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How I Became a Homeowner at 19 Years Old

Written by: Hayden Eastwood

Like many of my peers, I grew up hearing that to be successful, you have to get straight A’s, go to college, and get a good job. My older brother is a dentist– and my sister is an anesthesiologist, so I guess the college thing worked out for them. Not for me– I got almost straight A’s in high school and graduated with a 3.9 GPA– the only problem was that I hated school. I figured the sooner it was over, the sooner I could start working full time (even though technically I already was). I got accepted to start a fire one college training program at a different school in the afternoon. Because of my grades and ACT score, I was allowed to graduate high school a semester early. I finished my fire one training at the top of my class, only to find out that I needed to be 18 to take the test to certify. I had just turned 17 AND had gotten emancipated– I was devastated.

I was living on my own, making $10 an hour in an ice cream parlor. I had planned on being a firefighter and already having a job lined up. About this time, an Army recruiter hit me up and asked if I had considered joining. I jumped at the opportunity. Free food, free housing? What else could I ask for?

By the time I was 18, I had found myself stationed in South Korea. The initial excitement had worn off at this point. I hated sharing a room with someone. It seemed like the only way to any privacy was to get married– which I definitely was not interested in doing. I figured if I could make enough money, I could buy a house, turn it into a rental after a year, and use that to pay the mortgage on my second house.

So, for my last six months in Korea, all I did was learn as much as possible about real estate. Youtube, forums, blogs; whatever I could get my hands on without spending a lot.

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I arrived in Killeen, Texas, on January 10, 2022. Before I went through the gate for the first time, I stopped to look at a house. It was affordable– even for an E4. But after seeing it up close, I saw why. The house was riddled with bullet holes and the shed in the backyard had its windows shot out. I immediately realized that to make my plan work, I needed to make more money.

I started delivering food with Uber Eats. It was the only job I could do on my own time that didn’t require me to be 21. Every day, as soon as I was released from work, I would change, pull up the app, and start delivering. I worked seven days a week, and every spare hour I had was spent delivering food. I was getting excited that it just might work. That is, until I got to the end of my first month. Looking at my bank account, I realized over half of the money I made was being spent on gas.

I needed a new plan. I decided to take a huge risk and buy a 2013 Tesla Model S. It was the cheapest, longest-range electric car I could find. And it had free lifetime supercharging. I sold my truck the same day. I made friends with a manager at the hotel near the base, and she let me use the car charger in the back to charge my car for free. Now I was able to deliver food without paying for gas!

At this point, I was comfortable looking at houses again. I had raised my budget to 150k. I put in full-price offer after full-price offer, only to get beat out by a cash offer or an over-asking price offer. After about 10 offers not getting accepted, I began to worry that all my effort had been for nothing. Entirely by accident, I met a realtor who told me she knew the selling agent on a specific property I wanted to view. I looked at the house, put in an offer within 30 minutes of it being listed, and had my offer accepted within 24 hours for 10k UNDER the asking price.

I closed on the house in May 2022. It’s a cute little three-bedroom, one-bath, completely remodeled home with a tiny one-car garage. Today, two of the bedrooms are rented to two friends of mine. My girlfriend and I split what’s left of the mortgage, which is barely anything. I get free electricity at night from my energy company, so it costs me nothing to charge the car. I still do Uber on the side. We are getting ready to buy a second house next year and turn this one into a rental, which will bring in around $600 a month after expenses.

I would love to say that I had it all figured out and knew what I was doing from the start, but that would be infinitely far from the truth. I took risks and told myself I would figure it out along the way. Anytime I wasn’t delivering food or working on base, I was reading about real estate and watching YouTube videos, cramming as much knowledge as possible. I am nowhere near able to live off of passive income, but I am definitely one step closer.

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Our team strives to educate, mentor and empower active duty service members, veterans, spouses and military families to reach financial freedom through creating passive income through real estate investing. Our goal is for Active Duty Passive Income (ADPI) members to own as much of America as possible.