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USAA Student Loans

You might be sitting there right now, getting ready to read this particular post and you’re thinking to yourself, why would I need a student loan?  You served in the military, you had Tuition Assistance (TA), and after 3 years, was able to take advantage of the GI Bill. But here’s the thing, not everyone takes advantage of TA while they’re in, then they get out, don’t have a degree, and have transferred their GI Bill to their child or spouse. Then one day, you apply for a job, you have all the experience, but you don’t have a degree and without it, you can’t get the particular position you’ve been eyeing.

Don’t worry; we aren’t saying education is the only way to get a job. Plenty of people have well-paying jobs, some even enjoy them, and guess what, they didn’t get a college degree to get it. Of course, if you want to be a Doctor or something like that, you’ll need a degree. But, in many cases, degrees get you promotions, not jobs.

College degree or not, you might find yourself sitting in an entry-level position. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue higher education. Or, maybe you’re not the one seeking a degree because you somehow obtained five degrees while you were still serving and used your GI Bill because you were never planning to get married and have kids anyway-sike! Or maybe you were only planning for one child, you sign over your GI Bill to him or her and there isn’t enough to go around because your family of three suddenly went to a family of 5.

No matter your reasoning, when TA and the GI Bill is all used up, you might find yourself seeking out a student loan. So, we’ve decided to put together a piece about USAA Student Loans—just don’t get too excited yet, the following isn’t exactly what you’re expecting to read.

USAA Student Loans

Okay, so, unfortunately, now is the time to break the bad news. USAA used to offer a partnered student loan with Wells Fargo. However, they no longer do that. They offer personal loans, car loans, home loans, but not student loans. So, you could get a personal loan through USAA and use that, but that might not be the best idea, in fact, we don’t advice it because typically, the interest rates will be through the roof compared to a student loan.

USAA announced it was no longer be giving its 25% discount to USAA members who got a student loan through Wells Fargo, back in 2016. However, they have made strides in continuing to help those in need of a student loan get the information that they need, and they’ll help with smart investments and savings meant explicitely for that fancy piece of paper you get when crossing the stage.

So, while we’ve basically just written an entire article about something that doesn’t exist, don’t go too far. We’re here to give you information on what to do if you’ve used USAA student loans before and wanted to get a new student loan, what to do if you currently have a USAA Student Loan, and how to refinance said loan, and how USAA can continue helping you reach your educational goals financially.

What to do if you have a USAA Student Loan

Here you are, in the middle of paying off your USAA approved Wells Fargo Student Loan, or maybe payments haven’t actually kicked in yet, and you find out USAA is no longer participating in the student loan market. What is your next move? Have things changed? Will this somehow affect your current loan? Does this mean you lose your discount? All valid questions but nothing to fret over—unless of course, you were set on getting a second student loan through USAA. Then well, yeah, we don’t have any good news for you on that one. Honestly put, you’ll just have to search some other place for a student loan.

Bad news aside, here’s what to do if you currently have a USAA Student Loan, nothing. Continue making your payment on time, and really, nothing more. Of course, if you do have questions, feel free to ask them. But, go direct with Wells Fargo. For example, if you were thinking about refinancing for a better interest rate, then call up Wells Fargo, give them your loan number and they’ll be there to help you make the next move.

How to Refinance your USAA Student Loan

Back to our comment about refinancing your USAA Student loan: the bad news, you can’t refinance through USAA, the good news, you never could. In fact, USAA hasn’t actually been giving out the loans, it was really Wells Fargo. What USAA did was offer the discount by going through them to get to Wells Fargo. Which means, you can still refinance your loan through Wells Fargo, just not with USAA’s blessing or 25% discount.

If you’re lucky, Wells Fargo will come back with a better rate—if you’re refinancing with them. If you refinance with a new lender, Wells Fargo pays off your loan, and maybe, just maybe, you might get a better rate then too. Just make sure you check out the market and refinance only if it makes financial sense.

What to do if you need a new Student Loan 

If refinancing isn’t on the horizon, but instead an entirely new loan, you’ll have to look elsewhere besides the USAA/Wells Fargo partnership. However, before you start burying yourself in a new student loan, make sure you take the appropriate steps to get all the financial aid you need.

Look into FASFA, grants, other federally based loans, scholarships, and even work-studies through the school you’re planning to attend, or you’re planning to send your child/spouse through. You’d be surprised as to what’s out there and how much you can save by not having to finance everything through a student loan. There’s even free money to be found for book expenses, you just have to take the time and look for it.

And if student loans aren’t on your radar yet because you’re little guy—or gal—is still, well, little, then USAA has plenty of advice and options to help lessen the amount of stress you’ll be feeling 17 years from now while your child is applying for colleges. 

Start a USAA College Savings Fund 

This might not be a new concept to you. Hopefully growing up you were told to start saving money. And if you didn’t, hopefully, the wise folks around you advised you to start saving for your future child’s college education after you got married.

If they didn’t, let us be the wise old folks for you—this is not admittance to anyone here being old, just well aged—start saving now. Don’t bet on your child getting sports scholarships, or even scholarships for being a genius. You never know what kind of child you’ll bring into this world, and it’d be a shame if they broke a leg and weren’t very bright, drastically decreasing their chances of sports and educational scholarships.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t other scholarships out there. Or, that you can’t get grants and have them apply for FASFA. We’re just saying you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, because that’s when you developed a hole, all the eggs fall out and now you just have a bunch of cracked eggs on the floor—and do you really want to worry about that? We’d hope not.

So, how to prepare for this stage in your child’s life—because trust us, not everyone can join the military, asthma and eczema have made sure of that. Simple answer, you start saving. However, there are various options out there to help you save better and save more. So, while USAA may not offer student loan services, they will give you some great financial advice on how to start saving for a college education. We’ve taken the liberty of covering some of the ways they’ll help you do this below, so keep reading.

Apply for a Free USAA College Checking or Savings Account

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten, that 18-year-olds are kids—adult children we’ll say—and they need to learn some level of responsibility. While we know few 18-year-old adult children have the finances to support a full education, that doesn’t mean they are excluded from helping fund their party-school, ivy-league, out-of-state tuition.

So, while you might have been putting away money for the past 18-years, there’s nothing to say they can’t help out. Get them signed-up with a free college checking and/or savings account with USAA, that way they can take over the loans you co-signed on or signed for on your own. Either way, there’s no excuse as to why you have to pay for the 4 times they switched majors, to end up taking Russian Literature and drop out after they realized no one cares about Russian Lit anymore.

