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From Toxic-Marriage to Financially Independent Mom with 13 Units

The BiggerPockets Podcast
56 min read
From Toxic-Marriage to Financially Independent Mom with 13 Units

Finding financial freedom is hard enough, but doing so right after going through a toxic divorce can seem almost impossible. All of a sudden, you’ve gone from a two-income household to just one, your children are now your sole responsibility, and you’ve got to almost financially start over. Finding financial independence after events like this would be awe-inspiring—so imagine you did it all in just two years. Sarah King did just that, with thirteen units under her belt since buying her house hack property in 2020.

Sarah worked hard to put herself in a strong financial position. She was a debt-free disciple who paid off six figures in debt. Then, she focused on her savings, minimizing her expenses and increasing her income as much as she possibly could. But then, when everything started to feel stable, she uncovered something that would unravel her marriage. She went from financially stable to undoubtedly anxious in a matter of days. But it’s what she did next that was incredible.

Knowing she had to do whatever she could to take care of her daughter, Sarah went on rental property shopping spree. She built the portfolio she knew her family needed, and now just two years later, she’s enjoying the fruits of her non-stop labor. But how did she get the money for the deals? What strategy allowed her to cash flow so much in such a short amount of time? If you want to do what Sarah did, you’ll have to tune into this episode.

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Read the Transcript Here

David:
This is the BiggerPockets Podcast show 698.

Sarah:
There’s nothing very satisfying to me about just watching my money grow in a bank account. I had been actively trying to pay off the debt and there was nothing active really about the financial independence journey. And I feel like so many people were couponing and I’m like, I hate coupons. I hate it. I don’t want to go to the grocery store with envelopes and coupons for the rest of my life. I’m not going to bike to work, I’ll be sweaty. I don’t want to be there and dripping sweat when I get to work because I biked here and live that minimalistic lifestyle that I think was really prominent. So then real estate was really my answer on how do you do financial independence faster.

David:
What’s up everyone? This is David Greene, your host of the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast, the biggest, the best, and the baddest real estate podcast in the world, joined today by my fearless sidekick and oftentimes leader, Rob Abasolo. Rob, we had an amazing conversation with Sarah King. She just leaves you feeling really good. What were some of your favorite parts of today’s show?

Rob:
Well, Sarah King’s story is just the ultimate version of inspiration. I mean, genuinely a lot of people, they’ll put reasons out there to never get started. Sarah actually got started again and she’s crushing it now. We’ll talk about it in the story, but there has been some adversities that cause her to have to restart her real estate journey. And when most people would’ve given up and thrown in the towel, she went all in and she decided, “Hey, I’m going to own this and I’m going to be reborn in the world of real estate.” And honestly it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Man, if she can do it, it should be an inspiration to everybody that anything is possible with enough tenacity.” She is like tenacity… I don’t know. If you were to look in the dictionary, she’s [inaudible 00:01:49] right there.

David:
Personify.

Rob:
Personify. There we go person. Thank you. I needed that.

David:
I was expunging what you were spitting. Yeah, I thought her story was impressive and inspirational without being intimidating. That’s what was so impressive about it.

Rob:
Totally.

David:
Listen to this, you’re like, “Man, I just want to get out there and do it,” but you don’t feel like I could never do that because Sarah’s so relatable. So you guys are definitely going to enjoy this episode. We cover a lot of cool stuff. We get into overcoming adversity. She talks about how she had a spouse who got into chemical dependency and how that left her on her own to try to figure things out with the kid and how real estate really helped her to bridge that gap and provide stability in her life. We talk about getting into one asset class and then jumping into another one to improve your lifestyle, setting goals to figure out where you want to go, and then pivoting once that’s happened, and finding a niche that nobody else is into, which I think a lot of us are looking for right now. So this episode is very relevant to making money in today’s market. I’m very excited about it. Before we get to Sarah though, Rob, what is our quick tip for today?

Rob:
That’s right. Our quickest tip is-

David:
Quick. Quick.

Rob:
That’s right. Quick, quick, quick tip. I don’t know which sound effect we’re going to go with there. But, okay. So quick tip for today everybody is learn, understand, and master funnels. I think this is something that people sleep on quite a bit, right? A funnel is effectively the user journey that someone takes to get to your final product or service. And for a lot of the people at home today, that final product or service is either property management or the actual real estate that you’re trying to lease out to people. If you can understand how people are going through the user journey to get to your property and you can open up different ways to market to them so that they go through this journey, this funnel down to the service that you’re offering, it could really lead to a very, very small amount of vacancies across your portfolio. So we’ll get into this a little bit more at the end of the episode. But do yourself a favor, go Google funnel marketing, check out stuff on YouTube. This to me is the marketing strategy that makes real estate millionaires.

David:
Wonderful. That’s really, really good. And if you could learn to see the world that way, you will end up having more success in all of your business ventures. Brandon Turner talks about this now, Rob Abasolo is talking about it. It’s very true. And we actually get into the episode later in the show so make sure you listen all the way to the end where we talk about how improving your funnel. And improving the way you approach things from a funnel perspective will absolutely make operations easier once you land that perfect property to build your wealth. All right, let’s bring in Sarah.

David:
All right, so Sarah, tell me how did you get started in real estate? What happened? And then how did you have your rebirth?

Sarah:
Yeah, so really this is kind of my round two in real estate is what we’re kind of thinking about, is really what I’ve done in the last year and a half to two years. So in 2020 I started out house hacking. So I moved into a house hack and that was my first foray into private money, bought a house of private money and then I refinanced back out after a year and put it on the lovely 2.6% interest rate we had in about 2021. And so started house hacking. It was actually a single family home with a walkout basement and I remodeled it over the course of about six months into a basement unit. That was honestly the first major remodel I’ve ever done by myself. I had to YouTube how to drywall and do all these things and I hired out most of it, but there was just… You learn quickly the cheapest contractor is not great and all of that. And so I burned through a lot of contractors just trying to use friends and family in cheap labor before probably costing myself twice as much.

Sarah:
I think my original contractor bid that I thought was overpriced was $12,000 and I ended up being $26,000 by the time I was done, so that was unfortunate. But that really could have got me started. And so my dream, which we’ll kind of talk about over the years has always been to house hack and to kind of get into the situation where you aren’t spending a thousand dollars or more on your housing costs. And so that was kind of step three in my whole process of trying to reach financial independence and to start building out my real estate portfolio.

Sarah:
So once I was living for free, then I started buy additional real estate. And by then I had used private money once. It was a really good way of doing things. And so I ended up using private money I think four more times after that. So I’ve used friends, I’ve used family. And then recently I’ve been doing a round of raising private money on Instagram, which is interesting, which we can chat about. And then, well obviously legally too, so just kind of building out an email list of people that are interested in potentially being lenders. And then there’s an email list I send out deals that I’m generating.

Sarah:
And so in 2021 after I refied, I bought another duplex, and so I was at four units. And then this year I’ve bought nine units across four properties. So I have one single family home. I bought two duplexes and a fourplex. And then hopefully by the end of this week or maybe next week I’m going to be under contract another fourplex, which is awesome. So using a combination of commercial loans, conventional mortgages, and then private money kind of all together. But private money has kind of really been the driving, I guess, charge here to kind of build that quickly. If I was using my own money, it definitely would’ve been slower. So figuring out how to do that and getting over your fear of pitching it was definitely I think the secret of getting to 13 units in essentially under two years.

David:
What caused you to choose that asset class and that location?

Sarah:
Location, I live here so that was really helpful. So I’m in Indiana, I’m in the Midwest. My primary market is Fort Wayne, Indiana. And so it was nice because my family’s here. I went to college in a few different places. I lived in Michigan for a while, I lived in South Carolina for a while. And so really being back in this area, I was finding deals pretty easily in a lot of markets I feel like you don’t have that. So I was fortunate I didn’t have to be an out-of-state investor, I could invest in my own market. So just the community I knew was really to get started.

