VA Loan Buyer’s Guide: Eligibility, Benefits and How to Apply
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8 Steps to Getting a VA Loan for a Multifamily Home

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Military service members have a big advantage when it comes to buying a multifamily home: They don’t need a down payment if they take out a home loan backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, before you tackle the responsibilities of both homeowner and landlord, there are some important requirements you’ll need to understand to get a VA loan for a multifamily home.

What is a multifamily home and why should I buy one?

In most cases, a multifamily home is a single building that houses two, three or four separate dwelling units for different families. A property with two, three or four units may also be called a duplex, triplex or fourplex.

The VA requires you to live in one of the units while renting out the others for rental income. This gives you the opportunity to build home equity and become a real estate investor — this is known as “house hacking.” The extra income may offset some or even all of your monthly mortgage payments and even allow you to pocket extra cash to cover other housing-related expenses.

Three reasons to buy a multifamily home with a VA loan

There are three major benefits to buying a multifamily home with a VA loan versus other loan programs:

  1. No down payment is required. Multifamily homes can be purchased without a down payment if you have enough VA entitlement, compared to loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that require at least a 3.5% down payment and conventional loans that require up to 25% down to buy a multifamily home.
  2. No mortgage insurance is required. VA loans don’t require mortgage insurance, which is required to help lenders recoup money lost if you default on an FHA or conventional mortgage.
  3. Two or more eligible veterans can buy up to a seven-unit property. The VA has a special “joint loan” option for two or more veterans to purchase a multifamily home with up to seven units. Other loan programs limit you to a four-unit maximum.

Can you buy a multifamily home with a VA loan?

You can buy a multifamily home with a VA loan if:

  • You meet the basic military service requirements for a VA mortgage
  • You qualify based on your credit scores, income and total debts
  • You have enough extra cash to cover six months of mortgage payments on the VA multifamily home you’re buying
  • You plan to move into one of the properties within 60 days of closing and will remain there for at least 12 months

Steps to buying a multifamily home with a VA loan

  1. ENSURE THAT YOU MEET THE MINIMUM SERVICE REQUIREMENTS. If you’re a veteran, an active-duty service member or a member of the Reserves or the National Guard, you’ll need to provide proof that you qualify for a VA-guaranteed home loan. Most service members verify their eligibility by applying for a Certificate of Eligibility online, by mail or through their lender. Surviving and other eligible spouses may also qualify.
  2. CHECK THE MULTIFAMILY LOAN LIMITS IN YOUR AREA. Even though the VA doesn’t limit the size of the multifamily loan you can get, lenders often set their own requirements based on local conforming loan limits. In most parts of the country the current multifamily limits are as follows:
    • $828,800 for a two-unit home
    • $1,001,650 for a three-unit home
    • $1,244,850 for a four-unit home
  3. KNOW THE VA’S MINIMUM MORTGAGE REQUIREMENTS. In order to get a VA loan, you’ll need to meet certain VA loan requirements, including:
    • Down payment: Not required if you have enough entitlement.
    • Credit score: Even though the VA doesn’t require a minimum credit score, VA lenders generally prefer a score of at least 620.
    • Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: In general, lenders expect your debt to not exceed 41% of your income, which is known as your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. You may also be able to count as income up to 75% of the verified rent, the current rent collected on the property you’re buying or the fair market rent as estimated by a VA appraiser.
    • Employment history: Lenders generally will ask that you have a minimum of two years of employment history — however, if you were recently discharged, some exceptions could be made.
    • Cash reserves. You’ll need to document enough extra cash to cover up to six months of principal, interest, taxes and insurance (PITI) for each unit you rent out. Also called “mortgage reserves,” these funds must be easily converted to cash — checking and savings accounts are the preferred choice, but you may be able to use balances in a 401k, retirement accounts.
    • Funding fee. VA borrowers must pay a VA funding fee of between 1.40% and 3.60% depending on their down payment and whether they’ve used their home loan benefits before. The fee is charged to offset the taxpayer cost of the VA loan program.
    • Rental management experience. The VA requires proof that you’ve managed a rental property before, or have hired a property management company in order to qualify you with rental income on a multifamily home purchase.
  4.  REVIEW THE VA HOME APPRAISAL. To protect the interest of VA borrowers, lenders must obtain a VA appraisal for VA-financed multifamily homes. Besides estimating the home’s value, the appraiser must ensure the home meets minimum property requirements and is “structurally sound and safe.” The extra research required to complete a multifamily adds up to a much higher price tag for your home appraisal. For example, as of May 2022, the cost for a two- to four-unit appraisal in the state of Georgia is $800, compared to $650 for a single-family home.
  5.  SHOP AROUND WITH VA-APPROVED LENDERS. Check out loan estimates from at least three to five mortgage lenders to get the best deal. The VA loan process follows similar steps you’d take to get a VA loan for a single-family home, except lenders will want to see projected rental income from the units you expect to rent out. One thing to note: Lenders can only charge an origination fee equal to 1% of the loan amount for processing your loan file, according to the VA.
  6. FIND A REAL ESTATE AGENT. An experienced real estate agent who’s knowledgeable about selling loans with VA loans will know how to negotiate the closing costs the seller can pay (up to 4% of your loan amount). If the value of your home comes in lower than the price you offered, a VA-experience agent will know how to use the VA amendatory clause to cancel your contract and get you all your upfront money back.
  7.  CLOSE ON THE LOAN. Review the VA closing costs on your final closing disclosure three business days before closing. Make sure the lender removes your funding fee if you’re exempt due to a service-related disability, and that you’re not paying any non-allowable fees.
  8. FIND TENANTS AND DECIDE WHO WILL MANAGE YOUR RENTALS. You can work with a real estate agent to vet tenants and come up with a rental agreement. You may also want to consult a real estate attorney to look over the contract, or pay a property management company to take over landlord responsibilities.

Pros and cons of buying a multifamily home with a VA loan

ProsCons
  You don’t need a down payment  You need past landlord experience to qualify using rental income
  You won’t pay any mortgage insurance  You’ll need to have extra cash on hand for mortgage reserve requirements
  You can buy up to seven units  You must live in one of the units as your primary residence
  You use rental income to qualify  Your home must meet stringent VA appraisal standards

 

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