If you set your kid up for success by starting them early in the financial world of saving, you’ll be able to set debit/ATM card limits, choose if they can make transfers and even deposits, and get text alerts when your little angel spends too much and the account balance drops too low for your comfort.

Just know, when they turn 18, USAA will automatically convert the youth account to a free classic checking account. As the guardian, you’ll be given the option to continue your joint account or letting the little birdy leave the nest—making all the financial mistakes you’d hope they’d never fall victim to—completely up to you. Of course, failing at life can be the best lesson.

Education Costs: Community vs. University

Here’s something you’d probably never guess in a million years, your child is going to become a teenager, they’re going to want to fly the coop—not the case for all, but most teens—and they will want to go to a big fancy university, because that’s where all their friends are going. Trust us, don’t fall for those puppy dog eyes, they’ll be fine going to a community college to get their electives knocked out and it will save you a LOT of money! If, they can’t succumb to this—because we all know that the college you go to will be the difference between an entry level job and…an entry level job—then you’d be smart to let them pay their own way through college and apply for 30-years worth of student loans on their own.

Now, we aren’t telling you how to raise your kids, but teaching them how to manage their money before they actually have money will 1. Give them an appreciation for the cost of that community college education and 2. Prepare them for their future expenses and save them a lot of stupid financial mistakes, like signing up for 5 different credit cards the day after they drive off to college in the car you paid for, on the car insurance under your name.

How to Apply for College Financial Aid 

Paying for a college degree can seem like a daunting task. We’d like to compare it to drowning while being eaten alive by piranhas—okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But, seriously, college isn’t cheap. That’s why there are so many options out there to help cover the expensive costs that go with higher education.

USAA has an entire article on how to apply for something called FASFA. If you haven’t heard of it, it stands for Free Application for Student Federal Aid.

If you don’t qualify for federal financial aid, there are grants and student loans with discounted rates for those falling into a certain income bracket. There are even work-studies, which will let you basically work for your education. Typically, this is work on campus, with a schedule that works around your class schedule.

So, if you’re past the stage of saving for college and there just isn’t enough, consider applying for financial aid, because even if you only qualify for a small amount, every penny will count and you’ll thank yourself later. Or, your adult-child will thank you later for helping them through all the forms so they don’t have a 30-year student loan to pay back after they graduate.

USAA Debt Management

College is over; you (or your now older adult-child) are left with all this debt. There are student loans that need to be paid off, a monthly car payment, car insurance, rent, renters insurance, utilities, a cellphone bill, probably a credit card in the mix—because someone made questionable choices and couldn’t afford even a bologna sandwich. Oh, and someone thought it was a bright idea to get married during the college years and there’s a new baby on the way—coming with their own expenses, of course. So, what do you do? There’s all this debt, and someone has to pay it off. Luckily, you aren’t alone.

USAA might not have given you the student loan or all that other debt you’ve racked up, but they’re there to help you manage it. Simply talk to one of their advisers, tell them about your debt, let them build a debt payment plan, and help monitor your progress. You’ve made it this far, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the advice from the financial experts at your bank. And no, a degree in finances doesn’t mean you’re an expert, so just do yourself a favor and ask for help from people who’ve already been where you are and have more than a degree, but the experience to back up their advice.

529 Plan: Saving for College

In case you didn’t know, USAA can help you save for college with a 529 plan. A 529 is just one more way you can help prepare yourself or your child for their education. The difference between this account and other investment options is the tax benefits. If you have to withdraw from the account for any educational costs, including K-12 expenses, you won’t have to pay federal income tax on it.

Pro Tip: If you open a 529 account under the parent or parents’ name, it won’t affect financial aid as much as with other funds. Also, you can earn cash back if you’re enrolled in UPromise. And if that’s not enough, USAA will let you invite your friends and family to help contribute to the educational expense through something called Ugift.

You can open an account for as little as $50 and make automatic investments of at least $50/month or make an initial investment of $250 and save yourself from having to make that automatic $50/month contribution. 

USAA Education and Training

If you’re want to do a little more research on what USAA has to offer in regards to investing in your future—or your child’s—education, they have plenty of resources. If you visit their Education and Training page, here, you can start looking at what steps can be taken to save for college and securing financial assistance when the time comes.

Remember, not everyone needs a giant student loan to pay for their education. There are a lot of resources out there, a lot of scholarships, grants, other sources of financial aid. USAA can help you get in the right mindset of investing for college. So, reach out to them and get more details, because no one wants to pay more for college than they have to.

3 Ways the VA can Improve your Financial Situation

Believe it or not, the VA does so much more than screw up your disability claim, help you qualify for a home loan, and give you the funds through your Post 9/11 GI Bill. In fact, depending on how you look at it, they’ll help improve your finances. So without further adieu, here are three ways the VA can improve your financial situation, or at least help you keep a little more money in the bank.

VA Home Loans

Everyone knows about VA home loans, and if you don’t you either haven’t been in the military or you haven’t been alive long enough. With that being said, we probably don’t have to tell you pretty much almost all veterans qualify for this benefit. What you might not know, however, is exactly what you can and cannot do with a VA loan. We’ve gone pretty in depth about the VA home loan process in previous posts, so here’s everything we’ve talked about so far in one placefor your reading convenience.

A traditional VA Home Loan comes with no down payment, which is typically the first thing that attracts the individual. Yes, you still have to pay the funding fee—unless you’re exempt—but you’ll save a lot of money in initial costs and be able to move in much sooner because you don’t have to save up 20% to make your home purchase.

Be aware, there are exemptions to a no down payment loan.  For instance, in cases where your home costs more than the county’s loan limit, as set by the VA, you might have to pay the overage. If this is your second home, you could also potentially make a down payment, if the combination of the first and second home exceeds the county’s loan limit. If you were to purchase a home where the appraised value is less than the cost of the home, you’ll have to make a down payment. Your best option here is to try and get the owners to sell at a lower price or to look at buying a different house that falls within the limits. You can read more about loan limits here.

Conventional Home Loans

Conventional home loans are great, in the sense that you get to pay a lot of extra fees—that’s us being sarcastic. For real though, unlike a VA loan, they don’t come with the same benefits, the rate might be higher, you’ll have to pay a down-payment in almost all cases, and the VA can’t step in to help regulate closing costs between you and the seller. Typically your credit score has to be higher than that in a VA loan because you aren’t being backed by anyone.

