Are Vets Missing Out on Home Ownership?

December 29, 2014

Military vets who fail to look into government programs could be leaving money on the table when they purchase a home, according to a new article published by the Los Angeles Times.

Loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs potentially offer big savings, and can be a way for qualified military personnel to break into home ownership since they often don’t require a down payment. In the majority of places, vets can borrow up to $144,000 without making any down payment on their home purchase. The limit stretches higher in some places. For example, in Sacramento, Calif. the maximum that can be borrowed is $827,500, and it's $546,250 in San Diego.

For buyers who do have to go above the limits, lenders typically require a down payment of $1 for every $4 borrowed over the limit. In other words, the Los Angeles Times article notes: If a vet is borrowing $200,000, he or she will most likely need $14,000 as a down payment in most markets.

The fear of paperwork may scare off some potential buyers who are eligible for VA loans. But, according to data from the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, VA loans close up to two days faster than conventional mortgages.

The VA loan program is among the fastest-growing sectors in the mortgage market, according to Inside Mortgage Finance. The VA department owned nearly 25 percent of the primary insured-loan market, which outpaces the Federal Housing Administration. What’s more, the vet population is huge: Nearly 12 percent of 16.4 million active-duty service members and military vets with a mortgage have a VA loan, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Several states and local governments also offer vets assistance on home purchases. For example, the California Housing Finance Agency has a tax credit program that reduces buyer's federal taxes, which thereby creates extra income to use toward the monthly house payment. In Arizona, compensation received by service members who are on active duty any month of the year is exempt from income taxes on those months' income. Arizona also offers a property tax exemption for widows and widowers of vets, as well as disabled persons. Also, some counties offer special savings to vets too. For example, in San Diego, qualifying military personnel may be eligible for rehab loans to help pay for fixes to existing properties.  Military.com offers a state breakdown of financing options for veterans. 

Source: “Sellers who Ignore VA Buyers Are Missing Out,” United Feature Syndicate/Los Angeles Times (Dec. 28, 2014)