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Working with the Housing Assistance Program

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By Lesley Geary

TOP 5 IN REAL ESTATE, July 2010 –

Diane Varni
RE/MAX Allegiance
Years in real estate:
12
Region Served: Northern Virginia
Average sales price in your market: $400,000

The Housing Assistance Program (HAP) is available only to active military members who purchased at the height of the market and now cannot sell their homes for what they paid for them. Why do you feel HAP is an important program?
It was originally created because there were so many military base closings. It is important today because it means that military people who fit the criteria don’t have to opt for a short sale. This is a much better way to go.

What are the biggest benefits of the program?
The fact that it is not income driven. If you have someone with an upside-down mortgage, normally the bank would make them pursue a short sale, which isn’t fair with military people because they didn’t choose to move…the military moved them. So HAP allows them to get on with their lives without being tied up with a short sale. It is huge for clients. The program is not publicized well at this time, though.

How are you using the program to help your clients and build your business at the same time?
I am retired from the military and I first read about the program in a military newsletter and thought it was a great idea. So for the last year, I have been trying to get the word out to the military and to help anyone who qualifies for it. Right now it is just a tiny piece of my overall business – about 1 percent – but now I am looking to put it into action even further.

What are some of the challenges using this program?
First of all, the guidelines were initially written for base closures so I have had people filling out paperwork for base closures. And there is a lot of confusion out there. Also, when I first found out about HAP, it was not yet funded so you couldn’t get money from HAP. I don’t know when the change happened, but in 2010 we are doing HAP deals…and there is a lot of business out there. That said, getting it processed is slow going. People have to get a government bill of lending. They have to have proof that they are being moved by the military. Then, once you are under contract and have approval, you’re probably 30 days to closing. You could spend a month or two months getting approvals. And there is a huge backlog. Even so, there is money for the program and it is definitely worthwhile to use it if you qualify.

Do you plan to market your HAP knowledge?
50 percent of my business is foreclosures with Freddie Mac. At this time, I have not rolled up my sleeves and pushed HAP, but it is not well known. So, for me, all marketing about HAP is being done by word of mouth. My clients who have used it send other referrals to me. I would really like get the word better about the program and its benefits..

Generally speaking, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to marketing?
Personally, I do a significant amount of business online. I use Homegain. They have excellent lead generation proposals and it works.

What is the key to a successful life in real estate?
To generate enough income and still have a great life. My slogan used to be, “I sell the American Dream.” I am not in it for the short-term gain.

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