Jay Johnson | Using Military and Entrepreneurial Experience to Give Back to Military Families

On this week’s episode of the Franchise Freedom Podcast, we’re joined by special guest, Jay Johnson. After a 26 year career with the Navy Search and Rescue, Jay founded a residential real estate company structured to educate and assist military families needing assistance with buying and selling homes, particularly during relocation. He currently splits his time between his real estate company and his passion project of educating others on real estate investing. 

“When it was time to transition out of the military, I got my real estate license and saw that there were gaps with people actually helping military families with relocation moves and with people who knew what resources were available. So what was initially going to be just an investment endeavor turned into starting this real estate company,” says Jay.

We chat about Jay’s transition to real estate, as well as: 

  • His advice for real estate beginners
  • His podcast, Expertish
  • His advice on making the transition towards entrepreneurship
  • How his company is helping military families
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Giuseppe Grammatico: Welcome to the Franchise Freedom Podcast. I’m your host, Giuseppe Grammatico, your franchise guide, and today we have a very special guest. Today, we are speaking with Jay Johnson. After a 26 year career with the Navy search and rescue, Jay founded a residential real estate company. The company was structured to educate and assist military families needing assistance, buying or selling homes, particularly during relocation. Jay now shares his time between the real estate company and his passion project of educating others on real estate investing. Jay, welcome to the show.

Jay Johnson: Hey, Giuseppe. Thanks so much for having me.

Giuseppe: Yeah, it’s a pleasure. I was on your show last week, had a lot of fun and looking forward to another great show.

Jay: Yeah, you opened my eyes to a lot of things on that show so I’m excited to dig into that another time as well.

Giuseppe: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and I’m definitely, I’m sure I’ll, you’ll definitely open my eyes to a few new things as well. So I’m excited since real estate, I’ve had my hand in real estate and it did not go too well. So maybe I can use some advice from like, from a pro like yourself.

Jay: Right on.

Giuseppe: Yeah. So, you know, the audience, people listening in they’ve, you know, we have people looking to make the transition from corporate executive to owning a business. And we do have existing business owners, both franchise and non franchise, looking for, you know, various additional revenue streams and or investments, as well as an exit strategy. Because, you know, eventually you’re going to have to sell the business and figure out what’s next. If you can give the audience just a little bit on your background, you know, how did you get started and what does that journey look like?

Jay’s Path to Real Estate

Jay: Sure, yeah, it honestly, my journey started accidental. My initial investment was, I believe I was 22 so that’s kind of what kicked this whole thing off. Gosh, first duty station, and I just purchased a home because I needed a place to live and just did it. Didn’t know anything about it, wasn’t really thinking it was investment.

I transferred four years later or so and then started getting checks from, you know, my renters and, yeah, I still didn’t recognize, then that happened. I’m like, wow, okay, there’s something to this. We should just be buying houses every time we move and, you know, kind of went through that it was a total accident, totally an accidental, you know, endeavor until I guess, 2012 was when I kind of started purchasing more with intent.

And, you know, that gave me a lot of freedom to like, so my whole military career, I didn’t have to be there. I wasn’t stuck, you know, at any kind of, any type of contract was up, I got to choose if I was still having fun, I could stay, if not, I could have gone and do something else. And I think just giving me that freedom made a huge difference.

So then, when I was trying to transition out of the military, when I was retiring, I actually got my real estate license just to do more investing. Maybe help out a friend or two but invest for myself. And then I just saw that there is a need, there’s still like, gaps in people actually helping military families with relocation moves and people that knew what resources were there. So then that little, was going to be just an investment endeavor turned into starting this real estate.

Giuseppe: Yeah, I mean, you know, we all go to school, you know, they don’t really talk too much about investments, they don’t talk about real estate. So this is all the real stuff we kind of have to learn on our own, right? It’s been a, it’s definitely been an interest of mine. And, you know, we talked about on the show, it’s called, obviously, Franchise Freedom, but, you know, franchising is not always the right fit and there’s just various vehicles.

There’s franchise, non franchise businesses, we talk about real estate and, you know, investing in the stock market both through mutual funds and individual securities, etc, etc. So, talk to us a little bit about just real estate in general, what does it take for someone to be a real estate investor? Should they have experience, you know, where should they start?

