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VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Pros and Cons

VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Pros and Cons

Michael Jensen, Mortgage and Finance Guru
, Mortgage and Finance Guru
The VA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) Program enables eligible veterans and military personnel to finance the purchase or refinance of a home plus energy efficiency home improvements with a single VA loan.  Typically borrowers seeking to finance major energy efficiency improvements are required to pay for the costs out of pocket or obtain a second loan which can be costly and time consuming.Using one VA loan instead of two separate loans or paying for the improvements with a credit card simplifies the financing process and saves you money and time.  A VA EEM loan is an add-on to other VA home loan programs but the borrower is not required to re-apply for the loan when they add the cost of the upgrades to the base VA loan amount
A VA EEM loan offers borrowers multiple advantages including financing energy efficiency improvements with one VA mortgage, a low interest rate, requiring no down payment or equity position as well as the ability to reduce your utility bills and increase your property value.  Program considerations include additional conditions based on the amount of loan proceeds that are used for energy efficiency improvements, the upfront VA funding fee and a longer closing schedule.
We review the full list of pros and cons for the VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program below.  Borrowers should understand both the positives and negatives of a VA EEM loan to determine if it is the right green mortgage option for them.

VA EEM Loan Pros

Mortgage pro

Finance a Home Purchase or Refinance Plus Major Energy Efficiency Improvements with One Mortgage

A VA EEM loan enables you to finance the purchase of a home or refinance your mortgage and include the cost of significant energy efficiency improvements with one loan as opposed to paying for the improvements out of pocket or arranging a home loan plus a second mortgage, home equity loan, line of credit (HELOC) or PACE loan to finance the upgrades.  Using a single VA home loan instead of two separate loans or paying out of pocket with a credit card streamlines the financing process and saves you money and time.  The VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program offers borrowers an efficient and more cost-effective solution to financing energy efficient improvements when they buy or refinance a home. 

Mortgage pro

Low VA Mortgage Rate

VA mortgage rates are typically .250% - .500% lower than the interest rate on a regular mortgage and are among the lowest of all mortgages.  The interest rate for a VA home loan is lower for several reasons.  First, the federal government guarantees 25% of the loan amount, which protects lenders against losses in the event that borrowers default on their mortgage.  Second, military personnel tend to be more financially responsible and credit-worthy which also enables lenders to offer lower rates on VA mortgages.  The lower interest rate on a VA home loan reduces your monthly payment and possibly saves you thousands of dollars in interest expense over the life of your mortgage.   The lower rate is particularly beneficial to borrowers with lower credit scores, who usually pay a higher interest rate on their mortgage.  A VA EEM loan enables borrowers to take advantage of lower VA mortgage rates to finance the cost of energy efficiency home improvements as opposed to paying a higher interest rate on a separate loan or credit card.


The VA EEM Program is offered by approved lenders including mortgage brokers, banks and credit unions.  A relatively small number of lenders provide VA EEM loans so you may need to reach out to several lenders to find ones that do.  Contact multiple VA lenders in the table below to understand if they offer the program and to find the best loan terms. 

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Current VA Mortgage Rates as of April 25, 2019
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Data provided by Informa Research Services. Payments do not include amounts for taxes and insurance premiums. Click for more information on rates and product details.
Mortgage pro

No Down Payment / 100% Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio

The VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program does not require borrowers to make a down payment or the case of a refinance, borrowers are permitted to have a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 100.0%.  Not requiring a down payment or equity position compares to the 10% - 20% down payment or home equity position required by standard mortgage or home improvement loan programs and is lower than the 3.5% down payment required by the FHA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program.  Requiring no down payment when buying a home or equity position when refinancing makes a VA EEM loan the ideal home financing option for eligible borrowers who struggle to save money to buy a home or who have no equity in their home.

Mortgage pro

Borrower Not Required to Re-Apply for Mortgage to Add Improvements to Loan Amount

With a VA EEM loan borrowers are not required to re-apply when they add the cost of energy efficient upgrades to their base VA loan.  Additionally, borrowers are not required to make a larger down payment when using the VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program to buy a home.  For example, if a borrower is approved for a $200,000 VA loan to buy a $200,000 home, the borrower can add $6,000 in energy efficiency upgrades to the mortgage for a total loan amount of $206,000 without having to re-apply for the loan or obtain a special appraisal.  The borrower is not required to re-apply for the new, higher mortgage amount because the energy efficiency improvements reduce your monthly utility costs which improves your ability to make your mortgage payment. 

Mortgage pro

Lower Utility Bills and Increase Property Value

Paying for energy efficiency home improvements with a VA EEM loan provides multiple benefits to home owners including lowering your utility bills and increasing your home value.  For example, using a VA EEM loan to install new windows or insulation lowers your monthly energy expenses and also increases the value of your home.  Even small energy efficiency improvements such as adding new thermostats or replacing caulking can save you money on your utility bills and raise your property value. 

Mortgage pro

Add-On to Other VA Loan Programs

A VA EEM loan is an "add-on" that is combined with another VA program such as the VA Home Loan or VA Streamline Refinance (IRRRL) programs. The standard VA Home Loan Program enables eligible borrowers to buy a home with no payment.  The VA Streamline Refinance Program enables borrowers to refinance their existing VA mortgage with no appraisal report or credit check.  Borrowers do not need to receive special eligibility to combine a VA EEM loan with the VA Home Loan or VA Streamline Refinance programs.  If you are eligible for a VA mortgage you are eligible for a VA EEM loan.  

