Global Stop Movement Order
In late April, Department of Defense Secretary Esper extended the stop move order that was due to expire at the end of May to June 30th. This domestic and international order intended to protect service members and their families from risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has potential impact on many service members expecting a permanent change of station (PCS) to the Hawaiian islands.
The Department now has procedures in place to allow for additional waivers and the resumption of travel for several categories of travelers that were previously suspended. Those who are in the middle of temporary duty travel or permanent change of station moves may continue on to their home stations or new duty stations. The order also exempts travel for medical reasons. Many of the waivers and exemptions will be up to an individual’s installation commander and may be issued in cases where travel is determined mission essential, necessary for humanitarian reasons, or warranted due to extreme hardship.
The policy is being reviewed by Secretary Esper every 15 days until June 30th and it remains to be seen whether they will be extended or modified at that time. This update will significantly slow the rate of PCS moves to and from Hawaii during peak summer PCS season of May 15 to August 15. Nationwide, about 100,000 service members were expected to move during this time.
VA Home Loan
PCSing service members who were planning to utilize their VA home loan benefits can still be prepared for resuming a search for a home by getting pre-approved for financing, so they are ready to make offers. For valuable Hawaii resources on VA loans, please visit the Hawaii VA Loans website.
COVID-19 has also caused changes to appraisals on VA home loan purchases. Per policy issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs and updated on April 10, appraisals will be exterior-only for properties up to $1,148,475 (1.5 times the maximum Freddie Mac Conforming Loan Limit).
These four conditions must be met by the appraiser (or he/she must document why they could not be met):
- The appraiser will review the full exterior of the property and provide photos of all sides of the property with detailed notes of the exterior and any visible minimum property requirements. In instances of obstructed or restricted view and access is unable to be granted or allowed, Multiple Listing Service (MLS) photos of these areas may be utilized.
- A measurement of the footprint of the home should be provided if accessible. This is not to determine the gross living area (GLA) but for the appraiser to reconcile with public records.
- The appraiser will conduct a detailed interview over the phone with the occupant, Veteran, or real estate professional regarding the property. It is the appraiser’s responsibility to obtain sufficient information to provide a creditable report.
- The appraiser may utilize any and all photos available from MLS, provided by the occupant, Veteran, or real estate professional. Comparables will still be viewed and photos provided when possible.
Of note to buyers and sellers in Hawaii, the policy also references termite inspections. Ordinarily VA loans require a wood inspection report if the property is located in an area on the Termite Infestation Probability Map where the probability of termite infestation is “very heavy” or “moderate to heavy.” Under the guidance, if there is no known or visible evidence of termite infestation present, the seller and realtor must provide a certification to that fact and the Veteran must acknowledge that no inspection was completed. VA recommends the Veteran to complete an inspection once the national emergency has ended.
Home Buying on Oahu
COVID-19 brings swiftly changing circumstances for service members. The good news is that the Oahu real estate market is still very healthy. Please let me, Cathy Possedi, assist you with navigating this process and helping to take the worry out of these times. My experience as a member of the Hawaii Life Military Specialized Team can help you and your family get prepared and find a home in the islands when the opportunity arises.