Real Estate Success Isn’t About How Many Doors You Own

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When I first started investing in real estate and connecting with other real estate investors, I didn’t really have a clear goal as to what I wanted out of real estate. I’d hear some people wanting 100 doors, other people wanting $5,000 a month in cash flow, or some people just wanting to add more zeros to their bank account. So, I found myself starting to use those benchmarks to define my success.

For example, I met an investor who owned more than 200 doors and was adding several properties a week. I thought that was amazing! Having more than 200 doors sounded like a very impressive number. It made me wanted to get to 200 doors. My goal became “how can I buy more properties?” How can I, like the investor I know, buy up to 200 doors as well?

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The Race to Acquire Property

It was that kind of thought process that propelled me towards creative financing in real estate investing. Admittedly, because I was fortunate enough to take on that challenge and walk that path still in the throes of the economic and housing crisis in Las Vegas, I was able to land some really great seller financed deals.

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

I kept thinking, “Okay, if I just keep getting some more with very little money down, I can multiply my real estate holdings at a great pace and soon, I’ll also be able to tell everyone that I own more than 200 doors.”

While owning many doors with seller financing has its own benefits, such as: 1) extreme leverage that is positioned to fully capture real estate returns when the market appreciates, 2) most of the time mortgage payments can pay down debt, and 3) the ability to control real estate with little money, it also has its costs.

Unforeseen Difficulties

Owning properties is not an easy task. As a landlord, you are faced with vacancy, repairs, and bad tenants. These things may not happen very often, but they can all happen at once. You may think you have cash flow, when in reality, you may not. Also, you may think you have enough reserves, when in reality, if all bad things happen at once, you do not have the reserves.

I did not experience such difficulties in 2013, so I figured I was doing just fine. However, in 2014, I’ve experienced several air conditioners breaking down at once, a roof that needed to be replaced, and rounds of bad tenants leaving the property in a mess. I accounted for all the bad things in my financial calculation, but I didn’t account for them to happen all at once. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ve been having the most pleasant year of landlording in 2014.

Nevertheless, I think what happened in 2014 has taught me a great lesson.

A Lesson Learned

The lesson is that real estate success is not about how many doors you own.

I may own more properties than another investor, but the fact of the matter is, my portfolio might be a lot more risky than that investor. I may have been more exposed to a total collapse than another more prudent investor. Maybe I can earn more in the good times, but what about the bad times?

Perhaps having a large cash flow cushion every month is more valuable than having an over-leveraged portfolio, hoping to hit the big score.

Interestingly, I’ve since heard that the investor who owned so many doors has collapsed recently. I did not get the exact details, but to me it seemed like he or she was running an operation that he or she couldn’t handle. The portfolio probably incurred way too much debt, and the properties weren’t cash flowing like they were projected to.

Related: 3 Real Estate Lessons I Learned from Playing Professional Soccer

While the investor could be an awesome real estate acquirer, it does not necessary mean what he or she acquired made financial sense for the portfolio as a whole. Maybe the investor wasn’t prepared for the black swan event of, say, having 100 water heaters breaking down all at the same time. With each property added to the portfolio, you face the higher risk of having everything fall on you at once.

That’s something I believe not many investors necessarily consider.


So, what will I do now? I am no longer thinking about having a big number. I am thinking about how to make my portfolio more profitable. If that means I have to sell some properties and forego the possibility of future appreciation, then so be it. If that means I have to move away from some trouble spots and take less yield to avoid bad tenants, then so be it.

I am no longer thinking about the big number of doors. I am thinking about how to finish the real estate marathon.

What’s your take on the race to acquire a large number of properties? What have you learned through trial and error?

Leave a comment below!

About Author

Leon Yang

Leon Yang is an active real estate investor in Las Vegas. He is a buy and hold guy who also likes to flip from time to time. His main passion is to traveling to the less traveled places and inspiring others to become financially independent through real estate.


  1. Amy A.

    This reminds me of a local investor who had around 300 doors, which he accumulated very quickly. Mostly very old buildings with poor tenants. When the cost of oil spiked he couldn’t keep up with the expenses. He shut himself in the office and didn’t deal with problems. He started drinking and got an OUI. He spent federal grant money designated to buy new boilers for some low-income buildings on other expenses. When the old boilers broke down this came to light, as the tenants were freezing and complained to law enforcement. Many of his buildings froze up, causing further damage. Now he’s broke, in jail, and divorced. Very sad story and a lesson for us all not to overextend.

  2. Lin Vanderhook

    Low and slow , makes a nice cash flow. I have stuck to market entry, newer , homes in working class neighborhoods. Calif. coast , that is between 200-300K. I have managed large HUD apartments…and saw it as a maintenance nightmare.
    Thank you BP, for keeping me motivated.

