Editors Note – Our very own @Becca recently bought a house while her husband was serving overseas – she shares some insights on the process and how it went for her. We do hope you find value in this post as you work with those in the military, especially if one of your buyers is overseas. Share your thoughts in the comments.
The boxes are packed, the inspection is finished, the closing date is set: it’s simultaneously the most stressful and most exciting time in the home buying process. Now imagine making an offer on a new home, establishing a plan for renting out your old house, and organizing the logistics of moving an entire family, all while your significant other is on the other side of the globe on a military deployment.
That’s been my life for the past four weeks.
I’m a military spouse. Moving isn’t anything new to me: we move every few years, sometimes across entire continents or to the other side of the world. But typically, my husband is home for the vast majority of the moving process, and the military sends help to pack our belongings, load them into a truck, and move them to our new location. My husband usually helps me sort what we want to keep and what we want to toss, completes odd jobs I’ve added to the “honey do” list, or takes the kids when I need to clean without them undoing all my hard work. It’s a team effort.
This time, however, my husband is deployed. He’s on the other side of the world, inaccessible by phone or email for considerable periods of time. When we decided to purchase a new house in our local area (meaning the military doesn’t help with any part of the moving process), I had to go through all of it on my own.
Here are five lessons I learned along the way – lessons I’m hoping will make the home buying experience a little easier for both military spouses and their real estate agents.
1. A “Power of Attorney” Still Isn’t Enough.
I have power of attorney for just about everything, including buying and selling real estate during my husband’s deployment. As it turns out, however, lenders and title companies don’t take that paper at face value. My husband still had to wet sign and mail back a document stating that he was alive and well and was aware of my intention to purchase a home. If the military member isn’t in a location where this is possible, that could mean big headaches for everyone involved.
2. Everything Takes More Time. Be Patient.
Not only was my husband on the other side of the world, but his schedule was always changing. That meant that he slept during America’s prime business hours. Nothing happened on the same day. The counteroffer needs to be signed? It’s going to have to wait. Questions about the inspection? I have to talk to my husband…in eight hours, when he’s awake, just before I go to sleep. Luckily, both our real estate agent and the sellers were incredibly understanding and allowed us to extend deadlines until my husband and I were able to connect.
3. Make Sure the Paperwork is Correct at Closing.
Real estate closings seem like a never-ending process even when both parties are present. All the signatures and initials are enough to give anyone a major case of writer’s cramp. Now imagine doing all that signing, then signing again for your spouse, along with the words, “Attorney in Fact for (your spouse’s name).” You can imagine how time-consuming this process was for me.
Now imagine this scenario again, but picture getting about halfway through the signing process and then hearing, “oh no…I think there’s a mistake on this paperwork. Let me reprint it and have you sign it again.” I couldn’t feel my hand all day. Please, make sure your paperwork is correct the first time.
4. Don’t Save Anything for the Last Minute.
True story: our lender sent my husband and me an email the morning of closing asking for a document only my husband could sign. It was hours before closing, my husband was on the other side of the world, and I couldn’t reach him by phone or email until long after the closing was scheduled to take place. Needless to say, I was less than thrilled.
Our lender knew about our situation beforehand, he knew about the document days in advance. Still, he waited until the 11th hour to get it signed, when that was completely impossible given our circumstances. Luckily, we were able to close without the document, but this situation added undue stress. Be mindful of every client’s timeline, and get things done well in advance.
5. Offer to Help.
Moving solo is an overwhelming prospect. Our real estate agent went above and beyond, making calls and setting up appointments so I’d have one less thing to worry about. Not only was it incredibly helpful, but also made me feel valued and appreciated as a military spouse.
Here’s an insider tip: military spouses are a tight-knit group. If you make a good impression with one, they’ll recommend you to others. Given that military families move so frequently, having an excellent reputation within the military community will do wonders for your business.
If you’re a military spouse, it’s your job to ensure you have everything you need to complete a real estate transaction as smoothly as possible. And ask for help when you need it. Just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean to have to.
If you’re a real estate agent, take the time to know and understand your clients’ situation and offer to assist whenever you can. It will make a world of difference during a very stressful time.