Making yourself at home

Kevin Andreson is passionate about serving military families. He’s a real estate agent and developer, and he’s using his expertise to help those families who are serving our country. This is some of Kevin’s real estate advice for families who are transferring to Ellsworth. 

What is your process when a service member reaches out to you?

I’d start by getting to understand a little bit about you and understand what your goals are. Are you single? Do you have a family? How long do you intend to be here? Typically, if you’re going to be stationed for about two years, I’m going to encourage you to rent because it’s hard to get a payback on a house — unless you really take the long view and look at it as an investment. I’ve had a few people that have caught on to the fact that we have a very strong rental market here.

Tell me more about that. Are there opportunities for service members to invest in real estate here in the Black Hills?

I worked with a pilot once, managing his property. He ended up accumulating three properties between here and Dyess and Whiteman. When he retired, he consolidated all those and basically put that towards his retirement and his forever home.

I also recently worked with a young airman who bought a fairly substantial house and rented rooms out to his coworkers. This can be a great way to gain more purchasing power and be able to cover the monthly mortgage payment. He’s essentially living there for free.

My challenge to an airman or an officer is to look at it for yourself. Invest in yourself first, pay yourself first. The VA loan program is an excellent way to purchase with very low down payment requirements. Also think of the BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) as paying yourself. And if you can keep multiple homes, you have other renters paying your mortgage. When you get to the end of your military career, it is a great way to build up a substantial amount of equity in buying that forever retirement home.

Tell me about VA Loans and how they can help service members invest in real estate.

A lot of people will look at a VA loan as a disadvantage, but I don’t really view it that way. There’s a lot of strength in that program. You know that someone with a VA loan has a strong cash flow because they’re an employee of the government — Uncle Sam’s money is as good as gold.

Another thing is that when you look at the VA program, if you’re able to, you can take out more than one loan. They have a max cap on that, and there’s a certain period of time that you have to be in that loan and live in that property as your primary residence. Then you can roll that over as an investment property. So, the VA program is friendly for investing like that.

House hunting around here can get discouraging. What’s your advice to keep house hunters encouraged?

If you stay in the game and you’re working with a seasoned realtor who understands how to write a good, clean offer, eventually you’ll find that right home. We’re still very much in a seller’s market, so I encourage people to understand that — that this is going to be a process. We may not get the first one. We may not get the second one, but if we stay at it we’ll get you in a property.

Also, I would say that this might create a balance with not getting too hasty by wanting to overpay or jump at a property that maybe you really aren’t in love with. You may have to live there for two or three or five years, and you really don’t want to be saying to yourself, “Gee whiz. Why did I buy this?” So, I think that’s a balance, and that’s how I see my role in this — to be kind of a check and balance with my clients.

You’re also a developer and you’ve created some great subdivisions in the area. What does the process of buying a lot and building a house look like? 

What I’m going to find out first is where your budget is. Understanding your budget is going to help me place you on a spectrum. Are we going to build you what I call a pre-sold tract home? That’s when a builder has a set of home plans with some kind of standard offerings. That’s going to be for our entry level and mid tier buyers. We’re not able to come in and change a whole bunch of things, but I get to the front of the line because I can now go to that builder and say, hey I’ve got a great pre-qualified buyer here. I’ve got a piece of land because as a developer, we supply the land to those builders, so let’s put this deal together. So, if you’re willing to wait seven or eight months, you’ll have a brand new beautiful home that you didn’t have to outbid six people to get.

Now, if your budget is north of $600,000 to $700,000, we talk about what I call the custom category. These are basically where we start with a clean sheet of paper and then we help you find a piece of land. We try to assess what’s important to you: I like to cook a lot, so I need a big kitchen. I need a home office. Maybe it’s a young mom, and she wants the kids close to the master suite. What are those must-haves?

So we take that blank slate and then we start designing a house around that. It’s actually as simple as putting a puzzle together. We look at the boxes, and we make those boxes different sizes based on those needs and then we put them down on paper. And we help organize how you want life to flow — can you come in through the garage into a mudroom and then you walk into the kitchen and then the bedrooms?

In short, we design a house. We get a trusted builder to run a price on it. If that matches up with your banking or their finances, we write a contract on that. These take 10 to 12 months from beginning to end, so it’s a little more of a drawn out process. Usually in that scenario, we’ll try to find you temporary living until you can make that move into your permanent home.

You recently received the title of Honorary Commander. It’s clear you have passion for serving the members of our armed forces. Where does that passion come from? 

Yeah, I was recently named an Honorary Commander at Ellsworth. It’s a huge honor and privilege. The more I engage with this work, the more I understand about the life and the day of our military community — the things they go through and the stresses they go through. I’m learning a lot.

First and foremost, I consider myself a very patriotic American. Ellsworth plays an incredible role in our global theater and the security of our country. So to me, it’s an honor to be able to support what they’re doing.

Also, if you look at it from a purely economic standpoint, the impact that the base has is over a million dollars a day on our local community — and that number is growing. So, what can we do to foster that? Because that means success for the Black Hills. Part of our role is to keep the base’s mission viable. We need to accept them with open arms and welcome them and figure out how to house them. That’s our role in this — how do we help fill some of those gaps? So when these people are coming to town, they’re not living in a hotel for six months. We want to fill as many of those holes as we can. And that’ll be a growing challenge as the B-21 loads in.

I think that’s where the passion comes from. I love my job. I hope that comes across. I love the creativity of it — one day you’re seeing a cow stand out in a pasture. And then a few years later, you see these beautiful homes and a kid riding his bike down the sidewalk. Now look at it, it’s great, it’s a beautiful community that we’ve created here and people get to go out and enjoy it.

To learn more about Kevin, his team and his properties, visit