Which is Better for Orange County Veterans: CalVet or VA Loan

California Veterans have two great choices when it comes to Zero Down financing for a home purchase. They can either use the CalVet program or the VA loan program. But there is a difference between the programs, both in how the interest rate is calculated and the closing process. So which program is better? Because everyone’s situation is different it probably makes sense for Orange County Veterans to check into both programs. Below are are few of the primary differences.

Loan Amount Limits

It used to be that VA had limits on the purchase price allowed for $0 down financing. In some cases, those limits were less than what Calvet allowed. But in 2020 the Veterans Administration removed loan limits. Now, a Veteran can buy any priced home with $0 down payment as long as they have the verifiable income (and credit) to support the payment. 

How Title is Held: Calvet vs VA

The VA loan program is a fairly standard program when it comes to how closing and title are held. Like other programs (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Jumbo, etc) when a VA loan is closed the Veteran holds legal title immediately upon closing. The VA loan is a recorded lien.

CalVet is different. With Calvet, after the Veteran identifies a property and gets an accepted offer, Calvet purchases the property. Calvet then “sells” the property to the Veteran using a contract of sale, which is also known as a Land Contract. Calvet still holds legal title to the home and the Veteran holds “equitable title”. Equitable title is the right to obtain full ownership.

The different forms of holding title may not seem like much initially, but it does add complication down the line, especially if the Veteran wants to refinance or get a Home Equity Line of Credit. More on this below.

Credit Scoring

Calvet does not have a minimum FICO score requirement. This means a Calvet loan may be a better option for an Orange County Veteran with a FICO score below 620. Technically, VA guidelines do not list a minimum FICO score requirement. But VA does not lend. VA guarantees the loan for the lender. And most VA lenders sell their VA closed loans to Ginnie Mae and so must follow what the current generally accepted FICO sore requirements are for loans being sold on the secondary market. Most VA lenders have minimum FICO sore requirements of between 580 and 620. It’s important to mention that private lenders will tend to have pricing adjustments for low FICO scores whereas Calvet does not. A Veteran with a 600 FICO score may get a lower interest rate with Calvet than VA. But every situation is different, making it important to do a thorough review of your options.

Interest Rate & Fees: CalVet vs VA

va mortgage paymentThere is not a set answer to this comparison since every situation is different. However, there is a lot more flexibility with a VA loan than with Calvet. Calvet offers a set interest rate determined by the current market for government-issued bonds. Every lender is different, but VA interest rates are mostly affected based on home Ginnie Mae Mortgage-Backed Securities are traded on the secondary market. Rates can change daily, but there is a lot of flexibility in the rate and fees that are offered to an Orange County Veteran. For example, as of today, August 17, 2021, the Calvet published 30 year fixed rate for the QMB 100% financing program is 2.75% (2.962% APR). Calvet charges a 1% Origination Fee. If an Orange County Veteran is purchasing a home in Irvine for $750,000 with $0 down payment then the Calvet Origination Fee will be $7,500. This fee is not financed into the loan. It needs to be paid out of pocket. When you add the escrow, title, recording, appraisal fees combined with “prepaid” expenses, the amount needed to close on a $750,000 purchase can get very expensive. A VA lender could offer the same rate of 2.75% (2.874% APR) but at 0 points. Better yet, if the Veteran is tight on funds to close the VA lender could offer additional options with a higher interest rate and “lender credit”. As an example, a Veteran would choose to go with an interest rate of 3.25% and get enough lender credit to cover nearly all closing costs and prepaid expenses. This flexibility allows a Veteran to buy a home without depleting all of their savings. Not all lenders have the same rates, so it makes sense to check around.

Refinancing Options

Calvet does not refinance their loans. Calvet is strictly for purchasing, construction, or home improvement loans. VA does have several refinance options.

  • VA IRRRL – Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan – This is for a VA backed loan to VA loan refinance. Also known as a VA Streamline Refinance, this is the easiest loan a Veteran will ever do. There is no income documentation required. No appraisal. No termite inspection. As long as the Veteran has a job (or VA Disability rating) and is current on their VA backed loan, they are eligible. This is a “no cash out” refinance. And since Calvet is, in most cases, a VA backed loan, it is possible for a Calvet borrower to refinance into a VA loan using the VA IRRRL program.
  • VA Cash Out Refinance – VA allows for cash out refinancing up to 90% of the property value. The VA loan, including the VA Funding Fee if applicable, can be 90% of the VA appraisal value. For example, if a property appraises for $700,000 then the new VA loan can be $630,000. If the loan being paid off is $500,000 then the Veteran can pull out $130,000, less the Funding Fee (if applicable) and closing costs/prepaid expenses. The cash out can be used for debt consolidation, home improvement, education, or any other purpose.

As an Orange County Veteran, what will be most important in your search for the best Veteran financing is the advice you get for a local, experienced, Veteran Loan Specialist. While no special license is required for a Loan Officer to originate a VA loan, most Loan Officer are lucky if they close one or two VA loans a year. Finding a local Orange County VA loan specialist who can answer your questions or prepare a professional presentation of your VA loan options in an easy-to-understand format is going to benefit you, the Orange County Veteran. Make sure to ask for a VA Loan Purchase Analysis or a VA Refinance Savings Analysis.

Authored by Tim Storm, a California Mortgage Loan Officer MLO 223456 – Please contact my office at Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation. Direct line is 949-829-1846. www.OrangeCountyVALoans.com