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Can I Use A VA Loan To Buy A Condo?

Andrew Dehan7 minute read
UPDATED: March 31, 2023

If you’re in the military or a veteran who has earned your certificate of eligibility, you may be thinking about the kind of lifestyle you want and whether you have the flexibility to purchase anything other than a single-family home with your VA home loan.

You might be searching for a maintenance-free lifestyle with amenities like a pool and a gym. Or you might be looking for the camaraderie living in a condo development with lots of other veterans can provide. The good news is that you might be able to use your VA loan to buy that condo.

What Are The Benefits Of Buying A Condo If You’re In The Military?

There are lots of benefits to consider about condo living if you’re in the military and you’re in the process of buying a home.

First, for military personnel who spend much of their time on deployment, there is little to no exterior maintenance to worry about. And while military service members are away, their families can often enjoy the playscapes, pools and other amenities included in their condo fees that they might not otherwise be able to afford with a single-family home.

Can You Buy A Condo With A VA Loan?

Oftentimes, you can. The wrinkle is that the condo you choose must be approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If the condo you want to buy is on the list, you’ll have no problem moving forward with your VA loan.

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Who’s Eligible For VA Loans?

Eligible active-duty service members, reservists, National Guard personnel, veterans or qualifying surviving spouses of service members with a certificate of eligibility from the VA and a financial profile that meets the lender’s requirements can get a mortgage through the VA loan program. This is a valuable benefit of military service whose mission is to smooth the road to homeownership by eliminating roadblocks – like down payments and credit requirements – for eligible service members.

Rocket Mortgage® requires a median credit score of 580 for VA loans.

Benefits Of Using A VA Loan To Buy A Condo

VA loans are designed to make the road to homeownership as easy as possible for our nation’s service members.

Down Payment Requirements

Eligible service members can usually buy a home with a low down payment or with no down payment. Lenders may have different policies, but under VA regulations, you’ll only be required to make a down payment if you have a previous VA loan that hasn’t been fully paid back. However, the amount of the down payment will affect your closing costs. 

Condo Closing Costs

Your VA condo loan’s closing costs will be similar to anyone else’s, with one significant difference.

VA home loan borrowers are required to pay a one-time VA-required funding fee. The VA’s funding fee is its counterpart to private mortgage insurance (PMI) or the FHA’s mortgage insurance premiums. But unlike either of those options, there is no additional fee tacked on to each monthly mortgage payment.

These premiums fund the insurance pool underlying the mortgage insurance program. In other words, when there is a default on a VA loan, the insurance payment to the lender comes out of the funding fee pool.

Note that the dollar amount of the funding fee is a percentage of the loan amount, not the purchase price of the home, another way veterans save on loan costs.

VA Funding Fees

Here’s how much you can expect to pay at closing for the VA’s funding fee.

 

Down payment amount

Percentage of loan amount

First use

Less than 5%

2.15%

5% or more

 

1.5%

10% or more

 

1.25%

 

Subsequent Uses

Less than 5%

 

3.3%

5% or more

1.5%

10% or more

1.25%

 

Funding Fees Can Be Rolled Into The Loan

The VA allows borrowers to roll the funding fee into the mortgage loan, so that service members can simply repay the fee as part of their monthly mortgage payment. If you choose this popular option, be aware that you’ll be paying interest on the fee if you roll it into the home loan. It’s an option if your savings won’t cover an upfront funding fee payment.

Lenient Credit Requirements

One important reason why VA loans are so popular is because the loans are government-insured, which allows lenders to be more forgiving regarding required credit scores. For example, Rocket Mortgage requires a 580 score in many cases for a VA loan but generally requires a 620 score for a conventional conforming loan.

How Can I Find Out If A Condo Is VA-Approved?

The VA maintains a database of its approved condo associations and properties. You can generate a local list of VA-approved condos or search by the address of the condo you’re interested in purchasing.

What If The Condo I’m Interested In Isn’t On The VA Loan Condo Approval List?

In that case, you’ve stumbled on the only real downside of using a VA loan specifically to buy your condo. Using a VA loan to buy a condo unit in a property that isn’t on the VA list means you’ll have to navigate the VA’s bureaucratic process, and that can significantly delay your purchase.

The condo association is basically simply a type of homeowners association (HOA). The main difference between the two is that the condo association must oversee maintenance of the exteriors of the units in addition to performing all the common functions of an HOA.

