Real Estate Investing Basics

Investing in Real Estate While Serving in the U.S. Military

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Real Estate Investing Basics, Business Management, Flipping Houses, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Wholesaling, Personal Finance, Real Estate Marketing, AskBP
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soldier-investing

I have a lot of respect for the men and women in our armed services.

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Each day, while I’m picking up rent, recording an episode of the “BiggerPockets Podcast,” or watching the latest episode of “The Walking Dead,” these men and women are working to ensure I can continue living this lifestyle in peace. Before I continue, if that is you, let my just say a sincere thank you.

This guide is meant to serve as a starting place for those looking to invest in real estate while serving in the U.S. military. I want to be 100 percent clear: I’ve never served in the military, so I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who has a pretty good understanding of the U.S. investing world and enjoys explaining things!

Obviously, there are numerous branches of the military, as well as a variety of jobs, duties, responsibilities, pay scales, and locations for those serving. You might be located within the U.S., or you may be serving abroad. You may have a family, or you may be living alone. Maybe you are full time, or perhaps you are a “weekend warrior.”  Maybe you’ve been in the military for years and make a great salary, or maybe you are fresh out of boot camp.

The possibilities are endless, therefore, I will not attempt to say, “This is exactly how you should start investing.” That would be pointless since every investing strategy should be designed around the place where your abilities, finances, and goals meet.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Active Duty Military Should Consider Turnkey Real Estate

Instead, this post will attempt to be as general as possible while offering additional resources that you can use to dig in deeper and build your plan based on your specific situation.

The greatest focus of this guide will be on investing in real estate when your location is not guaranteed to remain the same, as this seems to be the greatest hurdle for those looking to invest in real estate while serving in the U.S. military. Although it is helpful to live in the same area you invest, it is not required. And this guide will show you numerous strategies you can use to keep your personal location and your investing strategy separate.

If you have any questions while reading this guide, I invite you to ask me any questions in the comments below this post. However, as someone who has not served in the military, I also encourage you to jump into the BiggerPockets Forums to ask questions to the BiggerPockets community, many who have served in the military and are willing to share their experiences with you. That’s the true power of BiggerPockets and this incredible family.

With that, let’s get to the guide.

active-military-investor

Why Invest in Real Estate While Serving in the Military?

For all the great things that can be said about Uncle Sam, few would use the word “generous with compensation” to describe our government. I doubt very much that you joined the military to get rich (after all, there is a reason we call it “serving in the military.”) However, if you are like me you probably have hopes, dreams, and ambitions for your family and future that will require more income than you’ll likely make from your career.

While typical personal finance advice is to simply “save more,” it’s not enough to simply save money unless that saved money has a higher purpose. After all, you won’t build wealth until your money is working to earn you money.

Let me show you two simple charts. The first shows the results of a person starting with $10,000 and saving $200 per month over the course of 30 years. The second graph shows the results of that same person, starting with that same $10,000, and investing that same $200 per month and earning an average of 12 percent each year on their investment.

Grapsh Military Real Estate
(Graphs obtained from DaveRamsey.com)

When looking at the graph on the left, the person has a grand total of around $82,000. However, looking at that same $200 per month, but invested at 12 percent, shows a final total of around $940,000 (Also note the scale on the left side of each graph. The left graph goes to a total of $100,000, while the right graph goes to $1 million!)

The difference is astonishing, is it not? A difference of over $855,000 just by investing that money rather than saving. By investing your hard earned money, you can parlay your small investment into far greater amounts later on. Now, clearly no one is arguing that you should simply bury your money in the backyard like the first graph represents. So where is the best place to invest that money?

Obviously, there are a lot of choices.  Stocks, mutual funds, index funds, whole life insurance, and more. Ask 10 financial planners what you should invest in, and you’ll likely get 10 different responses (conveniently, those 10 responses will likely correspond perfectly with whatever investment is going to make the planner the highest commission!)

Choosing Real Estate over Other Investing Strategies

However, of all the investments out there, I firmly believe the best is real estate. I believe no other investment on earth offers the same potential for building lasting wealth than real estate investing.

