There’s no such thing as the best trip, only the journey that’s best for you, and it all starts with where you stay. I love to travel, and more so enjoy great destination hotels. There is something about hotels that provide a sense of comfort, starting with the impeccable presentation of the lobby to the ambiance of textures and fragrant aroma.
Sometimes I enjoy a short getaway right here in the city. Washington, DC, offers some of the best hotels in the world. As you enjoy your holidays, take some time to explore the best of the best hotels from 2019 including these great Washington DC properties.
On the southwest waterfront with 344 guest rooms, 51 suites, six signature suites, and one expansive presidential suite, the Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC is within walking distance to monuments, the National Mall, and Smithsonian museums. Adjacent is District Wharf, an exciting new neighborhood of restaurants, shops, and entertainment. Newly renovated guest rooms offer impressive views and a relaxed elegance. The Forbes, Four-Star spa offers an indoor
swimming pool and fitness center. Indulge in East-meets-West cuisine at Muze; savor light fare and cocktails in Empress Lounge; or try an omakase menu at Mini Sushi Bar by chef Ogawa.
HOTEL TIP Enhance any stay with an upgrade to the exclusive eighth-floor Club, featuring all-day light fare and cocktails, private meeting space, expansive views, and dedicated concierge services.
Those in the know in the United States capital have always chosen Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., as their hideaway of choice. Experience this warm and inviting hotel and savor the proximity to the city’s attractions – from Georgetown to the Smithsonian museums – and the renowned interior design by Tony Chi. The guest rooms are among the largest in D.C. and boast down duvets, spa-inspired bathrooms, and handcrafted art and furnishings. Dine at the Michelin- starred Blue Duck Tavern, where the season’s freshest ingredients are thoroughly satisfying – and try the local crab cakes and roasted bone marrow.
HOTEL TIP A tea specialist guides guests through the Tea Cellar’s renowned menu, which features more than 50 rare and limited-production, single estate teas from remote regions in China, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the Himalayas.
THE RITZ-CARLTON GEORGETOWN
In the heart of historic Georgetown, The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, D.C. is a AAA Five Diamond boutique hotel that blends contemporary design with historical influence. The turn-of-the-century structure features a lofty lobby with a fireplace in a living-room-style gathering place. The 86 guest rooms include 29 one-bedroom suites and five luxury suites overlooking the Potomac River and Georgetown proper. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Georgetown, and dining at Degrees Bistro await, as does The Yard, a summer garden with snacks and craft cocktails.
The Kennedy Center, waterfront, boutique shopping, and exciting nightlife are nearby.
HOTEL TIP Be sure to visit the signature wood-burning fireplace in The Living Room lobby. Cozy upon plush lounge seating and order the perfect martini within a convivial atmosphere.
Turn to page 263 to read more about the best of the best in Washington DC.
The top 6 hidden museums and memorials in DC & VA.
Tourists and even locals commonly visit the more traditional military museums and memorials located throughout Washington DC and the connecting states. And for good reason. As a country, we have taken extraordinary steps to ensure our military heroes (and families) is not only recognized for their service, but never forgotten.
Museums are like the quiet car of the world. It’s a place you can come to escape, where there’s authenticity, there’s uniqueness, there’s calm, there’s physicality. Thomas P. Campbell
As a veteran, I have a passion for history, specifically military history. I am blessed to live in a city that offers so many venues honoring the men and women of our armed services. I want to share a few hidden nuggets displaying a unique, and often original exhibits of our great military history.
The National Museum of the United States Navy
The National Museum of the United States Navy, or U.S. Navy Museum for short, is the flagship museum of the United States Navy and is located in the former Breech Mechanism Shop of the old Naval Gun Factory on the grounds of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
The National Museum of the U.S. Navy collects, preserves, displays, and interprets historic naval artifacts and artwork to inform, educate, and inspire naval personnel and the general public.
