How to Make $20k in 2 Weeks: A Step-by-Step Guide

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This can really be done.

This isn’t just some fictional “if I could only…” business plan, such as my good friend Brandon Turner likes to throw at you (and that you eat up!). This was a transaction I did early in my career whereby I was able to leave escrow with a check for $20k, and the whole thing took 2 weeks.

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Got Your Attention?

Well, let me tell you — this was the easiest money I’ve ever made in real estate!

This was also the luckiest money I’ve made in real estate — by far. However, everyone needs to get a little lucky from time to time.  Furthermore, I believe in power of intention, which is to say that if you tell the universe what you want through your actions, the universe will cooperate in one way or another.

Thus, I will break things down for you into a step by step actionable plan, thereby taking as much “luck” out of the process as possible. The rest is for you to figure out…

If you are a newbie, and you need $20k more than you need oxygen, there is no reason why you can’t run with this and make something happen. Here we go:

Related: How to Really Get Started Investing in Real Estate (Hint: You Might Get a Little Dirty…)

The Deal

I’ve been very vocal on this blog and others about my dislike of SFRs (single family rentals).

As well, I’ve been on record about my dislike of flipping and wholesaling — unless the deal is just brilliant. Well, don’t laugh, but the deal I am about to pen for you is both an SFR and a wholesale.

Actually, it started out as a fix and flip, but ended up being a wholesale, and the reason for this was because the deal was indeed brilliant. There was so much meat on that bone that all kinds of options were on the table.

What I said in the last sentence of the previous paragraph is the first and most important lesson for today — read it again!

Anyhow, this was a single family that I bought thinking it will make an excellent rental, but the price I was able to negotiate made it a fantastic flip. But as things got rolling, I was actually able to exit with profit of $20k by wholesaling it to another investor.

A few details now:

Looking for a Deal

The process of finding distressed property is somewhat different in multifamily and commercial verses SFR, but one rule applies equally to both, and it is this:

If you want to get a deal, you can’t be competing against other buyers!

What does this mean in reality? What it means is that ideally no one but you can be aware that the property is for sale — this is the only way to eliminate competition which inevitably drives up the price. And consequentially, buying off of the MLS is out of the question.

In 2011 it was still possible to get great deals off of the MLS. Now investors are paying over asking price (which is too high for investment purposes to begin with) — NO!

So, since no one can know that the property is for sale, meaning it cannot be publicly advertised, you must look for methods of lead generation that are off-market. Well, some people swear by targeted inbound marketing, others believe in guerrilla marketing, still others like sending out yellow letters. Personally, I’ve bought houses from ads in the paper, and I’ve bought a lot of property using organic inbound.

But, my favorite way to buy fix and flip SFRs, which happens to be one of the most cost-effective, happens to be to simply drive the target neighborhoods — this was how I found the house in question.

While driving one of my target neighborhoods, I came across a house that looked neglected; the grass was tall, there was litter, and when I looked in the windows it became apparent that no one had lived in the house for quite a while. More than that, it looked like someone had started remodeling, but then stopped abruptly, as though they ran out of money.

There was no flooring anywhere that I could see. There were no fixtures in the bathroom. I could see brand new kitchen cabinets, still boxed up, as well as the counter sitting in a room right off of the kitchen.

The house was a brick ranch, and upon checking the county records I found out that it had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. In this neighborhood, a house like this one would trade for $85,000-$90,000.

Called the Owner

It took a little looking, but I was able to locate a telephone number for the owner. This was the conversation:

Me: I am looking at your house. Would you like to sell it?

He: Yes.

Me: How much would you sell it for?

He: $50,000.

Me: Looks like it needs a lot of work? I don’t know if I can do $50,000 — would you could consider something less?

He: Yes.

Me: When can you show it to me?

We set up a time; if my memory is correct (I wasn’t keeping track of the details of my early deals like my friend J Scott), we met the same day.

It is important to note, here, that the reason I pushed for a meeting is because the short telephone conversation revealed to me that the seller was a prospect! Why? because while he wanted too much money, no one sells a $90,000 house for $50,000 unless they are very motivated and out of options.

I couldn’t pay that much; in fact, this wasn’t even close. Just by looking in the windows I knew this was a $20,000-$25,000 rehab, and as such, I knew that I’d need to be under $40,000 on the purchase price. But — and you should pay attention to this — it’s a lot easier to get someone down to $35,000 from $50,000 than it is to get them form $90,000 to $70,000. The difference? Motivation!

The Walk-Through

The walk-through confirmed all of my assumptions. This was a $25,000 rehab. Figuring an $80,000 retail price, which was extremely conservative, holding costs, and RE commissions, I figured I’d do OK having paid $35,000.

