By Deborah Ball Kearns
Buying a home is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Buying a home when you’re stationed thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, though, takes it up another 10 notches. But U.S. Air Force Lt. Colonel Steve Sales and his wife, Jeanne, were lucky to have Regina Acosta Tobin on their side.
Acosta Tobin, Co-Owner of RE/MAX Metro Plus in Columbus, Ohio, made the process smooth and worry-free while Sales was serving as a health care team leader embedded with the Afghan National Army.
Anticipating Sales’ retirement from the military in late 2012, the couple set their sights on Columbus, where Sales was offered a civilian job in health care administration. He began a yearlong email dialogue with Acosta Tobin last spring to find the perfect home in a historic Columbus neighborhood that could also accommodate Sales’ elderly parents.
“Regina managed all the details,” Sales says. “I felt like she knew these neighborhoods intimately, and she steered us in the right direction. When I came back from Afghanistan in May, we decided on a home and closed in June. She had our best interests at heart the entire time. In turn, we put a lot of trust in her.”
Acosta Tobin worked in phone calls with her client at odd hours to accommodate an 11-hour time difference. In February, she took Jeanne, who had flown in from Texas, around town to preview listings.
Mission with meaning
Acosta Tobin says attention to detail, time flexibility and constant communication are essential when working with deployed military clients. Special touches, like taking extra photos of listings when MLS images aren’t sufficient, can also go a long way in building good will and taking stress out of the equation.
“These military men and women are risking their lives and working hard, and they want what everyone else wants: the American dream of homeownership,” Acosta Tobin says. “I was thrilled to help deliver that to them.”
Sales Associate Adrienne Lally couldn’t agree more. As a U.S. Army veteran, she understands the challenges faced by military families when they’re looking to buy or sell a home. Sixty percent of her business involves military clients.
“When you work with a military family, it’s not always in the highest price point, but these transactions are tremendously rewarding,” says Lally, a Team Leader with RE/MAX Honolulu in Honolulu, Hawaii. “You have to be their best advocate; I sometimes write cover letters to sellers on behalf of military buyers explaining that they’ve served our country and been deployed overseas numerous times. Sometimes it matters, and sometimes it doesn’t; but I believe in going the extra mile to get the best results.”
Knowing your clients
Military families and veterans lead demanding lives that require frequent moves, long deployments and personal sacrifices. Real estate agents need to know the culture, the lingo and the available financing options if they want to work with military clients, Lally says.
It starts with knowing some of the military’s many acronyms. Also, do a little reading on ranks, military jobs and the different branches so you can speak intelligently about a potential client’s situation. Paying attention to these nuances, Lally adds, shows military clients that you’re attuned to their lifestyle.
“Military communities are very tight,” Lally says. “If you do a good job for one person, you’ll be referred to others and become an indispensable part of their big moves.”