VA loans have no down payment and do not require mortgage insurance. Because of this they are the cheapest mortgage loan option there is today. You aren’t restricted to just buying a single family detached home, you can buy condos and town homes using a VA loan to.
VA Approval for Condos: What’s it all about
Military borrowers who intend to use a VA loan to purchase a condominium have to find condo projects that adhere to guidelines stipulated by the VA. Condo projects that adhere to these guidelines and have been reviewed by the VA are called VA-approved condo projects. Expectedly, all condo units in a VA approved condo project are eligible for VA mortgage financing.
Condos in this category have received the VA stamp of approval. The condominium in question MUST have undergone review and a successful application process. As a result, a military borrower may use a VA loan to finance any condo unit in a condo development with this status.
The VA used to allow for spot approvals on condos. A borrower could get approval for a single unit in an unapproved condominium. This was cancelled by HUD recently, however there are proposals from FHA to bring condo spot approvals back.
VA Condo Approval Standards
On Oct. 26 2017 HUD announced they will be reducing the owner-occupied requirements for 50% to 35%. The number of units 60 days delinquent on their HOA dues was also reduced from 15% to 10%.
- Must have at least 35% owner occupied units
- No more than 10% of units can be 60 days late on HOA fees
- Three years of acceptable financial documents
- Condominium must have 20% of the condos budget in reserves for maintenance.
The VA has a dedicated page where you can search for VA approved condos in your area. Click here to visit their website
You can search specific condominiums, or search for all approved condos in any city. Here is the search form on the VA website, we wanted to search for a summary of all VA approved condos in Dallas. Make sure you check the box “Retrieve only approved Condos?”.
After hitting submit, we retrieved 126 condos that are approved for purchase by the VA.
Here you can just click on the condo you want more information about. You get the address of the condo, the status, and last reviewed date. This particular condominium is accepted by the VA without conditions, meaning you can get a VA mortgage on this condo.
Benefits of Condominiums
Condos are becoming more popular in America. They are usually cheaper than similarly sized homes and require less maintenance amount many other benefits.
- Price: Cheaper per square foot
- Low Maintenance
- More functional space
One of the top benefits of condos if that they cost less than homes in the area. You are able to live in a more desirable location for less money than if you bought a home.
Buying a home is a soothing achievement. It also comes with a great deal of maintenance, some of which are oft dreaded. Say fixing leaky pipes, yard work, and other exterior maintenance.
The Condo’s HOA is typically in charge of carrying out these exterior maintenance chores, and may cover some indoor repairs as well. Having to do less upkeep will definitely sit well with most homeowners, and will be doubly valuable for active duty servicepersons.
Not needed a lot of space
Some intending homebuyers may want a piece of the American dream, but not a home with a lot of space. Usually because they are single or have a small family. For these prospective homeowners, a condo is a fitting home type.
Furthermore, condo projects typically have excellent security stemming from the use of potential gates, security guards, and being in close proximity to other residents. In many respects, military residents would have a feeling of safety that closely resembles living in a military base.
Condominiums typically have amenities in common areas, such as a gym, pool, clubhouse, state-of-the-art playground, or barbecue patio. Although, these facilities push up HOA fees, condo owners get access to them for a fraction of the price to have them in a single-unit home.
HUD Approved Condos
HUD is the acronym of United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) agency is a part of HUD that backs the popular FHA loans.
The HUD/FHA also stipulates that FHA borrowers only use FHA loans to purchase FHA approved condos.
Until December 7, 2009, the VA permitted military borrowers to use VA loan for condo purchases in any HUD accepted CID. To put it simply, condo projects with HUD/FHA approval didn’t require separate VA approval prior to 2009. In contrast, the USDA still permits condo purchases using USDA loans in HUD approved condos.
After the VA enacted this change in 2009, they implemented backward-support for any condo project that had been HUD approved prior to December 2009. In other words, CIDs already approved by the HUD/FHA did not have to go through a separate VA review, as they were “grandfathered” in as VA-approved CIDs.
Therefore, if a condo is “HUD Accepted,” chances are that it is VA Accepted as well. In any case, you should endeavor to check with the regional VA office to verify that it is VA approved.
Unaccepted VA Condos
There are three reasons why a CID would have this status:
- The VA has not reviewed the project yet
- The VA may have reviewed the project and decided against approving the project for VA loans
- The CID does not have a pre-2009 HUD Accepted status
- In either case, it is possible for an unaccepted CID to gain VA approval if it satisfies set VA criteria and the HOA of the project forwards an application.
Important Things to Note Before Using a VA Loan for a Condominium
Basic Service Requirements
To qualify for a VA loan you must meet the basic service requirements. Honorably discharged veterans who had served for 90 consecutive days during wartime or 181 days during peacetime or 6 years in the Reserves or National Guard.
