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VA loan helps wounded vet become a homeowner
A knowledgeable mortgage banker can make a complicated process flow smoothly.
You need steady hands and steely nerves to be an explosive ordinance disposal technician in the U.S. Navy. For Jordan Stevenson, a nine-year veteran and Purple Heart recipient, such requirements were part of the job. But no matter his skills, they were no match for a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan that pierced his helmet, fractured his skull, and forever changed the course of his life one December afternoon in 2011.
When Stevenson was released from the hospital, he decided that he and his 6-year-old son should move in with his parents, in Elk Grove, California. There, with family and friends, he could heal.
As his recovery progressed, and Stevenson became stronger and more independent, he decided that it was time to establish a home of his own with his son.
Around the same time, a friend from high school, Sarah Crandall, re-entered his life. Friendship soon blossomed into love, and they married in July 2015. Soon, the Stevensons learned that Sarah was expecting their first child. That pushed their plans to buy a new home into high gear.
But their joy was mixed with more challenges. Complications from Jordan's paralysis required a partial amputation of his right leg. As he adjusted to a prosthetic leg, the family realized they would need a home that could accommodate not only their growing brood—but also be easily accessible given Jordan's new limitations.
"After looking around at three or four houses we settled on this one because we liked the neighborhood," Jordan said. "I also liked that it was just one story, has an open floor plan and hardwood floors, as I sometimes need a wheelchair."
As the Stevensons began thinking about how to finance their home, Jordan's brother-in-law recommended they meet with Joe Yates, at Chase Bank in Elk Grove. With over 10 years of mortgage banking experience, Yates also specializes in veterans (VA) home loans.
Veterans with a service-related disability qualify for monthly, nontaxable, mortgage benefits. Between Jordan's income, and Sarah's salary as a teacher at a Montessori school, the couple was financially prepared to buy a home. In fact, the couple could have qualified for a conventional home loan. But the VA loan offered so many benefits, "it just made sense," Yates said.
Because of Jordan's service-related disability the VA loan saved them thousands of dollars of upfront costs. No down payment was required. No private mortgage insurance was required and the VA funding fee (several hundred dollars) was waived.
Still, to get to the closing date meant dealing with paperwork and deadlines at a time when the Stevenson's needed to focus their energies on healing and family.
"Going through the amputation surgery was the hardest part of the recovery process," Stevenson said. So having a nearby mortgage broker who was flexible and could make the home-buying experience as seamless and organized as possible was key. "Joe was very proactive. He was really good about letting me know ahead of time when paperwork was going to be due."
Now happily ensconced in their home, Stevenson is able to look forward and think about what comes next in his life and career.
"I want to work with veterans like me because I know what they're going through," he said. "I know what it's like for someone to tell you that there's something you can't do anymore. I think I can really make a difference for those veterans."
Claire Moore is a freelance writer who writes about personal finance, higher education, small business, and gardening. She has written for Gale-Cengage Business Plan Handbook series, Realtor.com, Grit.com and MoneyCrashers.com, among others.