Mortgage pro

No Monthly Mortgage Insurance Fees

Unlike most low or no down payment mortgage programs, VA loan programs do not require borrowers to pay an ongoing monthly mortgage insurance fee.  For example, the government-backed FHA mortgage program requires borrowers to pay an ongoing monthly FHA mortgage insurance premium (MIP) and most conventional mortgages require borrowers to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is greater than 80.0%.  FHA MIP and private mortgage insurance (PMI) are extra costs borrowers are required to pay in addition to their monthly mortgage payments.  By not requiring monthly mortgage insurance, VA programs, including VA EEM loans, offer borrowers lower total monthly housing expense (mortgage payment plus property taxes, homeowners and mortgage insurance).


Use the FREEandCLEAR Lender Directory to search for top-rated lenders that offer multiple VA home loan programs.

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VA EEM Loan Cons

Mortgage pro

Restrictions on How Much You Can Spend on Energy Efficiency Improvement Project

The VA Energy Efficient Mortgage Program applies different conditions based on the amount of loan proceeds that are used for energy efficiency improvements.  For energy efficiency upgrades up to $3,000, borrowers can add the cost of the improvements to their loan amount simply by providing bids or contracts that document the work.  For energy efficiency improvements from $3,000 to $6,000, lenders are also required to work with borrowers to certify that the monthly savings from lower utility costs due to the energy efficiency improvements is greater than the increase in the borrower's mortgage payment from the higher mortgage amount.  For energy efficiency projects that exceed $6,000, the post-improvement appraised value of the property must increase by more than the value of the improvements.  For example,  if you wan to finance $20,000 in energy efficiency upgrades on a home with a pre-improvement value of $200,000 then the post-improvement appraised property value must be at least $220,000.  Additionally, lenders are required to determine that the monthly costs savings from the energy efficiency upgrades exceeds the increase in mortgage payment due to the higher loan amount and that the borrower can afford the higher monthly mortgage payment.  Borrowers should work closely with their lender to determine what VA EEM Program conditions apply based on the cost of their energy efficiency improvements.

Mortgage pro

Upfront VA Funding Fee

The VA home loan program requires that borrowers pay a one-time, up-front VA funding fee.  The VA funding fee is calculated as a percentage of the loan amount and may be added to the loan or paid out-of-pocket.  The amount of VA funding fee depends on the down payment amount, type of military service (regular military versus reserves / national guard), and if this is your first time using the VA home loan program.  For regular military personnel using us the VA home loan program for the first time, the VA funding fee ranges from 2.15% of the loan amount if you make a down payment of 0% - 4.99% to 1.25% of the loan amount if you make a down payment of 10% or more.  The funding fee for a VA streamline refinance is 0.5% of the loan amount.

Mortgage pro

Extra Closing Costs and Longer Mortgage Process

Borrowers are required to work with lenders to develop a detailed plan that outlines the energy efficiency improvements they want to make to a home.  VA EEM Program applicants usually order an energy audit that is provided to lenders and serves as the energy efficiency improvement plan.  The energy audit is performed by a qualified firm or professional and identifies ways to improve a property's energy efficiency as well as the anticipated cost and estimated monthly savings associated with the improvements.  Obtaining the energy audit adds time and cost to the mortgage process although some firms provide discounted or free audits for veterans.  To ensure a smooth mortgage process, borrowers should make sure that they hire a certified energy auditor.  Additionally, due to the extra work required to process a VA EEM loan, most lenders charge higher fees.  Borrowers should fully understand any extra lender or third party closing costs before selecting a VA EEM lender.

More FREEandCLEAR Resources

Mortgage Guides

VA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) Program Overview

Review our comprehensive overview of the VA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) Program including borrower qualification requirements and other important program information such as property eligibility, energy efficiency improvement project guidelines and loan limits.

Resources

VA Mortgage Rates

VA EEM loans are provided by traditional lenders such as banks, mortgage banks, mortgage brokers and credit unions.  Use our VA mortgage rate table to find lenders that offer the VA Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) Program and to review updated VA mortgage rates and fees for lenders in your area.  Comparing rates from multiple lenders is the best way to save money on your mortgage.

Mortgage Calculators

VA Home Loan Calculator

Use our VA Home Loan Calculator to determine how much home you can afford with a VA loan.  The calculator also indicates the VA loan limit in your county as well as the upfront VA funding fee based on your down payment and class of military service.

Resources

Summary of Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) and Green Mortgage Programs

Review and compare important program features and eligibility requirements for multiple energy efficient mortgage (EEM) and green mortgage programs so that you can select the mortgage option that is right for you.

Sources

VA Energy Efficient Mortgage: https://www.benefits.va.gov/WARMS/docs/admin26/handbook/ChapterLendersHanbookChapter7.pdf

About the author

Michael Jensen, Mortgage and Finance Guru

Michael is the co-founder of FREEandCLEAR. Michael possesses extensive knowledge about mortgages and finance and has been writing about mortgages for nearly a decade. His work has been featured in leading national and industry publications. More about Michael

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