As any proper investor would do, I made an offer — $28,000. He talked it over with his wife and came back with $32,000 — DONE!

A $1,000 earnest money deposit out of my line of credit sealed the deal, and I was in escrow at $32,000. Now, how to finance the thing? The P&S was worded “Ben and/or assigns.” I had every intention of rehabbing this house and either keeping it as a rental or flipping it. But this wording would enable me to assign the contract if need be. The closing was to take place in roughly 2 weeks.

Related: Getting Started in Real Estate With Less Than $1,000


I had set up a line of credit against my primary residence soon after we built our house — it just sat there waiting for an opportunity. The line was enough to either buy the house or to rehab it, but not both. I needed a partner.

I approached a client of mine from another enterprise. He was a highly paid professional, and I offered him to loan me the purchase money, which we would collateralize with the subject via a note and mortgage, while I would use my HELOC to rehab the house. I proposed that there would not be any payments on the mortgage during the rehab, but that I would pay him all of the principal and interest either via a refinance or the sale on the back end.

He Took One Day to Think It Over

And then he offered to buy me out. He said that the house would make a perfect rental (yes, it would) and that as a rental it wouldn’t need $25,000 of rehab. So, he offered me $20,000 to walk.

How long do you think I took to make a call on this one?

Simultaneous Closing

Two weeks later, we closed via a simultaneous closing. I could have assigned the contract, but I happen to believe that being an owner of record, even if it is for just 3 minutes, is cleaner — legally speaking. As such, my seller was in one room, my buyer was in another, and I went into the third room. My buyer brought $52,000 in cash to closing — the seller got his $32,000, I got $20,000, my buyer got the house, and the seller got rid of the thing that was causing grief in his life.

Everybody happy!

What Happened Next 

My guy decided that instead of keeping this house as a rental, he wanted to flip it. He sold it for $90,000. This was not the best decision he made, but he needed to make it in order to learn. Since then, he’s bought a bunch of rentals, some of which I sold to him using my license.

I used the $20k to pay off my wife’s student loan, as well as the car loans. That wasn’t smart, and I wrote about it in the BP community book that you should have received when you joined. But it happened, and we moved on to the next deal.


Final Thoughts

What started out as a fix and rent/flip turned out to be a quick $20k wholesale deal. It’s important to understand that a lot of this was sheer luck.

I don’t think that wholesaling is a prolific model for most people, specifically because of the luck component. This seller, as I mentioned, had a level of motivation which was highly uncommon. It was driven by fiscal realities in his life, as well as deep personal trauma. This is rare indeed, but it is the only reason I was able to get the price I did.

Also, had the kitchen cabinets and countertop not been sitting there, it would have been necessary to spend much more on the rehab, which may have killed the deal. Finally, my friend taking me out the way he did was certainly pure luck!

Bottom line — a lot of stars lined up to make this deal come together the way it did.

Having said this, I bought the thing right, and that was huge! Had I paid too much, none of the options would have worked. I took the universe by the neck, and with my actions told it what I wanted. The universe cooperated, and there is a lesson in that!

Can You Do This?

Can this be duplicated? Absolutely. Will it kill you if it takes longer than 2 weeks? No. If you don’t have a line of credit, could you use private money? Yes. Who are your friends? Could you use hard money if you had to? Yes; for a really good deal, there is always money!

No excuses! And now, as promised…

Step-by-Step Action Plan

Step #1: Take real action.

This is an absolutely crucial step. Reading this article is nice, but nothing will happen unless you make it happen.

Also crucial is to figure out how you are going to finance this thing. True, owner financing is the best game in town, but if that’s the only game you’ve got, your market will be cripplingly limited. Partner up with people, and set up a line of credit or even credit cards.

Bottom line is that it makes very little sense to take action before you have some type of access to capital.

Step #2: Study your town and isolate your target area.

I could write 50 pages on what to look for demographically, economically, and otherwise in a marketplace. But since Josh doesn’t pay me enough, I’ll let Brandon do that…

Bottom line, you’ve got to know what stuff is worth — period!

Step #3: Get in your car and drive your target areas.

Look for stuff out of place — stuff that looks neglected or “strange.” During a 2-hour drive through your target neighborhoods, you should be able to jot down at least 20 addresses.

Step 4: Use county records.

Once you identify a house, look it up in the county auditor/assessor records to find out several things:

  1. Who is the owner of record
  2. How long they’ve owned the house (this is hugely valuable and drives presence or lack of equity)

Step #5: Find a number for the owner.

Sometimes this is as easy as putting it into a search engine or looking in the white pages; other times, you’ll have to dig deeper.

