Working with veterans may be different than working with other clients. But ultimately, our job as real estate professionals is to understand our clients and how to best serve them through one of the most significant purchases of their lives.

With the new year about to dawn, it’s time to level yourself up. We’ll close out the year with a monthlong focus on real estate coaches and the value of ongoing training. Expect advice from the top real estate coaches, deep evergreen training resources and more during Inman’s Coaching and Training Month.

If you’re considering leveling up by pursuing the Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification, here’s real-world advice from veteran and broker Kristy Kowalski.

After retiring from a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, which included elite duty and two combat tours in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I entered real estate in 2014 as an agent. I opened my own brokerage in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2018. 

I may have launched a new career, but being a veteran is a significant part of my identity, including within the real estate industry and my community.

When starting my business, I leveraged what I learned in the military to cultivate a highly successful performance-driven culture by putting structure and accountability in place. As someone deeply passionate about helping people — something ingrained in my years of service to this country — I try to lead by example and instill the same passion in my agents.

It’s not a surprise that I am passionate about serving all my clients, including my fellow veterans. In real estate, agents often find that working with VA loans can be cumbersome and time intensive, which means they may shy away from clients wanting to use that program. The result is that veterans tend to be an overlooked client segment.

In my opinion, veterans deserve the utmost in service from someone who appreciates their sacrifice and is willing to do whatever it takes to get them a home. It takes a special type of person to join the military and sustain their service. It’s helpful for agents to understand some of the things that the military instills in its servicemen and women. 

Here are a few of the things I tell my agents.

  • Being in the military automatically makes you a part of a brotherhood and sisterhood whose bonds cannot be broken. Your service becomes part of you, as does your desire to take care of others, especially your own. The mantra of “no one left behind” never leaves you. Buying a home for their family is the ultimate act of service for a veteran because a home offers safety and stability for their new “unit.”
  • Everyone in the military has a specialized skill and expertise, so they appreciate and respect the unique skills a real estate agent brings to the table. They will rely on their agent for not only education about the process and options available to them but also for their counsel. Make sure they completely understand everything you tell them at every step. These “briefings” are an important part of how they approach their “mission” of buying a home.
  • Veterans are some of the strongest buyers around. They have saved money and if they use a VA loan, they don’t need to put any money down. This is a deal you can get to closing. In my experience, most veterans are not talkers; they are listeners. They spent their time in the service taking orders, not questioning them, so they are very quick to provide all of the necessary documents. 
  • Many veterans have endured hardships that may affect them in some way. They may have invisible wounds which affect how to handle stress or unknown situations. I have found one of the best approaches in these cases is to pre-empt any potential surprises or setbacks by discussing in advance what to expect. One example is what could happen after we submit an offer. We talk through the possible scenarios and discuss responses. Affordability is a big concern for veterans on a fixed income. Their debt-to-income ratio may be low, but their monthly payment may be higher when using a VA loan, so we always have to factor in the financial impact of any development.

Working with veterans may be different than working with other clients. But ultimately, our job as real estate professionals is to understand our clients and how to best serve them through one of the most significant purchases of their lives.

When a veteran buys a home, I feel so honored to have helped them achieve this milestone. They have done more than the average person does in their lifetime, and in my mind, they deserve a level of service that honors their sacrifice. 

Kristy Kowalski is a Navy veteran and broker/owner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Green Country serving Tulsa and Northern Oklahoma. Connect with her on Facebook.

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