VA guidelines

VA Loans and Occupancy Requirements

November 10, 2010


VA Loans and Occupancy Requirements

When a retired or separated military member wants to purchase a home with a VA mortgage, there’s not as much to worry about when it comes to meeting VA occupancy requirements once the home is purchased. At least not when compared to their active duty counterparts who could be deployed or reassigned to another base in a different state.

The Department of Veterans Affairs requires all VA loan applicants to certify they will occupy the home as the primary residence before it will approve a VA mortgage. While retired and separated military applicants may face some uncertainty when it comes to new careers and relocation, a whole different set of challenges await the active duty military member, Guardsman and Reservist.

The VA requires VA mortgage holders to make the new home their primary residence within a “reasonable amount of time”, usually no later than 60 days after the closing of the loan. So what does a military member do when he or she wants to buy a home in a different location in anticipation of a change of military assignment or other common situations. Can a military member deployed to a war zone get a VA loan even though they might be six months away from coming home or more?

In these cases the VA does make provision to help out those in special circumstances. According to VA rules, the 60 day requirement can be waived if certain conditions are met. The Veteran must certify he or she will move into the property on a specific date after the loan is closed, OR “there is a particular future event that will make it possible for the veteran to personally occupy the property as his or her home on a specific future date.”

That language is pretty flexible, but the VA does impose some limitations. The “particular future event” can’t be an anticipated, open-ended committment. A veteran may know they are due to be reassigned soon and even have advanced notice of where they are going. But unless the buyer can show a specific time frame for the relocation, it’s difficult for the VA to process and approve the loan based on its occupancy requirements.

If the veteran does have a specific date, the VA is willing to work within that time frame, but VA regulations state that any time longer than 12 months is not considered reasonable by the VA. Within a year is usually no problem, which would normally accommodate most military change of station moves, the end of overseas deployments or service in a war zone.

  1. JHollins

    I own a home that was not purchased with a va loan. My husband and I want to purchase another home about 60 miles from our current address. My husband is retired but I still work in near where I currently live. My husband has seizures and will need to be home with someone during the day. We would like to purchase a home 60 miles away because our son and his family lives in this area. His wife does not work and would be able to be around my husband during the day. I do not want to sell my 1st home until I retire which is 4-5 years from now. If I declare the new home as my primary residence, will this be allowable with the va?

    • Joe Wallace

      Hi JHollins, The answer depends greatly on who is signing the VA loan. If you are the veteran, the VA requires you to certify you will actually live at the address of the home you are purchasing with the VA loan. If the husband is the veteran, your chances are better because from what you've written here it appears he may actually be physically present in the home as the primary occupant. The VA does make allowances for "reasonable distance" from the workplace when it comes to commuter travel and qualifying a home as the primary residence--but the VA has the final say as to what those reasonable distances are. I would suggest you get in touch with your closest VA regional loan center and explain your situation to see if the VA has some advice on this specific issue.

  2. Lucas

    Great article. My question is not how soon I have to occupy the property as my residence, but for how long. I want to know when I can move out and turn it into a rental.

    • Joe Wallace

      You would have to refinance with a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loan first--VA occupancy rules do not allow borrowers to rent out the home purchased with a new purchase VA mortgage. There's no time requirement--occupancy is required for the lifetime of the loan or when the home is paid off, sold or refinanced with a VA IRRRL. Hope this helps!

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