Homebuyers and sellers are often motivated by the market and inventory — signals that buying or selling a home is a smart financial decision at that time. But a segment of buyers and sellers can’t always wait for the right time. They have to buy or sell when their boss, the United States government, tells them it’s time to do so.
Members of the armed forces have unique needs and requirements when it comes to real estate. To learn more about those needs and how real estate agents can best serve them, we talked to Kate Reisinger, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® Executive Vice President, Member Services, who heads the organization’s U.S. Military on the Move® program.
The Military on the Move program (or, as it’s lovingly known as, MOM) serves as a matchmaker for active service members, their extended family, and veterans alike, connecting them with an experienced real estate professional in the market they need and offering a rebate or credit on a home sale or purchase to eligible service members in states where allowed.
“LeadingRE created the Military on the Move program to support the men and women of our armed forces who are currently serving or have served,” said Reisinger. “It’s really a thank you for all that they’ve done for us.”
Reisinger shared four insights about working with military buyers and sellers.
1. You don’t have to live near a base — but it helps
For example, the Chicagoland area isn’t typically thought of as a major military community, but that doesn’t mean veterans and service members can’t be a core component of business there.
“Almost 10% of our agent base has military ties, either as veterans or as spouses or parents of veterans,” said Jo Lay, Vice President, Relocation Services at Baird & Warner, whose company participates in Military on the Move. “Our involvement with MOM shows our agents that Baird & Warner cares and wants to give back to those who protect our country and homes.”
Keep in mind that veterans can move anywhere after they leave the service. It isn’t always a matter of a Permanent Change of Station (PCS), but for those areas with a heavy military presence, the business can be brisk.
“Living in Augusta, Ga., we are close to Fort Gordon, which is home to the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Cyber Command. Offering the MOM rebate to our military and their families has become one of our agents’ favorite ways of thanking them for their service,” shared Andrea Bowles, Relocation Director of Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate.
2. It’s okay to ask
Interestingly, your buyer or seller may not even identify as military at first. That’s why you should make it a simple question when you first meet your client.
“We like to tell our agents to keep their eyes open in the house,” said Reisinger. “Are there pictures from the service? Is there decor or memorabilia indicative of a veteran? You’d be surprised how many times the answer is ‘yes’ or even ‘no, but my child or my parent is.’ That’s when you can introduce them to the Military on the Move program.”
3. Be sensitive to their specific needs
For Tammy Vlah, Executive Vice President of Watson Realty Corp., it’s critical for agents to be prompt and respectful of their military clients’ limited time. It’s also important for her agents to stay on top of changes and trends in the military itself, as well as programs that serve them.
“You need to be familiar with the PCS process and understand VA loans and appraisals,” she said. And that’s why Watson Realty Corp. and hundreds of other companies attend the Military on the Move webinars from LeadingRE, which provide timely information on trends impacting the military community.
“Most of these individuals are used to moving frequently, and they’re often on tight time frames,” Reisinger said. “They’re also uprooting families, so there are a lot of unique aspects to military moves.”
4. Go above and beyond the transaction
Real estate professionals should already provide a level of excellence to their clients, but that effort pays even more dividends with a military client. “This is an intensely loyal client base,” Reisinger shared. “Take good care of them, and they will refer you to everyone they know.”
In order to deliver that service, think beyond the closing and be a local resource, helping them to connect with their new community and find doctors, mechanics, specialty markets and other necessaries of daily life. Invite them to events to help them integrate and feel welcome.
“In the end, the military families have given more than we can ever repay,” said Reisinger. “It’s our personal and professional privilege to be of service to them in return, in whatever ways we can.”