How Buyers With VA Loans Can Better Compete

A member of the U.S. military sits at a desk applying for a VA loan with the lender sitting across from them.

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Military families with Veterans Affairs loans are losing out in the competitive housing market. Sellers are showing preference to buyers with more conventional financing or all-cash offers that they believe will offer a faster and smoother closing.

Ninety-four percent of real estate professionals surveyed said sellers are most likely to accept an offer with conventional financing over a government-backed loan, according to an April 2021 survey conducted by the National Association of REALTORS®.

But sellers may have some outdated concerns over VA loans, Caitlin Turkovich, branch manager specializing in VA loans at Union Home Mortgage in Las Vegas, told CNBC. VA loans are partly guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and offer zero percent down financing.

“VA loans are actually the easiest to qualify for if you have entitlements,” Turkovich told CNBC. Entitlements refer to the amount the VA will repay if the borrower defaults.

Turkovich says buyers using VA loans should work with a lender who specializes in VA loans to help clear up possible misunderstandings and outline specifics in buyer preapproval letters.

Also, Turkovich says VA loan buyers can take other steps to try to stand out, like by making a 5% down payment. That matches the minimum for some conventional mortgages, and it also drops the VA loan funding fee from 2.3% to 1.65%, she notes.

VA loan buyers also may make their offer stronger by offering earnest money—such as 5% versus the standard 1%, Cedric Stewart, a real estate professional with Keller Williams in Rockville, Md., told CNBC. “The largest earnest money deposit is another instrument to communicate an ease in the relationship,” Stewart said.