A VA benefit could make it tougher for metro military families to buy homes

ATLANTA — If you shopped for a home last year you know how tough it can be. Low home inventory and competitive all-cash offers can make it feel impossible to make a purchase.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston learned that the odds are even tougher for metro military families.

They fear a benefit to make it easier for veterans and service members to buy houses may be keeping them from getting one.

Stigma around the Veterans Affairs Home Loan program may leave some sellers reluctant to make a deal.

“It was very important for me to have them in a place a stable environment where they can, you know, grow and thrive,” explained mom and Navy veteran Regina Williams.

She said the Henry County home she purchased in October 2021 is a dream come true.

“I’m still in shock because although we can purchase homes, it’s just a process that I went through and everything that happened.”

For three years Williams faced setback after setback while looking for a home.

First, a builder canceled her contract on a home a month before they were scheduled to close. Then offers on more than 30 homes were denied.

Regina feared it was because she was prequalified for a VA Home Loan.

“I wanted to give up, “Williams said.” I felt so defeated.”

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Veterans United Home Loans is the biggest lender of VA-backed home loans, including Williams’.

Vice President of Mortgage Insight and Director of Education Chris Birk said the program offers of zero-down and low interest rates are a big win for service members and veterans who often can’t build credit and save for a home while serving our country.

“I think one of the big misconceptions among home sellers and listing agents is that this is a loan product that’s littered with bureaucracy and red tape that it’s going to take forever to close.”

Birk said some sellers fear the VA’s unique appraisal process and paperwork will drag out the sale and they’ll be on the hook for costly home repairs.

“We’re seeing some sellers who won’t even entertain a VA offer. They only want to see offers that are all cash or conventional.”

According to a 2021 survey by the National Association of Realtors, 59% of sellers said strict home inspection requirements make VA home loans less attractive. Appraisal value, low down payment and closing time were also concerns.

“They’re always having to combat those stigmas but especially in a market that is so competitive like we’re seeing now. Veterans with VA loans are just having a hard time,” said Emily DeVito with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Last month DeVito testified before Congress to ask the VA to ease the appraisal process and educate realtors and sellers to help eliminate stigma about the program.

She said VA loans typically close within a week of a conventional mortgage, and they have lower default rates than other government backed loans.

“They don’t necessarily have the same sort of cash savings that their civilian counterparts have,” DeVito said. “To be able to take advantage and have an opportunity that they would not otherwise have, by having to provide a down payment is such a huge benefit.”

Regina Williams credits her home to a lucky break. The seller of her now home called Williams’ loan officer to ask about the VA’s appraisal and closing process. It put them at ease, and they accepted her offer.

Williams said sellers should think twice about who they’re saying no to when they turn down a VA loan.

“We deserve a safe place to sleep, also a comfortable place to sleep and raise our families,” Williams said.

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