The home-purchase process isn’t easy for military families. But the journey is often worth the effort.
As military-friendly real estate agents and lenders, we’re honored to guide military families on the route to homeownership. As we “serve those who serve,” we discover the true impact of a home purchase on the lives of military families.
Two of those military families recently shared their stories with us. Renters no more, these first-time homebuyers now revel in the privilege to call their properties “home.”
For military families like the Fontenots and the Halls, VA financing and VA-savvy agents finally put a home purchase within reach. Let’s take a closer look at how homeownership has provided unmatched security and comfort to those who have certainly earned a little R&R.
Fontenots: A Place to Call Home
Staff Sgt. Todd Fontenot started his Air Force career as an 18-year-old bachelor in Panama City, Fla. By the time he left military service in 1994, he was a married father of four.
Fast forward to 2005: The Fontenot family grew to a family of 10. And child No. 9 was on the way.
Housing had always been a challenge for the growing family. They worked with a conventional mortgage broker for a spell, but property issues like termites and water damage killed any potential home purchases.
The family settled into a rental at a cost of $750 a month. But one fateful day the landlord called with some disappointing news: The rent would soon be raised to $1,200 per month.
Shocked, Todd and Karen scrambled for options. Housing prices were falling, and the couple reconsidered the possibility of a home purchase. Todd realized that his military service put VA loan benefits within reach, and contacted Veterans United Home Loans to discuss eligibility.
Todd and Karen were preapproved for $140,000. With the help of a military-friendly agent, the Fontenots quickly located a sprawling two-story home on four acres: the perfect property for their flourishing family. They closed in October 2010, with a monthly payment below the $1,200 they would have been paying in rent.
“It’s nice to know I won’t get a phone call and someone’s going to tell me I have to pay more in rent,” Todd said. “It’s nice to know that we’re in control.”
Stephen Hall: Wounded Warrior Builds Credit and Secures Home
Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Hall made it back from the First Gulf War unscathed. But the Second Gulf War took Stephen down a dangerously different path.
As a communications expert for the Army, Stephen was stationed in a presidential palace in Central Baghdad in May 2003. One evening, mortar rounds pelted Stephen’s compound.
Stephen was hit immediately. Dazed, he tried to stand and head for cover. But his legs had taken major shrapnel, and he was forced to crawl to safety.
The blast stripped the skin from his face, and caused severe damage to his left leg. Fortunately, Stephen surpassed medical expectations, and soon resumed walking. But the physical toll of the blast was substantial, and led Stephen to accept a military medical discharge in 2006.
Stephen settled into his new life as a civilian, and considered purchasing a home near his family in Fort Worth. But a marginal credit score kept Stephen from qualifying for conventional financing.
A little research steered Stephen toward the VA Loan Guaranty program. With the help of Veterans United loan officer Jeff Dynak, Stephen and his wife, Brenetta, raised their credit scores to meet VA loan standards.
“Jeff stuck with us from day one. I just followed his advice,” Stephen said. “He kept calling back, saying, ‘Let’s try this, let’s try that.’”
Tackling a marginal credit profile proved challenging for this battle-tested veteran. But the effort certainly paid off. Within a few months, Stephen and Brenetta were able to meet VA credit criteria. An agent helped the pair locate a VA-eligible property, and the Halls closed on a $239,000 home without putting down a single dollar.
Serving those who serve
It’s a sad fact that in this age of fast-paced information, many veterans and active-duty service members are unaware of the VA Loan Guaranty program.
“I didn’t even know there was a VA-related program available,” said Vietnam veteran Tim Huff. “I didn’t think I was eligible for any kind of veterans benefit.”
That’s where a military-friendly real estate agent can make a huge difference. Agents who are familiar with VA financing can inform military clients of their benefits, and expertly guide buyers through the VA purchase process.
Absent a VA-savvy agent or two, the Fontenots and the Halls may not have been added to the rolls of military homeowners.
Thanks, agents, for all you do, and thanks to all who serve.
Photos courtesy of the Fontenot and Hall families