In a competitive housing market, veterans can encounter challenges when it comes to obtaining their dream house with a VA home loan. Navigating the home buying and VA home loan process is tricky on its own, and coupled with a hot market and hungry buyers, it can feel like an uneven playing field.
For the last decade, real estate agent Robert Martinez of Patti Martinez & Associates has been securing homes for veterans in the Greater Atlanta area. After working as an executive with national accounting and consulting firms, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Robert retired from the field in the early 2000s and joined his wife Patti in her real estate business. Robert carved a niche for himself as the company grew, helping veterans become homeowners. He’s since teamed up with Veterans United, and working with veterans has become his priority.
As the son of a veteran, Robert has a keen understanding of the life and experiences of the military community. He assesses what prospective home buyers are looking for, listens to what is important to them, and sheds light on the VA loan process and how VA appraisers view it. He’s also highly aware of the challenges veterans face when looking for housing.
“On a VA deal, the biggest hurdle is getting the appraisal done,” says Martinez. Combine that with the housing market of the last several years, and it can be an uphill battle. “The last two years have been incredibly challenging—every house had multiple offers.” In a normal housing market, a VA loan will get passed over in favor of cash or conventional loan. In a hypercompetitive market, it’s even more difficult to win.
That’s where Ribbon comes in. “The Ribbon program levels the playing field,” Martinez continues. “With Ribbon, your offer is considered a cash offer.” That’s a powerful change. For example, “With a standard VA loan, it’s common to take six months before being offered a contract. With Ribbon, an offer comes through in three to four weeks.”
Although VA loans are guaranteed to veterans and active-duty military members, they present obstacles that put veterans at a disadvantage—in particular, red tape, appraisal delays, and fees that end up in the buyer’s lap. This can also be a hindrance to sellers, who might reject VA loan offers because of the terms that come with them.
“VA appraisers are the toughest to work with. They’re very particular about how they value things,” says Martinez. “To give you an example, when VA appraisers look at a house a buyer is interested in, they want comparable sales within that particular neighborhood, but they don’t like to go outside of that neighborhood to find the comparable sale. This differs from FHA and conventional appraisers, who freely go outside of that neighborhood. But VA appraisers want a similar sale in that neighborhood and a lot of time that doesn’t work—which means the appraisal won’t work.” Martinez continues, “You might be interested in a house listed at $300,000, but if there is a foreclosure that went for $200,000 nearby, that wrecks it.”
After ten years of working primarily with veterans in the home-buying process, Martinez knows what to expect when it comes to VA appraisals and negotiations.
“Ribbon guarantees up to a certain amount up front, and that amount is protected. Ribbon takes all of the uncertainty out of the equation. And that’s the biggest thing because we don’t want to go into a transactional war where we have questions about the appraisal. If an appraisal doesn’t work and the seller doesn’t reduce the sales price, VA buyers lose the amount they put down. The appraisal gap is something that really stands out in the VA deals. It’s like a godsend.”
As a veteran agent, Martinez knows the Atlanta real estate market and VA home loans on an expert level. “It’s helpful to understand the complexities and subtleties of the VA loan. Years of experience contribute to knowing how it works and being able to explain it. Listing agents call because they don’t know how the VA loan works, so I can help by shedding some light on the intricacies and pitfalls.”
Knowing the game and knowing how to navigate it is a huge advantage, and that’s exactly what Ribbon provides veteran home buyers. Ribbon helps level the playing field.
Veterans entering the current housing market can expect a few things: 1. It may be challenging, and 2. It will work. “It’s an incredible program,” says Martinez. “Ribbon puts VA buyers in a top category regarding what sellers are looking for. As an example of this, we offered on a townhome that already has 50 offers on it. We put an offer on it with Ribbon, and we came in third out of 50. With a traditional VA loan, we would have been 40th, at best.”
It’s an empowering feeling for Martinez and the veteran buyers he represents when they go into a negotiation. “With VA loans, when you send a house to Ribbon, they evaluate it and give you an amount. If the offer comes in low, they’ll bring a check to closing for any shortfall. A buyer I represented found a house he loved, and we wrote a contract for $300,000, and Ribbon guaranteed it for $300,000. The appraisal came in at $250,000. Without Ribbon, that deal is over, with the appraisal falling $50,000 short. With Ribbon, we closed, and Ribbon wrote a check for $50,000. That’s life-changing.”
After working for ten years as a veteran agent, Martinez is grateful for the work he’s able to do. Even more impactful are the people he has met along the way. “Meeting people is the best part of what I do. Almost every week, an opportunity to form new friendships is presented.”
His ability to connect with veterans and their families and deliver results has led to referrals and long-term partnerships. Helping veterans achieve the dream of home ownership is an upside to the job he would never have expected when he first dove into real estate years ago. But as Martinez has found, developing friendships and forming lifelong relationships are the greatest perks of what he does.