Monday, March 20, 2023

New real estate chapter in the works to help active military and veterans

A local chapter of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals is in the works and looking for real estate professional members (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of RE/MAX Alliance)
A local chapter of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals is in the works and looking for real estate professional members (HNNDaily photo/Courtesy of RE/MAX Alliance)

Eric Gardner first came to Hampton Roads and Naval Air Station Norfolk (now simply Naval Station Norfolk) in 1986 as a Naval flight officer, one year after graduating from the United States Naval Academy.

Over the next 29 years he moved from duty station to duty station, along the way buying a home here in 1995, before retiring in 2015 after 30 years of service.

Now as a Realtor with RE/MAX Alliance, Gardner has joined the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals and is working to form a local chapter.

“Searching for other real estate industry groups that benefit veterans, I came upon the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals,” Gardner said. VAREP was formed in 2011 by a Navy veteran, Son Nguyen, and Dustin Luce in Southern California.

Gardner said it’s a nonprofit community service organization and HUD-approved housing counseling organization with a mission to increase sustainable homeownership, provide financial-literacy education, and create economic opportunity for the active military and veteran communities.

“Being home to the world’s largest naval base, as well as naval expeditionary forces, air forces, Joint and NATO commands, and Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard commands, and a large population of veterans and retirees, it is essential that a VAREP chapter is established to help serve the Hampton Roads military and veteran community,” he said.

There are currently 35 local chapters across the United States, with another 24 actively in the works.

Gardner said VAREP accomplishes its mission through homeownership advocacy, community outreach, professional membership, veteran job creation, and affordable housing initiatives and activities.

VAREP led the way in advocating for the new Universal Home Loan application that is coming in July of next year, which requires all home loan applicants to be asked if they have served in the United States Armed Forces.

RE/Max Realtor Eric Gardner is working to form a local chapter of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of Eric Gardner)
RE/Max Realtor Eric Gardner is working to form a local chapter of the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (HNNDaily photo/Courtesy of Eric Gardner)

Additionally, VAREP has championed what is now House of Representatives Bill 2777, or the “Give Veterans Home Loan Choices Act,” that requires information on the Informed Consumer Choice Disclosure to include VA Loan information for those who have served as a direct comparison with conventional and FHA loan options.

Gardner said across the U.S., chapters have provided 25 mortgage-free homes to active military and veteran families, remodeled 225 homes and sold them to veterans, provided $60,000 in Housing Assistance grants, educated more than 6,000 agents and lenders and 2,600-plus veterans on the VA loan. They’ve also conducted more than 70 Veteran Housing Summits and placed 750 veterans in homes through VAREP programs.

For the Hampton Roads Chapter Gardner is looking for real estate professionals to serve in committee positions.

“Membership is open to anyone serving in the real estate industry, including brokers, agents, lenders, title processors, builders, inspectors, stagers, vendors, and contractors,” he said.

There are eight board positions: Five of the eight must be veterans, while the others are classified as patriots (spouses of military, or anyone else with a desire to serve and contribute their time and efforts).

The founding chapter president should be a veteran, with other board positions including vice president, secretary, treasurer, membership, education, community outreach and government affairs.

He said among the activities the local chapter will perform are: hosting Realtor and Lender Veteran Educational seminars; hosting live Military and Veteran Housing Certification classes for Realtors and lenders; hosting Veterans Housing Summit Community events; hosting fundraisers to benefit local military and veteran families; and helping qualified local military families with housing needs (VAREP Cares).

Those interested in learning more, or becoming a member, can contact Gardner at 757-805-6235 or via email at

There’s also information on the VAREP website.

Once they’ve identified enough interested real estate professionals the chapter will gather for an orientation to further introduce VAREP and will work to establish a board and business plan.

“We look forward to becoming an important piece of the nonprofit organizations across Hampton Roads serving our local active service member and veteran community,” Gardner said.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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