If you’re a veteran, you’re probably familiar with the VA loan. What you may not know, however, is that you can use the VA loan not only to buy a single-family home but a four-unit property and do some house-hacking. In this episode of the Note Closers Show, Scott Carson interviews Kevin Brenner from the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast about the VA loan and the power it offers military families and investors. Tune in to learn how you can buy up to a four-unit property where you can live in one and rent out the rest of the three and cashflow.
Listen to the podcast here:
The VA Loan For Military Investors: Harnessing Its Power To Cashflow With Kevin Brenner
Many of you know that we have a special place in our hearts for the past and present military. We are honored in this episode to have my buddy, Kevin Brenner from the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast coming on. We will be talking about what they do over there and some of the resources they have available. More importantly, you will take away some of his insights into using the VA loan, the power that comes with having that loan, and the opportunity that I think a lot of our past and present military are missing on that. Kevin did a great job explaining everything they got as well over at his group, the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast for the past and present military. You don’t need to be on active duty or even in the military to learn from this. This is a great episode and we will see you at the top.
I am honored to have a special guest. This is a guy that I connected originally on LinkedIn. We’ve exchanged a few messages back and forth, a fellow real estate investor and podcaster. We had the good nature of running into each other at Podfest and then with smart friends, Joe Fier and Matt Wolfe, from the Hustle and Flowchart Podcast that has been on here before. I’m honored to have our good buddy, Kevin Brenner, joining us here from the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast. He’s got a great podcast, especially for those who are current or past veterans, military. The Active Duty Passive Income Podcast is an amazing group with amazing content. If you aren’t listening to that, you’ll have to listen to it.
Kevin is a United States Air force Officer, Active Duty Passive Income Single-Family Education Chief, co-host of the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast, and Founder of ADPI’s Operation ATOM or the Action Takers Only Mastermind. He operates nine cashflowing units in Savannah, Georgia and Washington, DC. He founded the Nimbus Capital Group, a nationwide capital investment firm geared towards affluent and accredited Millennials interested in investing in apartment buildings and mobile home parks. Kevin, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I’ve been wanting to get on your show and talk to your audience. I only started this journey for me in late 2018, but it has become my world and my passion. I love it, but I had heard about notes and I was confused. I was like, “You can’t do that without owning the property.” You read more about it and then you start digging into truly passive income and it excited me. I’m glad to be on your show and talking to your audience.
That’s normal. Everybody’s used to the traditional, “I’m going to buy a house, put a renter or a landlord in it. I’m going to fix it up and flip it.” It’s dramatized by those fictional TV shows we see.
Are you saying you can’t flip a house in 30 minutes? They do it on HGTV all the time.
Everything goes perfect. The first open house a person comes in and signs a full contract.
That’s not how real estate investing works.
You’ve got such a great audience out there and I want to spread the word to our readers because some of our most loyal readers are either current, past military and who got family in the military. I got an email from one of your readers. I was honored to be on your show. Some of your readers have reached out and talked about some of the difficulties that military active duty personnel have. Why don’t we dive into a little bit about that? One of the big things I love to do is to shine a light on what our military is doing. We can’t have the freedoms that we have now without what you guys have done and continue to do. What are some of the challenges of being an active duty military? What are some of the things that you see when it comes to investing in real estate?
I love that you brought this up because it doesn’t matter what service you’re in. I’m an Air Force, but in our organization, in Active Duty Passive Income, we call it a community. We call it the ADPI Nation. In ADPI Nation, we have all services represented, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force, Navy, or any reservists out there and veterans. You don’t have to be active duty. I know it’s in the name. We get that question all the time. “I’m not active duty. Can I join?” “Yes, you can join.” Our goal at ADPI is to educate and teach active duty veterans, military spouses, military families how to build wealth, not just regular wealth, but build generational wealth through real estate investing. It’s a wonderful vehicle that we found. I’m grateful for the founders of ADPI for bringing me onboard and allowing me to teach.