Sarah:
And then I liked the idea of providing essentially a housing that people needed, something that people could finance with a conventional mortgage. So I was the multiple ways in and out of a deal. And so I kind of liked the one to four unit niche to get started. I think I have some self-loading beliefs probably about large commercial that I need to work through at some other point. But right now, loving the small multi-family. It’s been good to me so far.

David:
Rob, what do you think about that? Because I know you got into your niche market of short term rentals. Maybe even not just short term rentals, but you’re kind of drawn to the kitchy unique type of thing. Sarah clearly has a similar system where she’s found a market that other people are not in. Do you think there’s a part of us that investors that like knowing that, “I found a thing that other people aren’t doing” and we get a sense of comfort from that?

Rob:
Oh my god, yeah, for sure because it’s like one of those things where, A, I love a good challenge. I love a good challenge of finding something that’s a little bit more undiscovered. And to a lot of people that’s a very risky thing. I honestly feel like with enough strategy and hard work, you could probably figure that out. And then once you overcome it and you become really good at it, then it’s something that I really love really diving into because, because I know that there can be a learning curve with some of that, then it’s actually a little bit more comforting to go a little bit more all in and really dive deep into a strategy like that.

Rob:
So for me, when I was doing unique Airbnbs for example, I know that there’s a lot of questions that are involved with figuring out the logistics of setting it up. And because of that, I know that I probably am not going to have a lot of competition around me. But then again, I always spoil that too because I’ll just talk about it on YouTube and really give the details on how to do it. So I’m really only able to buy myself a little bit of time, but I don’t know, I think that’s the itch that we scratch in real estate is just challenging ourselves and then really going all in. So that’s really cool, Sarah.

Sarah:
Yeah. I definitely think the real market, people tend to be really afraid of it. When I tell people that Rentometer doesn’t work in my market, they don’t know what to think. And then I build out my own Excel spreadsheets of rent comps because there aren’t any when you’re investing in these tiny towns. But it was pretty easy to see there was a need, an unmet need. You’d see people on Facebook all the time looking for housing and that’s still a big area I pull renters off of. And so it was more using grandma’s strategy of pretty boring investments, especially from your guys’ standards, doing the one to four units single family homes, like there’s 0% sexy about it but it’s a really good tried and true method. But I think the tiny markets were definitely a risk with something that’s been pretty easy to differentiate yourself when you provide a quality unit in an area where a lot of landlords are kind of depressed and aren’t really maintaining their units very well. It’s nice to be a quality housing provider in these areas without overdoing it too.

Rob:
Right. Yeah. Okay, so first of all, clarify this for me because I’ve said this name before on YouTube and people kind of laughed on me. Is the way you say it Rentometer? Because I always say Rentometer.

Sarah:
I’m probably mispronouncing it. I have no idea.

David:
This is a topic of contention in the world of investing, this comes up a lot. This is one of those like, “Should I buy an LLC or should I buy in my own name?” Here’s the only way that I’ve ever addressed it. We don’t call it a speedometer in your car.

Sarah:
Right. Speedometer, yeah. It’s weird how they write it in the name though. I think it’s hyphenated. Now I need to go back [inaudible 00:11:24] on their website.

David:
Yeah, they make you think it should be Rentometer, which is exactly right. And also maybe it depends on how fancy you think you are. I don’t know if you guys have watched that ancient apocalypse show on Netflix that’s trending really high. They were on the Joe Rogan Podcast. But the guy is British and so he doesn’t say Indonesia, he says Indonesia or amnesia. Like everything, it’s chance, not chance, right? And it just sounds fancy. You’re like, “I’m going to listen to you and believe what you’re saying because you’re British.” And clearly, speedometer sounds much fancy. It’s like saying finance instead of finance.

Sarah:
It does sound better.

David:
All right. So tell me, Sarah, you got into investing and my understanding is you sort had a little bit of a break and then you started again. What happened and what made you want to have this new approach to investing?

Sarah:
Right. Okay. So I got started… Well, it’s kind of interesting because I’m a very big Dave Ramsey dropout so I got started in a whole different world than what BiggerPockets plays in. So I started out as a Dave Ramsey person at about 2016 and learned really just educating on money and getting finances and everything straight. So I’m kind of a finance nerd through and through. And so kind of started with that. Obviously Dave Ramsey buying a bunch of real estate and having a million dollars in real estate debt, which I’m super proud of, isn’t a big hit in the various circles. You’re either cool in one and not in the other.

Sarah:
And so it was kind of a slow process of kind of undrinking the Kool-Aid, kind of backing yourself out of this really big scarcity mindset after paying off a lot of debt. And so I took about two years in the Dave Ramsey camp and got to a 50% savings rate, paid off $118,000 in debt kind of after college, newly married, working through all of our debt pieces and got everything paid off. And then about a year in, I was like, “Well, what are we going to do with this 50% savings rate? I’m not going to go back to just spending it.”

Sarah:
And so then I got reading into the financial independence guys. So a big name around here is Coach Carson. So he’s an amazing guy, love his idea and his philosophies on things. He kind of also walked the line. So when I was fresh off the Dave Ramsey boat, the idea of massive leverage was a little scary at first. And so it was relatable to hear him at least talk about using debt strategically. And I think that kind of made me dip my toe in the water of trying to build wealth in a different way.

Sarah:
So essentially, I got into financial independence, did the standard path you’ve all heard of. It’s like the Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And then it really was Scott Trench’s book actually, so a BiggerPockets book where he wrote Set for Life and it really talked about lifestyle design and he hits really hard on your car and your housing and your income. And so those are really my big three that I took away from that book. And that period of time was just, “How can I get my income up?” And about the same time in my career, I kind of reached the epiphany that in the world of the W2 job, they don’t really care about you. The hardest worker is often not the one that’s getting the promotion. And so I was just kind of burning myself out at the sake of other people. And so I just really took a step back and I’m like, “Okay, what is the life I want to be living?”

Sarah:
And so I really started going after those, I guess, big three of trying to get housing costs and income up and transportation. So the house hack is the third piece of the pie. So that came in a couple years later. But first I made the hop out of hospital jobs. So out of the W2, I switched into a W2 in corporate America to get the income up. I actually raised… So over the last six years I’ve tripled my salary, which has been a lot of job changes, which is really crazy. I was always told you like, “You’ll never make a lot of money in your career field. You’ll make good money, but you’re never going to make what a doctor makes.” And I’m in mid-level. I’m a genetic counselor, that’s my degree. And so I was always told like, “That’s not really riveting. You’re never going to be this great career woman.” I think my first job starting out was like $56,000 or $57,000 and you just didn’t think there was a lot of high income earning out of that career field.

Sarah:
But I really started diving down, I’m like, “Okay, what can I do with my degree that actually pays me?” And then I discovered this beautiful box called the MSL role that kind of helped me boost this financial independence journey where you actually got a company car. And so that checked my other Scott Trench, I guess piece. I’m a really good box checker, I figured that out over my life. And so essentially checking that next box on the list of like, “Okay, so I got my income up and then I figured out how to get a company car.” So I no longer pay for a vehicle, I don’t have a car payment, I don’t pay for gas, I don’t pay for car insurance. And so it was a career that I’d never even heard of before, but I just started searching like, “How can I do this differently and what jobs can I take?”

Sarah:
But then I honestly, after you learn about financial independence and you educate yourself on investing, read The Simple Path to Wealth, got really pro index funds, got really nerdy into that whole rabbit hole that is the financial independence community. But it all seemed very intangible at the time. It was like, “Oh, you’re going to super save into this giant fund of money and you’re going to build this beautiful IRA and these 401(k)s and it’s going to have $3 million in it and then you can retire.”

