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Certificate of Eligibility (COE): Everything You Need To Know

VA Certificate Of Eligibility (COE) :

A VA loan presents a valuable opportunity for veterans interested in homeownership, offering low-interest rates and no down payment requirements. However, to qualify, you must meet specific criteria set by lenders, such as credit score and debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

Obtaining a VA loan Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is crucial to start the application process. This document proves to lenders that you meet the eligibility requirements for a VA loan.

Next, we’ll explore the significance of a VA COE and the steps to acquire one during the home purchase journey.

What Is A VA COE?

Securing a VA loan necessitates obtaining a VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE), a document from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) confirming your eligibility as a veteran, service member, or surviving spouse.

This COE assures lenders that you fulfill the criteria for a VA loan, which vary among lenders but generally include:

  • Credit Score: Eligibility for a VA loan requires a minimum credit score, setting the bar at 580.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): The VA has no fixed DTI limit, but lenders may impose their own. DTI is suggested at or below 45%, influenced by your credit score and down payment.
  • Down Payment: VA loans typically do not demand a down payment, but specific lender conditions might apply.
  • Property Type: The financed property with a VA loan must be your primary residence, occupied within 60 days of purchase. VA loans cannot be used for investment properties or vacation homes.

Who is Eligible for a VA Loan Certificate of Eligibility?

VA loans are available to various military personnel, including veterans, those on active duty, National Guard and Reserve members, and eligible spouses. Eligibility criteria vary based on service during peacetime or wartime, and special considerations apply for those discharged due to service-connected disabilities.

  • Veterans: Eligibility requires a minimum of 90 days of service during wartime or 181 days during peacetime, with exceptions for service-related disability discharges.
  • Active Duty Service Members: A minimum of 90 continuous days of service qualifies you for a VA loan.
  • National Guard and Reserve Members: Qualification comes with at least 90 days of active duty or six years of honorable service. Those with 90 days under Title 32, including 30 consecutive days, also qualify.
  • Surviving Spouses: Eligibility extends to spouses of service members who died in the line of duty or from a service-connected disability, subject to specific VA criteria.

How To Obtain A VA COE

Applying for a VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE) can be done online, via a printed form, or through your lender, although not all lenders are authorized to handle VA loans.

When submitting your application for a VA COE, it’s advisable to include service verification documents, such as:

  • DD-214 form for proof of discharge or separation for veterans, and current or former National Guard and Reserve members.
  • A service statement signed by a commanding officer for active duty members and current or former National Guard and Reserve members.
  • A separation report and service record for each service period for discharged National Guard members.
  • A retirement points statement and service character evidence for discharged National Guard members.
  • The most recent annual retirement points summary for discharged Reserve members.
  • Documentation confirming honorable service for discharged Reserve members.

Importance Of VA COEs

Lacking a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) means a lender can’t confirm your eligibility for a VA loan. Your COE indicates your entitlement level, essentially the portion the VA guarantees against loan default.

The full entitlement is typically available if you’re a first-time VA loan user or have repaid a previous VA loan in full. However, if you’re in the process of repaying a VA loan or have cleared a loan but still possess the property, your entitlement level decreases.

VA COE For Refinancing

For refinancing your VA loan, presenting your VA Certificate of Eligibility to your lender is necessary, whether for a VA Streamline (IRRRL) or a VA cash-out refinance.

You must submit the initial COE from your original VA home loan or obtain a fresh one via your lender for the refinancing application. After your lender receives your COE, you can proceed with the subsequent stages of the refinancing process.

VA COE FAQs

Obtaining a VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is necessary for eligible borrowers to secure a VA loan. Wondering more about the process? Below are some common questions and answers.

Why might a lender be unable to request a COE for me?

Possible reasons include not being a qualifying surviving spouse, having a dishonorable discharge, or previous foreclosures.

What’s the timeline for receiving a VA COE?

Receiving your COE could take up to six weeks after submitting the necessary documents and information. However, applying through your lender or the eBenefits portal might yield immediate results, potentially speeding up VA loan approval.

Do VA COEs expire?

No, COEs do not expire, but updates or new issues may be necessary, such as after ending active duty service.

Is a COE a guarantee for VA loan approval?

No, a COE does not ensure loan approval; it simply permits the lender to consider your loan application. Remember, COEs are specific to home loans and not applicable to other VA benefits.

Is a COE required for a Native American Direct Loan?

Yes, eligibility for the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program, assisting Native American veterans to mortgage federal trust land, requires a COE. Additionally, a Memorandum of Understanding with your tribal government is necessary.

Conclusion

Before initiating a VA loan application, obtaining your VA Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is essential. This certificate verifies your fulfillment of the service criteria for a VA mortgage. Explore our VA loan application process to ensure you’re prepared with all the necessary documents for applying.

 

Reed Letson

Reed Letson

Reed offers two decades of expertise as a mortgage broker, focusing on veterans and first-time home buyers. With a strong grasp of real estate and mortgage markets, he empowers clients with practical insights. Reed's passion is guiding clients to build wealth through real estate investments and financing solutions.

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