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Risen from the Ashes: How a 2008 $60M Family Bankruptcy Shaped the Future of Justin Brennan, One of La Jolla's Top Realtor Investors

AP NEWS / March 15, 2021 


When we interviewed Justin Brennan, he didn't really want to talk about the past. It's not easy to discuss failures, even if they're not really yours. But after a few moments getting comfortable learning about Justin, he began to open up and let us into why he thinks the way he does, and why his investment strategy is so methodical nowadays. Justin is no stranger to hard work. This luxury real estate agent and multi-family investor got his start digging ditches and laying pipe on his dad's job sites, quickly learning the value of a hard-earned dollar. After college, Justin became VP of operations at his dad's development company and learned the ins and outs of taking raw dirt and developing it into 400-unit multifamily complexes. But when the financial crisis hit and real estate was brought to its knees, Justin's self-made, hard-working father lost everything he had built over his 40-year career.

"I'll never forget it. My dad walked into my office April 8th, 2008 at 8:30 am, sat down, closed the door, and told me the bank called and shut down everything. He told the bank they can't do that. The bank told him they had no choice and my dad could sue them but would run out of money trying. The bank knew what was happening with the markets and decided to cut losses."

That humbling hit has molded Justin's strategy ever since and ultimately opened doors for him to explore the real estate side of the development business. He watched investors, families, friends and even himself lose lots of money. But as they say, "In moments of suffering, greatness is born.

Justin helped his dad consolidate his businesses, then began looking for something to pay the bills. "I ran into a friend who was an asset manager for many of the major banking institutions helping banks with their REO's around the country. He told me there is always opportunity in real estate, it just depends which side of the coin you're playing… positive or negative." From 2009-2010 Justin became an asset manager for banks managing thousands of residential REO properties around the country until he saw the market shifting into short sales. The opportunity came along to put his real estate brokers license to work helping families mitigate tough financial times. Being a Realtor has given Justin the unique opportunity to help families buy, sell and invest in real estate, but also invest for himself. In 2010, Justin and fellow University of San Diego graduate, Christopher Pohle, began buying small 2-4 unit properties. "I told myself I would do everything I could to build a new company based on cash flow fundamentals, diversified risk, and avoid for-sale condos." Justin and Chris, co-founders of The Brennan Pohle Group, have built an impressive portfolio of multi-family apartments, as both investors and contractors, secured on the foundation of lessons Justin learned from the 2008 financial crisis.


This San Diego-based family man believes that money can't buy happiness, "but it can buy choices and freedom," both of which he hopes to supply his clients with. He quickly learned that being an investor in multi-family apartments, instead of just building and selling, was good protection against market fluctuations. That is how Justin operates his business now: relying on the cash flow of passive income properties, allowing him to be riskier on the development side of things without jeopardizing financial stability. He hopes to share his knowledge with clients so that they too can get off the rollercoaster of income as markets change. What really separates Justin and his firm from the pack is how they select the markets and properties they invest in. He explains their strategy simply as "BAMCO. You want to be the B-class surrounded by the A-class properties. Be Walmart. Walmart is always full in a recession and always full in a good market." Applying this philosophy to apartment complexes has proven to be a successful endeavor, and is one of the many contributing factors behind Justin's accolades, including the 2018 San Diego 40 Under 40 award and being in the top 5% of San Diego agents. 

Blending the educational prowess from his dual MBA degrees in Business Finance and Real Estate Development and the street smarts from his upbringing, Justin is able to be multifaceted in his understanding and approach to multi-family real estate investments. In March, his firm launched its $25 million fund that will allow them to be even more agile and quick in investment opportunities that arise. "We are certain that the next financial crisis will be due to currency. The US dollar is at the end of its world currency status. Unfortunately, we believe this cycle adjustment may be worse than 2008. We are preparing. Massive opportunity will be available to those with the stomach to get through it." Justin is also working on ways to give back, lending company resources to Veterans, Wounded Warriors, Armed Services YMCA, and more. Justin has also created the Network & courses to empower new investors to rise and find success in the multi-family market. His mission statement says it all: "Build a company that helps investors become financially free through risk-adjusted returns while striving to put people first, do the right thing, be courageous, have fun and laugh." Whether you're new to the investment game or looking for ways to diversify your asset protection, Justin Brennan is the expert that you need in your corner. We thank Justin for opening up to us and we look forward to what this 40 yr old has in store for the future. Stay tuned America.

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