VA lending turns in a record year

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 home-buying 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. That included 12,968 loans in Illinois in 2016, or a total of $2.6 billion. The average loan in Illinois was for $204,999 compared with $253,000 for the nation, according to Veterans Affairs.

The VA loan program began in 1944, when the government made it possible for veterans returning from World War II to buy homes. About 22 million veterans have received them.