WASHINGTON — Troops can now borrow up to $417,000 in a no-down-payment home loan through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which boosted its loan maximum by 16 percent this month.

Previously the largest loan available through the program was $359,650.

Two years ago servicemembers could only borrow up to $240,000 for home purchases.

Keith Pedigo, director of the department’s loan guaranty service, said that in 2004 Congress linked the low-interest military loan program to the current conventional loan limits set by federal loan backers, to better reflect the actual cost of owning a home.

That resulted in the $177,000 jump in the loan maximums over the last two years. Pedigo said under the previous limits many servicemembers were priced out of expensive housing markets such as San Diego and New York.

Linda Johnson, spokeswoman for the National Association of Realtors, said officials there see the increases as an important boost for veterans and troops.

Many homes in major metropolitan areas would not be affordable to those buyers without the VA loan increase, since housing prices in those expensive markets are already at that $400,000-plus price tag, she said.

The loan program allows the department to provide a financial guarantee to lenders on a military buyer’s behalf, which in turn allows the mortgage company to offer lower interest rates on the loan, even without a down payment.

Most veterans, active-duty troops and reservists are eligible for the loans, Pedigo said.

Pedigo said in the nine months following last year’s increase, the department issued 11,900 loans between the old $240,000 and then-maximum $359,650.

“That’s clear evidence the increase was needed,” he said.

“That’s 11,900 families who probably could not have made that purchase without the loan increase.”

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