MEDFORD, Ore.– For 13 years, 33-year-old Chris Whiteley has been serving his country the best way he knows how – as a member of the United States military.
But after being deployed overseas and coming back to a country still reeling from the 2008 housing crisis, he and his wife, Kristen, were unsure of their housing options.
“The housing market has been crazy for the last, at least, couple years,” said Chris, “Especially with the rise of the prices of houses and the scarcity. It seems like everybody seems to be moving here.”
But ever since 1944, a GI bill has given veterans something not many other U.S. citizens receive. As a “Thank You” to each military families service to the country, a VA loan has given Americans since World War II a chance to own a piece of the land they fought for.
“There is a deep hunger for homeownership among veterans, military members and their families,” said Chris Birk, director of education for Veterans United.
For Birk, working with Veterans United, a company that helps veterans easily access the VA loan, has given him the chance to help veterans and he has even watched as the number of applicants for the loan has increased over the years.
“It became pretty clear to a lot of veterans that a conventional mortgage wasn’t going to get them where they wanted to be,” he said. “Thats when I think a lot of veterans started to investigate this benefit, this job benefit they earned through service and sacrifice to our country.”
Birk says that for awhile, many veterans didn’t consider the bill due to misconceptions of bureaucracy or red tape that may follow the loan. But once the benefits are explained, Birk believes that’s helped push more military families to consider it. Such as the Whiteleys.
“This loan really allowed us to get the house of our dreams,” said Chris.
So what is attracting more veterans to this loan? There are a couple reasons.
First, the average interest rate on the loan is the lowest of any on the market, according to Ellie Mae reports. In it’s October Origination Insights Report, the average 30-year fixed VA loan was 4.83 compared to 5.03 for conventional and 5.05 for FHA.
Second advantage is that a down payment is not required.
In order to qualify for the VA loan though, a military member has to either serve 90 consecutive days active duty during war time, or 181 days during peacetime, or six years in the national guard or reserves.
According to Veterans United, from 2013 to 2018, the number of applicants for the VA loan in Oregon increased by 46 percent. In Medford, it was 62 percent. Birk says that in 2018 alone, 357 VA purchase loans were issued in Jackson County – including the Whiteleys.
Like others who have served, the Whiteleys’ dream of one day settling down and starting a family has finally come true.
“It’s amazing that we have that benefit cause it’s not that we somehow are better than anybody else but we are so grateful that we’ve be given the opportunity to have such a benefit,” said Chris.
Now, with their little piece of Americana, the couple can begin looking toward the future with hope and maybe – a larger family.
“This is the whole reason we wanted to get a house anyways is cause we want to plan for a nice big family,” said Chris, smiling at his wife. “And this kind of was our first step.”
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.