OAK HILL — Bank of America partnered with Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals to donate a mortgage free home to a local U.S. Army veteran Thursday.
Spc. Antonio Lorenzo was awarded a mortgage-free home at a ceremony Thursday. Lorenzo enlisted in the Army when he was 19 years old. During Lorenzo’s service, he went to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now 36, married with children, Lorenzo applied for Bank of America and the association’s home ownership program.
“I’m speechless,” Lorenzo said when the presentation was made. “I want to thank everyone.”
Benita and Mark Gilsinger, Lorenzo’s mother and stepfather, traveled from Buffalo to celebrate their son’s new home.
”Antonio did not have the address of his new home until this morning,” Benita Gilsinger said. “Last night, Antonio and his family stayed in a hotel. It wasn’t until this morning that we knew where and what the house looked like. I’m very proud of my son.”
Typically, 10 veterans apply. Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals has a board with five members. Ultimately, the board decides which applicant is the best fit for the home. Because the association’s main objective is to assist veterans in enhancing their financial literacy, factors such as whether applicants are capable of sustaining the property are important.
Though the home is mortgage-free, Lorenzo is responsible for the property taxes, utilities and homeowner’s insurance. The association works with veterans in setting financial goals. Lorenzo will meet with a financial counselor for the next three years to learn more about being a homeowner, how to save money and ways to improve his credit score.
The Veteran’s Association of Real Estate Professionals was founded by Dustin Luce and Son Nguyen in 2011. Nguyen is a Navy veteran, but Luce is a civilian. The organization has 7,000 members nationwide. Some members are veterans, but like Luce, others are civilians who just want to support and help provide services for veterans.
Both founders have a background in real estate. They said they felt veterans could benefit the most from financial literacy development efforts. Since the association’s inception, the organization has grown in membership and has 30 chapters.
Bank of America and the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals were inspired to help veterans in this way because typically, realtors and lenders have perceptions of VA loans as being too costly. Because of this, many veterans have been deterred from using their VA loans.
Over the last few years, there have been significant changes to the Veteran Association’s loan benefit. One important change has been to the loan size. There is no maximum VA loan size. Borrowers can get a loan without putting any money down. If applicants are approved, VA borrowers can request a loan for any amount.
The association is based out of Corona, California, but the organization serves upstate New York, New Hampshire, Massachussetts and Maine. Bank of America started a house-donation program for veterans in 2012. Since the program started, Bank of America has donated 6,000 houses. More than 2,200 of the houses were donated to veterans.