FIRST TIME HOME BUYING
A DISABLE VETERAN'S NIGHTMARE
That's the best way to describe trying to buy my first home while being a disable veteran. For over 1 year I have been trying to buy my first home using my VA Home Loan benefits, hoping to take advantage of the low prices in the Real Estate market and the $8,000 tax credit and the stimulus money offered by the US Government.
Since I live outside the USA, buying a home to buy in the US means I have to move back to the US upon closing, which is something I wanted to do for a long time. After all, I only came to live overseas because my SSA benefits didn't allow me to afford paying a rent in the US. But with the low prices on properties, and after being awarded VA disability benefits, I became aware that I would pay a lot less every month if I buy a own home than by renting one.
My search began when I learned that a veteran could buy a home with “no money down" . After some research, I learned that I would need close to $2000 to pay for appraisal, title deposit and inspections. But I didn't know about other inspections required by the insurance companies, and that I had to pay for some minor repairs the home needed in order to qualify for the VA Home Loan.
With a combined income of only little over $1,600 a month, supporting a wife and new born baby and a teenage stepdaughter, along with the current monthly debts, I came to realize that I had to rely completely on my savings to pay for the expenses of buying my first home.
My home search began in Homestead, Florida. At first, I was interested in a condo, because of the amenities for my wife and the children playground for my baby daughter. I submitted several (yes, more than 10) offers for buying condo units. In all cases, but one, my offers were turned down because the sellers (banks) did not accept the purchase of their condo units using VA Home Loans.
Then I continued with homes in the Homestead, Greater Miami-Dade county areas. Same story. “Sorry, we don't accept veteran buyers". I asked, “What's wrong with being a veteran? I didn't commit a crime by joining the military and getting hurt on active duty, Did I?" .
After a while, I began to search for ANY property in South East Florida, paid for appraisals, and inspections, and regardless of having a credit score 755 at the time, and being pre-approved by over 12 banks (including by banks owning properties they refused to sell to veteran buyers), I gave up.
I looked at Tampa, Florida. Where I was not rejected for any properties, but my agent only found me properties that didn't pass VA inspections. All of those inspections were paid by me. I then proceeded to look for properties in Orlando and Jacksonville. In Jacksonville I contacted about four Real Estate agents, and only one of them showed interest in helping me buy a home. But she apparently was busy with another buyer, and she left me “hanging in the air" for over 4 months. Then called me back to say she found me several properties. I selected one of the properties and she sent me the paperwork via e-mail. I printed all forms and submitted them back to her. Never heard from her again.
Disappointed, I concentrated in searching for a property in Central Florida. A Real Estate agent in a small city about two hours drive south west from Orlando, was helping me search for a home. He made me spend lots of money (like all the other Real Estate Agents), printing documents to e-mail them back to them. After over 4 months dealing with that agent, the agent's wife (also a Real Estate agent) told me that she and her husband were trying to help me on their spare time for about 15 minutes if they weren't too tired, before going to bed, because I “wasn't their client", and that they were busy during the day helping their clients. That explained why I was getting all messages from them after 11:30pm. I asked her, what did I have to do to become their client, so they could help me, and her reply was that I had to sign a retainer and pay $800 plus additional fees for their services. That really didn't seem right. Later, I decided not to deal with them anymore, because they should have told me about it before they made me wait for over 4 months thinking that they were helping me to find a home to buy. It was the only Real Estate agent that ever asked me to pay them any amount for helping me search for a home.
I then contacted three other agents. One did reply to my offer to buy a home, and made me get pre-qualified with yet another bank. In the mean time, my credit score was getting affected by so many pre-qualifications. It went down from 755 to 715, then I ceased looking at the credit alerts until one day, several months later, and it was in 695.
This agent in Orlando, like all the others, made me print bunch of documents, some which were over 30 pages long, along with VA Home Loan applications of similar amounts of pages. In the end, she also forgot about me because I didn't like the property she found me in a place called Pine Hills, in Orlando.
I decided to try one last agent. My current agent. He, contrary to all the others, found me a property, but again, after paying for appraisal, and the title deposit. The lender he referred me to didn't send him the appraisal information I paid for, until the very end. We were under contract, but the lender said the house appraised for much more than what I was offering for. The lender made me fill out a bunch of loan forms, (of which I still have most of them). There were so many forms to print, and documents to send, that I had to refill my printer cartridges four times. Then, according to the lender, the VA underwriter didn't like the idea that I lived in a foreign country, that I have all my bank accounts in the USA, and that I had an US Street Mailing address to receive my mail. I told the Real Estate agent, that many Americans get their mail through private mail facilities in the USA which then are safely delivered to them overseas. Even US Embassy employees use the same facilities to receive their personal mail safely. It is interesting that we were only two days before the purchase contract expired, and the lender told me that everything was fine. Then, the next morning my Real Estate agent called me to say that the VA Home Loan was denied because, apparently the lender said that having an US address while living overseas “sounded like terrorism".
I was about to give up, my wife was really disappointed and upset. I used up almost all of our savings to pay for appraisals, inspections and fees, in over 5 properties, and when we though we would finally have our first home, it turned out I was being compared to terrorists for having a street mailing address in the USA while living overseas.
But my Real Estate agent convinced me not to give up and last February 2010, only 4 days after being turned down for the VA Home Loan, he found me another house that was completely remodeled, and he was sure not only it would qualify for VA financing, but that “all the inspections needed were already done" , thus, I wouldn't have to pay for more inspections and lose money.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. The house is really in almost perfect conditions. But (again) I had to pay $425 for the appraisal, plus $125 for the termite inspection, and $95 for mitigation inspection. I exhausted all of my savings, and all I have left is my monthly benefits. Now, I've been asked to pay $245 for Septic inspection. I learned of this only two weeks few days before "closing".
But closing required me also to pay off all my debts (store credit cards), even though I have never been late in making any of my monthly payments. Paying off my store credit cards was a requirement made by the underwriter. My contract extension expires in just two days, but I was just told that the seller agreed to a 5 days additional extension.
My foreign creditors are angry at me, because in order to payoff my store credit cards, and pay off all my US debts, I had to rely entirely on my VA and SSA benefits. Mean while, in order to pay my foreign taxes, my baby's emergency medical bills, and my monthly obligations, I had to borrow money from people overseas. Those people have just learned that I'm buying a home in the USA, and that I'll be required to return to the US after closing. They are now putting pressure (threats) on me and my wife to pay them the money I owe them much sooner than agreed, because they fear I will leave the country without paying them, despite that my foreign credit history shows them to the contrary: I never move out from any place until all my debts are paid off.
I'm nervously waiting for the underwriter to get the loan commitment. I'll still have to pay $245 for Septic inspection. Trying to buy a home has already cost me over $4,000 in inspections, appraisals, etc.
Buying a home should not be such a costly nightmare, especially for veterans. It shouldn't be so stressful, nor it should create any type of burden on someone who is disable. For disable veterans, buying their first home using a VA Home Loan should be something simpler. After all, we are talking about people who have put their lives, their health and their families in a second place to serve OUR COUNTRY, not to serve themselves.
Whether I finally get to own a home or not, I will continue my fight to help all veterans. I expect the US Government to at least listen to my plans to help each veteran have their very own affordable home. My plan was once rejected because it was considered "unrealistic", however, the US Government proved my plan was good, because they put the same plan to work helping people in a foreign country.
I would like to hear from other people who have purchased homes using VA Home Loans. I would love to hear from VA Home Loan specialists. I need to know if what I have been going through is the normal VA Home Loan process. I also would like to hear from those who failed to buy their first homes using VA Home Loans.