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Tips for Buying a Home in California While Still Serving in the Military

With dozens of military bases, training centers and related facilities, California has the largest military population of any state in the U.S. Because of this, a lot of military members end up buying homes in California, often while they are still serving.

This guide covers some of the most important questions you should ask when buying a home in California while in the military.

Can I Buy a Home in California While on Active Duty?

Active-duty military service will not prevent a person from buying a home in California. In fact, it might give you an advantage in the form of steady pay and VA loan eligibility.

Yes, you can buy a home in California as an active-duty military member. But you’ll need to consider your long-term plans, housing goals, and local market conditions to determine if it makes sense to buy.

If you know you’ll be stationed in the same area for at least three years—or you’re on your last tour and plan to retire where you’re currently serving—it could be a great time to buy. You might even know people in your unit who own homes and are thankful for making that choice.

The point is, you shouldn’t rule out the prospect of homeownership just because you’re in the military. Think about your long-term plans to see if a home purchase fits, and go from there!

Do I Qualify for a VA Loan?

If you’ve decided to buy a house in California while still serving in the military, you owe it to yourself to explore the VA loan program.

This program (available to military members, veterans and certain qualifying spouses) offers a number of compelling benefits. For starters, it allows you to buy a house in California with no money down.

And that alone is a huge win, when you consider that the median home price in California is currently over $800,000.

The first step in the process is to find out if you are eligible for the VA loan program, based on your service status. Most military members in California can qualify for VA financing, but only after serving for a certain period of time.

  • Active-duty military members typically earn eligibility after serving for at least 90 days.
  • National Guard and Reserve members either need six years of service or 90 days of active-duty service.

(Note: The eligibility rules for active-duty members are straightforward. The requirements for National Guard and Reserve members are a bit more complicated. The Department of Veterans Affairs website offers a more detailed breakdown of those eligibility requirements.)

Granted, you don’t have to use a VA loan to buy a home while serving in the military. You could also use a conventional or regular mortgage loan that’s not backed by the government.

But with a conventional loan, you’ll probably have to make a down payment of some kind. And in California, the average down payment for a typical home purchase can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. VA loans essentially remove this financial obstacle.

Can I Qualify for a Mortgage While in the Military?

In addition to their other benefits, VA loans are one of the easiest types of home loans to qualify for. If you have sufficient income and a manageable debt load, you could qualify for a VA loan to buy a house in California while serving in the military.

In fact, your military service might even help you qualify.

Mortgage lenders review loan applications to make sure borrowers have a stable and predictable income. Military service offers both of these things. Because of this, California military members often have no trouble getting approved for a loan.

Will I Be Able to Sell the Home When I Move?

If you’re planning to buy a home in California while serving in the military, you should carefully consider the resale value. This is especially important if you’re going to rotate to another duty station a few years down the road.

A lot of military members who buy homes in California have to turn around and sell after a few years, due to a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). And that’s do-able, as long as you purchase a home with good resale value.

Here are some tips for choosing a home with potential resale value:

  • Location: Focus on properties in desirable locations with strong market demand. Consider factors such as proximity to military bases, good school districts, low crime rates, access to amenities like parks, shopping centers, and public transportation.
  • Market Trends: Research current real estate market trends in the area where the property is located. Look for neighborhoods experiencing growth in property values and low inventory levels, as these may indicate high demand and potential for appreciation.
  • Property Condition: Assess the condition of the property and consider any necessary repairs or upgrades. Look for homes that are well-maintained and have features that appeal to a wide range of buyers, such as updated kitchens, bathrooms, and energy-efficient upgrades.
  • Home Inspection: Conduct a thorough home inspection to identify any potential issues or red flags that could affect the property’s resale value. Pay attention to structural integrity, electrical and plumbing systems, and the condition of the roof, foundation, and HVAC systems.
  • Resale Potential: Consider the property’s appeal to future buyers beyond your own preferences. Avoid overly unique or highly customized properties that may have limited appeal to a broader audience.

Have mortgage questions? Bridgepoint Funding specializes in the VA loan program and works with military members and veterans all across the state of California. Please contact us if you have any financing-related questions or would like to explore your mortgage options.

Mike Trejo

Mike Trejo is a Bay Area mortgage broker with 20+ years of knowledge and experience.

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