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VA Guidelines - Manual Underwriting

VA Guidelines – Manual Underwriting

Second Chance

If your lender is unable to get an automated underwriting approval, or if you’ve been turned down with no explanation, it’s possible that it’s your lender, and not you, who is not qualified.

VA manual underwriting guidelines are designed to give an underwriter guidance and the guidelines for manually underwriting, and approving a loan application.

There are many lenders that simply do not manually underwrite VA loans. When choosing a lender, this is something that you want to research when you’re first applying for a VA loan.

A lender that has the experience of manually underwriting a VA loan can give you a second chance if the automated underwriting system decision comes back with a refer/eligible finding, or if certain conditions are present at the time of underwriting.

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If you are applying for a VA guaranteed loan, choose a loan officer that has experience with VA loans, and more specifically, VA manual underwriting guidelines.

VA Manual Underwriting

There are many reasons why a VA manual underwriting downgrade can happen.  In some cases, it could be that your loan officer or underwriter did not structure your loan properly.

If your loan officer is inexperienced, or if their lender is not aggressive with underwriting their interpretation of the guidelines, your chances of receiving an automated underwriting decision significantly goes down.

System Override and Manual Downgrade

A system override and/or manual downgrade of an Accept/Approve to a Refer classification may be required if a particular loan application variable is revealed during loan processing.

A system override occurs when something appears on the loan application that triggers a requirement that an underwriter review the loan file.

A manual downgrade becomes necessary if additional information, not considered in the AUS decision, affects the overall insurability or eligibility of a mortgage otherwise rated as an Accept or Approve.

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Both system overrides and manual downgrades may be triggered by inaccuracies in credit reporting, by eligibility issues, when a case file cannot be documented according to the automated underwriting system findings, and for other reasons including the unlikely failure of the automated underwriting system to recognize a derogatory credit item.

Manual Downgrade – Credit Issues

Credit issues that appear in the file can trigger an automatic downgrade, and require your VA loan to follow manual underwriting guidelines.  Here are a few of the most common credit issues that will result in a manual downgrade.

Previous Mortgage Foreclosure:  A borrower whose previous residence or other real property was foreclosed on or has given a deed-in lieu of foreclosure within the previous two years is generally not eligible for an insured mortgage.

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There are some lenders that, with documented exceptions,  will manually underwrite the loan application and look for compensating factors if the foreclosure or deed in lieu occurs in less than 2 years from the application date.

Providing the foreclosure was completed at least two years previously and the risk-classification from the AUS is an Accept/Approve, no further documentation regarding the foreclosure is required.

Mortgage History:  Late mortgage payments during the most recent 12 months consisting of greater than 1×30 days late on a purchase or a rate/term refinance, or greater than 0 x 30 on a cash out refinance.

Bankruptcy:  Both Chapter 7 liquidations and Chapter 13 bankruptcies discharged within two years of loan application will require a manual downgrade. If your bankruptcy has been discharged less than one year is not eligible for a VA guaranteed mortgage.

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Providing the bankruptcy was discharged at least two years previously and the risk-classification from DU is an Accept/Approve, no further documentation regarding the bankruptcy is required.

Disputed Accounts:  If your credit report reveals that there are any disputed credit accounts or public records, the mortgage application must be referred for manual underwriting review.

Compensating Factors

When manually underwriting your VA loan, the underwriter is doing a combination of things.  In some cases, the underwriter is only looking for alternative documentation to satisfy a requirement of the automated underwriting decision.

Compensating factors will allow an underwriter to “offset” credit profile deficiencies by documenting that there are sufficient conditions that reduce the risk of default.

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Compensating factors may affect the loan decision.  These factors are especially important when reviewing loans which are marginal with respect to residual income or debt-to-income ratio.  They cannot be used to compensate for unsatisfactory credit.

Valid compensating factors should logically be able to compensate (to some extent) for the identified weakness in the loan.  For example, significant liquid assets may compensate for a residual income shortfall whereas long-term employment would not.

Compensating factors include, but are not limited to the following:

  • excellent credit history,
  • conservative use of consumer credit,
  • minimal consumer debt,
  • long-term employment,
  • significant liquid assets,
  • sizable downpayment,
  • the existence of equity in refinancing loans,
  • little or no increase in shelter expense,
  • military benefits,
  • satisfactory homeownership experience,
  • high residual income,
  • low debt-to-income ratio,
  • tax credits for child care, and
  • tax benefits of home ownership.

Don’t Take No For an Answer

If your lender is not approved to do VA manual underwriting on VA Guaranteed loans, you may be told you’re not approved without further explanation or options.

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Should this happen, ask your lender if they are able to manually underwrite VA loans.  It’s much more work for the lender and the underwriter, and may require much more documentation from you, the borrower – but don’t take NO for an answer.

Find a lender that is willing to fight for you and manually underwrite your VA home loan.  We are out there and don’t mind working extra hard to qualify Veterans for home loans.

Getting Your Questions Answered

All lenders are not created equal.  Most of the readers that find this site because they’ve been researching solutions to challenges, and have been told 10 different things by 10 different loan officers.

We’ve created this resource to help you sift through the endless opinions and articles that may, or may not directly answer your question correctly.

There are several ways to ask questions, and get expert opinions on this website.

  • Submit a Question:  On the bottom of this page, you’ll see a prompt that allows you to ask questions.  These questions come directly to me and are answered very quickly.
  • Leave a Comment:  Below every article is the option to leave a comment or question.  We see these comments and questions in real-time and the always answered, usually pretty quickly.

In addition to researching your questions and providing you with expert advice, I can also introduce you to a lender friend that I know has experience with your specific situation and can help.


About the Author

Scott Schang

A 20 year veteran of the Mortgage and Real Estate industry, I am passionate about educating and empowering consumers. I have been writing about consumer protection issues, and making sense of complicated real estate and mortgage topics on this website since 2007

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Jason says:

    Hi Scott,
    Need help finding someone that can help us get a VA loan with a reported 30-day late.

    • Scott Schang says:

      Jason, shoot me an email to scott@findmywayhome.com – a 30 day late should not be an issue. There are other factors that are considered as well, like you loan to value, debt to income and credit score.

      VA loans are very flexible. I’m sure you have a good explanation for the late, that will also be considered.

      Hope this helps?

      THANK YOU for your Service!