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How to Calculate the VA Loan Residual Income Requirement

Household Income to Meet VA Loan Residual Income Requirements

VA loans, a cornerstone of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs benefits program, offer veterans, active-duty service members, and select military spouses the opportunity to become homeowners. 

Residual income, the amount left over each month after all living expenses and debts have been paid, is a robust measure of loan affordability and a borrower’s financial health. This unique requirement ensures borrowers have sufficient funds to cover their family’s needs, reducing the risk of foreclosure and financial strain.

Understanding Residual Income Requirements

Residual income is a safety net that the VA utilizes to protect veterans and their families from the financial pressures of homeownership. By ensuring that borrowers have a certain amount of money left after covering their debts and household expenses, the VA aims to safeguard veterans’ financial stability. 

The residual income requirement varies by the size of the borrower’s family and the geographic region in which they live. This variance considers the cost of living differences across the country, acknowledging that it costs more to live in some areas than others.

The purpose behind emphasizing residual income is straightforward: to prevent veterans from becoming overburdened with their mortgage payments. This approach has contributed to the low foreclosure rates among VA loans compared to other loan types. It reflects a realistic assessment of whether new homeowners can manage their living expenses while staying current on their mortgage.

Offsetting Residual Income with Household Income

One of the more nuanced aspects of VA loan eligibility is the potential to offset residual income requirements with the income of other household members. This flexibility recognizes the financial contributions of all family members, even if they are not co-borrowers on the loan. For instance, a non-purchasing spouse or a working-age child who contributes financially to the household can play a crucial role in meeting the VA’s residual income guidelines.

Lenders consider the additional household income not directly tied to the loan applicant to offset residual income requirements. Lenders can adjust the residual income calculation accordingly if a non-purchasing spouse has a stable income that covers their personal debts and contributes to the household’s residual income. This means that even if the primary applicant’s income alone might not meet the residual income standards, the household’s collective income might. For example, if a family’s residual income requirement is $1,003 but is boosted by the spouse’s income to meet or exceed this threshold, the lender may deem the requirement satisfied.

This approach underscores the VA loan program’s flexibility and focus on supporting veteran homeownership. It acknowledges the diverse financial situations of military families and offers a pathway to home buying that considers the holistic financial health of the household.

Regional Residual Income Guidelines

The VA sets specific residual income guidelines that vary by region and family size. These guidelines ensure that veterans living in different parts of the country are evaluated, considering the cost of living variations across the United States. The guidelines are divided into four major geographic regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West, each with residual income requirements.

For example, a family of four living in the Midwest must have at least $1,003 in residual income after paying all debts and housing expenses. In contrast, the same family in the West would need a residual income of at least $1,117 due to the higher cost of living in that region. The requirement increases with each additional family member, ensuring that larger families are adequately supported in maintaining a stable post-mortgage financial situation.

These regional guidelines reflect the VA’s commitment to accommodating the varied economic landscapes in which veterans live across the country. By tailoring the residual income requirements to different areas, the VA helps to ensure that veterans and their families can afford their homes while still covering their basic living expenses, regardless of where they choose to live.

The Role of Compensating Factors

Lenders don’t solely rely on residual income when evaluating VA loan applications. They also consider compensating factors that might offset a shortfall in the residual income requirement. These factors provide a fuller picture of the borrower’s financial health and potential for loan repayment. Examples of compensating factors include:

  • Excellent credit history.
  • Conservative use of credit.
  • Minimal consumer debt.
  • Long-term employment.
  • Significant liquid assets.
  • A sizable down payment.
  • Equity in refinancing loans.

Other factors like a low DTI ratio, childcare tax credits, and homeownership tax benefits can also play a favorable role.

Compensating factors are significant for applicants near the threshold of meeting the residual income guidelines. They allow lenders to approve loans for applicants who demonstrate financial responsibility and stability in other areas. This flexibility ensures that veterans and service members with solid financial credentials but who may need to catch up on the strict residual income criteria still have a path toward homeownership.

Applying for a VA Loan with Additional Household Income

When applying for a VA loan with additional household income, it’s crucial to present a comprehensive financial picture to the lender. Applicants should gather documentation of all income sources within the household, including pay stubs, tax returns, and other proof of earnings. This preparation is critical to demonstrating the full scope of the household’s financial capacity. Additionally, being upfront about all sources of income can help the lender understand the applicant’s ability to offset any potential shortfall in residual income.

Discussing the potential use of compensating factors with the lender is also beneficial. Understanding what compensating factors the lender considers can help applicants highlight aspects of their financial situation that strengthen their loan application. Consulting with multiple lenders is advisable, as practices and policies can vary, and some may be more flexible or offer better terms based on the comprehensive financial situation presented.

The Bottom Line

The VA loan program’s focus on residual income and the flexibility to include household income and consider compensating factors demonstrates a comprehensive approach to evaluating loan eligibility. This ensures that veterans and military families are not unduly penalized for unique financial situations, providing a pathway to homeownership that acknowledges their service and sacrifices.

Understanding these guidelines and how to leverage household income and compensating factors can be crucial for veterans considering a VA loan. By preparing a thorough application and consulting with multiple lenders, veterans can enhance their chances of obtaining a home loan that fits their financial situation and homeownership goals.


Picture of 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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