Meet the Investors: I Quit My Government Job to Do Real Estate (& Never Looked Back) With Tanya Salseth
In this edition of Meet the Investors, I'm going to tell you a BiggerPockets success story that is quintessential to the community. It's about somebody who was a full-time employee, started by doing long-distance rentals, eventually transitioned to small multifamilies, and now she does real estate full-time.
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My friend Tanya and I met through the BiggerPockets Forums (like so many people I meet). It is the best networking platform that has ever existed on the whole internet. You can learn so much, and you can meet these fantastic people.
She’s going to tell you her whole story, and we’ll go through her latest deal in lovely Maryland.
(It’s so humid there. I actually had to curl my hair. I know, I know. I hate it, too.)
Tanya was a full-time government employee. She was overseas a bunch, and she was buying rentals back here between Texas and Washington, D.C. And then finally she was able to accumulate enough rentals that she could quit her government job.
She’s a Realtor now! She’ll talk about some key lessons for new real estate investors and how to get started.
Let’s meet her.
Meet the Investor: Tanya Salseth
Hi, I’m Tanya Salseth. I'm a full-time real estate investor and agent in the Washington, D.C. metro area. I have been investing here for over 10 years. I started with small, single-family homes, worked up to small multifamily, and I was eventually able to quit my federal government job to do real estate full-time.
How I Got Started in Real Estate
In 2008, I found myself divorced, out of graduate school, with a dog, an old car, and a couple of thousand dollars in the bank. That’s all I had. But I had a new job, and I thought, “OK, I’m going to pick myself up from this place and start over again.”
I went and joined the U.S. Foreign Service and went overseas. I’ve been working overseas for the last 12 years, and that allowed me to essentially save large amounts of money to put into real estate.
Why Real Estate Beats Stocks
Real estate has changed my life. There’s nothing else I can say about it. I mean, I started as a single person with a bunch of graduate student debt. I got one rental and then another and then another.
Every time I had money, I would just shove it into real estate. A lot of my friends thought, “Well, you know, why aren’t you investing in stocks?”
Personally, I think the stock market is like gambling. You have zero control over whether it goes up or down or sideways or any which way, right? But in real estate, you control the asset. You select the asset. You know what the demographic is that’s going to rent that asset. You are sort of the master of your own destiny.
How BiggerPockets Helped Me Get Started Investing
I’m here to tell you that I am a BiggerPockets success story, and I can’t tell enough people about BiggerPockets.
When I started, I knew nothing. I was overseas. I was in West Africa. All I had was my computer.
I didn’t have real estate meetups. I didn’t have networks. I didn’t have anything. But I would get home from work, I would be on my little computer, and I would read all of these stories about people doing really amazing things with real estate—the strategies, the seller financing, the flips, all these things.
I thought, “Well, that guy is doing it. Why can’t I do that, too?
It didn't matter that I was overseas. I knew there must be some way of doing this. And so through BiggerPockets, over the last 10 years, I've done seller financing, I've done a BRRRR, I've done flips, I've done turnkey real estate investing. I've done pretty much everything that you can do—all of it, literally 100%.
How I Overcame Challenges
I learned through BiggerPockets. There would have been no other way that I would have known about these things. And in a way, even though I was far away overseas with no peer group, BiggerPockets was like my peer group.
I could see these people doing things. You could ask other members: “Hey, how do you do that?” And people would share their experiences. That gave me the confidence to go out and do it myself.
Sure, I made tons of mistakes. I can’t even tell you the number of mistakes that I have made. This is not a perfect process by any stretch of the imagination. But you’ve got to go do it. You have to throw yourself out there today.
My Latest Real Estate Deal
My latest property is a lovely three-unit building in Hyattsville, Maryland. This building had nothing done to it since 1945. In the video above, you can see what it looks like today. It’s still a work in progress.
I love small multis in D.C. because they work. They’re essentially the same price as a single-family home that would be really expensive.
This one was $650,000. But instead of getting maybe $2,900 a month in rent, you can get $4,500, $5,000, or $5,200 in the D.C. area.
Some people say, “Oh, that return’s not that great.”
But guess what? In D.C., we have the luxury of appreciation. Generally, all the buildings that I buy, in a year or two, they'll be worth $50,000-70,000 more than I bought it for. You can also force equity, which is part of what this building is about.
This building I bought through a wholesaler that I found on Facebook. After I found him, I didn’t even see the building. I had a friend go and check it out because I was out of town. They had to put the offer in.
I used hard money to buy the property and renovate the property, and I will be refinancing this place. So, it’s essentially kind of a mix of strategies—BRRRR and other things. There are lots of tools. You can learn about them all on BiggerPockets. That’s where I learned them!
Why I Transitioned From Single-Family to Multifamily
People have asked why I’m investing in such an expert market. And I’ll tell you why: I had a single-family house in San Antonio, Texas, that was making me maybe $150/month. At the end of the year, times 12, that is not very much profit, right?
So, I decided to sell all my out-of-state rentals and bring the money back to D.C. because the appreciation here is fantastic.
I mean, I can’t get excited about $100 a door if I can make $25,000-100,000 on a flip—or just through appreciation—in Washington, D.C. I just can’t get out of bed in the morning for a hundred dollars—it sounds terrible.
I started with single-family homes because I felt like it was comfortable. It was what I knew. It was easy. Like, oh, I can do the math.
But what I found after several years of owning those types of properties is the returns just weren’t that great. It was a very slow path to wealth. I mean, your HVAC dies and there go your profits for the year. I just couldn’t get excited about it for all the work that it takes to get a property up and running. I felt it wasn’t worth it.
So, I had to go bigger. But that’s where I started: single-family. That’s where I got my feet wet, and I got comfortable. But once you start, you move on to bigger and better things. You take on more risk, your skills grow, you can do more stuff.
That’s why I went to small multi. I’m actually working now on making offers on commercial deals. That’s a growth path!
People on BiggerPockets have done it. You can do it, too.
My Advice to Other Investors
Now I’m going to tell you a few things that I’ve learned along the way in the last 10 years of doing real estate.
Get started. Just take action. You’re not going to know everything before you act. You’re going to figure it out along the way.
That is super uncomfortable. Most people don’t want to do it. They want to know what’s going to happen before they start. But uncertainty is part of growing; uncertainty is part of this experience.
In order to do big things in real estate, you have to lean into places where you feel like you’re going to throw up. Honestly, every single time I bought something that’s been beyond what I did the last time, I felt almost sick to my stomach, like nauseous even.
I thought: Am I making a mistake? Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I going to lose a bunch of money? Are my tenants going to be horrible and break a bunch of stuff? There’s all kinds of things that will come up.
Some people make the mistake of going on BiggerPockets, reading a bunch of stuff, and then doing nothing. I challenge you to get on BiggerPockets, learn from other investors, and then go implement the strategy that you find speaks to you.
People mistake reading a book as action. I did something! I went to a personal growth conference! I read a book!
But then you don’t implement, and you can’t learn from the experience of doing. So, you need to go out and act upon those things.
Your network is your most important thing. When I was living in Italy, I was in Rome. I saw a triplex that I wanted in the states. And because I had reached out and networked with people on BiggerPockets, I was able to find an agent who helped me purchase this place completely sight unseen.
That is the kind of trust and relationship-building that happens on BiggerPockets and can help you go further in your real estate career.
The Bottom Line
My name is Tanya Salseth. Real estate and BiggerPockets have changed my life. It can change yours, too! Just get started today.
Is there something stopping you from taking action?
Join the discussion in the comment section below.