Jay: That’s an awesome question. And that’s one of the reasons we started this podcast was because people don’t know and I didn’t know. My first couple experiences weren’t good with the professionals that I was working with. So I think the first is if you find, you know, kind of weed out some people, look into a little research and find someone you trust to kind of mentor you through that, find a professional and do that, which can be difficult too because nowadays there’s, you know, everything is online. There’s so much information but there’s also so much information that is incorrect or misleading.

So it’s tough. You really, it’s more of a weed out the information than it is trying to get it now. But then when you find someone you trust, though, you can really just kind of ride that as far as you want it to go. And that’s one of the reasons with, you know, our podcast is to share that experience because I’m going to continue trying to learn, you know? I don’t know everything and I want to experience more things, I want to learn about other investments and I want to learn more about different ways to invest in real estate.

So as I do that now and seek out people like yourself, when you came on the show, these are things I want to learn, but now other people could just listen and learn with me. And then if they need a connection, we can get them to you or any of the other professionals on there and kind of help, you know, just introduce people and then help that vetting process, I guess.

Giuseppe: Yeah, and to your point on the podcast, you know, I love the concept. That’s why I started recording and launched the show beginning of this year, because we wanted to share knowledge, experiences. I mean, this is the this is your MBA and, you know, free MBA, free college, whatever you, undergrad, whatever they call it, where this is the stuff you don’t learn in school. It’s real-life examples.

And there’s various ways to make money. It’s kind of, you know, I like the diversified approach where, you know, you have different revenue streams, maybe you have some real estate, some stock, you know, maybe the one thing for myself it’s in franchising and owning different types of businesses I love. But it’s not always the right fit. So it’s good to listen in and binge listen, as I jokingly say, you’re listening to four, five episodes, right?

And you’ll learn a ton. I mean, that’s, I’ve learned quite a bit. I’ve learned about franchising every single day on the show and that’s my bread and butter. It’s always something new that we’re learning. You know, surprising we even have franchises that revolve around real estate, which is shocking that, you know, prior to getting a franchise. I had no clue. So, what’s the name of your show? The podcast show? How do people find it if they want to listen in?

The Expertish Podcast

Jay: Sure is Expertish, EXPERT and then ISH. Expertish Podcast and can look it up on Apple Podcast, Spotify, any of those networks, or straight from our webpage at landingcollective.com. Just Landing LANDINGcollective.com. And the link straight to the podcast in there as well.

Giuseppe: Perfect. And we will add that in the show notes. Everyone has that link. Alright, so switching gears a little bit. Obviously, you were, you know, a military veteran 26 years in Navy search and rescue. What advice would you give? I mean, you know, people listening in, we do have veterans listening in, we have people that are stuck in their jobs looking to make the transition just towards entrepreneurship, meaning they just, they’ve thought about owning a job.

And in some cases, they want to explore it, in other cases they’ve been, you know, I mean, still exploring, but they’ve been furloughed or downsized, not sure what direction. What advice, we can ask us on every guest, you know, to make that transition from, you know, having a job to just entrepreneurship in general?

Jay: Gotcha, yeah, I would say, oh, gosh, advice for that would, for me, would be to really do a little bit of investigating to understand what you’re getting into and understand if that’s what you really do want to get into. I think a lot of times, we all feel like the grass is greener on one side or the other. And sometimes you want to go back. So kind of really, again, ask probing questions to someone in the field that you’re looking to jump into and see, you know, the ups and downs.

And just know if that’s something that you want to dive into, because once you’re in it, you know, you’re the one invested in it so you’re the, there’s no one to look in the mirror in the morning or the, you know, look in the mirror in the morning, you’re the only person to blame if something’s not right, which is, you know, I love that part of it, but some people may not. So I would say that’s the biggest thing is just making sure that that’s the transition or that’s the, I guess, the avenue you want to take. And then something that honestly I didn’t do until the podcast with you, when you came on our podcast, was I never even thought about an exit strategy.

You know, I never thought about hey, when I’m done, what do I do? So I would add that in there as well because that was what I was lacking. You got me thinking about that. Hey, where do you want it to end or have you exit and keep, you know, whatever you’ve got going or keep the money going? Or what do you invest that in if you need more, something more passive down the road?

Giuseppe: Right, right. Yeah, it’s funny. When I bought my first business, I bought my first franchise, the first, actually, it’s probably the first, just say the first question I asked after we cut the check, shook hands did all that I said how do I get out of this? And he looked at me and I said it jokingly obviously, but I said what’s the exit strategy? You know, the agreement is at the time I think it was a 20-year franchise agreement. If I want to sell early or what does it look like? Can I, you know, can I buy additional franchises and merge them together?

