Our Guest is Jamel Williams out of Fayetteville, North Carolina. I’ve been doing real estate for about 5 years now, and I specialize in relocation for people moving into and out of the area. I want to make the process extremely easy for anyone to do. I served in the Army for about 20 years, and decided to stay here in the local area to continue serving veterans. 


DoD Updates: If you have your hard official orders in hand, go onto DPS and enter the details for your move so they can plan it, even if you are planning to move yourself. 

When you are assigned a moving date and window and you have a TSP assigned to you. Within 3 days, your TSP should be contacting you to discuss your pick-up date and to get that pickup date in writing. 


Let’s discuss the timing of buying a house. How far in advance should a military family contact a Realtor?

I recommend they contact the agent about 3 month out to assess the market, discuss their preferences, and start going through the process. Of course every situation is different, but 3 months out from their PCS orders is a good rule. If you are anticipating orders, you can still contact someone a few months in advance and start learning about the area and researching homes. The PCSgrades Area Guides give you good insight to an area before you move.


For first-time home buyers, what should they look for in a good real estate agent? What question should they ask?

The first thing a buyer should ask is, “Is this realtor part of a relocation team?” This type of realtor specializes in veterans moving to a new installation, and understands the dynamics of military moves. There are numerous benefits and awards associated with that program. Next they should ask: can that agent tell us how to start and what to expect from the process? Ask about closing costs and the financial aspects of buying a home. Sometimes people get off track because they don’t know what to expect, but a good agent can explain the process and how the pandemic has changed things. 


How can you back out if an agent doesn’t seem like a good fit?

If you are part of a network, then you can just be assigned another agent in the same network. They believe in quality and satisfaction, so they want to help the buyer. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about finding another one on your own. That’s why it is important to be part of a network. If you aren’t then, it goes by the state contracts and the local guidelines. Most agents want to listen to the client and learn their expectations, so they can give them what they want. 


How far before a move-in or report date should a family be signing paperwork to buy a house?

There are two options: you can do it virtually, or wait until you arrive in the local area. We often use the virtual option to show the buyer the home and do all the paperwork, which takes about 30-45 days. So a buyer should expect that it will take about a month after their offer is accepted before they can sign and accept a home. 


What happens when the date on your orders change?

If you are part of a network, you can be put on a hold status so that you can terminate a contract, be put on hold, and then restart the process when you know again when you will be moving to the area. It will still take about 30-45 days to complete the sale.


Currently, the seller’s market is hot and there is limited inventory. By the time you find a home, the listing is under contract. In those markets, looking months in advance isn’t helpful. So what advice can you offer to a family doing research 3 months out?

That happens every day here: we get a new buyer looking at the area, and they want to know their options. If they do virtual sales, they can do tours online and begin the process from afar. I prefer that if possible, they wait until they arrive in the local area. Then not only can you see exactly how places look, but you can also move on a property the same day it goes up on the market. 

This throws a huge wrench in the plans of military families trying to plan and purchase a home before their move to do a door-to-door move. It can be worthwhile to do a house-hunting trip for a week sometime before your PCS move. 


Last year, the Stop Move order had a huge impact on moving and the buying and selling process. How has the pandemic changed things?

The pandemic has changed things for everyone, and the housing market is no exception. I’m seeing that many buyers are willing to do whatever it takes to get a home because the inventory is so low. Buyers are offering over value and over appraisal. Some are even willing to waive the inspection–which I do not recommend. I advise buyers to set realistic expectations, be willing to make compromises, and be very attentive to what they actually need moving forward. Things are moving very quickly, so understand that you may not be able to physically enter all the homes. When a house hits the market, everyone is rushing to get time to see it because we have an extreme shortage of homes and a lot of impact from the pandemic. 


Are virtual tours becoming more standard and accepted?

The virtual tours are not much of an issue, and many buyers are requesting it right off the bat. I do virtual tours almost every day! The client needs have changed during the pandemic, and many prefer a virtual tour, especially if they are not yet in the area. About 90% of my contracts are virtual tours where the client has not even physically visited the home. 

A lot of agents put a home on the market with virtual tours available on the listing. It doesn’t have a voiceover, but it would be helpful to let the buyers know more about the layout and house flow, so they can quickly understand where things are located in the home. 


What can you tell us about the VA Loan?

The loan is at zero percent, so you don’t have to put any money into a down payment. But you still have to pay closing costs. They have rolled the funding fee into the loan, but not the closing costs. This includes the mandatory appraisal, credit report, home inspection, and termite inspection (in some parts of the country). In a buyer’s market, the seller often paid those closing costs. But right now, we are in a super seller’s market, so the buyers should expect to pay those closing costs. So even with no money down, you will still expect to pay about 5% of the home value in the closing costs. 

The home appraisal is still mandatory with the VA Loan to appraise the home’s value. Since the pandemic, the appraiser has the option not to go into the home if it is occupied. Note that the appraisal is different from the home inspection, which is an in-depth look at the home’s condition. 

Since VA Loans cannot waive inspections, and some buyers are willing to place an offer waiving those, then how can military families stay competitive? This is why some sellers are reluctant to take the VA Loan, so my advice is to find the right realtor and use creative ideas to ensure that your VA Loan can still be useful, and to educate people so it won’t be counted against you. 

The VA Loan still has great benefits. Usually they are guaranteed to close. They are sometimes shorter in closing time than other loans, so that means a faster process. Lenders want to work with and approve VA Loans, so you’re leaving a lot on the table if you don’t consider the VA Loan.