For starters, real estate investing offers:

  • The ability to use leverage to maximize your results (applying a small down payment to control a huge asset)
  • Historical stability and growth
  • Various ways to generate wealth (monthly cash from the rental income, appreciation when prices go up, tax benefits, and more)
  • The ability for you to have a direct impact on the results of your investment (unlike other passive investments—like mutual funds—where your financial destiny lies in the hands of unknown employees on Wall Street)

However, real estate is not the same as most other investments either. Real estate requires a certain set of skills and commitment to achieve the incredible results you are looking for. Investing in real estate for great returns takes planning, patience, and knowledge. It takes work.

I believe the end result is worth the effort because of the potential of greater profits. However, the fundamental question exists: Are consistent 12 percent returns possible?

Lucky for you, in the middle of writing this article, I decided to spin off a completely separate article rather than making this post longer than it should be. So to see the answer to this question, and a detailed walk through of exactly how 12 percent can be obtained.

So one final question remains: Is real estate a great investment for those in the military?

I believe yes.

The rest of this guide will show you different strategies you can use to achieve incredible results while keeping your investment passive enough to be location independent from your investments —so you can continue serving your country in the U.S. military or wherever life takes you.

military service member holding model home in hands

Job vs. Investment

A common problem among those looking to get started with real estate investing involves the confusion between investing in real estate as a job and investing in real estate as an investment. It gets even more confusing because the two are not always easily distinguishable—even to those involved every day in this industry.

Perhaps you’ve seen the TV shows where investors buy a cheap house, fix it up, and sell it, hoping to make massive profits? This practice, known as “house flipping” is very popular and potentially lucrative but is generally considered a “job.” When the “flipper” stops flipping, the money stops as well. An investment, on the other hand, continues to produce income when the producer stops producing.

There is nothing wrong with real estate as a “job,” but I want to encourage you to keep the two separate in your mind. You don’t need to devote 40 hours a week to real estate in order to invest. After all, if you are in the military, you probably don’t have the time!

By focusing on the “investment” side of things, you can build wealth and passive income for your future. The rest of this guide will focus on the “investment side” of real estate, specifically buying and renting single-family or small multifamily properties. However, if you want to learn more about house flipping, check out my article.

Take Control of Your Finances While in the Military

Before I venture into the actual practices needed to invest in real estate while serving in the military, let me first discuss a very important point: If you don’t have solid control on your personal finances, you have no business investing in real estate.

Real estate is not, despite what the late-night TV gurus may imply, a magic pill to solve your money problems. Money problems start in the heart and soul, so be sure to take steps to fix those before attempting to invest in real estate.

Related: 5 Steps You Can Take TODAY to Fix Your Finances

If you need help getting a better handle on your personal finances, I invite you to dive into some of these excellent personal finance sites:

  1. The MilitaryWallet
  2. From Military to Millionaire
  3. DaveRamsey.com
  4. Jeff Rose Financial
  5. The-Military-Guide.com

On an episode of the “BiggerPockets Podcast,” Jason Hull (a military vet) advised those overseas to use their time while enlisted to save as much money as possible so they can invest when they return to the States. I think this is a great suggestion! While I mentioned earlier that saving money won’t give you great returns, it still does take money to invest in real estate. So start saving so you can put that money to work as soon as possible.

Close up view of bookkeeper or financial inspector hands making report, calculating or checking balance. Home finances, investment, economy, saving money or insurance concept

Getting Your Education

The first investment you make should not be a property; it should be in your education. As I said earlier, real estate investing is not something to take lightly. Because if you don’t fully understand what you’re taking on, you could lose a lot of money.

However, I’m not referring to the “late-night, big hair, big promises” salesmen who offer courses for tens of thousands of dollars. I believe information has been democratized with the explosion of the internet, and you can learn nearly everything you need from free sources like BiggerPockets.

I don’t need to go into a lot here, because I’ve already done it with the “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing” that you can read, for free, here on BiggerPockets. This 20,000-plus-word e-book will give you the foundation you need to discover the best way to get started. Go ahead and open it in another tab right now, and when you finish this post immediately head over there and check it out.

In addition to the “Ultimate Beginner’s Guide,” I want to invite you check out the “BiggerPockets Podcast.” This weekly show (which I am lucky enough to co-host) is perhaps the greatest thing to hit the real estate world since the invention of the house. (I’m not biased or anything…) Each week, we sit down with successful real estate investors to hear their story of how they got started and built their portfolios.

