The Stress-Free Way to Find a Military-Friendly Real Estate Agent
by PCSgrades Staff - August 8th, 2022
It’s time to relocate, AGAIN. You're getting it all figured out: packers, movers, last doctor appointments, school, and medical records. You have researched your new area; the best restaurants, schools, and an orthodontist for your pre-teen.
Now it’s time for one of the most important decisions of your move: You need a military-friendly real estate agent to help you sell the home you currently own, and another to help you navigate the home-buying process in a new town.
How on earth do you decide who to trust to help you with such an important decision?
Finding a military-friendly real estate agent
With all of the programs and advertisements out there, finding a military-friendly agent can certainly be a daunting task. Who’s the best? Is it the gal who sent that flyer to you in the mail? Or is it the big company with the eye-catching Super Bowl ads?
Maybe it’s one of the 50 websites painted red, white, and blue that promise they love the military? Is it the first search result on Google, or the real estate agent your friend swears is awesome?
Here is a quick rundown of some of the most popular ways to find a real estate agent, how you can get cash back from your military move, and why you may want to consider another alternative.
The big names
We’ve all seen the ads on TV (and probably bank with or have insurance through) some of the larger military-friendly banks, credit unions, or insurance companies. Certainly, these companies offer some great services to military personnel and their families. But are they really the best fit for finding a real estate agent?
On one hand, if you decide to use one of these big-name companies, you will get an agent, and you may get a little bit of money back.
The downside of using well-known companies
Here’s the potential downside: The sole purpose of these programs is to generate lending revenue for those big names, and many times those mortgage programs are NOT ideal. You’ll likely pay a higher interest rate and might even have problems at closing.
Big bureaucracies, military or not, often have the same problems, and it very well might take you 60 days or longer to close on a loan.
Furthermore, these big companies often charge military-friendly agents as much as 40% of their commission as a referral fee. What does this mean? It means you might not be put in front of the best agents, but rather someone who is brand new or not exactly motivated about growing their own real estate business. Most good agents realize they can provide great services and shouldn’t have to work for pennies on the dollar.
The biggest downside? Of that referral fee paid by the agent, you get only a small fraction back, if any at all. Ten states currently restrict them from sharing any of this fee with the buyer or seller. Going with the big guys is by no means a guarantee of a good experience. It could mean you don’t get a great agent, and probably means you are not getting much of a rebate.
The flyer in your mailbox or first hit on your Google search
If you're thinking of using the real estate agent who sent you a flier or the first agent who pops up on a Google search, think again. If you go this route, you're probably a big gambler, because this method is a crapshoot!
Sure, you might stumble upon a great real estate agent - or you might not. In order to avoid getting a “not-so-great” one, this method requires you to do some extensive research. Before you hire any agent, research the following:
Their experience, including time in the business and experience with military moves
Reviews vouching for their trustworthiness
Recommendations from other clients
Whether they offer military discounts or incentives. Unless you specifically negotiate a discount or rebate, you will probably be stuck paying the full 3% commission required by most agents.
But when you're reading reviews on these real estate agents, take the recommendations with a grain of salt. You never really know who's writing them. Reviews could be written by the agent themselves, their sister-in-law, or some guy in India for $5 bucks a pop.
Gambling might be fun at a casino on a long weekend in Vegas, but it’s not ideal when selling or buying a home.
The "military real estate" network
There are several groups touting "military-friendly real estate agents" who specialize in military home sales. Depending on which network you choose, this can either be a great or a terrible experience.
First, figure out who owns the network. A lot of these programs may be fronts for either larger real estate brokerages or lenders simply trying to grab the “military dollar.” We’ve seen plenty of these programs using old or incorrect stock footage with either incorrect uniforms, long hair, or other oddities that are telltale signs they are not actually in tune with the unique needs of the military family.
Some of these programs cater exclusively to veteran or spouse real estate agents, and that can be a positive. But the truth of the matter is, while we have an inherent trust in our fellow military members, being a veteran or a military spouse does not necessarily a great real estate agent make.
While some of these organizations or websites offer cash back (subject to the limits mentioned before), others just ask for your information. They then refer you to someone in their network while pocketing referral fees from referred real estate agents. Either way, you might not know if the real estate agent they put in front of you is any good or not. In many cases, companies like this are taking 25% of the real estate agent commission.
Here are some simple questions to ask
So, how can you be sure you're getting a real estate who knows the ins and outs of military life? Start by asking the following questions:
Do I have any say in who this company or website sends me to?
Does this real estate agent have any reviews, and if so, who made them? Can I trust them?
Will I get any sort of rebate (and am I in a state where that’s prohibited)?
How much of a rebate will I get?
Is there a larger corporation behind this group, or agents who stand to get a big slice of the sale I’m paying for?
If you can answer all of those questions, you’ll have a much better chance of having a good experience with the real estate agent you choose.
The best choice
The best choice in the market by far is PCSgrades.com.
PCSgrades is run BY and FOR military families, with a team comprised almost entirely of veterans and spouses. The goal is to bring transparency to the process of helping military and veteran families solve problems related to moving.
All of the real estate agents on PCSgrades are reviewed and graded by VERIFIED military members, veterans, and spouses. This takes the guesswork out of whether the review is fraudulent or trustworthy.
PCSgrades allows only current or former military families to rate and review real estate agents (and other services), then lets you pick who you want to work with based on their reviews. This means it’s not a large company promising its real estate agent is the best, or arbitrarily giving a stamp of approval. Instead, it's other military families - just like yours - vouching for the services.
One of the best parts of our service is that no real estate agent can be featured on PCSgrades without a review from a military family. This weeds out the newbies and leaves reputation-based professionals who’ve already helped other military families.
The agents on the PCSgrades website are not just from one real estate company or brokerage. Agents from any brokerage are welcome to participate with PCSgrades. Our network features great professionals working at different companies all over the country.
PCSgrades also ensures that every agent who participates on the site agrees to give 20% of their commission back to you as a rebate (check with your state's restrictions. Sometimes, VA loans will limit rebate amounts too). The average rebate amount back to military members through PCSgrades is just under $2,000, but could be as high as $7,500!
We find experienced real estate agents for military families
PCSgrades also offers a concierge service in areas not currently covered by our database. What does this mean? This means we will do some vetting for you and find military-friendly real estate agents who agree to be reviewed AND give you the same 20% rebate.
Finally, relocating your life is never easy. With all these brands competing for your hard-earned money, finding the perfect trustworthy real estate agent shouldn’t add stress to your next military move. The key to cutting through the noise is to do your homework and be aware of the different individuals or companies competing for your business.