A columnist for The Washington Times contacted me last week for an article she is writing, and this is the question she asked me: What makes you a military specialist?
Of course, any agent can work with a relocating military family, whether they're coming or going. And most of those transactions will be successful. However, many military families prefer to work with a so-called "military specialist."
There's no professional designation or rulebook for real estate agents to be considered a "military specialist" but there may be certain expectations on the part of service members and their spouses. My military clients tell me they're looking for an agent who brings these qualifications to the table:
- "Been there, done that," as a member of the military or a military spouse.
Military families seem to appreciate that I've experienced military moves myself and have some idea of what they're going through. It creates an instant bond. An agent who hasn't "been there, done that" in terms of serving in the military or dealing with the pitfalls of military relocation can, however, still claim expertise in this niche market if they've built a network of previous military clients and have a good handle on items 2-5 below.
- Understand military pay.
Accurately pre-qualifying a military home buyer requires familiarity with the elements of their paycheck: i.e., cost of living adjustments for the local area and/or dependents, non-taxable income, and allowances for certain areas of expertise (such as flight pay). If you know where to find this information, you're off to a good start.
- Equipped for (and comfortable with) selling to absentee clients.
In many cases, a service member with PCS orders arrives in town with only 2-3 days to find a home, while the spouse is home with the kids - or the miliary spouse is home-shopping while the service member is deployed. Communication between the agent and client is important in any home sale or purchase, but technology will likely play a larger role for any transaction involving active duty military with PCS orders. The agent should be adept at setting up conference calls or use Skype, Go-to-meeting, Web-ex or another online communication tool to facilitate conversations with all parties. Electronic signatures are highly likely to be utilized during the transaction.
Additionally, it's been my experience that military buyers relocating to this area appreciate hyper-local blog posts, photos, and neighborhood videos to acquaint them with the area, including information about local military installations and facilities.
- Familiarity with military facilities and services in the area.
Military families have all the usual concerns of any relocating family plus others that are specific to them, such as health care options (Tri-care or USFHP?) or on-post recreation facilities, daycare, shopping, family services, organizations, and events. They want to know about temporary housing options for them and their pets, especially if they can't close on a home before their reporting date. In some cases, this could be an extended stay of 30-60 days.
- Knowledge about (and experience with) military-specific programs for home sellers and buyers.
Military home sellers and buyers may be eligible for some programs not available to the everyone such as The DOD Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP), The Service Members Civil Relief Act, the Home Affordable Military Modification Program, and other programs available also to veterans, such as VA Financing and the VA Compromise. In this market, there are many "underwater" home owners, and my military clients seem to be reassured by the fact that I have experience with both the HAP program and VA compromise.
This list will help you know what questions to ask any agent if you're a service member looking for a "military specialist" - whether their marketing does or does not mention that phrase.
This is the information that I shared with the reporter... and here's the article quoting some of our interview: Move managers help ease relocating, downsizing.
Proud to provide relocation assitance to military and civilian personnel at Fort Meade, Andrews AFB,
the U.S. Naval Academy and military establishments throughout the greater D.C.-Baltimore area.
This information was provided to you by Margaret Woda, an Associate Broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Crofton Maryland. Contact Margaret today for general real estate information or to learn how she can help you buy or sell a home in Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton, Davidsonville, Gambrills, and Odenton.
Crofton real estate