Step #6: Make the call — don’t be a chicken.

Some people advise sending out letters. While it’s true that in terms of building rapport, there are sellers for whom letters would work best — but not for vacant, run-down SFRs. Make the call!

Step #7: Pre-qualify.

Ask the right questions to lead you to determine:

  1. How motivated the seller is
  2. How reasonable and logical the seller is

Step #8: If the house is a prospect, meet the seller on the premises.

While there, you are doing several things:

  1. You are conducting a surface-level property inspection to determine the magnitude of the required rehab.
  2. You are also there to pick up on signs as to what drives the seller’s thinking. Negotiation is not done at the table, unlike what most people believe. By the time you are at the table, the negotiation is over. Negotiation is about being able to shut up and listen — that’s what you are doing here.

Step #9: Agree on a price and sign a purchase and sale.

Notice — I did not say “make an offer.” Come to an agreement on a price — extrapolate this!

Make sure that you are getting a great deal, not just a good deal!

Step #10: Market the crap out of this deal to get it sold!

If it’s good enough, you’ll get it sold.

Step #11: Get a little lucky.

Have fun and good luck. Yes, luck will have something to do with it, as my case study showcases. There’s nothing wrong with luck. But remember, luck doesn’t come to those who don’t take action. Luck is the result of unwavering commitment to making something happen!

Go make something happen and tell us about it in the comments! 

Be sure to leave your comments below!

About Author

Ben Leybovich

Ben has been investing in multifamily residential real estate for over a decade. An expert in creative financing, he has been a guest on numerous real estate-related podcasts, including the BiggerPockets Podcast. He was also featured on the cover of REI Wealth Monthly and is a public speaker at events across the country. Most recently, he invested $20 million along with a partner into 215 units spread over two apartment communities in Phoenix. Ben is the creator of Cash Flow Freedom University and the author of House Hacking. Learn more about him at


  1. Hi.

    “I used the $20k to pay off my wife’s student loan as well as the car loans. That wasn’t smart, and I wrote about it in the BP community book that you should have received when you joined.”

    Well, I am a member of BP but I don’t have the community book. Why is using money earned to rid yourself of a debt not a smart thing to do?

  2. Hey Ben

    Great contribution as always. Two follow up questions.

    Regarding Step 1…any suggestions for lining up credit and other forms of financing when you’re new and don’t have a track record to use.

    Regarding step 7….is the questions you asked the seller you recommends tucking. Short, sweet, and to the point. Or are they other questions a buyer should be asking the seller before setting up a meeting?

    • Thanks Jason!

      1. Fake it til you make it – whatever works. Someone is going to have to take a chance on you. So, what can you do to encourage them…?!

      2. It’s all of the above – blog post in the making? But, all you need to know in the end, if you are looking for an equity play such as a wholesale or a flip, is whether you have a reasonable chance to come into equity…

  3. Ben, Got my first deal on the lucky side also back in 2004. It was a lease option deal that gave me control over the property for about 3 years until the renter was able to cash out.

    It came along pretty easy because the seller was motivated because his wife had just passed away, and he pretty much just didn’t want the house anymore. Just my luck I rode the neighborhood and came across it and made the initial contact.

    Real estate is a up and down business you just have to learn to stay with it.

    Question Ben, how exactly are you investing these days? Whats is your formula

    Antonio Coleman “Signing Out”

    • Nice, Antonio!

      What am I doing now – I am paying off debt and unloading doors in my portfolio that aren’t making substantive money. Going lean and trim, so that when the market is more conducive to buying, my position will align.

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Antonio!

  4. Thanks Ben for your post. I (along with my husband Matt) are fellow blog post writers as well! I enjoyed this post very much. Our real estate investing focus includes flipping projects (with the goal of generating chunks of cash) and buy/hold/rent projects (with the goal of increasing passive income). We have only done one or two wholesale deals. However, you have given us something to think about! 🙂

  5. Thanks for the info and motivation. I really like how basic you made it appear, there is nothing like driving for a deal. I will take this under advisement and get busy. Wholesaling is something I’ve never thought about but it seems like a great idea. Thanks once again for the food for thought.

  6. Kevin Williams on

    This is a great piece of advise and especially to someone like myself just getting started. I am doing a lot of reading and attending seminars,but this is the best advise that has been given to me. Thanks.

  7. Ben,

    Great post! I truly enjoy what you contribute to bigger pockets. I am starting this process and as you said I got off my … Your post had great information and even better encouragement! Please keep them coming!

    What if you have called and sent letters on the proposed vacant home and zero reply? What would be your next step?

