To all who have served and all who continue to give their time and effort to defend the freedoms of this great country; to all who have fought and continue to fight for our friends, allies and defenders of freedom and liberty worldwide, a sincere and heartfelt thank you from the Real Estate Institute family.
On days like today, our thoughts naturally turn to things we can do to help our veterans. For those of you in the real estate and mortgage professions, helping is easier than you might think! In fact, it all begins with a simple question: “Have you ever served in the United States Armed Forces?” That simple question will help you identify those clients and/or borrowers that are entitled to special benefits that their service has earned them. However, the unfortunate fact is that many professionals in our industry don’t make a habit of asking this question; they assume veterans will simply volunteer the information. Frequently, however, that’s not the case. Some vets might not be aware that there are, in fact, special programs for those who have served and may view their veteran status as irrelevant to the transaction at hand. Others may feel that modesty dictates that they don’t simply volunteer the information, and still another group of veterans may be trying to adjust to civilian life once again and avoid mentioning their service unless asked directly. I strongly encourage you to ask every client who walks through your door about their veteran status. Not doing so could actually cost you new relationships, and/or result in veterans not being aware of programs such as:
The VA-guaranteed mortgage loan
VA loans have arguably the most attractive terms of any mass-market loan product available today. These loans generally require no down payment (100% financing) for both purchase and refinance loans, including cash-out transactions! The rates are typically lower than those on conventional financing – especially so in the lower FICO bands – and unlike FHA loans, there are no monthly mortgage insurance premiums associated with VA loans. There is an upfront fee (called the funding fee) charged to the veteran at closing; this fee can vary between 0.5% and 3.3%, depending on the loan’s characteristics. It can always be financed into the loan, even if doing so causes the LTV to exceed 100%, and the fee is waived for any eligible veteran with a service-connected disability.
Finally, unknown to many, VA does NOT have a maximum loan amount, so “jumbo” loans are eligible as well! Note, though, that some investors may not offer jumbos, and the ones that do typically demand a minimum down payment equal to 25% of the portion of the purchase price exceeding $417,000 or the “county loan limit” for the county in which the property is located.
More information is available at http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/
Special down-payment assistance through the state’s housing finance agency
Many states have special programs, available through their housing finance agency (HFA), that entitle veterans to levels of down-payment assistance that are above and beyond what is offered to non-veterans. For example, the Illinois Housing Development Agency (IHDA) offers a program called Welcome Home Heroes, which entitles qualified veterans to up to $10,000 in down payment assistance. This assistance can be used in conjunction with VA, FHA, USDA or conventional financing, and eligible veterans can also use the Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC) program offered by the federal government to reduce their tax liability by up to $18,000 over the life of the loan.
Visit your state’s HFA website for details on what’s available in your state. For information on the Illinois program, visit http://www.ihda.org/homeowner/gettingLoan.htm#WelcomeHomeHeroes.
Reduced costs for settlement services and insurance
Many companies that provide services associated with the real estate and mortgage industries – like title and escrow companies, home inspectors, contractors and insurance agents – will give special discounts to those who have served our country in the armed forces. Be sure to ask your providers what discounts are available for your veteran clients/borrowers to get them the best deals possible.
It’s important for us to remember – on Veterans Day and every day – that our men and women in uniform stand willing to give their last full measure of devotion so that we may continue to enjoy the freedom earned by the generations of those who went before them; freedom that was bought and paid for with the blood, sweat, tears, dedication and lives of countless American and allied soldiers. By doing our small part to make their lives better – starting with a simple question – we can show them the respect, dedication and honor they deserve.
For over 20 years, Real Estate Institute has been providing convenient, high-quality pre-license, continuing education and exam preparation programs. Each year, over 20,000 real estate, mortgage, insurance and legal professionals choose our school. For more information visit, www.InstituteOnline.com or call 800-995-1700.