By Jarid Watson
It wasn’t easy, but I am now a homeowner. My experience was made painful on a few occasions, somewhat by the VA, but more so, by the lender. I used my VA Home Loan Guarantee, and paid a significant down payment. Neither prevented what ended up being a 3-week delay in closing.
This cost me thousands.
Additional rent, hotel costs, storage fees, dining out – it all adds up fast. To call the process frustrating would be an understatement. In the end, though, I love my home and would do it again but with a few changes.
Let my pain be your gain.
Have your paperwork in order. I mean ALL of it – tax returns for the past two years, proof of employment, driver’s license, pay stubs, credit scores, etc.
In my case, this isn’t what held up closing, but I feel like I should lead with the obvious first. Having your ducks in a row in this respect will be one of the few things in your control during the home buying process. Once you have everything, keep scanned copies of all your paperwork in a folder on your computer for easy access. You know, for when your lender asks you to email him or her the same thing over and over. Trust me.
Make sure your VA Home Loan Certificate of Eligibility is up to date.
My girlfriend, who was purchasing the home with me and who is also a veteran, had to have her last name changed on her COE. This took some time to make happen. I’ll explain the reason in a bit. At any rate, if you apply for your COE through the eBenefits site, it should only take a few days to populate or update.
Be ready for extra VA scrutiny if you are unwed, and purchasing your home with another veteran.
For some unknown reason, there is an antiquated policy (somewhat discriminatory, in my opinion) that says the VA has to review home loans for unwed veterans who are buying a home together. My girlfriend and I found this out the first time we missed our closing date, and it stopped the process in its tracks. Neither my realtor nor my lender had ever heard of this rule, but it does exist. This “review” (of what, I don’t know) can take up to 10 days.
Don’t be afraid to question the process if something doesn’t feel right.
It’s easy to blame the VA for holding up the process. My lender had no problem with doing this on several occasions. It didn’t feel right to me though. Things weren’t adding up. So I called the VA and asked the question – where are we on all this? And it turned out, the lender wasn’t being honest. For example, the lender claimed to be waiting on the VA to make that COE name change I spoke of above. As it turned out, they had never put in the request. My phone call to the VA was the only reason it ever got done. So, my advice is to trust your gut.
Work with people you trust.
Buying a home is a HUGE undertaking. Give yourself the time needed to find a realtor you truly trust. For me, finding the right lender was an afterthought. Maybe because when a company was willing to approve me for such a large amount of money to buy a home, I didn’t want to jinx it by asking questions. But trust me, you want to know the reputation of the lender you will use. The better your credit score is, the more options you will have. That will make it easier to find a trusted lender. I did not do my due diligence in this respect, and it’s what ended up hurting me the most. As I said earlier, it’s easy to blame the VA for holding up the process, but sometimes, believe it or not, it isn’t their fault.
Pack your patience… all of it.
Even if you do everything right, you will run into stressors. It’s inevitable. You may not have the same hang-ups I had, but you WILL have hang-ups. So, here’s a link to the VA’s Mindfulness Coach app. You can thank me later.
This is by no means a complete list. It is, however, a list that represents challenges you may be able to prevent, based on my experience. If you have advice of your own, let us know so we can share it with other veterans.