OAK HILL — Bank of America partnered with the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals to donate a mortgage-free home to a local U.S. Army veteran on Thursday.
SPC. Antonio Lorenzo was given a mortgage-free home in a ceremony on Thursday. Lorenzo joined 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 to Bank of America and the association’s home ownership program.
“I’m speechless,” Lorenzo said during the presentation. “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 didn’t get the address of his new house until this morning,” Benita Gilsinger said. “Last night Antonio and his family stayed at a hotel. It was only this morning that we found out where and what the house looked like. I am very proud of my son.
Typically, 10 veterans apply. The Association of Veterans of Real Estate Professionals has a Board of Directors consisting of five members. Ultimately, the board decides which candidate is the best fit for the house. Since the association’s primary goal is to help veterans improve their financial literacy, factors such as applicants’ ability to maintain property are important.
Even though the house doesn’t have a mortgage, Lorenzo is responsible for property taxes, utilities and home insurance. The association works with veterans in setting financial goals. Lorenzo will meet with a financial advisor over the next three years to learn more about homeownership, how to save money, and ways to improve his credit rating.
The Real Estate Professionals Veterans Association 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 simply want to support and help provide services to veterans.
Both founders have a background in real estate. They said they believe veterans could benefit the most from efforts to develop financial literacy. Since the inception of the association, the organization has grown in membership and has 30 chapters.
Bank of America and the Veterans Association of Realtors were inspired to help veterans in this way because typically realtors and lenders have the perception that VA loans are too expensive. For this reason, many veterans have been deterred from using their VA loans.
Over the past few years, significant changes have been made to the Veterans Association loan delivery. A significant change was the amount of the loan. There is no maximum VA loan size. Borrowers can get a loan with no down payment. If applicants are approved, VA borrowers can apply for a loan for any amount.
The association is based in Corona, California, but the organization serves upstate New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine. Bank of America launched a home donation program for veterans in 2012. Since the program began, Bank of America has donated 6,000 homes. Over 2,200 of the homes were donated to veterans.