They say you are the average of the five people you most associate with, so come hang out with us on the podcast and learn from our guests. Be sure to listen to BP Podcast 023: Flipping While Working a Job, Partnerships, and Military Investing with James Vermillion.

These podcasts are free and all online, so you can listen from anywhere in the world. Whether you are stationed in Afghanistan, Korea, Germany, the U.S.—or anywhere for that matter—use your time to invest in your education.

A final note on education: Books are still one of the best ways to learn, so be sure to check out The Best Real Estate Books for Your Investing Business to find your next read.

closeup of man in white shirt and blue jeans sitting and reading a paperback book

How Should You Invest While in the Military?

As mentioned previously, there are numerous ways to invest in real estate. I think it’s important to understand a few different strategies so you can best determine what fits in your lifestyle. Allow me to share a few of the most common strategies used by those in the military.

1. Owner-Occupant Investing

Chances are you’ve heard of the VA loan. One of the coolest benefits for active and former U.S. Military members, the VA loan is a subsidy (well, it's technically loan insurance for the bank, but that's not important to know right now) provided by the government that can help you obtain a home mortgage with no money down. Yep, zero percent down. You can even get the seller to pay most of the closing costs, so you can get into a property with almost nothing out of pocket.

But what does buying an owner-occupied house have to do with investing? After all, a house isn’t really much of an investment. (At least, not in the conventional sense. Yes, the price could go up, but that’s only an assumption.) However, there are two common situations which can turn a homeowner into an investor:

Home to Rental: Many U.S. Military members find themselves moving…a lot. For a variety of reasons, you and your family may find yourself at a number of different bases in the U.S. while you are not serving overseas. Therefore, many military families become real estate investing families almost by accident, by simply turning their existing home into a rental each time they move.

Small Multifamily: A small multifamily property can be either a duplex, triplex, or fourplex. And most loans, including the VA loan, consider these properties to be the same as a single-family house. In other words, you can live in one unit and rent the other unit(s) out to cover the mortgage payment or more.

Both of these strategies can be used by members of the military (or anyone, really) to get started investing with almost no money down. To learn more about this strategy, be sure to check out How to Use a VA Loan to Purchase Investment Property from VeteransUnited.com as well as my article, House Hacking: A Beginners Guide to Hack Your Housing and Live for Free.

2. Turnkey

One of the most popular options for investing in real estate while maintaining location independence is through a “turnkey” real estate company (aka “turnkey”). Although there are differences in how each company operates, they all exist to provide a “one-stop shop” for buying and leasing residential real estate. In other words, they can find the property for you, help you obtain financing, manage the tenants, and take care of most of the bookkeeping.

Sound too good to be true?

There is a lot of debate on the effectiveness of a turnkey real estate company, which is usually based on individual experiences with certain turnkey providers. Obviously, the turnkey company needs to make a profit, so you may pay a higher premium for the property than you might otherwise pay on your own.

On the other hand, turnkey companies tend to negotiate better deals because they are trained to understand their market, and their business model is tied to repeat customers and successful investments for their clients.

Related: Turnkey Real Estate—The Investor’s Comprehensive Guide

If you plan to keep things simple and go with a turnkey provider, don’t use it as an excuse not to do your homework. You should still evaluate the numbers the same as if you were doing it all on your own. Never simply accept what the turnkey provider says as gospel truth. Have trust—but verify everything.

Also, interview several turnkey companies to see which will make the best fit for you. Ask for references and actually call those references. This turnkey company will largely be responsible for the success of your investment, so treat it like a business and do your due diligence.

Turnkey investing can be incredibly helpful for someone looking to invest in real estate while in the military, but carefully weigh the options and analyze each deal for yourself to make sure you are getting a great investment property.

open door-unlock

3. DIY Rentals

If turnkey rentals are not your thing, you can always choose to “do it yourself” and simply invest in real estate from a distance. You can choose a location, do your homework from a distance, sift through properties online, interview property managers over the phone, hire a property inspector to check out the property, arrange financing, and sign the papers…all without ever stepping foot in the same state (or country) as the property.

The largest drawback to this kind of investing is simply not knowing the neighborhoods. You’ve heard the old cliche that real estate is all about “location, location, location.” And this is especially true with rental property investing.