You know, I didn’t learn that anywhere. I just, I always felt like I, you know, I had a goal, I knew where I wanted to be, but I wanted to know all my options. So I think that’s crucial. When you talk about exit strategy, figure out, you know, put together, instead of going online, I mean, as you mentioned, there’s so much research, you don’t, sometimes you don’t know how accurate the research is, especially if they’re giving real estate advice and you should do this and that.

And, obviously, you want to make sure that they do have the experience and it’s someone that’s trustworthy. But take a step back and just, you know, think about how you want your life to look like. I always ask the question, you know, if we were talking three years from today, you know, what needs to happen for you to be happy with your progress?

And that’s both professionally, as well as personally. And people always kind of say, well, I’ve never been asked that. They take a step back. And it’s called the R factor question from Dan Sullivan. He wrote a book on that, an entire book on one question, and it makes a person really dig deep down and figure out where the heck they want to be and, you know, what has to happen. So, yeah, I mean, that’s some really good advice there. I cannot agree more and I always give the same advice. And I tell people, talk to people in that profession.

Talk to people that have their own real estate, like yourself. Talk to people that have their own franchises. Speak with them directly get off, you know, the online is great, but speak with them. And sometimes you get a lot more because you have to watch sometimes that, you know, you have more of a candid conversation, I should say, where you find out the good, the bad, the ugly, everything in between, and really figure out if it’s a right fit for you. Because just because someone’s successful, does not mean you will be, especially if it’s not a right fit for you.

So really good advice there. And I cannot stress that enough to anyone listening in. Before the show, we were just talking about, you know, your role in assisting military veterans, you know, sometimes, you know, especially with constantly moving from location to location and assisting spouses with, I believe you were talking about finding employment and opportunity. Can you talk a little bit about how you can help there?

Jay: Yeah, yeah. When we were kind of building our structure, we were looking at what are some of the pain points with, you know, active-duty military, relocating, and, you know, how that impacts families. You know, because like, you’re saying, you have to look at even that exit strategy of like, how, where do you want to be in the next few years?

How does that impact your family as well, because that’s, you know, all that plays into your wellbeing, right? So it’s the same thing with the relocation. And I think that’s sometimes something that is overlooked. And if you have, you know, you’re relocating your kids, your spouse maybe is having to leave a job, and. you know, find another job and that can take time. It’s just a big disruption that could be happening every few years.

So we try to just address those type of pain points. And so we’re now building the structure to expand into the multiple areas, especially concentrating around major military bases to start with and try to give, you know, some program for balancing the military spouses to work with where if they do get relocated, since we’ll be in those other areas, they can just pick up, drop off in the same career, whether it be like an agent.

Whether it be is another function with our teams, but just allow something where they can continue an uninterrupted career, I guess, through that process, and they can have that fulfillment, if that’s what they choose, you know, if it’s something that they’re interested in, as well.

Giuseppe: Right. What would you say is most kind of, new and exciting in your world, things you’re working on, that you’d like to share with the audience?

Proving New Models

Jay: Sure. Some cool, some, definitely some cool investing stuff. We’re trying to prove a couple new models. You know, you can always learn something new or create something new. We’ll be, a big one we’re working on right now that hopefully, we’ll be able to start telling people about in the next couple of weeks.

Also along that line, we are kicking off with another partner, actually started out as one of our clients, like a veteran’s playbook, like for real estate investing where we’re going to walk through just a few actual investments, you know, or a string of investments and how you can, for instance, like how you can take no money down VA purchase, and eventually parlay that. You know, we’re not talking a long, long time, but, you know, within eight to 10 years, and just show how you can parlay that into multiple properties. And all of it will be real-life examples.

That’s for right now, we’re just trying to do different things each time. So when we do talk about like, if I’m talking on something about investing, someone says, Would you do this? I want to be able to say I have done that, you know? So I think it’s a good idea, yes, I’ve done it. Not just theoretically. We’re doing a few things now. And so working on, yeah, just getting that roadmap out so we can just do case studies of the different ways that have worked for these investments. So few of those coming down the road are going to be really exciting. Should be a lot of fun, too.

Giuseppe: Yeah. And I’m looking forward to checking it out. I love case studies if it proves a process. And yes, you want to gather that information, make sure it’s all working and to set people up for success. You had mentioned, you know, special programs for veterans. And I believe when we spoke on the show, last week, we talked about, you know, for people looking at, for example, a franchise, there are certain franchise companies that offer discounts. There’s also special funding options. So does that apply, I’m assuming for real estate as well? You had mentioned various options, if you can talk a little bit about that.

