The sales team at Desert View Homes’ El Paso, Texas, office knows how to make service members from nearby Fort Bliss feel welcome, and it shows in their sales numbers. As much as 30 percent of the company’s closings come from military buyers or civilians who work on the 1,700-square-mile U.S. Army base. The production builder, which also operates a Colorado division near Fort Carson, pays all closing costs for military buyers and offers a 1 percent discount on the cost of their home or a 1 percent bonus in additional upgrades. These monetary incentives are designed to entice service members out of base housing and into homeownership, many for the first time, says Desert View senior vice president Pat Woods.
The company builds most of its houses on spec to have a large supply of homes available for quick move-in—a perk for service members who want to avoid moving their families into temporary housing while waiting for a new home to be constructed. Desert View also offers buyers a free one-year home warranty, plus two years on systems and 10 years structural. The company’s reputation for service after the sale eases the mind of service members concerned about who will help maintain their home when they are deployed.
“If the air conditioner isn’t working and the wife is home with two kids while the husband is deployed, he wants to know you’re a builder that will jump to take care of it,” Woods says.
At Saint Aubyn Homes’ Colorado Springs, Colo., office, where active or retired military members generate 90 percent of its 400 annual closings, salespeople enlist hefty incentives to get buyers in the door. For homes priced at $200,000 or less, buyers receive $10,000 for closing costs and/or upgrades such as garage door remote controls or washers and dryers. For homes costing more than $200,000, buyers receive $12,500.
These programs not only get the attention of potential customers, they also make purchasing a new home more attractive than an existing one, points out sales and marketing director Tammie Leachman. Like Desert View, Saint Aubyn also maintains a large inventory. In fact, at least 60 percent of the company’s homes are built on spec to accommodate military buyers who want to close in 30 days or less, Leachman says.
Service members make attractive buyers because of their access to 100 percent financing through government-backed VA mortgages, she adds. “The average young soldier has a good income for meeting his monthly payments but generally doesn’t have anything saved for a down payment, and that’s the beauty of a VA loan,” Leachman says.
Nabbing military buyers can require extra legwork. Many times, they are shopping for a home from another state or even from out of the country so salespeople must get creative with photos, video, and email. At Saint Aubyn, sales staff provide real-time walkthroughs via FaceTime or Skype.
In addition, a no-nonsense approach is required for this demographic, which is turned off by marketing lingo and elaborate deals. “As they say in the military, ‘Minimize the minutiae,’” says marketing expert Mollie Elkman. “Don’t sugarcoat the message.”
Once a builder pleases one service member customer, others will not be far behind. “They rely strongly on word of mouth for purchasing decisions,” Woods says of military home buyers. “If the command sergeant major buys a home from you and he’s happy with you, he’s telling all of his soldiers, ‘Hey, these are good guys.’”