Serving his country is all Edgar Gonzalez has ever known. Straight out of high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army before completing two tours overseas. His first tour was in Kosovo. His second — he carried out combat missions with Special Forces — in Afghanistan.
Today, he is on a different kind of mission: advocating for veteran home buyers.
While continuing his service as a platoon sergeant with the Army National Guard, Edgar embarked on a career in real estate, becoming a full-time realtor investor in the Atlanta market in 2020. He understood that managing the two roles would be something of a juggling act. What he didn't foresee was a once-in-a-century global pandemic, widespread racial and political unrest, and a wildly volatile real estate market — all of which occurred in rapid succession.
In his role as platoon sergeant, Edgar was deployed from one national state of emergency to the next. As a realtor, he was navigating one of the country's most unprecedented housing booms in history. Responding to the unexpected is part of his training, but nothing could have prepared Edgar for the realities veterans face when attempting to buy a home. As a veteran-turned-realtor, he grew increasingly dejected by the extent to which VA home loans were putting military buyers at a disadvantage to conventional offers. Worse still, the huge increase in housing demand and fierce competition only exacerbated this inequity.
While VA home loans are guaranteed to veterans and active-duty military, they are fraught with obstacles, including lots of red tape, appraisal delays, and fees destined for the seller instead of the buyer. As a result, this can often turn home sellers off — resulting in the rejection of VA loan offers.
In a bid to make veteran buyers more competitive in a highly competitive seller's market, Edgar started using his new secret weapon — Ribbon Cash. Today, 50% of Edgar's buyer clients are veterans — a testament to his commitment to making the home-buying process more equitable for those who have served. We spoke to Edgar to discuss his journey to real estate, how his military experience has made him a better realtor, and how he's using Ribbon to give veteran home buyers the edge.
Ribbon: Thank you for speaking to us today! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Edgar: First and foremost, I am a devoted family man to my beautiful wife Nadia and two kids Aleksa Grey and Alexander. I am a veteran, having served two tours overseas in Kosovo and Afghanistan. And, as of the last couple of years, I have been a full-time agent here in the Atlanta market while serving as a platoon sergeant in the Army National Guard.
Ribbon: That's quite a resume! What has your experience been like balancing your roles in real estate and the National Guard?
Edgar: As a full-time real estate agent investor, it was definitely a struggle this past year because of my role as a platoon sergeant in the Army National Guard. In March 2020, every unit in our state was activated in response to the COVID-19 state of emergency. Just a couple of months later, after the death of George Floyd, our unit was activated again to hold the line in Atlanta near the Capitol Building in response to the unrest. Come fall, our unit was constantly on standby for any riots and activation. Then, in January 2021, my unit was activated to defend the U.S. Capitol during the Presidential Inauguration. In the months between being activated, I had to catch up on helping clients and finding deals for buyers in a competitive seller's market. As anyone who works in the industry can tell you, real estate generally works in three-month eras. Given the number and rate at which I was deployed, my job as a full-time agent was extremely hard.
Ribbon: What a whirlwind. Has your experience in the military helped prepare you for the challenges in real estate?
Edgar: Definitely. One of my biggest successes in the military has come from my lessons and experiences in Ranger School and my last tour in Afghanistan. Planning, coordinating, and executing offensive combat operations has helped me become thorough in operational planning and mission execution. Transferring these skills to my real estate business helped me become more effective as an agent investor. It has also helped me adapt and overcome obstacles I encountered during my day-to-day real estate operations. Always seeking new ways to adapt has led me to Ribbon, especially when working with my VA clients.
Ribbon: Before we discuss your exciting work with Ribbon, can you talk us through how you've seen the housing market transform in the last couple of years?
Edgar: I started to see the market changing when the pandemic first hit. Investors stopped buying. People didn't have home buying or selling on their top priority list. At that time, COVID and who the next president would be were top of mind. Then, due to the historically low-interest rates, we began to see a crazy uptick in buyer demand by late 2020. When I returned from defending the Capitol, that's when housing inventory hit a record low. At this time, I had two to three buyer agencies that were all VA loans. We began to submit offers as usual, but we were losing offers left and right. We weren't even coming close.
Ribbon: Was there a turning point when you realized you had to change your approach as a realtor?
Edgar: I had a listing that brought in 90 showings in three days, during which time we also received 35 offers — all were over the asking price. When I began to look through the offers — like every other agent out there — cash offers and conventional loans were at the top of my list of potentials. Based on the financing alone, they were mine and the seller's top picks. Why? Because FHA and VA loans require such a headache of a process to go through. With so many offers on the table, VA loan buyers were at the bottom of the stack, no question. We ended up going with a cash offer of $20k over the asking price. That was when I knew I had to switch up the strategy for my VA buyers. So they're not at the bottom of the stack each and every time.
Ribbon: What encouraged you to connect and work with Ribbon?
Edgar: I knew I had to adjust and look for a more outside-of-the-box initiative to get my clients to win. Then I found Ribbon. When I saw that they provide all-cash offers, I figured it would be worth the shot to give my buyers the edge. I had no other solution!
Ribbon: How has Ribbon supported you in advocating for veteran home buyers (and home buyers in general)?
Edgar: As we know, VA loan buyers are at the bottom of the stack of 15, 20, 30-plus offers on the table. While I love that the VA loan has regulations in place to protect veteran buyers, the loan presents far too many obstacles. This ends up hurting veteran buyers in this crazy seller's market. Sellers just want top dollar for As-Is homes. They don't want to be required to make repairs at their own expense — they want as little work as possible to get the deal done. That's why most sellers are going with cash and conventional offers right now. Sure, veterans can put 0% down with the VA loan, but it doesn't mean a thing if you don't win the offer of a house that you want.
Using Ribbon has helped my VA loan veteran clients not only win offers but also secure a roof over their heads. Once we collaborated with Ribbon to provide all-cash offers, we were always in the top three picks for each offer. The odds were now in our favor; my very next offer was accepted. Ribbon allowed me to be extremely competitive in the ridiculous seller's market.
Ribbon: How has Ribbon supported you in your role as an agent?
Edgar: Ribbon is pretty awesome. I will include David (my main point of contact at Ribbon) in my offer emails, and he'll actually "go to war with me." He will call and email the listing agent with me and explain what Ribbon is all about, help negotiate and sell our offer to the listing agent. This is a huge advantage for you as the buyer's agent and definitely gives you the extra edge needed to have your buyer's offer accepted.
Ribbon: Finally, what advice do you have for buyers currently navigating the market?
Edgar: Buyers! If your agent is submitting 5+ offers a week for you during this crazy seller's market, then you absolutely need to use Ribbon!
Book time to speak with a Ribbon Advisor to learn more here.