Minimum Credit Score for a VA Loan

Generally speaking, the VA does not have a minimum credit score. However you’re not getting a loan through the VA, so it’s the lenders that will set your minimum. That minimum is somewhere around 620, but this will vary from lender to lender. This doesn’t mean if you have a 610 you won’t get the loan, it just means your chances aren’t as high. If you’ve been paying your bills on time for the past 12 months, you’re showing your lenders even with a bad credit score you have the ability to pay your mortgage monthly.

Debt to Income Ratio

Lenders don’t just look at your credit score—though it is important—they also look at your debt to income ratio (DTI) and include all your current bills along with your potential new mortgage payment. Lenders want to see you have money flowing in even after your bills are paid, so the amount of income you have is important as well. Meaning, having a less than stellar credit score isn’t the end-all-be-all, there’s still hope. Even if you have a history of bankruptcy you can get a VA loan. You’ll just have to work on a few things and meet your lender’s standards. Because of this, make sure you speak with a local lender who’s well versed in the VA process. Of course, make sure you do your own research as well. I’ve definitely experienced loan representatives that don’t know about some of the basic details of the VA loan process, which makes you wonder what else they might be missing—like the VA funding fee exemption for qualifying veterans—costing you extra money.

VA Funding Fee

We mentioned a funding fee earlier in this article, but haven’t really gone in depth yet. What’s important to know about this fee is, no matter what kind of loan you choose to use with the VA, you’re going to have to pay a funding fee. This is a fee that’s paid at closing. This fee can be rolled into your financing, but it will be there. This fee also increases if you buy a second home. This fee makes sure the VA can continue to offer no money down loan options for future generations. However, there are some qualifying members who are exempt from this fee.

VA Funding Fee Exemption

If you have a disability rating from the VA, you qualify for a funding fee exemption. In fact, if you decide to pay for a second home, you will be exempt from that funding fee too. You must have your rating and show proof during the purchase of your home, otherwise, you will not be exempt and will be required to pay the funding fee. You don’t even need a high disability rating, 10% is enough to qualify for this exemption.

If you want to know why a VA Loan is better than a traditional loan, click here.

VA Land Loans

Land Limits

There’s a lot of rumors going around about VA land loan limits. Many people out there believe you can only buy a certain amount of land. Let us assure you, this is not true. You can buy an entire farm if you wanted to. What the VA really cares about is that you aren’t buying undeveloped land, meaning you can live on it, with flowing water, a driveway, an actual house, etc.

We can’t stress this enough, the VA does not set a limit on the amount of acreage you can purchase with your VA loan. There are some websites claiming you can’t purchase more than 20 acres or even more than 5. However, coming directly from the VA, they do not set any land limits, here’s a link to that in case you’re skeptical about our claim. Personally, we can’t see anyone buying a farm with the VA limiting land to 5 acres—but hey, not all farms have to be big, right?

Land Improvements

VA home improvement loans, which you can read more about here, and land improvement are two different things in the eyes of the VA. Meaning, there are different policies governing it and more can and can’ts to go along with it. So, another thing you can’t do with a VA loan as far as land goes, you can’t buy land you plan to improve later. This simply means, if you want to buy land, you need to have immediate plans to move onto that property. If you’re building your home on the property, you need something more than a, “one day I’ll do that” plan. Basically, you can’t buy the land and promise the VA you’ll eventually build a house.

You need to be ready to move into your home within 60 days after the purchase of your new home. However, there are circumstances in which the VA will extend your maximum move in date. For instance, if you’re within 12 months of retirement, you can purchase your home through the VA loan process and move in once you have officially retired, even though it’s more than 60 days. If your military duty or employment is preventing you from moving into your new home within those 60 days, you may also be eligible to extend your move-in date requirement. Simply talk with your VA loan lender for the details revolving around your specific situation.

So, with all that being said, no you cannot buy land with the intention of buying land only. If you want to buy land just for hunting purposes that’s a negative ghost rider. If you want to buy land for camping purposes only, again, that’s a firm no. If you want to buy land just to say you have land, yeah, that won’t fly with the VA either. But, if you want to do any of those things and live on it, in a primary residence, then that will work.

Basically, it comes down to vacant land not being allowed under the regulations of the VA. The VA won’t support your loan if you cannot immediately move into a safe and sanitary dwelling upon purchase. You’ll need running water, electricity, safe conditions and that means everything has to be up to code.

VA Construction Loan

Let’s say, however, you already have land—that did not involve a VA loan—you could use the VA to place a modular or pre-fabricated home onto your property. You also have the option of building your home on that land. Just because you didn’t utilize the VA loan to get started does not mean you can’t use it in the future, so long as the property is safe, and by the time it’s done, both livable and up to code.

Maybe building or buying a house isn’t for you. That’s okay too, you can always go the renter’s route—unless you were planning on living in your mommy’s basement forever—start with our Renter’s Guide for Service Members.

To make things simple for you, this is a short list of what you can’t do with a VA loan in regards to property:

  •       Buy property as an investment
  •       Buy property for a business
  •       Buy farmland you can’t reside on

Of course, this isn’t an extensive list, we’d be here all day if that was the case, and nobody wants that.

If you’re interested in building your own home with a VA Construction Loan, you can read more about the process in this awesome article we put together for you explaining all the details.

How to Start your VA Land Loan Application

Once you’re past all the rumors and you’re ready to purchase land to build your new home on, you’ll need to know and understand the VA application process when it comes to buying a piece of land. It’s actually very simple and it’s similar to the VA Home Loan process as if you were purchasing a pre-constructed home on a piece of land. Where it might get tricky will depend on what you’ll be doing with the land.

If you’re planning to build your own home, you’ll need to find a VA approved buildernot hard, they just need to apply for approval if they aren’t on the VA’s list yet—have blueprints drawn up, have a list of how long each step will take, the cost of each step, the cost of labor, and the cost of the materials being usedprovided by your builder.

But, let’s say you want that farmhouse and plenty of acres to go with it. You basically want the Little House on the Prairie lifestyle—props to you—then your process might be a little different if you intend to use the property as farmland. If this is the case, yes, as stated before, you need to dwell on the property. If, you plan on using the farm as your primary means of income, however, you have to prove to the VA that you are capable and have the skillset to run your own farm. If you do not want to list your future farm as primary income, then you don’t have to worry about this step and you can simply purchase the property—and home—as a regular VA Home Loan, so long as you meet all the other qualifying factors.

