Information about Central Florida Veterans and their Home Loan Benefits
Central Florida has more than 1.5 million veterans. “Veteran” refers to active duty service personnel, certain members of the Selected Reserve, and spouses in certain categories. Many of these veterans choose to settle in Central Florida, as this area offers many home choices, excellent recreational opportunities, a comfortable climate, and a desired lifestyle. Recognizing that the financial toll of military service can make it tough for some veterans to get a financial foothold, the national government and the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs both offer home-buying services, support, benefits, and protection. If you are a veteran resident in Florida, you should take advantage of a VA home loan if you want to buy a home now or if home ownership in your near future. VA loans feature many benefits, helping Veterans by homes, including:
- No down payment requirement
- No mortgage insurance
- Lower average interest rates
- Limits on closing costs
- Longer loan amortization period
- More lenient credit requirements
This article discusses the benefits of VA loans and the important support provided for veterans purchasing a home in Central Florida.
Choose an Agent Specializing in Helping Veterans Purchase a Home
Even if you know about the benefits available to veterans – competitive rates, no down payment, no private mortgage insurance, etc. – working with a quality agent who knows your needs helps you save money and takes the stress out of finding a home. A real estate professional plays a key role in the veteran home-buying process. Your agent can help you find a home that:
- Meets your budget
- Provides everything you need
- Matches your life style
- Is unlikely to pose a problem for the VA appraisal process.
Additionally, a professional agent who knows about VA closing costs, can maximize the money you have available. Central Florida real estate agent Frederick Franks states, "As a disabled veteran myself, I know it is important for veterans who have served their country to get the best treatment possible!" Given this understanding, and wishing to honor, thank, and support those who serve in the military, Franks is offering veterans two benefits until the end of 2016:
- A free appraisal
- $500 credit towards closing costs
Securing Your VA Mortgage Financing
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs established the VA loan program 1944. VA loans have provided loans for more than 21 million loans for veterans, active-duty military members, and their spouses since their inception, making buying a home more accessible to veterans, those who most deserve the American dream they helped build and continue to protect. You do not need a VA Certificate of Eligibility to begin looking for a home. In fact, you do not even need to know if you are eligible for a VA loan, as your agent will put you in touch with a lender who will find out if you are qualified and obtain this critical document for you using an automated government system.
Who Qualifies for a VA Loan?
Generally, veterans and active-duty service members are eligible for a VA home loan if they served in one of the following capacities:
- Ninety (90) consecutive days on active duty during wartime
- One-hundred-and-eighty-one (181) consecutive days on active duty during peacetime
- Six (6) or more years in the National Guard or Reserves
Additionally, some spouses of military members who died of a service-related disability or while in the line of duty also may qualify for a VA loan.
Occupancy and Power of Attorney
Although the primary focus of VA loans is getting buyers into homes in which they will live full time, the program does make some exceptions for the following:
- a spouse or children who may be able to full fill the occupancy requirement on behalf of a VA buyer
- a VA buyer who is deployed or otherwise unable to manage the loan process
To do so, the veteran can assign a power of attorney to a spouse or family member to manage the loan process and sign the necessary documents. You will need one of two types of powers of attorney, either general or specific, depending upon what types of loan-related documents must be signed. The options for occupancy and power of attorney help provide eligibility to a VA buyer’s spouse and children, allowing the purchase of a home during an unaccompanied assignment or deployment, alleviating the emotional toll of multiple moves for a military family.
Using Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)
Lenders can consider Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) – a monthly housing allowance for active-duty military members – as effective income to qualify a veteran for a home loan. A veteran’s BAH is based on several factors including:
- Location of duty station
- Pay grade
- Family size
BAH can change annually. You can calculate your housing allowance with the BAH calculator on the Defense Department’s website.
Benefits Provided by VA Loans
Lenient Credit Requirements for a VA Mortgage VA loans accept lower credit scores than do conventional loans and FHA financing. No minimum credit score is required for obtaining a VA mortgage. However, borrowers must show they have sufficient income to repay the loan. Although they should not have excessive debt, the loan guidelines are usually more flexible than for conventional loans. Therefore, qualifying for a VA loan is easier than other financing options. Down Payment on a VA Mortgage VA home loans require zero down in Central Florida. Instead of a down payment, those qualifying for a VA mortgage must pay a funding fee. This fee covers the risks associated with financing the same as would a down payment. However, the funding fee can be included in the loan amount instead of needing to be paid up front, making it easier for a veteran to afford a home. The funding fee is usually 1.25 to 2.7% of the total cost of the home purchased. Longer Loan Amortization Period on VA Mortgage The repayment period can be much longer when compared to traditional mortgages. Lower Average Interest Rates on VA Mortgages VA loans provide fixed interest rates that are competitive with conventional mortgages. No Mortgage Insurance Required on VA Mortgages Conventional mortgages that do not have the required 20% down payment often require the borrower to get mortgage insurance. With a VA loan this is not a requirement.
