Are you ready to spend your weekend binge-watching the top 5 army movies of all time? HOOAH! At least that’s what we’re imagining you’d say. Because the following are some of the best, at least that’s what we think—feel free to prove us wrong, but you’ll lose. Actually, there’s a lot of really good ones out there, but we could only pick 5, and this just happens to be a few of them.
We’re hoping we don’t have to tell you this, but Saving Private Ryan is the number one war movie of all time. It may be one of the most watching movies on our list. If not, it most certainly should be. Honestly, the position of this movie on our list It’s even something worth arguing. So, if you haven’t seen it, well, you better go watch it right now, because there’s really no excuse. Otherwise, we can’t really call you American.
If you haven’t seen this movie at least 100 times, what are you doing with your life? Actually, we’re pretty sure that watching Black Hawk Down is a requirement to becoming a citizen of the good ol’ US of A. Okay, maybe not, but it should be. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen this movie, then you should. It’s found it place on our top 5 list because it’s one of the best. And if you want to be the best too, we advise that you see this top-notch film ASAP!
Okay, not only is this movie good, but it’s kind of funny, considering the topic. Yes, there are some pretty moving scenes in it, but that just makes is so much better. If you’re looking for a movie that reminds you why we hate the Nazis, then this is a must see. Also, who doesn’t like Brad Pitt—in case you really needed another reason to see this film.
We Were Soldiers, another fantastic movie about our nation’s heroes. Not only does it depict what our Soldiers have gone through to protect you and yours, but it shows us what that service does to their family members. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to serve. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to know, care for, and love a Soldier, then this movie is for you. And even if you haven’t wondered, it’s still an excellent movie. Also, it’s based on a true story.
An oldie, but a goodie here. Platoon is just one of those movies that you can’t not see. If you’re a fan of war movies, this is definitely worth watching. And if you’ve already seen it, feel free to watch it again, just because you can. ‘Merica, Hooah!
Not a movie, but a mini-series. Still, we like it so much we’re putting it as an honorable mention: Band of Brothers. Again, your patriotism will be in question if you haven’t seen this one. Also, you’re just really missing out.
Okay, home security has its ups and downs. Unfortunately, the same company can be great for one person and horrific for the next. All providers have negative reviews about contracts, customer service, equipment failure—yes, we know, unacceptable. We like to think of home security like a cell phone service; it depends on where you are. Because, man do I love T-Mobile when I’m overseas, but how I despise it the minute I pull up into my driveway.
Sadly, your customer service and even your equipment will depend on where you live. I had Vivint home security when I live in MD, and I had nothing but good things to say, other than the screen not being calibrated and having issues putting in my code—it got fixed. Customer service, my installer and even my disconnection/return process were excellent. However, I’ve read absolutely terrible reviews from others in different locations that had a completely different experience. The same goes for ADT; it all depends on where you live.
Despite all of that, we’re still going to do our best to do an honest and thorough review by comparing Vivint vs ADT home security systems side-by-side.
ADT has been around for a long time, almost 150 years long. It’s no surprise they’re so well known. In fact, they’re the leading company in security nationwide. And that might have to do with how long they’ve been in business.
What does ADT stand for?
ADT stands for American District Telegraph. It got its name way back in 1874 from its founder, Edward Callahan. Callahan had created a telegraph-based system called a “call box”. The call box was a connection which sent a signal to the call center—a security measure dedicated to businesses.
ADT would later make connections to homes. Unfortunately, this was more than a century ago, and telephone systems weren’t quite a thing yet. This meant the company had “runners”. It was the runners’ job to find out what happened and then notify the police or fire department of the emergency.
Luckily for us today, this style of security has been improved with advanced technology. Can you imagine people running down the street?
“What are you doing?”
“Oh nothing, just going to report that the Jones family’s house is in full flames.”
“Oh, okay, well happy running, I guess…”
I bet people would be in better shape if this was still a thing.
Like most things, ADT has seen a lot of change over the years, and that includes changes in their owner. But that’s not the only changes ADT has gone through. While ADT has always kept its primary name, it’s come with some additions. When Hawley Group, Ltd. purchased ADT; they renamed the company ADT Security Systems Inc. that was in 1987. In 1996, the company had a second minor name change, ADT Security Services, Inc. Finally, Tyco International LTD bought out ADT, where it would keep its name you see today.
ADT’s history doesn’t just lie in its name. While ADT took off in 1874, after a home invasion, the story behind it started even earlier than that. Edward Callahan was not in the business of advanced home security, well not as we know it today—which is expected since home security in the 1800s lied in the hands of the homeowner and a good shotgun. Before Callahan got into the business he was actually a telegrapher. This might explain why the telegraph was a base for his security invention. After only a few years, there were call boxes in 50 towns, which meant by 1890, more than 500 homes were receiving services from ADT.
ADT Pros and Cons
A professional will come to your home and do the set-up, hassle free
You can control your system from your phone
Cheaper than Vivint
ADT’s a big company, which means they come at a bigger cost than other security companies (Still cheaper than Vivint)
ADT is not a self-install system
Fewer equipment options than Vivint
Vivint hasn’t been around near as long as ADT, meaning they may have some work to do to catch up in popularity. However, I can personally attest to the much younger security company, Vivint. I had them for 3 years, and the entire time I never could say anything bad about their customer service.
If you’re looking for a company that will work with you during a PCS, they will make it easy for you. When I left my duty location, I couldn’t take Vivint with me because they weren’t servicing the area I was going to be living. They let me out of my contract, didn’t charge me any extra fees, and I was a happy customer in the end. It was so easy and the customer service was exceptional. Of course, we know not everyone will have this experience, sadly. But we sure hope you do.
Main Concern with Vivint
“Vivint contracts are too long and too expensive.”
If this is one of your concerns, don’t worry you aren’t alone. You can pay off your contract up-front, by paying for the equipment, in which case you won’t be bound by a contract. Instead, you pay monthly, and when you don’t want to use the system anymore, you don’t have to worry about breaking a contract.
However, the equipment can be costly. In this case, you can select the length of your contract by financing and paying a portion of your equipment off, so that you don’t have a 5-year contract. However, if you choose not to pay the equipment off up-front, or pay off a portion, you will be stuck with the 5-year contract.
If the price is still too high for you, they now offer a flex payment plan (more about that below) which lets you pay as little as $9.17/month. It comes with some fine print, so make sure you read your contract all the way through. Be like that lady who won $10,000 for reading a contract and finding the secret contest within. Read it like there’s $10,000 to be won.
Also, make sure you take a look at Vivint’s disclaimers when it comes to contracts. We’ve taken the liberty and listed them below. (We’ve quoted directly from their main website)
“Minimum $49.99/month services agreement required. Minimum $599.99 equipment purchase may be financed subject to an agreement with one of Vivint’s financing partners. $49 to $199 installation fee applies.
“Financing eligibility and terms subject to credit approval.
“Month-to-month service agreement available when equipment is purchased upfront. Additional equipment may be purchased and financed.
“Financing options require monthly services agreement coterminous with applicable financing agreement (for example $49.99/month for 60 months = total services cost $2,999.40). The system supports up to four cameras subject to sufficient WiFi speeds.
