ADPI_025: Helping Homeless Veterans With Kirby Atwell

Sep 14, 2018

Episode Transcription:

Hey hey what's going on guys welcome to the active duty passive income podcast. I've got an awesome interview lined up for you today. His name is Kirby Atwel and I cannot wait to introduce him to you stand by.

Hey freedom fighters. Welcome to the active duty passive income podcast. The only place where military members, veterans and their families learn how to build wealth through real estate investing. I'm your host Mike Foster and I'm here to show you how to stop wasting your benefits. Now get off your ass, step up to the firing line and make ready for today's lesson. Shooter stand by. 

Mike: Hey hey what's going on guys welcome to the active duty passive income podcast. I have an awesome guest today. Really really in for a treat today guys. His name is Kirby Atwel, he is a real estate investor he's CEO of Green Vet homes. He’s a former air defense captain he's been the army six years. He’s a West Point grad but we'll forgive him for that right and he's done a well over a hundred properties with experience and flips wholesale and buy and hold. Kirby how's it going? 

Kirby: Hey Mike super pumped to be here thanks man. 

Mike: Oh really really pumped to have you. Fun facts one of our team members Eric, he met a Kirby at a real estate investing conference not too long ago. It was rod khalif's investor conference that correct? 

Mike: I'm telling you man Eric meets all these awesome people at these events. I cannot wait to get to get to one of them cause jeez man it just seems to be like so eye-opening and enlightening. He shares some awesome stuff and then right like I said he'd meet some amazing people. So he's just seems like a great network. 

Kirby: Yeah yeah and he's a great guy and we just got a ton of value at the conference. 

Mike: All right all right. So tell us a little bit about yourself. So let's start with your military career? You’re an air defense captain yeah? 

Kirby: Yeah yeah so I graduated high school in 2000 and went to West Point prep school for a year and then after that went to West Point for four years and was commissioned as an air defense officer and went down to El Paso Texas where they do the officer basic course and I spent a couple years there stationed down there and then I went to Hawaii and was a generals aide for a couple years. I would be aid to the CG who was in charge of the all the air defense of Pacific. So got a chance to travel throughout the Pacific quite a bit and then I was stationed. I commanded a small base in northern Japan. 

Mike: Oh wow nice. But’s Cool. Yeah awesome awesome awesome spot. I love the Pacific. Sweet so tell us when did you get started in real estate investing? 

Kirby: Yes so when I was at officer basic course you know I graduated 2005 from West Point. went down to observation course in El Paso and that was like the height of the whole craze during like the whole bubble and everything I mean you know flip this house was like you know the most popular show on TV and everybody was doing real estate like you could get a loan at the local gas station you know like they were giving them away. 

So you know I picked up Rich Dad Poor Dad around that time and I saw what was going on with you know real estate. luckily I was in a market that was like super stable and you know in El Paso like it pretty much never goes up or down and so that's where I got started. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and I went out and bought a couple rental properties right there where I was stationed and I held on to those. I just sold them here this past year. But yeah that that was you know I got hooked. Right then I knew when I got out I was going to get into real estate pretty much full-time and it's what I wanted to do. 

Mike: Wow okay. So yes you definitely got in at a good time and Rich Dad Poor Dad seems to be the common spark I think from what I heard a lot of people yeah and it was actually the same for me too. So it's kind of wise. 

Kirby: That’s how you got started. 

Mike: Yeah it's definitely definitely great book. I definitely recommend it guys listening out there I'll be in the show notes for sure or link on how you can get access to that book. But oh wow yeah so flipping. So I think this is safe to say right you have been very very successful with it and having you know read Rich Dad Poor Dad and I'm sure other places that you've acquired knowledge. You’ve been successful at it because you did it right. I mean I'm sure there's something you can probably share with having that experience from you know stuff you've learned or educating yourself right prior to getting started just to make sure that you did it right and obviously there are some stuff you have to learn along the way right. 

Kirby: Yeah absolutely I mean looking back you know like at this point you know it seems like oh you know there's just a ton of success. But there was a lot of pain along the way too. So I kind of I'll talk to how it I guess real estate played out for me. So I bought a couple properties in 2006. The market turned quickly after that. Luckily my property stayed pretty much same value. They were pretty much breaking even that much cash flow.

But you know it was just something I was buying just to as my first property. you know their $100,000 rental properties that I was just going to hold on to long term and after that I went to Hawaii in 2007 after the market was starting to really drop and I put in a lot of offers there and eventually in 2009 I got a condo under contract that was a foreclosure that the bank was just like you know they didn't even counter my offer. 

