Military families find it difficult to buy a home in the Treasure Valley

Posted at 12:04 PM, Feb 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 00:20:13-05

BOISE, Idaho — The VA Home Loan was created in 1944 as a way to make sure World War II veterans were able to buy a home, to this day this benefit continues to help service members purchase a home, but the housing market in the Treasure Valley is creating challenges for military families.

Amber Williams works two full-time jobs, her husband works a full-time job and also serves as a tanker in the Idaho National Guard, but this family is struggling to use the VA Home Loan to buy a home.

"We are trying to fulfill the American dream," said Amber Williams. "We don’t even want to look for houses anymore there is no excitement, it’s not the American dream anymore it is a nightmare.”

The average home price in Canyon County has risen by 24 percent over the last year and potential home buyers can now expect to pay $340,000. In Ada County the median home price has risen to $454,000, those numbers are according to Intermountain Multiple Listing Service Inc.

Williams told us they have put in multiple offers over the last several months only to get outbid by cash offers, a lack of inventory is part of the problem but Williams has also experienced sellers not wanting to deal with the VA Home Loan.

Benchmark Mortgage focuses on serving veterans, 60 percent of the loans they issue are VA loans and Shanna Tucker told us one of the biggest problems comes from misconceptions about this veteran benefit.

“I’ve been in the business 20 years and when I first started the VA was really picky about properties," said Tucker. "But in today’s world, the VA property standards are very similar to other loan programs.”

Tucker talked about several myths of the VA Home Loan including the misconception that those loans take longer to close, she highlighted a fear of conservative appraisals and a belief that veterans don't have savings because the benefit allows them to secure a loan with no down payment.

Another big one is closing costs and there is a law that makes it illegal to require veterans to pay some of those costs, but Benchmark Mortgage will cover those costs and military members can choose to make an offer to pay those costs so they don't come back on the seller.

“We have offered to pay those," said Williams. "We aren't looking for a handout but we can't find anything and going back to renting that's a joke too."

Benchmark Mortgage is working to help educate other real estate agents, they believe there's a disconnect there because they tell us on average realtor does one VA Home Loan every two years, and they do have a different process.

“Silver Creek Realty has us in every single month to teach their team and Coldwell Banker had us come in and do two different classes," said Tucker. "I think the more the real estate agents get involved in the education the better it will be for our veterans.”

Amber Williams also told us in their search for a home they had sellers tell them not to look at a house because they didn't want to deal with the VA Home Loan.

Tucker told us veterans aren't a protected class when it comes to the Fair Housing Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race and religion.

“Is it discriminatory to not accept an offer because they are a veteran? I would say yes. Is it discriminatory because you don’t like the financing? I would say maybe not," said Tucker. "The sad reality is people are paying over the appraised value.”

That has put the Williams family in a tough predicament they are trying to find a home in Nampa so their two teenage daughters can stay in the same school, but while that is happening the girls and Amber are staying at her parent's house, meanwhile, Amber's husband is staying at his parent's house.

“My husband has lost so much time being away from us and being away from his family and sacrificing everything," said Williams. "It is hard."

Here is our full interview with Tucker as she believes raising awareness and reducing some of the stigmas that come with the VA Home Loan will help veterans in the future.