One niche that has kept Guam’s real estate market steady even with the ups and downs of the local economy has – for many years – been the veterans and active-duty service members whose home purchases are backed by the guarantee of Uncle Sam through the Veterans Administration.
Home loans guaranteed by the VA have empowered military households to move up from renting to buying homes on Guam while they’re serving on the island or are living their retirement years here.
For VA-backed home buyers, the purchase of a standalone house with a yard and neighbors has been easier to navigate as long as the condition of the house gets the VA’s go-signal.
VA-backed buyers, however, don’t always get the home they want especially if they have their sights on condominium units.
Before purchasing a condo unit, that entire condo building or complex must be one of the projects the VA has approved for its loan guaranty program.
This dilemma arose when two buyers in search of Guam homes wanted to buy a unit in the Oka Towers condo development.
The condo project has the views that beckoned the buyers, but they hit a snag when they found out Oka Towers hadn’t been VA-approved for its loan-guaranty program.
“It started when I did a listing on an Oka Towers unit for sale,” said Chris Murphy, of the Real Estate Professionals. “The first couple of buyers came in and made an offer.”
None of the two buyers was able to snag the condo unit because their mortgage was subject to VA’s loan guaranty and Oka Towers hadn’t been approved by the VA.
“We were unable to go through the purchase,” Murphy said.
Murphy didn’t look far to get Oka Towers VA-approved for subsequent buyers and sellers.
Murphy worked in tandem with Marc Ehrgott, Norcom Mortgage’s Guam branch manager, to start the VA approval process for Oka Towers.
While Norcom is relatively new to the Guam market, having been here for several years, Ehrgott is familiar with the VA approval process for condo projects.
“In 2019, I also completed the process of getting Pia Marine VA-approved,” Ehrgott said.
Three other condo projects in the pipeline
“With the collaboration of others, we are also in the middle of VA approval for three other projects in addition to Pia Marine and Oka Towers. If successful, we will have brought five major condo projects online for VA financing in the last 18 months,” Ehrgott added.
So how complicated and long does the process take?
“There were no major obstacles other than it is a lot of work for the respective parties to collect the applicable documents which must be legible and accurate and presented … in the fashion VA wants. We have enough experience to do that as efficiently as possible, however.”
Murphy and Ehrgott worked as a team to get things moving.
“We really worked in unison. I used my experience with VA to identify the list of documents required for a condo project’s approval for VA financing and we worked together to submit the completed package to the VA National Practice Review team,” he said.
If Ehrgott is successful in getting the three other Guam condo developments approved for home buyers backed by the VA, Ehrgott said, “we will have brought five major condo projects online for VA financing in the last 18 months.”
He said it’s key for Guam’s real estate market to meet the needs and preferences of a segment of buyers that’s driving the residential real estate market.
“With the heavy influence military buyers have at this price point, it is important to have as many options open to them as possible,” Ehrgott said.
“Many come to Guam with no dependents or have no desire for responsibilities with yard care and other items related to owning a single-family residence, so oftentimes a condo is the best fit,” he said. “Oka Towers has become not only a very viable option for many service members, but this now creates a huge value to the project and its unit owners because they have opened the prospect for the sale units to a much wider audience of buyers.”