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How Hanging Ceiling Fans Resurrected My Real Estate Career

Marty Boardman
3 min read

Tool Bucket and DrillWho could possibly feel sorry for me?  After all, I drove a $100,000 Mercedes Benz.  I belonged to the Phoenix Country Club.  I wore an expensive Rolex watch and dressed in hundred dollar Tommy Bahama silk shirts.  I dined at restaurants like Mastro’s Steakhouse without ever bothering to look at the prices on the menu. 

Then in 2007, all hell broke loose.  My $16 million real estate empire disappeared practically overnight.  The music stopped and I didn’t have a chair.

That’s why it felt a little funny asking my church pastor, Chad Moore, for help.  I told him I wasn’t looking for sympathy.  No, I wanted to find out if he knew anyone that was going through a similar experience.  As fate would have it, he did.  Chad put me in touch with a real estate friend named Keith that got creamed just like me.

I met Keith at a Starbuck’s a few days later.  It turns out his losses had a few more zeros than mine.  This made me feel a little better.  What surprised me the most is how through it all Keith never lost hope.  At one point he said he was “burning the furniture to stay warm.”  I could certainly relate to that.  Fortunately, he was turning the corner now with a new real estate investment business model.  Keith agreed to share it with me the next time we met.

My phone rang very early the next morning.  It was Keith.  He wanted to meet with me again right away.  We arranged another Starbuck’s rendezvous for the following day.

Keith’s system was simple – his company was buying newer homes at trustee’s sales that required light rehab and flipping them for a modest profit.  He explained that there was high demand for move-in ready homes because of all the distressed REO and short sale inventory on the market. 

And now for the best part – Keith wanted to know if I would help expand their operation to another area of the city.  Of course, I said yes.

Now the job description was not very glamorous.  I would earn a few hundred dollars a house for making sure the trades got done in four days or less.  If I wanted to make more money I could hang the ceiling fans myself – for $10 each.  The same for the window blinds, light fixtures and door hardware.  They paid me another $125 to clean each property.

DrillI ended up working on 44 houses for Keith in 2009.  I logged over 20,000 miles, commuting more than an hour, one-way, to the other side of town almost every day of the week.  I learned how to hang a ceiling fan in less than 10 minutes – a window blind in under 3.  It was physically hard work.  Some would even say it was a big step down from my glory days of managing a multi-million dollar investment portfolio.  But I never looked at it that way.

I saw an opportunity to learn a new real estate investment strategy from someone with an impressive track record.  Yes, I’d have to start at the bottom.  That was fine with me because I knew I could use what I learned to resurrect my real estate career.

And I did.

BroomUsing Keith’s system and $180,000 my business partner raised, we started investing in real estate again.  Since July of 2009 we’ve flipped 41 houses and have two in escrow.

These days I drive a used Infiniti with 90,000 miles and eat Hamburger Helper (the whole wheat kind with ground turkey meat because I don’t want to be broke AND have high cholesterol).   I don’t wear a watch anymore and I shop at T.J. Maxx, Ross and Kohl’s.  Sure, I’ve begun to turn the corner financially and that feels great.  Believe it or not, I’m grateful for being knocked down.  It forced me to check my ego at the door. 

So if you have to unclog a toilet, scrub a floor, pick up trash, commute for hours on end, or fetch someone coffee in order to start, or resurrect  your real estate investing career, then do it.  Swallow your pride.  I’ve heard it’s non-fattening.

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.