Why is it difficult to find VA approved condos in Orange County, CA? There are plenty of Veterans in Orange County who want to take advantage of the VA loan program, especially now that there are no more loan limits for ZERO Down VA financing. But trying to narrow down the search for those condos that are VA approved, meaning they are eligible for VA financing, is no easy feat.
First, it's important to understand the difference between a condo and a Single Family Detached home. In Orange County it is not always as easy as just looking at the property and knowing if it is a condo or an SFR. Most people assume that all condos are attached properties on at least one wall, tend to be smaller homes, and have a monthly Home Owners Association (HOA) payment. And they also assume an SFR (Single Family Residence) will be a detached property, larger home, and not have an HOA payment. But this is not always the case.
Condos that Look Like SFR's
While some condos look like a stereotypical condo, some do not. Many times, especially in the last 10 to 20 years, builders have developed and built detached home projects that are legally condos in an effort to achieve more "density" in the project, meaning, build more homes on the parcel of land. The homes are detached. They look and feel like a Single Family Detached home, or even a Planned Unit Development (PUD), but legally they are a condo.
Single Family Homes that Look Like Condos
And then there are the home projects that look like condos but are legally SFR's. These properties are attached and have HOA dues. Typically they are older projects. You'll run into these in all areas of Orange County.
Full Proof Way to Know if a Property is a Condo
There is a full proof way to know if a property is a condo. Check out the Assessors Parcel Number, or APN. In Orange County, if the APN begins with a "9", then the property is a condo. A lender or real estate agent will be able to look up the APN number, but as a consumer you can typically find it in the property listing information. For example, Redfin.com lists the APN number in the "Public Facts" section of the property page. Zillow shows it in the "Other" section lumped together with about 50 "other" details. A little harder to find. Realtor.com shows the APN in the "Other Property info" section.
While many of the listing sites may identify a property as a "condo" or a "SFR", there are times when the information is incorrect. The agent entering the information didn't realize the significant difference in financing possibilities based on the legal property type, so knowing the rule of "9" is important. And if the APN does not begin with a 9 then your are good to go with your VA loan. But if there is a 9 and the property is a condo, then you will need to narrow down your search a little bit more, because to get a VA loan on a condo, the condo project needs to be VA approved.So how do you figure out which condos are VA approved and which are not?
Finding VA Approved Condos
If you are a Veteran looking to buy a condo using the VA loan program, then you are not going to want to waste your time looking at condos that are not VA approved. You can find a real estate agent who can help with your search. Or, you can go straight to a website built specifically for finding Orange County VA approved condos. There are two websites in Orange County, CA that will drastically narrow down the search for VA approved condos, saving lots of time, energy, and frustration.
www.OrangeCountyVeteransHomes.com has links for just about every city in Orange County. Just click on the link for the city you are interested in and "bam", you are presented with a list of VA approved condos for sale. They are listed in order of purchase price. Any Veteran who has spent any amount of time looking at condos only to find that a property they fell in love with is not VA approved will appreciate the this website. And while it is still important to have a local Orange County VA Loan Officer who is familiar with Orange County VA approved condos double check a properties eligibility before you make an offer, just knowing you are not wasting your time looking at condos that are not VA approved is a big time saver.
Fully Underwritten PreApproval
The first step in any home search should always be a consultation with a lender. For those using the VA loan program, working with a local, Direct VA Lender who is purely focused on the VA loan program and also knows the in's and out's of VA condo lending can help make the whole home buying process a smooth process. Your VA lender should be available to answer your questions and should be quick to present your loan options in an easy to understand way. And most importantly, it can be critical to understand the difference between being "Prequalified", "PreApproved", and Fully Underwritten and PreApproved. If your lender issued your PreApproval letter 1 hour after running your credit and getting a "DU", then you probably do not have an "underwritten" VA PreApproval. VA loans fall apart all the time when the Veteran thought they were PreApproved. Unless an actual Direct Endorsed VA Underwriter has reviewed your loan package, then you are still at risk of having a rocky loan process once your offer is accepted. The best recommendation that can be given to a Veteran early in the home search process is to get your VA loan fully underwritten and approved. This not only will give you peace of mind, but will also make any offer you make solid gold to the seller. A fully underwritten and PreApproved offer is as good as a cash offer and will make it easy to close very quickly.
Authored by Tim Storm, an Orange County, CA Loan Officer specializing in VA Loans. MLO 223456. – Please contact my office at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation NMLS #2289. My direct line is 714-478-3049. I will prepare custom VA loan scenarios that will be matched up to your financial goals, both long and short-term. I also prepare a Video Explanation of your scenarios so that you are able to fully understand the numbers BEFORE you have started the loan process.