From Military Service to Multimillionaire: How One Veteran Used a VA Loan to Build a Real Estate Empire

From Military Service to Multimillionaire: How One Veteran Used a VA Loan to Build a Real Estate Empire

Erik Smolinski’s Journey from a VA Loan to a Seven-Figure Investment Portfolio

Erik Smolinski, a former Marine, has managed to build a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio over the past eight years. It all started with a primary residence purchase in Oceanside, California, using a VA loan, a mortgage loan guaranteed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. This unique loan option, available to eligible veterans, offers competitive interest rates, no down payment requirement, and no need for private mortgage insurance. Smolinski’s success story serves as an inspiring example of how the VA loan can be a powerful tool for veterans looking to enter the real estate market and build wealth.

The Power of the VA Loan

Smolinski, who served in the Marines until 2019, credits the VA loan for providing him with the opportunity to enter the real estate market with minimal financial resources. The loan’s benefits, including low interest rates and no down payment requirement, allowed him to invest his available funds elsewhere, generating higher returns. By putting 10% down on his Oceanside home, Smolinski was able to lower his monthly mortgage payment while still gaining exposure to the leverage provided by the VA loan.

Meeting the Requirements

To qualify for a VA loan, individuals must meet certain minimum active-duty service requirements and purchase a primary residence. Investment properties are not eligible for this type of loan. Additionally, borrowers should familiarize themselves with the VA funding fee, a one-time payment due at closing. The fee varies based on factors such as the down payment amount, with lower fees for higher down payments.

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Affordable Alternatives for Non-Military Members

While the VA loan is exclusive to veterans, there are other affordable options for non-military individuals looking to enter the real estate market.

1. Partnerships:

Partnering with someone else can significantly reduce upfront costs and risk. Smolinski’s first investment property, a rental in Fort Lauderdale, was purchased with a friend, allowing them to share expenses and decrease individual risk. When forming partnerships, trust is crucial, as finances become intertwined. Prospective partners should be thoroughly screened, and open communication about goals and investment strategies is essential.

2. Syndication:

Real estate syndication involves pooling capital from multiple investors to purchase a property. While many syndications are open only to accredited investors, there are opportunities for non-accredited investors as well. Researching and networking can help individuals find syndications with low minimum investment requirements. Due diligence on the syndication sponsor, who oversees the project and distributes profits, is vital to ensure a successful partnership.


Erik Smolinski’s journey from a VA loan to a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio showcases the power of strategic investing and the opportunities available to veterans. The VA loan serves as a valuable tool for veterans looking to enter the real estate market with limited financial resources. For non-military individuals, partnerships and syndications offer affordable alternatives to dip their toes into property ownership and real estate investing. Regardless of the path chosen, trust, due diligence, and strategic decision-making are key to building a successful real estate portfolio.