To your question, there are a lot of challenges. When you think about a regular real estate investor, you most likely live in your market. When you’re active duty military, as an officer, I move around 2 to 3 years. I’ll stay in one place three years tops and then it’s time to go. Especially if you’re getting into it, it’s not a lot of time to establish yourself in a market. Whereas opposed to a regular investor, you might have lived in that market your whole life. You have been there for ten years or you have a job, a network, and all this stuff. Beyond that, it’s being able to manage properties from out of state because ultimately, when you’re in the military, no matter where you buy, you will become an out-of-state landlord. That scares the crap out of a lot of people.
Those are some of the basic challenges that we teach and we help overcome and say, “This is why you’ve got to bake property management into your expenses on the front end.” We all know as real estate investors that you make your money on the buy. You make your money on the front end. You might get some appreciation down the top, but at ADPI, we are firm believers in investing for cashflow. Any appreciation, that’s great, but if the deal doesn’t cashflow, then it’s a no-go. That’s what I help people focus on within Operation ATOM, the Action Takers Only Mastermind. We give people all the education and then we want to see them crush it and take action.
We have about 120 students who are doing that, some of which signed up for your Note CAMP that they are excited for. With those challenges, we also have a massive advantage. If you’re a veteran, they’re probably familiar with the VA loan, but they probably don’t know that you can use the VA loan to buy up to a four-unit property. You don’t have to buy a single-family home. You can buy a four-unit property and do what we call house hacking as I did. I bought a quadplex and then lived in one. The other three, I rented out. I moved, got a tenant for the other one, and was able to double the rent because it was poorly managed. I did a little cosmetic stuff, double the rent, and now it cashflows like a champ. We have challenges, but then we also have this massive benefit, but only 13% of veterans or people who are eligible for the VA loan use it.
I did not know that. That’s a depressing ratio.
Most likely, for us, it’s an education thing. People don’t know. Maybe they’re not ready to buy or they can’t buy where they live. Some veterans live in a big state and they camp and are like, “Whatever.” To know that you can buy up to a four-unit property, it’s a game-changer because that four-unit property not only pays for the mortgage, in most cases, it cashflows. When you move around the country, we call it a PCS or Permanent Change of Station, you get a tenant for that last unit and you’re good to go.
That’s the thing, great rates when it goes down to it. What kind of down payment does a VA loan require? Is it like FHA that’s 3% or 0% down payment?
Zero. For your readers, August of 2018, a buddy of mine threw me Rich Dad Poor Dad. I was playing volleyball with him. He’s a good friend of mine. He told me that he closed on his 5th or 6th single-family home. He was a first lieutenant and I was a captain at the time. I outranked him and I was like, “How are you paying six mortgages?” He was telling me, “It’s good debt.” I was like, “Classic.” As an adult or young adult at the time, I was like, “There’s no such thing as good debt. All debt is bad.” He threw me the purple bible. I read it in two days and that was my epiphany. That was my turning point in life. That was in the springtime. Fast forward a couple of months in August of 2018, I closed on a four-unit that I used my VA with closing costs and everything there. I brought $3,000 to the table to buy a $350,000 property in Savannah, Georgia.
You probably have a higher percentage rate than 13% of your listeners that’s using the VA loan.
Our listenership has grown and exploded. We offer many free educational products. We have our book, Military House Hacking, an Amazon number one bestseller. It is not big. It’s not a long read. It’s easy, but it explains this strategy on how to use your VA loan to get into a small multi or any property, house hack it, make some money, and start building that portfolio. A lot of our listeners take advantage of the VA loan, but if you’re new to the thing, the book is free on our website. We have a full free VA Loan Mastery course. It’s a big masterclass. It tells you from start to finish how to do it and what you need to do and if you’re ready to dig in, we offer some other educational products and classes. Between the podcast, the book, and everything, the VA Loan Mastery course is your starter guide. I think a lot of our listeners use that and they’re building portfolios and wealth
That’s a beautiful thing to see because many people out there have opportunities, but they don’t take advantage of it. I’ve got some friends and family who’s been in the military and they’re not taking advantage of those things and I want to pull my hair. I’m like, “Why not?” It’s a chaotic time, but it’s a great time if you’ve got free money throwing at your face, not whereas if you rent two out of the four, you’re going to be in the black. I know this is a difficult thing when every 24 months roughly, you’re having to move in different enlistment across the country, but there are vendors in about every city. The military isn’t being stationed in Podunk towns. Can we agree to that, Kevin?