The Marine Corps Museum
Semper Fidelis – Always Faithful – a phrase synonymous with U.S. Marines and their legendary contributions in every clime and place. Here at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, we’re faithful to preserving and telling the material history of this elite fighting force.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is the historical museum of the United States Marine Corps. Located in Triangle, Virginia near MCB Quantico, the museum opened on November 10, 2006, and is now one of the top tourist attractions in the state, drawing over 500,000 people annually.
The Museum already tells more than 200 years of the Corps’ rich history, but we’re certainly not finished yet. In cooperation with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, we have completed construction and design on an additional 115,000 square feet where we’ll tell more of this amazing story. We’ve already opened the Marine Corps Combat Art Gallery, the Medal of Honor Theater and the Children’s Gallery. Lin Ezell, Museum Director
The Coast Guard Museum
Since its inception in 1790, the USCG has tirelessly answered the call to duty, saving lives, enforcing maritime law, combating terrorism, facilitating commerce and protecting the environment. The vital responsibilities of the USCG are carried out by highly trained men and women who perform these missions with honor, respect, and devotion to duty Coast Guard
Yet, the Coast Guard is the only branch of the armed services without a national museum to celebrate its role in the life of our Nation and to honor the men and women who serve. The public is generally unaware of the scale and scope of the Coast Guard’s missions. We have come to expect the MOST from the Coast Guard, but there is no place for the USCG to share with the public its history, to demonstrate its critical role in protecting us, and to highlight its relevance to the greatest issues facing our Nation.
“Our family is proud to contribute to this important National project and naming the Polar Explorations Gallery in recognition of our father, J.D. Power, III is a real honor.”
Susan J. Curtin Chair, National Coast Guard Museum Association Board of Directors Partner, Power Family Enterprises
The National Guard Memorial Museum
The National Guard Memorial Museum is a military museum hosted by the National Guard Educational Foundation. It is located in northwestern Washington, DC, near the National Postal Museum, Union Station and Georgetown University Law Center.
The National Guard’s story transcends all eras of our nation’s history, encompassing millions of citizen-soldiers past and present. Now, more than ever, Guardsmen are being asked to do more, both domestically and abroad. Today there are nearly 470,000 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen comprising the Army and Air National Guard in 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia, spanning more than 3,300 American communities.
Members of the National Guard serve both their states and their nation, making the National Guard the only U.S. military service that handles domestic and international missions in a unique state-federal partnership. Honoring their service and heroism for present and future generations is our duty and calling.
Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. 8th & I
Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., also known as “8th & I,” is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. It was founded by President Thomas Jefferson and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the second commandant of the Marine Corps, in 1801.
Located on the corners of 8th & I Streets in southeast Washington, D.C., the Barracks supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation’s capital.
The Barracks is home to many nationally recognized units, including the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Band, the official Marine Corps Color Guard, and the Marine Corps Body Bearers. It is also the site of the Home of the Commandants, which, along with the Barracks, is a registered national historic landmark.
Enjoy one of the evening parades which are free to the public (Reservations). The parades require reservations and can quickly sell out. You might also choose to see the drill team during one of their Tuesday parades located at the Lincoln Memorial (no reservations required).
Blue Star Museums
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums across America. Each summer since 2010, Blue Star Museums have offered free admission to the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve.
Blue Star Families is an all-volunteer military community making unprecedented sacrifices to serve our country. Blue Star Families was founded by military spouses in 2009 to empower these families to thrive as they serve. We’re committed to strengthening military families by connecting them with their neighbors – individuals and organizations – to create vibrant communities of mutual support. We believe we’re all stronger when we take care of one another.
For more information on Blue Star Museums, please see the Frequently Asked Questions. The 2019 Blue Star Museums program began on Saturday, May 18, 2019, Armed Forces Day, and ended on Monday, September 2, 2019, Labor Day.
Let me know of other great military museums and memorials that might otherwise go noticed.
“A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that complex and sometimes multiple ideas can be conveyed by a single still image. As we celebrate the millions of service members and their families this Veteran’s day let us remember the unspoken words related to the complexities of serving our great country.
