Ruth Johnson is CEO of Homes for Heroes, a privately held, family-owned company that was created after 9/11 to support those who serve our country. It has built a network of more than 3,500 real estate professionals who have given back more than $65 million to 38,000-plus heroes.
Johnson has been active in the real estate industry for more than 40 years as a REALTOR®, manager and owner of a successful real estate franchise. She considers Homes for Heroes the most rewarding of her accomplishments.
Here, Johnson discusses her company's mission and the reasons why she's looking forward to a post-pandemic real estate industry, among other things:
RISMedia's Real Estate Newsmakers honors were created to recognize the people who are raising the standards of professionalism in the real estate industry. What does it mean to you to be named among this year's honorees?
I am thrilled to have been chosen with only 300 picks nationwide. To be included in the same group as such notable people in the industry is a true honor, and it is so rewarding to have our great work get attention.
You were selected as a Newsmaker within the Crusaders category, which is dedicated to the champions of a better way within our industry. Could you tell us a little bit about your company Homes for Heroes and what its mission is?
Homes for Heroes was organized shortly following the events of 9/11 out of my real estate company in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. We wanted a way to say "thank you" to all who serve our nation and its communities and be able to do that through our real estate business. Our mission is to thank every hero in the nation. Homes for Heroes partners with real estate professionals to provide a monetary Hero Reward when a hero buys or sells a home using one of our affiliates. Our lender affiliates offer discounts on fees.
Today, Homes for Heroes has nearly 4,000 real estate affiliates in all 50 states. This year is our 20th anniversary and, along with that milestone, we will reach the additional milestones of 5,000 real estate affiliates, 50,000 heroes served through our program, and more than $100 million in Hero Rewards given to heroes. We also have a private foundation (Homes for Heroes Foundation). Homes for Heroes contributes a percentage of revenue each month to the foundation and is its largest contributor. The foundation serves the needy in the same hero groups and helps complete our Circle of Giving.
What is your process for assisting heroes?
A hero registers on our website (HomesForHeroes.com) and is connected to the appropriate affiliate. Once a home closes, Homes for Heroes sends a Hero Reward check to the hero. The amount of the Hero Reward is 0.7% of the sales price of the property, with the average Hero Reward being $2,400. The funding for Hero Rewards comes from referral fees from our real estate affiliates. The program is open to all firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, teachers, military and healthcare professionals.
Switching gears, what would your advice be to other real estate professionals about moving forward as our country begins to reopen and the pandemic slowly ends?
In my 40-plus years of experience in the real estate industry, it never ceases to amaze me how resilient and creative real estate professionals are. Since the pandemic began, they have navigated the restrictions using technology and caution. 2020, even with all of its challenges, was a great year for the industry. While markets may vary on how the pandemic affected real estate business, overall it was a great year.
Coming out of the pandemic there will be some challenges. There remains a shortage of inventory in most areas, which creates an affordability issue for many, but I see 2021 as another strong year in the industry. Homeownership remains the great American Dream and the cornerstone of financial security. We will always find a way to assist buyers and sellers, no matter the challenge. For Homes for Heroes, 2020 was a phenomenal growth year. The heroes we serve have some of the lowest unemployment numbers in the nation, and we had no shortage of customers.