If you’re ready to start your VA home loan process, start with our VA Loan Guide to help you answer some of your most pressing questions.

How much does it cost to build a home?

People often ask the question, how much does it cost to build a house? That’s not a question that can be answered easily. When you build a home, the cost is going to depend on several factors. How much is the housing market, what season is it, how much are materials right now, where do you want to build the house, will you be using top-grade materials, how big is the house going to be? If you can answer those questions, then you have to worry about the land. How much land do you want, what type of land are you looking to buy, where are you buying the land at? Buying land that’s next to the lake is much more expensive than buying uncharted land with rocks and trees so thick you couldn’t see two feet in. You also have to consider how hard it will be to break land. While untouched land may be cheaper, it’s definitely much more expensive to work with. If you pick a place up in the mountains, it’s going to be more expensive than picking a flat area that is easily accessible to construction crews and equipment.

Somehow, even with all the extra work, people still look to build their own houses, despite the cost and aggravation. Why? Rarely does a home have absolutely everything you want, down to the intricate details. You can customize your new home, and to some people, that’s worth it. Of course, if you’re not looking to build a home, you can always go through lenders like Veteran’s United, who will help get you through the VA Home Loan process without all the hassle.

Home Advisor estimates that it costs anywhere from $149,044-$430,418 to build a house in 2018. But, apparently, some people have built homes for as low as $13,000 and as high as $750,000. With a price gap like this, it’s hard to give a good estimate as to what your home’s construction would cost. But, there are also great tools, such as this cost building calculator, out there which can give you a rough estimate based on the grade of materials you plan to use, how big you’re planning on the house being, and what state and county you live in. Just remember, this doesn’t include the cost of your land. If that’s scaring you, you can always look at buying a house that’s move-in ready by talking to one of our top rated VA Home Loan providers, like Rocket Mortgage.

VA Construction Loan Lenders

After you’ve gotten a lot of estimates and decided, yes, you want to build your own home, you’ll need to find a lender. If you’ve served in the military and qualify for a VA Home Loan, you’ll also qualify for a VA Construction Loan. Lenders typically call this the 1x close VA construction loan.

Unfortunately, the Internet is filled with a lot of articles saying it’s near impossible to find a lender willing to do a 100% no money down VA construction loans. While this has some truth behind it, it’s definitely not an impossible feat. In fact, as the housing market has improved, more and more lenders are getting on board for this type of loan. So, when you do your research, look at the date of your article. Some of them are either outdated or using outdated sources.

Of course, there are far fewer lenders who offer this style of VA loan compared to a standard VA Home Loan, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you can’t do. If you can’t find a lender for your construction project, there are lenders who will have you make a down payment on the construction, and once it’s complete, will roll your fees into a VA loan.

VA Home Improvement Loan

A VA Home Improvement Loan is basically what it sounds like. You have a home, it needs improvements, and you need a loan to finance it all. However, it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds, and there are several qualification factors you need to consider first. Unfortunately, a VA Home Improvement Loan does not come without a VA Home Loan. So, if you want to do improvements, you must be purchasing your home through the VA and have your lender combine all the costs, including repairs.  If you decided to do improvements after your purchase, you’ll have to look elsewhere. If however, you’re planning to add energy-efficient upgrades, you can do this during your initial loan process or after.

Are you thinking about getting a new heat pump? No problem, the energy-efficient loan will cover it. Were you thinking about adding thermal or storm doors and windows, the VA has you covered there too. What about a clock thermostat? You guessed it; the VA home improvement loan is your go-to! This specific loan also covers insulation, solar cooling and heating, and other various energy efficient modifications to your home, as long as it’s no more than $6,000.

If you’re thinking about doing some lavished remodeling to your home, the VA might not approve your loan. This doesn’t mean you can’t get the loan, it just means your repairs have to fit in within the community’s standards. Meaning, if you’ve purchased a standard, single-family home amongst other standard single-family homes, you won’t get approved for a home improvement loan to add in a million dollar pool. Keep in mind, a lot of lenders work under this same policy.

Of course, for most of us, we’re probably not looking to install a million dollar pool, so chances are, you don’t have to worry about this. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to consider exactly what it is you plan to do with your loan before you start all that paperwork. Simply put, your house has to qualify for the loan. If your house doesn’t meet the standard safety, security and habitability requirements, it better, and within 90 days of your purchase. If your home doesn’t meet the requirements, you could get approved for improvements costs to help you meet the standards, so long as it doesn’t cause your loan to go beyond the county’s loan limit.

What if your home doesn’t meet those standards? Well, you can still get the loan if you can meet it within those 90 days, but you can’t do the work yourself. Meaning, if your plan was to get the loan for materials and then do all the work yourself—because you’ve been watching a lot of the DIY Network and HGTV lately—you better think twice because it’s not allowed! What’s the point of this rule? Really, what’s the point of any rule—to protect you. But, don’t’ get too upset, the VA looks at it as a way to let the buyer retain their right to sue.

If all these rules don’t hurt your feelings just a little, maybe this 2% construction fee will. The VA loan requires a funding fee—unless you qualify for an exemption—but if you’re planning to purchase a loan for repairs or alterations to your home, you should plan on the possibility of paying up to 2% in construction fees on top of your 1.25-3.3% funding fee.

Who qualifies for a VA home improvement loan?

Who qualifies for a VA Home Improvement Loan is no different than who qualifies for a VA Loan, the difference isn’t who, it’s what qualifies. Therefore, as long as you are currently or were ever a part of any US Military component or a surviving spouse, you qualify to apply for the loan. Whether you actually get the loan is a completely different story.

What can I get with a VA home improvement loan?

The VA approves roof and floor repairs, bath, and kitchen remodels, and even HVAC. These all tend to be high-cost repairs, but with a VA Home Improvement Loan, you can finance each of them. Of course, this isn’t a complete list of everything you can utilize this loan for. But if it does anything to save energy, it most likely qualifies.

What if you don’t qualify for a VA home improvement loan?

If you don’t qualify for a VA Home Improvement loan, because you’re either planning on making extensive repairs after you closed without telling the VA or want to purchase more lavished materials, then you’ll be forced to look elsewhere for your loan needs. If this is the case, don’t worry; there are a lot of other great options for you out there to help you in the process.