The very first war photographer was an American. While the particular artist’s name has been lost to history, we do know that he was attached to the U.S. forces fighting in the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. And since then we use images to tell the stories often too hard to articulate in the spoken word.
Photographer Devin Mitchell, however, created a touching photo project called “The Veteran Art Project” that examines what lies on the other side of the uniform. Using Photoshop, Mitchell has created images of uniformed servicemen and women whose mirrored reflections reveal who they are – and vice versa.
Mitchell explains, “What viewers get to see is unabashed joy and unrelenting pain. There is pride, diversity, and there are Americans free to be whatever. And while the photos are very different, the format is the same. On one side of the mirror, the veteran is in uniform, on the other is an image the veterans choose themselves.
Too often our attention is captured by the heroic recruiting ‘posters’ and images displaying the glamorous side of the military. These images deflect our attention from the realities of long deployments, loss of life, and increasing cases of PTSD.
In image number 130 Craig Millward, an Army veteran, stands with his wife, Deva. It is a story of love and triumph. In the reflection, Craig is in his uniform leaning over the sink. Deva stands behind him with her hand on his arm, supporting her husband. Unlike most images, Deva, who is not a veteran or active-duty soldier, is in both images.
“We had a lot stacked up against us,” Deva said. The image’s message, she said, is that they “beat the system.” When Millward returned from deployment to Afghanistan in 2006, his reintegration process was difficult. It was hard to find a stable job, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and the two were newlyweds. But Millward said his wife’s conviction helped him become the man he is today. See their Interview on CBS.
Mitchell’s goal is to take 10,000 images of veterans and active duty service members from across the country.
As we celebrate our military service member heroes we need to appreciate the images that not only celebrate our countries freedoms, but the visual remembers of what was lost after the end of the welcome back parade.
I am honored to write this blog on behalf of John Bratton. John served our country in war and continues to fight for military families during their transition back into the civilian world. Thanks John for your dedication and service. (John’s Bio)
As an Army Logistics Officer, John served during Desert Storm leading the efforts of 156 men and women to war and back. His desire to continue working with the military community influenced an MBA with a thesis that focused on helping veterans transition from military to civilian life.
The innocence of asking a child, “what do you want to be when you grow up,”maybe be the seed that starts the journey toward the American dream. So many great leaders have described the American Dream, such as Martin Luther King’s famous, I Have a Dream speech that rallied a nation’s desire for equality. Or as Judy Garland puts it, “somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
So I ask you, what is your American dream?
I am honored and humbled to be featured in six episodes of The American Dream television show. I invite you to share my excitement in discovering the American dream right here in our backyard, Washington DC.
In cities all across the country, the American Dream features 8-12 Power Players of Real Estate to establish them as the “Expert of their Market’ within our show and our network. I have been chosen to represent DC in six upcoming episodes of The American Dream.
The American Dream is a Television show in its 5th year, which started in California and is now streaming and airing in nearly every major city. Our central focus is real estate and the people behind it. The show weaves its storylines between topics like homeownership, lifestyles, entrepreneurship, charity, neighborhood, and family.
Craig Sewing, host of The American Dream, explains, “The American Dream, a national cable talk show, is different from other programs. Our mission strays away from all negative viewpoints often found in the media, instead choosing to focus on educating, empowering, and engaging with viewers to help achieve personal American Dreams through subjects that include real estate, finance, and entrepreneurial mindset.”
Over the next few weeks, I will begin shooting the first few episodes, which will reflect my overall storyline of relationships, history, and community. The opportunity to bring DC’s culture, entertainment, and incredible neighborhood history to a national state is both exciting and humbling.
My 20 plus years in the DC, Virginia, and Maryland real estate market have brought thousands of new relationships and the chance to support the building of neighborhoods and the healthy growth of our city. I am blessed to work and live in the heart of Capital Hill. My home is surrounded by historical landmarks, incredible eateries, and exposure to some of the city’s most relished residential properties.
