A military connection — however indirect — can be a boon for a Realtor, as agent Herb Uthlaut of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage discovered not so long ago.
One of his clients worked for Boeing and was in the Army Reserve, renting a property on Dorchester Road. When the landlord put the house on the market, he wanted to buy the residence but had to move fast because he was leaving for Fort Rucker, Alabama, and helicopter training. The client would go on to purchase the North Charleston house and rent it out. Over time, Uthlaut also helped him buy a house in Knightsville, a condo off Greenridge Road — eventually four properties in five years.
The client would join the Army full-time and is now stationed in Japan. In a recent chat, “I said the year you get ready to get back, call me” and he would refer a Realtor no matter where the client wound up, says Uthlaut, a certified Military Relocation Professional.
“It’s great when you have a relationship,” he says.
Uthlaut, who retired from a career as a pharaceutical sales rep, boasts a son who’s an Army Ranger. “I’ve worked with military referrals from USAA and Navy Federal” through a Coldwell Banker-backed program,” he said in 2014 when earning the MRP designation. at the time, he believed the course “would help me provide even better service to the military community.” Today, from a quarter to a third of Uthlaut’s business involves military personnel or veterans. He can point them to services such as USAA’s Ready Plus program, in which a qualified serviceman or woman can receive $1,200 after the fact on the purchase of a $210,000 home and $900 on the sale of a $174,000 residence.
Members of the armed forces who relocate during their service is a sizable number nationwide. Active duty personnel total more than 1.1 million; about 70 percent choose private sector homes rather than military base housing, according to the National Association of Realtors, which sponsors the military relocation badge. “Veterans number more than 22 million and real estate transactions for relocating military personnel are unique in many aspects,” the NAR says on its website.
A share of Charleston area agents who focus on military families, service people and veterans were in the armed forces themselves.
Sarah Coleman-Lee, broker associate for Charleston’s Best Home Team with AgentOwned Realty in Summerville, retired from the Air Force after 20 years. Today she promotes her Military on the Move program in which veterans are able to receive special incentives using her affiliated partnerships, she says. In radio adds, Coleman-Lee says she can garner her clients up to $3,200, without specifying a military connection. “For those needing assistance with their credit, we are able to provide a free program for veterans to help enhance their credit score,” she says this week. The program has proven to offer “huge benefits to my clients.”
She’s upbeat about the Lowcountry real estate outlook. “For me and my business I’m finding a stable and balanced market as military families are coming into and leaving the area. I do a lot of relocation work, therefore I’m able to assist my fellow veterans as they relocate into a new duty station or location,” Coleman-Lee says.
“It brings me great pleasure to not only assist our veterans locally, but to help smooth the way on the relocating end by connecting them with a very well qualified Realtor on the other end to assist with their relocation,” the agent says.
A Marine Corps veteran, Elizabeth Baker got her real estate license and joined Carolina One Real Estate several years ago.
“Whether I’m helping a veteran, or any customer, there’s a trust factor,” says Baker, who focuses her business on James Island and the West Islands. Her marketing promotion includes an ad titled, “Need a REALTOR? Hire a VETERAN!,” although her clients run the gamut of careers.
“The market is incredible right now,” she says. Baker, among local agents who count military clients, uses social media to help expedite transactions, notably with out-of-state servicepeople who may be transferred at a moments notice. “It’s going above and beyond the call of duty,” she says. “Even on a deployment, they still want to buy,” Baker says.
Coleman-Lee acknowledges that she’s indebted to the military personnel and veterans she assists in terms of housing needs.
“I love serving all my clients but I do have a special place in my heart for my fellow service members,” she says. “It’s an honor for me to serve those that I once served with.”
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Reach Jim Parker at 843-937-5542 or [email protected].