What’s the main reason veterans don’t take advantage of the VA loan program? According to one expert, it’s simple: They don’t think it’s available to them.

“The biggest thing is, ‘Well, I’ve been out of the service for 15, 20 years, so I can no longer use it,’ ” said Kathleen Ricketts, a 29-year real estate professional and an instructor with the National Association of Realtors’ Military Relocation Professional program.

“And I’m like, ‘Why?’ ‘Well, I thought it expired,’ they say. It didn’t expire. It’s yours. As long as they have an honorable or a general discharge, it’s there.”

Lack of program awareness was one of several issues brought up by military-focused real estate professionals asked by Military Times about common concerns regarding the program. Active-duty troops or those recently separated usually have the best grasp of the benefit, Ricketts said, either because of materials provided by their command or a familiarity with finding such details online.

Still, misinformation can be toxic to the real estate process, said Juanita Charles, an Army veteran and licensed Realtor in both Tennessee and Kentucky, serving an area near Fort Campbell.

“The major challenge that I have faced has been other people outside of the transaction giving incorrect or nonapplicable information,” Charles said. “Although you may have an aunt who just bought a house in Florida, please don’t allow that person to come between you as the buyer and your agent. You have hired a professional to take care of you, and so you should allow them to do their job.”

SELLER BE AWARE

Just because a buyer understands how VA loans work doesn’t mean the seller will be up to speed. It’s a knowledge gap that can prove problematic when troops or veterans put in their VA-backed offers, said Ernie Gonzales, an Army veteran whose real estate business covers Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada.

“It is a common misconception of the listing agent and seller that accepting a VA offer is a negative thing,” Gonzales said.

“Each time we help a veteran buy a home, we must educate the listing agent and seller that using a VA loan is a benefit to both the buyer and the seller. There are no unusual fees, hoops or negative impact on the appraisal that we need to worry about.”

Ricketts, whose real estate practice covers Chicago’s northwest suburbs, said it falls to the buyer’s representative to be “educating that [seller’s] agent so they can educate their client” on VA loan matters.

Doing so might require a bit of extra effort, study and patience, but there’s a reason to move forward, she explained.

“Sometimes, that’s where we have to put our patriotic hat on. We’re serving those who’ve served us.”