Veterans and current military service members can and do live rural. Here are some tips and resources for those looking to get off base and onto their own land.
Back in 2017, we featured Josh and Nicole Monds. Josh was serving as a U.S. Navy submariner, and the couple was tired of close-quarters life on base. They yearned for a tract of land that would support their growing family of children and animals, but it also needed to be affordable.
The Monds eventually found the rural property of their dreams, six acres near Callahan, Florida, near Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in south Georgia. By taking advantage of a VA loan and a land/home loan package, the Monds made the move work and Nicole was able to stay home with their young children.
The Monds prove that rural and military life are compatible — and affordable. We’ve gathered a few resources to help you make your rural living dreams a reality, whether you’re currently serving or a military veteran.
VA Home Loan
Arguably the most well-known housing benefit available to active duty and veteran military personnel is the VA home loan.
So, what exactly is it? According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA home loan exists to “help you purchase a home at a competitive interest rate often without requiring a down payment or private mortgage insurance.”
How can would-be homesteaders put this popular benefit to use?
While the loan cannot be used to purchase raw or vacant land, rural properties and farms are permitted as long as there is a dwelling on the property and the veteran or military member lives in it as their primary residence.
One notable exclusion according to the Department of Veterans Affairs: “VA-guaranteed loans can only be used for residential purposes, and not to purchase a business. This means that some farm properties may not be eligible for purchase using a VA-backed home loan.”
Guidelines for purchasing a farm using a VA loan are generally the same as an in-town residence. The VA does not limit the number of acres, and when assessing a property, the value cannot include livestock, crops or farm equipment.
Visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for more information on obtaining a VA home or farm loan.
Typically used in the purchase of mobile or manufactured homes, a land/home package refers to an agreement between some home companies and banks that allow the simultaneous purchase of a manufactured home and the land on which to put it.
One of the chief advantages is the lower cost of purchasing a mobile home with a tract of land versus a plot with an existing structure.
For military members, it’s important to understand VA restrictions on mobile homes before pursuing a land/home option. According to LendingTree, “Per the VA, you may use a VA loan to purchase land and move a manufactured home or mobile home onto it, but that home must then be attached to a permanent foundation. In other words, that home can no longer be mobile.”
Check with your broker early on in the home buying process about the availability of land/home loans in your area.
Construction/Permanent Home Loan
If you have your heart set on a piece of raw land, eligible veterans can apply for a construction/permanent home loan.
With this option, you’ll receive money to purchase the land and the funding for the construction of a new home.
Note, though that payments begin only after construction is completed. There’s also a chance your lender won’t offer this type of loan, even if the VA will.
According to the Military Times , “Many well-known lenders don’t traffic in these types of loans for a variety of reasons, including construction-related risks. One option for borrowers would be alternate financing for the construction phase of the home, then a VA-backed refinancing once the residence is complete.”
Don’t overlook state programs when seeking assistance in setting up your own homestead or rural haven.
Start by checking with your state USDA office and consult your broker for tips on more state-specific benefits for military personnel.
One prime example is the Texas Land Loan program through the state’s Veterans Land Board.
While the VA Home Loan doesn’t allow for the purchase of raw land, if you live in the Lone Star state and want to snap up some acreage, you’re in luck. The VLB Veteran’s Land Loan allows veterans and active duty service persons loans up to $150,000 for the purchase of land. Texas is currently the only state to offer land loans to veterans.
While these may not help with the initial land purchase, if you’re interested in farming either during or after your military service, there are resources that offer financial support.
Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund
Offers a boost to veterans and active duty personnel who are in the early years of farming or ranching.
Members can apply for a grant up to $5,000 for specific items that will bolster a successful farm or ranch. Past items have included fencing, beekeeping equipment and storage freezers.
To be eligible, military members must join the Farmer Veteran Coalition and agree to fully participate in the fellowship program, which can include progress reports and mentoring.
USDA farm-related grants and loans
These are available to those interested in pursuing agricultural business.
The USDA outlines a number of resources for would-be farmers looking for a leg up. Locate your state’s USDA office here.
Armed to Farm
Provides resources and training for veterans and active duty military personnel. The week-long trainings discuss farm business planning and goal setting and look into USDA agencies and programs that can benefit farmers.
Participants also get to spend time on area farms for an up-close look at farming.
There are many resources available for active duty and veterans dreaming of rural life/homesteading.
The keys are to research both national and state programs, find a land agent or broker who's experienced in working with military personnel and rural land purchases, and don't give up on your dream.
With a little patience, persistence and know-how you could find the sweet spot (like the Mond family) and wind up paying less on your mortgage than you would living on base.