At the time they were freaking out and they sold it way below you know the value of the condo at the time. So I got really lucky right before I went to Japan. But then when I got out in 2011, I jumped in full-time. Like you know I got out, like I was scheduling appointments with the realtor from Japan like as I was getting out of the army. I knew I was going to going to do a full time and you know for a lot of people who are listening like I don't recommend that.

You know I had visions of jumping into it starting to do flips right away and I was going to start making a bunch of money and it's painful like to go from a paycheck on the 1st and 15th of every month to no income coming in and even when you get flips especially in the beginning, they always take longer than you think and they cost more than you think and so you get something that you're projecting this thirty or forty thousand dollar profit on and then five six months down the road when it's sold you've accumulated all of these costs and all these expenses and that thirty to forty thousand dollars is like just enough to pay off all your costs you know your operating expenses and your personal expenses over the last few months and that’s just everything goes right.

So I mean it took me six months or so to get my first flip going after I got out in 2011 and luckily that one went well and then I started doing multiple flips at the same time. but it was you know I had friends getting out and they were working with headhunters to get them these jobs where they you know started off making $80,000 a year and I moved back home into my parents basement and was just like scraping pennies together to get some deals going and doing it full-time and I was also working on my MBA at the time. Yeah it was painful. I mean so I always recommend to people you know get something full-time and then do this on the side until you can turn it into a full-time job. 

Mike: Okay interesting. So how long do you think it took for you to finally find your feet in the business? 

Kirby: Yeah yeah it's a good question. So it wasn't a lot and the first one like I said didn't come for you know six or seven months into it. so they were mostly towards the end of the year and then we flipped over the next from 2011 to 2016 we flipped about seventy-five houses around the suburbs of Chicago and yeah it grew kind of organically and we got to a point where we were doing about 20 projects at a time in different phases from you know acquisition to rehab to sale.  Yeah but you know that the thing that I noticed was that we were kind of on this treadmill where you know our expenses kept growing with the income.

So you know we do more deal and you'd make more money. But to support those more deals you had to be doing more marketing, you had to hire more people. So we had a staff of 13 people. We had an office that we were paying you know monthly rent on and then we had all these you know we're sending out tons of letters. So we had all these marketing expenses. So you know our expenses inflated a lot and so I started looking at it and I'm like man I got to make like twenty to thirty thousand dollars before I make a dollar for myself. Like I got to do that just to pay everybody else and pay all my expenses before I can make a penny for myself and so the owners never really got ahead.

It was just a treadmill that we kept building and on the outside everyone's like man you're so successful you're doing so many deals. But I've never seen a flipping company that like really grows to scale and is sustained over a long period of time. Typically it turns into some other type of company whether it's education or buy-and-hold or something like that. It was a great experience, I learned a lot. But ultimately I saw the writing on the wall and so my partners bought me out of that company.

They want to continue on with flips which is great you know it's very amicable. but I decided to get into buy-and-hold and I found a model that I could support homeless veterans, by buying properties rehabbing them and then putting homeless veterans in there who got a voucher from the VA through the bash program and it was a great amount of something you know was pretty passionate about and the cash flow was great you know the voucher in specific areas. If you do it in the right areas and you buy the right houses can provide a decent amount of cash flow. So you can continue to do it and so I started doing that in 2016 and start accumulating rental properties. 

Mike: That's awesome. That’s awesome. Oh my goodness. So yeah so you're now you went from flipping homes and to experiencing the whole buy-and-hold and that touches a point home for me. Because I'd absolutely love buy and hold. But not only were you able to make that jump but you found a niche where you could you know help homeless vets at the same time, that's been great. Can you tell us how that process works? How the veteran housing process works. 

Kirby: Yeah yeah so in Chicago pretty much in any city that this is a nationwide program is called HUD. So HUD partnered with the VA and they created this program and the intent is to get homeless vets off the street and so you know the qualification for it basically is that you have to be homeless. so either living on a friend's couch, living in a car, on the street whatever and so if you're a veteran and you're homeless you can apply for it and then they screen you. So you can't be, I don't know all the requirements.

But you know you can't be a felon or there's some other requirements. but it's not like they're you know they're pretty much on paper none of these tenants are going to have great credit scores or you know meet your standard tenants qualification. So you're taking on a little bit extra risk okay. But in a lot of areas the payment actually is higher than you could get through market rent. Because you're taking on that risk. So they're designed incentivize landlords to work within this program and so I decided to kind of build my business around the program. I knew what the payment standards were and I picked areas where I could get houses in the south suburbs of Chicago.