“Without a Vivint services plan, product and system functionality is limited (including loss of remote connectivity). Offer not available in all states or provinces. Taxes and local permit fees may apply. New Vivint Customers only.”
Also, Vivint has small hubs all over the country. Depending on where you live, you may get different deals, different equipment, and different features. Keep this in mind when making your phone call or when requesting an online quote.
Interested in Vivint’s competitors, read our 7 Best Home Security Companies blog, here.
Vivint Pros and Cons
Professional will come to your home and give you a quote—it’s free
You also have the option of online quotes, which is simple to navigate
Easy to break the contract when PCSing due to orders
You can transfer your system from one home to the next
They have a no-contract option (if you’re willing to pay up-front costs)
More equipment options than ADT
Unlike most companies who have a 3-year contract, Vivint has one of the highest at 5-years
Must pay for equipment up front if you don’t want a contract, and it’s expensive
More expensive than ADT
ADT vs. Vivint Home Security
Lowest Monitoring Cost
ADT beats out Vivint when it comes to security costs. ADT will cost you a minimum $24.99/month. Of course, that’s only their basic package. If you were to choose a premium package, it would cost you $52.99/month. Premium pricing is pretty much the only time you’ll see Vivint as a cheaper option.
Vivint’s lowest monitory package, meaning the basics will cost you $39.99/month. If you want a little more than the basics and decide on a smart home package, you’ll get monitoring services for $49.99/month, just slightly cheaper than ADT.
Keep in mind however, these companies often run deals, meaning the cost could change at any time.
Installation and Activation Fees
As of the publication of this article, the cost of installing an ADT home security system will cost you anywhere from $99-$199. Vivint will cost you anywhere from $49.99-$199. So, while they peak at the same installation cost, Vivint is considerably lower, depending on what type of equipment is being installed.
Again, most security companies run deals throughout the year, which include free installation and activation. So, make sure you ask your representative in your location if they have any deals going on to help save yourself a little money.
When comparing Vivint and ADT’s contract lengths, at first glance, you might be thinking Vivint is absolutely insane making people sign a 5-year contract. We’d have to agree, that’s one of the more lengthy security contracts on the market (although, they aren’t the only ones). However, Vivint is not giving an option to pay up-front costs so you can forgo the contract. You’re basically paying for all your equipment, and then you’ll pay month to month for monitoring until you decide you don’t want or need their services anymore. It’s a good idea if you hate the idea of a contract, but it’s an expensive decision to make.
ADT also has a contract, though it seems more reasonable and it’s the typical standard amongst fellow security competitors. Unlike Vivint, they don’t have an up-front payout option to get you out of a contract (as of the writing of this article). Still, it’s a cheaper option, even if you have to sign a 3-year contract.
In most cases, if you break your contract with a home security provider, you’ll have to pay 100% of your remaining contract off, this applies to Vivint. However, with ADT, you’re only required to pay 75% of the cost back. And a 25% difference is a lot of money in your pocket.
Remember, before you sign your contract, read the fine print. Local permits are required with all activated security systems. Which usually requires only a small fee. It will depend on your local policy. Usually, this requires the homeowner to submit an application along with your local permit fee. For example, you may be required to mail or personally take your application to the local police department. This isn’t a fee you’re paying to ADT or Vivint, and you can get fined for not filing a permit with your county.
Both ADT and Vivint have home automation. Most security companies these days do. However, the biggest difference between ADT and Vivint is how you can control your home automation. Vivint actually lets you control your home through your voice. So, if your hands are full, you can simply speak your command and voila! ADT, on the other hand, does not yet offer voice-controlled home automation.
ADT offers home security on the more expensive side of things, compared to almost everyone but Vivint. But the extra cost you’re paying might be worth it if you’re looking for a long-standing company who’s been in the game since before home security was even invented. Let’s face it, ADT has been around so long, they are the real professionals out there. Just look for the promotions. ADT offers them all the time, which could actually end up saving you a lot of money.
Vivint prices may seem a bit steep, typically that’s because they are. Vivint does offer more equipment than ADT, so this could be why we see the hiked prices. However, depending on the type of installation you’re getting, Vivint might beat ADT on pricing. See above for more on that. Also, Vivint now offers *flex payments for as low as $9.17/month for 42-60 month at a 0% APR, if you’re spending no more than $4,000.
ADT Features and Equipment
ADT offers a few types of cameras. They offer both an indoor and outdoor camera. Even a doorbell camera. Which is actually pretty cool. If someone rings your doorbell, you can see who’s there without leaving your couch. Or, if you’re not at home, you can do the same thing using the ADT Pulse app.
ADT Indoor Security Cameras
ADT also offers Indoor Security Cameras. If you purchase ADT Pulse +Video, you get this option. Because your indoor cameras are motion activated, the pet-friendly motion sensor comes in handy. If it senses something other than your dog, it will send you a video clip automatically. If you have more than one indoor camera, you can always shift between them. You also have the option of recording.
ADT Outdoor Security Cameras
Outdoor Security Cameras are where it’s at. These cameras let you see who’s coming up to your property and when they leave. It’s also a great deterrent for burglary, both inside and outside the home. Combined with your ADT app, you can see your camera’s video footage at any time. The outdoor camera is similar to the indoor version, but with weather in mind. Outdoor cameras are snow, rain and humidity resistant. The cameras also come with a built-in heater, to guarantee function at temperatures as low as -40 degrees. They’re also built with infrared night vision, meaning you can see what’s going on no matter what time it is.
If you were thinking, “this just costs too much for me”, we understand. The good news is, you can always pretend you have ADT. Unfortunately pretending to have ADT and actually having ADT are two different things, and pretending won’t actually provide you with that much security.
So, if you’d rather forgo you, your spouse and your child’s utmost safety, then you can always buy an ADT sign without all the ADT prices. Again, since you have to put a warning on everything these days—an ADT sign does not guarantee you or your family’s safety. So don’t be stupid and try and sue ADT after someone broke into your home, even though you put 7 signs in the yard and 26 stickers in all four corners of your windows. That’s not how these things work.
Yes, ADT has an app. I think most major companies these days do, so it shouldn’t come to you as a surprise. ADT’s app is called, “ADT Pulse”. If you have the ADT’s Pulse Monitoring +Video package, you can use the app for home automation. With the app, you can also manage, monitor and modify your home when you’re not there. Some of the features only come with the added video package.
The app gives you the option of viewing any video cameras on your property. You can also record and save the video to your phone. The app gives you the option of locking and unlocking your doors, changing the temperature in your home, lighting, monitoring your doorbell camera and even the option for home automation switches plugs.
Again, these functions vary on what you’ve purchased and what you’ve setup with ADT. This means, if you don’t have a doorbell camera, you won’t be able to monitor it.
Vivint Features and Equipment
Vivint Smart Hub
Vivint’s “Smart Hub”, also known as the main panel, is pretty nice. Not only is it a touch screen, revamped from their old system, but it also has an instant two-way talking feature. It also continues working when the power goes out with its backup battery and it’s connected via an encrypted cellular Wifi, so you’re on a secure network.
