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Report: Jacksonville Tops The Nation For Millennial VA Loan Growth

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Bill Bortzfield
/
WJCT News
A model home in The Woodlands subdivision on Jacksonville's Southside is pictured in 2016.

A new study points to Jacksonville's appeal among millennial military veterans and service members.

Veterans United Home Loans, a VA loan provider, compared VA loans it made to millennials in the top 30 markets across the U.S. between 2015 and 2018.

The Jacksonville metropolitan area showed the highest growth by far across the nation, with VA loan growth soaring by 228.8% over the three years. The average home purchase price was $238,066.

The Tampa Bay area came in second with a growth rate of 144.8% followed by San Antonio at 135.5%.

To qualify for inclusion in the study, metro areas needed at least 75 purchase loans among millennials in each of the years analyzed. For the purposes of the study, "millennials" are considered those born between 1981 and 1996. 

Related: Explore The Top 30 List

Chris Birk with Veterans United Home Loans authored the study.  He said millennial veterans and active duty members have been ahead of the curve when it comes to home buying, compared with civilians. 

“It’s active duty service members. Its veterans and military families who are retiring and looking to put down roots in the Jacksonville area,” said Birk.

Veterans, active service members and select military spouses qualify for VA loans, which offer significant benefits over traditional mortgages. VA loans are offered with a $0 down mortgage option, which allows a lower point of entry to home ownership. According to Birk, VA loans also tend to be offered at lower interest rates than traditional mortgages.

And as a strong miltary town, Jacksonville has homebuyers' attention. 

"There’s something special happening in Jacksonville. That’s going to have economic ripple effects far beyond the veteran community," he said. 

He said around 80% of veterans own homes, which is significantly higher than the general U.S. home ownership rate of 63.8% reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Birk speculates one of the reasons for the higher ownership rate is millennial veterans and active duty members usually aren’t weighed down by student loan debt.

“That isn’t often the case for veterans or service members because of their education benefits through the GI Bill,” said Birk.

The U.S. government created the Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage loan program in 1944 to help returning members purchase homes without needing a down payment or strong credit.

More than 24 million VA loans have been guaranteed since the program’s inception, according to Veterans United Home Loans.

VA loans are available through private lenders such as banks and mortgage companies. The VA guarantees a portion of the loan, enabling the lender to provide more favorable terms.

Birk said on a nationwide level about 80% of VA loans go to veterans with approximately 20% going to active service members.

Another trend among active member VA loan buyers is turning homes into investments. Birk said some with VA loans choose to hold onto a house after they leave a city.

“By the time that they’re getting ready to transition out of the military, they’ve got one – sometimes more than one – rental properties that are helping them accrue income and build wealth,” said Birk.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a resource guide for those interested in the VA loan program.

“The heart of this program is leveling the playing field and expanding access to homeownership,” said Birk.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.