Shared from the 2016-03-16 San Antonio Express eEdition

81-year-old veteran buys his first VA home

Summit can help identify benefits

ExpressNews.com

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Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News

Air Force veteran Robert Garcia, 81, is using Veterans Administration benefits to buy a home for him and his wife.

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Bob Owen / San Antonio Express-News

Robert Garcia got advice on how to buy a home by attending a VA Housing Summit.

Renting an apartment in a local retirement community was nice for Air Force veteran Robert Garcia and his wife, Katy.

Then the rules kicked in.

He couldn’t barbecue when he wanted. And when he was allowed to, he was restricted to a specific area. There were inspections and regular pesticide sprayings. He grew tired of the rules and in July 2015 rented a one-story, two-bedroom home on the Northwest Side with an option to buy.

He had hoped to get financing for the home he and his wife were renting and had decorated with religious paintings and icons. But his credit score was zero. He didn’t have a credit card and used cash to buy everything.

Then the 81-year-old disabled veteran found out about a Veterans Administration Housing Summit. There, he met Arturo A. Ramirez II, president of the San Antonio chapter of Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals.

Over several months, Ramirez coached Garcia on how to raise his credit score. He gave the elder veteran tips, including: pay bills on time, don’t owe more than you can afford to pay off and don’t overextend yourself.

It worked. He was able to qualify for veterans housing benefits, and on Thursday Garcia will officially become a homeowner.

“It means a lot,” Garcia said. “I can do my own thing. In the apartment you couldn’t do that. It gives me something to do, it keeps me going.”

Handy with tools, Garcia has been busy working on his home, painting it inside and out and making minor repairs.

Other veterans could reach a similar achievement.

On March 26, the fifth Veterans Housing Summit, presented by VAREP and several sponsors, will offer counseling, tips and assistance from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the KB Home Training Center, 4800 Fredericksburg Road. The summit is free and will include several services such as VA home loan assistance, credit counseling, home loan pre-approval and down payment assistance.

Organizers said veterans should bring their DD Form 214 and active-duty military members should bring their statement of service to prove eligibility. For more information about the summit, call Cecilia Sosa at 210-260-0268 or go online to www.veteranshousingsummit.com.

Ramirez said a 2010 survey showed that of 22 million veterans in the United States, 90 percent, owned a home. Of those surveyed, only 10 percent said they had VA loans.

He said veterans often need help unraveling the red tape involved in the process.

“We’re trying to bridge that gap,” Ramirez said. “At the end of the day our goal is to help them get into a home.”

And that’s just what he did for the Garcias.

The couple has been married for 54 years. Enjoying their latter years in their own home was their goal after Garcia retired from civil service — after time in the military and later as a private mechanic, he worked 28 years as an air frame repairman on B-52 bombers and C-5 transport aircraft at Kelly AFB.

With the title to their new home almost in hand, the Garcias have penciled a list of enhancements to make it their own, from recaulking the windows to redoing the kitchen floor.

“I appreciate everything Art did for me,” the veteran said. “That’s what it took for me to get my house.” vtdavis@express-news.net

“We’re trying to bridge that gap. At the end of the day our goal is to help (veterans) get into a home.”
Arturo A. Ramirez II, Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, San Antonio chapter

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