for the VA loan that’s right for you.

VA loan interest rates are still currently quite low, so now might be a good time to purchase or refinance your home with a VA home loan.

Choose VA-Approved Lenders

As you begin your search for a new home, there are many things you’ll need to prepare for. However, if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be starting down the right path. Just make sure your guide is someone you can trust, like a VA-approved lender with experience doing VA loans.

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