Sarah:
But there’s nothing very satisfying to me about just watching my money grow in a bank account. I had been actively trying to pay off debt and there was nothing active really about the financial independence journey. And I feel like so many people were couponing and I’m like, I hate coupons. I hate it. I don’t want to go to the grocery store with envelopes and coupons for the rest of my life. I’m not going to bike to work, I’ll be sweaty. I don’t want to be there and dripping sweat when I get to work because I biked here and live that minimalistic lifestyle that I think was really prominent. So then real estate was really my answer on how do you do financial independence faster and how do you accelerate that path? And so that was really kind of the pivotal moment that led me into real estate.

Sarah:
At the time, it was about 2018, I was married and had taken this new job. We decided to have a baby because again, all the box checking, you did everything in order, you graduated college, you graduated grad school, you have this degree, you get the nice job and then you have kids, right? And then later, so when my daughter was born, it was a planned pregnancy to me and my husband. And then when she was about three months old, he actually started acting really weird and our life started getting really, I guess, confusing and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And it ended up he developed a drug addiction.

Sarah:
That was kind of the beginning of the end of our marriage, was really he started on this drug path and I had a three month old daughter and he was never around and we had just started buying real estate together. So I don’t know exactly when it started because honestly we were so busy with the newborn and we were buying investment properties. We had five properties by the time I actually ended up stepping away from the marriage and filing for divorce. But during that time I actually had to learn because he was always the handyman. He was amazing with projects, he did really good work. He was an amazing tile work. And I had to start taking on all those projects because he was just unavailable to do that. And I always thought I needed to be handy. I think that was really the turning point for me deciding I am a real estate investor and this is going to be my passion.

Rob:
Right. So I’m sure that was really tough to find out when you did. I think a lot of people would probably just try to figure out how to cash out and start over. What was your thought process here in the real estate side of things where you’re like, “Oh my God, it’s all over”? Or were you still wanting to really pursue this path into real estate? Tell us a little bit more about that turning point in your life.

Sarah:
I definitely thought everything was over. I remember the first time I found out exactly what was happening with him and actually found the drug addiction piece, I was so embarrassed I didn’t tell anyone for three months because I was humiliated, like how can my husband be doing this and making these choices? And so honestly, a lot of it was just fear. I was really frozen for probably three to six months where you just didn’t know what to do and I’m like, all I can do is take care of this baby, otherwise I’m not really… And just keep the rentals going.

Sarah:
Now, granted we had only three of the units had tenants in them at the time, so I was really only managing three long-term rentals. It’s super easy, super passive, but I remember taking the newborn to meet HVAC contractors and things. But yeah, you definitely are frozen in place. And my idea was really not… It was really just to keep a hold of everything when your entire world was crumbling apart and you didn’t know what to do. And so definitely building out a real estate empire was not on the forefront for at least a year and a half. I would say I’d make a strong case for almost taking two years for me to actually figure out that real estate is what I wanted to be doing because it was such a mess and it was so horrible and soul crushing to kind of walk through that.

Rob:
Was there ever a moment in that time when you wanted to throw in the towel on the real estate side of things? Was there a moment where you’re like, “I think I’m ready to just hang up the hat and I don’t want to do this anymore”?

Sarah:
There’s definitely been moments. I would say crazy enough it’s been while I’m in the scaling up phase, less so than in the divorce phase because at that time COVID was just starting to happen and he was laid off for a period of time. I still had my job and I was like, “Oh my gosh, if he never gets better and he continues on this path, I’m down to one income, what if I get laid off?” And so my number one fear kind of went to, “Okay, my family’s falling apart. I need to keep my daughter healthy and going, but also someone has to pay the bills and someone has to have it together. And clearly, that’s going to have to be me.” And so it was just really scary. I feel like as though for me, I’ve learned over the years, money’s a very big sense of security and I hear that pretty commonly with women actually. I’m sure men also feel that way to some degree, but sometimes there’s just the security of having these stay jobs sometimes that we kind of clinging to.

Sarah:
And so losing and being a one income family in a volatile time, I just dodged a layoff too right around that time. And so it was a little terrifying. So it became a, “I have to do real estate because I need a second income stream and that’s going to be how I do it.”

Rob:
How did your life goals change at this time? Obviously, there’s a lot going on and it seems like you were moving towards your ideal picture perfect life, but then it all changed up. Were there any big changes and a different end goal during this whole process?

Sarah:
Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. So it probably took a couple years where I just stopped doing goals because your whole life is torn apart. You don’t know how much money you’re going to end up with. I didn’t know if we were going to sell the houses, if we were going to keep the houses, if the partnership was breaking up, if he was going to go to rehab, what was going to happen. And so you really just stop making goals.

Sarah:
I actually went to this goal setting retreat last year in December, a year ago. I was sitting there and everyone’s writing down their goals and there’s these experts on stage with these giant notebooks. I think a lot of people watch these amazing goal setting people that have their daily notebooks and all these big tasks and everyone’s doing like year of the goal setting. And I just sat there and couldn’t think of a single thing to write down because you’ve been such in a survival mode for so long just trying to keep afloat and keep the pieces together that you… And I’m always an achiever personality. I’m always like a goal checking. I love achieving things. I like having always been to move forward too. I have a very specific lifestyle I’ve always wanted to get to. And I feel like the end goal was always there but the pieces stopped being there just because you’re in survival.

Sarah:
And so I would say for just this year now I finally have some written goals again. But it was almost scary to start writing them down after you’ve seen how quickly your life can change. Writing out a five year plan seemed insane to me when my five year plan was destroyed in a day. So it’s a learning curve to almost get back to goal setting.

Rob:
100%. David, you’re kind of the king of goal setting. I’ve been very inspired with how much of a process you have. What is your process, man? Because we did a podcast a couple of weeks ago and you really laid down, you had goals and you had micro goals. Honestly, it’s very inspirational. And for someone that’s has as much success as you David, is there a system that you actually implement to write down your goals when you’re doing it?

David:
Yeah, the system is the simplest part. I take all the categories of my life I care about, I write it on a Google document in the center of the page like I center do it. And then I write down what the goals are for each of those businesses which are typically very general, like, “I want to buy this many houses. I want to increase cash flow by this much. I want to sell this many homes, do this many loans, go to the gym this many times,” whatever that would be, okay? And then I start with that information and I work backwards. Like, “If I want to sell this many houses, what are the steps I have to take to do that?”

David:
And that’s where the micro goals come out that you talk about, Rob. And then once I’ve got that mapped out, I say, “Would I like this life?” And oftentimes the answer is, “No. This life looks miserable. If I’m trying to do all these different things, I would hate it.” And so I move goals off or I ask the question, “What would I have to do to accomplish these goals but me not have to be the one to do it?” Or, “How can I accomplish two of these goals at the same time?” So selling houses and doing loans are two different goals, but one action can do the same thing. If we do the mortgage and we sell the house, they’re each becoming a goal, right?

David:
This framework is why I’ve sort of built the businesses out the way that I have because I want to create synergy with all of the different goals that I have so that one person can accomplish all of them. But it’s also something, and I think Sarah, you can probably attest to this, sometimes you make your goals, you start down the path and you realize, “I don’t like how this worked out.” That happened with me when I got to 50 single family rentals. “Okay this is miserable. I don’t know why I ever did this in the first place. I wanted to get to 100.” And I realized. “I just wanted to get to 100 because that was a number with three digits.” So there’s no reason to ever do that.

