Without the Homes for Heroes program and help of Crane Financial Group, Oak Harbor residents Rebecca and George Pina say they wouldn’t own a home today.
It was working with the Pinas in 2014 that inspired Kris Crane and her husband, Kent Mathes, both Oak Harbor natives, to open a branch of their mortgage company in their hometown in November 2015.
The couple helps people like the Pinas to buy their island dream homes.
In 2013, Crane Financial introduced to Western Washington state the nationwide program, Homes for Heroes.
Homes for Heroes provides various savings to five groups of individuals considered heroes, including military personnel and veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, teachers and emergency medical professionals and health care workers.
When buying, selling or refinancing a home, companies participating in the program cut their profit in order to provide these heroes with savings or a credit on closing costs.
In the past year and-a-half alone, Crane Financial has given $165,000 of its own profits through 106 Homes for Heroes transactions.
“It’s something we do from the heart,” Crane said. “Our slogan is ‘Where service is from the heart’ and there’s no other reason that we do it other than we just really truly want to serve those who serve us.”
In 1995, Crane opened Crane Financial Group after working as a loan processor for InterWest Bank in Oak Harbor.
Crane said Crane Financial is a full-service direct lender with the authority to approve and fund loans for customers looking to purchase or refinance a home.
“I wanted it to be a friendly local lender that people could trust as an alternative to maybe the larger institutions,” she said. “Through the years I’ve realized how important it was to have a relationship with your lender and to have someone you’re able to trust.”
Since its start in Snohomish, Crane Financial expanded to other areas, including Bangor, Bremerton, the Port of Everett, Fort Lewis and Joint Base Lewis McChord.
It wasn’t until the Pina family contacted Crane, however, that she and Mathes began considering a new office in the community in which they grew up.
The Pinas are what Crane calls “double heroes;” Rebecca is a registered nurse at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center and George is a Navy Aviation Ordnanceman at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The Pinas moved into base housing in 2014, fell in love with Oak Harbor and decided to by a home off base.
George said they turned to Crane and a local Realtor after a friend recommended they check out the Homes for Heroes program.
“We had always heard how buying a house is such a nightmare but they made it so easy,” George said. “We had found the house we wanted in two weeks and Kris helped us close in 30 days.”
The Pina family moved into their new home by September 2014 with more than $3,000 contributed by the Crane Financial Group.
“We honestly couldn’t have done it without that,” George Pina said. “They got us into a house we wouldn’t have had the ability to on our own.”
For Crane and Mathes, the inspiration to open an office in Oak Harbor came as they stood in the Pinas’ new home, located just blocks from Mathes’ childhood home and from where Crane’s father, for more than 30 years, served as the Oak Harbor School District superintendent.
To date, Crane Financial in Oak Harbor has helped 20 Island County hero families by providing $69,011 in Homes for Heroes credits since November 2015.
In addition to local heroes, Crane and Mathes said they can help anyone wanting to purchase or refinance a home.
“We want to connect with people so they know why we’re here,” Crane said. “It’s not just another business opening in Oak Harbor, it’s our hometown and we want to serve and give back to the people here.”
Kris Crane and her company, Crane Financial Group, were recently recognized as having served over 100 heroes through the Homes for Heroes program, earning her a place in the 100 Heroes Served Club. According to Crane, the program only recently began tracking the reach of each Homes for Heroes affiliate. Since January 2015, Crane has served 106 heroes, with her company’s total reach likely much higher since she joined the program in 2013, according to Crane.