The VA loan program has backed more than 21 million loans in its now 70-year history.

While its roots are in the original GI Bill of 1944, this mortgage benefit is in many ways more important today than ever.

During a time of tight mortgage credit, veterans and military members have flocked in record numbers to the program’s $0 down paymentbenefit and looser credit requirements.

Here’s a look at eight must-know facts about VA home loans:

1. Nine in 10 buyers purchase with $0 down

Historically, about 90% of VA buyers get into a home without making a down payment. That’s a huge benefit that can help veterans and active military get into a home now, rather than having to spend years saving.

2. They’re incredibly safe

Despite the $0 down benefit, VA loans have had the lowest foreclosurerate of any loan type for most of the last six years. The VA’s common-sense guidelines and commitment to keeping veterans in their homes makes this a model for other mortgage programs.

3. There’s no mortgage insurance

Unlike FHA and USDA loans, there’s no mortgage insurance premium for these government-backed mortgages. But VA buyers do pay a funding fee that most choose to finance. Borrowers with a service-connected disability are exempt from this fee.

4. Millions of veterans are still missing out

VA surveys have shown that about 1 in 3 home-buying veterans don’t know about this benefit. These loans aren’t automatically the best fit for every veteran, but for many this is the most powerful mortgage option on the market.

5. Significantly lower credit benchmarks

VA lenders are typically looking for a FICO score around 620. That’s often more than 100 points lower than what buyers will need for conventional financing.

6. They help boomerang buyers

Qualified veterans and service members can obtain a VA loan just two years removed from a bankruptcy or foreclosure. Homeowners who experience a short sale may face no waiting period at all depending on the lender and their specific situation.

7. There are occupancy requirements

This program focuses on helping veterans buy primary residences, not vacation homes or purely investment properties. Buyers typically need to occupy the home within two months of closing. There are exceptions for deployed service members and other situations. You can see a complete overview of VA Loan requirements here.

8. They’re not a one-time benefit

There’s a pervasive misconception that you can only use this program once. That’s absolutely untrue. In fact, it’s possible to have more than one VA loan at the same time or obtain another after losing one to foreclosure.

Want to learn more? E-mail us at gagerealty@gmail.com  and get started on your home-buying journey.