Buying the perfect home at your next duty station or post-military location can seem like a risky move. But housing experts Deonte Cole, a Tampa-based real-estate agent and Marine Corps veteran, and Derrick Abbott, a VA Home Loan specialist, say by giving the process some thought and taking the right steps, owning a home could be not only a great way to give you somewhere to live, but also a easy way to build wealth.
Cole and Abbott joined Military.com for episode eight of the PCS With Military.com podcast to share their best advice on home buying and using the VA Home Loan benefit. Here are some of their tips.
Renting sounds safe, but home buying might be better. Buying a home is a big financial decision, but if you're likely to live in a place for more than two or three years, it's probably a better long-term investment than just renting, Cole said.
"If you have the ability to live off base, and you are planning on living off base ... more often than not, in a home ownership situation, your mortgage is going to be a lot of times less expensive than what you're going to pay renting a property," he said. "It's a great long-term, wealth-generating strategy."
Do plenty of research. Cole said it's important to take the time to figure out what kind of home you want and what neighborhood is right for your family. He sees part of his job as knocking on the doors of potential neighbors to make sure the area is the right fit for his client while also showing as many homes as possible.
"Look at as many houses [as you can] to see what you like, get as much value as you can and get as much out of it as possible," he said. "I would love to take the people around to see as many houses as they want to ensure that they get what they want."
Don't hesitate too long. There's such a thing as too much research, Cole said. And while shopping around can help clients avoid buyer's remorse, it also can mean losing out on the thing you love, especially when the housing market is hot.
"Don't try to shy away from putting in an offer," he said. "There's nothing worse than finding a home you love and hesitating, and someone else puts in the offer and undercuts the property that you like."
Understand your VA Home Loan benefit. Like so many benefits, the VA Home Loan can be confusing, especially when it comes to the ways it differs from a traditional mortgage or the various fees that could be waived for qualifying veteran users. And just because it worked one way for one veteran does not mean that will be the case for every other user. Abbott advised checking with a loan officer well-versed in the VA Home Loan process to nail down the details for your unique situation.
"Even though the VA loan is for military members, we all know all military members are not in the same place at the same time," he said. "So be careful about hearing someone say, 'Oh, I got this, and I did this, and I did that on a VA loan.' They may very well have done that. But that doesn't mean that that's where you are. ... Talk to your lender, talk to someone like me, who can say, 'Hey, this is your scenario. This is what we can do to make this the best loan for you individually.'"
Take the Next Step
If you're ready to move forward on your VA Home Loan or just want more information, the first step is to get no-obligation rate quotes.