If you’re a veteran who wants to take out a loan backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, you must be able to prove that you qualify for the VA loan program. In order to be eligible for a VA home loan, you must meet certain requirements. You’ll also be expected to present a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). In order to request one, you’ll need to submit VA Form 26-1880.
The Purpose of VA Form 26-1880
When veterans complete and send in VA Form 26-1880, qualifying individuals will receive a Certificate of Eligibility. VA lenders need this document as proof that a veteran is eligible for a VA guaranteed home loan.
Veterans must meet credit and income requirements to qualify for a VA home loan. But lenders need a COE in order to verify that an applicant has actively served in the military for the appropriate amount of time. In order to be eligible for a VA loan, a veteran must have been an active duty service member for at least 90 days during wartime or at least 181 days during peacetime. Discharged members of the National Guard or the Reserves must have served for at least six years.
How to Complete VA Form 26-1880
VA Form 26-1880 is one page and takes about 15 minutes to complete. There are 10 boxes that veterans need to fill in. If you need extra space, you can attach a separate sheet to the form.
In these boxes, you’ll provide personal information including your name, date of birth and contact information (i.e. your address and phone number). You will also need to determine if anyone (besides you) needs to receive the COE. For example, if you have already met with a VA lender, you may request that the certificate be sent to him or her.
In the sixth box, you will need to provide a record of your military service. Specifically, you’ll need to write in how long you served, your name (as it’s written on your statement of service or separation papers), your Social Security number, your branch of service and your service number if it’s different from your Social Security number.
If you left the military because you became disabled or you currently have a disability related to your military service, you will need to disclose that information in box 7. If applicable, you will also need to include your VA claim file number.
If you took out a VA home loan in the past, you must provide details about it under box 8. Be prepared to include the type of home that you purchased using your loan, its current ownership status, the date the home was sold and the VA loan number.
Even if you have never had a VA loan, you cannot leave box 8 blank. At the very least, you must write in “not applicable.”
In the last two boxes on VA Form 26-1880, you’ll need to include your signature and the date.
Submitting VA Form 26-1880
You can find VA Form 26-1880 online at va.gov. When you’re ready to submit it, you’ll need to mail it to the appropriate Eligibility Center based on your location. Don’t forget to attach your proof of service to the form.
If you are a “regular” veteran, you’ll need to attach the original version of the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD Form 214) or a copy of the form. But if you are currently an active duty service member, you will need to attach a statement of service. The statement of service must show the duration of your active duty period and any time lost.
If you are a former member of the National Guard, you will need to provide NGB Form 22 (the Report of Separation and Record of Service) or NGB Form 23 (Retirement Points Accounting). Discharged members of the Reserves can submit evidence of honorable service and their most recent annual point statement. Both types of veterans must prove that they served for at least six years.
If you are a current member of the Selected Reserves, you will need to submit a statement of service that shows how long you’ve been part of the unit.
VA Form 26-1880 isn’t a long or complicated form. But if you want to receive your Certificate of Eligibility, you’ll need to fill it out completely and provide all of the required documentation. Without a COE, you won’t be able to buy a house using a VA loan.
Tips for Buying a Home with a VA Loan
- Not all lenders offer VA loans. That’s something you want to research ahead of time, especially if you have a particular lender in mind. Most of the bigger banks and established online lenders will, but many of the startup mortgage lenders only offer conventional home loans.
- This may surprise you, but some sellers will stipulate that homebuyers cannot buy their homes with VA loan. It’s not illegal and it does happen, especially when the seller is looking to rapidly offload a property. Most real estate agents will filter those homes out of their search, but keep that in mind if your browsing on your own.
- VA loans offer terrific benefits, such as no down payment and favorable terms, but the paperwork can take longer to process than a regular mortgage. Keep that in mind if you have a short closing window in mind, such as moving in before your kids start school.
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