Housing Options Available to Veterans
Paul Giblin, The Republic | azcentral.com Published 7:19 a.m. MT May 28, 2015
A year ago, Air Force Sr. Airman Kimberly Corley ventured into the housing market with a fair amount of uncertainty.
She and her civilian husband, Marcus, had been renting a property near Luke Air Force Base, but their lease was set expire and their landlord planned to move into the house.
“We had like a month to find a house and move in,” Kimberly Corley said. “We had been looking, but originally, we weren’t planning to get one unless we for sure, for sure, found one.”
They also faced the daunting process of securing financing to purchase their own place.
The Corleys were apprehensive about sinking a huge chunk of their savings into a down payment. They were vaguely aware of the VA Home Loan program and other incentives that help military personnel and veterans to obtain financing, but they didn’t know the details.
Around that time, they attended the Veterans Housing Summit, a series of free workshops presented by the non-profit Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals.
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Corley planned to transition out of the Air Force, but she learned she needed to extend her military commitment to qualify for the loan. She got the paperwork for both the extension and the loan right away.
The couple secured a VA loan with reduced fees, no down payment and a 3.75 percent interest rate. They used it to purchase a 2,100-square-foot house in Surprise with four bedrooms and 21/2 bathrooms.
“I love it,” she said. “It is a two-story house. A wonderful neighborhood. We talk to our neighbors. The kids go out and play just about every day.”
Like the Corleys, military service members and veterans often are unaware of the range of programs available to assist them with homeownership, said real-estate agent George “G-II” Varrato, who serves as a director for the veterans association that presented the housing summit.
The group’s mission is to increase awareness among active-duty military personnel and veterans, said Varrato, a retired Vietnam-era Air Force staff sergeant.
He and others will outline several programs at the second Veterans Housing Summit, set for Saturday at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.
“Veterans are not aware of the fact that these ancillary tools can be used in conjunction with their VA benefits,” he said. “A veteran can make a real-estate purchase with no money down, and the only thing he really has to come to the table with is closing costs.”
Chief among the programs is an initiative called Home in 5, offered by the Industrial Development Authorities of Maricopa County and Phoenix. The initiative makes money available to qualified buyers for down payments and closing costs.
Industrial development authorities are non-profit corporations designated by government bodies. They issue taxable and tax-exempt revenue bonds for multimillion-dollar private-sector developments such as charter schools, multifamily housing complexes and medical facilities.
The Maricopa and Phoenix authorities rolled out the Home in 5 program three years ago to help sell foreclosed homes and revitalize distressed neighborhoods, said Lydia Lee, community relations administrator for the Phoenix authority.
Civilian homebuyers can apply for grants of up to 5 percent of the value of the home loans to use for down payments and closing costs.
Military personnel and veterans can apply for up to 6 percent.
“We just wanted to reach out specifically to veterans for what they’ve done for our country, for what they’ve done for our state,” Lee said. “It was a way for us to give back a little bit more.”
The grants are funded by fees collected from other business that the authorities conduct, and do not have to be repaid by homebuyers, Lee said.
The financial assistance can be used for new or existing houses, condominiums, townhouses or manufactured homes.
The Maricopa and Phoenix authorities have helped roughly 5,350 families obtain more than $880 million in mortgage loans, according to the organizations.
Yet, the program could benefit more veterans, Varrato said.
“It’s very, very infrequently used because too many lenders and even real-estate agents don’t advise the vet that this money is available,” Varrato said.
Federal, state, county, municipal and non-profit programs offer similar programs to ease the way for military personnel and veterans, he said.
The federally guaranteed VA Loan program.
The mortgage program is geared toward military personnel and offers distinct advantages over traditional mortgages. Among the advantages are no down payments, no private mortgage insurance requirements and interest rates that typically are lower than non-VA loans.
Maricopa County’s Housing Opportunity for Service Disabled Veterans Program.
The initiative provides funding for veterans with service-connected disabilities to modify their homes by widening doorways, adding exterior ramps, installing grab bars in bathrooms and making similar alterations that improve accessibility.
The county provides the money as “loans,” though the loans require no payments and are completely forgivable, provided veterans live in the homes for at least seven years.
Military Assistance Mission’s financial assistance program.
The Phoenix-based non-profit organization offers grants for overdue mortgage bills and other expenses to enlistees graded E-6 and lower, and to post-9/11 Purple Heart Medal recipients regardless of rank.
Mark Macias, a spokesman for Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, said the mobile military lifestyle can complicate homeownership.
“Veterans and military families, they move around a lot. And the government doesn’t put any money aside on these educational programs,” he said.
“That’s why VAREP came together as a non-profit. The purpose is to educate veterans on all of the different programs,” Macias said.
For Corley, at least, the mobile lifestyle has come to an end.
She’s from Mississippi, but after being stationed at Luke for six years, she’s come to love Arizona. Marcus works for Central Arizona Project, and Kimberly plans to find a civilian job.
“This is our home now,” she said.
Veterans Housing Summit
What: The Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals is conducting informational seminars for military personnel and veterans interested in becoming homeowners.
When: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Check in at 8 a.m.)
Where: Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, 340 N. Third St., Phoenix.
Topics: VA loan assistance, home-loan preapproval, credit counseling, downpayment assistance, VA certificate of eligibility, housing services and more.
Info:www.veteranshousingsummit.com (click on Phoenix), 602-796-5674, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals
Veterans assistance programs
Several government agencies and private organizations offer programs to help military personnel and veterans obtain, modify and keep housing. Here’s a selection:
Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals: varep.net
Home in 5 program: www.mcida.com/cm/content/home_ownership.asp
VA Loan program: www.veteransunited.com/va-loans/#overview
Housing Opportunity for Service Disabled Veterans Program: www.hsd.maricopa.gov/Divisions/Community-Development/Housing-Programs/Veterans-Home-Improvement.aspx
Military Assistance Mission: www.azmam.org
Sources: Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, Veterans United Home Loans, Maricopa County, Military Assistance Mission
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