It depends on what service you’re in. I will say as an Air Force guy, I have been blessed with some great locations. My first duty assignment was St. Louis, but I was too ignorant to buy real estate so I rented. I didn’t have my epiphany yet. I then moved to Savannah, Georgia where I was stationed with the Army, which happened to be one of the Army’s nicest bases location-wise. It is a great base. Savannah is a beautiful place. If you haven’t been there, go. I got transferred up to the Pentagon so I’m in a big city, but a lot of Air Force bases are in the middle of nowhere because they need a lot of airspace, but the Navy, you’ve got San Diego and Hawaii. You’ve got some nice places so it depends on the service, for sure, but wherever you go, there’s always going to be an opportunity to implement some real estate investing strategy.
Those aren’t bad markets. There are opportunities there, but our biggest base here in Texas is in Fort Hood. It is a huge base in Killeen, Texas, which is not the biggest of cities. It’s about 1.5 hour from here. The one thing I think that maybe concerns a lot of people, I used to work on that location after I graduated for Verizon Wireless, it was always feast or famine. The city was either packed or it was a ghost town.
When the whole base deploys and then there’s no one there and then everyone comes back.
We’d sell a record amount of new activations and then we’d have a record amount of cancellations. There are always renters or people that can rent a property or short-term rentals in a lot of places for a variety of different reasons. Do you think that leads into the misbelief that as military, “I can’t be in back there,” because they don’t know about the fourplex thing? They don’t think about that. They think that it is too difficult. “I’ve got to manage it. I can’t make any money because I’m used to maybe the one-unit side versus realizing their house hacking.” The cost per door goes down dramatically versus a single-family home.
When you’re dealing with the vacancy and things like that, that does play a factor. This goes across the board to any investor out there, but the biggest limiting factor is fear of the unknown that you’ve never done this before. You’re putting your money at risk and you’d rather keep it in that savings account or keep it where people have told you to keep it. It doesn’t grow and you’re not creating wealth. You’re existing. Fear stretches into the military, but it speaks to the general lack of financial education in this country.
That hits the nail on the head there because there are a lot of lacking in that educational space when it comes to finances and even basic financial information. We both love Rich Dad Poor Dad. There are other things out there that are great books to read, an educational series and stuff like that. There’s a lot of things that aren’t taught that need to be taught, especially when people transitioning out of active duty. The opportunities that are available to them and how to take advantage of that and figuring out how they’re going to transition to is also a little bit of a difficult time.
There are a ton of people that think that if they’re not active duty, they can’t access the VA loan, but you can if you’re a veteran. There are some qualifications that you have to meet, but if you serve an enlistment or a contract as an officer, you qualify. Get educated and that’s our whole thing. We started ADPI to build a community to get the word out and it has grown. We already have over 10,000 members in our Facebook group. We’re growing on about 1,000 members a month and we have a 93% engagement rate. People who don’t run Facebook groups, they probably don’t know what that means, but that is insanely high because we’re out there providing value in everyone.
The biggest thing is most of the people are in the military or they’re veterans. When you’re in the military, you have that bond. Being able to have that bond with someone else who serves or has served, we’re all about helping each other. The resource out there, which is ADPI, has helped a lot of people. It’s funny you brought up Robert Kiyosaki. We were honored to have him as a guest on the podcast and the entire show, he did not talk a lick about real estate. He talked about his time in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He didn’t mention the words real estate once. We talked to him about being a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and it was still amazing. It’s Robert Kiyosaki.
That’s totally mind-shifting right there, “What? Rich Dad Poor Dad was a helicopter pilot? I want to see some proof of that.”
If you read Rich Dad Poor Dad, before he got living in his car and all this stuff, he had already served. He mentioned it briefly how he had served, but he doesn’t focus on it. It’s a great episode. I can’t reference the episode number but it’s up there. It’s fun and a short little one.
