The VA loan is an incredibly useful resource to veterans and active duty servicemembers everywhere. But with the inflated markets for both purchasing and renting near Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), military servicemembers stand to benefit in unique ways.
Use the VA loan to overcome barriers to purchasing near Lewis-McChord
The VA loan allows qualified borrowers to purchase a sizable amount of home at an excellent rate when they might otherwise be forced to rent or purchase smaller. Because the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) backs the loan, lenders will provide the mortgages with as little as no down payment at all.
Even though the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) increases to meet the demands of the local economy, base pay for military does not. Therefore, saving a little bit each month outside of the BAH won’t add up any quicker in Washington state than it would in an area with lower real estate prices. Because many active servicemembers don’t have enough down payment saved for the expensive homes near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the VA loan can provide an enormous advantage.
However, even with the VA loan providing additional leverage for purchasing a home, there are still limits.
Know your VA loan limits in Washington state
Servicemembers in Washington state may have vastly different experience with VA loan limits. For example, Kitsap County, which matches the VA limits for the majority of counties in the United States, has a limit of $417,000. However, some areas in Washington state are relatively expensive, and the VA loan limits are adjusted to reflect that. JBLM, which is in Pierce county, has a VA loan limit of $540,500. This additional purchasing power may not be 100% proportional to increases in average housing costs, but it should provide more options for borrowers in the area.
You can obviously also purchase a home for much less as well. Because military families often move within a few years, you may choose to purchase a smaller home with excellent value in order to improve your ability to sell the home quickly when it is time for you to leave. Or, if you plan to rent the home to tenants after you move away, you may want to make sure you can afford to pay the old mortgage in addition to a new mortgage if the home goes unoccupied for a month or two. All of these considerations are things you’d want to speak about directly with your loan officer.
Work with a reputable lender
Despite some companies branding themselves as “VA lenders,” you can work with nearly any mortgage company of your choosing for your VA loan. You’ll want to make the choice of a lender based on customer service and your own personal values rather than any claims of VA preferential treatment.
Being in Washington state, a regional mortgage company operating in the Pacific Northwest company will also be more responsive to the unique needs and nuances of the area. There are advantages to working with a regional lender, but ultimately you’ll want to decide what suits you best.
Lastly, remember to hold your mortgage company to a high standard. There are also a number of impersonal call centers and automated systems for getting a VA loan, but they will rarely ensure your best interests. Because every single loan is different, you’ll want to work directly with a licensed loan officer who can help you manage customize your transaction.