If you are a veteran looking for a new home, you may think one realtor is as good as the next. Maybe you saw a billboard for a local realtor, or your buddy knows someone who knows someone. You figure you’ve done your research about how VA home loans work, so you should be fine, right? Not necessarily.

Veterans and service members are different from everyday home buyers, which means they have specific needs and concerns when it comes to finding the right residence. For this reason, working with a military-friendly real estate agent can help the process go smoothly and help you avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Your best bet is to work with a real estate agent who is a veteran, but this is not always an option. A quick internet search can help you find an agent in your area who works with veterans and military families, but definitely take the time to ask questions and gauge their knowledge before you agree to work with them. At the very least, make sure your realtor is familiar with the VA home loan program and the benefits it provides. Here are 4 important reasons to work with a military-friendly realtor:

  1. They know how the VA home loan program works. In other words, they understand the differences between conventional loans and VA loans, particularly with regard to interest rates, closing costs and the zero down payment benefit. A military-friendly realtor will have worked with military home buyers before and should have a good working knowledge of the overall process.
  2. They understand the unique needs of veterans with disabilities.Veterans who are disabled often require specific accessibility features such as ramps, wider hallways and doorways, and larger bathrooms with wall-mounted sinks that offer plenty of knee space for individuals using a wheelchair. A military-friendly realtor will also know the VA offers adapted housing grants for veterans with certain service-connected disabilities.Likewise, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or similar conditions will want to avoid specific “triggers” connected to their PTSD symptoms and often feel more comfortable discussing their needs with a realtor who understands their situation.
  3. They are familiar with the VA appraisal process. A VA home appraisal is mandatory for every VA home loan, but the appraisal process differs considerably from other loan types. What are some key differences?
    • Appraisals are performed by an independent appraiser to ensure the residence meets the VA Minimum Property Requirements, which impact the value and safety of the home.
    • VA appraisals are more comprehensive, and the appraiser will look for structural and safety concerns typically covered in a home inspection; however, the VA appraisal should not take the place of a home inspection.
    • Appraisal costs are assigned by the Department of Veterans Affairs—as opposed to individual lenders—to ensure home buyers are paying a fair price.
    • The VA appraisal process is considerably faster to accommodate veterans and military families, which helps to accelerate the home buying (and closing) process.
  4. They will make sure your condominium or townhouse complex is VA approved. There are all kinds of nuances to the VA home loan program, and one of them has to do with purchasing condominiums and townhouses. While veterans can purchase a single unit up to a fourplex, the entire complex needs to be approved before they can get VA mortgage assistance. A good realtor will know to check the Department of Veterans Affairs online database to make sure the complex you are looking at is approved.

Purchasing a home is a big investment. It helps to have the support you need.

At the end of the day, you want to partner with a real estate agent who has experience working with veterans and military families. They will be able to answer your questions, provide valuable advice, and best serve your needs throughout the home buying process. Just remember to have a copy of your DD214 handy to get the VA mortgage loan process started.

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