Vivint offers three different cameras, an indoor, outdoor, and doorbell camera. For the most part, their cameras are too different from any other security company out there. The biggest difference, is in your doorbell camera, with a two-way conversation capability. Also, Vivint’s security cameras are wireless, meaning you don’t have to worry about people cutting wires and preventing their detection. If the wireless bit worries you, they tell us it’s monitored under a secure network.
Each of the cameras come with night vision capability, so you know what’s going on, even when the lights are out—they probably work better than the cameras at your local gas station, at least we’d sure hope so.
Ping Indoor Camera
What’s better, when the cameras detect something, you’ll get a notification sent to your smartphone, where you can see the action. And your indoor and outdoor cameras have smart clip capabilities so you can record and go back to watch the clips at a later time if need be.
Oh, is someone at the door? Not only can you see who’s on your doorstep with the doorbell camera, but also you can conduct a two-way conversation. “Hello UPS, you can leave the package at the door,” Meanwhile, you’re still in your pajamas watching old western reruns, until you’re actually ready to get up off the recliner.
Vivint Smart Drive
Prior to the Smart Drive, Vivint had something called the Space Monkey, in case you’re reading this as a prior customer. The drive gives the homeowner the ability to store more than just security videos. In fact, you can store up to 1 TB of materials, including photos or other things you want to be saved. As far as video storage goes, it’s equivalent to having 30-days of 24/7 video recordings.
This is one of the features that stands out amongst other security providers. So, if you want to ability to record what’s going on around your home without having to worry about deleting other recordings after a few hours, Vivint might be a good security company to look into.
The Vivint Nest or Element Thermostat is a smart thermostat, which you can control with your smartphone. And if your hands are full, try the voice feature and just tell your thermostat what you want it to do. If that’s not cool enough for you, how about the custom notifications? If your thermostat self-adjusts, you’ll get a notification. Or what about when your kid gets up and turns the temperature up to 80? You’ll get a notification saying the temperature is set too high, and even too cold, meaning you can keep from worrying about the temperature dropping so low inside that your pipes burst while you’re gone on Christmas vacation.
Vivint’s app is pretty much just like everyone else’s, in that it controls your smart home features. The app gives you the ability to lock and unlock your door when you aren’t there—in case you wanted to let your friend in while you’re out of town. What it does differently from the rest of the guys, it lets you control your smart home via voice control.
Other Vivint Products and Services
One thing Vivint does well is customization. They let you pick and choose from their product and customize your home’s security to your heart’s content. If you want less, that’s an option. If you want more, you can do that too. If you want a package, they have it available. All of their products are meant to make you feel safe, from fireprotection to breaking and entering. Below are some of the products you can choose from.
Garage Door Control
Indoor and Outdoor Cameras
Vivint Smart Home App
Sky Control Panel
Phillips Hue (Lighting Control)
Remember to keep in mind, depending on where you live, some services and products may not be available.
ADT vs Vivint Customer Service
ADT is a large company, and like most big companies out there, they have smaller, local dealers all around the country. This can sometimes pose a problem. If you look ADT up on Better Business Bureau, you’ll find they have an A+, however, their customer service seems to take a hit when it comes to their local dealers. Meaning, depending on where you live, you could either end up with excellent or terrible customer service, this is why it’s hard to say a company like ADT sucks at customer service. Because some local dealer in the middle of nowhere may be the best representative in the entire country, but a few idiots in the city ruin it for a bunch of people because they have more reach.
With that being said, don’t let this be your deciding factor on choosing ADT over another company. Instead, look up your local dealer on the BBB website and see how the people you’d be dealing with personally treat their customers.
Unfortunately, Vivint isn’t better than ADT. In fact, Vivint isn’t accredited by the BBB, and they have a C- rating. Not too good if you ask, well pretty much anyone. Add in pricing and lengthy contracts for those of us who can’t afford to pay off equipment upfront is definitely something you might want to keep in mind when doing your comparison shopping.
Vivint Home Security Packages
Smart Home ($39.99/mo)
Smart Home Video ($49.99/mo)
ADT Home Security Packages
Compare Vivint and ADT Monitoring Plans
Monthly Price (lowest cost)
Wireless Connection Available
Landline Connection Available
Bottom Line: Vivint or ADT?
Vivint is the Best Choice
Vivint is the best choice for home security if you’re looking for a smaller company to deal with than ADT. Also, Vivint offers the option of self-installation if you’re not getting a home automation package. So, if you’re looking for a basic self-install package between Vivint and ADT, Vivint would be the best choice.
ADT is the Best Option
ADT is the best option if you’re looking for something a little more affordable in most cases. Also, if you’re looking for a company that’s been around for a while, ADT is the best option. If you can’t afford to buy out of a contract, ADT is also your best option, since their contract length is 2 years shorter than Vivint, again, if you can’t buy yourself out of a contract.
Home Security FAQs
You’re asking the questions, so we’re going to do our best to answer them. If you have any more input, make sure you let us know. There’s nothing quite like thinking you knew something, just to find out someone else knew more.
What cameras work with Vivint?
Vivint has its own cameras. So, what cameras work legally with Vivint, well, Vivint’s. Their devices work with Amazon Echo, Alexa, and Google Home. They also work with Nest, to give you a thermostat you can control through the Vivint app, which by the way lets you control your smart home, and that smart thermostat with your voice (something ADT isn’t offering). And if that’s not enough, they’ve partnered with Phillips Hue, to let you take control of your lights through your smart home app as well.
How do you use a Vivint camera without service?
We haven’t quite figured this out yet, but for some reason, this seems to be one of the most asked questions on the internet about Vivint home security. So, being the awesome people that we are, we’ve decided to address is. Unfortunately, it’s doesn’t come with the answer you might looking for. Unfortunately, you cannot use Vivint cameras without service (imagine that). You also can’t use Vivint cameras with just any security company. According to Vivint’s website, they were built to be used specifically with them and is incapable of working under another company’s supervision. Now, this doesn’t take into account all the people out there who are smarter than me, who might be capable of getting around the system. But, for the rest of us, this just isn’t meant to happen.
If you’re interested in DIY home security, read about one of Vivint’s competitors, LifeSheild, here.
The answer to this is, it depends. While many security providers offer deals throughout the year. The discounts you can take advantage of will depend on what specials are running at the time and where you live. So, make sure you ask your local provider about any promotions ADT is offering. Over the years, we’ve seen ADT offer free installation for an indoor and outdoor security camera, large cuts in their basic installation price and so much more.
How do you uninstall an ADT Security System?
If you aren’t happy with your ADT services, you’re moving and don’t want to reinstall or you are moving to a location where ADT is not provided. You may be asking, “How do I uninstall my ADT Security System?”
Your first step is to disconnect your services. Meaning, you’re going to have to get in touch with an ADT representative to terminate your current service. Once this is done, you will be provided with a box for shipping.
You’re also going to need a couple tools: A Phillips head screwdriver and a small flathead screwdriver—not provided by ADT. Once you’ve acquired all the necessary tools to uninstall your security system, you’ll need to uninstall the base unit.
This is done by first removing the screw which holds in your transformer. You can then unplug the transformer. You should see two wires—these are your leads. Loosen the screws holding your leads down so you can remove them.
