BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast

BiggerPockets Podcast 187: Building Wealth Through Older Small Multifamily Properties with Dana Bull

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In this episode of the BiggerPockets Podcast, we talk about a subject many investors debate about: investing in OLD properties. Today’s guest, Dana Bull, has filled her portfolio with properties over 100 years — and she dishes out the good, the bad, and the ugly details. You’ll also learn why Dana focuses on small multifamily properties and she offers some incredible insight into being an effective landlord — no matter your age or experience level.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Why Dana and her boyfriend rented in Salem, the infamous place of witch trials
  • How she bought a house from 1784
  • Things to note about buying old houses
  • The numbers on their second property
  • Why she wants to avoid inheriting tenants
  • Why Dana seeks one bedrooms with smaller footprints
  • The “stepping stone” property for young professionals
  • Why lead-based paint is an issue
  • Things she’s learned from being a landlord in her mid-twenties
  • A discussion on open houses vs. individual showings
  • How to deal with tenant issues
  • How to know when it’s time to sell
  • The importance of knowing the end goal and taking steps to get there
  • How she managed to juggle full-time jobs and investing
  • How many properties she has now and why she’s just hitting a “target”
  • What she means by the “building years
  • How she manages her properties
  • What it’s like being a woman investor
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “All of our properties have some sort of story in them.” (Tweet This!)
  • “If people want your time or if people want to live in your space, they need to respect you and your time.” (Tweet This!)
  • “There are so many approaches you can take, and I think the key is to just start.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Dana