As a veteran, I will dedicate an episode to raise the awareness of our military service members as they transition from base-to-base throughout their careers. As one active duty spouse reflected, “I have a default master’s degree in logistics from moving my family ten times in the past 20 years.” I have had the honor to work with both active duty and veteran families to navigate the VA loan process resulting in faster closings and reduced upfront fees.
Join me in this journey of the American dream as we discover the sights and sounds of our local community and city. I want to thank all of my clients (friends) and family who have supported my dream of becoming a person of incredible passion, love, and integrity.
What is my American Dream? Well, stay tuned and follow me over the next year on The American Dream as I share my story with a city I love dearly.
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The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere.
Celebrate the Day of the Dead at The Wharf. We’re taking over Pearl Street for a memorable afternoon with live music by La Unica, beer stations, street food, a photo-booth, and more. Want to get creative yourself? Decorate a sugar skull or get your face painted. Plus, we’re giving out prizes for the best self-painted faces. Save the date now.
Celebrated: Thu, Oct 31, 2019 – Sat, Nov 2, 2019
Trending Celebrations: Creation of altars to remember the dead, traditional dishes for the Day of the Dead
Significance: Prayer and remembrance of friends and family members who have died
Observed by: Mexico, and regions with large Mexican populations
Capital Hill offers some of the District’s most excellent culinary eateries such as Montmartre, Chiko, and Beuchert’s Saloon and soon will welcome Asad Sheikh’s Bombay Street Food 2. This week Asad Sheikh’s most notable contribution to the culture of his native land, Bombay (Mumbai), and the bright and vibrant flavors of India will expand his original Columbia Heights location to Barrack’s Row.
The Capitol Hill area has a longstanding reputation for offering the city’s most diverse and culturally rich restaurants. As a long-time resident of the area, I have enjoyed the consistency of choice and experience provided by the inspiring and genius food aficionados.
My 20 years as a real estate agent has brought vast memories of showing my clients the hidden pockets of neighborhoods, including the row homes of Eastern Market, the history of Barracks Row, and the blooming Washington Navy Yard. But the most vivid reflections are the times spent introducing new resident’s tastebuds to the many flavors of my favorite eateries.
My next post will review the sites, sounds, and yes, the tastes of the upcoming holidays offered by our community.
Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Washington DC area as fall colors of red, yellow, purple, and brown start blanketing everything from the National Mall to charming neighborhoods. The beginning of fall offers an assortment of opportunities to enjoy the uniqueness of the nation’s capital.
For some, fall brings the spookiness of Halloween, for others the perfect tailgating weather, or early evening meet-ups at local restaurant patios. Regardless of the tradition, it seems the phenomenon of autumn brings a particular excitement. To make the most out of your fall experience Rachel Cooper from TripSavvy offers some popular places to enjoy fall foliage in the capital region.
Rock Creek Park
One of the largest parks in Washington, D.C., and the third-oldest in the nation, Rock Creek Park stretches 30 miles from Montgomery County, Maryland, to downtown D.C. Here, you can enjoy some leaf-peeping and a picnic, take a hike, bike, or horseback ride, or attend a park ranger program.
Throughout the year, you can explore the Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium, the historic Peirce Mill, or Old Stone House. Popular annual fall events include the Rock Creek Park Day in late September and the Heritage Festival in mid-October. Admission to Rock Creek Park and all attractions within the park is free.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Starting in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park spans over 184 miles to Cumberland, Maryland, and offers guests breathtaking vistas and plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, fish, boat, and horseback ride along the towpath.
Access to the park boasting more than 20,000 acres is free, except for the Great Falls Entrance Station, where you can purchase passes near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. Popular events this time of year include the Dulcimer Music at Great Falls series, “A Very Retail Georgetown” historic walking tour, and Scary Stories on the Canal at the Great Falls Tavern.
United States National Arboretum
The United States National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., is a living museum that showcases 446 acres of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. You can tour the gardens on your own by foot, car, or bicycle or take the 40-minute tram ride and hear an informative taped narrative about the Arboretum, its history, and the display gardens and collections.
