When you’re a veteran, adjusting to civilian life can be difficult. One of the ways the government tries to support our veterans is through affordable VA loans. Although the Department of Veteran Affairs doesn’t lend money for VA loans, it does back loans made by banks and mortgage companies, which can be a huge help for veterans hoping to buy a home. And it’s not just houses—VA loans can be used to buy a home or a condo, to build a home, to make improvements on an exisiting home, or to buy a manufactured home or lot.

If you’re a veteran and are interested in applying for a VA loan, here five things you need to know before you begin the process:

1. Your Eligibility. Most veterans are eligible and can apply for a VA loan. Some surviving spouses of military members who died while on active duty may also apply. If you’re an active-duty member of the military, you can apply for a VA loan after six months of service. If you’re a reservist or member of the National Guard, you can apply after six years—during war periods, this requirement is shorter.

2. The Benefits. There are a number of benefits to getting a VA loan rather than a conventional mortgage. First of all, VA loans are made through private lenders and are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, so they don’t require mortgage insurance. There’s also no minimum credit score to apply for these loans, lower closing costs, and borrowers don’t need to have a down payment, which is a huge plus.

3. Other Fees. While getting a VA loan is generally cheaper than conventional loans, they do carry a one-time funding fee that will vary depending on the person and the situation. You can use a VA loan calculator to help you figure out how much you’ll have to pay upfront for your loan. In some cases, this fee can be financed or reduced with a down payment of at least 5%, or waived if you receive VA compensation for a disability.

4. Underwriting Requirements. While the VA doesn’t require a certain credit score for a VA loan, lenders usually have their own requirements—a credit score of 620 or higher is usually the minimum. Like conventional loans, borrowers must also show that they make enough to repay the loan, and that their DTI (debt to income) ratio is low.

5. More Protection. One of the greatest fears of any homeowner is foreclosure. VA loans offer assistance to borrows who are struggling to avoid this fate. If you find you can’t make your payments in full or on time, the VA can step in and work with the lender on your behalf by negotiating repayment plans, modifying your loan, and finding other ways to keep you in your home.

If you qualify for a VA loan and want to start the process of buying a home, contact Network Real Estate. Our talented and passionate agents will help you find a home that fits your budget, your lifestyle, and your dreams. It’s the least we can do.

In the meantime, we thank you for your service.