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More vets buying homes and settling down in metro Phoenix, VA loans help a lot

Catherine Reagor , The Republic | azcentral.com Published 7:00 a.m. MT May 19, 2017 | Updated 12:57 p.m. MT May 26, 2017

A record number of metro Phoenix homebuyers are using VA loans to buy a house in the country they fought to defend

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.

Sgt. Jesus Garcia, his wife Ruth and daughter Sara, 11, look at a home they are buying in Peoria, Ariz., on May 17, 2017. (Photo: Michael Chow/The Republic)

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 hosted 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.

Getting the keys

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.

Better numbers on VA loans

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 overall U.S. homeownership rate is about 65 percent, according to the Census. The homeownership rate for veterans and active military is about 82 percent, reports the VA.
  • The average interest rate for conventional loans is about 4.06 percent now, compared to a 3.89 percent average rate for VA loans.
  • The delinquency rate on VA mortgages dropped to 3.9 percent at the end of 2016. That compares to a delinquency rate of 4.04 percent on conventional loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Buying in country they defended

“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.

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