Texas veterans should make use of benefits

Texas veterans have more benefits available to them than ever before. Yet, unfortunately, too many veterans remain unaware of these benefits. Realtors, mortgage lenders and builders can play an important role in informing these veterans about programs offered by the Veterans Land Board (VLB) without compromising the bottom line. Helping 1.7 million Texas veterans is good for them and can be good for business. But only those professionals who understand what the Veterans Land Board has to offer will benefit. The Texas Veterans Land Board has more than quadrupled the amount Texas veterans may borrow to buy homes. We’ve also streamlined the closing process, eliminated qualifying fees and expanded the eligibility requirements for our benefits. Since 1999, we’ve raised the loan amount available to veterans to buy a home from $45,000 to $200,000. This larger loan amount means most Texas veterans won’t need a second source of funding to buy a home, nor must they go through two closings to enjoy the low interest rates. The real estate business community, including brokers, builders and title insurers, also benefit because Veterans Land Board loans of more than $45,000 are originated by nearly 600 participating mortgage lenders statewide. We have also eliminated the ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ rule for veterans loans. Now Texas veterans’who have proven to be excellent credit risks ‘ can apply for a new home loan each time they’ve satisfactorily repaid any prior Veterans Land Board home loan. They can also take out a home improvement loan on their principal residence at the same time, as well as finance a land purchase through our land program. The interest rates for Veterans Land Board home loans have been significantly lowered as well, allowing Texas veterans to save about $1,000 per year on their note payments. While our rates are adjusted weekly to reflect the market and are subject to change, they’re always lower than comparable VA/FHA rates. And the same low interest rate is also available for our home improvement loans. That’s an unprecedented savings to hundreds of veterans each year. Texas veterans have responded enthusiastically to our increased home loan limit, lower interest rates and other program changes. More than one-half of the value of all Veterans Land Board home loans have been funded since January 1999. To put it another way, of the more than $2.3 billion in home loans funded since the program began in 1983, more than $1.2 billion were funded in just the last three years. To make our home loan program even more user-friendly, we’ve adopted a simple base rate method for determining our interest rates. Each week we publish the base rate for a 30-year Veterans Land Board home loan, for which various discounts may apply to lower the base rate even further. Significant discounts are available to veterans who qualify for our Troops to Teachers, Veterans with Disabilities or Greenbuilding programs. Troops to Teachers is a response to the statewide shortage of public school teachers. Veterans who agree to become or remain public school teachers, and veterans’ spouses who are currently teachers are eligible for an additional reduction of one-half percent on VLB home loan rates. As of January 2003, more than 1,000 loans worth about $130 million have been funded for current and future Texas public school teachers. In our Greenbuilding Program, a veteran can lower the interest rate on a loan by up to 30 basis points by using energy-efficient building or remodeling materials. In addition to lower energy bills, veterans enjoy smaller monthly payments, making it possible for more veterans to afford homes. Because of this Greenbuilding program, many builders design homes using the Veterans Land Board Greenbuilding Checklist of Features to qualify a new home and attract more veteran homebuyers. Texas veterans who enlisted prior to 1977 are eligible for a Service Era Discount. And any veteran who opts for a Veterans Land Board home loan with a term of 15 years or less gets a further discount of 25 basis points. Also, Texas veterans with service-connected disabilities of 10 percent or more can cut their interest rates on home loans by one-half percent if service-connected disabilities are verified and all eligibility requirements are met. A Veterans Land Board home improvement loan can also be used to make modifications necessary for a veteran’s special needs. We strive to ensure that a veteran pays only prevailing market (or lower) fees for our benefits and services. We recently reduced several fees, and eliminated a $25 fee for determining eligibility for VLB programs and a $375 administrative fee charged for land contracts. Now anyone working with a veteran to qualify for a VLB loan can pre-screen the veteran’s eligibility with a free online questionnaire available at our Web site, www.txvets.com. And once you submit the paperwork, we will make all attempts to respond by fax within one or two days with an official ‘Notice of Eligibility.’ Almost all of our program forms are now available online to avoid delays in postal mail. In the past two years we have made careful changes to expand and serve a larger group of deserving beneficiaries. Previously, a veteran must have died in the line of duty or have been missing in action for a surviving spouse to qualify. Now, unmarried surviving spouses of veterans who die as a result of any service-connected cause also qualify for participation in VLB loan programs. Also, Texas veterans on military duty and stationed out-of-state are now eligible for VLB loan benefits. If a veteran otherwise qualifies, but currently serves at a military base outside the state, such a veteran can obtain a VLB home or land loan before returning to Texas. Prior rules required physical residency in Texas at the time of application for loans. We are committed to increasing the availability of Veterans Land Board programs by cooperating with private industry professionals who share our commitment to serve our veterans. If you are a mortgage lender, builder, developer, real estate broker, or other industry professional who shares our commitment to serving Texas’ veterans, we welcome your cooperation. To find out more, visit our Web site at www.txvets.com. While you’re there, register to receive regular program updates via e-mail. If you are looking for current interest rates, click on ‘General Information.’ You’ll be able to get interest rates and more detailed information on all our loan programs. Or, just call our statewide toll-free Veterans Hotline at (800) 252-VETS. One of our specialists will be glad to help you register to receive information by mail or fax. We look forward to working with you to serve Texas’ 1.7 million veterans.

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