CalVet Home Loans vs. VA Home Loans | CalVet Home Loan Requirements | Types of CalVet Home Loans | Down Payment | Benefits and Drawbacks of a CalVet Loan | CalVet Home Loan Interest Rates | Alternatives to CalVet Home Loans | How to Apply
Are you a veteran looking to buy a house in California? You could qualify for a CalVet home loan, a unique state program designed to save veterans more money than a traditional home loan.
You can use the loan to buy a single-family home, planned unit development, condo, manufactured home, mobile home, farm, or even piece of land to construct a house. Thanks to a new 2021 state law, you can also use the program to refinance an existing loan.
While you’re researching CalVet home loans, you can simplify the home buying process by enlisting a local real estate agent to handle the hard work of finding an affordable house in California.
If you don't have a real estate agent yet, our friends at Clever Real Estate can help. Clever is a free service that connects home buyers and sellers directly with the best real estate agents from Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and other top-rated brokers — and negotiates savings on your behalf.
Home buyers in California can receive up to 0.5% cash back after closing, just for finding a fantastic agent through Clever. You'll get to interview as many hand-picked agents as you'd like until you find the perfect fit.
Are CalVet Home Loans Different from VA Home Loans?
CalVet loans are different from VA home loans. Although both loans are designed for veterans, CalVet loans are limited to veterans in the state of California, and VA loans are available nationwide. Also, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs backs VA loans but not CalVet loans.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll have to pay a funding fee unless you qualify for a waiver (for example, if you have a 10% or higher disability rating). Also, both CalVet loans and VA loans will likely impact your VA loan entitlement later on.
The biggest difference between CalVet home loans and VA home loans is property ownership.
With a VA loan, you own the home and hold the deed and legal title. But with a CalVet loan, the program purchases the house and sells it back to you using a contract for sale (similar to how a land contract would work). In that case, CalVet is the lender and holds the legal title until you pay the balance in full.
CalVet Home Loan vs. VA Home Loan
CalVet Home Loan
VA Home Loan
Active duty and veteran eligible
Guaranteed by the Veterans Administration
Higher limits in specific counties
Must live in California
Uses VA entitlement
CalVet Home Loan Requirements
Active duty or veteran member of the military
Served active duty for at least 90 days during wartime or peacetime
Released from active duty under honorable conditions
Buying a property as a primary residence in California
National Guard and U.S. Military Reserve members can also qualify
You can qualify for a CalVet loan even if you didn’t enlist or get your commission in the Golden State.
The loan is open to nearly any veteran buying a home in California. This expanded eligibility helps to qualify more veterans wanting to buy a home. But keep in mind that you have to live in the home. You can’t get a CalVet loan for an investment property or vacation home.
How to Confirm CalVet Loan Eligibility ✅
Check your “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty” Form DD-214 to ensure your discharge is classified as “Honorable” or “Under Honorable Conditions.” You can also qualify under the expanded eligibility options if you’re a current or former member of the National Guard, including U.S. Military Reserves. To get an answer quickly, call CalVet or visit the websiteto find out if you qualify.
What If You’ve Used Your CalVet Benefit Already?
So, if you financed a house with CalVet but don’t have an outstanding balance, you can apply and receive the loan again. There’s no limit to the number of times you can receive this benefit, if you meet the requirements.
Types of CalVet Home Loans
Home Improvement Loans
Does a CalVet Loan Require a Down Payment?
Almost all CalVet loans don’t require a down payment, with the exception of the CalVet 97 loan that requires a 3% down payment.
Skipping the down payment can be helpful if you’re struggling to save to buy a house, but you might end up paying more over the life of the loan. The less you put down, the higher your mortgage balance is. The higher your balance, the higher your monthly mortgage payment will be. You’ll also pay more in interest fees.
A down payment, no matter how small, can help reduce your monthly payment and lower your overall fees.
Pros and Cons of a CalVet Loan
Aside from not requiring a down payment, the CalVet loan has many benefits:
Access to group life insurance
Disaster protection, including low-cost earthquake and flood insurance
Fire and hazard coverage
Insurance at low group rates
Lower fees than other government or conventional loans
No monthly mortgage insurance premiums
As with any home loan option, there are also some downsides to consider before jumping into a CalVet loan.
You’ll pay an upfront funding fee. However, the funding fee can be waived if you have a 10% or more disability rating.
