By November 14, 2011 0 Comments Read More →

Why VA Loans Are More Important Than Ever

The last few years have proved a mixed bag for home buyers and homeowners alike.

Borrowers who qualify have reaped the benefits of government-sponsored tax credit programs and record-low interest rates. At the same time, the subprime mortgage meltdown and ensuing financial crisis created a restrictive credit environment and made it significantly tougher for some to purchase homes or refinance.

That relatively grim storyline isn’t exactly the same for military members.

VA loan volume has soared 135 percent since 2007. Falling home prices and a watertight credit market have brought new attention to the long-cherished VA home loan program.

Veterans and active duty service members don’t need to hit strict credit or income guidelines to participate. These loans also come with significant financial benefits. Veterans routinely point to the program’s signature benefit as its most powerful: Qualified borrowers can purchase a home with no money down.

Given the current lending environment, it’s almost difficult to believe anyone can buy a house today without shelling out money up front. But it’s true, it’s incredibly powerful and it’s a benefit that only one other loan product — USDA Rural Development loans — can still provide.

Nearly 90 percent of the VA loans issued in fiscal year 2010 came with no down payment.

“Most people don’t realize, especially younger people and first time-homebuyers, what a benefit it is,” said Scott Dow, of Charleston, S.C., a former Coast Guard officer and Reservist who has purchased two homes using his VA benefit. “I would not have been able to purchase a home without a VA loan.”

The VA loan and military borrowers have also proved resilient in the face of foreclosure.

VA loans have the lowest rate of foreclosure of any product on the market. Part of that success is due to the loan counseling experts at the VA who work tirelessly to keep veterans and their families from losing their homes. But committed military homeowners deserve much of the credit as well.

Despite their wide-ranging benefits, VA loans have been utilized by only a fraction of the nation’s 24 million veterans. Fewer than 13 percent have taken advantage of the program to purchase or refinance a home, according to VA benefit breakdowns.

What’s worse is nearly 20 percent of veterans are not even aware of the program’s existence, according to a 2004 report from the VA.

To be sure, a VA loan isn’t a perfect fit for every military borrower. Veterans with sizable down payments or sterling credit may find better loan terms elsewhere. But this crucial program has served as a springboard to homeownership for more than 18 million veterans since 1944.

Today, as a new era of mortgage lending takes root, the VA Loan Guaranty program is more important than ever for those who have served our country.


About the author: Chris Birk writes about real estate and the mortgage industry for a host of sites and publications, from Lenderama and Bigger Pockets to the Huffington Post and Motley Fool. A former newspaper and magazine writer, he is also content director for a leading VA lender. Follow him on Google+.


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