JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As a Navy wife, Jessica Vaughn understands the struggles that military families go through not knowing where they are going to be one year to the next.
“My husband Matt is in the Navy. When I wanted to buy a home, he was hesitant about investing in a downpayment and closing costs, only to have to sell the home three years later if he was relocated,” says the sales associate with Keller Williams Realty in Jacksonville. “I want to help other families in the same situation realize the dream of homeownership, so they can have pride in where they live even if it will only be temporary.”
That’s why she decided to build a program that offers discounts to military veterans as well as current military, police officers, firefighters, emergency management personnel, teachers and medical professionals.
Vaughn and her real estate partner, Brian Klidies, a Navy Reserve helicopter pilot who recently returned from deployment in Panama, also give a percentage of their gross commission back to local heroes when buying or selling homes.
“We started working with Homes for Heroes, which is a great national organization. However, they were only offering real estate-based discounts. We wanted to open up the discount program to restaurants and other types of vendors,” she says.
So, for the first three months of her real estate career, (she started in November 2015), Vaughn built a network of 50 local vendors who offer discounts on everything from closing costs and title work to sandwiches and dry cleaning.
And, the program is bringing her business.
“I am working with one couple, a sheriff’s office dispatcher and a county jail worker. They had the credit and income to buy a house but not the money for a downpayment,” says Vaughn. “I worked the numbers with them and between the seller paying the closing costs, the $1,200 we’re giving them back at closing, and discounts on the home inspection, title and appraisal, they could swing it. The wife called me crying about it. In fact, they closed on her husband’s birthday.”
Vaughn gets the word out through networking events with the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, where she serves as an ambassador. Each week she and Klidies also bring lunch to a fire or police station, school or hospital.
“Jersey Mike’s donates subs and chips,” Vaughn says. “We give people information about our program.”
But, says Vaughn, more than the business it brings, she is thrilled to be helping those “who are underappreciated in our community. Our goal is to serve the people who serve us. They truly want to own a home and this is our way to give back.”