Veterans serve our country with their bravery and patriotism, and the United States repays them with several benefits including the VA Loan, famous for having a 0 percent downpayment.
Not having to make a downpayment can be huge for VA home buyers, but that’s not the only benefit. The loan also has no mortgage insurance, limits certain closing costs a veteran can pay, and can be assumed by qualified persons.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 352,951 VA Guaranteed Home Loans were written in 2016 totaling $89,096,072. The average loan was $252,432.
Sometimes, the VA loan is the difference allows veterans to find their dream home. Here are a couple of those vets who were able to take advantage of this special benefit:
Finding a home in good school district
Jerod Haymaker served in the Marines from 1995 through 1999.
“I remember hearing about the VA loan when I was in. But I was so young and buying a house was the furthest thing from my mind,” he says.
When he was released from active duty, Haymaker spoke to a VA rep who helped him apply for a bunch of VA-related benefits – the VA loan eligibility certificate was one of them. The certificate was placed in a box, forgotten about and eventually lost.
“For the current home we just purchased, I just googled VA home loan. The process now is much more streamlined and all completed online. I simply just contacted the lender, and gave him a copy of my DD Form 214 (Discharge from Active Duty) and eligibility was verified within minutes.”
Haymaker, 39, who works as a manager at Fed Ex in Minneapolis, and his wife, Lindsey, a flight attendant for Southwest, wanted to find a big home in a good school district for their two growing daughters.
“The home is pretty much like any home from any episode of HGTV’s ‘House Hunters.’ We have all of the popular amenities except for granite in the kitchen,” he says. “The school district and safety were the huge determining factors on where we decided to buy.”
The house sits on a street with a cul-de-sac, so keeping an eye on the kids is easy, he adds.
It has plenty of space with three large bedrooms and a decent-sized master bath with walk-in closet, two full bathrooms, a powder room on the main floor, stainless appliances, upper-level laundry and easy-to-care-for landscaping.
Also, parks and trails are a walkable distance from the home. The couple moved to Minnesota from Illinois in late 2015 when Haymaker received a promotion.
“When we bought our first home in Illinois, it was at the housing bubble peak and financing was very easy to get. A zero percent down loan was the norm. So, we opted to use a traditional loan not a VA loan,” he adds.
Since the market has tightened up and all signs point to rates increasing, the couple decided that the 30-year fixed zero down VA loan was the best option. They closed on the house this March.
“We worked with a lender that was very experienced with the VA loan. He was very knowledgeable and knew exactly what documents would be needed,” Haymaker says. “If we had not used the VA loan, it would have been possible to purchase the home. But we would have been house poor from the start.”
Not having to pay a downpayment freed up their cash to improve their credit, pay moving expenses, buy furniture and cover all the little things that always seem to add up quickly.
“The VA loan process was very efficient and easy. Our home passed with no findings and the process was painless,” Haymaker says.
Laundry chute winner
For 24 years, Keith O. served with the Army. When he got out and returned home, he and his family searched for the perfect house. They found it in North Wilmington, Del. The 4-bedroom, 2 ½-bath split-level home already had a completely renovated kitchen.
“Believe it or not, what sold it for me was the laundry chute. That has been a godsend for us. I have a nice four-season room off the back, and I spend a lot of time out there with a cup of coffee, early in the mornings when it’s quiet,” he says.
Keith says he had been given briefings about the VA loan on occasion while he was serving. But once he left the Army and returned home, it was brought to his attention by his real estate agent.
“I was lucky enough to have been introduced to a loan officer who specializes in VA loans, as well as being a veteran himself. He answered every single question as if he was wrote it,” Keith says.
His loan officer, Darren Corder, is a U.S. Navy and Army National Guard veteran. He works as the senior loan officer and VA lending specialist for Caliber Home Loans in Newark, Del.
Keith said that if his family hadn’t used the VA loan, it would have wiped out every penny they saved.
“That was a scary thought for us,” he adds.
With the ability to put no money down, and then by negotiating seller assistance as well as receiving a lender credit toward closing, he actually got his deposit back at the closing. This allowed him and his family to buy new furniture and lawn equipment.
All Keith ever heard was horror stories about the VA loan.
“That simply didn’t happen to us. I have a special needs child, and we needed to get it done quickly and with as little hassle as possible. That’s exactly what we got,” he explains.
“The one thing I can say is that who you work with during the process is critical. I had a patient, professional real estate agent, and our loan officer knew VA inside and out. He was also a veteran, and simply understood me.”