Show Preview

Real strategies that work for real people seeking to build wealth through real estate investments. Co-hosted by Brandon Turner and David Greene, this podcast provides actionable advice from investo...
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    Stephanie Dobbs Real Estate Broker from Bowie, Maryland
    Replied about 4 years ago
    I loved listening to this podcast and great to see another woman grinding (as in working) in the real estate industry! Way to go Dana! Awesome podcast guys and I look forward to the webinar this approaching Wednesday!
    Vincent Crane Realtor from Atlanta, GA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    “Live like no one else today, so that you can live like no one else tomorrow” is the quote she was referring to.
    Dana Bull Real Estate Agent from Salem, MA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Stephanie, Vincent, thanks for listening. The quote was from an old poster hanging up at my office. It must have been plagiarized!! Either way, same principle applies…I think it’s a good one to live by. Glad I was able to entertain you up to the end : )
    Gavin Peacock Investor from Portland, Oregon
    Replied about 4 years ago
    That was a brilliant podcast. The chaps were on top form, and Dana was a really enjoyable, knowledgeable, and entertaining guest! Full of interesting stories and great quotes. I love the “tenants rolling off” one. I’ve never heard that before, but I’ll remember it! This is definitely one to listen to again. Thanks so much!
    Candy Geo Real Estate Investor from Bakersfield, California
    Replied about 4 years ago
    This is such a great podcast and super inspiring! We plan on buying and holding historic properties aside from hearing all the negative things we hear about older properties. Thanks so much Dana Bull for sharing your experiences with us! Happy Investing!
    Elizabeth Blazina
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Nice Podcast Dana, Josh and Brandon, Dana , I was curious what your end game could be.. After you have reached your goal of 21 units e.g Sell , Seller finance, continue to rent etc… Thanks again, Liz Blazina
    Dana Bull Real Estate Agent from Salem, MA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for tuning in. Our plan moving forward is to buy and hold everything until retirement. Like I mentioned in the podcast, our goal isn’t to be the richest real estate sharks, but rather to live comfortably, give back, and support those close to us. The reason we love small, multi-family properties is they are triple headed money monsters. We are investing in them to chip away at equity, secure positive monthly cash flow, and ultimately when retirement comes in many, many years we’ll likely do condo conversions to sell. That’s the plan for now, but everything is a moving target!
    Jacquelyn O. from San Antonio, TX
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Dana, I am absolutely inspired by your drive. You sound like a superwoman! My first question is, when you were working 80 plus hours, how did you stay motivated and sane? I am planning to work like a maniac with a full time job, have a side hustle, and purchase/maintain rental properties. But I am afraid I might drive myself crazy. Second question, do you have any tips on how to be efficient with your time and mental energy? I imagine you must be a wizard at efficiency to do all that you do. Thanks and Awesome show!
    Dana Bull Real Estate Agent from Salem, MA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Hi Jacquelyn! Thanks for the kind words and for your comment. You might go a little crazy, but that’s okay. Here are a few tips for staying as sane and productive as possible…some are easier than others! 1. If you work a desk job, try and get a stand up desk. You can save your back and work longer hours more comfortably. Having a proper workstation is absolutely essential. 2. Put on your sneakers – even at home! You can move faster. Whenever I need to get a lot done, whether it’s cleaning the house or cranking out a bunch of calls at my stand up desk, I put on sneaks. 3. Stay close to the money. It’s easy to get bogged down with administrative tasks, but make sure to reframe and focus on revenue producing activities. The first thing I do in the morning is make a list and tackle the items I dread the most first. Get the stuff out of the way that eats up your mindshare. 4. Keep your real estate life separate and organized. I have a special real estate email that I funnel everything RE related through. I also use Dropbox to create folders that I can access from any device. Put ALL RE contacts in your phone and have a system to tag them as real estate related – you never know when you will need them in the future. 5. Minimize inefficient communication. I’m kind of weird about this one. Instagram, snapchat and unnecessary texting take up so much time. These types of platforms just personally drive me nuts. Rather than killing four hours over the course of a week in a group chat…isn’t it more fun to meet up and actually go out to dinner or drinks? Some people have time for both, but texting and social media are not a priority for me. 6. Surround yourself with both supporters and distractors. There can be some really dark days — I’ve had my fair share trying to juggle it all. But the hard times are cyclical and they do pass. Gravitate towards people who share the drive and help you push forward (supporters) AND people who can lighten up the situation and take your mind off it (distractors). 7. Connect with people at work. Do you ever notice that good leaders always seem to make time? Don’t be that person that’s always “too busy”, even if you feel you are! People open doors and opportunity. 8. Share knowledge and give back to others looking for advice. We all have expertise, and it’s rewarding to pay it forward. Plus, what goes around come around. 9. Continuously eliminate anything toxic. Let the people, jobs, and things go that are holding you down and holding you back. Build back up with good people, jobs and things. If things get toxic again, simply rinse and repeat! Similarly, if, like me, you are the type of person that takes on too much then you may want to read up on the practice of emptying the cup – Google “emptying your cup” for information. 10. Sweat! As an extension of eliminating anything toxic, I think it’s so important to workout. It helps with stress and let’s you get out of your own head. I never thought I’d do yoga because I like high impact, but the hot classes have been really great for a workout and getting clarity. Worth a try! 11. Water, water, water. Drink lots of it, go for a swim, wash your face. Water is the best. 12. Ask for help (and a hug). There’s no shame in asking for or hiring help. Sometimes you just need a boost! For example, hiring a property manager or bringing in partners may be a solid, strategic move in your real estate life. In your personal life, hiring a cleaning service or dog walker may give you the extra hour you need to hit the gym and maintain balance! Hope this info helps and go get ’em!
    Jacquelyn O. from San Antonio, TX
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer! I know you are limited with your time and I sincerely appreciate this well thought out response. These tips are going up on my wall. I’m sure other readers of this thread will also find value in these tips. Thank you again!!!
    Julie Marquez Investor from Seattle, WA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Nice list, I love all your advice!
    Bridget McDonald from Clearwater, Florida
    Replied about 4 years ago
    This was good. She she has a good head for business and life quality. I love that she wants to be free of her cell phone. For now, she’s working’ it – hard.
    Julie Marquez Investor from Seattle, WA
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Hi Dana! I really enjoyed this podcast because you are not a full time investor, and don’t want to be. I like that you find a balance between your real job and real estate. I want to add real estate for the additional passive income, but I don’t want real estate to consume my life. I think what you and your husband do it fantastic, and I love your concrete goals. Thanks for sharing your story, though I can’t image buying that old of homes! Great work and all the best to you!
    Tek Chai from Podunk, Washington
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Thank you Dana for an interesting pre-Halloween podcast show. Love to explore MA someday especially Salem Witch Museum. There’s so much history in the East than in the West (besides the Lewis-n-Clark 19th century expedition). Older property got characters and a story to tell (preferably happy memories), however; with the many hazards of asbestos, radon, lead, moulds and ghouls of an older property, how would you deal with tenants if the house is known as a 18th Century-year old haunted house with partying ghouls during Hallow’s eve or has a violent past? Or you would simply would not invest in those houses or may be turn it into a museum and get income from me “tourist” like me . . . while renting those properties that are sunny and sweet.
    Christian Allen Investor from Providence, RI
    Replied about 4 years ago
    Great Podcast!! Really enjoy listening to the stories of “newer” investors like most of us on BiggerPockets.
    Dmitriy Fomichenko Solo 401k Expert from Anaheim Hills, CA
    Replied almost 4 years ago
    Excellent podcast. I liked the fact that you have a plan in place that involves enjoying your job and not just being a full-time real estate investor. It doesn’t have to be your savior all the time. Further, excellent tips on communicating with the tenants. It is important to keep the distance and communicating through your email or keeping phone calls reserved for emergencies is a good tip too. Thanks for sharing!