You also don’t have the option to offset your closing costs. Some home loans let the seller pitch in to cover closing costs, but you must pay them yourself with a CalVet loan.
CalVet Home Loan Interest Rates
Traditional lenders determine your mortgage rate by looking at your credit score, economic environment, and the size of your loan. However, the CalVet Rate Committee sets CalVet home loan interest rates.
CalVet mortgage rates may not fluctuate as much as with a VA or conventional mortgage loan, but you might pay a higher interest rate than other home loan programs.
For example, based on a $200,000 home with a 10% down payment, you’d pay as little as 4.75% in interest, according to CalVet.
Paying more interest could be worth it if you’ve had bankruptcies, foreclosures, or collection accounts in the past. CalVet’s manual underwriting process opens the door to competitive interest rates, even if you have a low credit score.
Alternatives to CalVet Home Loans
If you’re ready to buy a home, a CalVet home loan is an excellent option if you live in California. However, CalVet isn’t your only path to homeownership.
VA loans are the natural alternative for veterans. You’ll still pay a funding fee, but you have the option of no down payment and could access lower interest rates than a CalVet loan.
FHA loans are a great option if you don’t meet the eligibility requirements of a CalVet loan. They’re available to the general public and don’t require a funding fee, though you’ll pay a 3.5% minimum down payment.
Conventional loans can offer the lowest interest rate if you have good or excellent credit. Your down payment can be as little as 3%, but you may have to pay private mortgage insurance if you put down less than 20%.
Minimum Down Payment
Yes, if down payment is less than 20%
Still having trouble deciding which loan is best for you? Talking to a real estate expert can help. Our friends at Clever Real Estate offer expert advice for free — their fully licensed concierge team is available to advise you on your real estate journey.
👋 Next steps: Talk to an expert!
If you're weighing your options for buying or selling a house, our friends at Clever can help! Clever's licensed concierge team is available to answer your real estate questions, or help you find the right agent for your needs.
Plug in your ZIP code below to find top agents near you!
How to Apply for a CalVet Home Loan
You can apply for a CalVet home loan by contacting the local Cal Vet home loans at 866-653-2510 or through the CalVet online pre-approval portal.
Once you figure out if you’re eligible for a CalVet loan, you will follow a similar application to traditional home loans, with lots of paperwork.
🏠 Next Step: Find Your Dream Home
Once you secure a CalVet home loan, you can use it for a single-family home, a planned unit development, condominium, manufactured home, mobile home, or even a plot to build on. It’s time to find your next home.
The California real estate market is one of the most expensive in the U.S. Even with home values cooling down a bit, the average home value is still $800,000, and homes have more than doubled in the past decade.
The best thing you can do to snag an affordable California home is to get an expert real estate agent on your team as soon as possible. Local agents are familiar with the market and know where the most affordable neighborhoods are.
We’ve partnered with Clever Real Estate to connect you with full-service, top-notch agents in your area from brokerages like Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, and RE/MAX. Best of all, buyers in California can get 0.5% cash back after closing! That's $2,000 on a $400,000 home purchase, just for finding your agent through Clever.
Frequently Asked Questions About CalVet Home Loans
What is the difference between a CalVet loan and a VA loan?
The difference between a CalVet loan and a VA loan is mostly that VA loans are available nationally and CalVet loans are only available in California. VA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and CalVet loans are not. Also, when you use a VA loan, you own the property you’re paying mortgage on. But with a CalVet loan, the CalVet program owns the property until you pay off the loan. Learn more about CalVet home loans.
Does a CalVet loan require a down payment?
Almost all CalVet loans don’t require a down payment, with the exception of the CalVet 97 loan that requires a 3% down payment. Learn more about CalVet home loans.
Are CalVet loans good?
CalVet loans are a great option if you are eligible for them. They don’t require a down payment or monthly mortgage insurance premiums, offer lower fees than other government or conventional loans, and give you access to insurance at low group rates, including group life insurance, disaster protection, and fire and hazard coverage. Learn more about CalVet home loans.
What are the requirements of a CalVet loan?
To be eligible for a CalVet loan, you have to be an active duty or veteran member of the military who served active duty for at least 90 days during wartime or peacetime and were released from active duty under honorable conditions. You also have to be purchasing a primary residence in California. National Guard and U.S. Military Reserve members can also qualify. Learn more about CalVet home loans.
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