David:
So I sold them and I bought a bunch of short term rentals and now I’m saying, “Why the hell did I buy 18 short term rentals at the same time? This was a terrible idea.” I knew it was work, I just didn’t realize how hard the work would be and how many people it would burn out and quit my team because they couldn’t do it, right? So I don’t want to make it sound like I got everything down. I’m having to learn this stuff. But what it comes down to is when you set the wrong goal, it doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Real estate investing is not now serving the goal you had, which in your case Sarah, could have been some security. “My husband’s on drugs, I can’t rely on this person to help provide for our family. Real estate’s going to provide security, or maybe freedom, or maybe fun,” right?

David:
Like, right now my portfolio is anything but that. It’s stress and it’s frustration. And it makes my life harder because now I have to go hire new people because the people I had had to quit because they couldn’t keep up with the demands of what happens when you buy 18 of them in a row. So now I’m kind of redoing those goals.

David:
I guess I’m just saying this because it’s okay to say, “I don’t like my goal. I accomplish it or I’m on the way to accomplish it” and then to pivot and go into another realm. And you sort of mentioned that. You started off scaling and buying these properties and then you realized, “Okay, well I can’t make enough money this forever” so you started raising capital. Then you want to move into a safer asset class, you’re going to feel better at because you’re raising capital so you owe people money, the stakes are raised. Now you want a little bit more security and you’re probably okay to take a little bit off the upside if the downside is more secure. And do you plan the next step? What things are going to go?

David:
So as far as where you’re at with your life plan, how do you like how things have worked out and what do you think the next step for you is going to be?

Sarah:
Yeah. So I feel like that was the other piece. I’ve scaled up pretty quick this year. Not a ton of units obviously, but doing midterms is definitely a job. And I still have a job still to this day. And so I’ve kind of done a good job where my biggest fear in life used to be being laid off. So I’ve kind of gone from my number one fear being a laid off to, “Actually, I would love to be laid off but please also give me a severance package. That would be great.”

Sarah:
So essentially, your biggest fear kind of becomes your dream now where essentially I would be fine if I didn’t have a job, which is what I planned on doing, but it’s a lot more active than I was anticipating. And so I was able to hit that number and get to that income level by doing the midterm. So I need less units to do it. But exactly like David’s saying, it’s a lot of work when you start having turnovers and I had my first tenant destroy a property and police called and all of that fun stuff. And so it’s you kind of go through the punches and things. And so when you are used to managing three or four, that’s a whole different ballgame than having 13.

Sarah:
And so just kind of deciding, “Where do I move from here strategically so I’m not making my job harder?” And at what point do you hire more people to help you reach your business goals and what’s the enough point on it. Or do I pivot back to long-term or maybe long-term type of rentals but maybe a larger property, kind of deciding where to go to actually get the lifestyle I want because I’ve definitely built myself essentially a second job now.

Rob:
Yeah, 100%. Okay, I would love to hear from you Sarah, because I love your approach here. I would say my biggest weakness that I’m recognizing this, I’m self-aware of it and I’m happy to have finally just figured it out, it’s hiring people. I, in theory, have the lifestyle that I want, right? I work hard, I put content out, I teach people how to do this every day. The lifestyle is exactly what I dreamed of. And it was so hard for it to be as fulfilling as… I thought it was going to be more fulfilling and then I really started sitting down and thinking, “Why is this not working?” And I realized I do too much. I’m really bad at hiring people.

Rob:
And so what is that in your real estate journey? Because I’m so understaffed. I’ve written out the plan and I’m starting to go down that rabbit hole and it’s very refreshing. But what’s that like for you? When do you know when to hire people and why is that complimentary to your lifestyle?

Sarah:
Yeah, I hire out most things now. So in order to be a single mom, and I have full custody obviously given the circumstances, and so it’s hard because you can’t just go spend the night at a property and paint all night when you have to get something done. You can’t do that anymore. She has a sleep schedule and school and all the things. And so I don’t work on any of my own properties anymore. Rarely I’ll still go in and furnish them. The last two I furnish. So I guess on the real estate piece, you need to find a team of contractors, you need to find HVAC people. So I just have lists upon lists of people.

Sarah:
From my personal life, I guess I’ll go with what I’ve done and then what I still need to do because I think we’re in the same vein. So I guess from the business standpoint, from the real estate, I’m hiring pretty much everyone but I still self manage from a property management standpoint. So I still do all the communication and placing tenants, but I have most of that automated through social media pieces using Facebook and having funnels and all of that stuff to find tenants and screen them. And then I funnel them to a property management software and they have a self screen and all of that good stuff. And I do two showings of property now. The people that do 100 of showings, I don’t know how the heck they’re alive. I’ll show it once maybe twice. So property management side.

Sarah:
And then from a personal side, in order to have time with my daughter and actually see her while I’m working full time and building out a real estate empire slowly, or I guess fast, depending on how you look at it, I also hired out cooking. I have a cleaner. I don’t do my own lawn. There’s very few things I do. So when I have my evenings with my daughter, I am just with her. And sometimes we’re doing real estate stuff together. I have a picture I think in every property I’ve bought so far of us having Chick-fil-A on the floor of a rental property and then everyone comes through social media and yells at me for eating on the dirty floors. But so far she’s still alive so I feel like I’m doing pretty well.

Rob:
That’s amazing. I think really what you just hit on is what I think has been my internal struggle here, which is we all are getting into real estate or financial freedom or whatever these side hustles are, or front hustles if you will, we’re doing it because we want to make more money, right? And so the idea of hiring people means that we have to make less money. And so we don’t want to do that cause we’re trying to make more money.

Rob:
And then actually once the money is good, if you’re working super hard all the time and you’re never taking a break, the money is not fulfilling. It’s not adding to the happiness factor. So what I love is that you just said you hire a lot, right? The cooking, the lawning, it’s all that kind of stuff. Because I think the big… I turned the corner sort of this week really on this and it’s like happiness is actually making less money. And what I mean by that, it’s hiring people to make my life easier. And yes, that will mean that I make less money but it also means that I can actually breathe again. And that’s really cool to hear that you’re sort of there too.

Sarah:
Yeah, I think my next step as a personal assistant. That just was going to be-

Rob:
Oh do it. Do it. I love it.

Sarah:
So I actually hired one, but we have to break up. It’s just not a good fit.

David:
Get used to that. It’s okay. You’re going to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your [inaudible 00:33:04].

Sarah:
I’ve gotten rid of contractors before. I don’t know why the assistant I just feel bad, but I’m like, it’s just not a good fit. I just know it.

David:
It doesn’t get better. It’s like that bad relationship.

Sarah:
A terrible divorce will give you a good gut instinct, I will say that. And I should have known before I hired her. I should have known better. There was a feeling and I couldn’t put my finger on it or verbalize what it was, but I just should have known. So trust your instincts also.

David:
Oh, that feeling is huge. In fact, I wish I could write a book called The Feeling, because it’s undefeated. It’s like father time. When you hire the wrong person, it’s hard to put to words what it is. It is a feeling like, “It shouldn’t be this hard. Am I crazy?” You start asking those questions like, “Is this on me?” Like, “I would’ve thought that when you canceled my appointment, you would’ve also realized, well if I’m not going on this trip, you should get me a refund for my airline tickets or you should cancel the babysitter that I had coming because now I’m not leaving town. Or you should at least ask me.” And they’re like, “Oh, well you didn’t tell me to do that,” right? That feeling in so many times in life is crucial. And it happens in real estate too. You’ll see a property and be like, “Ugh, it works on paper, but I just don’t know.” Rob, what were you thinking?

Rob:
Well, I was thinking that you’re probably going to have to have that conversation with your assistant before this podcast comes out.

Sarah:
Yeah, we’re destined to have it next week actually. So [inaudible 00:34:15] break up, it’ll be the holidays.

David:
This is accountability.

Rob:
I know. Please don’t listen to this. It’s going to happen. I’m going to get a mean text later. I’m sorry. It’s just not an ideal fit.