Online, most properties look amazing because the real estate agent listing the property has a fiduciary responsibility to present the property in the best light. In other words, the listing is not going to mention that the property is in a food desert, on a busy street that cars speed down, or is sandwiched between two houses with equally noisy neighbors. Therefore, if you plan to “DIY” it and invest in real estate while living out of the area, here are a few helpful tips:

a.) Try to Visit: If at all possible, try to take a vacation to this area to see firsthand what you are getting into. Make as many connections as possible and tour as many properties as you can so you can get a good feel for the area.

b.) Build Your Team: You don't need to be physically present if you can build a strong enough team on the ground. This team should consist of, at a minimum, a great real estate agent (preferably an investor-friendly agent,) a property manager, and a property inspector. Additionally, if you can build relationships with active BiggerPockets members in that area, you will have a fantastic source of information and contacts. This will be invaluable to you as you begin investing in a new area.

c.) Use the Internet: The internet is an amazing thing, isn’t it? In just minutes, you can discover the crime statistics of any neighborhood in the country, as well as virtually drive down any major road in the U.S. via Google Street View. Utilize online tools to make sure you know the neighborhood you are investing in.

If you plan to DIY it, I highly encourage you to really dig into your education before you do. I know a lot of experienced investors who won’t invest this way because the risk is too high—so be sure you fully understand what you are getting yourself into. However, when you do your homework and invest intelligently, investing in rental properties the DIY way can be lucrative.

4. Partner Up

If you want to get started investing—but don’t have the time or knowledge to do the previous methods outlined in this guide—you may consider partnering with an experienced investor who can help you put your money to work.

You see, as a member of the armed services, you have a valuable trait: You are employed. In other words, you probably have the ability to obtain mortgages and may even have a bit of cash saved up. While you may lack the location-aspect of putting together a deal, there may be another investor out there who has the location but lacks the cash, credit, or job history.

Great partnerships bring together multiple parties with different strengths to accomplish goals that they could not do alone. Look at what traits you have. What can you bring to the table?

A great way to find a partner is by engaging on the BiggerPockets Forums. It’s easy to quickly sift through those who seem to know what they are talking about versus those who don’t. Start building relationships with different BiggerPockets members today. You never know where those relationships may lead.

handshake-partners

5. Crowdfunding

This is a recent phenomenon in the real estate investing space. Crowdfunding is the process of bringing together hundreds of investors to invest in real estate together. Several portals, such as RealtyMogul or Fundrise, have gained traction as profitable, yet passive, methods for investing in real estate without needing to get your hands dirty.

As of this writing, crowdfunding is a relatively new addition to the real estate world, so the rules are still a bit fuzzy on where the industry is headed (and what exactly is legal to do). But society does seem to be moving to allow more and more crowdfunded deals.

6. Notes

Finally, one more avenue that you may want to consider if you find yourself with some extra cash is through notes (mortgages.) Typically, when you buy a home, you sign a “note” with the bank. This note states that you will pay a certain interest rate for a certain time period. However, what many people don’t know is that you can buy and sell these notes just like properties.

There are several large note investing firms out there, including several who write regularly here on the BiggerPockets Blog. Be sure to do your due diligence on any company before handing over your hard-earned money. Ask for referrals and get all your questions answered openly and honestly.

For more information on investing in notes, check out these two podcast episodes where we’ve discussed notes thoroughly:

mortgage-notes

Conclusion

You do not need to live and invest in the same location, which is great news for those investing while serving in the military. Yes, it helps; but with a solid plan, a good team, and proper education long distance real estate investing can produce a great future for you and your family.

If you are serving in the military, it is my hope that this post has served you in some small fashion and has given you a starting place to begin investing in real estate while stationed overseas or at home. As I mentioned above, I encourage you to ask any questions you want, either here or in the Forums. And we’ll do our best to help you out and get you on your way to a positive real estate investing experience.

Once again, thank you for your service to our country. If there is any way BiggerPockets can help you succeed, don’t be afraid to ask.

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Are you active military and invest in real estate—why?

Please share your story with a comment!

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.

