Marine in VA Home Loan Limbo

US Marine Jon Wilke and his VA loan dilemmaIn celebration of Veterans Day, AOL Real Estate is featuring stories about veterans and active military personnel and their real estate experiences.

For Jon Wilke, a seven-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and Army National Guard including a tour just months after 9/11, buying a home is the hardest thing he's ever done.

"It kind of feels like another deployment," Wilke, who saw active duty on multiple deployments in Europe and Bosnia, told AOL Real Estate. "I'm here in Albuquerque while my family is 18 hours away in Kentucky."

Two years ago, Wilke purchased a three-bedroom home in Albuquerque with a VA loan, which allows qualified servicemen and women to buy with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance -- a major advantage in today's market. But after a series of difficult financial decisions and personal crises that forced his family to move to Kentucky, he now wonders if he can qualify for a second VA loan to buy a home closer to them. Until then, he must travel 18 hours to visit his wife and young daughter, while his dream house in Albuquerque sits idle.

But is selling Wilke's only option?

Perhaps not, says Steve Pace, a senior loan specialist at the VA Regional Loan Center in Phoenix. After AOL Real Estate put Wilke in touch with the Veterans Affairs office, he discovered that he can qualify for a second VA home loan without selling his first home. Until recently, he had been under the impression that he was entitled to only one VA loan at a time. (Also see "VA Loans: Homebuying Help for Veterans.")

Wilke, now 34, joined the Marine Corps at the age of 19, serving with the
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26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. After leaving the service to finish school, he enlisted with the National Guard on Sept. 7, 2001 – four days before the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. "Because of all my time in the service, I kind of feel like I'm behind schedule in life," Wilke said, adding that he feels the home buying process is "difficult to understand."

The key to determining whether you qualify for a second VA loan is the amount of entitlement left over from the first purchase. VA home loans typically guarantee 25 percent of the purchase to the lender. Qualified veterans are eligible for a standard entitlement of $36,000.

Therefore, the minimum amount that Wilke must apply for to secure a second VA home loan is above $144,000 ($144,000 x 25% = $36,000). The circumstances for others will vary, depending on their particular county and total use of entitlement, so interested veterans should contact their nearest VA Regional Loan Center for specific details.

Even so, with his current job at a nonprofit that promotes literacy through Bible readings, Wilke is unsure if he can afford two mortgages. He already has listed his three-bedroom Albuquerque home on the market, but so far foot traffic has been low.

"It's a tough market here in Albuquerque, and I don't really know how to make my home stand out," he says. "I'm just hoping a vet will come in and assume the loan from under my wife and me through the VA home loan process."

(See our guides for tips on how to sell a home in a down market.)

As of this writing, Wilke's wife and daughter (pictured above) are staying with family in west Kentucky while he continues to work and maintain the family home in Albuquerque. In the event that he cannot sell the home by Christmas, he said that he's prepared to rent the home while the family finds temporary lodging in Kentucky.

While a sale would be ideal, leasing the home might also allow the Wilkes to afford a second mortgage in Kentucky.

"Whatever the outcome, I'm going to be with my family, come Christmas," he says.

The Wilkes' three-bedroom Albuquerque home is available for viewing online.

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More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
Get property tax help from our experts.
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