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Seminar provides expert advice for smart home buying

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Whether you are a first-time home buyer or looking to purchase an investment property, the Housing Management Office is here to help. June 17, they brought subject matter experts to the Airman and Family Readiness Center for a free Home Buyer's Seminar.

"We offer services for any Edwards AFB employee; if you need help finding a place in the local community, if you want information about the off-base options, we provide the information to you," said Amanda Cardwell, housing management specialist. "A good 90% of our business, now that we are privatized, is off-base referrals."

During the seminar, house seekers learned about realtors, title and escrow, and home inspections. For VA loan-qualified people, Denise Dee, senior home loan consultant, was there to explain how to make the most of the VA funding.

According to Dee, the VA offers up to 100% financing with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance. There is however a VA funding fee. The maximum financing varies for each state and county, and can be found on the VA website

VA financing can also be used to renovate a fixer-upper. Qualified renovations might include kitchen or bathroom remodels or new plumbing.

"There's a lot of criteria, you've got to jump through a lot of hoops to do it, but it's eligible and you can go up to $35,000 maximum for the rehab cost," said Dee.

Financial advisor Scott Alexander, reminded attendees that it's important to get pre-authorized or pre-qualified for the loan before looking at houses.

Recalling his first home-buying experience he shared, "I'm walking into this million dollar house going, 'this is great, this is so nice.' It had heated tile floors and I'm thinking, 'this is so great, I've got to have this house.'"

But when he got to the bank, he was quickly informed that he could only afford a $160,000 house.

"This is the most important thing: what you borrow is more important than the interest rate, because what you borrow is what you owe," said Alexander.

He also addressed common questions like, should I pay it off early? And, should I get an interest-only loan, an ARM loan or balloon payment at the end?

Once a home seeker has talked to the bank and determined their price range, they need a real estate agent or realtor to find a property. Greg Galli, Greater AV Association of Realtors president, explained the differences between the two.

"A realtor is somebody who has a real estate license, but they subscribe to a higher code of ethics," said Galli. "If you have a problem with your realtor, you can report them to the board."

After a house is chosen, both the buyer and seller enter escrow. The escrow specialist is "like the hub of the wheel" that collects all of the pertinent documents for the sale.

"Escrow can be very stressful," said title and escrow specialist Michelle Flanagan. "Take everything very slow, go through it and when you have questions ask us, we are happy to help."

The final speaker of the afternoon, Greg Bechner, is a home inspector and general building contractor. He said not all defects are obvious, which makes a thorough home inspection crucial. Even brand new homes can fail parts of the inspection.

The base housing office does community inspections for houses and apartments in the area to ensure that renters and buyers are in "quality communities." They also provide information on local utility companies including what deposits the home buyer can expect to pay. For the active duty personnel, the housing office also qualifies both inbound and outbound members for on-base housing at current or new locations.

To see homes for rent that have been verified by base housing offices, visit the DOD-approved site,

The Housing Management Office is open Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. excluding federal holidays. Walk-ins are welcome.

For more information call the Housing Management Office at 661-277-4506 or email