Personal Development

5 Unexpected Real Estate “Lemons” I’ve Turned into “Lemonade”

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties
23 Articles Written

When life gives you “lemons,” are you taking advantage of that situation to evolve and turn your hardships into “lemonade”?

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I can tell you that where we are today — writing for this blog, owning these houses and even living where we are — was never the plan. Life gave us lemons, and we learned to work with them and turn them into our lemonade.

Someone on one of the BiggerPockets Forums the other day told me that they weren’t able to handle things the way we do. I internally laughed to the point that I almost cried. While I’m thankful and love my life, this is not what we chose.

5 Unexpected “Lemons” I’ve Turned into “Lemonade”

1. Self Managing Property

When we started this journey, I planned on hiring a property manager.

Instead, I wasn't able to find one who didn't charge me 10% a month with a 1-month placement fee and an average 1-month vacancy, along with a 10% maintenance charge, 6% real estate fees if my tenant decided to buy the house, a clause stating they would keep pet fees, etc. The cost was extraordinary to the point that I decided those were ridiculous returner costs.

Related: 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Become a Landlord

At that point, I could save the money and hire a lawyer if needed. Thus, our self management journey began.

The Takeaway: While it wasn’t the PLAN, self management has turned into the BIGGEST FINANCIAL ASSET to our business model! So, remember: an unexpected or forced turn of events can become a positive if embraced as a learning experience.

2. Becoming a Long Distance Landlord

We had never planned on being long distance landlords. We had great role models who self-managed for years, LOCALLY. I spent months, including many weekends, with the realtor looking for a local house. Virginia Beach at the time was overpriced, and we weren’t able to find a reasonable rental.

Later, when we were in Charleston for my sister-in-law's wedding, we stayed with a college friend of my husband. She'd bought a house in Charleston. That night, instead of going to bed early as I'd planned, she and I stayed up late talking. The next day, we went house hunting. The following weekend we came back and put an offer on two houses. The rest is history.

The Takeaway: Keep your eyes open to all investment opportunities — no matter how tired you might be or how unexpected the opportunity is.

3. Using Broken Lease Clauses

We never expected our tenants to be unwilling to follow the lease or for 7 tenants out of the past 15 to request to break the lease.

While personally my blood pressure would benefit from the tenant STAYING PUT, the broken lease clause has prevented my cash flow from taking a hit — and sometimes even added a little.

The Takeaway: Be flexible when something is happening in your market. Instead of bearing the brunt of financial problems, grab the problem by the horns and make it into a GREAT opportunity for you!

4. Moving to California

When the Navy gave us our last orders, I was beyond devastated. Everyone who knew us knew how much we worked to NOT get West coast. We are both from the East coast; we were close to home and HAPPY.

Guess what? This has been the best thing that ever could have happened to us, financially. The 13 months out of work allowed me to make connections and really develop my real estate base. I was able to build my network and grow, so when I did go back to work, I had a great foundation to build on.

The Takeaway: The thing that hurts the most can be the most amazing of blessings. Instead of crying over the spilt milk, open your eyes and see all the new possibilities that it leads you to!

5. Working as an Entrepreneur

If you told me four years ago that I was going to be running my own company, I would have laughed. In college, I was never interested in working for myself. I didn’t like the lack of security. After the Navy uprooted my career — and when I had a career, I missed out on valuable time with my husband — I realized that having a portable, flexible job worked best for me.

Related: 3 Real Estate Investing Lessons I Wish I Had Learned Earlier

I never thought it would be real estate, but through unexpected blessings, I found out how to make my true love into something I can use to make money.

The Takeaway: Never say never, keep your eyes open and find something you love to do!


The point of this post is that often our biggest successes were never part of the “plan.”

But by having a very open mind and a willingness to try new things, we can accomplish amazing goals. So, keep your mind open. Look for opportunities EVERYWHERE, and never say no when something new knocks on the door, no matter how painful or scary the unexpected might seem.

Just remember, when you are on the downward path of the roller coaster, to hold on and enjoy the ride back up.

Where has your real estate adventure taken you that you never would have expected? Have you enjoyed the ride?

Leave a comment letting me know! 

Elizabeth Colegrove is a passionate "buy and hold" investor who specializes in turning her once-negative transient lifestyle (Military) into a positive lifestyle. She self manages her entire real e...
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    Trang Herman from Saint Petersburg, Florida
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    This is interesting. It’s always valuable hearing somebody’s real unexpected stories.
    Elizabeth Colegrove from Hanford, California
    Replied almost 6 years ago
    Thanks Trang! For us the funniest part is these are not only “unexpected stories” but have become part of our core business plan. 😉