Now, onto your base unit. You’ll need to unplug the ethernet cable and the power cord. You will find another screw on the back cover of the unit—while it’s still attached to the wall, remove that screw. After you’ve loosened the screw and unplugged everything, you should be able to lift the unit directly off the mount. The back cover that’s left has screws in it as well, which you’ll need to remove. Your next step is to unplug the battery in the unit—do this by disconnecting the wires inside. There’s also a screw holding the battery in, so make sure you loosen that enough to remove the battery. Once you’ve done this, you should be able to lift the battery with the wires you unplugged. After all that’s done, simply put the unit back together the same way you took it apart. Replace the back cover and the screw to their original locations.
Your keypad is uninstalled similarly. First, you will have to disconnect your transformer—it’s exactly the same as your wall mount’s transformer. For the keypad, you’ll remove the screw holding the keypad—this should be on the bottom of the unit, depending on your model. Next, lift the unit off the mount and unplug the power cable. Remove the wall mount by taking out the screws holding it to the wall. Then, disconnect the battery and loosen the screw in the same manner as you did with the base unit. Finally, replace the back and screw it in.
If you have a table mount system, where your base unit is not plugged into the wall, you’ll simply need to unplug the system and remove the battery in the same manner as a wall mounted base unit.
After everything is uninstalled you should be able to place the system in the provided bags and boxes for shipment. Package everything neatly and then send it on its way.
We’ve been talking a lot lately about VA loans, and comparing them to other major home loans. Depending on what you’re looking for, how your finances are, what your credit score looks like, and simply where you’re at in life, some loans may be better than others. Another option, we haven’t gone into a lot of detail about is the FHA loan. The FHA loan might be the closest thing you can get to a VA loan, without it actually being a VA loan, and before you say, “I make too much money for an FHA loan,” no you don’t. Now that we’re past that rumor, here’s our in-depth look at the VA vs FHA loan.
What is an FHA loan?
Much like the VA loan, lenders are typically more inclined to take you on as a client because they know you’re backed by the VA. An FHA loan is similar in that you’re backed by a national bank. Therefore, lenders feel more comfortable providing you the home loan you need. Their risk is lowered by the backing, so why not.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be in a certain income bracket to qualify for an FHA loan. Again, it’s a lot like the VA loan. In fact, it’s probably the civilian version of the VA. Only, there are a few things that make it different. Some for better, others for worse.
FHA Loan Pros
You can make a down payment as low as 3.5%
Can get a loan with a credit score as low as 580
Home Improvement Loan or Rehab loan is easier to get than through the VA
FHA Loan Cons
You’re required to pay 1.75% upfront in mortgage insurance premiums (MIP)
If you purchased your home after July 3, 2013, you’ll have to refinance to a conventional loan to get rid of your MIP
The VA has higher loan limits than the FHA(as of 2019)
VA Loan Cons
Getting a home improvement loan is a more difficult process with the VA
FHA Loan Limits
Ah, you thought by not going through the VA there wouldn’t be any loan limits. We’re sorry to be the ones to break this to you, but the FHA does, in fact, have loan limits. Similar to the VA, your loan limit will depend on the county you live in. The downside you’ll find with the FHA vs. VA loan is where the loan limit sits. The VA actually has higher loan limits—not by a huge amount, but maybe enough to make a difference in purchasing a home through a VA loan vs. an FHA loan.
The limit you’ll find through the FHA is between $314,827 where the cost of living is lower and $726,525 where the cost of living is at its highest. The VA, on the other hand, goes with the same loan limit as the FHFA, with a minimum loan limit of $484,350 and the same maximum loan limit of $726,525 (current as of 2019).
FHA Loan Calculator
Finding an FHA loan calculator online isn’t really that difficult. You probably don’t need us to tell you that. But, in case you need a little advice, here’s what we can offer.
There are several online sources that will give you an estimated payment plan—keep in mind, these are all estimates—but the one we found that gives you the opportunity to list the most details and doesn’t ask for all your personal information is here.
FHA Connection probably isn’t for you—but in case it is, here you go. Also, a lot of people seem to be asking about it, so we figure we’ll go ahead and cover it.
FHA Connection is an online program meant for FHA approved lenders and HUD-approved partners. Basically, to make a long story short, since this won’t apply to most people reading this, FHA Connection helps your loan process move. Your approved lender will use the system to make sure the loan processes gets completed and you find yourself living in your new home as soon as possible.
VA Approved Condos
Getting approval for a condominium with a VA loan is pretty easy, at least that’s what they tell us. However, it wouldn’t be the VA we’ve come to know if it didn’t come with a list of qualifications first.
Besides being on the VA’s list of approved condos, the following must be in place before the VA will consider approving a unit in the condo you’re looking to purchase.
At least 50% of the units must be occupied
Less than 15% of the unit owners are behind on HOA dues—yes there will be a homeowners association
At least 75% of the units must be sold—can not have a lot of newly built condos
Other non-approved condos include those which have never been submitted for a VA approval—this is done by the community’s HOA, it is not something you can do—any condos not grandfathered in under a previous HUD, or any condos who were submitted for VA approval but denied.
FHA Approved Condos
Before you get too excited over there, getting an FHA loan for a condominium is almost exactly the same as if you did it through a VA loan. The major difference is in the approval process. Unlike the VA, which requires the HOA to file a request for approval, you can file your own request with the help of your realtor to get it on the FHA approved condominium list.
To save yourself a little trouble, if the above is the route you plan to take, here’s a short list of what qualifies a condominium.
There must be no more than 49% non-residential area (this is referring to open space, non-living areas, not unoccupied units).
Must comply with state law
Must be primarily residential (at least 51%)
Must contain—at a minimum—two units
Here’s what doesn’t qualify
Condominiums that have more than 49% non-residential living space
Timeshares—sorry about that
Houseboats—there went your dream of living at sea (at least with an FHA loan)
Any condo with more than one dwelling in an individual unit
Now, let’s say you aren’t looking to go through all that trouble. Maybe you’d much rather shop only for units already on the approved list, you can go here and look them up—yes, it’s that easy.
Since we mentioned previously, HUD approval earlier, let’s take a moment to explain what we mean by this. Before 2009, the VA did not review every condo application the same. In fact, if a condo was approved for an FHA loan, then it was automatically given approval from the VA. Unfortunately, the VA does not operate like this anymore. Fortunately, any condos before 2009 that fell into this category are grandfathered onto the VA’s approval list.
Frequently Asked Questions: FHA Loans
A lot of people are going to the Internet and asking the below questions. So, being the awesome people that we are, we’re going to cover them.
What does FHA stand for?
If you haven’t already figured it out, FHA stands for the Federal Housing Authority.
What won’t pass FHA inspection?
Okay, if you’re looking to purchase a home without all the fine print, an FHA loan, exactly like a VA loan, isn’t for you. For instance, let’s say you want to buy a home from the 1930s with significant foundation problems. You won’t go with a VA loan, because chances of them approving it without having it fixed first are pretty slim. Well guess what, an FHA loan is no different. Your FHA appraiser is going to be looking for the same stuff a VA appraiser would be looking for. If the house isn’t safe and healthy to live in, your chances of a loan are pretty low—although you might have an option for an FHA rehab loan, which we’ll cover later.
