William Kopf just wanted to put down roots for his family after PCSing from Utah to Pennsylvania. Like generations of Veterans and service members before him, Kopf turned to his hard-earned VA home loan benefit for help. He and his wife, Ashley, worked with Veterans United Home Loans to close on their new home this spring.
This week, the couple was honored as recipients of the 24-millionth VA loan during a celebration in the nation’s capital.
“Thank you for helping us find a place to call home,” William told attendees, including Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Benjamin S. Carson and VA Undersecretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence, Ph.D. “Knowing that the VA has our backs to help ensure we can enjoy the American Dream when we come home is something special.”
The 24-million milestone comes as the VA loan program marks its 75th anniversary on June 22. Part of the original GI Bill, this benefit has helped transform our economy and the lives of millions of Veterans and military families.
For seven decades, Veterans and service members have relied on their home loan benefit to plant roots, raise families and build wealth. The power of the VA loan program has come into sharper focus since the Great Recession, and today it’s more important than ever.
Use of the home loan benefit has soared since the housing crash a decade ago. Four of the last six years have set new records for loan volume, and VA has backed more mortgages in the last five years than it did in the previous dozen years combined.
“The loan program’s original mission remains at the heart of that growth,” said Jeffrey F. London, Director of VA’s Loan Guaranty Service. “We’ve worked for 75 years to make sure this earned benefit provides Veterans opportunities they may not have otherwise had available.”
Following the economic downturn in the mid-2000s, conventional financing became a lot tougher to secure for many Veterans and service members. Many lenders wanted higher credit scores and bigger down payments, leaving countless Veterans on the sidelines. Military service can strain credit-building and finances, and it can take years for Veterans and military families to save for a down payment.
The VA benefit was created to level the playing field and boost access to homeownership for those who serve. They’ve long featured flexible, common-sense credit underwriting, and VA’s guaranty on each loan helps lenders provide financing with some significant benefits, including requiring no down payment and no mortgage insurance.
Over the decades, VA loans have come into their own as arguably the most powerful mortgage option available and continue to be an economic lifeline for Veteran homebuyers. VA loans have the mortgage industry’s lowest average fixed interest rate (59 straight months and counting!), and Loan Guaranty Program’s investment in automation and technology in recent years ensures VA loans are competitive when it comes to closing time, appraisals and more.
It is also shifting the conversation about the safety of no- and low-down payment mortgages. Despite the $0 down benefit, VA loans have had the lowest foreclosure rate on the market for nearly all of the last 12 years, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Today, this historic benefit is making a difference for a new generation of Veterans and military families.
Weighed down by student loan debt and lagging wage growth, many millennials have struggled to break into the housing economy. But younger Veterans have been able to break through because of what they’ve earned–more than 1-in-4 VA loans last fiscal year went to Veterans aged 18 to 35, according to VA program data.
To be sure, this benefit has adapted and evolved over the years. That’s part of why it continues to be so successful. But the VA loan program also continues to cherish and embrace its roots.
Seventy-five years ago, we made a promise to Veterans and their families. This historic program is still delivering on that promise, and it will be for generations to come.
Chris Birk is the Director of Education for Veterans United Home Loans and author of “The Book on VA Loans: An Essential Guide to Maximizing Your Home Loan Benefits.”