Tips For Military Home Buyers Who Are Buying San Diego Real Estate
San Diego County is home to one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the United States. In fact, the San Diego area contains 12 major Marine Corps and Navy bases and facilities. If you're in the military and moving to San Diego, one of your biggest decisions is whether to buy a property, live on base housing (if this option is available to you), or rent a home or apartment. If you choose to buy a property, there are many issues to consider before taking this step.
BUY OR RENT?
The decision to buy or rent is more complicated for military personnel because you may be assigned to San Diego only for a limited period of time. If you plan to purchase while in San Diego and then sell when you transfer, the condition of the real estate market at the time you sell will make this either an easy or difficult process. In a seller's market (when demand exceeds supply), properties tend to sell quickly and at or above asking price. In a buyer's market (when supply exceeds demand), properties usually take much longer to sell and may sell below asking price. Individuals in the military should consider this issue in determining whether to buy or rent real estate in the San Diego area.
For those who choose to buy, the major other consideration is the likely appreciation rate of your property during your tenure in San Diego. If you plan to sell your property before you depart to your next assignment, you should remember that there are expenses (e.g. realtor fees, taxes, etc.) associated with selling your house, and any price appreciation you realize by owing the property for a few years, may or may not be offset by these fees.
Some individuals choose to keep their property even after they transfer to a new assignment outside of San Diego. In these cases, you can rent out the property, leave it empty, or find another acceptable use of the dwelling. If you choose to hire a Property Manager to oversee the renting and maintenance of your property, keep in mind that the fess for this service will cut into any monthly profit you realize on the property.
GETTING A HOME LOAN?
If you decide to purchase a property, obtaining a home loan is one of the tasks you must undertake. Many active-day members, retirees and other service veterans are eligible for special loan programs guaranteed by the Veterans Administration (VA).
To be eligible for a VA guaranteed loan, you must have served on activity duty and have a discharge status of other than dishonorable after a minimum of 90 days of service during wartime, or a minimum of 181 continuous days during peacetime. There is a minimum 2-year service requirement for veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980. The 2-year requirement also applies to Officers who began service after October 16, 1981. There is a minimum 6-year service requirement for National Guard members and Reservists, and surviving spouses are also eligible under some conditions. There are other special conditions in which a person may be eligible, so contact your local VA office to get more information.
WHAT IS VA GUARANTEED LOAN?
The VA loan is a federal guarantee of a maximum of 25% of a home loan amount but not to exceed $104,250. This formula allows eligible members to obtain a maximum loan amount of $417,000 (as of 2006). However, service members must meet other eligibility requirements. Individuals borrowing using this type of loan must intend to be occupants of the purchased property.
Private lenders are the source of funds for VA guaranteed loans. The guarantee provides these private lenders assurance that the federal government will reimburse the lender up to the maximum allowable amount if the borrower fails to repay the loan. Because of this guarantee, lenders are more favorable to offering loans without a requirement for a down payment.
VA CERTIFICATE OF ELIGIBILITY
Individuals desiring a VA guaranteed loan must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Veterans Administration (VA Form 26-1880). Contact your local VA office to obtain this form by calling 1-888-244-6711. You will need a copy of your military discharge document (DD-214) to submit with your application. Once you have the Eligibility Certificate, you can then select a lender or mortgage broker to work with on getting the loan.
In addition to the purchase price of your property, there are closing costs that must be paid to process your home loan. These closing costs are fees that are charged by different service providers to help complete the loan process. For example, your lender will require an appraisal of the property to make sure that its value is at or above your purchase price. Other charges commonly included in closing costs are: recording fees, credit report fee, prorated taxes and assessments, hazard insurance, flood insurance (if required), survey, title examination, title insurance, postage and shipping fees, and the VA Funding fee.
WHAT IS THE VA FUNDING FEE?
The VA charges a fee to individuals utilizing the VA guaranteed loan. This fee is a percentage of the loan amount and is linked to the size of your down payment on the home you plan to purchase.
For active-duty personnel or veterans who put no money down, the funding fee is 2.15% of the loan amount. This rate increases to 2.4% for National Guard/Reserve.
