Homes for Heroes helping military, first responders buy dream homes in competitive market

Posted at 10:23 AM, Feb 11, 2022

JACKSONVILLE, Fl. — The competitive housing market is making home buying a stressful process, especially for military families using VA loans.

Military families who need a loan through the VA are often losing out on homes to all cash offers, and in many cases, it’s because of misinformation surrounding VA loans.

Navy Corpsman Crystal Anderson just closed on her new home, but the process was anything but simple.

“Selling my home: sweet, easy process like, ‘Woo hoo!’ On the buying side, it was like, ‘What was I thinking? What was I thinking? Can I have my house back?!” said Anderson, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

Anderson thought she was well trained for chaos. She enlisted in the Navy in 2006 to help pay for school and has since been deployed across the country and world.

“I call us the nurses of the Navy, like anything from IV’s to immunizations, to lab draws to saving a life, we can do it all,” said Anderson.

She deployed to the detention camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and to New York City in the height of COVID-19.

“You were even kind of scared to just take your mask down to get a sip of water. It was scary at first,” recalled Anderson of spring 2020.

Yet, all her missions could not prepare her to battle for a home. She looked at dozens of houses and put in several offers with no luck.

“Those four or five offers that didn't go through, that was enough for me,” said Anderson of how discouraging the search became. “I’m a 35-year-old woman. I'm used to living on my own. I can only stay with somebody for so long. I really need to feel normal again.”

Finally, she put in an offer that was accepted, but her dream stopped short during the VA loan appraisal process, which can be tougher than a conventional appraisal.

“A week before closing, I found out that the home didn't appraise for what the price was listed for, and that I would have to pay a huge difference,” said Anderson. “And so of course, I’m not rich. So, that offer got taken off the table. So, I had to start my search again.”

But, her realtors and fellow servicemen, Ant Stroud and Mario Gonzalez, helped her through the entire process. Gonzales is the founder of Navy to Navy Homes, a property management group and real estate office in Jacksonville, Florida.

Gonzalez said he’s seen the home buying process become way more complicated because of misconceptions about VA loans.

“You'll have people that aren't very familiar with the VA process. They turn off their customers toward it. 'Don't use it,' they tell the buyers, or they'll tell their sellers, 'Don't accept it.' People think that it's going to take too long. People think that the inspection is going to be too difficult. People think the appraisals as to be too difficult,” said Gonzalez.

On average, a VA loan can close in the same time as a conventional loan, but Gonzalez has seen these stigmas stop deals repeatedly.

“Very simply put, is the VA loan is not any more dangerous than any other loan. You know, you're not accepting any other risk in the grand scheme of things,” said Gonzalez.

So, to help military families get their homes in such a competitive market, Gonzales and his team have a gift: they give part of their commission to their clients for closing costs or so their clients can present a higher offer.

It’s part of a nationwide effort called Homes for Heroes that’s now helped 50,000 military members, teachers and other first responders.

“It just lessens the burden of buying a home. It reduces that barrier of entry to be able to get into a home, which was fantastic,” said Gonzalez.

“They really didn't give up on me, and they kept in the fight and they did an amazing job helping me to find a house,” said Anderson. “So, for them to be so generous to even give you a part of their commission is definitely a bonus.”

This big thank you to those who serve comes in a time when home means more to us all than ever before.

Gonzalez said he just hopes more heroes will take advantage of the help that is out there.

“I just say to other folks, ‘Spread the word as much as you can. There is a program for you. It doesn't cost anything,’” said Gonzales.

“It just really lifts my spirits to know that I'll be in my own home again. I get to come home, kick off my shoes, scream, cry, dance, do whatever in the comfort of my home. I can't wait. I'm excited,” said Anderson.

Homes for Heroes is now operating across the country, and it has donated millions of dollars to heroes. If you’d like more information or would like to get involved, click HERE.