Take action today. Call our experts at: phone icon1-800-522-5221

Military Benefits

Moving? Here’s How to Optimize Your VA Home Loan


A VA Home Loan is a mortgage guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and issued by a private lender like AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC (AMS). If you’re able to qualify, VA Home Loans offer distinct advantages for buying or refinancing a home:

  • No Down Payment — with a VA Home Loan you can put zero down.
  • Lower Payments — competitive interest rates and no private mortgage insurance means lower monthly payments, although a funding fee may be required.
  • Easier to Qualify — the VA Home Loan program provides homeownership opportunities for Veterans and servicemembers who might struggle to qualify for conventional financing.

To help our Members better understand and optimize their VA loan entitlement, we asked Kevin Crooks, Jr., Business Development Manager with AAFMAA Mortgage Services LLC, to explain more. Kevin was also recently interviewed for a LinkedIn live session on this topic, which you can watch here.

AMS: How do I know if I’m eligible for a VA Home Loan?

Crooks: AAFMAA Members can contact a licensed AMS Military Mortgage Advisor (MMA) to determine their eligibility.

AMS: Can our MMAs also help a surviving spouse find out if he or she is eligible?

Yes, we certainly can. Normally, there would be a couple of different forms they’ll need to complete and/or gather ( the Veteran’s DD214 or other separation papers) and there is a separate surviving spouse request (form 26-1817) for a certificate of eligibility.

AMS: Is there an advantage to making a down payment even if it’s not required?

Crooks: One benefit of a VA Home Loan is that you don’t have to make a down payment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, there are some financial benefits to making a down payment, including the opportunity to pay a lower VA funding fee and more affordable monthly mortgage payments.

AMS: Can you explain the funding fee?

Crooks: With conventional loans, a buyer who puts less than 20% down is required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI). With VA Home Loans, buyers pay a one-time upfront fee that can be rolled into the loan. The first time a borrower takes out a VA Home Loan, the funding fee is 2.15% (see VA funding fee structure).

What's really common is we'll see folks who may be on their second purchase who can put 5% down, and save more than a point and a half (1.8%) in funding fees. So, by taking 5% and putting it into the equity of your home, you can save yourself 1.8% of the funding fee.

Related: Members Switch to AMS to Pay Off Their Construction Loan

AMS: Can you own more than one home under a VA loan?

Crooks: There’s been a lot of confusion about that but every servicemember or Veteran has a fixed amount of entitlement, which is based off of 1/4 of the conforming loan limit. It is possible and quite common for someone to have more than one VA Home Loan out at a time. The takeaway here is that military homebuyers know this is an option and reach out to an expert to determine how much they can finance at 100% and if there would be a down payment required for their desired price point.

AMS: What are the circumstances when the VA funding fee would be waived?

Crooks: You won’t have to pay a VA funding fee if you meet any of these conditions:

  • You’re receiving VA compensation for a service-connected disability.
  • You’re eligible to receive VA compensation for a service-connected disability, but you’re receiving retirement or active-duty pay instead.

For surviving spouses, the eligibility is as follows:

At least one of these must be true:

  • The Veteran is missing in action, or
  • The Veteran is a prisoner of war (POW), or
  • The Veteran died while in service or from a service-connected disability and the spouse didn’t remarry, or
  • The Veteran died while in service or from a service-connected disability and the spouse didn’t remarry before they were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003, or
  • The Veteran had been totally disabled and then died, but their disability may not have been the cause of death (in certain situations).

Related: 3 Ways to Save Faster to Buy a Home in 2024

AMS: Is there a difference between how the VA Home Loan is used if you are on active duty, or if you're separated or retired from service?

Crooks: No, the only real difference is the funding fee required.

AMS: Do you have to physically live in a home you buy with a VA Home Loan?

Crooks: You or your spouse (if you’re married and on active duty) do have to physically occupy the home. The VA Home Loan is for primary residences. In most cases, this means you intend to occupy the home for at least the next 12 months. Loan products are always more advantageous for primary residences because they are less risky to the lender.

AMS: What other tips do you have for Members who want to optimize their VA Home Loan?

Crooks: It’s best to connect with us early — in fact, the earlier the better. We’re here to educate Members about mortgages, including VA Home Loans, and help them decide what’s right for them. Many AAFMAA Members are interested in building wealth and a great way to do that is through real estate.

Of course, we’re true advocates for VA Home Loans. You just can’t beat them from an affordability and down payment standpoint. It’s a true benefit for those who have served our country.

We’re Here to Help

Whether you’re thinking about buying, ready to start home-shopping in earnest, or considering a refinance, an AMS Military Mortgage Advisor will be happy to provide you with an honest and fair comparison of your mortgage options, including a wide range of affordable mortgages designed to meet your needs.

Ensuring AAFMAA Members obtain the best mortgage possible is our mission. Get your free mortgage assessment today or give us a call at 844-422-3622!