The National Arboretum offers a variety of hikes and public education programs throughout the year, but they typically wind down for the winter season. In October, you can catch the annual Under the Arbor: Chile Pepper Celebration in the National Herb Garden or try some full moon forest bathing in the middle of October.
Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens
The 500-acre estate of George Washington, located along the shores of the Potomac River in Mount Vernon, Virginia, is exceptionally beautiful during the fall foliage season. You can tour the estate while you’re there, but make sure you spend plenty of time outdoors exploring the gardens and taking in the natural scenery, too.
Fall Harvest Family Days, Fall Dried Wreath Workshops, and Trick-or-Treating at Mount Vernon are among the most popular annual events on the estate.
Great Falls Park
Stretching from Great Falls, Virginia, to Potomac, Maryland, Great Falls Park has some of the most spectacular views in the region. At various overlook points spread throughout the 800-acre park, you can witness all of the vibrant fall colors from 50-foot cliffs overlooking the Potomac River. Great Falls also offers hiking and biking trails, and picnic areas.
Due to flooding during the hurricane season (September through November), some trails and locations may be inaccessible. Swimming and entering the river are prohibited at the park due to deadly currents and flood possibilities, though kayaking with safety measures taken is allowed. Admission costs depend on if you are entering by vehicle or on foot, bike, or horseback, and grant access for seven consecutive days.
Seneca Creek State Park
Located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Seneca Creek State Park spans over 6,300 acres alongside 14 miles of Seneca Creek. During October and November, you can spend an entire day hiking through the park, snapping pictures of the fall foliage reflected in the water.
The park is also home to the 90-acre Clopper Lake, hiking trails, a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a restored 19th-century cabin. You can witness all the brilliant fall foliage from the lake by renting a boat, canoe, or kayak (or bringing your own), and there are also plenty of opportunities to fish from the shore. There is a charge for Maryland residents and a higher charge for out-of-state guests to enter the park.
This small mountain in Dickerson, Maryland, is a National Historic Landmark with an elevation of 1,282 feet and a vertical height of 800 feet above the surrounding farmland. In addition, Strong Mansion on Sugarloaf Mountain is a popular destination that hosts events year-round.
Hikers can enjoy striking views of foliage along the trails, including several well-marked loops ranging in distance from 2.5 to 7 miles. Horseback riding and picnicking are additional recreational possibilities. Those driving can also pull up to the Sugarloaf Mountain lookout point get equally stunning views. Access to both is free year-round.
Cunningham Falls State Park
In the Catoctin Mountains near Thurmont, Maryland, Cunningham Falls State Park has a 78-foot cascading waterfall, a lake, and hiking trails ranging from 0.5 miles to 8 miles long. The park is a great place to enjoy outdoor recreation all year, featuring swimming, fishing, canoeing, camping, and events throughout the summer and fall.
Costs at the park are slightly higher if you are from out of state. You can rent camping and hiking gear from the park store.
Black Hills Regional Park
Covering over 2,000 acres in Boyds, Maryland, Black Hill Regional Park offers a wide variety of activities, including hiking, picnicking, boating, and guided nature programs. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views over Little Seneca Lake, and hikers, bikers, and horseback riders can explore miles of trails in the park. There is also a visitor center that hosts nature programs and offers interpretive tours throughout the year, which are child-friendly.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is located about an hour outside of Washington in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and was the site of a famous battle in the American Civil War. The park covers over 2,300 acres and also crosses into Maryland and Virginia. Visitors can enjoy a variety of scenic hiking trails and exploring the historic town, ranger-guided tours, craft shops, museums, and restaurants.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is open year-round, but some areas may be inaccessible in the winter months. Admission costs to the park are higher if entering per vehicle than if arriving on foot or bicycle, and you can also purchase an annual pass to save money.
Burke Lake Park
Burke Lake Park is located in Fairfax Station, Virginia, and offers a wide variety of recreational activities, including camping, hiking, fishing, and boating on the 218-acre lake within the park’s 888 acres. There is also a miniature train, a carousel, an 18-hole, par-3 golf course, disk golf horseshoe pits, an amphitheater, and a miniature golf course onsite.