    Jimmy
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon Great post! As a previous member of the Marine Corps I saw several fellow veterans buy properties wherever they were stationed. When they moved they then just rented them out. After 10 years, all of my fellow Marines that did this have over $1 million in equity in these real estate investments.
    Jason Hull
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I saw a lot of this too. One thing to mention before buying where you’re stationed is to make sure that you’re really up on the BRAC planning process. You’d hate to purchase rental property in a post/base that is up on the chopping block for the next BRAC realignment. Thanks, Brandon, for the shout out!
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great addition Jason! Thanks for sharing, and you are welcome for the shout out!
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks Jimmy. I know some folks who did the same – and it worked out well for them. Thanks for the comment!
    Kyle Stewart from Dunn, North Carolina
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I know this is an old post, but im new here and I am currently in the military and own a home here. Ill be getting out in the next year and a half and I am struggling with the option to sell or rent when I leave. My main concern with renting it is getting approved on a loan to buy another property when I return back to my home state. I could be wrong but I think Im only allowed one VA loan at a time and I currently have a VA loan on my home. I’ve heard horror stories of people renting out their old home and not getting approved on their new loan for their new home bc of income vs mortgage payments even though they are renting one house out. Thanks for all your help in advance #askbp
    Jason Hull
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I saw a lot of this too. One thing to mention before buying where you’re stationed is to make sure that you’re really up on the BRAC planning process. You’d hate to purchase rental property in a post/base that is up on the chopping block for the next BRAC realignment. Thanks, Brandon, for the shout out!
    Marie
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    I know that you usually put in a lot of work to provide quality content. May I make a suggestion? Ask your military forum members! There are so many other facets to investing while in the military and this post doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. There are genuine issues that people need to know about investing while on duty: -Dealing with conflicts of interest and staying out of trouble -Overestimating your BAH and not preparing for the change in rates with a PCS move -Taking advantage of the Housing Offices on post and utilizing the AHRN or perspective service site -Problems with funds verification while in the middle of a PCS move -Military Onesource -Withdrawing from your TSP As a side note, most military members investing in Real Estate are pretty smart with money (-considering most enlisted members qualify for some type of general assistance…Heck there’s a WIC office on most major military installations). Not to mention, most posts have a Community Service Center that help service members with financial issues or just money management problems in general. -Building a team/finding quality contractors and how to blacklist a bad contractor through your post consumer affairs office. The list goes on!
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Hey Marie – you are correct, there is SO Much more I could have put in here. I did talk with a number of military folks before writing this to make sure I was getting the basics, but my goal was to keep it under 2000 words … and I ended up almost double that! 🙂 So perhaps we need a follow-up – a part II …. interested!? 🙂
    Marie
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Yup! Anytime…:-)
    Steve
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, My start while in the Army was a “home to rental,” as you mention. This first step can be a great learning experience which may determine if you have the intestinal fortitude to go further. It will likely expose you to a PM and the issues that go along with absentee ownership, unexpected maintenance issues, vacancy, bad tenants, and the rest. Couple this with a financial situation that may allow very little room for error, and you will quickly get educated and figure out if you can handle the business. In my case, it worked. This has become my “retirement” job, after serving 20 years, and I am now a broker. I have accumulated 6 properties (most within just the last few years), and if I could do it again, I would have bought a home and kept it EVERY time the Army moved me… but, I did limit my risk at the time, and being able to sleep well and focus on your primary job is also pretty important. No regrets. Thanks, Steve
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great comment Steve! I love to hear stories of those who have taken this path while in the military and succeeded. Thanks!
    Steve
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, My start while in the Army was a “home to rental,” as you mention. This first step can be a great learning experience which may determine if you have the intestinal fortitude to go further. It will likely expose you to a PM and the issues that go along with absentee ownership, unexpected maintenance issues, vacancy, bad tenants, and the rest. Couple this with a financial situation that may allow very little room for error, and you will quickly get educated and figure out if you can handle the business. In my case, it worked. This has become my “retirement” job, after serving 20 years, and I am now a broker. I have accumulated 6 properties (most within just the last few years), and if I could do it again, I would have bought a home and kept it EVERY time the Army moved me… but, I did limit my risk at the time, and being able to sleep well and focus on your primary job is also pretty important. No regrets. Thanks, Steve
