Meet Steve Kunkel – Hacking his way to financial freedom

Good morning,


You’ve heard of house hacking – maybe even room hacking. But today I’m excited to share an investor who is office hacking! Where he bought a small multi-family and used the store front to run his business.


Made me think of how many small businesses across this country who do something similar. The flower shop, bakery, or comic book shop that owns their building. The thought of using real estate to pursue your passions struck a cord with me.


It is my honor to share this week’s investor – Steve Kunkel

How many doors do you have?

As of today we have 6 doors

What got you into real estate investing?

I had a friend who owned real estate and liked the idea of passive income/leverage/depreciation against income. Then, about 12 years ago I started a business and needed to rent an office from him and it was great for the time, but as I expanded, I needed more space.

In 2013, a 3 plex went on the market that had 2 tenants and 1 vacant office. It was perfect for my situation. I was able to house-hack my 3 plex with my business and tenants. During the first year of owning the rental, I truly started to see the value of scaling, leverage and passive income.

In 2014, I connected with an old real estate friend and he started sending me properties from the MLS. From there, I was able able to find 3 more townhouses (1 a year and all on the same street) and slowly grew to 6 doors.

What market(s) do you operate in?

North East corner of Maryland, close to Delaware

How would you describe your portfolio?

I would describe the 3 plex as class B-C and townhouses Class B, for our market. 1 townhouse and the 3 plex paid off.

What are you currently buying?

An investor who is a friend/my mentor is retiring and is selling me 2 townhouses and a 3-plex with seller finance.

Tell us about your biggest mistake in real estate?

My biggest mistake, in the beginning, was not properly vetting new tenants. I would rent to anyone with a heart beat and turns out that was a bad choice. I felt like i was always chasing rent, sending texts, emails and getting partial payments.

I now have strict criteria that I follow and it seems to be working out, ie income requirement, background checks, employment verification, rental history. I never rent to someone who needs to immediately move or is sleeping on their friend’s sofa. It tends to weed-out those who aren’t qualified because they have to pay for their own background check.

Tell us about your biggest win in real estate?

My biggest win has been the 3 plex house hack. My wife doesn’t believe in using leverage as much as I do, but we were able to pay the commercial loan off in 5 years with income from our business (which is a passively generated income business model) and our tenants.

Outside of real estate what else do you invest in?

Index funds, equities and a start-up fintech company

Books people should read before investing

In the business that I own and before buying the 3 plex I’ve always appreciated the idea of passive income. I know it’s probably cliche, but a friend of mine recommended Rich Dad poor Dad and it totally clicked for me.

What advice would you give to a new investor?

One piece of advice I would give a new investor is trying to find a mentor. This was crucial for me as I started my journey. I was always bouncing construction, tenant issues and real estates ides off of him. Now, he’s selling me 5 doors and I couldn’t be happier.

Steve 🇺🇸🇳🇴 (@bl33ds_purpl3) / Twitter
Steve 🇺🇸🇳🇴 (@bl33ds_purpl3) /
Husband // Father of 3 boys // Physical Therapist // Retired Army Officer // UMES ‘00 // Balmer//🦀🍻

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Enough Business

As many of you know, Princess fell down the stairs about 4 months ago. She tumbled down the flight of stairs, flew across the floor, and hit a bookshelf. Thankfully she only suffered a badly sprained paw.


What has followed is a lengthy recovery process. Guess 13 year old dogs don’t heal like they used to. Thankfully we are now on the final stage of recovery – conquering those stairs. 


This process requires plenty of chicken and patience. Each step being a reminder of the trauma experienced. And happy to share Princess mustered up the strength to go down the full flight!


Made me think of all the times we are confronted with adversity. Maybe it’s a bad tenant who trashed the property and cost of thousands of dollars. Then you painstakingly rehab the property – what next? Sell the property saying this business isn’t for you? Or do you focus on finding a better tenant?


We will all fall down the stairs – but we can’t live our lives on the first floor forever.

See you on Tuesday

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