Help available for home buying and mortgage payments
The check we write each month for the roof over our heads, whether it’s a mortgage payment or rent, is generally the biggest expense we have.
The next time you’re shopping for a mortgage or looking to refinance an existing mortgage, check with lenders about deals for military families.
It pays to shop around for the best interest rate and lowest fees, starting with some of your favorite banks and credit unions. Doing Internet research at sites such as www.bankrate.com can get you started, too.
Be sure to ask about discounts or special programs for military personnel. Chase Home Finance, for example, takes $300 off closing costs for mortgage purchases and refinancing for active-duty, Guard and reserve members, as well as military retirees. That applies to primary residences, second homes and investment property, said Kim Ryan, national director of the Chase Home Finance Military Mortgage program.
Moreover, mobilized Guard and reserve members who have a Chase mortgage in good standing can defer mortgage payments for up to 18 months during call-ups.
This goes beyond requirements of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, under which banks must reduce the interest rate on loans to 6 percent for Guard and reserve members who are called up and, as a result, lose income. The SCRA also applies to active-duty members if they took out loans before joining the military.
The Chase plan, called the Extended Repayment Agreement, provides flexibility in repaying the debt after demobilization. Options include doubling up on the payment; a loan modification agreement that stretches out the payments; and refinancing the loan at the current market rate. The company will make no derogatory credit reports as long as the provisions of the agreement are met.
For more information, go to www.chasemilitaryhomeloan.com, call (866) 313-4192, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
USAA, a company that focuses on military members, has a similar program tailored to Guard and reserve members, also designed to lessen the financial impact of deployments. USAA will allow you to defer all or part of your mortgage payments while deployed, said Kim Thompson, senior products manager.
Once you return, you have 90 days to repay. Or you can convert the deferred payments to a separate loan, such as a home equity line of credit. For more information, go to www.usaa.com.
Help for homeowners
The nonprofit USA Cares, which assists military families through a nationwide network of resources, offers a new program that’s a rescue mechanism for military homeowners at risk of losing their homes because of hardships related to military service.
The Homeownership Preservation Foundation has donated $400,000 to USA Cares to help military homeowners in distress and can contribute up to $800,000 more over the next two years, based on the success of the program.
These are grants that do not have to be repaid. The maximum lifetime gift per family is $7,500. The money will be paid directly to the mortgage lender on behalf of the homeowner.
Those who qualify are: active-duty members serving overseas; reservists called up for active duty; members who have left active duty in the past 18 months; members injured or with a permanent disability in the past 24 months; and survivors of those who died on active duty within the past 24 months.
Other conditions also apply:
• The deployment must cause a decrease in household income and/or an increase in expenses, putting the mortgage at risk.
• The family finances must have been relatively stable at the beginning of the deployment, with mortgage, utilities and other basics no more than one payment behind, and the house considered affordable for the family’s income level.
• Household income clearly must have stabilized, or will stabilize in the near future.
• A payment under the program must result in the loan being reinstated in full, or being placed on a long-term, affordable “catch-up plan” with the lender.
For more information, go to www.usacares.us/hpf.html, or call (800) 773-0387.
Got that? You’re good to go.
Questions, suggestions or comments? Contact staff writer Karen Jowers by e-mail at email@example.com; or address letters to her in care of Times News Service, Army Times Publishing Co., 6883 Commercial Drive, Springfield, VA 22159.