I was buying them and still am, it's just getting a little more challenging these days or between you know forty to fifty thousand dollars and then I'd put in another twenty thousand. so these are you know brick typically single-family houses built in the 70's, thousand square foot three-bedroom one-bath like cookie cutter type houses on a slab.

You know no basement and that's like the ideal property. It’s a great rental property. We could put twenty thousand into it make it look brand new. you know the mechanicals are all great,  it's not like a hundred-year-old property and so started accumulating these and so the rent payment on those can be anywhere from fourteen to seventeen hundred bucks a month. so you know it's great cash flow and then you use that birth strategy where you refinance a lot of times you can pull you know you have say I had $70,000 into a property.

A lot of times they'll appraise for a hundred 110 once the rehab and so you can pull that extra equity out or at least some of it out and keep going. So it's a pretty good model. but you know I would just check with your local, you know the one in Chicago is out of the Heinz VA clinic and so most of the programs are administered out of the local VA hospital in that city. 

Mike: Wow okay. So I was trying to follow some of your numbers. I want to see if I've gotten this right. Because I want to highlight the barrier of entry if that makes any sense. But you said you'd buy homes for about forty to fifty thousand and would put about like twenty thousand or rehab into them. So maybe total you'll spend about seventy thousand dollars on a home and then you are making anywhere from fourteen hundred seventeen hundred in rent each month? 

Kirby: Yeah exactly. I do want to caveat. I'm in the south suburbs of Chicago where the taxes are ridiculous, they're really high. So it's a really high taxes. but even with that you know say that's a $400 of payment a month you know if you add that to your principal and interest on your loan you're still clearing you know after all my expenses my intent is always to try to clear four to five hundred dollars on each property in cash flow. 

Mike: Nice that's awesome. So even with four hundred dollars you know you're still making about seven percent return roughly, that's pretty good and that's a like net right. Because that's your just that's just average what you're looking for. That’s pretty good for it for an awesome program where you're helping you know veterans at the same time. But you're also trying to you know be profitable enough to continue it.  That’s inspiring man, that's great.  Definitely something you guys should look at looking to if you're thinking about it. I've heard a couple people mentioned no veteran housing programs to me. Before but never actually heard the nitty-gritty of it. So that's actually really cool. 

Kirby: Yeah and there's different ones out there. But this one seems to work really well International Programs. So yes if you learn the detail that it works. Like with any other government program there's paperwork that goes into it.  You got to learn that side of it. It’s tough to just dabble in it. But if you're willing to put in the time to learn it, you can help a lot of people and it can be profitable at the same time. 

Mike: Oh wow. Okay so can I ask what's been your biggest struggle I guess in in the whole veteran housing thing? is it been you know like a one or two bad tenants or has it just been that paperwork right that you were talking about the process of going through and getting qualified, like is in general like what has been your biggest hurdle? 

Kirby: Yeah so I mean I was fortunate to get into it you know in the last couple years when as housing prices are going up and I've been really selected. Like I knew how to source properties under market value. So I was buying properties and rehabbing. So I'm building an equity in each one. So you know from a numbers wise it's worked out really well. I'd say the biggest challenge is that you know you're working with people who have a lot of problems you know if you're homeless right. You know a small situation is a big problem for you.

Because you just don't have a cushion to fall back on. so in that yeah I manage them all myself and I work full-time also and  you know  I'll get calls sometimes with just you know with tenants having issues that we got to sort through and luckily the VA provides the caseworker with each voucher to the  veteran. So it helps them work through whatever caused the homelessness in the first place and the intent is that over time they work off of the voucher. They get start getting some income and work themselves off the voucher. But yeah so it's just working through issues that pop up that you know to you and I probably wouldn't be that big of an issue. But they can you know be pretty substantial to somebody who doesn't have a lot to fall back on. 

Mike: Wow yeah no I definitely I hear that and so it seems you know the experience that you build over time and you know the education that you've had as well have really benefited you in this career. I mean even dealing with minor setbacks you know for sure you know just like you said you had that experience where you were able to kind of maintain and keep it up. But that's great and you manage them yourself. I was going to ask that you know if you had property managers for the properties. But that's incredible. 

Kirby: Yeah yeah. But for the single-family houses that I do with the BASH program I just managed those myself. 

