More veterans are taking advantage of their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan benefit than ever before. With no down payment, no mortgage insurance and flexible credit standards, it’s easy to see why. The VA loan that was once looked down upon by agents has become a streamlined process with closing-time statistics that are neck and neck with conventional loans.

Some agents may believe that if they don’t work in a community near a military base, then they don’t need to ask their buyers if they served. But this isn’t the case at all. Buyers don’t have to be active-duty military to use the VA loan, so there are buyers eligible for VA loan benefits all across the country.

For example, there isn’t a military base in Boone County, Missouri, but there were 10,630 veterans living there as of September 2014, according to the VA. That’s more than 10,000 potential buyers who may be eligible for VA loan benefits. This is why it’s so important to ask each and every buyer the question, “Did you serve?” You might be surprised by how many of your clients could potentially buy a home with no money down using their VA loan benefits.

If you’re looking to expand your business into this niche market, here are three things VA homebuyers need from you:

1. Understand VA loan basics.

As more veterans and service members become aware of their VA home loan benefits, you may begin receiving more VA loan-specific questions. It’s important for you to be able to answer their questions or be able to find the answers in a timely manner.

The VA loan has unique requirements, including some that cover a property’s condition. A knowledgeable lender who focuses on VA loans can be an invaluable asset as you navigate the VA loan process. You must be able to identify potential issues with the property when showing homes to VA buyers so they can make an informed decision before proceeding with an offer on a property that may require repairs prior to closing.

2. Appreciate their situation.

Each one of your VA buyers will have a unique story to tell; thank them for their service. Each will also have a unique set of needs. Get to know them. Ask questions to discover more about the character of their service, their homebuying timeline, and what they are looking for in an agent and in a home.

Active-duty service members relocate, on average, every two to four years. Frequent moves mean they need a home that maintains its value and will sell quickly. They may also have a very short timeline from the date they receive orders for a permanent change of station (PCS) to the day they relocate. Upon receiving PCS orders, they’ll receive up to 10 days of leave to visit the new duty station and find housing. As an agent, you need to understand their timeline, be efficient and determine how you can best meet their needs.

3. Know your market.

Veterans and service members relocating to a new market not only need your real estate expertise but also your knowledge of the community. They’ll need information about everything from service providers to community resources. Being an expert in your market can significantly help their transition into their new community.

It’s important to note that not every buyer using their VA loan is on active duty or unfamiliar with your area. Even so, your high level of market knowledge will be a necessary tool to assist them in finding a home that will meet the minimum property requirements of the VA loan while also meeting their needs.

Working with VA buyers can be a rewarding experience. Arm yourself with knowledge of VA loan basics, listen to your buyers’ needs and know your market well, and you’ll be on the right track.

Samantha Reeves is a real estate agent and the senior real estate and homebuying expert at Veterans United Home Loans. Nearly 300,000 people follow her Military-Friendly Real Estate Agents community on Facebook.

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