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FHA, VA or Conventional: The ‘Big 3’ Loan Options for Military Home Buyers in Washington

Washington is one of the top seven states in the country when it comes to military population. That means there are a lot of military folks in the state who could benefit from using a VA loan to buy a house.

But VA isn’t the only loan option for military home buyers in Washington. There are other programs available as well, and they all have their own unique features and benefits.

Today, we’ll look at the key differences between FHA, VA and conventional loans, from the perspective of a military home buyer in Washington.

FHA, VA or Conventional: What’s Best Loan Option for Military Home Buyers?

Military home buyers in Washington State have several different loan options to choose from. This includes the “big three” mortgage programs: Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or a conventional home loan that’s not backed by any government agency.

So which of these is best loan option for a military home buyer in Washington — FHA, VA or conventional loans? That will depend on your financing goals, your budget and other factors. Here are the key features and differences between the three options:

VA loans at glance:

  • Loans are partially guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Offers financing up to 100% (no down payment) if you stay within loan limits
  • Borrowers can usually avoid paying private mortgage insurance
  • VA funding fee ranges from 2.15% to 3.3% for borrowers who make no down payment
  • VA funding fee can fall outside of this range for some borrowers
  • Offers relaxed qualifying standards when compared to conventional loans
  • Borrower must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the VA in order to apply

FHA loans at a glance:

  • Loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • Offers financing up to 96.5%, for a down payment as low as 3.5%
  • Upfront mortgage insurance payment of 1.75% for most home buyers
  • Annual mortgage insurance premium comes to 0.85% for most FHA borrowers
  • Relaxed qualifying standards when compared to conventional loans
  • Borrowers must meet guidelines set by Department of Housing and Urban Development

Conventional loans at a glance:

  • Loans are not insured or backed by the government (the definition of “conventional”)
  • Offers financing up to 97% for some borrowers, for down payment as low as 3%
  • Borrowers might have to make a bigger down payment in some cases
  • Mortgage insurance is usually required when loan-to-value ratio rises above 80%
  • Qualification criteria can be more strict than for FHA and VA (though not always)

View Washington State Mortgage Rates Jun, 25, Tue, 2019

No Down Payment, No Mortgage Insurance

For a lot of military home buyers in Washington State, the VA loan program can be a better option than FHA or conventional. That’s because it allows eligible borrowers to purchase a home with no money down, while also avoiding mortgage insurance in most cases. Those are two big advantages, and they account for the popularity of VA mortgages.

If you compare FHA and VA (the two government-backed programs), you’ll find some clear advantages on the VA side due to the 100% financing that’s available. Home buyers who use the FHA program also have to pay for mortgage insurance, but that added expense can usually be avoided with the VA loan program.

When comparing VA loans to conventional, the mortgage insurance issue comes up again. If you make a relatively low down payment for a conventional (non-government-backed) home loan, you’ll probably end up having to pay for private mortgage insurance. But VA borrowers can usually avoid that extra cost.

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Let’s explore your options: Sammamish Mortgage specializes in the VA loan program, and we serve the entire state of Washington. We also offer FHA and conventional financing. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about your mortgage options.

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