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What To Know About Buying A Condo With A VA Loan

Michelle Giorlando6-minute read

June 07, 2023

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VA loans, backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are designed to extend affordable mortgages and housing options to eligible veterans, active-duty service members and qualifying spouses. They require no down payment and have lower interest rates than other loan options. For those who qualify for a VA home loan, buying a condo can be a great choice. You’ll just need to ensure that the condominium is approved by the VA.

We’ll look at the advantages of buying a condo and how you can buy one with a VA loan. We’ll also look at what makes a condo eligible for a VA loan and what you can do if you want to buy a noneligible condo.

Why Condos Can Be Great For Military Personnel

Before we dig in, let’s talk about what makes a condo in the VA’s terms. The VA defines a condo complex or planned unit development as a common interest community – everyone living there shares land and common areas like playgrounds and parking lots.

There are many factors to consider when figuring out if a condo is a good investment. Besides generally being more affordable than single-family homes and often being located in desirable spots, there are other advantages.

Condos typically have amenities that appeal to a wide range of military folks and their families, including fitness centers, pools, community spaces and sports areas. Whether you participate in an active social life or you want to retire in quiet comfort, a condo can offer the conveniences you want.

Service members who are younger or live alone may prefer condo living over a single-family home. The proximity to neighbors and not being responsible for upkeep and maintenance can be attractive if you don’t want to deal with these tasks. The same idea applies to prospective buyers who may not be up for the physical labor the outdoor maintenance of single-family homes generally require.

Condo complexes often have a homeowners association (HOA) to handle much of the maintenance. This appeals to some home buyers because single-family homes often require hands-on upkeep and a larger time commitment.

Think of paying the HOA fee as funding the benefits of having a landlord who takes care of your broken faucet while you’re building equity in your home. While on the subject of equity, one factor to keep in mind is that HOA fees don’t add to your equity. Again, though, the trade-off is that you won’t have to perform any condo maintenance, and your HOA fee typically covers other utilities and services as well.

HOAs also have rules and regulations set out in their bylaws. The rules are intended to promote uniformity and order. However, HOA rules and regulations can be an obstacle for some homeowners. The rules – which can cover regulations on home repairs or upgrades, noise levels and pets – may feel restrictive. But the other side of HOA rules means consistency and standards for everyone in the community to uphold.

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Can You Buy A Condo With A VA Loan?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that buying a condo with a VA loan isn’t much different from buying any other home, but the condo complex must still be VA approved. The purpose of this approval is to ensure that eligible VA loan borrowers aren’t overly burdened by the HOA in any way. Townhouses are also covered by the VA’s approval rules.

If you’re considering a particular condo, make sure the condo complex or development’s HOA has received VA approval. This protects the interests of both the VA loan holders and the government, which backs the VA loans. Any complex you’re considering will have to meet the requirements set by the VA. Download chapter 16 of the Department of Veterans Affairs Lender’s Handbook to see the full list of requirements for VA approved condos. You can also check for approval on the VA’s website.

Your real estate agent should be able to help you navigate VA condo HOA approvals.

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What Can Make A Condo HOA Ineligible for VA Approval?

The VA ensures a condo complex is a good fit for those eligible for VA loans by holding the complexes to high standards. There are several reasons why a condo complex’s HOA might not be approved by the VA.

If an HOA’s bylaws give the HOA authority over who you can sell the condo to and when (also known as the right of first refusal), it will not meet VA approval. Let’s look at what a right of first refusal entails in this particular area:

  • The bylaw allows the HOA to be first in line to purchase the property if the VA loan holder decides to sell it.
  • The rule allows the HOA to buy the unit for the same price and terms as a prospective buyer.
  • An HOA can purchase a unit to make it a guest unit, community area or the property manager’s residence.
  • The bylaw may be invoked to prevent a below-market sale that could affect the appraisal value of other units in the development.

If a condo complex or development has low owner-occupancy rates, the VA may withhold their approval. The general rule is that 50% of the units must be owner-occupied, meaning the units aren’t rentals or owned by investors. This rule is in place due to the high rental rate of condos.

In addition to the 50% owner-occupancy rule, the VA requires that at least 75% of the unit owners are current on their HOA fee payments. The VA may also have a cap on the amount an HOA can charge in fees.

If a development is new, the VA will wait to approve it until at least 75% of the units are sold. And no more than 10% of a development’s units may be owned by a single entity. The entity can be an individual, an investor or a company.

What If I Want A Condo That’s Not VA Approved?

You have a few options if you want to buy a condo that’s not on the VA approved condo list. The easiest fix is to only look at approved properties with your real estate agent!

But if your desired condo complex isn’t approved by the VA, you can petition for VA approval. It will involve working with other entities in the transaction: the HOA and the mortgage lender.

Borrowers can ask the HOA to apply for VA approval. It’s a complicated process that involves a lot of paperwork and can last for months. You should expect the approval process to lengthen your transaction time. Because obtaining approval often involves an attorney, HOAs must pay for it. The VA will often expedite requests accompanied by an attorney opinion letter, which is a formal letter of judgment from a legal professional, based on their expertise.

You can also check with your mortgage lender to see if they can get the condo project on the VA approved list. They’ll likely have experience in this area. And your real estate agent may be of help here, too.

VA Loans, Condos And Approvals: FAQs

Looking for more information about VA loans and condos? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

What are the benefits of using VA loans for condos?

Buying a condo with a VA loan means you won’t have to make a down payment (for most lenders) or pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Historically, using a VA loan for a condo typically comes with lower interest rates than other types of loans and limited closing costs.

How long is a VA approval on a condo good for?

Once a condo is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the approval doesn’t expire or need to be renewed.

Can a condo be VA approved but not FHA-approved?

A condo may be VA approved but not FHA-approved. Their approval processes are similar – but ultimately different. In the past, VA and FHA approvals were reciprocal, meaning if the VA approved a condo complex, the FHA would automatically approve it. But this is no longer the case.

Where can I find the VA’s condo approval guidelines?

Read chapter 16 in the Lender’s Handbook from the Department of Veterans Affairs to find the VA’s approval guidelines for condos. If the condo you’re looking at isn’t approved, you can apply for approval through your HOA.

Where can I look for the VA Condo Approval List?

To find the official list of VA approved condos in a certain area, you must fill out the form on the VA’s site to request a customized condo report. A real estate agent familiar with the area you’re searching in can likely help you find VA approved condos more efficiently.

The Bottom Line: VA Loans And Condos Can Be A Great Fit

The process for getting your VA loan can feel like it has additional hurdles to overcome, but there are significant benefits to gain. They check condo developments to make sure they’re a good investment for you, HOA fees, the other unit owners and the owner-occupancy rate in the development or complex.

To prepare to use a VA loan for a new condo, have your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) ready. The certificate verifies your status as a qualifying service member, veteran or surviving spouse. Your mortgage lender can help you obtain the certificate. You’ll also need to know your VA entitlement amount. It’s the maximum amount the VA guarantees to pay your lender if you default on your loan.

Ready to buy a condo with a VA loan? Start the approval process with Rocket Mortgage®. Learn whether you qualify for a VA loan to start your condo search as soon as possible.

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Michelle Giorlando

Michelle Giorlando is a freelance writer who lives in metro Detroit. When she's not writing about homeownership, finances, and mortgages, she enjoys performing improv, gardening, and befriending the wildlife in her yard.