David:
It’s good for everyone to hear that because what I found when people try to scale, I have this theory that I call the three dimensions of success, okay? Let me walk you guys through this. So the first stage is just one dimension like a plane. Imagine Mario in Mario Brothers just running to the side, okay? You start on the left and you suck. The more you learn about what you’re trying to do, the better you do. And if you get all the way theoretically to 100, that’s where you’ve maxed out your own productivity. In that realm, you cannot make more money. You can’t sell more houses, you can’t own more rentals, whatever the thing is you’re doing. You’ve learned all of it for the most part. And when I say learn, I just mean learn the skills. There’s always knowledge that can be learned, but you max out.

David:
The only way to do from that point to do more is to leverage. But the problem is leverage is a completely different access. It’s a second dimension. This is Mario jumping, and you start off not jumping very high. You’re like 100 on this plane but you’re only in two and you suck. And no one explains to you. You’re stepping into another dimension with a whole new level of skills that you have to get good at just like you had to get good at owning rental property or analyzing property or all the crap that we have to do if you want to be a good investor.

David:
And because you expected that, “I’ll just hire someone. That’s what I hear David Greene say on the podcast like, ‘Oh I suck at hiring. I guess I’m not meant to be this’.” Everyone goes through this. I watch it happen in every single endeavor I’m at. For some dumb reason, we human beings think that the first time we get on a bike we should just ride it. The first time we get on a snowboard, we should just cruise down the hill. And nothing works that way in life ever, but when we fail at something, we’re like, “Oh, I guess I’m not a prodigy. I should have just stepped in about a black belt my first time doing whatever this thing was.” And it’s not, right?

David:
So if you can give yourself that grace of knowing “I’m going to hire and fail and hire and fail just as long as it took me to get good at investing in real estate,” it’s manageable. And then here’s the reward, Sarah. As you get all the way to the top of leverage, you’re like, “This is awesome. Let’s scale this and take it into another bunch of places.” And you start all the way over in the third dimension of leadership, which is going away from you. And now you suck at that and you get to… It never stops sucking guys, that’s what I’m telling you. So fall in love with the suck.

Sarah:
I was talking to one of my friends that was like, “Being an entrepreneur leaps. There’s like the leap phases.” And it makes so much sense because there’s sometimes where you’re like, “I don’t know how I managed. My long term suddenly became easy and they didn’t used to be easy and now I have more long terms than I ever have and I hardly ever think about them.” And now I’m just like, “Ah, damn you midterm rentals.”

David:
You started over. You got a new learn access that you’re on.

Sarah:
And I also switched markets because I went from small towns where my contractors were used to traveling everywhere to a different city where they’re like, “Well, I don’t work in the town. I’m not driving through the traffic.” And I’m like, “Here we go again.” So yeah, I feel that deeply. And I should know that about the personal assistant as well. So I know I need one and I need a new one. It’s just…

David:
You should know the talks Brandon Turner and I have had late night in Hawaii over the woes of trying to deal with personal assistance. We’ve often thought we should film this and sell it because it’s just so funny and deep. But you’re not the only one is what I’m saying.

Sarah:
I have a call with other female investors, there’s four of us. Our topic for the last month, every single week has been, “How do I hire a better personal assistant?” because we’re struggling through it. So that might be something to bring in. That’s a business idea.

Rob:
I mean, I will say one of really the first hire officially on payroll that I ever made was my assistant. It is one of those things when you hire someone and they are good, it’s kind of like a, “Oh, wow, what was I thinking? Why did I do that earlier?” I hired a COO a couple months ago. That was another big moment for me. It’s one of those things where I’m so bad at actually managing my personnel, my staff and my team right now because I’m so spread thin. And so I’m realizing I need to have a few of those key players that will alleviate so that I can actually provide the leadership that you’re talking about, David. Because that’s really the hard part, is I’m so used to working side by side with other people and I’ve gotten really good at that, but actually being able to lead them and delegate has been really tough like that.

Rob:
The assistant journey has been a good one because that is really your stepping stone into leadership because they’re going to follow your lead and they’re going to do what you ask them to do. And if you don’t have systems, then it makes it a lot harder on them. So a lot of the times that I have seen failures, and not that my personal assistant fails, but anytime that there are moments of like, “Ooh,” it’s always my fault because I did not lay out what I needed and I wasn’t clear. So it’s a really good learning experience,.

David:
But even when you are clear, they find a way to screw it up. That happens a lot of the time. Systems have two parts to them. We only talk about one. The first is knowing what to do. Writing out the steps, “Here’s where the tenants take their rent check.’ We think that’s what a system is. No, that’s half a system. The other half of the system is finding a person execute that. You still have to be good at what’s happening. Someone could teach you, “Hey, here’s the way that you shoot a bow and arrow. Let me lay out all the steps for you.” But there’s still a skill of archery that some people will learn and some people don’t learn. And so finding the right people is crucial. Yeah, without a system their job’s going to be way harder, but even with the system, they can screw it up.

Rob:
All right. So Sarah, we kind of glazed over this because we’re talking about so much good stuff here, but I don’t want to go back to it. I want to really ask you about funnels. You talked about how you set up your different funnels and how you’re able to find new clients that way for some of your rentals. Can you explain what a funnel is and why a funnel would be beneficial for a real estate investor in any of the, I guess, niches that you’re in?

Sarah:
Yeah, so I mean, funnels to me are how my brain operates, but I’m in a logistics nerd and I did my MBA for fun. So essentially, a funnel’s a giant triangle. So essentially you’re bringing in 100 people and you want to get down to one or two tenants. So you can use this for tenants, you can use this for social media. We can go both routes, it depends which way you are most interested in. So essentially from a property management standpoint, I feel like Facebook marketplace is where everyone goes to troll landlords, but it’s also a really good start of your funnel. So having a Facebook page for your property group. So I have a web or a Facebook page. I list all my properties, Facebook marketplace that are not furnished. So I have a different funnel I guess for my midterms.

Sarah:
And so I usually get around 100 inquiries, which is in these little tiny towns, which is fascinating to me because I didn’t realize our population was that large to get that many inquiries, but there’s a lack of good housing. And so I like to be the best housing provider while still hitting people’s budget, and so a thousand dollars a month is at sweet point. And so essentially getting everyone, the 100 people that say, “Hey, is it available?” and poke the button on Facebook like, “Hey, is this still available?” they get an automated message. And the automated message says you have to fill out this pre-screen and gives them a link. About 40 people actually make it through that link. They’ll actually click and start to fill out your, I guess, pre-screening questionnaire. And so then I’m left with instead of 40 people saying, “Is this available?” that I’m DMing, I now have about 40 people that import into a Google form that fills in a Google sheet actually.

Sarah:
And then from there I can go through and actually pick out people that qualify and then people will say dumb things. One time I had income, I didn’t require a number in there, and so people would free text in. And so one person, I said like, “What’s your income?” and he said, “Enough.” And I’m like, automatically that’s a no for me. It just is a no. People are dumb. So you automatically have some people that just aren’t going to qualify for your properties so they don’t make enough income and you’d strap them for cash. So it’s just finding the right people and then ultimately picking maybe two to four people max to actually show the property too is kind of one example.

Sarah:
And then how I’m using the same strategy is through Instagram to work on my private money. So I kind of use the same structure online where Instagram is essentially my beginning point. So I started out on Instagram as a content creator, trying to be like, “Okay, I’m going to build this business.” And every year I lose money on my Instagram account. I don’t know if I’m just really bad at monetizing, but it’s a blood bath out there to try to make a sustainable money on Instagram.

David:
No, I make $14 maybe. So don’t feel bad.

Rob:
Oh, no, no. I make no money on Instagram.