Does the VA offer a rehab loan?

If your home needs more than a few improvements and something closer to a complete transformation, then you’ll need to look for a rehab loan. Unfortunately, this isn’t something the VA provides. The VA requires you to either buy a home that is move-in ready or will be if you’re using a construction loan. If your home needs deep, non-cosmetic repairs, you don’t qualify for the VA’s Home Improvement Loan. This means that gorgeous 1930’s Farm House you bought with foundation issues won’t be covered through the VA. If this is you, there are other options out there.

The FHA 203K loan is a government insured program. It’s perfect for any purchase that requires extensive repairs. This particular loan also covers unfinished construction, flipping (the home must be occupied), foreclosures, and condemned or abandoned property.

What is the best loan for home improvements?

The loan that is best for home improvements depends on what type of improvements you want to make. If you’re planning to make a cosmetic improvement, the VA Home Improvement Loan may be perfect for you. Are you planning to make non-cosmetic repairs? Maybe the FHA 203K loan is perfect for you. The type of loan also depends on how much you need. If you’re planning to make energy efficient changes, the VA will lend you up to $6,000, but any more than that you’ll have to look elsewhere. If you want to make more general repairs or improvements, but the total loan cost is going to be more than the county’s loan limit, you’ll have to look for another loan option as well if you don’t’ want to make a down-payment.

Work Assistance

Chances are, you know about the VA’s home loan process and how it can help you save money. But what you might not be so knowledgeable on is the work assistance you can get through them. This work assistance can help give you valuable skill and feed your pocket. Below are a few ways you can make money through the VA or at least get you on your way to making that cold hard cash.

Compensated Work Therapy

Compensated Work Therapy or CWT is a service offered to veterans living with any mental or physical disabilities. This program can be utilized by any veteran who qualifies for VA health care, which means, even if you don’t have a 10% VA disability rating or above, you can still qualify for the program.

CWT consists of several programs and depending on your situation, is something worth looking into as a veteran.

Transitional Work

TW is a time-limited service. During the program, the veteran is matched to a work assignment, where personnel at the work site will supervise them. The veteran does not get traditional employee benefits under this program, but they do receive pay at minimum wage under state or federal guidelines, whichever is greater. The goal of this program is to help veterans move from vocational work assignments to competitive employment.

Supported Employment

SE is a great service provided to veterans with PTSD or TBI, who are having a hard time functioning independently in a work environment as a result of their condition. Unlike TW, which is time-limited, this program is ongoing and includes:

  •       Vocational assessment
  •       Rapid/individualized job search
  •       Job development and placement
  •       Assertive engagement
  •       Follow-along supports provided in the context of clinical treatment

Community-Based Employment Services

CBES is a program intended for veterans who need employment support but don’t necessarily have a psychosis diagnosis. The point of this program is to get veterans into competitive employment opportunities. During the program, the veteran will continue receiving clinical support along with:

  •       Skills training
  •       Job Development
  •       Job Placement
  •       Supportive counseling
  •       Interventions within the work environment

Vocational Assistance

Vocational Assistance is offered to groups and individuals. The service is short-term and designed to help veterans realize what skills they have, the resources available to them, attitudes and expectation for finding employment. The service also helps veterans with the interview process and shows them how to succeed in their job without needing to continue the job search, job development or follow-up support.

Supported Self-Employment

SSE is a guidance program. The services are intended to help veterans via guidance on:

  •       Business practices
  •       Training
  •       Networking opportunities
  •       Linkage with community financial institutions

SSE gives veterans a choice through preferred work activities, with flexible hours and schedules, self-management and disability accommodations when they’re needed while potentially generating a substantial income.

Supported Education

SEd is intended to help veterans with education and training programs to help them achieve instructional goals. The program also works to link veterans and educational facilities.

The good thing about these programs is your income isn’t counted as income, according to the IRS. This means any money you make under a CWT program does not need to be reported to the IRS come tax time.

For veterans who need civilian work experience, the VA offers various types of employment opportunities. The opportunities fall under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Programs or Veterans and Military Intern Programs.

Non-Paid Work Experience

Non-paid work experience or NPWE is a service offered by the VA to help place veterans in government jobs. Non-paid does not translate to the veteran making zero money, it’s not like a non-paid college internship. Instead it refers to the fact that the employer has no obligation to pay the veteran, instead, the veteran receives a subsistence allowance from the VA.

Because there’s no “red tape” to hiring and firing, they don’t have to pay the veteran, and there’s a minimal amount of paperwork required from the agency, the employer is more likely to take on the veteran and give them the valuable work experience they need.

On-the-Job Training Program

OJT, something every military member knows about. Well, it’s not just something that exists only in the military, it’s on the outside too. And, the VA is prepared to give you the OJT you want and need in order to be successful in competitive employment.

Both the veteran and agency benefit from the VA’s OJT program. The employer gets a hard-working veteran, and the veteran gets the necessary tools, equipment, and uniforms provided to them via the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Again, like all these programs, reasonable accommodations should be made if needed so the veteran can receive the same opportunities as their fellow co-workers.

Life Insurance

Yes, the VA also offers life insurance, and depending on where you’re at in life, this option could lift a heavy financial burden off your back with their competitive rates. Which is great, because when you’re getting out of the military the last thing you want is another high monthly payment. Again, the competitiveness will depend on where you’re in life.

VGLI

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance or VGLI is an option all veterans who were discharged under anything other than dishonorable have an option to obtain. If you used SGLI—which chances are high you did—then you are eligible. If for some reason, you didn’t have coverage under SGLI, then you would not qualify for VGLI. For veterans that do qualify, when you initially sign-up for coverage, you can only select up to the same amount of coverage you had under SGLI.

For example, let’s say you had $200,000 worth of coverage under SGLI. When you get out of the military, if you elect VGLI for your coverage, you can only get up to $200,000 coverage. However, once 5-years have passed, you can increase your coverage by $25,000, and so on for every 5-years after, for a maximum amount of $400,000.

You also have the option of selecting less coverage under the VGLI plan compared to what you had with SGLI but in increments of $10,000.

Do I Need Life Insurance

Unlike health insurance, life insurance is not for everyone, because not everyone needs it, which leads to your question, “Do I need life insurance?” The answer truly depends on you. There may be a point in your life, where it’s a necessity, and then one day you wake up and you simply don’t need the coverage anymore.  

