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On June 5, 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) held a 75th anniversary celebration of the GI Bill and the 24 millionth home loan that was recently processed through the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program. The event took place in Washington, D.C., at the National Press Club and featured speakers from the VA, NAR, the American Legion, the National Association of Mortgage Bankers and the National Association of Home Builders.

The GI Bill, which began as The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, provides educational and training opportunities for veterans. The GI Bill also offers the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program, which is a vital homeownership tool that provides veterans with a centralized, affordable and accessible method of purchasing homes as a benefit for their service to the nation. VA Home Loans provide government-backed financing with zero down payment. According to NAR’s Home Buyers and Sellers Profile survey data from 2016 to 2018, 41 percent of veteran homebuyers obtaining mortgage financing used the zero down-payment option.

Speakers at the event took the opportunity to laud the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program. NAR President John Smaby congratulated the VA on the great success of the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program in providing veterans and their families access to safe and affordable mortgage financing: “At the National Association of REALTORS®, we believe that homeownership is a part of the American Dream. After all, it is homes that have allowed veterans the security to relocate, transition from military to civilian life, grow their families and even retire in a place they can call their own.” Smaby stressed the ongoing support of REALTORS® for the VA Loan Program and the commitment of REALTORS® across the country in helping the nation’s service members reach the American Dream of homeownership.

NAR Research Analyst Brian Horowitz gave an in-depth analysis of the VA Home Loan Program. According to Horowitz, the median age of a veteran homebuyer is 59, and one-fifth of veteran purchasers are first-time homebuyers. The current homeownership rate for veterans in the U.S. is 78 percent, compared to 68 percent for the non-military population. When looking at the makeup of veteran households, Horowitz noted that for many service members, family extends beyond the traditional nuclear family, with vets providing homes to their grown children, grandchildren or parents. In fact, 17 percent of veterans are purchasing multigenerational housing, compared to 12 percent of the general U.S. population.

The highlight of the celebration was the recognition of the 24 millionth VA Home Loan to Sergeant First Class William Kopf, of Scranton, Pa. SFC Kopf’s REALTOR®, Marilou Saar, was also on hand for the event. Nine out of 10 veterans use a real estate agent when they purchase a home. These real estate agents are critical to ensuring that veterans find the right homes for their families.

On the horizon for the VA Home Loan Guaranty Program is H.R. 299, the “Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.” This bill contains favorable provisions that would eliminate the loan cap on VA Home Loans, allowing veterans to use the benefit to purchase the homes they want wherever they prefer. REALTORS® support this measure and continued changes to the VA Loan Program that enable veterans access to safe, affordable financing for the homes of their dreams. For more information about VA Home Loan Programs, visit www.nar.realtor/veterans-affairs.

Sehar Siddiqi is NAR’s Federal Policy Representative. This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group.

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