Erin Helle served in the Army for 14 years but wanted to design a new life once her two daughters came into the picture. She sought time freedom but also wanted to show her daughters what hard work looks like. To accomplish both, she landed on real estate investing—and purchased nearly 20 doors in less than two years.
Name: Erin Helle
Location: Monterey, California
What were you doing prior to real estate?
I served in the U.S. Army 2005-2019 as an Engineer Officer. I excelled and loved every minute of it, shattering glass ceilings and paving the way for women who would come after me.
However, shortly after having my first daughter, I was put on orders to deploy the same month as my husband. At that point, I knew the Army was no longer going to work for me. I resigned and then joined the Army Reserve but was released when they found out that I have a heart condition.
What got you interested in real estate investing, and how did you get started?
I got out of the Army to take care of my two little girls and wanted to create financial freedom for my family. I loved the flexibility of real estate investing (REI) and the ability to scale it. I also loved that it would allow me to build a business that I could tangibly hand down to my girls and something that they could watch me build!
I was determined to be successful and show my daughters the value of hard work and creating something to be proud of. Yet I did not want to be tied to a 9-5 job and be told where to be and when to be there. So, I embarked on a quest to figure out exactly what that looked like.
Navigating the terrifying but incredibly fulfilling journey of buying my first rental property led to the realization that I loved chasing the deal, negotiating, and building a solid future for my family. Fast forward and—along with my husband—we purchased 19 doors in the first year and a half, and our business earned six figures during the first full year of operation.
I now own over 30 doors and have a portfolio valued at around $2.4M. I also coach other investors and serve as a real estate agent.
What is your real estate investment plan and preferred investing strategy?
My investments are diverse. I’ve purchased single-family and multifamily with various intents, including buying and holding and fixing and flipping. My plan is to build a portfolio that cash flows $20,000 per month.
How much did you have to invest when you first started?
About $150,000, including IRAs.
What was your first deal?
A new build single-family home that is now a long-term rental.
How many deals have you done to date?
What is the most important part of a deal for you?
Cash flow and appreciation.
How do you know if a property fits your goals?
By now, I can tell within about 90 seconds if it fits my criteria. I look for positive cash flow, low vacancy, and appreciation (path of progress). I run a cash flow analysis but also analyze markets before even looking at properties. I then have property managers help me determine rental and vacancy rates and the type of tenant it will appeal to.
What red flags do you look out for when purchasing property?
Unknown info about the major systems, high vacancy rates, high crime, and property managers who say they “won’t manage properties in that area.”
How has real estate investing changed your life?
In Every. Possible. Way!
It has allowed me to earn a living from home (which is great for a military family who moves around often!). It has allowed me to feel very secure about our future. It has given me confidence and purpose. I have truly found my place in this industry, and I am so grateful!
What’s your “why”—the reason you pursued real estate investing and your drive to keep going when things get tough?
My family—financial freedom and the ability to travel the world and support my Army Special Forces husband is what it’s all about.
What should people consider before getting involved in real estate investing?
Listen to those who are successful. Find a mentor or a coach, and commit. Take action, make offers, and follow your dreams.
How did you find out about BiggerPockets? How has it helped you?
I’ve been listening to the podcast forever. I can’t even remember how I actually found out about it.
BiggerPockets has helped me in so many ways! Importantly, it’s provided a way to connect with other investors and see that others are out there doing it, too—which is inspirational. I can always find an answer to my questions through this community.
Is your real estate investing journey similarly inspiring? Share here for a chance to be featured in the next Investor Spotlight!
Join the discussion below.
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.