We were talking a little about how you’re in Washington, DC and you’re working a little remotely and you won’t be back at the Pentagon in-person. You’ve done some great things. You wrote a book and you’ve also launched the Nimbus Capital Investment Company. Let’s talk a little about that. What are your hopes and goals with that, for the readers and the active members of that?
This is an independent Kevin project. This is independent of ADPI, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do within ADPI and the single-family education chief. Outside, personally, I am interested in commercial real estate. I had started writing a book before I linked up with ADPI about Millennials. When I told you that story, Scott, about getting Rich Dad Poor Dad thrown at me and I’m reading it. I then realized and a lot of people realize that we are undereducated. I looked at it generationally, and my generation is specifically undereducated. They’re fearful and they should be fearful because of 2008. Because of COVID-19, the economic reverberations that we’re going to feel, the Millennial generation has been royally screwed by not having an educational base. They are getting screwed coming out of college into terrible employment trying to get a job and then this. That’s all in one generation, all of these factors.
I wanted to dig in and learn how to spread that education. I’m a meteorologist in the Air Force so I had to reference a nimbus cloud. What Nimbus is about is educating and going after affluent and accredited Millennials who have the funds to invest, but don’t know what to invest in. We’re focusing on large apartment complexes. A partner of mine, who I’ve met through the ADPI network, he’s also in the military. He’s 24 years old and has fifteen units out in St. Louis. He does everything from Germany. He’s stationed in Germany. For all those people out there that think they can’t do out of state investing, try out of country investing.
David and I share this passion about educating Millennials and we just launched Nimbus. It’s in its infancy, to say the least, but if you are interested, check out RiseWithNimbus.com, and shoot me an email. We’ll set up a call and I’d love to talk about it. I love to network and tell people about the benefits of commercial real estate. What we say at Nimbus is our mission is wealth creation for the Millennial generation. Instead of those wealth management firms like, “We’re going to build your wealth. We’re going to do this,” we’re going to take a Millennial, a young guy or girl, and we are going to create wealth that will last them and the next generation down in the road. I don’t want people living with regrets and saying, “I’m 45 years old and I should have invested in real estate earlier.” We’re going to catch you early and we’re going to show you how this is going to work and the benefits are outstanding.
You are focused on mobile home parks, apartment complexes, and things like that. Mobile home parks are usually an undervalued asset class. Apartments are a little overpriced now, but we’re going to start seeing more of those distressed hits the market as a lot of people overpaid for them over the last five years.
That’s going to be interesting. My partner and I talk about it all the time and our estimate is about 6 to 9 months. These people who were buying these REITs and these hedge funds, who were buying things at 4.5% caps are going to be in big trouble because they way overpaid. When tenants aren’t going to be able to pay the rent, a lot of these syndicators and operators are counting on 3% to 4% year over year rental raises and that is insane. It’s irresponsible underwriting. I guess competition gets into people, but I feel bad for them. I think they’re going to have some problems.
That’ll be interesting to see what’s going to happen. I know that we’re expecting a lot of stuff, but we’re also waiting and seeing what’s going to happen with the market. I know that Fannie and Freddie have looked at having permanent forbearance agreements to borrowers out there. Let’s see what happens. Permanent forbearance options where they see a six-month period in a second forbearance agreement area.
We’re in such uncharted waters now that I try and every industry out there tries to speculate, but we don’t know. Bringing it back to the military, we’re trained at our core to adapt and overcome to varying situations. As investors, that helps us pivot into new strategies because each market that we move to, there’s going to be a new strategy. I knew when I moved to Washington DC that I was not going to able to purchase. I had my VA loan. I could have purchased a 500 square foot property, but they want a $1,000 square foot here. It is insane. I’m like, “This is stupid,” so I started short-term rental instead, and that’s doing something great.