One thing to keep in mind, if something pops up that will prevent you from getting the FHA loan for a particular home is to not be afraid to talk with the seller (through your realtor). If the owner wants to sell bad enough, and it is within their means, they will pay to have those flaws fixed. However, if that is not the case, you might have to walk away. I had to walk away from a home I wanted to use a VA loan with because the sellers refused to pay for a necessary repair, so it does happen.
Here’s a non-inclusive list of the things that may raise the eyebrows of your FHA loan appraiser:
Lead paint: If your walls have paint peeling in a home that was built before 1979, you might have lead paint, and if you do, it’s unsafe, and therefore the FHA won’t like that too much.
Water: If you have water leaking into your house and it’s causing damage, there’s going to be an issue. If you don’t have clean water flowing into your house, there’s going to be an issue. Not only does the house have to be safe to live in—meaning the floors aren’t rotting away under your feet due to water damage—you’ll also have to be capable of surviving in the home. This means having clean drinking water too, and unfortunately, that water leaking from your roof doesn’t count.
Electrical work: If you walk into your home and it looks like Uncle Bob—sorry to all the uncle Bobs out there—did your electrical wiring, you might want to rethink that purchase. If wires are hanging out everywhere, it’s not up to code, light fixtures and outlet covers are missing, the FHA isn’t going to like that. Of course, these may be easy fixes—in some cases, but not all—and the seller may be willing to fix the electrical work for you. Otherwise, walk away before the house burns down the day after you close, and you’re left with a 30-year mortgage and a pile of ashes. With all that being said, there must be electricity flowing to the house for the FHA to approve your loan and the same goes for a VA loan.
Septic or Sewer problems: Unfortunately, septic and sewer problems fall in line with the whole, “your home must be healthy” thing. If you’re having issues with one of these things, you won’t get approved for a standard FHA loan. Of course, this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get an FHA rehab loan—again, we’ll cover this later.
One last time, we’d like to say, the above list isn’t everything that will get your qualification denied. But, the above are big issues that neither the VA or FHA will look too kindly on. If the house you’re looking to purchase has significant health or safety issues, it either needs to be fixed by the seller before you close—this could take a significant amount of time—qualify for a rehab loan, or you’re just going to have to walk away and find a different home to purchase.
How to get rid of MPI on FHA Loan?
One of the advantages a VA loan has over an FHA loan is the fact that you don’t need to pay a mortgage insurance premium or MPI. Unfortunately, “getting rid of” the MIP isn’t that simple under the FHA terms. Why—because the FHA had to change things, of course.
There used to be a time in which you could cancel your MIP after you paid off 78% of your loan. However, that’s not a thing anymore. Now, if you want to get rid of your MIP, you’ll have to refinance your loan to a conventional loan.
However, if you purchased your home with an FHA loan between December 31, 2000 and July 3rd, 2013 and paid off at least 78% of your mortgage, you’re grandfathered in and can cancel your MIP at this time.
What is the FHA 203(k) program?
An FHA 203(k) is actually a loan. If you’re getting this particular loan, it is because you have repairs or renovations you want to make to the house you’re buying. Depending on the type of repairs, however, will depend on which kind of 203(k) loan you pursue. No matter which one you go with, the loan gets rolled up into your mortgage, so you only have one payment a month and only one closing cost.
Streamlined 203(k) Program
The Streamlined 203(k) program is intended for homes that do not need any structural repair. Typically, this might be something you’d look at getting if you wanted to remodel the bathroom before you moved in. Unfortunately, there is a limit to the cost of your repairs, and you can’t spend more than $35,000 to fix-up that dream bathroom. On a more positive note though, there isn’t a minimum number of repairs that need to be made before you can qualify for a streamlined 203(k) loan.
Regular 203(k) Loan
Unlike the streamlined version, a regular 203(k) loan is intended for more serious construction. If you need structural repairs, won’t be able to live in the home while repairs are being made, or you’re planning to add a new room, then a regular 203(k) loan is for you.
One important thing to keep in mind, no matter which route you take, whatever repairs or changes you’re making to the home, they must start within 30 days of closing and must be finished within 6 months.
Secondly, if you’re planning to make luxurious renovations to your home that doesn’t match your neighborhood, then you won’t qualify for the FHA rehab loan—this includes things like a fancy swimming pool.
If you don’t qualify for an FHA loan or a VA loan due to credit score, check out our blog about the Veterans United Lighthouse Program, here.
Do you have your favorite hat? Of course, you do! But unfortunately, it’s either seen better days and you need a new one. Or you just want to add to the collection. Whatever the case may be, we know your wife won’t mind you throwing away that old dingy cap for a better, cleaner version. And we definitely know she wouldn’t mind you adding to the collection—this may or may not be an accurate statement—especially if one of them happens to be for her.
No matter your reasoning, we’re here to help you pick out the best option for you with our 10 best tactical hats. But don’t worry, we aren’t stopping there. We’ll also give you the tools to help you determine what makes one tactical hat better than the other. Then we’ll dive even deeper and answer some of the most pressing question people have about tactical hats.
Complete with a Color Matching Polyester Adjustment Strap for the Perfect Fit
Enhanced Tactical Elements Including a Loop Patch On The Top For An IRMarker, A Loop Area On The Front Of The Cap Ideal For Flag
Made in USA OR Imported—unknown which one you’ll be getting
Features 4 Reinforced Air Vent Holes for Comfort and Performance, however, they are not metal eyelets
How to choose the best Tactical Hat
Choosing the perfect hat can be daunting. There are so many options out there, and if you choose the wrong one, you could be left completely unsatisfied. Not to mention, uncomfortable. Hats are meant to be worn, but if they don’t do their job, don’t last or simply don’t fit, you’re going to have problems. So, we’ve put together a short list of what to look for when picking out the best tactical hat for you.
Want to know why we made the RE Factor Tactical Blasting Cap? Click here to find out.
We’re listing patch area first because, let’s be honest, for most people the patch is what attracts the buyer. Why? Because we like personalizing our hats. So, when you go looking for a tactical hat, the patch area may very well be the most important part of your hat.
So, what is it you want to look for when it comes to the patch area. Well, first off, quality. Sadly, the patch area can be, umm…well…cheap. Now, we aren’t saying the hat itself should be expensive, but the velcro section should not be so cheap in terms of quality that patches won’t stick to the area.
Also, there are some tactical hats out there made so poorly that the velcro section isn’t even sewn on properly, and now you’re looking—better yet, everyone else is looking—at a crooked patch, and no one wants that.
With that being said, make sure the material is made well enough that your personalized patch will stick and look good. The last thing you want is to be walking around with a patch hanging off or losing your patch altogether.
Okay, this should really go without saying, but hats should offer protection from the sun. Some hats, of course, provide more protection than others, but if they aren’t at least providing your eyes with protection from the sun, you’re either wearing it backward or you have a really crappy hat.
I don’t think we need to elaborate on this section too much, but if your hat isn’t providing that basic protection, then you need to look into buying a different one.
We’re going to get more into this later, but know, breathability is important. Too often, a hat makes you hotter, makes you sweat more, and in turn, makes you more uncomfortable than anything. Yes, it protects your eyes from the sun, but if you feel like you’re having a heatstroke while wearing the thing, is it really a good hat—no.