  3. I’ve come to realize that Tyler Durden was absolutely correct in terms of most people, when he said: “The things you own end up owning You.”

    It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet.

  4. Jerry W.

    Hey Leon,
    It’s nice to see more of your blogs. I am still in the trying to acquire more doors as soon as possible mode. I use a 15 year loan for financing and hope to be retired in 10 years so I want as many doors as I can get paid off by then. the problem is getting the 20% down payment for more purchases. I do understand some of the problems with getting a lot of doors. I try to have my leases come due in summer because it is much easier to rent houses in summer here. Unfortunately I had a lot of houses empty all at once this summer that all needed a lot of rehab. Summer is also the busiest time of the year for my handyman who does a lot of my fixing up, so there were a lot of hours of working on rehabs this year. To make matters worse I bought a 3 house deal that had sat empty for several years that needed a lot of work. there was no time to play this summer. I need to figure out how to be prepared both time wise and financially for these types of summers or events.

  5. Excellent article and points taken. I have a relatively new business and this happened to me on a much smaller scale, but it made me keenly aware of what could happen if you over extend yourself. I only have two rentals and they both vacated this summer. On top of that, one fairly new acquisition I knew eventually would need some repairs, but I wasn’t worried about it at first since it was occupied. Then, when she lost her job and broke the lease, I decided there was no better time than the present and dropped $5K into it, not including the HVAC system I had to put in Jan. So between two properties I lost 3 months rent and spend $10K. I was down to almost nothing in my bank account and I did not like that feeling. I definitely will have to bank more before I acquire more.

  6. The banks where I live now require at least 6 months worth of loan payments in savings for all of your existing properties before giving an additional loan. I have this for my 35 doors and it helps me sleep better at night. When I had 60 doors, I had much riskier properties and was lucky to break even. Now, I net more income with fewer properties and spend about a third of the time. (during a bad month – less than than during a good month) It is not about how many properties you have. It is about the cash flow, how much time you trade for it, and the likelihood of any appreciation.

    • Frankie Woods

      This comment is gold! Thank you Michelle. An excellent example that you can actually be MORE successful with LESS doors. I was on the path to drinking the “buy as many doors as possible” kool-aide. I think I’ll take the time to re-evaluate my strategy…

  7. La Nae Duchesneau

    I do not think the definition of success is how many doors you own. My goal is to make a comfortable living where I can pay my bills, buy some nice jewelry, travel to exotic locations. I do not compare myself to the Jones’s. I do not care what they are doing. I am just concerned about my life and how I live it.
    As for how do you handle 100 water heaters going out at once, I hope that was an exaggeration, but if you do have a lot of things that go bad all at one time, I like to have a line of credit that I can fall back on. This allows me to sleep at night. I know that no matter what happens, I can handle it.

  8. Frankie Woods

    Leon, I really enjoyed your counter-arguement to the “let’s get as many doors as possible” mentality. I must admit, I think that I have a similar mindset. However, like you, I am treading very carefully by making sure I have the reserves available to handle a black swan event.

    My aim before was to handle any strange event, or outlier, with credit cards if my emergency fund (i.e., six months) was not enough. Finishing your article is making me think that maybe this methodology may pigeon-hole me into a bad position.

    Anyways, thanks for this!

  9. Carrie Cathey

    Excellent analogy of racing to the most doors. It’s not always about the number of houses, but rather it’s the “cash flow” number that we should all look at. On the Creating Wealth show, host Jason talks a lot about the value of cash flow and the “financial” numbers that matter. Of course if you’re taking all precautions, investing in the right market, etc., then you can own as many doors as you want, but know what you’re getting into before taking that financial leap.

  10. You are 100% correct.

    I have 24 doors, and am probably more profitable, in terms of ROI and real cash flow, than many investors with over 100 doors. Let the others have the doors. I’ll take the money.

  11. Sara Cunningham

    I only own 15 doors and have had the same problems as you this year, 3 HVAC units a new roof, 2 with plumbing issues, and a house that a tenant walked away from needing about $10,000 to get it in shape again. Not been a good year. Luckily I have been able to cope with this since I have reserves. However it required me using some of my own money to get this all done.

  12. Bryan Rodriguez

    Very true. “Quality of Quanitity.” I am selling one of my properties in hopes to purchase a property free and clear, resulting in a higher return than leveraging properties with financing and to have another property free and clear, lowering my risk as well.

  13. Sean Williams

    Great article and a different insight then I think most consider. With every property you must consider how it will affect your entire business and other properties in your portfolio not just what the $ amount per month looks like.

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