Finding housing out of reach for many Georgian military families
As Madison Stringer scoured the real estate sites, one thing was clear.
Most of the houses were out of his price range.
Her husband, Brian Stringer, received a permanent station change to Savannah, away from Joint Base Lewis-McChord just outside Tacoma, Wash., where he currently serves. Madison hails from Warner Robins, so moving back to Georgia was the least of her worries. But with two children aged 2 and under and Brian’s 10-month deployment coming up, Madison was scrambling to find a roof over her family’s head as prices rose and homes flew off the market. .
Military personnel are at a huge disadvantage in today’s housing market because their PCS orders don’t allow them enough time to search for a home. And in a market where working-class families are battling upper-class and cash buyers, Madison wonders if they’ll ever earn the coveted title of “landlord.”
“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” Madison said. “The biggest challenge was finding a mortgage company to work with. On top of that, they want everything explained. If we had an inquiry into our credit report, they want to know, even if it “That was two years ago. They’re also asking for a lot of documents, many of which won’t be released by the military.”
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Frank and Jacklyn Pepe moved to Bryan County in January. The couple were stationed in Arizona and relied on virtual tours throughout the home buying process.
They were overwhelmed by the difficulty of the market and although they had a budget of around $300,000, it took a few tries before their offer was accepted.
“We didn’t realize the speed of the market,” Frank said. “If you didn’t make an offer within three days, it was contingent. We placed four bids and were beaten on three of them. It was a long process. The market was more competitive than we thought. We would invest more money to make our offer more attractive, but we would consistently lose. It was very brutal and stressful.
House prices up 15%
Realtor Caitlyn Rowe is a military spouse and said time constraints and limited inventory create an unfavorable home buying experience for military families.
“It’s been tough,” Rowe said. “We are building slowly until we have more houses now, but a lot of our servicemen have to buy without seeing them.”
She added that most soldiers are unfamiliar with how VA loans work and forgo buying a home early in their enlistment.
“A lot of times soldiers don’t understand that it’s even available or what it even consists of,” Rowe said. “It’s 100% funded and can be used multiple times. It’s not a one-time thing. Many soldiers want to wait and buy their house forever. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because you can have three VA loans open at a time.
According to Rocket Mortgage, homes in Richmond Hill cost an average of $295,000 and prices have risen nearly 15% or around $35,000 over the past year. Madison said she and her family were looking for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, but most were out of reach in terms of price.
“Our budget is $200,000, and he’s almost impossible to find,” Madison said. “In Savannah, it’s almost impossible too. We found one that is outdated. We should invest so much money in it, and the sellers are not willing to put money into it to fix it.
Richmond Hill realtor helps veterans
Military veteran Eric Lukkarinen, owner of American Veteran Properties in Richmond Hill, said desperate military families were living in RV parks, hotels and being taken in by other families in a last-ditch effort to find accommodation. His brokerage firm tries to eliminate those options by guiding families through the home buying process.
He went on to say that the current housing situation for military personnel needs to be fixed as the lack of housing can cause soldiers to feel hopeless and eventually commit suicide. Suicide in the military is four times higher than deaths related to military operations.
“The whole reason I started this business is because when the market crashed, 30-60 homes were foreclosed every month and those were 90% market share VA loans,” Lukkarinen said. “I sat down and thought about how I could defend them. I thought about it and developed a program where we can teach them to make good choices.
Madison worries that mortgage companies are unwilling to work with military families because they assume their stay will be short-lived.
“My husband and I are looking for our forever home,” Madison said. “He plans to go out after his contract ends. It is not because you see soldiers on our application that we are going to leave in four years.
Lukkarinen said special consideration should be given to relocating soldiers and hopes the basic housing allowance will be increased so that military families can easily seek housing.
“We need people to contact their members of Congress and tell them our [basic allowance for housing] is not enough,” Lukkarinen said. “We need to get emergency action to increase that amount of money for our community, and it probably should be done across the country.”
Latrice Williams is a general assignment reporter covering Bryan and Effingham County. She can be contacted at [email protected]