Air Force Veteran Daniel P. needed a VA loan, fast. His wife, Chanda C., got a promotion that would take them from Texas to Louisiana within a month.
“Constraints, they were pretty tight,” recalls Daniel. “We needed to be out of there very soon because Chanda was going to start her job here in Monroe. So, the lending and homebuying processes had to be expedited. We had to get all the paperwork together very quickly. So yeah, everything was rushed, everything.”
Daniel and Chanda had always rented, but during their initial visit to Monroe, Louisiana, they realized their options were limited. “We have dogs, so that added a whole new set of restrictions,” Chanda said. “There was virtually nothing for us to rent.”
With nearly nothing to rent, the couple made the decision to buy a home using Daniel’s VA home loan benefits. Quickly, the couple not only found the home they wanted to buy, but they got their offer accepted by the seller. Everything was lining up, but a question remained: could they close the loan in time for Chanda to start her new job? Their loan officer, Andrew H. with Veterans First Mortgage, explained to them that loans are closed fastest when borrowers are proactive, responsive, and communicative. And with that advice, Daniel and Chanda learned how they could do their part to meet their closing deadline.
How Long Does a VA Loan Usually Take?
In reality, the time it takes to process VA loans, from application to funding, can vary depending on many factors — some of which are out of a borrower’s control. But, there are some actions Veterans can take to help move the VA loan through the lending steps. In fact, many VA loans can close quickly when borrowers are motivated, available, and responsive to a lender’s requests. Here are some of the tips that Daniel and Chanda followed to help them close on time.
Tip #1 – Be Ready With Important Documents
Sending documents to your loan officer in a timely manner may be the best way to speed up the VA loan process. VA loan approval requires documents to verify that you are who you say you are, you can afford the monthly loan payment, and you are likely to have the ability to repay the loan amount in the future.
“They told me exactly what I needed,” remembers Chanda. “When we spoke with Andrew, he told us which documents we would need. The documents we didn't have, he actually got for us. These were, like, tax returns and things. So, he gathered those on his side. But we had a very concise list that he sent us of exactly what we needed to send back to him.”
Here’s a list of some common documents you may need to provide your VA-approved lender:
- 30 days most recent pay stubs
- 2 years of W-2s
- 2 years of 1099s
- 2 years of IRS 1040s
- Accompanying IRS schedules/forms (all pages)
- VA disability award letter
- Social Security benefits letter
- Pension award letter
- Military retirement account statement
It’s safe to assume that most lenders will require several documents to verify your income, eligibility, and assets. A little anticipation and planning can go a long way. If you have these documents neatly filed away, great! You’re ahead of it. But if not, start locating and organizing them in a way that makes sense to you.
Tip #2 – Determine Your VA Eligibility Early
Proof of eligibility is necessary when applying for a VA loan. But in most cases, your lender can get a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for you within a matter of seconds.
If you’re in the VA’s online system, your lender can get your COE instantly. If you are unable to obtain your COE online or through your lender, you may need to obtain your COE by mail. In such a case, it may take a few weeks or months for the VA to determine your eligibility. You will need to determine your eligibility before you can get a VA loan. An experienced VA-approved lender can guide you, but only the VA can make an eligibility determination.
If you need a COE, click here for a tool that can help.
Tip #3 – Be Available to Answer Questions
After your loan officer has collected the documents, your loan will go to the underwriter for review and approval. It is not uncommon for the underwriter to have questions or request additional information. If that happens, don’t worry — it’s perfectly normal. But you want to be able to respond quickly to those requests, so give your lender the best way to reach you during the day (and the best time to reach you after hours, if possible).
“For me, I am a very technical person,” recalls Chanda. “I work in I.T. The easiest way to reach me is through email. The easiest way to get me to sign something is to send it through email. So having them work with me in that way and communicate in the way that's easiest for me to respond to, because we do have a toddler, was really not only surprising but important. It really helped speed the process along.”
Give your VA loan specialist all your contact information, including cell and home phone numbers, email address, and fax number (if you have one). Often, texting is the fastest way for a loan officer and a borrower to communicate. The faster you answer questions or provide requested documents, the sooner your loan application can be approved.
Tip #4 – Have Adequate Proof for Special Circumstances
In Daniel and Chanda’s case, their lender was considering expected income from Chanda’s job promotion. Chanda needed a letter from her employer stating that her income was expected to continue for the foreseeable future. When Andrew asked Chanda for the letter, she provided it within 24 hours.
“It was really Chanda’s motivation and responsiveness that got this loan done fast,” Andrew recounts.
You shouldn’t get discouraged if you are not in a typical homebuying situation. Many borrowers have special circumstances, such as reenlisting, or separating from their spouse. Be ready to track down the documents your loan officer asks for in a timely manner. Here are some other common documents that your lender may request:
- Proof of enlistment beyond 12 months
- Proof of re-enlistment
- Letter from commanding officer
- POA legal documents
- Alive and Well Certificate
- Any other documentation to support your circumstance
In all, it took Veterans First Mortgage just 28 days to process Daniel and Chanda’s loan. And, a lot of the speed can be attributed to the nimble partnership between the couple and their lender. If you would like more information about the VA loan process, click here to get in touch with a VA specialized lender.
Veterans First is a trade name of Wintrust Mortgage, a division of Barrington Bank & Trust Company, N.A., a Wintrust Community Bank. NMLS# 449042. Equal Housing Lender.