The Six Figure Home Buying Mistake

Do your VA Loan homework before buying your first home.

Do your VA Loan homework before buying your first home.

“Smart people learn from their own mistakes. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others” Рunknown.

This article is written by Karen Bates of Military Home Loans and SargesList Local Expert Angelica Wallace of Homes With Wallace

When Karen Bates of Military Home Loans joined the United States Navy at age 19, she never dreamed it would be the catalyst for someday having a passion to get Veterans into homes, but it did.  Why?  Because just five years into her military career, she had an experience that she has come to call, “My Six Figure Home Buying Mistake.” Karen tells us:

“When I went on house-hunting leave to my second duty station, Naval Air Station Patuxent River Maryland, I was so excited to be debt free and have a whopping five thousand dollars saved.  As a 24 year old, E-5 in the Navy who made less than $25,000 each year, this was an accomplishment.  My car was paid off so I decided to look into buying a home, just a small one, a condo.  My REALTOR® and the home builder sales team assured me that with my great credit and steady income, I could buy a home.  So I picked out a beautiful, 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,200 square foot, $86,000 condo with an $850 mortgage payment.  The year was 1994.

Two months later, when I reported for duty, my first stop was to sign the loan paperwork for the closing on my new condo.  Imagine for a moment, what that felt like.  I was young, a first generation American, and had spent the last two months sharing with everyone how I was buying a home. 

And then the unimaginable happened. As I looked through the paperwork, my VA loan was nowhere to be found, my payment had increased to almost $1,300 each month, and I was being asked for more money out of pocket.¬† It turns out that the condo complex was never VA approved.¬† At a time when I needed professionals guiding me through the process, the ones working on my deal and impacting my financial future simply didn‚Äôt know enough about VA to properly advise me.¬† Ouch!”

If hindsight is 20/20, here is what she knows today; “the purchase of that condo without having its VA approval was not even an option so all of the excitement, time, energy, and subsequent embarrassment and humiliation, was a foreseen and avoidable disaster if I had done my homework and been working with VA experts I could have easily purchased with my VA loan somewhere else in the community.¬† But instead, needing a place to live immediately, discouraged, and traumatized from the experience, I quickly rented a place, and put my energy into learning air traffic control at my new duty station.”

In hindsight, this was a six figure mistake for her.¬† “Even at the bottom of the real estate market, today that condo is worth $177,000 and my loan would be paid down to $57,000.¬† When I stop to think about what I could do with $120,000 from just one property purchased at the start of a military career, some life events come to mind.¬† I could be funding my daughter‚Äôs college fund, her wedding, saving for my retirement, or having a nice chunk of money for a down payment on a dream home.¬† But I don‚Äôt feel sorry for myself because out of lemons I choose to make the proverbial lemonade.¬† The reality of my missed opportunity is that it opened the door to share my experience so that millions of other young Veterans don‚Äôt make the same mistake.”

To be sure, the goal isn’t to get every Veteran into a home because it doesn’t always make sense.  Instead, the goal is to get the most up to date and accurate VA information in front of Veterans so that they have everything they need to decide if a home purchase makes sense for them.  And then if it does, to make sure they have easy access to the most knowledgeable real estate agents and lenders specially trained in VA transactions so that the mistake she experienced does not happen to them. And thus, the beginning of Military Home Loans and now the VApro Network!  Both companies are focused on providing our military community and the real estate professionals who serve them with the most accurate information so that your military professionals can avoid a six figure home buying mistake!

My story is a little different from Karen.  When we got stationed to San Diego in 1993 I immediately knew I wanted to buy a property here.  Two years later, I talked with one agent who told me that I would not qualify with all our debts and no savings.  This information made me sad but I did not take the information of one person as gospel so I got a second opinion so to speak.  This is when I met John, a loan agent that only worked with military families and assist us in purchasing our first home in less than six months.  This allowed me to move out of military housing and start off our path in homeownership.  This also placed in my heart to one day get my real estate licensed so I can help other military families learn the power of their VA benefits for homeownership.  Because of John’s help 17 years ago, I now have $173,232 in equity in my first property.

I, Angelica Wallace, am a Vapro REALTOR® and spouse of 21 years to an active duty military member who have purchased multiple properties using our VA benefits.  There are many unknown facts regarding the use of your VA benefits and for something important as these wonderful benefits you do not want to place your trust and dependability in an agent who is not knowledgeable and certified as a VApro.

Don’t be like Karen and trust the misguided word of an unknowledgeable person who tells you can’t or won’t be able to use your VA benefits to buy your home.  Trust me to team up with you to assist you with your real estate transaction.  I am a full time agent of 10 years and I am dependable, trustworthy, reliable, and reachable; qualities you deserve and should expect from your agent.


Karen Bates, CPA

NMLS# 252795

Ark-La-Tex Financial Services, LLC / NMLS ID 2143

Military Home Loans

3914 Murphy Canyon Road, Suite A144

San Diego, CA 92123

Office (619) 422-5900

Fax (619) 422-5999


Angelica Wallace

2240 Otay Lakes Road #306

Chula Vista, CA 91915


CA DRE#01393526

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