Let’s say, you’re 65, all your bills are paid off and there’s no one depending on you for financial support, then life insurance may not be needed. Remember, life insurance isn’t for you, it’s for your family. If you don’t want your family having to worry about paying off the rest of your house, your car, paying necessary bills, putting food on the table, your kid’s college getting paid off, etc., then having life insurance might be a good idea. If these are things you don’t have to worry about, the life insurance might be pointless.

However, let’s say you’re in great health; you’re 65 but haven’t paid off all your bills. Using VGLI might be a financial burden because it’s considerably more expensive than getting life insurance through someone else. If you’re 70 or older, your premium rate will also increase. But, if you still have bills and your family is still depending on you for support, again, life insurance may be necessary.

Now, let’s say you did your 20 years—maybe more, maybe less—in the military, you got out, you’re 40 years old, have one kid in middle school, two kids in college, you just purchased a new home, and your spouse stays at home as a result of a physical handicap. In a scenario like this, you are the breadwinner, if you were to pass away, your living spouse would not be able to pay the mortgage, keep food on the table, keep your kids in college, or provide other essentials for him or herself and your kid who just started the 6th grade. This isn’t a scenario any of us wants to picture, but it is always a possibility. This is why life insurance is important. If you want to make sure your family is provided for in your death, life insurance is there to make sure that happens.

Should I get VGLI

After you’ve answered the question about needing life insurance, you’re left wondering who to get it from. Should you get coverage under VGLI? The answer again, it depends. Have you sustained considerable health issues as a result of your service or are you in great health? Do you smoke, or no? Are you over 60? How you answer these questions can increase or decrease your monthly payment when it comes to life insurance, and sadly, it can increase your chances of not getting the coverage you need.

However, VGLI can make things a little easier. Let’s say you did sustain considerable health issues while you were serving. With VGLI, as long as you apply for their life insurance within 1 year and 120 days of separation from the military and you were discharged with anything other than dishonorable, you qualify. This coverage is called term life insurance, meaning you can increase or decrease your coverage every 5 years. The only qualification is that you be a qualifying veteran, it doesn’t matter your health. Your age is also the only determining factor when it comes to your monthly premium, not your gender, not your health, not even if you’re a smoker.

Unlike some insurance companies, which require you to get a physical, provide medical documentation and then determine the price based on age, gender, medical history, smoking history, and your physical results, VGLI won’t require a deep look into your lifestyle as much, at least not if you apply within 240 days of separation—after this, you’ll have to answer questions about your health.

Not so sure about life insurance through the VA? Check out some of these top life insurance companies here.

IS VGLI Worth the Price

The price of life insurance can be a reasonable one, especially if you’re young and in good health. But, where you might see a bit of concern, is when you reach 60, at least under VGLI terms, in which case the price may seem completely unreasonable.

Depending on your age and health, the price of life insurance through most providers and VGLI can be competitive. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t find insurance at a lower price. The real advantage comes if you have health issues, you’re a smoker, or you can’t get insured elsewhere. Once you’re over 60 the price raises considerably, and the competitive part goes out the window, especially if you’re over 75. Again, this is a good choice if you can’t get life insurance elsewhere because of your current health condition. If you can get  $400,00 worth of coverage at 75 years of age for under $1,840/month, then it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere. Again, make sure you need life insurance, and make sure you need the amount of coverage you’re paying for. If you don’t have $400,000 worth of expenses and no one is relying on you for financial support, then maybe you don’t need $400,000 worth of coverage. Maybe, $10,000 is all you need. So, do the math and elect the amount of coverage that makes sense to you, and then decide if the price is worth it.

Pros and Cons of VGLI

Pros
  •       Cost effective for the younger generation of veterans, especially if in poor health
  •       The older generation of veterans in poor health are eligible, even when most companies won’t provide coverage
  •       No proof of good health required if applied for within 240 days of separation
  •       You can increase your coverage by $25,000 every 5 years, up to $400,000
Cons
  •       Expensive for the older generation of veterans in good health
  •       Doesn’t require a physical exam, therefore lower prices can be found with other providers
  •       Not always the best option if you’re in excellent health
  •       You can only enroll up to the amount of life insurance you were covered for under SGLI (after 5 years you can increase the amount)

How to Sign-Up for VGLI

There are three different ways to sign-up for VGLI. The fastest way to do this is online. Simply go to Prudential or eBenefits’ online VGLI application. There will be step-by-step instruction through both platforms. If you’d rather not apply online, you can also print out the application on the VA’s website, fill it out, and mail it to:

OSGLI

PO Box 41618

Philadelphia, PA 19176-1473

Again, ensure you apply for VGLI no more than 1 year and 120 days after separation and no more than 240 days after discharge if you want to apply without having to answer any medical/health-related questions. If you apply after the 240-day mark, your health will be considered in determining your coverage, which means there’s a chance you could be left without an option of utilizing VGLI.

SGLI

We won’t speak on this subject too much, because chances are you’ve had the SGLI through your military service. And while signing-up for it may have been the easiest insurance you ever purchased, and it was basically handed to you at 18-years-old, you probably didn’t know you could say no—that would have been stupid—and you’re pretty much going to ride it out until the end. Of course, you can change your coverage, but if you’re already out of the military this section probably won’t mean anything to you. Of course, if you know someone going in, this might be valuable information you can pass on, so at least they go in educated.

Should you Enroll in SGLI

The short answer is yes, yes you should.  If you qualify for SGLI, VGLI or TSGLI then you should absolutely take advantage of the program.  This is one of the least expensive life insurance policies offered you can get. The military is typically very good about paying out the allotted $400,000 to your next of kin.  This money is can help pay for any unknown expenses that may arise following your death.  In short, you’re essentially getting a life insurance policy that is designed to help your loved ones and not you.  This is a great thing to do for those who you care about.

Who’s Eligible for SGLI

SGLI is available for a wide number of individuals and isn’t just limited to active duty military personnel. Eligible members include:

  •       Active Duty Military, Reserve, National Guard
  •       Employees of the US Public Health Service or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  •       Cadets of the US Military Academies
  •       ROTC members
  •       National Guard/Reserve- In order to be eligible for SGLI you must perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year.  You can also receive coverage if you’re drilling for points rather than pay.

