Personal Development

Beyond Cash Flow: How I Used Investing to Buy Real Estate in My “Happy Place”

Expertise: Business Management, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Commercial Real Estate, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary
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Silhouette of the man on top the peak of mountain on sunrise sky , Sport and active life conceptual design.

Many folks will tell you what their favorite type of real estate is, and it’s usually the type that makes them the most money or that’s the easiest to manage. By that definition, for many years, one of my best types of properties was garages. But that’s not what I’m really getting at today. I’m talking about the kind of real estate that makes you happy.

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“Happy” Real Estate

Some of us, myself included, talk about the negatives of owning real estate, like tenant problems, ongoing maintenance, or problems with inspectors, townships, and contractors. But many of us don’t talk enough about the good times or the good deals—the rewarding properties. For me, my most rewarding property is my recovery house. It’s been seven years now, and I know my son and I have saved hundreds of lives.

But, there are also other types of “happy” real estate, like our vacation homes.


Your Vacation Home

Most people I know either only dream about owning a vacation home someday or they scrimp and save their money over many years until they have enough money to own one. In other words, they reach into their own pocket for the down payment and monthly payments. They often never end up making any monthly cash flow. If anything, they just hope for some appreciation.

But when I first started investing, one of my primary goals was to have my rental properties—or the cash flow from them—pay for my vacation home instead of paying for it out of pocket.

Although my current getaway property could be rented out to make some money, I just don’t bother anymore. The cleaning and wear and tear is just a hassle. So, it’s technically a loser today on paper, but it’s a winner in my heart. Just the idea of having a weekend to relax on the schedule gets me excited.

Whether your place is at the beach, on the lake, or in the mountains, there’s no greater feeling than the mental freedom you get when checking out early on a Friday afternoon just to get away and recharge your batteries. Maybe it’s the family memories, but there’s no better feeling than crossing the bridge towards the beach or heading up the turnpike to the mountains.

There’s nothing like being near the ocean or close to nature in the mountains. The water from my 900-foot well is so clean, you can feel it on your skin. The air is so fresh and clean, you can see it. It’s funny how my wise, 84-year-old mother says to me, “Don’t you ever sell that special place”—yet my younger son can’t figure out why I still go there.

Related: Developing Your “Why”: How to Work for MORE Than Just Money

Two weekends ago, I encountered a mama bear and two cubs as I was putting the flags out for the Fourth of July. It was a quick wake-up call that I was visiting their environment. At the same time, I realized how lucky I was to experience all the wildlife, including deer, turkeys, chipmunks, and woodpeckers, not to mention all the great fishing. It showed me how truly fortunate I am.

It’s hard to put a price on the “happy” real estate because it’s so much more than cash flow.

This past weekend, I lost a very good friend in my “happy” town where my “happy” real estate is located. His name was Dutch, and he ran The Dutchman Tavern, a restaurant in Gouldsboro, Penn. Although this place is in the middle of nowhere USA, just Southeast of Scranton, it is the friendliest little place in the world. Dutch had the greatest job in the world, doing what he loved by making people happy and cooking good food. He always had a smile on his face for the hunters, skiers, and locals. He will surely be missed.

So, if you’re lucky enough to have found a piece of “happy” real estate, whether it’s the place itself or the people and wildlife that truly make you happy, how do you take that first step towards making the dream a reality?


How Do You Pay for It All?

I remember approximately 15 years ago when I had scraped together a few thousand dollars to purchase a building lot in a gated community. The good news was that I was able to get a loan from the bank, and eventually that lot I had paid $4,000 for increased in value to $10,000.

Related: 7 Things You Should Know BEFORE You Purchase a Vacation Home

So, I was able to put the $10k lot up as collateral, along with another $20k as a deposit towards a construction loan, to build a nice mountain retreat. The cool part was the $20K came from a home equity line of credit on one of my rental properties, and the monthly payments were paid for each month out of the positive cash flow from my rental portfolio near where I lived.

Over the years, I was able to utilize a HELOC on my mountain home to fund other cash flowing assets, like notes or lending private money to fellow rehabbers.

Eventually, I shifted my strategy for this property. This year, my special retreat will be paid off.

So this weekend, as I take my grandson and his friend up for a weekend of fishing, swimming, and good old bonfires (with marshmallows), I truly realize how blessed I am to have some “happy” real estate that I’m lucky enough to own from being a real estate investor.

My only wish for you is that you too find some place that makes you happy. Better yet, what does or what will your happy place look like?

Leave your comments below!

Since 2007, Dave Van Horn has served as president and CEO of PPR Note Co., a $150MM+ company managing funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nat...
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    Randy E. Rental Property Investor from Durham, NC
    Replied over 3 years ago
    WIN! Dave, a Happy Place has been on my my mind a lot over the past year. I’m looking here and there and haven’t quite decided where that place is, but I have a feeling I’m going to pull the trigger sometime next year. Ultimately, I think I’ll have two Happy Places. Nothing expensive. Just somewhere to get away with the family, or a couple of guys and just chill for a couple of days. Thanks for reminding how special a Happy Place can be.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 3 years ago
    That’s great Randy! Happy to see this article hit at the right time. Best of luck with your happy place. Thanks for reading. Sincerely, Dave
    Susan Maneck Investor from Jackson, Mississippi
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I close on mine next week. It is a condo which I’m purchasing on the California side of Lack Tahoe. The condo is $110K with an HOA of $190 a month. I figure I will rent it the first year. If the tenants move out in the spring (Tahoe’s slow season) I’ll then furnish and turn it into a vacation rental. Eventually it will be my retirement home.
    Randy E. Rental Property Investor from Durham, NC
    Replied over 3 years ago
    That sounds spectacular, Susan! Best of luck.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Sounds like you got it figured out Susan! Would love to get up to Tahoe myself. Best of luck on the closing. Sincerely, Dave
    Susan Maneck Investor from Jackson, Mississippi
    Replied over 3 years ago
    It is a plain vanilla condo but I figured if I didn’t move now I’d never be able to afford anything in Tahoe. No way am I paying $300 a square foot for any piece of real estate!.
    Crystal J. Investor from Bowie, Maryland
    Replied over 3 years ago
    This is a great article. I will now put a HAPPY real estate place on my goal board. Now I need to come up with an attainment goal date for my HAPPY real estate place.
    Jim Rice Rental Property Investor from Colorado Springs, CO
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Great story Dave, life is short…get to that “happy place” as much as possible.
    Jill Curran from Little Rock, Arkansas
    Replied 6 months ago
    Great article. Wish every piece of real estate in my happy place didn't cost upwards of $500/ft2. Onward!
    Josh McCallen Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied 5 months ago
    Dave, this was a perfect Saturday morning read. Please confirm... Is that picture of the house in the mountains the actual property you own? The picture gives me peace just looking at it. I can see why you call it your happy place.
    Michael Puzzo Investor from Park Ridge, New Jersey
    Replied 5 months ago
    ..."there’s no better feeling than crossing the bridge towards the beach..." For some reason the tense feeling in your shoulders is released when you cross over the bridge to get to LBI. This is definitely not the best cash flowing property but it is a way to get to our happy place. Enjoy your happy place, Dave. Feel free to stop by if you take the short ride from you to LBI.