Using a VA Loan in San Diego to Buy a Home: A Borrower’s Guide

March 19, 2024
Last updated:
March 19, 2024
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VA loans in San Diego are a popular mortgage financing option for home buyers. In fact, San Diego County usually has a higher VA loan volume than any other county in the U.S.

With its many Navy and Marine Corps bases and facilities, the San Diego area has a huge military population. That means there are many home buyers in the area who could benefit from using the VA loan program.

But what is a VA loan exactly? How does this program work? And what else do you need to know when using a VA loan to buy a house in San Diego? Let’s explore.

Why San Diego Is a VA Loan ‘Hotspot’

The VA home loan program is managed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Each year, the department produces a report showing VA loan usage data for every county in the United States.

San Diego County usually ranks at the top of this list, with more VA loan activity than almost every other county in the U.S.

Over the past 10 years or so, the following counties had the highest number of VA loans generated on behalf of home buyers:

  • San Diego County, California
  • Maricopa County, Arizona
  • El Paso County, Colorado
  • Clark County, Nevada
  • Riverside County, California

These counties and their corresponding metropolitan areas have a couple of things in common. For one thing, they all host a number of military bases or installations.

The San Diego area, for example, is home to the following: Naval Base San Diego, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Naval Air Station North Island, Camp Pendleton, Naval Base Point Loma, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

The metro areas listed above also have large populations of military veterans, particularly the warmer “Sunbelt” states like California and Arizona.

In a typical year, upwards of 15,000 VA loans in San Diego can be generated. This number can be split between home buyers using purchase loans, and homeowners refinancing their existing mortgages

VA Loan Benefits for San Diego Home Buyers

San Diego, California has some of the highest home prices in the country. The median home price within the city of San Diego is currently north of $970,000, and the median for the broader metro area is close to that.

This creates a challenge for home buyers who don’t have a lot of money saved for a down payment. Even with a 3% down payment (the minimum for some conventional mortgage loans), a buyer would need to pay more than $25,000 for a typical home purchase in San Diego.

First-time buyers, in particular, have a hard time coming up with that kind of money. And a lot of the military home buyers in the San Diego area are first-time buyers, since they skew toward a younger demographic.

The VA loan program allows home buyers in San Diego to finance up to 100% of the purchase price. This means you could buy a house with no down payment whatsoever. And that’s a big deal in a pricey real estate market like San Diego, California.

Here’s a more comprehensive list of VA loan benefits:

  • Zero down: As mentioned, you don’t need to put money down for a home if you qualify.
  • Low rates: VA loans often come with lower interest rates, when compared to conventional loans that are not backed by the government.
  • No PMI: VA loans don’t require private mortgage insurance (PMI), even if you put little or no money down on a San Diego home purchase.
  • Flexible criteria: Because of the government guarantee provided to lenders, VA loans in San Diego are one of the easiest types of mortgages for borrowers to obtain.
  • Reuse: If you pay off your VA loan through the sale of your home, perhaps due to a PCS relocation, you could use the program again when buying a home in San Diego.
  • Foreclosure assistance: If you face financial hardship down the road and have trouble keeping up with your payments, the VA can offer support and guidance.

With all the benefits this program offers, it’s easy to see why thousands of San Diego VA home loans are processed each and every year!

VA Loan Limits in San Diego

Jumbo loans are a type of financing that exceeds the FHFA’s limits. Federal officials typically increase loan limits every year based on price appreciation. 


For example, the conforming loan limit in San Diego County for 2024 is now set at $1,006,250. That means any mortgage that exceeds this amount would be considered a jumbo loan.

While loan limits also applied to VA loans in the past, they no longer apply today, except for certain demographics.

Home prices in San Diego are now $971,552, marking an 8.2% increase year-over-year. Normally, this type of home price increase would trigger an increase in loan limits. 

While this certainly happened for conforming loan limits, VA loan limits are no longer in effect, for the most part. As of 2020, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 eliminated VA loan limits.

How to Apply for the VA Loan Program

Want to use a VA loan to buy a house in San Diego? Here’s how to get started.

The first thing you need to do is find out if you’re eligible for the program. Most active-duty military members earn eligibility after serving for at least 90 days. National Guard and Reserve members either need six years of service or 90 days of active-duty service.

(The eligibility rules for National Guard and Reserve members are a bit more complicated. So you might want to refer to the Department of Veterans Affairs website for more information.)

If you meet the basic eligibility requirements summarized above, you can apply for and receive a “Certificate of Eligibility” from the VA. You need to provide this document to your mortgage lender, so they know you’re eligible for this loan program.

After that, the process moves forward just as it would with any other type of mortgage loan:

  1. You can get VA loan pre-approval for a specific loan amount to focus your home search. 
  2. You’ll make an offer, negotiate with the seller, and sign a purchase agreement.
  3. Your lender will have the home appraised in accordance with VA loan guidelines.
  4. After all this, you’ll go through the closing process and sign a lot of documents.

But aside from some specific appraisal requirements and the eligibility paperwork mentioned earlier, the VA loan process in San Diego works like any other mortgage product.

If you meet the eligibility criteria of a VA home loan, then you’ll want to consider this loan option when buying a home in San Diego. The potentially lower interest rates, lack of mortgage insurance and down payment, and flexible loan criteria make VA loans San Diego a great option for Veterans, Service members, and qualifying surviving spouses.

If you’re ready to buy a home and want to use a VA home loan to finance this purchase, Sammamish Mortgage can help. Reach out to Sammamish Mortgage today to get the VA loan application process started!

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