WASHINGTON (May 16, 2014) – The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps to improve services for active and former military service members who are ready to buy a home, said officials from the VA Home Loan Guaranty program yesterday at an agency briefing for Realtors® during the Realtor® Party Convention & Trade Expo.
The VA Home Loan Guaranty program has guaranteed more than 20 million mortgages to American veterans, with a total loan volume of over one trillion dollars. Realtors® are strong supporters of this vital homeownership tool, which provides beneficiaries with a centralized, affordable and accessible method of purchasing homes.
“The VA would not be able to deliver the program to as many veterans without the help of Realtors®,” said Mark Connors, Air Force veteran and VA’s loan guaranty service lender liaison.
The agency is going through a massive transition to make its loan process more efficient for buyers and housing industry professionals, such as Realtors® and lenders. For example, an automated underwriting system is being evaluated to help make credit risk assessments more seamless.
“Once veterans sign a contract, the VA wants to get them in the home with the least amount of bumps in the road,” said Zaneta Jones, VA supervisory loan specialist.
Jones also talked about the agency’s new full file loan review system, which enables VA to cull and analyze data and identify systemic obstacles that should be reformed.
During the meeting, Realtors® expressed concerns that some of the VA loan requirements, such as pest inspections, disadvantage veterans because they may dissuade sellers from accepting offers that could potentially create additional fees, which cannot be paid by the homebuyer.
VA staff attorney Erica Lewis said the agency is studying the impact of the fees and may propose alternative regulations to amend the current structure. She also suggested that Realtors® request a waiver from the contracted property’s nearest VA field office to excuse the buyer from a particular fee restriction if the parties believe it is a local requirement.
“The requirements stem from the idea that the loans, and structure of the loans, need to meet the needs of the users; the regulations are very protective,” said Gerald Kifer, a veteran Marine and supervisory appraiser at the VA Central Office. “We want to see them happy. They deserve it. They’ve earned it.”
Kifer also discussed his goals to speed up the appraisal process. “VA is the only agency that is required by law to maintain a panel of appraisers and assign work on a rotational basis,” he said.
Now that demand for the program is increasing, the VA is looking to build up its pool of appraisers so that transactions won’t be held up over scheduling delays. Kifer challenged Realtors® to encourage good appraisers to apply to and join the VA panel.
The VA Home Loan Guaranty program is a unique loan product that enables service members and their spouses to buy a home with no money down and no mortgage insurance payments. It also includes financial assistance for home modifications or to tide over an individual or family during a rough patch.
A Realtor® at the briefing said it best: “If you take the actual cost of the house and compare all the available loan products – conventional, FHA and VA – VA always wins. Once you understand how VA works, you’d be crazy not to take it.”
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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