BiggerPockets Podcast 101: From Real Estate Agent to Profitable Landlord with Dawn Brenengen

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Ever wonder what real estate investing looks like from a real estate agent’s perspective?

On today’s episode of the BiggerPockets Podcast, we sit down with Dawn Brenengen, a real estate agent-turned-landlord and discuss how she made the transition into the investing world, as well as her tricks and tips for success as a landlord. Along with important insight into the real estate licensing process, Dawn covers property management, house hacking, and a whole lot more! Listen for advice on finding a great property, handling everyday rental issues and finding that elusive “ideal” tenant. And in case you were wondering when it’s appropriate to bend the “2% Rule” — this episode explores that, too!

Whether you have experience as a real estate agent or not, don’t miss this inspiring show!

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We just waRealtySharesnted to give a shout out to our podcast sponsor on today’s show: RealtyShares. RealtyShares is a crowdfunding platform that allows you to invest in professionally managed properties without leaving your living room!

Learn more by visiting!

In This Show We Cover:

  • How Dawn got started in real estate
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  • Thoughts on being a licensed real estate agent
  • The qualities that make a successful agent
  • A real estate agent’s perspective on what investors are looking for
  • The 2% rule — and how to know when to bend it
  • Importance characteristics of a great property
  • The process of “house hacking
  • What you need to know about property management
  • How to handle tenant issues with grace
  • The process of qualifying tenants
  • Different perspectives on owning a home
  • The ins and outs of establishing relationships with property managers
  • The pros and cons of self management versus hiring the job out
  • Tenant red flags and finding the ideal tenant
  • Plus MUCH more!

Links From the Show:

Books Mentioned in the Show

Connect with Dawn

About Author

Thanks for checking out the BiggerPockets Real Estate Investing & Wealth Building Podcast. Hosts Joshua Dorkin & Brandon Turner strive to bring top-notch educational content and interviews to our listeners -- without the non-stop pitch prevalent around the industry. With over 180,000 listeners per show, the BiggerPockets Podcast has become the biggest real estate podcast in the world. But don’t take our word for it. We’re the top-rated and reviewed real estate show on iTunes — check it out, read the reviews on iTunes, and get busy listening and learning!


  1. Kimberly Gillock

    One of my very favorite podcasts so far!! I really appreciate the nod to women in the REI industry– there’s not too many of us and when I tell other people, they just don’t really know what to do with that information. In the middle of “lean in” currently. 🙂 Also loved hearing about your investment strategy of investing in higher quality properties that command a higher rent. That’s been my MO, but I’m not too far along and glad to hear how it’s worked for you! Also loved hearing your thoughts on renting close to college campuses. Thanks for all the insight– really enjoyed it!

    • Dawn Brenengen

      Thank you, Kimberly! It never occurred to me that there weren’t that many female investors, probably because I encounter so many female agents that I never noticed. It was eye opening to hear Brandon say only 3% of the people who responded to his call for podcast guests were women. I’m glad to meet you!

  2. Jeff S.

    Enjoyed your article and appreciate your hold forever approach. You were saying though that appreciation won’t help you because you won’t sell. I disagree with that because first of all rental appreciation (rising rents) is huge. If you are in a desirable market rents go up with prices. Secondly, if you ever want to tap your equity years down the road (as I have) having an appreciated property makes it a dream. Try that with those 40k no upside rentals and the ability to pull cash is limited.

  3. Guy Raveh

    Hi @brandon Turner, I listened to the last few podcasts and heard about your challenge to find a great property manager in your area.
    Here is a thought: Every city has a few email service providers that have the ability to send an email for you to ALL local Realtors. You can ask your Realtor contacts to forward to you some of the regular emails that they receive on a weekly basis. In Las Vegas you can use one of these services and reach ALL the Realtors for $15! I’ve used it many times.

    Send them an email saying something like “make a few $100’s extra every month”. Then tell them you are looking for someone super professional and responsible to manage your properties. If they do a great job, the pool of properties can grow significantly. Ask them to email you their resume and voila.

    Even if they need to advance from a Realtor Salesperson to PM I’m sure it would be worth it for them knowing that they will have 100’s of Dollars extra every single month. What do you think?

  4. Matt Morrow

    Thanks Dawn for taking time to tell us about your business. I aspire to have a business like yours. Everything from “high end” rentals to buy and hold forever. I graduated from NCSU and before moving to CLT had hoped to do exactly what you have described. I think you have a winning strategy – I wish you luck on your future plans.

  5. jenny nguyen

    Hi Dawn,
    That’s great show and thanks for giving out lot of helpful information. I am in Raleigh too and hopefully we meet in person. I am looking for a website for tenant screening, which one do you use (sorry I couldn’t get it).

  6. Great show, thanks for wealth of information. When you said that if someone plans on being creative they should not get their realtor license can you please elaborate on that please, my apologies for being naive.” Resident research ” thanks for that jewel I will definitely add that to my tool box as well. List Hub is that for agents only ? What is the difference between list Hub and Rentlinks in your professional opinion.

    Thanks in advance
    Happy investing

    • Dawn Brenengen

      Hi Frank! Agents are held to a higher standard than the general public is. So, if you are trying to do any “creative” deals, you need to make sure you are well within the law and standards of ethics as an agent. There are some gray areas in RE investing, so if you plan on operating in any of these areas, just be sure that having a license won’t be a hindrance…think wholesaling.

  7. Rajib Miah

    Hi Dawn! I really enjoyed your show. Thanks for sharing your story. My path to real estate investing will be very similar to the one you’ve taken. I plan on moving every year and renting out my primary residence until I’ve acquired 3 or 4 properties. Also studying to get licensed so I can save money buying real estate. I don’t think this was covered in the show, but would you mind sharing how many rental properties you’ve acquired for yourself and how long it took you to get there?

    • Dawn Brenengen

      Hi Rajib! I’m happy to share. I bought my first personal home in 2003, and since I was house hacking, I’ll share when the home were actually turned into rental properties.
      1. 2004 – bought with my parents
      2. 2004 – bought with my parents
      3. 2006 – first personal home was turned into a rental
      4. 2012 – second personal home was turned into a rental
      5. 2014 – bought fifth rental as a rental
      So, it’s been a slow an steady process. I do conventional financing with at least 20% down, so it takes a while to save up those large down payments. 🙂

  8. Don Spafford

    @dawn brenengen I’m late to this party but still getting good info. I have a question for you. Was it difficult to start your own property management company? What was the biggest obstacle when you started? I am looking into doing this in my area. My wife is a licensed agent but it is not needed in my state for a property manager. Thanks!

    • Dawn Brenengen

      It wasn’t difficult, but there are definitely things I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now. For example, I was using Excel to track payments, etc. I should have started with PM software right from the beginning. Instead, I waited til I was 30 properties in, and then it was such a pain to onboard them into a new system. I should have used it from property #1. The biggest obstacle, though, was my own mindset. I was afraid to start my own business, and once I finally did it, I realized I should have started seven years before. 🙂

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