In this current tight economy, you're probably looking for business anywhere you can. It might make more sense to look for underserved market segments and become their expert. A group that has been overlooked and is begging for help is our U.S. Armed Forces.
Simply understanding their lives, their language, and particularly, how to read their Leave and Earning Statement (LES), enables lenders to build a rapport with their military clients. Once you understand that, you can properly qualify your military client and guide them toward whatever lending product makes the best sense for them within current market conditions, whether that's a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan or some other product.
Veterans Affairs purchase mortgages include a funding fee, which can add significantly to the transaction. The fee can be waived in its entirety. However, if the veteran has a service-related disability, this will result in much less money that the veteran must bring to the closing table. This simple and important fact helps make you the "Local Lending Expert" to this niche market.
Remember the original Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act of 1940? A new version, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was signed into law on Dec. 19, 2003, amending and replacing the original act of 1940. In general, the new act prohibits judicial proceedings against servicemembers during their military service, but there are many more benefits as well. SCRA rules can be absolutely critical for servicemen and women everywhere, and you will indeed be the respected "local expert" if you know and share them whenever and wherever you can. All servicemembers have access to their military Legal Assistance Office (known as the JAG Office—Judge Advocate General) and this is the best place to refer your military clients who suspect that their SCRA rights have been violated, as there are state-specific laws to consider as well.
JAG offices provide lease reviews and a standard "military clause" to cover instances of Permanent Change of Station (PCS), or if base housing becomes available. This service is free to military personnel and can sometimes be done by phone. Rental contracts vary dramatically. It is crucial to make sure there's no clause that waives SCRA rights. Some landlords use such a clause that, once signed, relinquishes all SCRA rights and often leads to hardship. This could help with credit report issues that need to be removed from the report. This is great news for the "Local Lending Expert" to deliver through a "lunch and learn" group.
As the "local lending expert" for your local military community, tailor your marketing materials toward building rapport through the language and lifestyle of the client. Make it your job to know their rank, the acronyms that represent their short-form language, and whatever pertinent changes come along for this segment of borrowers.
Make it your business, literally, to follow current events around these borrowers. Not only can you increase business in military and retiree markets, this is a great opportunity to generate positive publicity in your local community. Announce any courses you complete with credentials earned to maximize effectiveness in your niche. By reading this article, you have just learned five commonly-used service acronyms without missing a beat and the rest of the military world is not so difficult to understand either.
Our focus at USA Cares remains on our servicemembers' daily assistance needs, but is mushrooming with requests for the Certified Military Housing Specialist Course (CMHS), which produces experts who are trained and ready to provide skilled service to their military clients. Our housing education course is available free non-linear, and for 2012, we'll be presenting more live course events. Already well-received in several major cities to state and national groups, we're working on a national initiative to have trained housing professionals available to military personnel everywhere. Interest is increasingly enthusiastic at federal and state levels, with industry and trade associations and those who "get it" and want to give back in some way. Spring events are already popping onto calendars.
This national initiative is critical in bringing information to the "boots on the ground," those professionals who are on the frontlines in helping military clients. Many more professionals are adding this niche market to their 2012 plan and eagerly taking the free training that certifies their ability and commitment.to helping military personnel.
This military housing education plan has been germinating awhile, and is now flourishing with the speed of a Kudzu Plant! Not familiar with the Kudzu? It's that beautiful, albeit invasive, creeping vine that thrives in mostly southern areas. The Kudzu grows a foot a day and experts advise "Don't sit down next to a Kudzu vine for long, or you may never be heard from again!" Interest in this underserved niche market is thriving much like the Kudzu, and we are more than happy to provide this additional effort to "give back" to those who serve and protect us all.
The year 2012 is expected to be "the year of the short sale," and we know it has already begun. Our education events will often include this training, particularly in military-heavy areas. Our regional and state CMHS coordinators are disseminating information to every quadrant of the United States where this free information/certification is available to ensure this valuable niche market is properly served.
The mortgage industry is practically reinventing itself and you can do the same. Narrow your business to a market you enjoy and conquer it. There's a good chance your military clients will have nowhere else to turn but to you.
Beverly Ray Frase is a former loan officer, real estate broker and Army wife. She has written a course designed to provide a clear understanding of how to work with military clients, funded by a grant from Fannie Mae and sponsored by USA Cares available online at USACares.org by clicking on the “Education” tab. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]