Agent

How real estate agents can help military families buy homes

Tips and tricks from one broker who's made a business helping relocating enlisted members
  • In honor of Veteran's Day, ERA shared its tactics for effectively serving active military homebuyers.
  • One of the featured Realtors, Ranelle Birmingham of ERA Sarver Real Estate, says being tech-savvy, utilizing military discounts and creating tight-knit relationships with community members who can welcome new military families is the key to success.

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In May, the National Association of Realtors released its first ever “Veterans & Active Military Home Buyers and Sellers Profile,” which revealed the average active military homebuyer bought their first home at 34 — six years earlier than non-military homebuyers.

Furthermore, active military members were more likely to use a real estate agent due to extra concerns, such as short deadlines for relocation.

veterans-and-active-military-infographic

In honor of Veteran’s Day, ERA Real Estate shared a number of tactics it employs to better serve military members and their families.

“I am proud of our ERA affiliates’ passion for adeptly managing the relocation, homebuying and selling challenges faced by our military personnel,” said ERA Real Estate president and chief executive officer Sue Yannaccone in a press release.

“I am also very pleased that our network is represented across the country by numerous real estate professionals with a military background or connection. We are grateful for our veteran affiliates who are instrumental in helping our brand perform at its best, passing on their insights and passion to all of our ERA community so we can be an even better brand for veteran real estate professionals and veteran and military clients alike.”

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One of the featured ERA Realtors is Ranelle Birmingham, the broker/owner of ERA Sarver Real Estate Inc. located near Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana.

Step 1: Be tech-savvy

Birmingham and her team work with military precision thanks to a lead-capture system that quickly identifies military members, an arsenal of tech tools for out-of-town buyers and a wide network of community members and institutions that are ready and willing to help families.

Birmingham uses Realogy’s ZAP platform and dotloop to contact potential buyers within 20 minutes or less and begin the process by emailing them pre-formatted information that covers the next steps, as well as information that is specific to military members, such as VA loans and benefits facts.

Furthermore, agents are able to help buyers immediately begin electronically signing any regulatory documentation, such as agency disclosures, purchase agreements and expense estimates.

The next tools on the tech front are a tech-savvy brokerage listing page, video chat platforms such as FaceTime and Skype, and aerial drone videos.

An ERA Sarver Real Estate listing video.

An ERA Sarver Real Estate listing video.

“During the process, a lot of times, it’s not uncommon for either one of the military members to not be here or none of them be here at all,” Birmingham says.

To help ease the stress of buying a home sight unseen, every home on the ERA Sarver Real Estate site has a listing video to give buyers a better sense of the home’s features. Birmingham’s agents also conduct live walkthroughs with FaceTime or Skype. If that’s not enough, buyers can request aerial drone footage of the home.

Step 2: Lessen the financial burden with VA loans, discounts

“The VA [loan] is really our No. 1 go-to because we know it eliminates mortgage insurance payments, which does make a difference with what’s coming out of their pockets monthly as well as the down payment,” Birmingham said.

Birmingham notes that although VA loans are the preferred option, some buyers won’t be able to take that route because they may have already used their loan on another property and have not recovered it. In that case, she suggests researching state housing finance tools.

“In Louisiana, we have the Louisiana Housing Corporation. They will grant the down payment if you fall within a certain income level,” she said. “The down payment will be the same as an FHA loan, which is 3.5 percent.”

Finally, Birmingham uses military discounts secured through ERA for certain services, such as temporary pod storage, security system installation and insurance.

Step 3: Get connected!

In addition to performing the usual duties, Birmingham says Realtors working with military members must be ready to act as a liaison between the buyers and the community.

“Really be aware that it’s not your normal buyer,” she suggested. “It is your normal buyer as far as the process you’re going to go through, such as finding the home and qualifying for the home — but there’s an extra stress level that’s there.

“They need to be able to plug in with a real estate agent that understands where they’re coming from,” she added.

At the beginning of the homebuying process, Birmingham’s agents ask buyers what they need, such as child care, school recommendations, help with finding employment and plugging into the community social scene.

From there, agents will contact school principals, churches, the chamber of commerce and other organizations that can help the transition process easier.

“Get involved with your military network and let those people know you want to help their incoming members.”

Email Marian McPherson