Burke Lake Park is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year, depending on the weather, and then on weekends until late October. There is no entrance fee for Fairfax County residents, but non-residents must pay on weekends and holidays only (weekdays are free).
Special events at Burke Lake Park include a sunset cruise, the annual Fall Family Campout, and the special Halloween campfire in October, as well as several fall foliage boat tours offered throughout November (until the leaves fall).
As we enter the fall season, take the opportunity to acknowledge the many blessings we enjoy in our lives. Don’t let the noise of our busy world distract you from the beauty of nature’s transition. Take a few minutes and stand still and take in the sights, the smells, and the feeling of life.
The landscape of residential homes are quickly adjusting to the upswing in boutique fitness studios. The rapid growth of fitness properties, such as Orangetheory, SoulCycle, and Rumble, to name a few, are beginning to attract a particular type of home buyer. Katherine Rosman of the New York Times describes the phenomena as boutique ‘fitness clusters’ emerging in suburban shopping developments and gentrifying city neighborhoods.
There is a growing consumer class more interested in living close to holistic health oriented venues opposed to retail shopping. The typical brick-and-mortar retail store has seen significant competition from the high demand hot yoga, pilates, boxing, and cycling studios. Jamie, a senior at American University, explains, “I can order my groceries online and have them delivered by Whole Foods. I would rather live in an area where I can walk or take a short Metro ride to my yoga studio.”
Jamie is not alone in her mindset. The expansion of fitness clusters is seen in a variety of DC neighborhoods becoming anchors to new developments, including healthy restaurant concepts like HipCityVeg and Sweetgreens. And for this reason, real estate agents see an uptick in requests for condos and townhouses located in these neighborhoods.
Although millennials and Gen Zs may seem to be the target market of farm-to-table-vegan-fitness driven neighborhoods, there are plenty of Gen X-Ys craving the minimalist lifestyle. Downsizing, both in square feet and distance, are becoming a must-have amenity when searching for properties with their real estate agent. Broker John Bratton has been working with DC buyers and sellers for the past twenty years. “It is amazing the shift in demand for certain neighborhoods based on boutique type services.”
Brokers are adjusting their marketing techniques reflecting demands from clients wanting to take advantage of new studio construction and pre-boutique pricing vs. traditional requirements for high ceilings and walk-in closets.
And who can blame them for wanting the MALL walking experience, a movement started back in the early 1960’s. David Bouchier’s 1999 article, OUT OF ORDER; At the Mall, Walking and Wondering Why, points out that physicians figured out that the only way to persuade people to exercise was to combine it with shopping. Now that shopping has gone online and consumers are relying on developers to build exercise opportunities within walking distance of their homes.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR) these new fitness studios now make up a big part of what’s been called the “experiential economy.” HBR explains that experience occurs -when a company intentionally uses services as the stage, and goods as props, to engage individual customers in a way that creates a memorable event. Today, the concept of selling experiences is spreading beyond movie theaters and sporting events, but to the boutique offerings that provide both tangible services (cycling, yoga, etc.) and an experience (a high-paced music driven motivational workout).
As the experience economy unfolds, so will the desire for homebuyers to require proximity to their favorite boutique studio. Proximity is a must-have and homebuyers are willing to pay. The developers are listening and building new properties throughout the city, such at the Wharf, Capital Crossing, Eastern Market, Mount Vernon, and Capitol Hill. And don’t worry, your favorite boutique studio is right around the corner.
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Like most home loans, you will be required to fill out a bunch of paperwork in order to apply for a VA loan. Everything from your personal information to the documentation of your finances will need to be submitted and reviewed.
If you don’t want to delay your application and slow down the process, it’s important that you make sure to submit everything the lender needs as soon as possible. So, to help you prepare and be organized, we’ve put together this overview of what you need to apply for a VA home loan.
Military Service Information
One of the first steps to getting a VA home loan is documenting and providing proof your military service. You cannot get a VA loan unless you meet the proper service requirements.