Sarah:
And every year I’m like, “I made $1,000, but I spent 3,000 to do that.” So it’s just really depressing. Every year with the amount of money I make, it goes up, but every year my spending goes up.

Rob:
Yeah, but you just said you raise money on Instagram though, right?

Sarah:
I do.

Rob:
So you actually didn’t lose the money because it brings you in money through the funnel.

Sarah:
Right. So that’s the cool thing I’m doing with Instagram right now that I just started doing this year, was essentially I started talking about my deals more and deal analysis and actually talking to people about private money, high structured deals, how I’m paying lenders essentially like mailbox money to be a lender on a property where they essentially act like a bank and they get guaranteed rent on intangible asset. So I just talk about that online. And then I started building an email list. So I essentially used the same process.

Sarah:
Where I do a Google form, it goes into a Google sheet, I ask them this set list of questions. If you go on Instagram, you can totally see this and essentially build out a funnel. So now I have a dedicated list of people that may be interested in lending private money. And so that’s kind of how I’ve pivoted to being a failed content creator on Instagram to being like, “Oh wait, actually maybe I’m not.” If that’s just the start of my funnel, then I’m kind of successful and really all I need to do is curate those relationships and kind of love what I do most, which is buy real estate.

Rob:
Yeah, this is huge. I think everybody go and rewind and watch the last five minutes. Funnels are genuinely where millionaires are made. If you understand funnels, this is how every business works, right? A funnel is basically a journey that people are taking and you’re sort of at your product or your service, the actual conversion is at the bottom of this funnel.

Rob:
So the way I like to think about it is like a calendar, right? We always say it’s a triangle, but I think of it as a calendar that has all these holes in it, right? Along the journey as they travel down this calendar-like funnel, whatever, this conceptual thing that I’m making up on the spot, a lot of people are going to fall through the holes in that calendar, but some will keep making it down. And there are different layers, right? So it starts with, let’s say on Instagram, you say, “Hey, I’m going to do the… Reach out to me.” Or you basically make content that interests people. A percentage of them actually reach out, a percentage of them fill out the form like you talked about, a percentage of them actually talk one on one with you and then a percentage of those people actually give you money and invests, right?

Rob:
Every single business works this way. And it’s really cool to hear you explain it that way with real estate because real estate is funnels, but no one really understands that concept that, hey, the way that you market your Airbnb or your midterm rental or the way that you get tenants, that’s all just a funnel. And if people really understood that user journey, they would never have vacancies.

Sarah:
So now I need to work on applying this to midterm rentals because I’ve kind of pivoted my social media. So now I feel like I’m not “failing,” I guess air quotes because it’s a total different way of bringing in partnerships, like equity partners.

David:
I think there’s a deeper truth to what you two are saying right now that people need to hear. A lot of the time, remember I said that we fail when we expect our first hire should just be the hire-

Sarah:
Exactly.

David:
… and we realized that you got to do it a lot? But that’s that form of a funnel, right? I think a lot of people assume, “Well, they said to buy a rental, they said to use the BiggerPocket calculator. I did that, I bought it. But I’ve had nonstop problems the whole time I’ve owned it. I must suck at real estate.” And I bet if you trace it back, they rented out to the first person that applied. Or they had two people that they talked to, they didn’t do a credit check, they didn’t screen them. They threw someone in there thinking that’s how the system works.

David:
If you understand it’s supposed to be a funnel, you start with a lot of people, you whittle that down. And like you said Sarah, you only show it to two out of four because you’ve already whittled a lot. Your experience with real estate is so much better and now you like it and now you want to do it more, but that never gets told to the people who are first starting. The expectation they had is like, “Oh, you just find a tenant. It’s in a good area. I should get a good tenant.” They don’t know how to find a good tenant, or their property manager doesn’t know how to find a good tenant so the whole experience sucks. And so I’m glad you guys are saying this because it’s going to save a lot of people a lot of pain if they understand, “Oh, once you buy the property, it’s still work. I thought the work was done? I thought I was just supposed to analyze another 100 deals.”

Rob:
100%. Yeah, 100%.

Sarah:
And I will say that’s probably why my midterm, because it’s newer, is sucking right now because I haven’t really built out my funnel. My long term things I feel so comfortable with that funnel development and being able to weed out people. And I feel like my strategy just isn’t there with midterms yet. So maybe that’s the leap phase of my business. Maybe I’ll start liking midterms again.

David:
Maybe that’s why fate has you here with us today, Sarah.

Sarah:
Maybe it is.

David:
You need to hear it’s okay to suck. You’re supposed to suck. Every time you switch to a new thing, you start over a new cycle of sucking, which is like the real estate god’s ways of stopping us from going too deep into shiny object syndrome.

Sarah:
It is.

David:
Because it’s the thing that we love to punish ourselves where, “I suck, I suck, I suck. I finally got good at it. Oh my god, years of misery are over. It’s running like I want. It’s smooth. I have all my time. We enjoy it for a week.” And then we go, “This is kind of boring. What’s that guy doing over there? Creative financing. That sounds good. Let me learn about that.” And we jump into a whole new cycle of suck that makes us miserable again, right? Right when we got out of the thing that we were good at. And so there’s definitely a balancing that you have to take in between.

Sarah:
Is this like the check to see if you should be an entrepreneur? Do you just constantly sign up? Because I’m like, that’s how my whole journey… Dave Ramsey got boring. This got boring. Someday real estate will probably be boring because long term rentals kind of get that way. But now I’m like, ‘Ugh, this sucks again.” But your suck always changes. After you’ve replaced so many furnaces, I;m like furnaces and foundations don’t scare me anymore because I’ve had that suck before and now they don’t make me nervous. But for your average person, like…

David:
That’s it. Boring’s just a form of suck. You could have boring suck or you could have incredibly stressed out losing money, hating your life, chaotic suck, right? Boring’s not the worst thing ever. That’s one of the things I try to remind myself.

Sarah:
Right.

David:
Like, “Oh, I want to go jump into another realm of real estate investing like I did in a short term rentals.” Well, I shouldn’t have done 18 at one time or whatever it was I bought, right? But-

Sarah:
You 10X the chaos. Yeah.

David:
Yeah. Now my suck is like this incredibly crushing anxiety that sits on my chest of eight properties that are probably 10 grand each that aren’t bringing in any income at all plus the huge rehabs I’m doing. Now the boring suck doesn’t seem so bad. Rob, what about you? What do you think?

Rob:
Yeah, I was actually just talking with the BP superstar, Jamil Damji, about this because this is a big thing, right? So I think that the important skill is recognizing if your suck can get better, right? So a lot of the times the you sucking or you’re not being good at something really comes down to reps. If you do more reps, you will be better at something. But sometimes you are just not made for a specific thing. So for me, I’m not athletic. There will be no world where I become a basketball superstar. It is not in my body type. I don’t have the hand-eye coordination. And I know that if I play basketball every day, I mean I’ll get a little better at it, but I’ll never be… You will always laugh at me, I’ll put it that way.

Rob:
But I know that from a skill standpoint, I’m good at real estate generally speaking. I understand concepts. And so when I look at things like wholesaling or sub2, I’m going to suck at doing that for a long time. And it’s not because I’m unable to, it’s just because I haven’t done enough reps. So if I go all in with wholesaling or sub2 just to diversify a bit, it’s going to be me putting in reps every single day and getting better at talking to people, understanding scripts, understanding funnel marketing. And the more I do that, then I know that I will one day not suck. So I think recognizing, “Can I actually be good at something?” is a really, really important skill that most people they don’t recognize and they’ll just automatically write something off and never even try.

David:
Yeah, because they’re following somebody else’s blueprint.

Sarah:
And I will say I feel like once a month I find something new I want to get better at. Last month I met with title companies, people who work for title companies. I just need to understand the process better. Right now I’m trying to pitch seller financing more because I just feel like that’s kind of the name of the game that the market’s flipping a little bit and everything kind of pivoting a bit. So I’m going to get really bad at doing sub2 and then get better hopefully.

