Heidi Stahl needed a new job, but as the mother of two small children and the sole caregiver of her disabled veteran husband, she knew it couldn’t be just any job. “I was suffering from secondary PTSD and I needed the flexibility to set my own schedule and still earn a lot of money,” she said. “If my husband passes away we lose our disability benefits. It was a struggle because of how dependent we were on them.”

Justin Stahl, Reservist, Papa Battery, 5th Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment is a permanently disabled veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms of which are easily triggered and in Justin’s case, include flashbacks, memory problems, detachment, sleep disturbances, hypervigilance and anxiety. Heidi and Justin met in 2006, after he returned home from the first of two deployments to Iraq. They married in 2009 and soon became parents to Liam and Olivia.

When Heidi and Justin bought their second home in 2015, they met Nicole Jones, the listing agent on the transaction and an Associate Broker with EXIT Realty Bitterroot Valley in Hamilton, Montana. “I was on the lookout for the right career. Nicole really had her act together.  She was around my age and had a young daughter; signs that maybe I could do this job, too. But before I took the real estate course I wanted to interview brokers because I wanted direction and purpose.”

Heidi was referred to the owner of a company which promised many leads. “I shared that I wanted to focus on giving back to my military community; I didn’t know how but it was my passion and I wanted to make an impact. The owner told me they already had an agent who specialized in working with military buyers and refused to consider signing another. His attitude was cold and unwelcoming.”

Heidi remembered that Nicole worked for EXIT Realty, so she arranged to meet with Max Coleman, Broker/Owner of EXIT Realty Bitterroot Valley. Max and his wife, Tina Coleman, are also the Regional Owners of EXIT Realty Montana. “EXIT was always on my mind and I knew I had to see what they were about. Max and Tina were genuinely thrilled to hear about my passion for serving military families and said they would support me in my cause, whatever that may be.”

Heidi became licensed, joined EXIT in 2016 and quickly launched her successful real estate career, more than doubling her sales in 2017.  She now ranks among the top agents in her office and believes that her career in real estate helps in her battle with secondary PTSD, allows her the flexibility to control her schedule and provides the opportunity to build financial freedom.

Heidi’s personal experience gives her a heart to serve. She obtained the Military Relocation Professional (MRP) certification through the National Association of REALTORS®. Heidi understands VA loans and benefits and has built an extensive network of veteran-owned businesses, assistance networks and services. “Simply put, I speak VA,” she says.

Recently, Heidi worked with a client who was referred through her veteran connections. “He has PTSD. He was agitated and hyper-vigilant.  He didn’t trust anyone, but he learned he could trust me,” she said. “The real estate transaction process can be stressful for anybody, but he was easy irritated, and the whole process caused him a lot of anxiety. Because of the lessons I’ve learned as my husband’s caregiver, I was able to safely, effectively, and with as little stress as possible, successfully guide him through his purchase.”

Heidi is especially proud of winning her battle against an unjust VA appraisal. “My client was a disabled veteran with a prosthetic leg. It can be challenging to find a handicapped-accessible home in a low price range that is VA financeable, but we found the perfect house for him.  The appraisal came back more than $40,000 too low. My client’s lender told me that VA appraisal reconsiderations are seldom successful and that I should give up hope. I spent hours breaking down the statistics on the comparable properties the appraiser used and submitted a consideration for an appraisal that was fair and just. The new lender said yes, and we won!”

Heidi credits much of her success to EXIT’s culture. “Max and Tina not only support my passion, but they said we are a family and they would be there for me every step of the way. That is true,” she said.

EXIT, a real estate franchisor with brokerage locations across the U.S. and Canada, is a by-invitation-only company and because of this, everyone has a vested interested in its growth. As a result, EXIT agents enjoy a spirit of mentorship and encourage one another much like a family.

“Nicole, who was the selling agent on my house, is now my mentor and her mentorship is irreplaceable,” says Heidi. “I was expecting fierce competition and what I got instead are friends and a family. My life has challenges between being a mom and a caregiver and if my husband is triggered, I can’t always meet the demands of my career. I know there will always be another EXIT agent willing to step in and help.”

EXIT’s unique business model provides the opportunity for agents to benefit financially by earning single-level residual income in addition to their commission for helping to grow the company. “I’ve introduced two agents to EXIT who will be starting soon, one here in Missoula, Montana and another in Huntsville, Alabama. Both are young mothers, and both are veterans’ wives. They know I attribute my success to EXIT and they are excited for my mentorship when they join our EXIT family.”



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