The Advantages of a VA Loan

Jay: Sure, yeah. There’s different, there’s a few different things there, both on the work side and on the kind of, investment or purchase side. The biggest thing, you know, obviously, a lot of people know about the VA loan, but a lot of people don’t know how that entitlement can be applied. This year, and one of the things, this applies directly to what we’re this model that we’re getting into right now. But as of this year, there’s no limit on your, purchase limit for the VA loan. So it can, you know, if you qualify for a $2 million property, you can use a VA loan for $2 million property and put no money down.

Prior to this year, there were normal loan limits, like the other government-backed loans for a conventional loan, I mean, for a standard loan, FHA. So there’s no limit anymore. So you can buy up to four properties with that. So, you know, if you’ve got a fourplex, that still falls under residential. You can purchase that, and the potential rental or the average rent for the other three units is factored into your approval process. So you could. you know, qualify for a lot more than you think.

And then you have built-in rental income into that. So there’s just different ways. And that’s just a very simple way of utilizing that one. But yeah, the VA benefit, the VA loan benefit’s huge. Keeps you from paying that mortgage insurance with no money down. So anytime you can get into a property, especially when it’s going to produce money for nothing out of pocket other than maybe some closing costs, that’s pretty phenomenal. And then on the other side, oh. Go ahead. I’m sorry.

Giuseppe: No, go ahead. I’m sorry. No, keep going. I’m sorry.

Jay: I mean, yeah, I was gonna say then on the other side, too, not just on the listing side, but on the working side, like, for instance, the model with the military spouse and, you know, provide employment things like licenses, like, you know, things like a real estate license and other licenses, there’s programs that will pay for that relicensing because it’s military-related. So you know, that can save, you know, hundreds to a couple thousand dollars just in licensing fees. So there are definitely things out there if you know where to look, or if you know someone who can find them for you to keep costs down all the way around.

Giuseppe: Yeah. And that’s a good point. I mean, if people do have an interest, don’t assume that you don’t have enough capital. I tell this to people all the time, you know, there’s, some people will just look at what they have in their savings account and that’s not the case. There are, as you mentioned, options, with business ownership, you’re able to utilize even retirement funds, depending on your situation.

Obviously, there’s going to be some depending on your situation, if you’re currently with the employer and things like that and a funding company could assist. But yeah, don’t assume. Have someone do a full analysis. I know, you know, in our business line, it’s a free analysis, which is nice. So it doesn’t cost anything aside from all in maybe 30 to 60 minutes of your time between forms and a review. But it’s good just to have options so that you know kind of what’s in your scope, what’s affordable, what’s not. And if it’s, if you’re not there, what you need to do to get there. And I always encourage people to take people up on those offers. So

Jay: I was gonna say that exactly what you’re talking there. A quick example there, I hear it a lot too, even from some of my friends in the military. I was like, well, I need to put away this. I want to throw away some more money but I want to purchase a home next year. I want this or that. It’s like, cool. But even then, go get, go talk to a lender and get pre-qualified. And if you don’t, you may not know how far along you are, but also they can tell you how to get there. And I find that people just take one step, then they’re gonna, they’re much more likely to get there.

If they don’t take that first step, that’ll just always be I’m still putting way more money and they just won’t do it. But I have this, a young marine reached out to me earlier this year, who was brand new the Marine Corps, like just a few months in, and we started working, he was interested in real estate. So he’s 18 years old and we just started working a plan and he went through it. So now he has one more week before he’s entitled to his VA loan.

I believe it’s 90 days that you have to be at your permanent command. One more week he’ll qualify for, pre-qualify for his loan. And we’ve identified properties, he’s got roommates set up. So this 18-year-old kid with that forethought who is now going to purchase a home and bring two renters in and pay next to nothing for his property. And to me, that’s amazing. And that just kind of goes to show you don’t know what you can actually do if you, you know, if you don’t check it out and see where you are.

Giuseppe: Wow, it’s pretty, 18 years old, huh? I wish,

Jay: I feel the same. I’m like, you’re way ahead of me. Yeah, totally, he’s way ahead of me. So yeah, I’m really excited for him.

