Van Hollen and Cardin join bipartisan call for improvements to VA’s home warranty program, push administration to help veterans and military families buy homes
July 09, 2021
After hearing concerns from veterans statewide, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) Joined with Senator Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) in calling the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) help more veterans and military families buy homes by providing additional flexibilities for the VA home loan guarantee program. They are joined by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), Mike Rounds (RS.D.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif. ), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a letter to the VA. Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-15) runs a House version.
Writing to VA secretary Denis McDonough, senators discuss the challenges that current veterans face when buying a home, writing that “in this housing market, veterans and military families find it difficult to compete with other buyers when buying a home. using the VA Home Loan Guaranty program “.
The VA Home Loan Guaranty program was created over 75 years ago to help returning servicemen realize their dream of homeownership.
the senators urge the VA to “consider additional flexibilities regarding the evaluation of the VA Home Loan Guaranty program, while providing comprehensive education on the program to homebuyers, realtors and veteran lenders.” The VA serves as the cornerstone of our nation’s system for providing care to veterans. We ask for your committed leadership to ensure that veterans continue to receive the help they need as they make the transition to civilian life.
Senators Van Hollen, Cardin and Hassan sent the letter after hearing from veterans in Maryland and New Hampshire that they were unfairly disadvantaged when buying a home because realtors often do not consider their application in because of the VA home loan process.
The complete letter can be read here and below.
Dear Secretary McDonough:
We would like to commend the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for its commitment to providing sustainable funding and housing options to veterans who have dedicated their lives to service our great nation. But we are writing today to urge the VA to help more veterans and military families buy homes by considering additional flexibilities for the VA Home Loan Guaranty program and to revisit its outreach and education program for real estate agents, lenders and veterans.
The VA Home Loan Guaranty program was created over 75 years ago to level the playing field for returning servicemen and give them access to the American dream they are committed to defending. Generations of veterans and servicemen have turned to this perk to fulfill the dream of homeownership, and participation has only increased since the Great Recession.
However, in this housing market, veterans and military families find it difficult to compete with other buyers when using the VA Home Loan Guaranty program. The housing stock is at an all-time low, accelerating the rise in house prices. Unfortunately, while the VA assessment process is rooted in safety and sustainability, there are aspects that can put veterans at a disadvantage in today’s marketplace. The VA appraisal process evaluates a home against comparable properties in the area, but it can often be lower than the asking price. As a result, seasoned buyers pay the difference in cash on closing or cannot proceed with a purchase. While they may request a Value Review (ROV), many seasoned first-time buyers, agents, and lenders are unaware of this appeal process. Additionally, due to the VA process, some home sellers will not even consider buyers relying on VA loans.
For this reason, we ask VA to review its appraisal and ROV policies and practices for any flexibility that would improve the accuracy of appraisals given this period of housing shortages and rising home values. Creating temporary flexibilities in these valuation policies will help place veterans and the military on a more level playing field with other homebuyers in this market.
Additionally, while veterans may apply for an ROV, many veteran first-time homebuyers, agents, and lenders are unaware of this appeal process. Therefore, we recommend that VA provide additional training and awareness to veterans and realtors regarding the ROV process.
We are also calling for more education and awareness on the VA home loan process using VA expertise more broadly to support continuing education requirements. Lack of knowledge or uncertainty as to how this program will work may discourage real estate agents and sellers from accepting an offer from a veteran or prevent a veteran from using this benefit. The VA should help real estate associations develop a targeted continuing education program for the VA home loan guarantee program. Better education on the policy will help real estate agents, lenders and veterans feel more comfortable with the fees and the assessment process, for example, by increasing the number of veterans benefiting from the program.
With COVID-19 only exacerbating the housing crisis, continued efforts must be made to help veterans find permanent housing in this highly competitive market. With that in mind, we ask that you consider additional flexibilities regarding the VA Home Loan Guaranty program evaluation, while providing comprehensive training on the program to veteran homebuyers, realtors, and lenders. The VA serves as the cornerstone of our nation’s system for providing care to veterans. We ask for your committed leadership to ensure that veterans continue to receive the help they need when they return to civilian life. As members of Congress, we stand ready to contribute to these efforts and look forward to working with you to ensure that no Veteran is left behind.