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At any given time, a multitude of U.S. military personnel are stationed or deployed overseas. Although far from home, it’s possible for active-duty military abroad to get a mortgage — a VA loan or other type — and buy a home, thanks to remote capabilities.
2023 VA loan facts and figures
- 77% of veterans own a home, a higher homeownership rate than that of the general population, according to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) analysis of 2019 Census data.
- 22% of last year’s home buyers were veterans, and 1% were active-duty service members, according to data by NAR.
- The median home value of veteran-owned homes was $230,000, lower than the median value for homes owned by the general population ($242,000), according to the analysis by NAR.
- More than 197,000 VA loans were guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the second quarter of 2022, with an average loan balance of $339,280.
- The VA guaranteed more than 1.4 million VA loans, with an average balance of $310,174, in the fiscal year 2021.
- 95% of military members know what a VA loan is, but just 32% know this type of loan doesn’t require a down payment, according to Navy Federal Credit Union.
- Some 80% of VA borrowers are ineligible for conventional loans, according to Veterans United Home Loans.
Can active duty military members get a VA loan?
Yes. Active duty military members qualify for VA loans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, you can qualify after serving for 90 consecutive days without a break in service.
VA loan residency requirements
If you purchase a home with a VA loan, you are required to live in your home as a primary residence for 12 consecutive months. Obviously, doing so can be difficult if you are on active duty and deployed overseas. However, the VA does allow a spouse to fulfill the requirement if an active-duty family member cannot meet it.
If unmarried, an active duty member can show “valid intent” to occupy the home when deployed from their “permanent duty station.”
Considerations when getting a VA loan while overseas
If you (or a family member) are deployed and you’re in the market for a home, you won’t have the opportunity to look for a property in person. A spouse, other family member or real estate agent can help, and you might even be able to do a 3D walkthrough or video tour yourself.
Beyond the house hunt, you’ll also need help managing the process of getting a mortgage. Keep these three points in mind:
1. Granting a power of attorney
While deployed, you can appoint a person or entity to represent your interests in purchasing a home with a power of attorney (POA). You’ll need assistance from an attorney, legal clinic, or a Judge Advocate General (JAG) to grant a POA. Any of these professionals can also recommend additional legal measures to take, depending on your situation.
In many cases, military members grant a POA to a spouse so the spouse can do tasks like sign paperwork on their behalf. As you consider who to appoint, ask these questions:
- What powers will you allow the person to have?
- Do you want to establish limitations?
- How long will the POA last?
- Can you revoke the POA at any time?
- Can you name a backup?
You’ll also want to confirm with the closing or title agent what POA documentation they’ll need to close on your mortgage.
2. Meeting occupancy requirements
A condition of VA financing is that the borrower must live in the home, which can be a concern if you’re deployed.
In general, borrowers have a “reasonable time” to move in once their VA loan closes. “Reasonable” is defined as 60 days but can be longer if you can certify that you’ll live in the home by a specific date within 12 months of the closing. If you are on active duty and can’t meet the “reasonable” standard, a spouse or a dependent child can live in the home to satisfy this occupancy requirement.
However, if you’re deployed, you already meet the occupancy requirement. As outlined by VA:
“Single or married servicemembers, while deployed from their permanent duty station, are considered to be in a temporary duty status and able to meet the occupancy requirement. This is true without regard to whether or not a spouse will be available to occupy the property before the veteran’s return from deployment.”
3. Verifying military status
It’s important to verify your military status before searching for a home or applying for a mortgage. VA loans are limited to those with qualifying military service. Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), military members can access benefits like foreclosure protection. For this reason, when considering a VA loan application, mortgage lenders need to verify the borrower’s active duty service and other service-related information.
The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) maintains a Verification of Military Service website. There are also commercial vendors that provide this information to lenders. It’s best to consult with your lender for specific details regarding what you need.
Should you buy a home while deployed?
While part of military service is the possibility of needing to move as required, often on short notice, it doesn’t mean you can’t own a home — even if you are deployed overseas. Still, consider the pros and cons.
For example, a home purchase might not make sense if you are planning to work abroad after you finish your stint in the military. You may not want to return to a VA-mortgage-backed home where you (or your spouse) must live for 12 continuous months.
Maintaining your home from a distance may be too difficult, as well — especially if there’s no spouse to occupy it. In addition, making payments on a mortgage may seem too big of a financial responsibility.
For all these reasons, you may want to wait. However, buying a home can be advantageous. The pros of buying a home, even while overseas, include the following:
- No lease to worry about, or the potential of a landlord deciding to sell the home you are living in (if you’re a renter)
- Stability for family members, especially children
- Potential tax advantages
Final word on getting a mortgage while overseas
If you are in the military and going overseas, you don’t have to give up the dream of homeownership. You just need to plan If it seems so nice to have a home to come home to, then go for it. The VA won’t stand in your way — on the contrary, its VA loan program can make it happen, with unique benefits that can make buying a home more affordable.
If you are on active duty, you just need to plan more carefully. and your lender can advise you about what documentation you need to verify your military status and apply for a mortgage. Appointing a power of attorney can help manage the purchase of the home on your behalf while you’re away.
Additional reporting by Maya Dollarhide