That’s the thing, there are opportunities in every market. You’ve just got to know how to evolve, adapt to, and figure what’s going to work. I live in Austin, Texas, a very competitive market. It is an overpriced market here and I haven’t bought anything here in Austin in years because I wanted to go with other places that made better sense to me, more financial sense. We’ve seen appreciation here and I’m definitely not saying I wouldn’t buy anything here, but it’s got to be the right price that’s got to make sense. You’re not going to be buying a mobile home community in the middle of Washington, DC or an apartment complex here, but other areas of the country, like Florida, mobile home parks are bigger in Texas as well, too. Those are opportunities out there and I love what you’re doing and provide resources and a friendly environment for those out there that are looking to learn or looking to tap into resources to help them take that first big step. We all know that first purchase, that first investment is always the scariest.
It’s that fear. It’s getting over that fear of the unknown. It’s all about trust, whether you’re an ADPI or you’re following me at Nimbus, we want to have a conversation. If what we do is not your cup of tea, that’s cool. That’s fine, but whatever you’re forgetting to do a partnership, whether that’s a limited partnership with a syndicator, an asset manager, trust and communication. I think that we do that pretty well and I’d like to keep that up as we grow. Even within ADPI, all of the core team members, are passionate about educating others and it’s fun for us.
It is definitely fun. It’s why I started teaching. It was a way to pass on this niche of note investing, but it also was great seeing the light bulb go off. It’s been great seeing those a-ha moments from people. When you’re at a mastermind, that’d be one of the most rewarding things that you see out there, people that are taking that first big step, the action takers. Those are the things that get you excited and keep you rocking and rolling.
ATOM is fun because we focused on those investors. We’re looking into the 1 to 4-unit properties. We might get someone in there who is like, “I have a few houses and I’m looking to get into commercial.” We have a whole other program for that, Military Multifamily Academy. It is a fantastic program. I can do an entire podcast on that alone and the other, it is like a fraction of the cost of other competitors’ courses out there. In ATOM, it’s like a small monthly fee. The host of the podcast, Mike Foster and I, run that. It’s a private Facebook group, but we chat and I do videos. I recorded one called Coffee with Kevin, where I had my little coffee cup.
They always say, “Take an investor out for a cup of coffee,” while I bring the coffee directly to you. You can have a coffee at home and I talk about real estate investing. This last one I recorded and posted was about how to virtually network during a quarantine. If you can’t leave and you can’t go to your REIA that you’re used to going to, don’t give up networking. I think the biggest thing for me is that we have a student, who was about to close on a townhome in Southern Virginia. He was working with a realtor and all this stuff. He was getting blown, smoke up his butt. He thought that he was getting a good deal. We do a live Q&A on Zoom on Sunday nights where we bring everyone together and see how everyone’s doing.
They ask questions and he told us about the deal. Mike and I looked at each other and we’re like, “This is a terrible deal.” Not only this thing is not casual. I can’t remember the numbers. He was buying it for $300,000, but it was only going to be able to rent for $1,200 a month and it had HOA fees. I was like, “This is a terrible deal. Where are you in this contract?” Luckily, he was before his financing contingency so he listened to us. Thankfully, he pulled out. He destroyed that relationship with that realtor, but whatever, that realtor didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. He wanted the commission. That for me was a huge thing because we saved this guy $5,000 a month and that was huge. He was a military guy. He was an Air Force master sergeant. It is not like I’m advising Jeff Bezos over here.
The thing is you don’t know what you don’t know. You have to ask questions and that’s one of the biggest things when you’re talking about at the mastermind there in Orlando. You mentioned your group, I was like, “That’s such a great resource for your listeners.” It’s such a great resource for other people out there too. It’s an amazing thing and community.
You don’t know what you don’t know, like you said. If you can go out and find the communities out there, whether it’s ADPI, BiggerPockets, or if you’re doing notes, going to Note CAMP, getting that information on the front end can prevent you from going down these pitfalls. In real estate, that’s true the way the real estate industry is set up. Everyone wants to help you close on a deal, whether it’s the lender or agent, but that doesn’t mean that they have your financial interests in mind. You’ve got to do that due diligence. If you don’t know how to do it, then you don’t know how to do it, but educate yourself.