SGLI Coverage

Most service members opt for a 400,000 dollar coverage.  However, anyone can choose any amount between $50,000 and $400,000, in increments of $50,000.  If you are separating from the military your SGLI coverage will extend 120 days from the date of separation.

SGLI For Disabled Veterans

If you’re separated from the military with a total disability, you can extend your coverage for up to 2 years after the date of your separation under the SGLI disability extension.

TSGLI

Traumatic Injury Protection or TSGLI is designed to offer prolonged care assistance to you and your loved ones following a traumatic event that requires long-term care.

Can I get TSGLI?

You may be able to get TSGLI if you were insured by SGLI when you experienced a traumatic injury. According to the VA website in order to be eligible for TSGLI you must meet the following:

All of these must be true:

  •       You have a scheduled loss that is a direct result of the traumatic injury, and
  •       You suffered the traumatic injury before midnight on the day that you left the military, and
  •       You suffered a scheduled loss within 2 years (730 days) of the traumatic injury, and
  •       You have survived for a period of not less than 7 full days from the date of the traumatic injury (the 7-day period begins on the date and time of the traumatic injury and ends 168 full hours later), and
  •       You were an active-duty military member, a Reservist, a National Guard member, on funeral-honors duty, or on 1-day muster duty

Are any injuries excluded from TSGLI?

Yes. To qualify for TSGLI, none of the descriptions below can be true of your injury.

Your injury can’t:

  •       Be self-inflicted on purpose or the result of an attempt at self-injury, or
  •       Involve the use of an illegal drug or a controlled substance that was given or taken without the advice of a medical doctor, or
  •       Be the result of medical or surgical treatment of an illness or disease, or
  •       Occur while you’re committing or trying to commit a felony, or
  •       Be the result of a physical or mental illness or disease (not including illness or disease caused by a wound infection; a chemical, biological, or radiological weapon; or accidentally swallowing a contaminated substance)

How much does TSGLI cover?

TSGLI is paid out in a lump sum as a tax-free payment.  This payment ranges from $25,000 up to $100,000 and is dependent on the service member’s injuries.  You can submit a claim for TSGLI by going to the VA’s TSGLI webpage.

Will TSGLI be enough to cover my injuries?

This is a personal editorial note so please take it for what it’s worth…  Most people are unaware of how much extreme trauma can cost their family. Even if you have Tricare or additional healthcare coverage you will almost always find yourself paying out of pocket if you don’t have the proper coverage.  As a kid, my dad was a helicopter pilot. My family held two levels of life insurance coverage for my dad, one was if he died as a result of a helicopter accident, the other was if he died as a result of something other than a helicopter accident.  

My dad ended up getting into a helicopter accident that left him severely disabled for three years. He eventually died as a result of his injuries. During his period of recovery, we managed to rack up over $1 million in medical bills. Had my family not secured the proper life insurance coverage we would still be trying to pay those bills to this day.  In reality, $100,000 is a drop in the bucket when it comes to a traumatic injury or death. If you want a personal recommendation, get ample coverage.

Most often, a good life insurance policy can be obtained at a very nominal amount but will offer huge dividends in the long run. The reality is that if you don’t get insured, you won’t be the one that suffers.  If you’re in a traumatic accident, your family will bear the burden of your death or traumatic injuries. Imagine your family having to care for you full time if you have a massive brain injury. Would you want them to also have to pay your medical bills or try to work while trying to take care of you? In short, life insurance is one of the best things you can do to support your loved ones.  Get coverage, they will thank you.

How the VA Supports you Financially

Just a quick recap, the VA can help you save money if you take advantage of all the programs they offer. You can save on closing costs through a VA home loan. You can save money on training through more than the GI Bill, but also through their work assistance program, which gives you valuable work experience while putting money in your pocket. And finally, you can save money be electing VA life insurance, also known as VGLI. These, of course, are only a few ways to help save or make money with the VA. There’s also VA disability compensation, for those who qualify and then again, the GI Bill, especially if you have the post 9/11 version.

Top 5 Army Movies

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.

Photo Credit: Colville McFee

1. Saving Private Ryan

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.

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2. Black Hawk Down

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!

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3. Fury

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.

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4. We Were Soldiers

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.

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5. Platoon

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!

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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.

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Vivint vs ADT Home Security

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 Overview

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.

Click here to review ADT pricing

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 History

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

Pros

  • A professional will come to your home and do the set-up, hassle free
  • You can control your system from your phone
  • Equipment included
  • Cheaper than Vivint

Cons

  • 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 Overview

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)

Vivint’s Disclaimers

“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

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Contract Length

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.

Home Automation 

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 Prices

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 

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 Cameras

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.

ADT Signs

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.

ADT APP

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 Camera

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.

Outdoor Camera

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.

Doorbell Camera

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.

Vivint Thermostat

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.

Read our comprehensive review of Guardian Protection, one of Vivint’s competitors, here.

Vivint App

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 fire protection to breaking and entering. Below are some of the products you can choose from.

  • Burglary Detection
  • Smart Locks
  • Garage Door Control
  • Smoke Alarm
  • Flood Warning
  • CO Detector
  • Indoor and Outdoor Cameras
  • Playback DVR
  • Doorbell Camera
  • Vivint Smart Home App
  • Sky Control Panel
  • Nest Thermostat
  • Element Thermostat
  • Phillips Hue (Lighting Control)
  • 24/7 Monitoring
  • Professional Installation

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

  • Traditional
  • Control
  • Video

Compare Vivint and ADT Monitoring Plans

ADT Vivint
Monthly Price (lowest cost) $24.99/mo *$39.99/mo
Installation Cost $99-$199 $49.99-$199
24/7 Monitoring
Video Monitoring
Live Alerts
Motion Detection
Sensors 3 3
Voice Control χ
Wireless Connection Available
Landline Connection Available  χ

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.

Vivint FAQs

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.

What is the Vivint phone number?

(877) 676-5856

What is the Vivint customer service number?

(801) 377-9111

1-800-216-5232

ADT FAQs

Are there any ADT discounts?

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.

VA vs FHA Loan

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. So without further adieu, 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
  • More fees than a VA Loan

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 only 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

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—cannot 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
  • Condo hotels
  • 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.

HUD Approval

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.

The Top 10 Tactical Hats (Reviewed)

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.

