Where Military Homeownership Is Booming

The number of military households becoming homeowners has been steadily growing since the 2008 financial crisis. About 11% of new mortgages are loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which often require no down payment for active-duty service members and veterans. More than 90% of military members say they take advantage of this benefit when purchasing a home, according to a new analysis from Veterans United Home Loans, a VA lender.

Pockets across the country are proving to be hot spots for military households to call home. For example, Iowa’s capital of Des Moines boasts a homeownership rate of nearly 89% among veterans, which is among the highest in the nation. It’s even higher than the homeownership rate for nonmilitary households in Des Moines, according to a new analysis from realtor.com®. In fact, many markets are seeing military households outnumber nonmilitary in homeownership, showing that veterans are a growing force in the real estate market.

Top Military Housing Markets in 2024

Realtor.com® identified the top housing markets for military households by factoring in VA loan use, military homeownership rates, affordability, inventory and unemployment rates. Based on those factors, they identified the following markets as the most military-friendly for 2024:

Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa
Military household homeownership rate: 88.8%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 18.5

Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C.
Military household homeownership rate: 81%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 27.8

Columbia, S.C.
Military household homeownership rate: 81.8%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 27.6

Birmingham-Hoover, Ala.
Military household homeownership rate: 84.9%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 15.4

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
Military household homeownership rate: 85.8%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 17.4

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark.
Military household homeownership rate: 78.7%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 19.5

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind.
Military household homeownership rate: 80.9%
Number of sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 16.4

Memphis, Tenn.-Miss.-Ark.
Military household homeownership rate: 79.7%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 16.9

Richmond, Va.
Military household homeownership rate: 82.3%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 16.1

San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas
Military household homeownership rate: 76.6%
Number of home sales with VA loans (per 1,000 military households): 22.1

Educating Vets on VA Benefits

Clint Jordan, a military veteran and real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Colorado Springs, Colo., says he believes homeownership rates among military vets could be even higher. But some vets don’t understand the homeownership process or their VA benefits, delaying their entrance into the real estate market. Jordan created the Mil-Estate Network, a nationwide referral network comprised of real estate professionals who can serve as  “coaches” for service members contemplating homeownership. In just six months, the network has grown to 110 real estate agents who all have prior military experience or are military spouses. The agents represent different brokerages from across the country.

“We want to be a resource to service members,” says Jordan, who served in the military for nearly 21 years, including as a Air Force fire protection specialist. “We want to become more than an agent to them. We want to be local real estate experts they can rely on and who can educate them on the process, no matter what stage they’re at, and who have all once walked in their shoes.”

Those coaches are needed because many misperceptions exist about VA loans. For example, many vets believe VA home loans can only be used once or cost more than other loan products, according to the 2024 Veterans United Home Loans survey. In 2022, the National Association of REALTORS® created a two-part video series in partnership with the VA to help real estate professionals understand how their veteran clients can access and use VA loans. Both parts of the series aim to dispel misconceptions about VA home loans and guide agents and their clients through the process.

NAR also offers the Military Relocation Professional certification for members who want to build a niche helping current and former military service members and their families in real estate, including educating them about how to take advantage of their VA home loan benefits.

Thanks to NAR’s recent efforts to engage with the VA, veterans also stand to benefit from a recent move by the VA to temporarily drop its ban on veteran buyers compensating their real estate professional directly. The temporary suspension of the ban allows veterans and active-duty service members the same advantages of access to professional representation and the ability to compete with other buyers in a competitive real estate market. The VA is determining whether a formal rulemaking process is necessary.  

“Veterans have many benefits when it comes to real estate, thanks to the GI Bill and other important legislation,” says Mickey Neuberger, chief marketing officer for realtor.com®. “Unfortunately, seven in 10 veterans are unaware they qualify for a zero-down home loan. Understanding what you qualify for and navigating the process can be really overwhelming in the biggest financial transaction of your life. The best way for military home buyers to be certain they are taking advantage of all their benefits is to work with a buyer’s agent who specializes in working with the military community and can provide insights into the best local markets, the right home and loan options.”

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