    Steve
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, My start while in the Army was a “home to rental,” as you mention. This first step can be a great learning experience which may determine if you have the intestinal fortitude to go further. It will likely expose you to a PM and the issues that go along with absentee ownership, unexpected maintenance issues, vacancy, bad tenants, and the rest. Couple this with a financial situation that may allow very little room for error, and you will quickly get educated and figure out if you can handle the business. In my case, it worked. This has become my “retirement” job, after serving 20 years, and I am now a broker. I have accumulated 6 properties (most within just the last few years), and if I could do it again, I would have bought a home and kept it EVERY time the Army moved me… but, I did limit my risk at the time, and being able to sleep well and focus on your primary job is also pretty important. No regrets. Thanks, Steve
    Steve
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, My start while in the Army was a “home to rental,” as you mention. This first step can be a great learning experience which may determine if you have the intestinal fortitude to go further. It will likely expose you to a PM and the issues that go along with absentee ownership, unexpected maintenance issues, vacancy, bad tenants, and the rest. Couple this with a financial situation that may allow very little room for error, and you will quickly get educated and figure out if you can handle the business. In my case, it worked. This has become my “retirement” job, after serving 20 years, and I am now a broker. I have accumulated 6 properties (most within just the last few years), and if I could do it again, I would have bought a home and kept it EVERY time the Army moved me… but, I did limit my risk at the time, and being able to sleep well and focus on your primary job is also pretty important. No regrets. Thanks, Steve Reply Report comment
    Warren Foster
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Great article! I think it’s a great introduction. I look forward to the follow-up 🙂 Warren
    Julie
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks for the post! I am in the Air Force and the VA loan has been awesome – I used it to buy and house and then after living in it for a few years, I rented it out. I also live in a large military town, so there are many opportunities for rentals. Rentals are a great investment on top of the retirement pay that will come along later!
    Ryan Pryor from Fredericksburg, VA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Quick Question Julie, Do you have to refinance the home when you moved out? I know that VA loans are owner occupied, but is there limit on how long you have to occupy? If not did you have to put anything down when you refied? Thanks, Ryan
    Tim
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Hi Brandon, Great post. I think everyone in the military can benefit from this article, and learn about the opportunities and possibilities of supplementing their retirement, especially if they’re in it for the long haul. I was in the Marine Corps when I bought my first property in 1995. My brother, who was also in the Marines, and I combined our VA loans (and income) to qualify for a loan that I might have never been able to get on my own. We were able to buy a house with a granny flat. The rental income from the flat practically paid for the mortgage. It was definitely a long and intimidating process back then. I think now the protocol is faster, or should be. Also, I remember sometime after that, a Master Sergeant, who had around 20 years or so, came into our unit to give us a class on personal finance. He talked about the fundamentals of savings, mutual funds, and other stuff. But when he talked about real estate, he had everyone’s attention. He talked about how he bought a home for himself and his family near every duty station he was transferred to. As soon as he received his orders, he’d rent out the one he was living in and go house hunting for the next, while on leave. He went on to discuss the many options he had for retirement. It was an inspiring class. I think that kind of a class, like this article, should be presented to all of our service men and women. Thanks for letting me share my insights. Tim
    Elizabeth Colegrove
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    My husband is in the Navy. We have been in for 4 years. We currently own 4 houses at 26! We find combing personal property and investment financing allows us to accumulate houses with less money down. Our goal is accumulate as many houses as possible to allow us to retire on our rental and pension income.
    Elizabeth Colegrove
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    My husband is in the Navy. We have been in for 4 years. We currently own 4 houses at 26! We find combing personal property and investment financing allows us to accumulate houses with less money down. Our goal is accumulate as many houses as possible to allow us to retire on our rental and pension income.
    Greg Fend
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, Thanks for the great article! I posted a more in depth response to Josh’s forum post but I couldn’t @ you! Let me know if you need any more active duty insight!
    Sara Cunningham