A good tactical hat should let your head breath. Typically, you can find this in a few formats. Some tactical hats will have mesh material, this way air flows to your head. Some have ventilation holes or eyelets. With the eyelets, you’re looking for quality. You’ll find the best ones are made with a small metal ring. This ensures there isn’t any fraying around the holes. The last thing you want is for your intentional ventilation hole to fray and make one giant hole. So, make sure the material which makes up that area is made with quality.
Another option some tactical hats may have to offer breathability is a sweatband built inside. This band helps wick away the moisture, meaning it won’t feel like a puddle is building up around your head while standing in the hot sun. Also, it helps prevent sweat from dripping onto your eyes—which could prove fatal if you’re shooting at terrorists.
Finally, a good, breathable tactical hat will be made of specific material. The material is usually cotton or a polyester/cotton blend. Both of these materials help your head breath. And if you’re out in the desert heat, trust us, you want breathability.
Construction refers to the quality of the hat. Your hat may look cool when it comes out of the box, but if it’s falling apart after a few wears, then the quality sucks, and you should find yourself a new one.
Because how well your hat is constructed will determine how long it will last. You want a hat that can stand up to the elements—sun included—not just everyday wear. Which leads to the next point, hats are meant to be worn. If wearing your hat means it’s going to start falling apart before its time, then it’s poorly constructed.
You want a hat that is made with strong material. And unless you’re going for that intentional frayed look, you want one that strings aren’t coming out all over the place. Otherwise, next thing you know, it looks like your hat got into a pistol war and lost, and then the thing is falling off your head because it won’t stay in one piece.
Proper fit, is the most important aspect of any hat that you buy. It could look cool, offer all the protection you want, be made of the highest quality and offer the ultimate breathability. However, if the hat doesn’t fit, it’s not the hat for you.
If your hat is too small, wearing it for an extended period of time, or even a short period of time will cause you a lot of discomfort. This is because it will restrict blood flow, and you’ll most likely be left with an ugly hatband when you take it off and a killer headache. Both of which, we can assure you don’t want.
If your hat is too big for your head, well, it’s going to fall over your eyes and you won’t have the visibility you need for say, shooting at the enemy. Also, your hat could fall off with a gust of wind. And that means, your eyes won’t get any protection And instead of being blinded from your hat falling over your eyes, you’ll be blinded from the sun. Both of which won’t do you any good.
With all that being said, you’re going to want to find a hat that actually fits your head. And if you don’t fit into that “one size fits all” category, there will be a few others you can select from. There’s the velcro strap option—easily adjustable—buckle option, which typically provides a secure fit, and if you’re really cool, a snapback. All of these options let you adjust the size of your hat, which is great for those of us with abnormally small or large heads.
Q: What is a tactical hat?
A: Maybe you’ve heard the phrase thrown around, “tactical hat” or “operator hat,” but do you actually know what makes a hat tactical? Of course, they tend to have a few extra features, or maybe they look “tacticool,” but what specifically makes them stand out from the rest of the hats on the market?
Well, worry no more my friend, let us answer that question for you. The entire point of the word tactical is meaning it has functionality. Yes, all hats should at least provide basic sun protection (tactical hats are no exception), but unlike the standard baseball cap, they also should provide a significant level of comfort (let’s be honest, everyone wants this in any item they are planning to wear) and protection against the harsh elements—including wind in some cases. Again, these are all pretty standard for most hats.
The first main difference is in the velcro patch—we’ll discuss the why here in a moment—and the second main difference is ventilation. Yes, other caps offer ventilation—who wants to wear a hat where your head can’t breath—but tactical hats typically make a point of having this feature, because chances are, you’re going to be wearing this cap all day long.
Q: Why do tactical hats have a velcro patch?
A: Okay, so now that you know tactical hats have that nice velcro hat on the front—you know, to attach your cool American flag—but is that really why the velcro is there? The answer, is well, basically, yes. The patch on the front is meant to help you personalize your hat. Some even come with a velcro strip on the back for a nametape and an IR patch velcro panel on top.
If you’ve ever spent any time in the military, one of the ways that you could add personality was through patches. Patches are huge in the military culture—whether that be on your bag or hat—and the patches you use(d) say a lot about your personality. So, why would we want to change that culture just because it’s your day off, or just because you’ve left the military scene?
Q: Do tactical hats keep you cool?
A: We’ve pretty much already addressed this question, but the short answer is, yes. If a tactical hat is doing its job, it should have proper ventilation, meaning it should be keeping you cool. Typically this is done through mesh material. However, there are other ways of going about obtaining ventilation. For example, the cotton or polyester/cotton blend will keep your head a little cooler. Also, like most hats on the market, there may be ventilation holes for breathability.
Of course, if you’re referring to cool as in, does it make you look like the badass that you think you are? Well, we’d like to think so.
Q: How do you clean a tactical hat?
A: Okay, let’s face it, most men aren’t good at washing anything (yes, we’re stereotyping) unless that something is their hat—okay, we’re kidding here, the only time your hat has been washed was that one time your wife did laundry while you slept, because the thing stunk so bad she wouldn’t come near you.
In all honesty though, if you want to wash your hat, you can. Just know, there is a specific way to wash it. Preferably, we recommend you wash it by hand—this is the best way to ensure your hat lasts as long as possible. When you wash it, and this should be common sense, but we know that’s not a thing anymore, do so without bleach or any harsh chemicals.
If, for some reason, you choose to forgo the handwashing, use a cap washer—a funny looking thing that looks like you’ve caged your hat in—and then toss it in the wash (gentle cycle) but without anything that will bleed new and unwanted colors onto your precious hat.
And we cannot stress this final tip enough, DO NOT, we repeat, DO NOT put your hat in the dryer. Trust us, it will shrink! So, if it is the perfect fit, it won’t be when it comes out. Also, it’s going to add to the wear of your hat, meaning it won’t last near as long as it should.
There are a ton of plate carriers out there. When you’re looking to buy a new one, the sheer amount of options can be overwhelming. And that’s a real problem because plate carriers aren’t something you can afford to gamble on. Buying the right carrier versus the wrong one could mean the difference between going home and… well, not. Lucky for you, RE Factor Tactical has your back. We’ve got a system for analyzing the best plate carriers on the market, built on several principles, which we will go into detail at the end. So, keep reading to learn more, starting with our top 5 plate carrier picks.
Aside from looking damn good, the RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster plate carrier system is designed to be everything you need. Why? Because it’s the most versatile system you’ll find. The whole point of the Advanced Slickster is to provide comfort and quality regardless of what you do (or don’t) attach to the system. Feel free to load the Advanced Slickster with every piece of equipment you can find and you’ll still have high ease-of-access and freedom of movement.
Being able to strip this system down to the bones is one of its major advantages. However, with everything cleared away, it isn’t the most low-profile system on the market. This has a lot to do with how many attachments you can fit onto it. So, it’s one of those strengths-as-a-weakness situations. But, hey, if every system was totally perfect, we wouldn’t be giving you the Top 5.
