In the current real estate market, houses sell in days for thousands over the asking price.
And, as you may have heard, using a VA loan can make things even tougher.
But finding the right real estate agent can help you get your offer accepted – if they understand the needs of the military community and how to appeal to sellers’ wishes.
This is likely the biggest transaction of your life: You want to partner with the right professional who’s looking out for your interests.
Here’s how to make the right choice.
Why you need a Realtor who knows VA loans
Your real estate agent doesn’t need to be an expert in VA loans. That’s your lender’s job. But you do want an agent who knows the basics of VA loans, including the property requirements and the challenges VA borrowers sometimes encounter when making an offer.
“If the agent you choose has experience with VA loans, he or she should be able to determine if the property meets these requirements before you make an offer – saving you both time and money in the process,” said Jake Kraft, director of agent relations for Veterans United Realty in Columbia, Missouri.
That’s why experts recommend choosing a real estate agent who has experience working with veterans and active-duty service members. This person should have experience recommending neighborhoods based on their client’s lifestyles, proximity to bases, school needs, and desired amenities.
“A knowledgeable real estate agent will also understand specific needs, such as housing and adaptive renovations for veterans with disabilities,” said Tyler Forte, co-founder/CEO of Felix Homes in Franklin, Tennessee, agrees. “Military members who are relocating to a new area also need a skilled agent who is well-informed about the community.”
Another reason to find a military-friendly real estate professional is for the incentives available to these home shoppers that aren’t available to others.
“In Indiana, for example, a veteran who receives VA disability income is entitled to significant discounts on their property tax bills, while some are exempt from paying any tax at all,” notes Teri Healy, Realtor® with @properties in Schererville, Indiana.
An agent savvy in VA loan requirements can be a real asset in your home search.
How to find the right real estate agent
Finding a real estate agent who fits your circumstances may take a little time, but the effort is worth it.
Use these tips to jumpstart your search:
- Ask your lender for referrals
- Search for agents on Google and read their reviews
- Ask loved ones and friends for referrals to trusted agents they’ve worked with
- Search the National Association of Realtors database
“It’s a good idea to interview at least two or three real estate agents to find the right match,” Forte suggested.
According to Healy and Forte, these are the questions to ask an agent candidate:
- How many VA loan buyers have you had as clients?
- What is your track record of helping veterans and active-duty servicemembers get their offer accepted?
- How familiar are you with current VA loan rules and requirements?
- How long have you been practicing as an agent and in what areas?
- Can you recommend a good lender that offers VA loans?
“As with any other real estate agent, you want one who will be responsive and knowledgeable about your chosen market and its conditions,” said Brian E. Adams, a licensed Realtor and former Army captain in the Fort Hood, Texas market. “Additionally, look for an agent who has Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification from the National Association of Realtors.”
Furthermore, try to select an agent who has great communication skills and is responsive when you have questions or concerns – not just when you’re house-hunting but all the way through the closing process.
What comes first: the lender or the real estate agent?
There’s no perfect way to find a home. But enlisting the right expert from the get-go is a good place to start. Which begs the question: Should you choose a real estate agent or a mortgage lender first?
Many borrowers start by talking to a lender first to get preapproved and find out how much they can borrow. Your lender can also look up your VA Certificate of Eligibility. This document verifies whether you have full entitlement and can qualify for the VA loan’s zero down payment option.
Most real estate agents won’t start showing you properties until you are preapproved or prequalified with a lender, Kraft said. So talking to a lender is a practical first step.
Plus, a lender can also refer you to real estate agents. This can make the search easier for you, especially if they know of agents with experience working with VA borrowers.
“It’s recommended to speak with a VA-specialized lender first before selecting an agent. This will give you an understanding of your purchasing power and ensure there are no issues that will prevent you from obtaining financing,” Kraft said.
On the other hand, if you’re having difficulty finding a VA lender, it may be beneficial to choose an experienced real estate agent first who can refer you to VA lenders they’ve worked with.
Finding a real estate agent FAQs
You can find a good real estate agent by asking for referrals from your VA lender, reading online reviews, and asking friends and family about the agents they worked with when buying their homes.
Real estate agents often list their contact information their websites, or their companies’ websites, on real estate marketing materials, and “For Sale” signs on the properties they represent. You can phone, email, or text an agent to establish contact. Or, if you’re in the neighborhood, you may be able to go into the office for an informal chat before you decide whether to work with them.
It’s a good idea to talk to a lender before finding a real estate agent. Many agents these days require a preapproval letter, which you’ll need to get from a lender. A lender can also recommend good real estate agents in your area, possibly even ones who have experience working with homebuyers whose circumstances are similar to yours.
Real estate agents typically earn a commission based on the sale price of the home. Buyers do not pay the real estate agent’s commission, nor do they pay for the agent to show them homes. The seller pays the commission, though they can build the cost into the home’s sale price.
Get the right people in your corner
It’s crucial to recruit the right professionals on your homebuying journey. And your real estate agent is one of those key professionals.
“A real estate agent experienced with VA loans will avoid making common mistakes like forgetting VA requirements or trying to waive a home appraisal, which the VA doesn’t allow,” Adams says. “They’ll be aware of all the nuances involved and will ensure you close on time and don’t lose your deal.”
A down payment is required if the borrower does not have full VA entitlement or when the loan amount exceeds the VA county limits. VA loans subject to individual VA Entitlement amounts and eligibility, qualifying factors such as income and credit guidelines, and property limits. Fairway is not affiliated with any government agencies. These materials are not from VA, HUD or FHA, and were not approved by VA, HUD or FHA, or any other government agency.
Pre-approval is based on a preliminary review of credit information provided, which has not been reviewed by Underwriting. Final loan approval is subject to a full Underwriting review of support documentation including, but not limited to, applicants’ creditworthiness, assets, income information, and a satisfactory appraisal.
A pre-qualification is not an approval of credit and does not signify that underwriting requirements have been met.