How to Get Preapproved for a VA Loan

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Taking the time to get preapproved for a mortgage before you begin your home search can help you avoid the disappointment of finding the perfect home you can’t afford. 

If you’re thinking about using a VA loan for your home purchase, you’ll be glad to know that the VA loan preapproval process is fairly straightforward. 

What Does Preapproval Mean?

Mortgage preapproval allows you to have a loan officer review your finances before you’re ready to submit a full loan application. Having a VA home loan preapproval means a VA lender has reviewed your information, checked your credit and made a loan offer. 

This lets you see how much buying power you have and gives you some insight into what your interest rate and monthly payments will be.

In today’s competitive housing market, preapprovals are a critical step in the homebuying process. Taking the time to get preapproved shows both your real estate agent and home sellers that you’re serious about buying a home and are a solid buyer.

Some listing agents won’t even accept purchase offers from buyers who haven’t provided a copy of their preapproval letter.

While a prequalification typically means that a lender has reviewed your creditworthiness to determine whether you qualify for a loan, preapproval is a bit more rigorous.

During the preapproval process, the lender will typically require you to submit documentation to verify your information. Although a preapproval doesn’t guarantee you’ll be approved for a loan, going through this process significantly increases your chances of ultimately being approved.

It can also give you a good idea of what to expect when it’s time to close.

VA Loan Preapproval Requirements

For all types of loan preapprovals, the lender will want to verify you’re a good credit risk and financially able to repay the loan you’re requesting. To do this, your loan officer may review your credit score and income.

While the VA doesn’t set minimum standards for these factors, lenders often do. 

When you’re applying for a VA loan preapproval, you’ll also need to verify that you’ve met the minimum service requirements set by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. To qualify, you must meet one or more of the following:

  • A minimum of 181 days of active-duty service during peacetime
  • A minimum of 90 days of active-duty service during wartime
  • At least six years of National Guard or Reserves service
  • At least 90 days under Title 32 duty (30 must be continuous)
  • A surviving spouse of a military member who died while in service or from a service-connected disability

These service requirements may be waived if you meet certain exceptions, such as being discharged as a result of a service-related disability. If you’re not sure whether your service qualifies, consider speaking to a VA lender who can help you determine your eligibility.

Necessary Documentation to Get Preapproved

Since a VA loan preapproval requires verification of your important information, you’ll typically need to submit a significant amount of documentation. Expect your lender to request the following items.

Financial Documentation:

  • Copy of your driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID
  • Copy of your recent pay stubs and W-2 statements from the past two years
  • Federal income tax returns for the past two years (if you have rental income, 1099s, or income from self-employment)
  • Copy of your recent bank statements and retirement account statements
  • Copy of your VA Awards letter documenting your monthly income amount and VA disability percentage (if applicable)
  • Copy of your Social Security awards letter documenting your monthly income amount (if applicable)
  • Copy of your court papers or divorce decree specifying child support or alimony obligations (if applicable)
  • Copy of your child care statement detailing the monthly cost or explaining why you don’t have monthly child care expenses (if applicable)

Service Documentation:

  • Statement of Service letter signed by your commanding officer (your lender can advise you regarding the information this letter should include)
  • For Veterans – a copy of your DD-214
  • National Guard and Reserve Veterans may need to provide points statements or similar paperwork

How Long Does the VA Preapproval Process Take?

The VA preapproval process varies from lender to person. Some of the factors that can impact your timeline include how long it takes you to submit the required documentation, how quickly you respond to requests and the complexity of your financial situation.

In most cases, getting a VA loan approval doesn’t take any longer than it would take to get preapproved for an FHA loan or other type of conventional loan. If your documentation is in good order when you submit it, it’s usually possible to get preapproved for a VA loan within 24 hours.

Preapproved for a VA Loan: What’s Next?

Once you’ve been preapproved for your VA loan, you’ll receive a preapproval letter. This document confirms that the lender has confidence in your ability to handle the financial obligations of the home loan you’ve requested.

For the protection of both you and your lender, the letter will often include a list of conditions that you must meet to receive full loan approval.

Your preapproval letter will give you a better idea of how much you can afford to spend on your new home, so you can begin looking at properties that fit within your budget. With your preapproval letter in your hand, you’ll also be in a much stronger position when approaching real estate agents and sellers. 

It’s important to note that preapproval letters are typically good for 60 to 90 days after they’ve been issued. If your home search extends beyond this length of time, the lender may want to review your finances again to confirm that things haven’t significantly changed since they offered the initial preapproval. 

If you’re ready to start searching for your dream home, now is a great time to begin the VA preapproval process. Reach out to a VA lender to get started.

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