For active duty personnel or veterans who put a down payment greater than zero but less than 10% of the loan amount, the fee is 1.5% of the loan. This rate increases to 1.75% for National Guard/Reserve.
For active duty personnel or veterans who put a down payment of 10% or more of the loan amount, the fee is 1.25% of the loan. This rate increases to 1. 5% for National Guard/Reserve.
The rates listed above are for first time users of the VA loan guarantee program. Individuals who have used the VA guaranteed loan program before pay higher rates than first time users. The rates above are subject to change. In some limited cases, individuals are exempt from paying the funding fee. You should contact your local VA center for current information.
CHOOSING A VA LOAN VS. A CONVENTIONAL LOAN
You must carefully evaluate the terms of the VA guaranteed loan vs. the terms of a conventional loan. One advantage of a VA guaranteed loan is that many lenders will not require you to put a down payment on the purchase of the property, assuming you meet their other lending criteria (e.g. credit scores, sufficient income, adequate debt to income ratio, etc.). There are also many zero down payment conventional loan programs. In some cases, the VA guaranteed loan will offer a lower interest rate and better terms, and in other cases, you can obtain a better deal through conventional financing. A good loan officer can help you evaluate the advantages of either loan, given your particular situation.
FINDING THE RIGHT HOME
If you are familiar with the San Diego area, then you probably already know where you want to live. If you are less familiar with the communities in San Diego, your Realtor can serve as an excellent resource to answer your questions. There are many steps to take during the home search process, which include:
1. Work with your loan officer to identify how much you can afford.
2. Determine what type of property you want to buy (single-family home, townhouse, condominium, other). Your Realtor can advise you about the differences between these types of properties.
3. Determine how many bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, etc. you need.
4. Determine what areas of San Diego you would consider living in.
5. Calculate the drive time (with and without traffic) to your job.
6. Identify the quality of schools in the neighborhoods that you are considering.
7. Locate the crime statistics for the neighborhood that you are considering.
8. Identify the location of local community resources such as libraries, shopping centers, athletic centers, etc.
9. Ask your Realtor to advise you about the resale potential of the home you are considering.
Although there are many other factors to consider, the above is a good starting point. Your Realtor should be able help you get answers to the questions above as well as provide you many other resources. Keep in mind that most Realtor's who assist homebuyers and paid by the home seller, but make sure to ask your Realtor about this.
HOW MUCH SHOUD I PAY FOR A HOUSE?
Your Realtor should be an excellent source of information to help you understand a fair offer price. The Realtor should provide you information about what other similar properties in the same community have sold for recently, current pricing trends for the community, as well provide you a recommendation based on their experience in the local market.
DO I NEED A HOME INSPECTION?
There are many other issues besides the offer price to consider when making an offer. For example, many buyers find it advantageous to get an inspection of the property by a qualified inspector. The inspection typically covers the major systems of a property. Check out the National Association of Home Inspectors web site for more information about what is covered in a typical home inspection. Getting a home inspection is generally a good idea.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE?
If you want to use the VA guarantee, then make sure you have obtained the Certificate of Eligibility far in advance of your relocation to San Diego. Whether or not you are using the VA loan program, be sure to obtain a loan pre-approval (sometimes called loan prequalification) from a lender or mortgage broker. This lets home sellers know that you are a serious buyer and are ready to act quickly if needed.
Prior to moving to San Diego, get a sense of the local real estate market. Your Realtor can set up an automatic email notification system that will send you descriptions and pictures of properties that meet your criteria. Doing this type of research should save you a lot of time when you arrive.
Once you have your loan pre-approval, the next step is to locate a property that meets your needs. Your Realtor should show you a variety of available properties that meet your criteria. Once you find a house you an interested in, your Realtor will prepare the purchase offer documents, and guide you through the loan and closing process.
In summary, it's simply a process of getting a loan, finding a house that you like, making an offer that is accepted, and going through the closing process, which can occur in less than 30 days.
CONTACT A SAN DIEGO REALTOR
If you are moving to San Diego, contact a Real Estate agent who is familiar with VA guaranteed loans and has experience working with military buyers. Many agents have prior military service themselves, and are very familiar with your situation and needs.