How Hanging Ceiling Fans Resurrected My Real Estate Career

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Who 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.

I 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.

Using 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.

About Author

Marty (G+) is the Chief Financial Officer for Rising Sun Capital Group, LLC, a real estate investment firm based in Gilbert, AZ. His firm purchases homes at the courthouse steps and public REO auctions. They have two exit strategies, either fix and flip or seller financing.


  1. Thanks for your personal anecdote and being vulnerable to share your story.

    I think this shows the will power of many innovative Americans who everyday find ways to utilize their current skill set and develop new ones to be productive members of their community. Though you may have had to downgrade your lifestyle, the valuable lessons learned are priceless and a great teaching tool for our next generation .


  2. Hey Marty — We should all get together and tell our stories. Reading yours, I relived the horrible times, humbling to say the least, of the early 80s. We learn the best lessons when life takes us down a few rungs. Your story warmed my heart — thanks so much.

  3. Great Article Marty…. I will tell you it has been scary days hasn’t it??? I wrote a few articles about ‘the elevator going down’…. My two main focuses have been landlording and hard money lending. When the music stopped the free-fall was frightening. I’ve seen many above & below lose all and there were certainly days I thought maybe I’m there too. I think I’ve made it and stabalized -but heck you never know. I’ve always said (even in the good days) to leave your greed and ego at home when you head out for the day and tuck your gratitude in your pocket before heading out the door.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, and congratulations on your way back up. What you’ve done in the last year a half is more than what 99% of the population does in their lifetimes. Truly inspiring.

  5. I can almost relate, Marty.

    My Walmart digital watch died about a week ago.

    I’m budgeting for a new one next month, but only if I get my ceiling fan hang-time under 20 minutes….

    • MH, thanks for the reply. I’ve found that most real estate professionals don’t like to talk about their mistakes because it’s bad for business. I had to stop pretending because like my friend Keith we were burning the furniture to stay warm. It’s much easier to connect with people when I talk about my mistakes.

  6. Great post! Hoping that many readers should inspired on your story. Tracking records on real estate marketing is an impressive real estate investment strategy. The story is inspiring and it can be a good example for everyone. Mr.Marty boardman swallow his pride just to get back up on his career. He did everything and he learn to live a simple as he can.

    • I’ve found that many beginning real estate investors want to start at the top. That’s because the guru’s tell them to put a team together. The truth is until you’ve had some success you ARE the team. I appreciate the feedback.

  7. Great post Marty! Nothing like getting into the nuts and bolts of a house in order to better understand how everything works. No better way to negotiate the bids the contractors provide. When that electrician says it took him 60 min to hang up that ceiling fan you now can tell him to eat crow.

    • Winton, yes it helps to know how much time it takes to get things done. It’s funny you mentioned the electrician. I once had an electrician quote me $400 to change out some fans and fixtures. I asked him how long it would take. He told me four hours. I asked, so you get paid $100 per hour? I know doctors that don’t charge that much. He quickly dropped his price to $100!

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