You can go one of two routes.

Ask Condo Board To Seek VA Approval

If the condo board isn’t already on the VA-approved list, you can ask if the condo owners association (COA) will undertake the approval process. Be forewarned: It's a long and complicated process, and requires the services – and costs – of an attorney. If sales within the COA are brisk and prices for units are high, they may decline.

Ask Your Mortgage Lender To Get The Condo VA-Approved

You can also try to enlist your lender in your efforts to get your desired condo approved. Working together with information provided by your real estate agent, your lender may be able to move your petition through more efficiently.

Here are some of the documents you and your agent will need to submit to your lender:

  • Recorded Condominium Declarations or master deed
  • Recorded project plat maps (plans showing property division) and/or condo site plan
  • Recorded Articles of Incorporation
  • Signed copy of the condominium bylaws
  • Meeting minutes from the past two HOA meetings
  • Condo budget and balance sheets

These documents will be submitted to the VA’s Regional Loan Center that covers your condo development. They will ask the COA to answer these four important questions:

  • Are there any special assessments on the horizon, either pending or anticipated?
  • Is the project involved in any litigation, either pending or anticipated?
  • Has the project completed all construction?
  • How many of the project’s units have been sold from the developer?

These questions are all aimed at evaluating the COA’s financial stability. For example, if someone recently drowned in the COA’s pool when a lifeguard fell asleep on duty, the COA might be facing a huge lawsuit that you will want to avoid.

Be aware that how much a COA must disclose to prospective buyers is a matter of state law. But all states require that the information provided is truthful, so ask questions.

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What Does The VA Consider When Reviewing A Condo’s Eligibility?

Basically, the VA will make its decision after reviewing the condo association’s rules to see if it complies with its regulations. That document is over 600 pages long, so there’s much to comply with.

Limits On Resale

The VA will not approve a condo located within an association that includes a right of first refusal clause, which basically means that the association must approve anyone who would like to buy a unit. COA rules that prohibit foreclosures or resale of the property will likely cause problems. Age limits can also raise VA scrutiny for those hoping to purchase a unit in an age-restricted development.

HOA Fees Are In Secondary Lien Position

The VA will not approve condo associations that hold a primary lien position if COA fees go unpaid. Any rule that seeks to subordinate the VA home loan to the COA’s position will need to be changed.

Signs Of Financial Stress

There are a number of red flags that can signal that a COA is in financial trouble or, at least, heading that way.

Early Stages Of Development

The VA will be particularly wary of condo properties that are part of master planned communities in the early stages of development, because if these fail to become popular, amenities promised for the future may fail to materialize and early unit buyers may be stuck with an un-resellable property.

Cost Of Major Repairs

Other signs of financial distress – aside from the possibility of a major lawsuit – include the prospect of major repairs that will require a special assessment to complete, particularly if those repairs will cost more than the COA has in its reserve funds. If the COA determines that the special fees are necessary, you’ll be required to pay them even if you just moved in.

This issue of major repairs is of particular concern if the unit you’re considering is in a high-rise building or is regularly exposed to particularly severe elements or environmental stresses. Above all else, you’ll want to be sure that the building is safe before buying into it.

Poor Management

The VA will also be hesitant to approve a condo development with insufficient cash reserves, an unduly high number of units being used as rentals and a high proportion of units for sale. These are all signs that the building’s management is not doing a good job of managing financial or physical resources so they can retain satisfied owners who contribute to the overall growth of the planned community.

Is There Any Way To Expedite The VA’s Review Of The Petition To Approve The Condo?

Yes. You can submit, along with all of the requested information, an attorney’s opinion as to whether the condo association you’re interested in joining conforms to VA regulations. You’ll want to find an attorney who specializes in real estate law and has experience with VA mortgage loans in particular.

The VA will also generally approve projects that are already approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The Bottom Line: You Can Buy A Condo With A VA Loan

If you’re interested in buying a condo with a VA loan, you might face less long-term delay and frustration if you start by downloading a list of condo properties on the VA’s approved condo list and confining your search to those developments. But if you’ve got your heart set on a particular condo that isn’t on that list, you may have to work a little harder and wait a little longer to make it happen. However, the advantages of a VA loan generally outweigh the disadvantages.

Ready to start your application for a VA condo loan? Apply online now to get your approval started so you can make an offer sooner. You can also give Rocket Mortgage’s Home Loan Experts a call at (833) 326-6020.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.