Growing purchase loans allow veterans to buy housing in Oxford

Published 9:37 am Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Oxford saw the third-highest growth among cities offering purchase loans to assist veterans in buying homes.

Over a five-year span from 2013 to 2018, purchase loans in Oxford grew 167 percent, behind only Corinth and Clarksdale, according to Veterans United.

According to Veterans United Director of Education Chris Birk, veterans are purchasing these loans as a way to achieve a part of the classic American Dream in owning a home that’s located in a community where veterans can be close to friends they made in the service.

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“It’s a great place to raise a family and to put down roots and that’s something that a lot of veterans and military members are looking to do,” Birk said. “Especially as they’re transitioning out of the military and back into civilian life.”

These VA loans are $0 down payment mortgage options available to Veterans, Service Members and select military spouses. Loans are issued by private lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The loan program was originally as part of the GI Bill of Rights, which assisted soldiers coming home from Europe and the Pacific after World War II in 1944. Its purpose is to assist military members and their families gain home ownership across Mississippi and the country.

Based in Columbia, Missouri, Veterans United helps veterans find better purchases, with no down payment, no mortgage insurance and more flexible credit requirements.

When the recession started in 2008, mortgage lenders tighten their requirements, wanting higher credit scores, higher down payments and a lower income ratio. This made it difficult for veterans and military members to secure a decent mortgage.

“Particularly in the Oxford area has seen one of the biggest jumps in VA purchase lending over the last five years and in the entire state,” Birk said.

Bobby Steele, a Navy veteran who purchased a home through Veterans United, said the United Services Automobile Association recommended him to the loan program.

One of the biggest challenges Veteran’s United faced was increasing awareness about the loan program. The USAA’s recommendations helps, however there are still lingering myths and misconceptions that Birk wants to erase.

“There are still so many veterans who don’t know,” Birk said. “There are also a lot of myths and misconceptions about this loan that persist among the real estate community.”

Steele said he assumed the process would be similar to the last time he bought a home in 1999, however he described the process as smooth

“They had a great reputation with former vets and current vets,” Steele said. “I was slightly apprehensive about doing this again because of the experience I had the first time.”

Steele said he was able to finish the initial paperwork within the first week of applying for the loan and closed on a home in 30 days.

The most outstanding difference between buying a home in 1999 and 2019 is the strides made in technology. Steele said he’s had better correspondence, which led to him being able to live out his idea of the American Dream.

Steele’s American Dream is the ability to prosper, having the same opportunity as everyone else to do what he wants. The VA loans program made that notion more palatable for veterans across the nation.

“You don’t think, at the end, you’ll have all these advantages,” Steele said. “This is our slice of apple pie.”