As a Veteran, you are entitled to certain benefits during and after your service. Your benefits can differ depending on when you served, whether you served during peacetime or wartime, and how long you served. Among the benefits available to help you settle back into civilian life, is the VA Home Loan. As the real estate market in South Florida heats up, here are a few things you should keep in mind while you apply for your VA home loan.

Why is a VA Loan Better Than a Conventional Loan?

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The biggest perk about having a VA loan instead of a conventional home loan is that no down payment is required. Typically, you’re expected to put at least three to five percent as a down payment, although most financial advisors will tell you, the more you can put down up front, the better. If you’re unable to put down such a large down payment, a VA loan is a good option.

A VA loan can also save you more money than a conventional loan because you’re not required to pay a monthly mortgage insurance fee. Closing costs are also cheaper when using a VA loan instead of a conventional loan.

What is the Market Like?

People have started recognizing that the real estate crisis is coming to an end. Because of this, the demand for houses in South Florida has skyrocketed, and the inventory of available homes is down 72 percent from 17,000 in 2008 to just over 4,000. So even though prices are at their lowest, availability might be limited. Start your home search by making a wish-list of every feature and amenity you’d like your dream home to have; two-story, quiet neighborhood, lots of windows. As you start to look at homes in your price range, keep asking yourself what you would change on your wish-list if you had to narrow it down to just five or 10 things. Knowing what is really a priority will really help your real estate agent help you find your perfect home.

What is Your Financial Status Like?

A good rule of thumb when considering the purchase of a home is to really look at your financial status. Take a good look at your employment status first. Is your job temporary or unstable in some way? If you have a spouse or partner who works, would their salary be able to support mortgage payments if you lost your job?

Most financial advisors will suggest your monthly housing payment to not exceed ⅓ of your gross monthly income. Even though you might qualify for a loan that allows you to purchase a more expensive home, it is better to live below your means in case an unforeseen circumstance alters your financial situation in the future. Consulting a budget calculator is a quick way to help you assess your financial status.

Should You Buy or Rent?

It may feel like buying a home is the next logical step in your life. Maybe you finally got that high paying job, you were recently married, or perhaps you’ve started your family. If your rent exceeds what you would be spending on a monthly mortgage payment, it might be a good time to start looking for a permanent place. By contacting a lender and getting a good faith estimate, which can give you an estimate of what you could be paying in monthly fees, based on the loan you take out.

Another thing to consider, is how long you’re looking to stay in a certain location. If it is possible that you’ll need to move within the next two years, you’re better off renting, rather than purchasing.

How Do You Apply For a VA Loan?

After you assess your situation and determine whether or not you’re ready for a South Florida home and a VA loan, it is important to make sure your lending institution is approved by the VA and able to supply you with a VA loan. Once you select a lender, you need to submit a VA Form 26-1880 as well as proof of service. Spouses of someone who has died in active duty, or as a result of a disability suffered while on duty, may also be eligible for a VA loan as well.

Making the decision to buy a home in South Florida is not something to be taken lightly. Before you venture into the confusing and cut-throat world of real estate, make sure you understand your VA benefits and have a knowledgeable and helpful lender on your side.

Author Bio:

Dylan Adams is a writer from Tampa, Florida.  When he’s not studying business and real estate, he’s soaking up the sun or watching NBA Basketball.