Ferro Concepts’ tested Slickster base
PTT Loops on Front of Vest (Ease of Access)
Integrated Kangaroo Pocket for Magazines/Essential Equipment
Elastic comms wires
2x Integrated Radio Pouches– Capable of fitting up to a PRC-152 Radio
4 x 6” Zipped Admin Pocket– Can hold a Passport or similarly-sized item
Elastic cummerbund with 4 x magazine carriers
Extra elastic retainers to cummerbund for magazine retention
What conversation about plate carriers can be had without mentioning Ferro Concepts’ Slickster? The Slickster is comfortable, light, and breathable. It’s surprisingly adaptable as well, which is great for a low-pro system, but…
The lightweight, stripped-down, extra low-profile nature of the Slickster can be a little too barebones. It’s great to be able to take the system all the way down to the bare necessities but doing so will leave a lot to be desired. Everything is a trade-off with plate carrier systems, and the Slickster is a perfect example of this. You’ll gain a lot of freedom of movement, sure, but you’ll lose some much-needed equipment in the process.
Tested Slickster base
Carry Elastic Cummerbund (CEC) – Adjustable with hook and loop, front and rear
Mesh-lined plate bags to maximize comfort and breathability
Includes shoulder strap adjustment tool
Loop Velcro patches on chest and back
Laser-cut slots on the chest to attach ADAPT flaps and most chest rigs
The Pico’s biggest advantage is its removable parts, once again proving that versatility is essential in plate carriers. You’ll never run out of options when assigning spots to your equipment and accessories, as the whole system leaves plenty of room for imagination. It’s considered one of the top-of-the-line systems by military and police across the board, which is probably no surprise, because…
It. Is. Expensive. They say you get what you pay for. Well, we hope so. The TYR Tactical Pico comes with a host of different options and loadouts, which is great, but it’s going to run you a pretty penny. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you can grab the RE Factor Tactical Advanced Slickster and a bunch of additional gear for the price of just this one system.
Crye Precision’s JPC has become synonymous with light, fast, and low-profile. There are several non-standard elements on this system that make it unique, like the MOLLE/AirLite cummerbund and the lack of retention on the front magazine pouch. If you aren’t looking for a plate system that you can really load up, the JPC is an excellent option.
The interesting quirks of the JPC are also its downfall. One of the major complaints about this system is its ‘minimalist’ design. Like we said above, you can’t really load this system up to the brim, and that’s due to the non-standard nature of the JPC. Additionally, comfort is a major factor. The shoulder straps are meant to be slip-proof, but they’re not very comfortable. Don’t expect to love wearing this system for long periods of time.
Versatility and comfort are at the heart of the Velocity Systems SCARAB unit. Velocity designed the entire SCARAB family to be easily-adjustable, lightweight, and low-profile. In theory, you should be able to jump right into the SCARAB and start slinging brass pretty much anywhere. There are several different SCARAB platforms so you can pick what will work best for you.
While well-intentioned, Velocity’s SCARAB platforms suffer from one fatal flaw: they’re so versatile that SCARAB users tend to replace the standard attachments with better ones. Strangely, the SCARAB’s default pouches don’t fit the system nearly as well as others, meaning you’ll be spending money making this system more comfortable. For a plate carrier built to be comfy, that seems like a big drawback to us.
Swivel shoulder straps with D-ring attachments
Front flat Kangaroo pouch and removable front flap
Admin pouch with two additional rows of MOLLE webbing on front
Integrated SwiftClip buckles for rapid don/doff of auxiliary chest-worn equipment
Loop panel and drag handle on the upper rear
Three different cummerbund options
Quarter flap setup (optional)
System for Analyzing the best Plate Carriers on the Market
Like we said, we have a system. We don’t just look up the top-rated on Amazon, we actually dive deep, so that you can get the best plate carrier available. Again, having the right carrier can be the difference in coming home and not, so we take this stuff seriously. RE Factor Tactical takes into account the purpose, duration, equipment and accessories, ease of access, environment and of course quality.
The most important thing to consider when buying a new plate carrier is the MISSION. How do you plan to use your plate carrier? What kind of environment do you expect to use it in? Do you need it to be high-vis or low-vis? Are you going to need it to be versatile, with interchangeable parts, or will it be mostly the same every time you put it on?
Military personnel typically need to wear their plate carriers for long periods of time (patrols, guard duty, etc.). They should be looking for low-weight systems–probably with hydration attachment capabilities as well. Law enforcement and security officers likely need their plate carriers for shorter periods of time. They can afford heavier carriers that have a little more stopping power. Consider how long you’ll be wearing your carrier to narrow down what type you need.
Equipment and Accessories
Attachments, additional equipment, and extra accessories are going to affect the way the plate carrier sits, how heavy it is, and its profile. Typically, adding equipment to your plate carrier is going to totally transform how you wear it and how it feels. Take a while to think about what you might be adding onto your system. Also, consider systems that are versatile. The best plate carriers on the market can be loaded up with tons of gear or stripped down to the bare necessities. Versatility is a must.
Going along with versatility, the best plate carrier systems are going to provide ease-of-access to any attached equipment. The last thing you need is to get hung up because you can’t draw the next magazine or whip out a tourniquet. When lives are on the line, every second counts. You’ll want to look for systems that do a good job balancing protection with freedom of movement.
What sort of environment you’ll be operating in. This will play a bigger factor in your plate carrier’s effectiveness. The temperature might demand a more breathable plate carrier, or with hydration attachment options. If you’re in hostile territory, you might need higher stopping power.
You need to be able to rely on your plate carrier. You don’t want to worry about cheap shoulder straps rubbing your shoulders raw or non-flexible materials that make a pain out of plate insertion. Strong stitching ensures your plate won’t fall apart on you. And well-built, sturdy pouches will keep your gear where you need it to be.
How we Rank Plate Carriers
RE Factor Tactical considers all the above factors in ranking the Top 5 Best Plate Carriers for 2019. We scour the industry and our personal experience to ensure we’re talking about only the finest, only the best. Like we said before: if you need a plate carrier, then lives are probably on the line. And when lives are on the line, you can’t settle for anything but the absolute best.
So why should you choose one carrier over another? Why not just buy a whole bunch? Again, consider why you need a plate carrier. You want a system that’s comfortable and familiar to you. The best plate carrier systems feel like a trusted partner, there to protect you and provide you with needed support in even the worst conditions. You could go buy a hundred different carriers, but all your piles of systems won’t do squat when you’re under fire and it’s time to reload.
When it comes to a VA loan, most of us know about the zero down payment and all that. For a majority, the zero down payments is the reason we are attracted to the loan. Because of this, it is typically easier to qualify, and more veterans are able to buy their homes because they don’t have to put 20% down on a $280,000 home. However, despite all the good stuff, it’s time, to be frank, and talk about the downsides to a VA loan vs conventional.
Disclaimer: This particular VA loan blog comes from my own personal experiences and what I’ve heard from my fellow veterans. We understand that not everyone will have these experiences, and most of us will be exposed to different scenarios, and therefore different outcomes. Take away from this post what you will, but also do your own research before deciding which loan is best for you.
VA Home Loan vs Conventional Home Loan
The following are various scenarios from personally known veterans and myself.
