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If you’re the spouse or surviving spouse of a U.S. Armed Forces veteran (including the U.S. National Guard), you may qualify for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan – either as a co-borrower or sometimes as a standalone applicant.
Considering everything spouses of active service members and veterans do for their families, as well as their involvement (and sometimes outright handling) of the homebuying journey, it’s fitting that benefits be extended to the spouse, too.
The VA home loan program provides a path to homeownership without a down payment, which can save you thousands of dollars upfront.
VA loan options will sometimes have a lower interest rate and better terms than many conventional loans.
Even if you don’t make a 20% down payment, you won’t be locked into costly mortgage insurance premiums.
While you won’t have to come up with a 20% down payment, you will need to pay an upfront VA funding fee ranging from 1.4% – 3.6%, depending on how much you put down. This is usually added to your closing costs and can be folded into your mortgage.
In addition to meeting the VA loan requirements, you’ll also need to meet your lender’s eligibility requirements, like credit score, debt to income ratio and more.
Are Military Spouses Eligible for a VA Home Loan?
The spouse of an active-duty service member or veteran won’t be able to buy a home with a VA loan on their own, but they can be a co-borrower on a VA loan. As with any loan applicant, they’ll need to meet qualification requirements to show they can support the loan.
By being a co-borrower on the loan, you won’t just benefit from the valuable savings of a VA loan. You may also help your military spouse qualify for a larger loan, better terms or both.
While the spouse of a veteran or active-duty service member can’t take advantage of a VA loan alone, a surviving spouse of a veteran can thanks to the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. This Act extended the benefits of a VA home loan to surviving spouses.
If you’re the surviving spouse of a late veteran, you can request a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) – so long as you meet at least one of the following service requirements outlined by the VA.
To qualify, the veteran must:
- Be missing in action or a prisoner of war (POW)
- Have died while in service or from a service-connected disability, and you didn’t remarry, didn’t remarry before you were 57 years old or before December 16, 2003
- Have been totally disabled and then died – but in certain situations, their disability may not have been the cause of death
Should Spouses Be a VA Loan Co-Borrower?
Even if you meet the VA loan spouse requirements, you’ll still need to decide if it makes sense to join your spouse as a co-borrower. This is a personal financial decision you’ll need to evaluate and consider, just like every other step of the home buying process.
Things like your spouse’s credit score and more can affect your VA loan approval odds and the terms you’re eligible for, so it’s best to run the numbers and consider all of your options.
Still not sure about the right move? Speak with a loan officer about your specific situation and whether you should join as a co-borrower or consider a different approach.
How co-borrowers affect VA mortgage approval
When a couple applies for a VA home loan together, the lender will usually take these financial factors into account:
- Credit history and credit scores
- Employment history
Depending on your and your partner’s financial circumstances, joining on the loan may help or hurt their approval odds and loan capacity, so take a careful look. Having another qualified borrower can make it easier for the lender to approve the loan because their income and credit can be factored into the underwriting.
However, if there are credit or debt issues at play, it can make it harder to qualify for the loan. If you don’t have a strong credit history or have a lot of outstanding debt, you may be better off having your spouse apply on their own. You can still be on the title of the home without being on the loan, which may be smart if the alternative could hurt your partner’s chances of securing a favorable loan.
Does a Military Transfer Change Spouse Requirements?
If you’re the spouse of an active-duty military member and are in the process of a military transfer or a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move, you may be wondering how it affects your eligibility for a VA loan.
While relocation is often thought of as one of the most stressful things a military family has to navigate, it’s a common practice and likely won’t affect your eligibility for a VA loan.
However, one of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face is a potential change in income.
Mortgage underwriters like to see a history of consistent income. When making a move, there’s often a period of unemployment as you search for work in your new location.
Fortunately, lenders familiar with the VA loan process often make allowances for this and will take into account the fact that you have a job lined up or are receiving a housing allowance.
Can an Ex-Spouse Qualify for a VA Home Loan After Divorce?
Divorce complicates everything, including VA benefits.
After a divorce, the ex-spouse of a veteran or service member cannot qualify for a new VA home loan on their own. However, they can continue to live in the home they previously purchased together without changes to the loan.
Here are some ways divorce can affect a VA loan:
- Occupancy requirements: In order to keep their VA home loan benefits, the veteran must maintain occupancy of the property. If they don’t, the loan must be refinanced as a non-VA loan or sold.
- Entitlement issues: If the couple purchased the home using a VA-backed loan and then divorced, the entitlement can’t be restored. If the veteran wants to purchase another home using a VA loan, they’ll have to do so without the help of any subsidy.
Extending Veterans Benefits to the Hero’s at Home
The spouse of a military member has a lot on their plate. They often have to manage all the affairs of the home while their partner is away and deal with the stress of relocation. Fortunately, the VA makes it fairly easy and straightforward to benefit from a VA home loan.
And by extending VA loan eligibility to the surviving spouse of a veteran, they continue to support the military family even after the service member has passed away.
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The Short Version
- The spouse of an active-duty service member or veteran won’t be able to buy a home with a VA loan on their own, but they can be a co-borrower on a VA loan
- Your spouse’s credit score and more can affect your VA loan approval odds and the terms you're eligible for, so it's best to run the numbers and consider all of your options
- After a divorce, the ex-spouse of a veteran or service member cannot qualify for a new VA home loan on their own
VA Pamphlet 26-7-2, “Loans Requiring Special Underwriting, Guaranty and Other Considerations.” accessed August 2022 from chrome-https://www.benefits.va.gov/WARMS/docs/admin26/handbook/ChapterLendersHanbookChapter7.pdf7.pdf
Congress. “H.R.1627.” accessed August 2022 from https://www.congress.gov/bill/112th-congress/house-bill/1627/text
Department of Veteran Affairs. “VA home loan programs for surviving spouses.” accessed August 2022 from https://www.va.gov/housing-assistance/home-loans/surviving-spouse/