Giuseppe: Yeah, I thought I was ahead of the game. But yeah, not even close. At that age, I was thinking about it. Still trying to figure out what the heck to major in in college. But yeah, that was, that’s pretty amazing. If he didn’t ask, he probably still be thinking about what he can or cannot do. So and, you know, part of that game plan, I think is just, you know, putting those goals in place.

And if you need X amount and how are you going to save based off your salary and, you know, anything else you can do to generate income to get you there. But having that plan is crucial, or else you’re kind of flying blind, not really understanding exactly what you need and losing a lot of time because maybe you could have invested at the age of 18, whereas you waited till 21, assuming you needed a bigger lump sum.

So some really good advice there. So I guess, you know, so, you know, someone listening in on the show, they want to learn a little bit more about real estate investing. And I’m assuming, you know, I know you work with veterans, people are, and people currently in the military, but I’m assuming you work with people outside. So what’s, kind of what’s the first step? How, where should they go first? How can they contact you? And, you know, what does the process look like if they do set up, just say, a phone call with you?

Jay: Yeah, no, that’d be awesome. They just go, again, directly to the webpage if they like, at landingcollective.com. And, or just email me or my team at either Jay, JAY@landingcollective.com or team@landingcollective.com. Either one will get to me. And just schedule a call or give me some of the information or the questions they have.

And then we can set up a call and just get them set in the right direction, even if, in any area too, because if they’re in an area that I’m not currently serving, then we can, we’ll scout out and find a good person for them so that we can, like we said, you know, you just need that good mentor and we don’t want them connected with the wrong people with bad experience.

Giuseppe: Right. So absolutely. So yeah, we’ll put that all in the show notes. You can feel free to contact Jay. So this is anyone that has, you had mentioned an interest in real estate both in and out of the military if they want some additional information. And is it more of a, you set up that call, kind of a right fit call for them, gameplan call, and figure out the next steps. Is that what,

Jay: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely, Just see what their goals are, what they need, and then we can kind of see what fits their need and set up a structure plan from there. And if you need help with anything else with lending or whatever we can, same thing, connect them to people that are trustworthy and can give them good advice and good mentorship on that side too.

Giuseppe: Right. That’s great. So, I mean, everyone listening in, this is an opportunity for essentially, a free consultation. This is free advice between listening to the, you know, to the show, between, you know, the call or email directly to Jay. This is some really good input, really good advice and kind of in my practice as well, my business, if I can’t directly help you, we know others. So if someone did approach me, I can send them over to Jay.

That’s the beauty of what we do in the podcast world. So we can’t be experts in every area but during the show, we kind of leverage Okay, we know who the experts are in each area. So this is a huge opportunity even just to get some basic questions answered. Get off the internet, contact Jade directly. So it’s Jay, JAY@landingcollective.com or team@landingcollective.com. We’ll put that all in the show notes for everyone listening in. Jay, anything else you’d like to mention or any advice you’d like to give to anyone listening in?

We All Have Bosses

Jay: I guess two things. One, you know, as you mentioned, entrepreneurship before, I would say, also don’t take that path thinking that, hey, I’m doing it because I don’t want to work for someone again, because that’s just not true. We’re all working for our clients. We’re working for everyone else. You have many bosses when you’re kind of out on your own. And then the second thing just again, what I learned from you is that exit strategy, think of that during the initial planning, you know? Definitely start thinking about where you want to go with on your way out. So, that was a new one for me.

Giuseppe: Yeah, the exit strategy. I like that approach. I came from. originally from the investment world and the exit strategy may not be you selling your business to do. buy another business, your exit strategy may be okay, I’m gonna pass this down to my children, my grandchildren and other family members.

There’s so many various ways, but eventually, you’re not going to be working forever and hopefully can back off a little bit and travel and do whatever’s, you know, I know for myself, it’s travel. And it’s been very, very difficult to travel nowadays with the pandemic. But wait to get out there and see the rest of the world when we’re, you know, comfortable getting back on a plane. But absolutely. It’s, you know, think about, there’s a lot to think about. And you can talk to either myself or Jay. Want some ideas, but definitely reach out to Jay directly.

As I mentioned, we’ll put everything in the show notes. And Jay, once again, wanted to thank you for being on the show. I always learn, you know, quite a bit on these shows. Maybe I’ll have some questions for you on real estate since my first go on real estate did not go as well as the, as anticipated. So it’s definitely been a learning process. But once again, thanks again and we’ll definitely talk to you very soon.

Jay: Thanks a lot for having me. I really appreciate it, Giuseppe.