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Grow Your Passive Income with the VA Loan

investment properties using the va loan

You’ve likely heard it said, buy rental properties while in the military, build your passive income and retire to the high life.

What does that actually look like in practice though? Is that a pipe dream or can it actually happen?

Quick answer, YES! It can actually happen, but only if you take the time to understand investment properties, what makes them profitable and what they will require of you to manage them effectively.

Did we mention, this can all be done using the VA loan too? More on that later.

What Makes a Successful Investment Property


The location of your rental property is imperative. Choose areas with strong rental demand and the potential for property value appreciation.

For example, certain areas in Florida, Arizona, and Texas have recently seen a boom in property values and population growth. In these areas, rental demand is high and income is increasing which is good news for property managers.

Take note of major employers, population trends and school districts. If the major employers are stable, the population is trending up and the school districts are desirable, the area is likely going to be a good candidate for a rental property.


Positive Cash Flow

Ensure that the rental income from the property exceeds the expenses (ie. mortgage, taxes, management, maintenance, etc.)

After that, the amount of necessary cash flow depends on your end goal. If the goal is to hold the property long-term for passive income purposes, then you want the property to have substantial monthly cash flow. If your goal is to only hold long enough for price appreciation to kick in, then cash flow just needs to cover expenses.


Property Condition

Lastly, make sure the homes you choose are in good condition or have the potential for renovation to increase value.

Nothing tanks a rental property’s profitability more than unexpected major expenses. Four major items to look out for are roof, siding, HVAC, and windows. Those things can turn into huge costs that cut deep into rental profits.

Analyzing Investment Opportunities

Tactically, what is the best way to analyze an opportunity to see if it’s going to be a good investment?

We suggest using a pro forma analysis. Here is an example of a pro forma that you can use to determine if buying a specific property is a wise investment.

Pro Forma cheat sheet for rental analysis

Buying Rentals with the VA Loan

You cannot buy an investment property with the VA loan. There, we said it.

However, you can buy a primary residence that also serves as an investment. The key is you have to plan on living in the property for the VA to approve the loan.

Three ways we see military members use their VA loan to buy rentals:

  1. Single Family Residence: Buy a home and live in it, rent it out when you PCS
  2. House Hacking: Buy a home, rent out the extra bedrooms
  3. Multi-Unit Properties: Buy a 2, 3 or 4-unit property, live in one unit and rent out the others

VA loan benefits still apply in all of the scenarios above, including low or no down payment, competitive interest rates and no private mortgage insurance.

Buying your second property? Keep in mind that loan limits will begin to kick in. So check your eligibility and check those limits prior to making any offers on a home.

If you are going to use the VA loan, you want to work with someone who gets it. Roughly 10% of all home loans out there are VA loans, and even less are active duty members using the loans. Using a reputable and knowledgeable VA lender can make a world of difference!

A side note: If you use a VA loan, you will have the option to refinance your rental at primary residence rates using the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (VA IRRRL). Huge potential for future savings!

Setting Financial Goals

What is your “why” behind wanting to build long term wealth?

You have to define your financial objectives with your family. Whether it is passive income, wealth building, or retirement planning, establish clear goals for your real estate investments.

If you are a person who does not do well with negative cash flow, think about the properties you are purchasing and what the cash flow looks like over time. Set yourself up for success with things you know you can handle and things that make you comfortable!

Consider your risk tolerance and timelines when selecting investment properties.

Regularly review and adjust your investment strategy as your circumstances and goals evolve. If you are married, make sure you are on the same page with investing. Take the time and work with your spouse.

The best investment strategies come when you work as a team.

Building Your Real Estate Investment Team

When looking at investments, you are going to need a professional team helping you reach your goals. Ideally, you will have a real estate agent, lender, property manager, and contractors who understand your unique needs and constraints as a military member.

Key Team Members

  • Real estate agent
  • Lender
  • Property manager
  • Contractors

Leverage your military network to find trusted professionals who have a proven track record with real estate investments. Work smarter and not harder. Let a seasoned professional help you!

As you build your investment portfolio, be sure to keep open and transparent communication with all parties.

Maximizing Returns and Property Value

Be sure to think about value-add strategies to increase rental income and property appreciation.


Are there cost-effective renovations that you can do to elevate the property, allowing you to increase rent? Don’t just dive into a renovation because it seems like a good idea. Evaluate the cost of materials, labor and time and compare that to future potential gains before doing a large-scale renovation.


Are there a few minor upgrades you can make to the property to make it more desirable? Landscaping, paint, light fixtures, etc. can all be small improvements that will help your property to rent easier and possibly even at a higher rate.

Reconsider Best-Use

Is your property being used at its highest potential? An example of this would be a single family home that is currently being used at a rental, but would produce a better return if it was sold. If the rental returns don’t cover or barely cover expenses, look instead at selling the home, possibly earning appreciation on the sale, and reinvesting the money in a property that makes better returns as a rental.


Stay proactive with property maintenance and repairs to preserve the property’s value and attract quality tenants.

It is also smart to regularly review rental rates and market conditions to ensure you are charging a competitive amount and maximizing your returns.

Exit Strategies for Real Estate Investments

So what happens when your circumstances change or the rental property just isn’t working out in its current state? Well, you have a few different options.

Sell the Property

Get it listed with a high-quality real estate agent who is well-versed in the type of property you are selling. Ideally, they will help you get the highest price for the home and reduce your headaches in the sales process.

Hopefully you’re in a good market and your home has appreciated. If not though and selling the home will cost you, just remember that it is better to lose money in the short term rather than lose your sanity and drain your funds over an extended period of time. Cut your losses and get out of the rental game or start fresh somewhere else.


If a lower monthly mortgage payment will tip your property into profitability, refinance might be a good option here. If you used a VA loan, the VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance loan is an excellent option for a simple, streamlined refinance.

Transition to a Long-Term Rental

Is your property an Airbnb or VRBO? Did it work well for you when you were physically located in the area, but doesn’t make sense now that you’ve moved? Transitioning it to a long-term rental might be the next step. Long-term rentals are simpler to self-manage or you can hire it out to a property management company.

Transition to a Short-Term Rental

On the other hand, if you are in a market that has a high demand for short-term rentals, transitioning your long-term rental could bring in more cash flow. Research rents, seasonal demand and management companies before making the swap.

Last thing, don’t forget to factor in taxes and capital gains whichever route you choose to go. A tax advisor or financial planner is a great resource to help you examine costs, taxes and other financial implications for your specific situation.

If you are looking for a VA loan or would like more information on anything mentioned above, WeVett will gladly go through resources with you and help build your investment portfolio.

Get started on your VA loan here or visit our education page for additional resources.

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