4 Things Real Estate Agents Should Know about Working with Military Homebuyers
The National Association of Realtors Profiles of Home Buyers and Sellers 2020 reports 18% of recent home buyers were veterans and 2% were active-duty service members, which means there’s a pool of real estate agents who are eager to work with this group of motivated buyers.
But not every agent is initially prepared to take on the challenges military buyers bring into the relocation process. There's a specified mindset and the desire to go beyond norms that agents need in order to have successful relationships with military homebuyers.
“I love working with military families. I find them to be decisive, and they move quickly without drama. I am a military wife, so I treat them like family and make them the most important client that I have because I know what they are going through. The next move they make should feel like an adventure, not a chore.” -Lori Ann Coyne, Virginia Realtor
What military home buyer wouldn’t want to work with a real estate agent with this insight and affection for military families? For real estate agents new to working with veterans and active duty servicemembers, here’s just a little of what you should know about working with military home buyers.
What Real Estate Agents Should Know about Working with Military Homebuyers
1) Military buyers are drawn to the titles Veteran, Military Spouse, and Military Relocation Professional, but you’ll have to earn their trust.
These titles are important. They signify you’re exceptionally in tune with the military lifestyle, but this connection is simply an open front door. To enter the metaphorical house and make yourself comfortable, you’ll have to continue to earn your buyer’s trust.
Military members are a resilient and resourceful bunch. They’re used to working with very little to produce an exceptional outcome. They often don’t realize they should be letting you do the leg work because they’re so used to advocating for themselves. Don’t lower your customer service bar this low; anticipate their needs and produce. Basically, what do you wish any of your former agents would have done for you?
It’s essential to keep up with tech that smooths the pathway to military homeownership. From virtual home tours to closing day documents signed online, it's up to you to coax these situations into fruition. You may have to be creative and accommodating in many other ways: helping a military spouse with a deployed service member buy a home with a power of attorney, embracing OCONUS time zones, and working within exceptionally short timelines, even during the trend of the unheard-of shortage of houses for sale.
For the agent who goes above and beyond, you’ll have military clients for years ahead, as many will repeat locations as their career progresses. Not only that, they’ll be more than thrilled to pass your name off to friends coming into the area. Loyalty is fundamental in a military lifestyle, and it extends to those who put military families’ needs first during stressful times.
2) You should learn military lingo and acronyms.
Well, a good chunk of them anyway. It’s a special few agents that have every branch's jargon committed to memory! For military buyers researching and interviewing agents to help them find a home, a huge red flag shoots up if their potential agent doesn’t know what a PCS or LES is. The same is true for the other real estate professionals in your circle. Not every mortgage lender knows how to work the VA loan application.
Knowing these terms conveys expertise and ultimately trust. A military member will immediately connect with an agent who knows about the drudgery and angst a lost HHG shipment brings to the family.
Here’s a quick look at a few basic military terms related to real estate.
- BAH: basic housing allowance. The amount of money per month allocated toward housing. It’s estimated by rank and location.
- HHG: household goods. All of the family’s belongings packed for a move.
- LES: leave and earnings statement. Equivalent to a paystub.
- PCS: permanent change of station. The servicemember’s job change at a new base, requiring a move.
3) Military buyers often use their BAH allotment as a predictor for the mortgage payment.
This inclination is a natural correlation because your buyers have likely been paying rent around that amount, but there are so many variables to consider when it comes down to calculating a manageable mortgage payment. As their agent, you’ll want to discuss the possibility of private mortgage insurance, the need for readily available cash for household emergencies, taxes, quality of life expenses, personal comfort level with debt, and more.Learn more about BAH: BAH Changes and Updates for 2021
Location, of course, is a huge predictor of the property’s price tag. In some military cities, the BAH falls far below what a mortgage payment would equal, and in others, it could total more. Thoroughly discussing your client’s exit strategy for the home purchase (whether it involves a future sale or a turnover into a rental property) certainly factors into calculating what a plausible mortgage payment looks like.
4) Most military homebuyers know a little about VA loans, but not enough.
As their agent, you’ll be the first resource they’ll turn to for questions about their VA loan benefit. Since a military buyer is more than likely to investigate their VA loan, you’ll need to be well versed and have the simple language to explain to a first time buyer what the loan is all about. You’ll also want to build relationships with loan providers who are experts in VA loans to refer to for intricate circumstances.
Military homebuyers likely know that the VA loan doesn’t require a down payment, which is a powerful asset, but they might be lacking the knowledge that there is a need for money in different ways, such as a funding fee and closing costs. Helping them to calculate the amount of cash they need upfront is an integral part of the initial process.
Seasoned VA loan users have more knowledge, but probably could benefit from understanding how to use all or part of a VA loan in the future. For example, obtaining a second VA loan while still holding the first is referred to as either second tier eligibility or bonus entitlement. (Have a VA Loan? Take a Second! further discusses the details of this process.)
Cesar "Romeo" Guerra, a real estate agent in California who regularly works with military clients, offers this guidance for teaching buyers about using the VA loan.
“My advice to new agents working with relocating military families is to know the ins and outs about VA loans, be the VA expert, and dispel the myths that are out there about VA loans. Be an advocate for the veteran, not your commission.”
It’s a tall order to successfully meet the specialized needs of military home buyers. But, for most real estate agents, it’s worth it for more than one reason. There could be a direct connection as a veteran agent or a profound call to serve the country’s defenders. Whatever the reason, agents across the nation continue to want to work with active duty members. Be prepared to understand and anticipate the unique circumstances of the military lifestyle!
Download our free guide about military home buyers that we created just for real estate agents!