The 10 Best Tactical Hats

  1. RE Factor Tactical Blasting Cap

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • High-vis orange VS-17 Panel
  • FlexFit® w/ mesh backing
  • (2) 3.5 x 2 in. Embroidered velcro panels (front and back)
  • (2) 1 x 1 in. IR patch velcro panel (top and inside)

Cons

  • Only two sizes available (S/M and L/XL)
  • Patches not included

  1. Lightbird Tactical Hat

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • Made of durable tactical fabric with 3 hook & loop panels for patches
  • Includes a sweatband

Cons

  • One size fits most, but not all
  • Ventilation holes are embroidered rather than secured with a metal eyelet

 

  1. Gadsden and Culpeper Operator Cap

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • IR patch velcro panel included
  • Contains both a front velcro area for patches and a rear velcro area for name tapes

Cons

  • Not made in the USA
  • Ventilation holes are embroidered rather than secured with a metal eyelet

 

  1. Gadsden and Culpeper 5.11 Kryptek Typhon Tactical Cap

 

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • Cool, lightweight comfort
  • Buckram lined for structure

Cons

  • Ventilation holes are embroidered rather than secured with a metal eyelet

 

  1. Blackhawk Men’s Tactical Cap

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • Adjustable strap
  • Six-panel construction for maximum durability
  • No button on top for comfort while wearing ear protection

Cons

  • Ventilation holes are embroidered rather than secured with a metal eyelet

 

  1. The Hat Depot Low Profile Tactical Operator Mesh Cap

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • Comfortable all-day wear, 6-panel construction, unstructured, low profile
  • Features a pre-curved bill with a loop patch area on the front

Cons

  • One size fits most-but does have an adjustable buckle closure

 

  1. KBETHOS Tactical Operator Military Cap

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Pros

  • Unconstructed Low Profile 6 Panel Baseball Cap
  • 100% Cotton Made. Lightweight / Durable / Smooth

Cons

  • One Size Adjustable Strapback Fits Most Sizes (but not all)

 

  1. Condor Outdoor Flex Mesh Cap

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Pros

  • Polyester/Cotton blend for breathability
  • 6 panel flexible fitted material
  • Mesh Back for breathability
  • 3 hook and loop panels for patches

Cons

  • Embroidered eyelets (Although extra stitching reinforcements are present, a metal eyelet typically provides better durability)

 

  1. Sox Market Camouflage Constructed Trucker Special Tactical Operator Forces

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • 65% Cotton/ 35% Polyester
  • Removable velcro front allows patch customization
  • 6 Panel Cap W/ 4 mesh panels back

Cons

  • One size fits most, but it does have an adjustable Velcro Closure

 

10.Rothco Tactical Operator Cap

Read Reviews and Check Price

Pros

  • Polyester/Cotton Blend
  • 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

Cons

  • 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.

Patch Area

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.

Sun Protection

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.

Breathability

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 dropping 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

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

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.

FAQs

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.

Top 5 Plate Carriers

Buyer’s Guide for the Best Plate Carriers of 2019

Guest Writer: Joshua Frederick

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.

Top 5 Plate Carriers

#1. Advanced Slickster from RE Factor Tactical

Pros

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.

Cons

Being able to strip this system down to the bones is one of its major advantages. However, with everything cleaned 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.

Features:

  • 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
  • MOLLE laser-cut back panel
  • Can be stripped down to low-profile version

Price

$299.99

Learn More

#2. Slickster from Ferro Concepts

Pros

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…

Cons

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.

Features

  • Tested Slickster base
  • Lightweight (402g)
  • 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

Price

$154.95

#3. Pico from TYR Tactical

Pros

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…

Cons

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.

Features

  • PALS Webbing for MOLLE Attachment
  • Removable back panel
  • Hydration/Communication Tabs for Routing
  • Removable MOLLE Kangaroo Front Flap
  • TYR’s Patented Ballistic Vein

Price

$595.95 – $749.95 (depending on armor variations)

#4. JPC (Jumpable Plate Carrier) from Crye Precision

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Features

  • Low-profile
  • Integrated Triple Mag Pouch
  • Low-profile cummerbund attachment
  • Built-in admin pouch in the chest
  • Padded ventilation on interior panels
  • Quick-attach side loops for additional coverage
  • Anti-slip shoulder pads
  • Groin protection attachment

Price

$210.20

#5. SCARAB from Velocity Systems

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Features

  • 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)

Price

$329.00

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.

Purpose

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?

Duration

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.

Ease-of-Access

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.

Environment

What sort of environment you’ll be operating in. This will play a bigger factor in your plate carrier’s effectiveness. 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.

Quality

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.

VA Loan vs Conventional

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.

Scenario 1

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.

Scenario 2

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.

Scenario 3

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.

Male Sexual Discrimination, Men-Only Draft Declared Unconstitutional

You’ve probably already heard the news, but for those of you who haven’t, apparently, a federal judge ruled the current, men-only draft to be unconstitutional.

The Fifth Amendment

And where did all this come from, you ask? Well, apparently, a Men’s advocacy group in San Diego has been challenging this ‘unconstitutional’ draft by saying the sexual discrimination is in violation of the 5th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Selective Service Registration

However, things go back a little further than that. You see, once upon a time, there were these two men. They were between the ages of 18 and 26—the golden ages for required Selective Service registration. These two men were not happy and said—a little paraphrasing here—“Wait a second! Why aren’t women forced to join in on this Selective Service thing? That’s not fair! What makes them better than me?”—again a strong level of assumptive paraphrasing here!

Then, a lawsuit was filed against the Selective Service, by a young Texas Resident by the name of James Lesmeister in 2013, which would later include Anthony Davis.

Women in Combat

According to American Military News, these following words were said, “Forcing only males to register is an aspect of socially institutionalized male disposability and helps reinforce the stereotypes that support discrimination against men in other areas,” Coalition attorney Marc Angelucci said.

“Women are now allowed in combat, so this decision is long overdue. After decades of sex discrimination against men in the Selective Service, the courts have finally found it unconstitutional to force only men to register.”

Equal Opportunity for Women

So, why should we start worrying about all this now, especially since Congress has been debating male-only registration since at least 1980? Well, if you didn’t pick up on it in the above paragraph, it’ most likely due to the fact that women can now serve in combat careers, at least according to Angelucci and Gray Miller, Judge of the Southern District of Texas.

“If there was ever a time to discuss ‘the place of women in the Armed Services,’ that time has passed,” Miller wrote.

Apparently, Judge Miller confessed that the process requiring women to register for Selective Service will take time.