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Really good to see this article. I noticed when I found this site late last year that there were many active duty or retired military members in the network. I wish I had the knowledge and foresight I have now. We have been stationed in the States, England, Germany and now Italy. When we lived in England we bought our own house, a rental and a vacation apartment in Portugal. However when we left we sold all 3 properties. Yes we made a lot of money but I can tell you that it soon disappeared with a move to the States. Not to mention when we bought our first house in Oklahoma we ended up selling it for less 2 years later when we decided to custom build. Well as I say hindsight is a great thing. We now have 12 properties in Oklahoma. Since moving to Italy we have purchased another property sight unseen through using our network of people in Oklahoma. Our next step is to venture into a market we don’t know. We have a son and daughter stationed in Delaware and 2 other daughters in Washington D.C. so on our next trip back this May we plan to invest in one of those markets. I must admit it is rather daunting thinking about spending money in a place you don’t really know. Any suggestions other than those in the article would be appreciated. Our other thought is to buy a property in Italy. This would be based on being able to rent to other military persons after we leave here. Jason good point about checking on BRAC. You definitely need to consider who your tenants are going to be if the base suddenly disappears! The Italian bank have already agreed to lend the money to us. Would appreciate any insight from other military families who ended up keeping property overseas. I do see some pitfalls, such as the language barrier when finding good partners, though the housing office is always available. Also the state of the economy in certain countries like Italy.
    Sharon Tzib
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Another amazing piece of work, Brandon. When you decide to do something, you go all in. I can only imagine how daunting putting together something like this was, but you did your research and really did an amazing job. I love the partners idea – I’m not military at all, but I can’t think of anyone I’d be more honored and proud to partner with, as that is something I’ll be looking to do in the future when I move to Houston. Again, great job Brandon!
    Greg
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, Thanks for the great article. I think you really hit on some great points and, as others have said, there’s obviously many areas that could be expanded upon on this subject. One of the best things you recommended was that people get their finances under control. Unfortunately, I have found that a majority of the people I’ve come across in the Air Force have a less than ideal understanding of how to manage their money. I also see many military people who are (in my opinion) somewhat hasty to jump into purchasing real estate and don’t go in with an investor mindset. I would argue that it’s important for military members to have an investor focus because many of us will move somewhat frequently during our time in service (vs. it being arguably ok to purchase something that might not cash flow if you’re planning on settling down for a while). Many first time purchasers buy houses based on how much of a VA loan they can get, which is often generous. I know several people who are just of the mindset that “I can just rent it out if I can’t sell in a few years when I move”. However, at the price point of many of the purchases, I think many of them will be hard pressed to meet a 1%, let alone a 2% rule. Little thought is given to how much rent they can get and even less to the associated expenses with rentals. Hopefully more active duty military members find Bigger Pockets and go in with an investor mindset.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Hey Greg, thanks so much for the comment! And yeah, it’s amazing how many people (not just military, but everyone) has trouble getting their finances under control! It’s so important before investing in real estate, but so many want to put the cart before the horse!
    Greg
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Brandon, Thanks for the great article. I think you really hit on some great points and, as others have said, there’s obviously many areas that could be expanded upon on this subject. One of the best things you recommended was that people get their finances under control. Unfortunately, I have found that a majority of the people I’ve come across in the Air Force have a less than ideal understanding of how to manage their money. I also see many military people who are (in my opinion) somewhat hasty to jump into purchasing real estate and don’t go in with an investor mindset. I would argue that it’s important for military members to have an investor focus because many of us will move somewhat frequently during our time in service (vs. it being arguably ok to purchase something that might not cash flow if you’re planning on settling down for a while). Many first time purchasers buy houses based on how much of a VA loan they can get, which is often generous. I know several people who are just of the mindset that “I can just rent it out if I can’t sell in a few years when I move”. However, at the price point of many of the purchases, I think many of them will be hard pressed to meet a 1%, let alone a 2% rule. Little thought is given to how much rent they can get and even less to the associated expenses with rentals. Hopefully more active duty military members find Bigger Pockets and go in with an investor mindset. Reply Report comment
    Michael Damazo
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    If you need any inputs from someone that is currently active duty and starting off in real estate, let me know. I’m still working to get my first property that is owner occupant investing. After I close on my first property, I get more information on setting up to own my next properties. I have Elizabeth from this site to thank for guiding me to a great realtor. Can’t wait to be more active and contribute to BP.
    gilbert martinez
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Michael im also current active duty but want some guide in how youre going to start thanks please.
    Trevor
