The Department of Veterans Affairs is a beautiful old building located near the Capitol building. But the field trip arranged by the National Association of Realtors on May 15, 2014, was less about the beauty of the building and more about updating agents on the Loan Guaranty Program and how it helps veterans secure the American Dream of homeownership.
The Realtors at this meeting represented a class of agents passionate about helping veterans purchase homes.
The event featured four speakers from the VA loan program:
- Mark Connors, Loan Guaranty Service Lender Liaison
- Zaneta Jones, Chief of Loan Policy in Loan Guaranty Service
- Gerald Kifer, Supervisory Appraiser, VA Central Office
- Erica Lewis, VA Staff Attorney
Mark Connors, an Air Force veteran, opened the meeting with introductions and a comment that many of the questions they receive revolve around the VA appraisal process. This statement was confirmed by many Realtors in the question-and-answer portion of the trip.
“The VA would not be able to deliver the program to as many veterans without the help of Realtors,” Connors told the group.
Time of Transition
Zaneta Jones explained that VA is in a transition period. There are a number of ways the Loan Guaranty program is working to make the VA loan process easier for buyers, lenders and agents. VA has enacted a full file loan review intended to assist them in identifying trends and common issues as well as a review of HUD-1 fees.
Building out an Automated Underwriting System (AUS) for approval specific to VA loans is another project on the horizon.
Erica Lewis discussed the types of regulations and how changes to the current VA regulations are implemented. Lewis explained that there are two types of regulations — discretionary and non-discretionary.
Non-Discretionary regulations are statutory. A law is created requiring enactment. These typically have a one year turn-time.
Discretionary regulations allow for public comment and room for interpretation. These typically have a two year turn-time.
These descriptions were provided to demonstrate to Realtors the process and time involved for each change to VA regulation.
Gerald Kifer, a Marine Corps veteran and supervisory appraiser, discussed the hot topic of VA appraisals. This topic provided for the most questions and discussion between Department of Veterans Affairs staff and attendees.
Kifer reiterated that the Minimum Property Requirements were created to ensure the military buyer is purchasing a home that is safe, structurally sound and sanitary.
“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,” Kifer said. “We want to see them happy. They deserve it. They’ve earned it.”
A large portion of the discussion revolved around the timeliness of VA appraisals. Kifer stated that the national average to deliver an appraisal is 7.2 days from when it’s ordered. He also acknowledged that a shortage of appraisers is leading to longer turn times in some areas.
Kifer urged agents to encourage appraisers in their area to apply for a spot on VA’s panel of appraisers.
The discussion between Realtors and the VA staff was open and engaging. It allowed both sides to obtain greater perspective of the other’s stance and struggles.
Most importantly, the briefing encouraged continuing dialogue among people who share the same goal — helping veterans and service members utilize their hard-earned home loan benefits.