The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ report for its 2018 fiscal year reveals that the number of service members utilizing their home loan benefits, as well as the total loan funding offered, have increased significantly throughout Arizona in the last five years.
Increased purchase loans have been a trend throughout the country, but Arizona has seen tremendous growth this year as the seventh-ranked state for total number of VA-backed home loans at 14,237 – valued at more than $6 billion.
Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s largest VA lender, compared this year’s loans in metropolitan cities throughout the state to those from 2013: Flagstaff loans increased by 55 percent, while Phoenix increased by 59 percent. In Flagstaff alone, the total loan funding increased by 88 percent. The average loan amount in Arizona was $251,007.
Chris Birk, director of education at Veterans United, said increased home loans are beneficial because they create an “economic ripple effect” of home ownership, including increased community value through property taxes, construction and remodeling. He said this increase likely derives from both financial necessity and increased awareness.
“Veterans are getting a clearer picture of what they’ve earned and how powerful it can be,” he said.
Since its creation in 1944, VA home loans have allowed more than 22 million service members, veterans and their surviving spouses to purchase a home with more forgiving guidelines than those of a traditional lender, including benefits like no required down payments or mortgage insurance. These loans can also be used for refinancing.
“One of the misconceptions about this program is that it’s a one-time deal,” Birk said. “[But] you can use this program over and over again. It’s even possible to have more than one VA loan at the same time.”
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Meryl and Carolyn Stock, residents of Prescott Valley, have used the VA home loan benefit twice, for their previous home in Minnesota as well as their current home in Prescott Valley. Meryl served in Vietnam in 1969 and said he likes the VA home loan because of the benefits it offers to service members, especially the low interest rates and no down payments.
“I was satisfied with my first home, so I did it again. … There was never a problem,” he said. “Loans have to be pretty standardized, I think, but you can get some benefits [through the VA] because of your service.”
Stock also has experience with more conventional home loans and says the two loan types are nearly indistinguishable.
“A loan’s a loan!” he joked.
Although the VA loan is a powerful tool for lenders, it may not always be the best option for veterans. Nevertheless, it can give some families the ability and confidence to purchase a house where not possible otherwise.
“It’s ultimately about veterans making the best decision possible. In some cases this won’t be the best fit for veterans and military members,” Birk revealed. “Work with someone you trust to run the numbers [and decide] which loan option makes the most sense for you and your family.”
Additional VA home loan statistics – including national and state loan data since 2013 – are listed on the Veterans United website in its interactive stats map, which uses data from the VA.