Military Families Struggle to Compete in Hot Real-Estate Market

  • Military members and veterans hoping to buy a house with a VA loan are struggling to compete.
  • Misperceptions about the VA loan are putting military buyers at a disadvantage to conventional offers.
  • “We’re going to lose every time,” said one broker near the Fort Bragg Army base in North Carolina.
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Real-estate agent Melissa McHarney was told to make an offer on a house in Durham, North Carolina, for $60,000 over the asking price.

She told her client, who was using a government-backed home loan provided by Veterans’ Affairs, that it wasn’t a smart idea financially. The client told her to do it anyway.

“We didn’t win,” McHarney said. In the end, the seller took the conventional offer over the VA offer.

Amid the hot real-estate market, veterans and military families have struggled to find homes as the country faces a shortage of 4 million houses, skyrocketing prices, and a lack of building materials. The shortage has pitted civilians with cash or conventional loans against military personnel seeking to use the VA’s home loan — a government benefit provided to veterans that offers zero-down-payment loans and low interest rates.

“We’re going to lose every time,” said McHarney, who is the broker-owner of Freedom & Family Realty, near Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Fort Bragg is the largest US Army base by population, with tens of thousands of active duty soldiers and their family members, civilian employees, and contractors. Real-estate agent Mark Mayoras, a retired colonel of the US Army, described the base as the “center of the universe” for the branch. 

The base is located just outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and about an hour south of the Research Triangle, which includes the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

North Carolina’s housing market, as in many other states, has boomed during the pandemic, as many people fled big cities in search of a more favorable cost and standard of living. But that trend has put a squeeze on the state’s real-estate market, with the number of available houses down more than 40% as of October in parts of the Research Triangle and Charlotte. That’s led to higher housing prices and bidding wars.

Close to base in Fayetteville, the housing market usually has about 1,500 homes for sale, but now only has about 300, according to Mayoras, the owner, founder, and broker of Soldiers First Real Estate, which has eight locations across the country, including Fort Bragg. 

Read more: It’s actually a horrible time to buy a house

Mayoras said his military clients, who usually don’t have a lot of cash on hand and are accustomed to not paying closing costs around bases,…

Read More: Military Families Struggle to Compete in Hot Real-Estate Market