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VA mortgage lending turns in a record year

The popularity of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ low-interest mortgage loans continues to grow. Last year was a record year for VA loans, with $179.1 billion provided through 707,107 loans, up 12 percent over 2015.

If James Pickett had to come up with thousands of dollars for a down payment to buy a house, he’d still be renting.

But at age 50, Pickett was able to purchase his first home in December without any down payment. His family is now enjoying four bedrooms and a nice yard for the same monthly payment he previously paid for rent.

He’s so delighted with his new home, he says he likes taking out the garbage — because he gazes at the house as he heads back inside.

“I look back at the house, and the dog running around in the yard, and I think, this is a beautiful house. This is where I’ll be long-term.”

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Pickett was able to afford his home in Chicago’s West Chesterfield neighborhood because he is a veteran. Between 1985 and 1993 he served in the Marine Corps Reserve so he qualified for a loan backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a low-interest mortgage whose popularity continues to grow.

When mortgage-loan money was flowing from banks before the 2008 financial crash, many vets paid little attention to the benefit of getting a VA loan, and lenders often steered vets into private loans that had less government red tape and could be approved faster. But since the crash, they have become a reliable source of homebuying assistance for a segment of the population.

Between 2009 and 2015, the total annual volume of VA mortgage originations more than doubled, from $75 billion to $155 billion, according to the Urban Institute.

Last year was a record year for VA loans, with $179.1 billion provided through 707,107 loans, either for purchases or to refinance old loans — an increase of 12 percent over 2015. The average loan nationally was…

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