David:
All right. So with all the options you’ve got at your disposal now, Sarah, because that’s cool when you do get enough rental properties to replace your income and you get a form of security, the whole world’s oyster. But a lot of oysters smell like fish and that doesn’t mean that they’re all good, right?

Sarah:
Right. Not all oysters are good. It’s a good… Yeah.

David:
That’s exactly right. Not every oyster is good. They’re not all full of pearls. The gulf oysters?

Rob:
Not good.

Sarah:
No. Yeah.

David:
So what are the goals you have now moving forward based on what you’ve learned about yourself and what seems interesting to you?

Sarah:
Yeah, so I think when we were prepping for this episode, I was like, my biggest goal was to really hit this very specific number. So if I stopped today and paid off everything, I’d have about $13,000 cash flow on paid off properties. But that sounds very unsexy in the world of real estate where everyone leverages. And so I’m like, okay, so I built to that point where if I got laid off and the world came tumbling… My worst case scenario was realized or something, I’m like, “After you go through a terrible divorce like this, nothing’s that scary anymore.” So you’re like, “Oh whatever. I built my second income stream, I did it.” So you’re like, “Do you stop now? Do you keep going?”

Sarah:
So it’s always this kind of philosophy of… And where I’m at right now is you kind of do both. I think I’m going to try to get a couple mortgages paid off just so I have that security because I like the fact that these properties are all mine. If I get remarried, prenups, all the things, these are mine to be financially independent. So if anything ever happens in the future because you can never expect to see these things coming, never in a million years I just expect this would be my life story but here we are, you have the safety net that would be for me and my daughter always. And so that’s really important.

Sarah:
So I think if I get into partnerships or another marriage someday or kind of develop a life with somebody else, that I always keep my core portfolio. And so it’s like, “Do I stop and pay things off now? Do I pay off a little bit and start doing other projects?” So I’m kind of in this philosophical debate of I got to my magic number and I’m supposed to stop right now, but that sounds terrible. So now how do you keep going strategically? Can you do both? Can you pay off 13 units, which is six properties? Or do you forget that stop throwing money at it? But I’m like, now at least I’m trying to buy deals using my private money funnel I’m developing and put none of my own money into my new deals while I’m kind of working on stabilizing this core portfolio on the side. So kind of like a two phase business. I think actually might open a new LLC for my new kind of ventures to keep going. So that’s kind of my thoughts.

Sarah:
But I don’t know. How do you challenge that philosophical question? Because I know this is where a lot of people say, and I mean math will always say you keep scaling with leverage, it just will. But then your gut check is, “There’s nothing more secure for you and your daughter’s future than having six houses that are paid off. There’s really not much more secure than that. Real estate is such a good asset to be in. So where do you go? What do you do?”

Rob:
Yeah, yeah. It’s one of those things, right? I’m always like, “Do as I say, not as I do,” right? Because it’s one of those things where I definitely believe in leverage a lot. I’m like, “Okay, if you want to get to $50 million or $100 million dollars, you have to leverage. I mean obviously there are people like Dave Ramsey who have done it, but it’s a rare scenario. But sometimes I’ll be very honest, there are times where I think about paying off things like my personal home or a couple of my homes.

Rob:
The way I of justify that to myself is let’s say I have a one and a half million dollar house, it would be very foolish in a lot of people’s minds to pay that off. But I sort get very tempted about that because I’m like, “Well, I have that as a savings account.” If things ever go wrong, I can always pull out a HELOC or I can always do a cash out refi and pull the money out if I really, really, really, really need to. That goes against everything I actually believe and do, but there are a lot of times where I’m like, “Well, maybe just one time. Maybe just one time I’ll just pay this off and have that liquidity, theoretically, liquidity to my name and pull from it when I need it.

Rob:
I think I actually kind of justify this because I’d like to get into more BRRRRs, BRRRR STRs and flips, that if I could have a lot of equity in a house and just have a giant call it $1.5 million to $2 million home line of credit, I would never have to go to the bank again. I could just use that home line of credit and I would never have to worry about underwriting and stuff like that. So that would be a trade off that I think it’s worth, “Hey, am I not leveraging to the fullest ability?” Sure, but I also make my life a lot more convenient by never having to get permission from a bank.

David:
Part of this philosophical question that we’re discussing here has to do with, “Should I feel bad that I want to pay things off?” It’s not mathematically sound, it’s not the right thing to do. The reason we look at it that way is because the metrics that we measure are typically cash flow and equity. When you’re looking at life from that perspective, yeah, leveraging is the right answer. You’re going to make more. And because we all came here to make money, that’s what we do.

David:
But if you came here to live a better life and you don’t need more than 10 grand a month or 20 grand a month or whatever it is, getting from 20 to 30 or 40 grand a month isn’t going to change your lifestyle a whole lot but it might change your peace of mind a ton. And in that position, if you don’t want to own more real estate, you don’t want to take on more headaches, you don’t want to hire more people because hiring people is hard, sometimes the way you make progress is paying down the debt. That’s another way to get more money, albeit not as much money, but it’s still more cash flow than you were getting if you had leverage without taking on more headache.

David:
And that’s the question is, what metric are you measuring? Are you measuring peace of mind? Hours worked? Or are you measuring purely the growth financial metrics? Because whatever one you’re looking at is going to be what you see as the right move to make.

Rob:
100%. Are you trying to fulfill a financial goal or a lifestyle mental mindset goal? Those are two very different things. If you’re doing financial, yeah, then metrics are going to scream one thing and, “Hey, leverage, leverage, leverage.” But if you’re just trying to be happy and make a little cash flow for peace of mind like you talk about, that’s a whole nother thing. That’s a whole different thing than the financial aspect. And I think there is a balance. We probably don’t give it enough credit, but there’s definitely a happy balance of how much should you leverage and how much should you pay off for peace of mind.

Sarah:
And I will say I think it’s pretty easy to answer that question because I feel like the only goal I’ve ever had was this very odd specific vision. People talk about the vivid vision a lot, you guys have all heard of this, where you always have this very specific goal. And so my current dream in life, which is really depressing I feel like for most people because everyone’s like, “I want to be in Hawaii and do something cool…” And I’m like, “My dream is drop my daughter off at school and go to any coffee shop. There’s this really cute little boutique coffee shop down the road and I love it. And just sit there all day and be on my computer and I can work from anywhere, be fully remote.”

Sarah:
So I could be working from a coffee shop in Indiana or I could be traveling anywhere across the United States and be working. Essentially, I want to sit there. And essentially, the coffee shop people or the locals walk in and out and they’re like, “Who is this girl that’s always here? Does she even work? What does her husband do for a living?” And it’s like, “No, it’s my real estate that makes me able to sit here.” I’m running an empire off my laptop and it’s all mine that I’ve kind of built for me and my daughter to have this really stable foundation going forward where we’re not really in this scared, afraid mentality of what happens if mom loses her job or something. Just knowing we’d always be safe, but not really having like, “Oh, I don’t really have a rich husband. That’s really just me.” If I do awesome someday, that’d be great. But I mean for right now it just sounds pretty cool to just have the flexibility of calling any coffee shop my office for the day.

Sarah:
And so I think that vision’s kind of been the direction of wanting to go where I don’t miss school activities. This year is the first year I ever miss something for my daughter because my job started traveling more. So I was on a work trip and she had school picture day and I couldn’t do her hair. And she’s three years old, she will never remember that mom did not do her hair. She actually doesn’t like when I do her hair that much, she’s very particular about her aunt doing it. So she lived her best picture day life. But it’s just hard. I don’t want to miss little things like that. And so I think that’s the trade off when you get into high paying corporate jobs, is that’s your trade off. And that’s not ultimately the life I want to have. I want to be working from anywhere, but then always being home when things are important or I don’t want to miss something.