Don’t make a decision without having the education behind it. The biggest mistake I’ve ever seen people make is they pull the trigger on a deal and they didn’t know what they were pulling the trigger on. They thought it was one thing and they took their education from something else. “This applies.” No, it doesn’t. We all know that markets are different. We all know times are different, especially buying a note is much different than buying your primary residence. Buying an investment property is different from buying your primary residence as well too and knowing what’s going to happen out there. Just because you qualify for a $300,000 mortgage doesn’t mean you should probably go ahead and supple the triggers, especially now. What’s the best way for our readers out there to connect with you, check out ADPI, the podcast, and check that out at your groups or connect with you guys over at Nimbus.
Connecting through ADPI, you don’t have to be an active duty to join. You don’t even have to be directly in the military or a veteran, you could be a pro-military person. We want to educate as many people as we can, but being in the military is our niche. We have a website, ActiveDutyPassiveIncome.com. You can find out all the information there and get sixteen different free resources that will help you. It is free, no strings attached, just download them and have a good time. Also, our Facebook group is where we do most of the stuff. Search on Facebook, Active Duty Passive Income and you’ll find there. I’m on Instagram. My Instagram handle is @InvestorKev, follow me there. I post some content and we’re leveraging that platform a lot. If you want to get to me, if you’re interested in what I do with Millennials and how I help Millennials with Nimbus, we have www.RiseWithNimbus.com. You can learn all about our operation there and email me at Kevin@RiseWithNimbus.com. I’d be happy to set up a call and show you what we’re all about.
Kevin, I want to thank you for all that you’re doing. Thank you for your service first and foremost, I didn’t say that at the beginning. Thank you for you, your team, Kevin, Mike, everybody over there at ADPI as well for their service and their dedication to this country. Our hearts go out to all military members who are stationed all over the globe and having to deal with a variety of issues. We’re always here to help out in any way we can. Thanks again for your service and everything.
Thank you. We appreciate that.
This is going to wrap it up for this episode. As Kevin has mentioned, check it out, Active Duty Passive Income. It is an amazing group and a great podcast. I was a guest on it, but they’ve got a lot of great other information on it. I have to go back to Robert Kiyosaki’s episode. More importantly, I think we’ve all learned a little bit and if you know somebody who’s in the military or past military, they got an opportunity for the VA loan. Have them check it out and reach out because that could be a huge opportunity to pick up a great piece of property fourplex and adds something nice to the bottom line as far as cash flow for a variety of things. Go out, take some action, and we’ll see you at the top.
- Joe Fier and Matt Wolfe – previous episode
- Action Takers Only Mastermind
- Nimbus Capital Group
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Military House Hacking
- Robert Kiyosaki – Active Duty Passive Income episode
- Military Multifamily Academy
- Facebook group – Active Duty Passive Income
- @InvestorKev – Instagram
About Kevin Brenner
Kevin Brenner is and Active Duty USAF Captain, Active Duty Passive Income’s Single-Family Education Chief, Co-Host of the Active Duty, Passive Income Podcast, and founder of ADPI’s Operation A.T.O.M. [Action Takers Only Mastermind]. He operates 9 cash flowing units in Savannah, GA and Washington DC and has recently founded Nimbus Capital Investment Co. – a nationwide capital investment firm geared towards affluent and accredited Millennials interested in investing in 80+ unit apartment communities and mobile home parks.
Kevin began his real estate investing journey in late 2018 after using his Veteran Affairs (VA) Loan Entitlement to house hack a Quadplex in Savannah, Georgia. Through careful quality improvements, Kevin was able to renovate each unit and raising the rents $500 per month per unit. Less than six months later, Kevin used his new found knowledge and leveraged his network to raise $85,000 to close on another Quadplex in the same neighborhood! In July of 2019, Kevin joined the ranks of the
Active Duty Passive Income team where he dedicated himself to helping other service members and veterans. Kevin regularly uses his platform as Co-Host of the Active Duty Passive Income Podcast and founder of Operation A.T.O.M. [The Action Takers Only Mastermind] to educate thousands of military real estate investors worldwide looking to build passive income through smart investments!
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!