Transitioning back into civilian life after military service comes with many challenges for veterans – the most practical one being how they’ll earn a living. The real estate industry is helping in many ways, from both organized and grassroots efforts. It’s an industry that has some natural similarities to being in survival mode.
“In real estate, it’s feast or famine. You eat what you kill,” says Andy Williams, a Marine and founder of Recon Realty in Texas. “There’s always a hunt, and there’s always a way to scale. And if you get really good at fishing or hunting, you’ll never starve.”
Veterans hoping to hear “well done” again can find that praise in real estate.
When Williams returned from missions, he bought an investment property as a way to “stay relevant.” By the time he left active duty, he had amassed a portfolio. He soon realized he wouldn’t fit into a corporate structure so he earned his master’s in industrial and organizational psychology to add to his bachelor’s in entrepreneurship. In 2015, he founded Recon Realty in Fort Worth, Texas, which is part of his mission to “empower the veteran community while navigating entrepreneurial ventures.”
Williams has tried several business models to help veterans, from hiring them for construction and cleaning jobs, to helping them invest, to showing them that real estate includes a breadth of employment options beyond agent, including appraiser, finance, title company and marketing.
Marine veteran Tom Brain began buying properties around Phoenix, Arizona, in 2010 while educating himself on smart acquisition strategies and financing options. His military background, along with corporate experience at Honeywell Aerospace, helped him automate processes and assemble an effective team.
Brain shares his success through military networking groups and by mentoring vets. A couple of his mentees now run their own real estate investment companies. Brain has distilled his real estate experience into a workbook that he shares with other vets. Rather than learn through the school of hard knocks or invest in expensive mentors, Brain wants to pave their road to success with his standardized processes and advice. He coaches students with full-time jobs to allocate time each week to finding real estate deals as part of their exit strategy.
“Over time, it can replace their current income so they can be financially free and able to live life as an entrepreneur and not be tied down to a job anymore,” says Brain, senior managing partner at Peak Realty Solutions.
Got your back
Military life is big on teamwork. Veterans, who are experienced at successfully carrying out roles within a team, are often one step ahead in the world of work.
“The comradeship that you have in the military can be carried over into developing a community in this field,” says Brain. “What I learned early in my real estate investing career is that the larger your network, the larger your net worth.”
Another skill that makes veterans well-suited to real estate? The ability to follow a uniform process rather than winging it.
“Being in the military, you’re very used to following a certain documented process and system,” says Brain. “Why not use something that’s already proven and that works versus trying to reinvent the wheel?”
Also, both the military and business can be battlegrounds.
“Military veterans who are transitioning back from conflict or combat have a unique set of skills that fit perfectly into the entrepreneur environment simply because it’s all about winning,” says Williams.
Brain is writing a book teaching investors how to locate tax-delinquent properties, a strategy with which he’s been successful. He’s also coaching students on the step-by-step process of flipping properties.
“I’m trying to be of value and service to people,” says Brain. “I want to help other people learn what I’ve learned.”
Williams recently added television host to his resume. He and wife, Ashley Williams, also a veteran, star in HGTV’s “Flipping Texas.”
Williams wants to be a change agent who shows veterans this is an industry where they can win.
“My mission is to expose this industry and empower other veterans so that they have the opportunity to own a piece of America and at the same time go into a community and add a lot of value,” says Williams. •