Giving Military Vets a Career Jumpstart

One company’s effort to recruit veterans is a win-win for the brokerage and its agents.

August 12, 2015

Col. Randolph Haufe served as a logistics officer in the U.S. Army for 25 years. He helped coordinate the massive task of establishing bases and moving 10,000 people, along with food, water, equipment, and supplies, in remote areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.

And even though it’s hard to compare real estate to the service of a military officer, Haufe’s experience, in many ways, prepared him for the next chapter of his life.

Haufe retired from the Army last year and immediately pursued his real estate license. “In a military career, you have to be organized, be a good planner, be proactive, and be a people person; all those skills translate [to real estate],” says Haufe, who knows a thing or two about contracts.

Besides owning a rental property, this Arlington, Va., resident doesn’t have any career ties to the real estate industry. But his curiosity in the field grew after learning about Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty’s Real Heroes Program at a job fair.

PenFed Realty launched the program in late 2014, offering up to $2,500 for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses to obtain their real estate license, get training, and cover fees.

“We have ambitious goals,” says Kevin Wiles, president of PenFed’s Mid-Atlantic region. “We want to train hundreds of vets for careers in real estate. There are some 3 million post-9/11 vets in the U.S., and the unemployment rate runs 2 to 3 percent higher among vets than nationally.”

The company has 51 offices across the Mid-Atlantic and South, and many are located in communities with military bases. Numerous agents with PenFed already have military ties, Wiles says.

“One of our core goals is to give back to people who serve,” said Wiles. “We’re giving people opportunities who created opportunities for us.”

To date, PenFed has recruited 43 post-military personnel and spouses through the Real Heroes Program. Those agents have sold a combined 75 properties (21 have closed at least one sale as of July) worth more than $17 million in sales volume, generating about $350,000 in agent commissions.

Brokerage managers are presenting the program at military-focused job fairs like the one Haufe attended. They’re also getting the word out through ads and social media and by partnering with career development organizations.

Wiles encourages other brokers to consider establishing a similar program. “Sure, $2,500 might sound like a big number, but the skill set of people coming into this program is so perfectly suited for real estate that it becomes a nice ROI for the broker,” he says.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Sarah Peck, who was assigned to an intelligence agency as a language analyst, is now a PenFed Mid-Atlantic agent. She says the program took the financial risk out of pursuing a new career by covering her start-up costs.

“The company made it possible for me to move into a profession that I am passionate about,” Peck says.

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