The many men and women who fight for our country must move often and be far away from loved ones for long stretches.
To thank them for their service, veterans and those in active military duty get a little help buying a place to call home.
The record number of those men and women tapping Veterans Administration-guaranteed mortgages to buy homes with no down payment and low interest rates is a great housing trend for many reasons.
The homeownership rate for VA borrowers is much higher than for regular borrowers, and the default rate on their mortgages is lower.
“Every veteran deserves a home, and to know about the many VA loan benefits they are eligible for,” G-II Varrato II, president of the Arizona Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, told me.
That group is hosting its 4th Annual Veterans Housing Summit on May 20, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix. Lenders will be there to help veterans and military members understand their loan benefits.
Tech Sgt. Jesus Garcia and his wife, Ruth, were able to use a VA loan to close on a Peoria home, close to his job at Luke Air Force Base and his daughter's school, on Wednesday.
The couple was also able to install $6,000 in new windows with a little-known energy-efficient mortgage program from the VA.
“I tell everyone I know about VA loan programs,” Jesus Garcia told me. “They offer a lot more than people realize.”
Still many active military and veterans don’t know about the benefits of VA loans. A recent federal survey found only one in three people who were eligible for VA loans knew about them.
Last year, almost 17,500 borrowers used VA loans to buy metro Phoenix homes. That’s up 100 percent from 2012, according to the VA and Veterans United Home Loans.
“The VA loan program has experienced a renaissance since the housing crisis,” Chris Birk, an education expert with Veterans United Home Loans, told me. “About 200,000 people leave the military every year, and most have an inherent desire to buy a home in the country they fought to defend.”
The VA loan program was created in 1944 for vets returning home from World War II. Since then, more than 20 million people who have served this country have been able to buy a house through it.
But many more are eligible for the program.
When we honor our military and thank them for their service in a few weeks on Memorial Day, I would also like to remind them about their well-deserved VA benefits to buy a home.