It’s no secret that buying a home can be one of the most stressful experiences anyone can have. But add in the duties and responsibilities of military life, and homebuying can go from stressful to completely overwhelming. Just in time for Independence Day, we sat down with real estate agent Estella Torres, who helps military families find their homes in the Norfolk, Virginia area. From finances, paperwork, and preparation, she shares her insights to help service members have a successful and smooth homebuying experience.
When buying a home, knowledge and preparation can make or break the process. Real estate agent Estella Torres knows this is especially true for members of the military. As a self-described “Army brat,” Torres spent half her childhood in Germany and, after marrying a Navy sailor, spent several years in Japan. As an agent, she uses her experience to help service members find their dream homes. We’ve shared some of her insights below, but be sure to watch the video for all the details!
Q: What’s the Most Common Issue Service Members Face When Buying a Home?
A: Buying a home sight unseen isn’t a common occurrence for civilians, but is a normal part of life for military families. With overseas deployments and the changing of duty stations across the country, touring a home in person often isn’t feasible.
If that’s you or someone you know, follow Torres’ advice: work with a military-friendly agent who understands what you need and how to communicate with you. For example, Torres not only gives her military clients virtual tours of homes, but also of the surrounding neighborhood. She’ll even get neighbors on video to say hello and share their insights into the area.
Q: What’s the Biggest Difference Between Civilian Homebuyers and Military Homebuyers?
A: The availability of a VA home loan is exclusive only to military members, veterans, reservists, and surviving spouses who qualify. This loan provides home financing without the need for a down payment or requiring private mortgage insurance.
It’s usually easier to qualify for a VA loan than a conventional home loan, but there is a caveat: “You still have to apply for it,” Torres says. Not every military member qualifies, and there are restrictions on the types of homes the VA will approve loans for. To know your eligibility status, work with your lender to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
Q: How Far in Advance Should Military Members Prepare to Buy a Home?
A: While there is no standard timeline, Torres recommends starting preparations a year in advance, if possible. Get familiar with the general area you’ll be residing in, figure out what home features you’re looking for, and start looking for agents to work with who can accommodate your schedule.
The more information you can give your agent, the better. For example, what’s your desired commute time? What are your desired number of bedrooms? What are your absolute dealbreakers? Once your agent knows these details, they can begin sending you listings well in advance of your move date.
Q: What Advice Do You Have for First-Time Homebuyers in the Military?
A: Get your finances in order. Specifically, Torres recommends getting your credit report first to ensure it’s accurate. It can show you any outstanding balances on lines of credit you may have forgotten about, and can give your lender an idea of how likely you’ll be approved for a loan.
Other items to tackle include outstanding bills for utilities and services, and saving for things like furniture. However, finances can also refer to what you don’t pay for. “Don’t make any big ticket purchases, like cars, that require you to take out a line of credit,” Torres advises. Lenders consider your debt-to-income ratio for eligibility, so put off major purchases until after you buy your home.
Homebuying Made Simple
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If you’re in the military or are a veteran, Homes.com thanks you for your service!