More and more businesses want to give back and are seeing this as a reasonable way to do it. Our motto is that the more you give, the more you get. —Homes for Heroes National Director Abby Waltz

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah became the 44th state to welcome the Homes for Heroes initiative Monday, meaning nearly 200,000 local homebuyers may eventually be eligible to qualify for discounts on lending fees and closing costs.

Homes for Heroes was launched in Minnesota in 2001 and now works with 750 affiliates across the county offering homebuyer discounts to military members, law enforcement, firefighters and teachers, among others.

Mandi Henriod of WJ Bradley Mortgage Capital said the program is unlike any that her business has used to offer discounts before.

“We have teachers call all the time and ask, ‘Are there any discounts?’” Henriod said. “Right now, we have the Good Neighbor Next Door (Sales) program, but it only applies to (reclamation projects) in what are sometimes broken down neighborhoods. Homes for Heroes doesn’t dictate where the home can be located.”

The Good Neighbor Next Door Sales program is an initiative used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to encourage police officers, teachers, firefighters and first responders to move into neighborhoods undergoing revitalization projects. Those who qualify can buy a home for half of the estimated list price, but are also required to commit to staying in that neighborhood for at least three years.

Homes for Heroes requires real estate affiliates to reduce their commission charges by 25 percent. Other affiliates, such as title companies and home inspection businesses, agree with Homes for Heroes beforehand on the extent of their discounts.

“More and more businesses want to give back and are seeing this as a reasonable way to do it,” Homes for Heroes National Director Abby Waltz said at the nonprofit organization's launching ceremony at Liberty Park. “Our motto is that the more you give, the more you get.”

Angela Idle attended the launch because she and her husband, Kevin, a National Guardsman, are thinking of buying a home soon. She said that considering the work her husband does, the discount makes sense.

“These (people) sacrifice a lot of time and effort, and any way that the community can give back is a good thing,” Idle said.

So far, nine real estate companies and 12 other affiliates have signed on in Utah. Participating real estate agents and lending companies are operating mostly out of Salt Lake and Utah counties to start, but Waltz said Homes for Heroes plans to expand its affiliate network throughout the state.

Participating businesses offer discounts to public servants within an agreed-to geographical limit.

“It’s put together according to zip code, and so far we’re each assigned four zip codes,” said Shauna Jorgensen, a real estate agent for Home Path Realty. “It’s built so that everyone’s not on each other’s turf.”

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