Danny DeKinder is a veteran and a realtor who knows the realities of transitioning from a military career into civilian life all too well. He founded Real Estate Careers for Heroes after he became a full-time realtor and developed a passion for guiding other veterans who were interested in real estate careers as well. It’s Armed Forces Week, the culmination of which is Armed Forces Day on May 19, so we spoke with Danny about his experiences and why veterans make excellent real estate professionals.
Walnut Street Finance (WSF): Tell us a little about your background and your organization Real Estate Careers for Heroes.
Danny DeKinder (DD): I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years and retired as Lieutenant Colonel. Early in my career, I flew 101 missions on the RC-135 Rivet Joint. The Air Force offered plenty of opportunities, but to take them we had to move around a lot, which really got me interested in Real Estate. I’m proud to have had an honorable profession. Now, based on my own experience, I’m very passionate about helping Veterans and public servants transition into the private sector and specifically into real estate. You may think you understand what a service member goes through, but nobody understands like a fellow veteran. I began RealEstateCareersForHeroes.com to help with the transition into real estate.
WSF: Why is it so important for veterans to have new opportunities when they return to civilian life?
DD: The transition to the private sector can be very challenging. While in the service, success is defined for you--your rank, position, title, awards, deployments, schools graduated from, how many people you supervise, annual performance reports, and so on. Transitioning requires defining success for yourself and establishing purpose. We can all use a helping hand at some point and hopefully I can help others determine if a career in real estate fits within their own definition of success.
WSF: Why do you think real estate is a good career path for veterans?
DD: It’s all about service, just in a different capacity. Veterans have a lot of empathy for our clients as they move around. We understand because we’ve been there. But in general veterans bring a great skill set to real estate. They understand contracts and regulation adherence, have integrity and a strong work ethic, are comfortable with technology, know the importance of training, have strong communication skills, are self starters and disciplined, and can easily follow processes and understand systems.
WSF: Are there any veterans that you’ve worked with or know of that have become real estate investors?
DD: Yes. Investors, builders, inspectors, appraisers, brokers. I think you’d be surprised at how well veterans can do in real estate. The sky's the limit when you define success for yourself.
WSF: Is there a specific story from someone you’ve worked with that you’d like to share?
DD: There are multiple stories and everyone is defining success for themselves in their civilian lives in different ways. Most recently, I’ve been working with a Marine who contacted me while deployed to South Korea. He just separated to attend college and begin his real estate career.
Another retired veteran I’ve been working with lost a home during her career. This weighed on her for years and she is now building a real estate business with the goal of purchasing the home she lost. Yet another veteran had a husband with a brain tumor who wasn’t able to work. She broke down in tears while expressing her gratitude. It turns out that each closing allowed her to make a mortgage payment while maintaining a very flexible schedule to be there for her husband during his illness. She also helped a friend start her own career. Paying it forward. That’s what it’s all about.
Thanks so much to Danny DeKinder of Real Estate Careers for Heroes for chatting with us and sharing more about veterans in real estate. Be sure to check out his website to learn more about real estate careers and to keep up with all of his great work.