6 min read Jul 10, 2024

FHA vs VA Loan: Know the Difference And Key Requirements

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Aditya Agarwal

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Aditya Agarwal

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VA loans and FHA loans are both government programs that are helpful for homebuyers. In 2023, FHA loans were around 753,000 compared to 377,000 for VA loans. There is a difference between an FHA loan vs VA loan.

Anyone with sufficient income and credit score is eligible for an FHA loan. On the other hand, VA loans are for veterans, active military personnel, and some surviving spouses. Speak with our lenders now to find out which VA loan vs FHA will be best for your home purchase.

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Understanding FHA and VA Loans 

  • FHA Loan: The FHA offers mortgage insurance programs that streamline home loan eligibility. It allows lenders to approve borrowers with credit score requirements as low as 580. Moreover, a lower down payment of 3.5% is also required in this type of loan
  • VA Loan: The Department of VA offers a special mortgage program to assist active duty service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses. One of the significant advantages this program includes is a zero down payment and affordable VA loan interest rates

FHA vs VA Loans: Key Differences 

Here are the key differences between a VA home loan vs FHA:

ParameterFHA LoanVA Loan 
Down Payment 3.5% is required as a minimum.Possibility of 0% down payment
EligibilityAvailable to all eligible borrowersActive-duty military personnel, veterans, and some surviving spouses
Mortgage InsuranceRequired (both upfront and monthly premiums.)No mortgage insurance required
Funding SourceFederal Housing Administration (FHA)-insuredSupported by the Department of Veterans Affairs
Credit ScoreLower minimum requirements (as low as 580 with higher down payment)VA does not set a bar on the minimum, but lenders typically require 620.
Maximum debt-to-income ratios47% or less, depending on credit score and other factors.Lenders will apply more scrutiny if DTI is over 41%.
Loan limits$498,257 in counties with low costs and $1,149,825 in counties with high costs.Most borrowers have no federal loan limits.

FHA or VA Loan: Which Loan Is Right for You?

According to your financial situation and eligibility requirements, you can choose between an FHA or VA loan. If you are not a veteran and have a higher debt-to-income ratio or a low credit score, FHA loans are a great option.

However, if you are eligible for a VA loan, and fulfill the necessary requirements, VA loans are the best option. In addition to being qualified for both VA and FHA loans, you can choose VA loans because they do not require a down payment or mortgage insurance. 

FHA Loan Requirements 

FHA loans are best for homebuyers who want to pay a low down payment to buy a home. Some of the key requirements for an FHA loan are:

  • Credit Score: There is no upper limit on credit scores for FHA loans. However, there is a 580 minimum requirement and a maximum of 640 that varies depending on your down payment. 
  • Down Payment: While 3.5% is the minimum, you can put down a larger amount. In addition, you can also use approved down payment assistance programs or gifts from family members to help with the down payment.
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: A DTI of 50% is preferred, some lenders may approve FHA loans with higher ratios. It depends on your specific financial situation and credit score.
  • Mortgage Insurance: FHA loans require mortgage insurance to protect the lender in case you default. This includes an upfront premium paid at closing and a monthly fee added to your mortgage payment.
  • Property Requirements: You can only opt for an FHA loan to fund the purchase of your primary residence. Moreover, you must meet FHA property standards.

VA Loan Requirements 

VA loans are for veterans and active military personnel. Some of the key requirements for VA loans include: 

  • Military Service: Eligible for VA benefits are active duty veterans, national guard and reserve members, and surviving spouses of certain veterans.
  • Character of Service: You were released under honor or under other acceptable circumstances, like a medical release.
  • Credit Score: While VA loans don’t have minimum credit score requirements, lenders may have their requirements. Usually, a credit score of at least 620 is best for better interest rates. 
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI): Lenders typically prefer loans with a DTI of less than 50%, much like with FHA loans.
  • Property Requirements: The house must adhere to VA property requirements and be your primary residence.
  • Funding Fee: The funding fee associated with VA loans varies according to service and down payment. You can either pay it upfront or roll it into your mortgage. 

FHA Loan Pros and Cons 

The following FHA loan pros and cons are:

ParameterPros Cons 
Down Payment3.5% is the lower minimum down payment.Although the requirement is small, it still requires a down payment
Processing SpeedGenerally faster processing times compared to conventional loansIt might not be the fastest option for all lenders
OccupancyMust be your primary residenceLess wise option for investment purposes
Mortgage InsuranceDemands mortgage insurance (MIP), increasing the monthly paymentMIP can be eliminated when your equity reaches 20%.

VA Loan Pros and Cons 

The following VA loan pros and cons are: 

ParameterProsCons
Down PaymentNo down payment is necessary.It may require a funding fee
Mortgage InsurancePrivate mortgage insurance is not needed.It may require a funding fee (similar to PMI)
Credit ScoreNo minimum credit score is needed lenders are free to decide it on their own. For borrowers with extremely low credit scores, there might be better choices.
Property RequirementsNeeds to fulfill minimal requirements for propertiesCould involve additional inspections

Bottom Line

It all depends on your financial status, military service record, and whether you should apply for a VA FHA loan. A VA loan is probably the most desirable choice if you are a veteran with excellent credit. On the other hand, borrowers with lower credit scores or smaller down payments may find that FHA loans are a good option.

No matter which path you choose, homeownership is a big decision. Houzeo can put you in touch with lenders who can walk you through the mortgage process and help you understand your options.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between FHA loan and VA loan?

Any qualified borrower may apply for an FHA loan with a reduced down payment option of 3.5%. Veterans and active military personnel are eligible for VA loans, which may not even require a down payment.

Are VA loans better than FHA loans?

Veterans may benefit more from VA loans because they often have lower closing costs and require no down payment. However, FHA loans may be a better fit for borrowers with lower credit scores.

Are there disadvantages to FHA loans?

Yes, mortgage insurance is required for FHA loans , and this raises your monthly payment. Additionally, they are not the best for investment properties.

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