Certificate of Eligibility
This document is one of the first that your lender will need. You can either request it yourself or your lender can request it for you. Having your lender request it is usually faster and easier.
You will also need a copy of this form if you are no longer in the military. It will help verify your service history and be used in conjunction with your Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
Statement of Service
If you are still active duty, your commanding officer will need to sign a statement of service. This letter must include your full name, social security number, birthdate, the date you entered active duty, any lost time, and the name of the command. And, of course, your commanding officer’s signature.
You should automatically know most of this information without needing to look it up. However, some information, like your prior addresses and maybe even your social security number, may require you to put in more time to make sure it’s accurate.
You will need to know and provide the address of everywhere you’ve lived during the past two years. Make sure you don’t leave any place out, even if you only lived there for a month or two!
Social Security Numbers
If you have yours memorized, great! If not, make sure you look it up before your application. In addition, if you will have a co-borrower on your loan, like your spouse, you will need to know their social security number as well.
This portion of the process is one of the most involved parts of applying for a VA mortgage loan, as it has the most documents you will need to gather. It includes everything from income verification and employment to related debts.
You will need to find and submit your W2s for the past two years. These forms will be used to verify your income and make sure it’s either been consistent or has improved year to year.
Leave & Earnings Statement
Your latest leave and earnings statement (LES) will show the lender two important things: (1) proof of income and (2) your expiration of term of service (ETS). If your ETS is within the next 12 months, you will need to provide further documentation.
If you have already left service, instead of an LES, you will be required to submit your most recent pay stubs for the last 30 days, or documentation of any disability or retirement income.
If you have children, most lenders require a written childcare statement. This should outline how much you spend each month on childcare and, if applicable, how much you pay in child support.
If you do not have any childcare expenses, you will still need to declare this fact on the statement and include an explanation for why you don’t have these expenses.
If you’d like to include any self-employment or rental income, or if more than a quarter of your income comes from bonuses, commissions, or side businesses, you will need to submit your two most recent federal income tax forms.
Because mortgages usually come with closing costs, even VA mortgages, your lender may require you to provide your banks statements for the past 60 days to make sure you’ll be able to cover these expenses. When submitting these statements, make sure you include any blank pages, as well.
Lenders may also want to know your job history for the past two years. As part of this information, you will need to provide the name of each employer, as well as their address, phone number, and dates of employment.
An important part of any mortgage application is your credit history. While the VA does not have a minimum credit score requirements, some lenders do. In addition, all lenders will be looking at your overall credit history to make sure you seem like a good credit risk.
Proof of Errors
If there are errors on your credit report that haven’t been removed yet, you will need to submit proof of these errors to your lender.
Explanation of Late Payments
If your credit report shows any late payments, it doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot get a VA loan. However, your lender will likely require a written explanation for these late payments. Basically, lenders want to be confident you’ll make your loan payments on time, and that any prior late payments were due to extenuating circumstances.
Bankruptcy & Discharge Documents
If you’ve ever declared bankruptcy, you will need to provide these documents, in addition to the documents showing that your bankruptcy was discharged and you are no longer under any financial obligations.
Start Your Application
While this list doesn’t cover absolutely everything you’ll need to get a VA Loan, it does cover what you’ll need to start the process.
Once you’ve gathered all of the documents and information listed above, you’re ready to find your perfect lender, start the search for your dream home, and dive into the actual application process. Because of your preparation, you can expect the process to be hassle- and headache-free.
John Bratton explains what makes Washington, D.C. such a great area to live, work, and play. It has become one of the hottest places in the country, with great diversity and a strong housing market. Even when the economy takes a hit, our nation’s capital stays strong in property values and jobs in comparison to the rest of the United States. That is why you need a realtor who knows the region like John Bratton, let him guide you along the way to finding your dream home in Washington D.C.
John has been working the area long before the notorious Banana Cafe closed and became District Soul Food. It’s important to work with an agent & Broker that knows the past, understands the present and has a keen insight on the future developments.
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