- Active duty servicepersons who have served for 90 consecutive days
- Some military spouses
- Reservists or members of the National Guard who have served for at least 6 years
- Other officers including;
- U.S. Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard Academy Cadets
- U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen
- World War II Merchant Seamen
- Officers of the U.S. Public Health Service
- Officers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
- If you meet the basic service requirement, then you need to obtain your Certificate of Eligibility.
You can obtain your certificate of Eligibility online, follow this link for instructions.
Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio
The DTI ratio is an important risk metric for lenders. VA-backed mortgage lenders are a tad generous in that they work with a 41% maximum limit. In plain terms, a borrower’s total monthly recurrent debt payments should amount to less than 41% of his or her gross monthly income to be qualified for a VA home loan.
VA Loan Limits
The VA mortgage program like most other zero down and low down loan programs enact a maximum loan size that military borrowers could take before equity is required. This limit varies between counties.
The VA loan limit for most counties is $424,100. However, it can go as high as $721,050 in high-cost counties and cities. You have to make a down payment (usually 25%) on the difference between the county loan limit and the price of the house if you intend to buy a house with a higher price tag.
VA Approval Guidelines for Condos
- The CID MUST consist of more than one (two or more) unit.
- No investor or entity may own more than 10% of units in the development. Developer-held unoccupied and unsold units do not count.
- The cumulative fees delinquent for 60 days or more MUST be equal or less than 10% of the total HOA fees for the entire CID.
- The size of floor area used for non-residential/commercial use MUST be equal or less than 25% of the total floor area of the CID. HUD approval guidelines stipulate a 50% percentage limit.
- Number of units conveyed or under a bona fide contract for purchase to owner-occupant (primary) residence homebuyers MUST be no less than 35% of the total number of unit in the development.
- All units in the project MUST be covered by flood, hazard, liability, and other insurance required by state law and acceptable to HUD. Developments consisting of 20 or more units should have Fidelity Bond.
Buying a condo that is not HUD approved
If the condo you want to purchase is not a VA approved condo, then you have 3 options.
- Ignore it and find another condo that is approved
- Check if it is a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae approved condo and get a conventional loan
- Speak to the manager about submitting an application to HUD to get the condo approved.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac usually has less strict requirements when purchasing condos. A larger number of condos will be approved by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
First, the condominium needs to be in good condition, it may not be approved because it is in poor condition. If the condition of the condo is good then you can start the condo approval process with HUD, there are several steps involved.
If things check out, you would still have to convince the HOA to file an application. Only the HOA can apply for a condo project to be VA-approved. You can only nudge them to go for it. The VA condo approval process takes time and requires a great deal of patience. It would also cost the HOA (although the cost is marginal and the VA approval doesn’t expire). Beyond this though, the process is straightforward after the association accedes to your request to seek VA approval.
Step 1: The HOA or manager aggregates requisite documents
- A written request for VA approval
- A litany of the development’s organizational documents (numbering over two dozen). Yeah, it’s a lot. And the regional VA offices that process the approval requests typically do not expect the initial submission to contain all documents required.
- To get started you need to bring some core basic documents. Then they’ll inform you of any additional document they’d want to see as they proceed. You can find the list in this resource (Chapter 16).
- An attorney opinion letter and state agency certification. Neither is compulsory. However, the VA strongly encourages accompanying your application with an attorney opinion letter.
- In certain terms, the VA alludes that it’d expedite the VA approval process of applications with an attorney opinion letter attached.
Step 2: Submit written request and requisite documents at an RLC
RLC is the acronym for Regional Loan Center. The VA has multiple RLCs dotting the American landscape that have jurisdiction over well-defined areas. The association would have to submit the application at the local RLC with jurisdiction in the condominium’s area. This is a list of all VA RLCs.
It is important to note two peculiar things about regional LCs. The first is that RLCs do not ask for the same number of documents. That is, they differ on what documents they request from the association or manager.
Secondly, processing time varies between RLCs as well. It hovers between 30 and 45 days. Thirty days is the rule of thumb, but it can take as long as 90 days. After submitting an application, it becomes a waiting game. When the wait is over the HOA should receive a notice of approval or denial, and the reason for the VA decision.
Condos are a great way to live in the area you want to be in without paying a premium price. You can use a VA loan to buy a condo as long as it’s a VA approved condo. You can search a list of condos approved by the VA here.
Randall has over 15 years of experience in the mortgage and credit industries. He spends a chunk of time helping consumers understand their credit, advise them on how to increase their credit, and lending his mortgage expertise to help them find the right type of loan. Randall lives in Dallas, Texas with his two sons.