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Perhaps a slight leap to suggest all financial planners advise based on what the highest commission is for themselves. All certified financial planners must act in the best interest of their clients or else risk losing the industry’s premier designation. Some CFPs even love and encourage clients to invest in real estate based on a tailored plan and diversified asset allocation! Sorry, I’ll step down from my soapbox now..
    Timothy Trewin
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Brandon Turner Great article. As someone who has made the military a career I wish I would have started sooner with real estate investing. Now that I am going on my final assignment I am focusing on it more than ever. Articles like this are really motivating. I do appreciate it and I know many others on here do as well. I am truly grateful that you took the time to write this and to all the contributors on this board who have made the process of real estate investing daunting and achievable.
    Brandon Turner
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Thanks so much Timothy, both for the comment and for your service! Definitely let us know how your adventures in RE go!
    Milton Johnson Real Estate Investor from APO, AE
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I know this post is over a year old now, but thank you for the insight Brandon. As someone who is stationed abroad, I have been looking at multiple ways to get into REI but it’s a little more limited. From all the research I have done, I just recently started to focus more on a few topics like DIY, Turn Key, and Notes. After reading this post, I feel like I am on the right track. I was wondering though after reading the comments, has there been any updates or follow ups to this post?
    Darrell D. Rental Property Investor from Springfield, OH
    Replied over 4 years ago
    VA loans have helped get off to a great start. The only downside is that my properties are in various states. Two in Arizona, two-in Ohio (including a duplex), and I live in my home in Virginia. It’s crazy but everything works. It’s commonly known that veteran’s can purchase up to $417,000 worth of investments with the VA program. However, not many people know that limit is increased in expensive areas. Virginia, California, and New York are some places where the incentive is increased. I personally maximized my incentive but later learned it was increased for the state I live in (Virginia). I could have made a bigger/better investment had I known increase. Another little known fact… If you purchase a home in a particular area, you are allowed to upgrade in that same area. Only one upgrade is allowed per area. So use this to your advantage! Buy small and live within your means. After a year, buy another house(or possible a multifamily unit) and rent the first one. After about 1.5 years you’ll be on the fast track to success. I believe in the BRRR method. In fact, this method benefits veterans. You can first a acquire a loan using the VA program and later refinance it to a conventional (Non VA) loan. This will restore your VA entitlement and allow you to purchase again. Bottom line… being a veteran has opened doors for my family and I to greater investments and I’m very thankful. You can use the VA program as part of your life strategy. You can do it!
    Darrell D. Rental Property Investor from Springfield, OH
    Replied over 4 years ago
    As the saying goes… Every day you learn something new. I just learned the loan limits are far greater than I thought. For multifamily units, the loan limits are multiplied!!! http://www.fhfa.gov/DataTools/Downloads/Documents/Conforming-Loan-Limits/FullCountyLoanLimitList2015_HERA-BASED_FINAL.pdf
    Darrell D. Rental Property Investor from Springfield, OH
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Disregard the last post. While it’s true the maximum is increased in some areas, the numbers for single family homes can only be used… even when purchasing a multifamily.
    David Jayne Real Estate Investor from Stuttgart, Germany
    Replied almost 3 years ago
    Such a solid article! Thanks for posting. I’m sending to all my military friends. You da man, Brandon.
    Brynn S.
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    I am about to graduate and commission into the military so I am currently researching all of my RE options. Great read and I appreciate the follow on research options!
    Brynn S.
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    I am about to graduate and commission into the military so I am currently researching all of my RE options. Great read and I appreciate the follow on research options!
    Stephen L. Rental Property Investor from Indiana
    Replied 11 months ago
    Perhaps the most powerful tool Uncle Sam gives to those on Active Duty is not the VA Loan; but their Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). This is tax free money given to a service member to pay for living expenses. Many will waive their entitlement to live in government housing or to rent an apartment. I have served on active duty for over twenty years and it’s only within the last 5 years we’ve taken advantage of real estate investing. At my last duty station we bought a house using a 7/1 ARM with great terms; and my BAH covered the mortgage and basic utilities. Additionally, a service member can also use Tuition Assistance to get an education while serving; and if they save their Post 911 Gi Bill benefits until after they separate, they can continue to draw BAH for the rate of an E-5 w/Dependents for the zip code of the school with the Yellow Ribbon Program. Again, this is tax-free money service members can use to build wealth in real estate. If you are on active duty, clean up your budget to maximize savings, and look for opportunities to leverage your housing allowance; both while on active-duty, and/or with the Post 911/Yellow Ribbon program after separation.