In 2011, I purchased my first home. I used a VA loan, paid zero-down and got the best interest rate on the market for the time. The process was easy—my realtor and lender both were well versed in VA loans, and it was in a heavily populated military/veteran community. The home I purchased was only 8-years old, and according to the VA in good condition. The appraisal came back, and the VA did not challenge anything, therefore I did not have to ask the sellers to make changes to the home and the entire process took less than a month.
In 2016, I looked to purchase a home through the VA home loan process. The house was over 20 years old but had a major renovation done to it. The homeowners claimed they had done over $100,000 in renovations, but the VA still had concerns. The VA wanted handrails put up—the homeowners said no, it would cost them $1,000 (this in itself was questionable)—and about $5,000 worth of foundational work. The homeowners agreed to the foundation work but refused to put in handrails. I could have requested a waiver from the VA, but this would have extended my purchasing process, and the waiver was not guaranteed approval. Also, I did not want to put 20% down on the home in a conventional loan and walked away due to time constraints.
In 2017, I purchased a home with a conventional loan. The home was almost 90 years old, no major renovations were done, and if I would have chosen to use a VA loan, they would have requested the homeowners to do between $20,000 and $50,000 in repairs. Also, the home was a “sell as is” purchase, and the VA would not have signed off on the house, as it was not considered “safe for habitation.” Due to my credit score, I only paid 5% down on the home, and the process took about 3-weeks.
Is a VA loan better than a conventional loan?
From the above scenarios, you might come to the conclusion that VA loans aren’t always the best option. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go with a VA loan. In most cases, this is an awesome option, and you should try this avenue before looking into a conventional loan. VA loans are typically competitive when it comes to your interest rate, they’re typically not difficult to qualify for (although the better your credit score, the better your interest rate. Also, the lenders still have a say in minimum credit score). Also, a majority of service members and veterans qualify for a zero-down payment.
When you aren’t a qualifying veteran (you were discharged under dishonorable conditions), you cannot get a waiver from the VA for things the seller doesn’t want to comply with, and/or you are under time restraints, which won’t be met if you go with the VA loan option, then it might be time to 1. Look at doing a conventional loan 2. Look at buying a different home or 3. Consider changing your timeline.
Again, VA loans are great, but there will be times when a conventional loan might make more sense for your particular scenario. For example, in scenario 3, the VA loan just wasn’t going to work. The veteran went with a conventional loan because their heart was absolutely set on that particular home. Of course, the veteran could have looked at buying a different house that the VA would have approved, but for that veteran, the conventional loan made sense.
In scenario 2, the sellers weren’t willing to budge. Of course, the veteran could have gone with a conventional loan instead. But, between the seller’s time restraints and the lack of a guaranteed waiver approval from the VA, the veteran chose to walk away. In this scenario, neither loan option worked for that veteran, but both could have potentially worked had both parties been willing to make it work.
In scenario 1, the VA loan was the best option for the veteran. The veteran got a competitive rate, the process was smooth, and due to the age and shape of the home, there were no hoops to jump through before purchasing the home. Overall, the interest rate and lack of down payment made more sense than going with a conventional loan.
Pros and Cons of a VA Home Loan
Pros of a VA Home Loan
Typically easier to get (credit score)
Typically fewer fees
Typically no down payment (there are some cases where this is not true)
Cons of a VA Home Loan
The standards are higher so it might be harder to get a home approved for the loan
It’s harder to get an older home (again, standards are higher)
The process can take longer, meaning some sellers might not want to work with you
Pros and Cons of a Conventional Home Loan
Pros of a Conventional Home Loan
Typically a faster process than the VA loan
Typically easier to get (standards are not as high, easier to get an older home)
If you have a high credit score, you can get discounted fees and pay a lower down payment
Cons of a Conventional Home Loan
Typically, there will be a down payment, sometimes up to or over 20% of the home’s cost
Typically requires a higher credit score than the VA
Typically there are more fees
FHA vs Conventional Loan
Much like a VA loan, FHA loans are typically easier to get than a conventional loan. First and foremost, your credit score does not have to be as high to qualify, and generally, a credit score as low as 580 will be qualifying. The biggest downside to the FHA loan, while backed by a federal bank, you are still required to pay a 1.75% upfront for mortgage insurance. It doesn’t matter how little or how much your down payment is, you’ll be required to pay that 1.75%.
Typically, the down payment is lower in an FHA loan as well—this is not always the case. If you’re looking to use an FHA loan, you might find yourself putting at least 3.5% down—much lower than the conventional loan. However, a conventional loan can come with a down payment as low as 3%—this is not standard—although 5-20% is more likely.
What does conventional loan mean?
Conventional loans are harder to get than a VA loan. While the process to obtain this particular loan has the potential to be quicker, there are some disadvantages to it compared to a VA home loan. For instance, if you have a high credit score and your income meets the standard, you could find yourself paying as little as 3% down on a conventional loan. While this doesn’t sound too bad, compared to the 20% down payment you probably grew up hearing about, it is not something guaranteed.
When I purchased my house, I was approved for a 5% down payment through a conventional loan. It made more sense to go that route because the house needed renovations beyond the VA’s comfort level. However, had my credit score been closer to the lower end of the scale, I most likely would have been looking at 20% down at closing. Of course, no one wants to pay more than they have to, and if feasible, this is when a VA loan would be a better option.
Conventional loans also mean you might have to pay more in fees. For instance, the VA governs what you can and cannot pay at closing. An example would be a termite inspection. The VA says it is up to the sellers to cover this cost. However, with a conventional loan, you could see a lot more debate on who pays what at closing. Of course, this is not to say you won’t go back and forth with the sellers on a VA loan, but typically, the fees are fewer.
Another consideration with a conventional loan is the difficulty in getting them. A VA loan does not typically require the buyer to have a high credit score. However, conventional loans do. Unlike the VA loan, who in a sense is backing the veteran, you won’t have that with a conventional loan, meaning the lender will expect better credit scores before approving you for the home loan.
However, having a higher credit score typically means your interest rate will be lower, which also means your monthly payments will be lower. Also, if you’ve put down money, you have less to pay off from the beginning and save money over time.
What is a conventional loan down payment?
When you go to close on your house, there are certain expectations that need to be met. For example, the down payment. While 20% is not necessarily required when using a down payment, putting that much down definitely has its perks.
For example, let us say you put down 20%, over time you’re going to save money and your mortgage payment each month will be lower. However, let us say you don’t want to put that much money down. While this may be acceptable, it is going to come with some extra costs.
If you decide to put less than 20% down on a conventional loan, you will be required to pay private mortgage insurance. This is also known as PMI. But, if you pay 20% or more, you do not have to worry about this payment, and again, your overall savings at the end of the day will be greater.
How long does it take to close on a house with a conventional home loan?
Just like a VA loan, conventional loans will take time, and that time is based on how fast you and the seller move, and any extenuating circumstances. However, the typical time frame for a conventional loan is 4-6 weeks. This does not mean you won’t see conventional loans take as few as 2 weeks or almost 2 months. Again, the time frame fluctuates, but 4-6 seems to be the standard.
How long does it take to close on a house with a VA home loan?
Similar to a conventional loan, using a VA loan should not extend the closing process. However, depending on special circumstances, in either case, it could take longer. Typically it takes less than two months. Again, if you have any special circumstances, it could take longer, but in perfect conditions, 4-6 weeks is more likely.