Don Ferris a Bayfield Veteran becomes new homeowner
Two weeks ago, Karl Ingram, 30, celebrated 18 months of homeownership, which his four years of service in the Army made possible.
After enlisting in 2008, Ingram spent 2011 as a second lieutenant in Afghanistan at the tail end of President Barack Obama’s troop surge. When Ingram left in 2012, the hardest part of returning, he said, was figuring out what to do next. But he knew he wanted to buy a house, he said.
Through the Heroes Home Advantage program and a Veterans Administration loan, Ingram and his wife purchased their first starter home in Bayfield on May 1, 2015.
In La Plata County, veterans can qualify for a number of loans and housing assistance programs. But they don’t always know that they are eligible, said Don Ferris, a real estate broker and affiliate of Heroes Home Advantage. Ferris helped Ingram buy his Bayfield home last year, forfeiting 25 percent of his commission as a stipulation of the program.
Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County incorporates VA mortgage financing into its veteran homebuyers’ applications.
“We don’t define what a ‘household’ is,” Executive Director Rachel Taylor-Saghie said. “It could be three vets that all apply together. We’re happy to consider applications like that.”
Through the program, mortgage payments are set up for Habitat homeowners so that they pay 30 percent of their monthly income.
A similar financial model is available to renters through Housing Solutions of the Southwest.
“One of our biggest programs is the VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) voucher program,” Director Elizabeth Salkind said. “Whether you qualify is up to the VA, but it’s designed for those who are chronically homeless. It was introduced two years ago here, and about two-thirds of our 36 housing options are filled.”
Voucher holders spend 30 percent of their adjusted income on rent, and the VA-funded program administered through the state pays the difference.
Housing Solutions offers other assistance, both short- and long-term, to help veterans get back on their feet.
Over the past two years, Heroes Home Advantage has donated $38,000 to local veterans as well as teachers, firefighters, public safety officers and emergency personnel. Of them, Ferris has worked with about three or four veterans or active-duty military personnel.
Brokers involved give 25 percent of their commission, and lenders pay for or refund appraisal costs. The purpose is to cover most if not all closing costs for “heroes,” active or retired.
Ferris, a retired Vietnam-era infantry officer who helped raise funds for the National Veterans Foundation as a former board member, introduced the national program to Durango two years ago, “because a lot of them (veterans) just don’t feel like they can buy a place.”
In other words, they can’t afford a down payment or don’t know about the financial assistance available to them through local and federal programs.
Ingram was eligible for a federal VA loan, which exempts recipients from making a down payment.
“That was huge,” Ingram said. “Otherwise, we’d still be paying more in rent and in escrow. It was an easy decision.”