Sarah:
And so I think that vision is kind of the guiding path, but then real estate’s just really fun. So then you always end up in this philosophical debate back again because it’s very hard to stop buying, which is I’m sure something we all probably have in common, is just the enough point. And we tend to get in and over our heads I think a little bit.

David:
Well, buying because it’s fun is different than buying because you feel like you have to or you’re supposed to. I think you’ve told a very beautiful story so far. It’s fantastic where you’ve gotten, it’s provided the security that you lost obviously when you have a spouse that gets into drugs and they lose complete control over their life, their decision, their impulsivity. That’s going to rock anybody’s world. And so I see real estate’s kind of provided a little bit of stability there.

David:
And now I would just encourage you don’t be in a rush to try to figure out what your next move’s going to be. Like you said, real estate’s fun. So just wait and see what sounds the most fun and what’s going to be the least intrusive on my life. And then I have no doubt if you’ve got this fire, you’re going to be great wherever you go there. But there’s no big rush. But the way that the economy’s going, it’s kind of nice that we can be patient. We can sit and wait and say, “Oh maybe I don’t have to fight for deals as hard as I used to. I can kind of wait and see what comes my way.”

Sarah:
Right. Because I think I… I don’t really realize I was in a rush until I hit that number and I was like, “Okay, I guess I was in a hurry to get here.” And I think I need to learn to take a breath and be more present and be on my phone less and really refocus because I got a little too far away from now I’m neurotic at a coffee shop. I don’t want to be anxious. I feel like I need to be doing something at all times. I want to be relaxed.

Sarah:
And so taking a pause is kind of where I’m at, which sounds depressing in a world full of goal setting. But I think taking a breath and really making sure that, like you said, you’re building the business that… I wrote down actually from this. Like, “Do I like this life?” I need to start asking myself that question all the time with building out businesses to keep aligning with that goal. Kind of that overall vision is, “Do I actually the life I’ve made” because I’m a little too busy right now and I need to figure out how to fix that.

David:
That’s the same question Rob asked about his haircuts, how he ended up with the [inaudible 01:01:04].

Sarah:
And we’re here. Yeah.

Rob:
This is my final form. I’ve done it. I don’t know if I can fix it. TikTok would disagree though.

Speaker 4:
Famous Four.

David:
All right, Sarah, we are going to move on to the last segment of our show. This is the Famous Four. In this segment of the show, we ask every guest the same four questions. And I will start with question number one. What is your favorite real estate book?

Sarah:
So from a real estate… Probably Set For Life because I feel like that was my pivotal book.

Rob:
Makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Okay. Question number two, favorite business book?

Sarah:
I still love The Simple Path to Wealth, even though it’s a little bit more of a finance book. It’s still a really good one because I feel like it’s important to keep the lifestyle design into the mix when you’re building out a business.

Rob:
Awesome. And when you’re not crushing the real estate and midterm rental game, what are some of your hobbies?

Sarah:
So spending time with my daughter definitely. We like to travel and go anywhere warm. Because I feel like when I’m not working all the time, I want to be on a beach. Our preferred location is somewhere near a body of water. But otherwise I’m like, how do you say that I like to go shopping and plan Instagram? I think there’s an audio that says this on TikTok that’s trending right now. So I’m a pretty basic in my needs in terms of just quality time with family and friends. I’m also not sporty, so that’s not something that appeals to me. So honestly, it’s a lot of time just spent on social media and just quality time with family.

Rob:
Are you saying that you’ll also never become a basketball pro either?

Sarah:
I have zero hand-eye coordination. It’s really embarrassing. My best friend’s primary hobby is like, “Throw something at Sarah, it’s hilarious to watch her try to catch it.” She was a D1 athlete and her number one pastime is throwing stuff at me. So to watch me [inaudible 01:02:51].

Rob:
My wife does that to me too. She does a thing where she pretends to throw it at me and watches me cringe really fast and she loves, loves doing that to me.

Sarah:
Yeah, I’m pretty sure she probably has a whole album of videos of watching Sarah catching things on-

David:
That sounds like a funny TikTok compilation.

Sarah:
I should work on that. I need to get the feed from her.

David:
All right, Sarah, in your opinion, what sets apart successful investors from those who give up, fail or never get started?

Sarah:
The boring consistency. There’s not a magic formula. I think avoiding the shiny… We hit briefly on the shiny object piece and it’s so important. I try very strategically to align with people that have been here a long time to just see what works. So I do a lot of networking with people that have been through a 2008 downturn and things and just kind of picking their brain on how they built their business and what parts of their business helped them make it through recessions. So that’s honestly why I focused a lot on long term and small single family, multi-family, was just because that seemed like a good stable piece of a lot of people’s portfolio.

Sarah:
And so slowly building consistently as boring as possible. Grandma’s cool way of investing is probably one of the best for the long term if you don’t want this really stressful life. And being really mindful about just constantly showing up all the time and constantly learning your craft. I don’t know. Kind of always picking up new skills in the space too. So taking people to lunch is probably my favorite way to just learn from people, to just learn what have they done consistently over time to get to where they are and crafting the lifestyle that way.

Rob:
Amazing. Well Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Can you tell us where people can find out more about you?

Sarah:
Yeah, so I am on Instagram primarily. I kind of live on there. So in terms of hobbies, that’s definitely my number one. So I’m under nerdsguidetofi. I will probably rebrand at the end of the year. So depending on when this airs, I’ll probably rebrand under Sarah King just because that’s easier. So I started out in the financial independence space, but I feel like now it’s just kind of way easier in real estate to just have it be my name. So look up probably Sarah Elaine King or nerdsguidetofi on Instagram. I have a website that has the same-

Rob:
Snag that.

Sarah:
Yeah, I’m going to go snag it-

Rob:
Snag that now before it comes live. Yeah.

Sarah:
Yes, exactly.

David:
Also Snatch Can’t Catch King. That’s got a nice ring to it.

Sarah:
Yeah. And it’d be a good icebreaker too. “Where’d you get that handle from?” Like, “Because I literally can’t catch anything. So look at me under nerdsguidetofi. I have a website and a podcast under the same name and we’ll go from there.

David:
Wonderful. Well thank you Sarah. You have an awesome story and I appreciate you sharing it with us today. If you want to find out more about me, you can follow me @davidgreene 24. And now that YouTube has handles, I’m actually @davidgreene24 on YouTube as well. How about you, Rob?

Rob:
You can find me @Robuilt on YouTube. R-O-B-U-I-L-T. You can find me on Instagram @Robuilt as well. And while I’m here, I just wanted to say if you enjoy us talking about real estate, if we’ve ever helped you, if you’ve ever found our shows inspirational, I just ask consider leaving us a five star review on the Apple Podcasts platform and anywhere that you listen to your podcast. It would mean the world to us and it does actually help us with the podcast algorithm.

David:
Sarah, it was a pleasure. Thanks so much for being here. We will follow up with you in the future.

Sarah:
Sounds good. Thank you.

David:
This is David Greene for Rob, the real estate athlete Abasolo, signing off.

Rob:
Oh, that’s good. That’s really good.

 

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How to achieve financial independence through real estate in less time than you think
  • House hacking and why it’s arguably the best way to start investing 
  • Why being scared of debt is a downside when trying to build a rental property portfolio
  • The medium-term rental strategy and using it to get better cash flow on smaller units
  • Private money lending and how to raise private capital from those who know and trust you
  • Hiring, outsourcing, delegating, and how to free up much more time in your life
  • The phenomenal funnels that will bring you the best tenants, deals, and more money!
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in the Show

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.