Veterans and active-duty military require special help when buying and selling real estate. From frequent moves to special government loans, members of the military need a specially trained real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of military life.
Agents with knowledge and experience. When looking for a good real estate agent, ask other veterans for referrals. When contacting a brokerage firm, ask for a veteran friendly agent. You want to find an agent who is knowledgeable about VA loans and about the special circumstances you may have.
Agents must be ready to deal with sudden and frequent moves. Sometimes it seems like you’ve barely unpacked the boxes from your last move when you get notice of a change of duty station. You may have a short time to sell and a short time to look for and buy a new home at your new station. Ten-day leaves are common.
Your agent should be willing to step in and help a spouse who may have to deal with most of the process. You may get called away at times that force your spouse to deal with the process of buying or selling a house alone.
Veterans Administration loans. This is one of the most important benefits available to veterans, but it requires an agent and mortgage lender skilled in the requirements to make it happen for you.
Let’s zero in on two of these topics: the VA loan process and housing for disabled vets.
VA loans. Veterans Administration loans are offered through private lenders, but backed by the U.S. government. You may be eligible for a VA loan if you meet one or more of the following:
- You served 90 consecutive days active duty in wartime
- You served 181 days active duty in peacetime
- You have six years or more in the National Guard
- You are the spouse of a service member killed in the line of duty or from a service-related disability.
VA loans have more flexible underwriting requirements than conventional loans. You can finance up to 100 percent of the purchase price of a property. The costs of a VA loan are lower than conventional loans, but there is a service fee that can be rolled into the loan amount. You must show income and ability to repay and private lenders will want to see a credit score of 620 or better. However, you will not have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI) for financing more than 80 percent, as with conventional and FHA loans. You should be aware that the VA does have a set of property requirements for the house you choose. If you have difficulty repaying, the VA has specialists who help you work with the lender on a repayment plan.
Disabled veteran housing needs. If you are a disabled vet with special needs, look for an agent aware of physical accommodations to help you. If you are in a wheelchair you will need doors 30 inches wide, lipless thresholds for exterior doors and the shower and grab bars in the bathroom. Lowered light switches, single-lever handled faucets and many other features are also available for the disabled. An agent already attuned to these needs can greatly ease the shopping process. Other features may be needed for the sight or hearing impaired.