Financial Protections Provided for Veterans
The benefits you have as a veteran do not end when your home is purchased. The VA also offers the following:
- Foreclosure Avoidance Protection Assistance
A team of experts with the VA will work with you if you are struggling meeting your financial obligations to find an alternative to foreclosure, such as negotiating repayment plan or loan modifications. Nearly 500,000 veterans and active service members have been help to avoid foreclosure over the past six years.
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
Financial protection involving interest rates, income tax payments, eviction, foreclosure, and more is provided to military members and their families by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). SCRA covers all Active Duty service members, reservists, and members of the National Guard while they are on active duty. The protection begins on the date of entering active duty and generally terminates within 30 to 90 days after the date of discharge from active duty. An example of this protection is the ability of military personnel to ask their mortgage lender to place a cap on their interest rate during their term of service. The SCRA also forces lenders to seek a court order before foreclosing on active-duty military members during their time of service and up to nine months after.
Florida State Veteran Benefits
The state of Florida provides many veteran benefits, making it an attractive place for veterans to purchase a home. The support Florida provides for the veteran population is one of the main reasons so many veterans choose Central Florida as their home. Basic Property Tax Exemptions If a veteran resident has a VA certified service-connected disability of 10% or greater, he or she is eligible for $5,000 property tax exemption. Documentation of the disability must be established with the county tax official. Also entitled to this exemption is the un-remarried surviving spouse of a deceased disabled ex-service who was married to the deceased ex-service member for at least 5 years. Homestead Exemption If real estate is owned and used as a homestead by a veteran who was honorably discharged and has been certified as having a service-connected, permanent, and total disability they will be exempt from taxation if the veteran is a permanent resident of Florida and has legal title to the property. This benefit extends to the surviving spouse as well, until remarriage or disposal of the property Florida gives preference in both employment and retention in government positions to veterans. Spouses, and widows or widowers may also be given preference under certain circumstances.
Florida Education Benefits for Veterans
- Tuition waiver and deferment is given to undergraduate-level students at community colleges and state universities for Florida veteran residents who received the Purple Heart and other combat-related decorations.
- Tuition deferment is allowed in Florida for veterans – one tuition deferment each academic year and an additional deferment when and if a delay in benefits occurs.
- Reduced tuition for active members of the Florida National Guard – one-half of tuition and fees.
License and Other Fees Waived or Reduced for Veterans
Many license and other fees are either waived or reduced for veterans. Some apply to disabled veterans only and some to all veterans. For example, hunting and fishing licenses are free for totally disable veterans. Other fees and licenses that may be waived or reduced include: Certification of Discharge or Separation The Clerk of the Circuit Court records, without cost to the veteran, certificates of discharge or separation form the Armed Forces of the United States. Florida Driver’s License 100% permanently and totally disabled Veterans are generally exempt from all driver's license fees
- Motor Vehicle Military License Plates
- Disabled Veteran Motor Vehicle License Plate
- Permits and fees for parking and building improvements
- Handicapped Toll Permits
- State Park Admission
Honorably discharged veterans receive a 25% discount for an annual pass to all state parks. A free lifetime pass is given to veterans with service-connected disabilities and their spouses or surviving spouses.
Remember that a VA loan is not a one-time benefit, but can be used more than once. If you currently own a home in Central Florida, and are considering buying a newer home that meets your lifestyle. As Veteran you can use a VA loan to do so. There are many homes in communities convenient to Ocala and Central Florida. Even if you have lost a home with a VA loan to foreclosure, you may be able to buy again, as well. We hope you have found our veterans’ guide to homeownership in Central Florida useful. VA home loans have helped thousands of veterans and their families buy homes. The zero down VA mortgage, low closing costs, and relative ease of obtaining financing, all pave the way for finding the home of their dreams. Florida has advantages for veterans as the state appreciates and honors their service. Frederick Franks is an example of this desire to assist you in finding your home. Remember that until the end of the year, Franks is offering both a free appraisal and $500 credit towards closing costs. Contact him today at 1-800-253-1139, and make your dream of owning a home in Central Florida a reality.