Mike: Okay awesome. Awesome man. Wow okay so maybe you've already answered this question that I really know. But what passions has real estate investing helped you realize in your life? 

Kirby: I think you know a couple. I mean obviously working with veterans it kind of came about. Because I left the military and really just walked away from everything military. Like I was done. So I started the company with two people who weren't bad and it had no real connection to the veteran community until there was an organization called the bunker. which is a nonprofit that started about four years ago that helps vets start businesses and I found out about it and I started attending their event and got just huge value from being around other veterans who are also going through the same types of struggles and I realized I love working with other veterans and so that's kind of what inspired me to start my new company you know when I sold my old company to my partners.

It based around helping veterans and working with veterans and then eventually I took the role of COO at bunker as well. So I get to help other veterans start their own businesses. so it's all kind of been, yeah I guess my passion is helping veterans and I think you know I can do that best through like finance and personal finance. I think that's a big passion of mine and so I think that you know real estate helped me discover that. 

Mike: That's awesome man. That is absolutely awesome and that's right I forgot you are the COO of bunker. Guys definitely checked that company out, they are doing great things. We’ll have a link to them in the show notes as

Well. But that's amazing. Oh goodness so really really passionate about helping veterans and you know that definitely hits home for us. Activity duty passive income that's what we're all about as well. So that's great. 

Well thank you and we love connecting with other veterans who are doing the same thing you know just in the different aspect of it all. But that's amazing. So where are you going from here? What kind of personal goals do you have in mind for your real estate investing career? 

Kirby: You know initially I wanted to build up a portfolio of 24 properties. Like I said if each one cleared four to five hundred dollars a month of cash flow after all my expenses. Obviously you can do the math like this. A pretty sizeable income to live on. You know you could live on that the rest of your life and just maintain those properties. But it's not a super inspiring you know like once you hit that goal, it's like okay so what's next and so I might have to hitting that goal. I realized you know we could do your projects in the multifamily space and we can ultimately help a lot more people that way too.

So I've more recently gotten into multifamily. we just bought our first multi-family property down in Indianapolis area and plan to continue to buy more of those and you can just scale to a bigger scale and it's just a bigger game and it's more fun. So I plan to continue to do that and continue to work at the bunker and help better in entrepreneurs. 

Mike: Awesome awesome. all right well that's great and there is nothing bad about you know having a modest goal of you know twenty or so different properties that's  all good you know and if you're listening out there and that's your goal hey by all means go for it. but you know once you do get there right I'm sure you might feel like hey I've accomplished this much, now why not go for more and I think that's exactly what Kirby's at and you're going to continue to do big things and so that's exciting. 

Kirby: Yeah I think the key is always to have like your next goal in mind as you're hitting a goal or else you kind of start to play a little bit like you know. 

Mike: Absolutely absolutely. I think I suffer from that a little bit too and that might just be you know even more so my shiny object syndrome that I suffer from. I'm not sure... I like I'll get to something then get started on something sometimes and even before I'm halfway there I'll already see something that I want to work on next and it's like I don't know. 

Kirby: Awesome okay all right man so I want to give you a quick plug here on Green vet homes. All right so I know you are the CEO of that. But if you also want to talk more about bunker please by all means that go for both. Because there will be links to both in this show and you're just crushing it man so I want to put all the cards out there on the table. 

Mike: Yeah I appreciate that. Yeah I think I mean the three places I think that could add value to your listeners from my point of view, so green bed homes is my company you know you can read more about it on my website. There’s bunker labs which is a national nonprofit that's in 26 different cities right now and just helps veteran entrepreneurs start businesses. Whether it's real estate or any other type of business. It’s all free resources. so definitely check out and then I started a blog that just is like advice that I wish I would have had when I was starting in real estate and it's just my name just www.kirbyatwel,com and so you can go there and read you know articles that I'll admit that I think you know could be helpful to somebody who started in real estate. 

Kirby: That is awesome man. Yes definitely go check out those resources there. I mean needless to say or I Kirby is killing it in the game and he is passionate about helping other veterans succeed. So you definitely need to link up and get connected for sure. He’s the man to do it. absolutely absolutely man, I appreciate you being on the podcast. This has been great you know I feel like you're one of those legends out there you know that they're just kind of like hiding and you know we're fortunate to meet you guys and now that we're getting ourselves out there and so I mean it's helpful for us.

