While it may seem as simple as seeing a house you like with a for sale sign and putting down an offer, there are a few things you should consider before taking the plunge. If you’re looking to start the process of looking for a home, keep reading below so you can feel confident you’re set for success from the very beginning.
Choosing a Real Estate agent
Since buying a house is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, it’s important that you have the right team in your corner. Working with a real estate agent that you trust will help make your experience comfortable and seamless. With thousands of realtors out there, it may feel overwhelming when starting the selection process of hiring a realtor for you. Simply typing in “real estate agent near me” in Google may give you plenty of options, but there are a few key things you can do to help narrow down the search and find the best real estate agent for you.
- Ask friends and family for referrals: Referrals are the best compliment anyone can give a service provider, especially a realtor, because their relationship dove into personal terrain like financials and wants/needs out of life. If you have friends in the area who bought a house, it’s worth asking them who they worked with and what their experience is.
- Check reviews online: There’s a reason reviews work, and it’s because people care about the experiences of other people when making an investment. Even though there is a lot of technology involved in the home buying process, the experience of working with a realtor who has your needs and interests in mind is impossible to replace.
- Make sure they know the area you’re looking to buy: Find an agent who lives in or near your desired neighborhood or has worked extensively in the neighborhood. Realtors that know the area will be able to tell you what streets are the busiest, what communities are the closest to the most desirable amenities and which schools are the highest rated.
- Pay attention to how they communicate: The housing market is constantly changing and in order to make a competitive offer sometimes you have to move quickly which means your realtor has to submit offers on the fly. Because real estate is an industry filled with entrepreneurs, these agents are hustlers and know what it takes to get the deal done. If you begin speaking with your prospective realtor and notice it takes them a while to respond or they don’t always get back to you, it may be time to find someone else. When all else fails, go with your gut.
- Find someone who cares about what you want and need in a home: Neighborhoods and price points are not the only two things that go into play when searching for a house. A great real estate agent will ask you about your wants and needs in your new house and will take those into account when searching for properties to take you to. While you may need to compromise on a few things depending on budget, location, and amenities, a realtor who cares will do what they can to help guide you to the home of your dreams while keeping your wants and needs in mind.
Looking for other ways to find a realtor who you can trust? Because every loan transaction requires a few critical experts to get the job done, everyone involved will have experience working with others in the industry. If you are confident in who you’re going to choose as a lender, feel free to ask them for a referral. When a team has worked together before, it’s easy to feel confident that you’re in good hands.
Minimum Property Requirements
Since the VA Loan is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are a few Minimum Property Requirements (MPRs) that the VA has put in place. These requirements are designed to ensure that the property is a safe home and a sound investment for the veteran or service member. Properties must meet all of these requirements prior to being approved for a guarantee of the loan by the VA.
Valuation of the Property by VA-Approved Appraisers
All properties that are purchased using a VA Loan have to have been appraised by a VA-assigned and certified appraiser. These appraisers are required to note any readily apparent repairs that the property needs and should recommend repairs for any conditions deemed to fail MPRs. Finally, the appraisers will estimate the value of the property. That value is used to determine whether the amount of the proposed loan is sufficient.
It’s important to note that a VA-assigned appraiser is not a home inspector and should not be considered a replacement for one.
Safe, Sound, and Sanitary
Another MPR set forth by the VA is that the property must be safe, structurally sound, and sanitary. The appraiser will determine whether the home meets these three criteria and ensure that the property does not have any safety hazards and is a good investment for the home buyer, the lender, and the VA. Because the requirements are so specific, oftentimes VA-approved appraisers are more stringent than other appraisers, but for good reason. These extra requirements rarely affect a prospective home buyer and his or her ability to buy a house and ultimately protect the home buyer from costly damages related to an unsafe investment.
Requirements for homes
Homes that are approved for a VA Loan must have the following:
- Functional heating, cooling, and electrical systems
- Roofing that prevents the entrance of moisture and is expected to last into the foreseeable future
- A sewage system that is adequate in size
- A safe method for disposing of sewage
- No evidence of any lead-based paint
- A continuous supply of safe and potable water
- No evidence of wood destroying insect infestation, fungus growth, or dry rot
- Structurally sound and void of any defective conditions including poor workmanship, excessive dampness, and decay
The goal of the VA is to ensure that the home is move-in ready and safe long into the future for the new homeowner. If any property fails to prove that it is a safe, sound, and sanitary home, it may be subject to denial for VA financing.
Searching For Homes
If you’re looking to take the plunge into home ownership, you’re likely going to have a list of things you want and need in your dream home. Feel free to make a sizable wish list for your dream home but prepare to make a few compromises if need be. Set yourself for success by doing your research and preparing a list of needs/wants based on your ideal lifestyle.
With many different platforms available today to search for a home, it’s easy to find a list of for-sale houses online. Even though many people search based on area, budget, and desires, it can still be difficult to narrow down to the ideal home, especially if you are in the military and moving to a place you are not familiar with. While it’s always great to lean on a real estate agent who has experience in the town you’re looking to move to, there are some great options online for military families to get a head start on house hunting.
Home Search for Military Families
Looking for the perfect search engine for veterans and military members? Military Home Spot is designed specifically with you in mind! Their home search engine makes it easy to find the right home near your duty station. The platform is designed to make it easy for prospective home buyers to get to know more than just their potential homes and includes pages that have information about duty stations and their surrounding community.
The MHS platform also includes property details that are customized for the military lifestyle so you can see just how close the property is to the nearest military base and what the expected rates are when using the VA Home Loan. Finally, this process helps you oversee your home purchase from start to finish so you have full transparency every step of the way.
One of the most important requirements to pay attention to is that the VA Loan must be an owner-occupied loan. This means that the home buyer must intend on living there for at least one year before selling the house or renting it out. Since military orders supersede the VA’s one-year occupancy rule, there are certain exceptions to the rule that may be applied. These exceptions can happen either during the occupancy or before ever occupying the home that would allow the veteran to not have to occupy the home for at least one year.
- If the homeowner is on active duty and receives orders to relocate to another duty station
- If the homeowner is on active duty, the service members spouse or immediate family member can occupy the home on his/her behalf
- General life changes that would make it not beneficial for the veteran to occupy the home any longer (I.e. getting married, having children, family moving in etc.)
After that year is up, homeowners are free to move and do what they’d like with the property. This includes options like renting the home and using it as an investment property, putting the property back up for sale, or using it as a second home.