  8. Ben thanks for for the great article. It was easy to understand, especially for a person just getting started in real estate investing. I am taking a look at some of your other articles as well. Time to get off my ass and get going. Thanks again!

    • Andrew,

      He bought this house from me with the idea of keeping it as a rental. But, he changed his mind and decided to sell. This required more rehab. He made a profit, but not too much – he should have paid me less in this case…

  9. This post both inspires and infuriates me. I loved the post but it made me wonder if I lost out on many deals which infuriates me. I’m still just starting off so when he went through calculating to see how much he should offer with an ARV at 80k (80k * .7 – 25k) I expected 31k to be his MAX yet he says that he would be fine from 35k. How is this?

  10. Truly an insightful article! I think I’m still working on step one! Finance really is a factor in the fear. I have a few prospects (can’t get a number but have adresses). I’m working up a letter to send. Hopefully I can get a response!
    Thank you for sharing your experience and tips!

  11. I remember you mentioning this deal on the podcast and I had a lot of questions. Thanks for answering them In this post. I liked the way you kept an open mind and let the deal go where it needed to go. Thanks! I have learned so much from you!

  12. Great post! You just gave me the push that I needed! I have a few names, addresses with phone numbers (for absentee owners) but have yet to place the call because I don’t have step one figured out quite yet. However, that being said, I know now that I just have to place the call and take it from there. If its a good deal the money will come!! Thanks Ben!

  13. Really nice article Ben!

    I like the lead generation approach of driving through neighborhoods. It’s one strategy that I’ve found to be very successful.

    While it may prove to be difficult sometimes to track down owners of vacant/absentee owner homes (even using county records), one solution that seems to work for me fairly often is actually very straightforward. I will knock on a few doors, or even better…try and catch the neighbors out mowing their lawns or walking their dogs and introduce myself. I like the chance to build rapport, hand out a card, explain what I do and include that I’m “local.” Often, neighbors will know what’s happening with the property, and if they don’t, chances are that they know a person in the neighborhood who does. It may take a few stops and calls, but this often works.

    It’s a mixture of sleuthing and networking and you may get another lead just by talking to a few neighbors. And that lead may come a month or more down the road, but networking is a vital part of finding those undiscovered opportunities.

    Obviously, we need to use our judgement regarding appropriate areas for this type of approach!

    Thanks for the excellent post!

  14. Thank you for this great Article,

    Can you elaborate on #9? I seem to be stuck on this and not sure as far as wholsaling goes what do I have the seller sign exactly. Do you havea copy of what you use?


  15. becky fagernes

    hi, went to visit my boyfriends niece the other day and found her apt complex in run down conditions. Upon entering her apt, she said there is no heater, we have to use plug in space heaters. Mind you the apt is electric mostly. I said why? she said they rented it without heat. Looking past that I see its a run down, screens, windows broken or missing, etc. doors with holes and no door handles outside to get into complex. Just shouts,” Help Me”. I contacted my realtor friend had him do a title search and run some comps too. Its a awesome property to flip. If I’m reading it right, they owe under 400k and comps are 1,1 mil. Now my question is. I want to contact owner to see what’s up? I want to make a positive approach, not shut the door immediately. Need some help here on the approach. Any Ideas?

  16. David White

    Thanks for sharing your experience and offering your advice. I have a question though. You said with the $20k profit you paid off your wife’s student loan and car loans. Why wasn’t that a good idea? I did read the Beginner’s book. I just don’t remember your reasoning.

    • Joshua Ashcroft

      I have the same question, but I’m not even sure what community book he’s talking about, do you? I’m curious because I’m currently toying with whether to pay down some debt or invest…

      “I wrote about it in the BP community book that you should have received when you joined.” I joined, I don’t recall receiving any community book, and I’m not seeing anything by that name fishing around the site now.

  17. Ndy Onyido

    Great post Ben!. Got initilly confused at to when this article was published; saw Dec 26 and then prior dates comments….probably reposted..
    Looks like I missed the first post…I follow most of them 🙂

    Thanks a bunch for the lessons in this post….

  18. Zach Ziskin

    What about professional inspection? Should that be written into the purchase and sale agreement on a deal like this? If not, how do you guard against things that as a beginning investor you can’t be sure of, like major structural or electrical issues, etc. that could blow the whole deal?

  19. Aaron Jones

    I find Ben to be one of the most interesting people on BP. His articles and podcast segments are lessons that one would never get in a university classroom.
    I told my wife the other day that any and all money we make in RE will be re-invested into RE. No loans will be paid off early due to all of ours being 5% or cheaper.
    Keep the great articles coming Ben!

    Thank you.
    Aaron Jones

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