But I can't wait till I can get to your point where I can you know reach back then and start helping other people out. So now the more we put you guys out there, right the more we can you know grow our veteran community and we're all going to going to succeed from it. So it's awesome. All right man so before I get you out of here I got to put you through the bonus round. Each and every one goes through this. But just to give some advice you are our listeners out there who haven't started maybe on the verge of getting started or who have just started and they're looking for a little encouragement. So three questions, all right the first one what is your number one read? Like what book do you recommend those folks to read? You know we already talked about Rich Dad Poor Dad.

I think its great real estate standpoint. One that I have read many times and I just reread recently that I love is called the compound effects and it's written by Darren Hardy. So I definitely recommend checking that out. 

Mike: Okay definitely and I will be checking that out as well. Because I definitely need to do something with the shiny objects syndrome.  Awesome awesome so who is your biggest hero and why? 

Kirby: I think I mean I was fortunate growing up I had three I guess men in my life that kind of taught me what it is I guess to be a man. You know and they were all three very different. But my dad, my grandpa you know my mom's father and my high school football coach. Who actually was probably the reason I got into West Point. Who wasn't my grades I can tell you that much. You know all three of these guys were just like role model in my life and I was just super fortunate to have men like that to teach me you know what it is to be a man and so I say all three of those. 

Mike: Awesome awesome. Hey I definitely hear you. Academy my grades didn't get me in there either. I went to the prep school as well so trust me man. I know the pain. 

Kirby: backdoor somehow you know. 

Mike: Yes you do. Yes you do. Graduation. All right so it's the last question. What nuggets do you have for those who are just getting started? 

Kirby: I would say you know looking back like when you're first jumping into it you don't, you know you don't know what to trust I guess and so it can be alluring to listen to these complex theories and these you know salesmen basically that will talk a big game and they talk about you know getting rich quick and all these schemes and stuff that are you know you go to any seminar and they're always on sale and I would just tell people to you know it all boils back to the fundamentals of math like you know like you have to buy something that later you can sell for more and it's going to produce money. Like’s the basics of it.

You know if people talked about well you know there's this scheme where you can invest all this money and you know they don't really tell you the tactical how it's going to happen and the numbers. I would be very very weary of that. I think I wasted a lot of time and a lot of effort on stuff that looking back now I'd be able to spot right away is just like it's not real. It’s like you know like Warren Buffett always talks about value in investing, you know it's the basics. Its buying being cheaper than what it's worth and something that's going to kick off cash on a monthly basis he does it with businesses. He says Real Estate's one of the best way to do that.

He just can't do it with billions of dollars. You know he can't get enough real estate to do it with all the money he has.  So he doesn't really do with real estate as with businesses. But it's the exact same concept. But if people are trying to sell you on some type of scheme or some type of get-rich-quick thing, I would caution you to probably question a lot more. Ask to see their balance sheet and improve it. 

Mike: Wow that's awesome, that is awesome. That’s actually definitely it's funny how simple you can break down that concept into. Because you're absolutely right. you know if you buy something for less than it's worth right you're buying into with enough equity and as long as it's providing you, you have some good monthly cash flow to you know give you a return off of your expense that's great. 

Mike: Absolutely man. Wow oh man Kirby thank you so much for your time man. This has been amazing. Like I said before I mean you are a wealth of knowledge and you know the nuggets that you've given are amazing what you're doing out there for veterans is also amazing and it's inspiring just talking to you, so I really appreciate your time. 

Mike: Awesome awesome and I think you've already mentioned and how our listeners can connect with you both from those three hubs. But is there anything else left you want to say to our guests before you roll? 

Kirby: No yeah I think the best way is probably just my personal website calm and great place to start. 

Mike: Awesome awesome. Alright thanks again. 

Kirby: Alright thanks take care. 

Mike: You too. 

Wow what an awesome guy. I'm telling you that was an amazing interview and I am so pumped. Love learning from people I love absolutely love doing this podcast. Guys really really glad that you were able to join us. Please make sure you tune in next time. We’re going to have some more awesome interviews coming up. Man we got a lot of other big stuff happening. If you are in the Hampton Roads area next week make sure you hit us up and our Meet up it's going on at the Keegan's Irish pub in town Centre 1930 or 7:30 for you non-military types out there. It’s going to be great. Also we've got an e-book that we are launching, it is military house hacking 2.0.

It’s amazing and you're not going to want to miss it. we've got so much big things happening guys and you want to make sure you're tapped in. hit us up at Check out our Facebook, check out our Instagram and connect with us. Because we want to hear from you. Alright y'all I'm out of time catch you later.


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