Real Estate Rookie Podcast

Rookie Podcast 35: Doubling Cashflow by Renting out Rooms with Pharmacist Ryan Chaw

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From $25,000 purchase prices last week to $300,000+ group houses this week!

We head to the Bay Area today to meet pharmacist Ryan Chaw, who ventured about an hour away from his hometown and began buying 1 house per year and renting them by the room to college students.

Ryan collects nearly $11,000/month from 18 tenants, and is creating the kind of generational wealth his grandfather used to put both him and a sibling through college.

Does renting to college kids sound like a disaster waiting to happen? Well… Ryan has found several ways around this, and in this episode he outlines the checklists, systems, and “personal touches” he uses to self-manage without the headaches.

Ryan opens up about an early failure, too. He wasn’t getting all his rooms filled, and he realized he wasn’t doing a good enough job advertising. So he developed step-by-step, “P.R.I.M.E.” marketing method to attract a steady stream of qualified applicants… and you’ll learn each step today.

If you’re struggling how to figure out just how to create cashflow in a spendy market, follow Ryan’s lead! Get creative, consider rent-by-the-room and other outside-the-box strategies, and reap the rewards of greater appreciation and stability that come with high-priced areas.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Ashley:
This is Real Estate Rookie, show number 35.

Ryan:
So then I was able to add a fourth bedroom. The great thing about renting out per bedroom to college students is sometimes you could get two people in one bedroom, and usually I charge about 30% more for the place.

Ashley:
I’m Ashley Kehr and I’m here with my co-host, Felipe Mejia. Speaking of five from our show 35, is Felipe and I always talk about how he takes his son to … What is it? Five Below or five and under? What’s that store?

Felipe:
Yeah. Five Below.

Ashley:
And then I take my kids to the dollar store. So I took my kids to the dollar store last night, they had to get decorations to decorate this bucket for school. So we’re in the car this morning and we need to give $5 to the teacher, and my son had a bunch of dollars still left from the dollar store in the back seat with him. I was like, “Okay, count out $5.” And he’s like, “Okay, I have it. Do you think I should give her a tip though? Because I have some extra dollars.” And I’m like, “Do you want to?” And he’s like, “Yeah, I do want to give her a tip.” I’m like, “Okay, go ahead and do it.” So he was going to tip his teacher for buying him a Lowe’s five gallon bucket to decorate.

Felipe:
Well, I think that’s awesome. I think teachers deserve as much as they can.

Ashley:
Yeah, yes, yes.

Felipe:
They are lifesavers, and I think now during the pandemic I think parents can appreciate more the teachers, and I think that’s awesome. But we don’t have a teacher today on the show, we have Ryan Chaw. He’s in the medical field but he’s not a doctor, right? What did he say?

Ashley:
He’s a pharmacist.

Felipe:
A pharmacist, that’s right. So he’s a full-time pharmacist.

Ashley:
Pediatric pharmacist, yes.

Felipe:
A full-time real estate investor. He’s got student housing and he gives us his hacks, what he does, how he finds his tenants, how he sets them up, how he’s systemized to where they have control on the house when there’s repairs. It’s some great knowledge and things that even I’m going to probably implement going forward.

Ashley:
Yeah, you need to, because he had really great tips as to how to make, like lessen the headache of self-managing. He also talked about prime and he goes into detail as to what letter means when he is identifying the type of tenant for his unit or screening them and getting information from them. He talks about how he checks their social media pages using this prime. I don’t even know what would you call it, slogan or acronym I guess, yeah.

Felipe:
Yeah. Hey Ryan, welcome to the show. Super glad you’re here, man. How are you?

Ryan:
Hey, I’m doing great. Sunny day in California.

Ashley:
I’m jealous.

Felipe:
Nice, I love it.

Ashley:
It’s cold here.

Felipe:
Same. It’s super cold here in Nashville. I feel like right now the weather is like you wake up in the morning, you put on a certain clothes and then you regret it by lunchtime because it’s too hot. That’s what’s happened to me so far.

Ryan:
Oh, man. That’s funny.

Felipe:
You’re lucky. You get that great weather out there.

Ashley:
Yeah.

Ryan:
Yeah.

Ashley:
Ryan, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you guys started in real estate investing.

Ryan:
Yeah. So I’m actually a pediatric pharmacist right now and I invest in real estate on the side. I first got interested in real estate from my grandpa actually. He inspired me when he bought a few properties in the Bay Area. This was back before Silicon Valley was a big thing, right? So they were dirt cheap, but as well know over time the properties went up in price like crazy and he retired a multimillionaire. Not only that, he was able to help pay for part of my college tuition and that of my brother’s as well. So I saw that real estate really is one of the best ways to create generational wealth. So when I started in 2015, graduated with my doctorate of pharmacy, I wanted to get started pretty much right away. So I bought my first property in 2016. I worked a lot of overtime and I worked six to seven days a week in two jobs to save up that capital to just get started as soon as possible.
Then from there I bought one property every year over the course of four years. Now I’m 28 years old and I have four single family homes with 18 tenants. When it’s fully occupied I make $10,755 per month in rental income.

Felipe:
Wow.

Ashley:
That’s great.

Felipe:
It sounds like you have your numbers down tight. Are you an Excel spreadsheet type of guy, Ryan?

Ryan:
I am, definitely.

Felipe:
Oh my gosh.

Ryan:
I got my deal analysis calculators and everything.

Ashley:
Yeah.

Ryan:
[crosstalk 00:04:25].

Felipe:
Ashley knows this about me, but that would stress me out, man. I have partners for all my deals, and they handle all the numbers fortunately because if you ask me what my cash flow is, I could tell you that, but anything else I would have no idea.

Ryan:
Yeah.

Ashley:
You can’t forget your wife too, Felipe. She does your spreadsheets too.

Felipe:
Oh, of course. That’s my partner, that’s who I’m talking about.

Ashley:
Oh, oh.

Felipe:
There you go.

Ryan:
Oh, okay.

Felipe:
Ryan, so before we dig into a deal that you might have for us to talk about, let’s talk about that. How important would you say knowing your numbers is in real estate investing?

Ryan:
Yeah, it's definitely very important because you have to make sure the property cash flows. If you get a negative cash flow in property, then you could, especially if you don't have tenants, it could put you underwater, right? So I buy properties for the right price. I don't actually invest in my current town, which is Sacramento, because the properties here are like $500,000. Instead I go about an hour away to Stockton where the prices are 300,000, where the cash flow makes a lot more sense. So even if there's a huge recession and my properties go down in price by $100,000, as long as I'm making that positive cash flow it doesn't matter as much because I could just hold onto it forever and eventually the properties will be paid off. Obviously the market will come back and the prices will rise again. So I'm not afraid of a recession, and that's why it's so important to have those cash flowing properties as kind of just a preventative so you don't have to worry about a market turndown.

Ashley:
Ryan, you said that your properties are an hour away from where you live. What made you decide to, besides the difference in pricing, what I guess made you take action? A lot of people have fear of going outside of their market that they know so well. What made you take that leap and was there any analysis paralysis and how did you pick that market specifically?

Ryan:
Yeah, I definitely had a lot of analysis paralysis. Actually I went on for like six months. I was thinking about it. I actually had that 20% ready six months ago and I was like, “I don’t know if I could do this.” And then some of my friends were like, “It’s risky to get into real estate. What if the market tanks and what not? You don’t want to deal with tenants and all of that type of stuff.” So I definitely dealt with all of that, but at some point I just got tired and I was like, “You know what? My grandpa was able to make it work. I’m just going to just get in there and then I’ll figure it out along the way rather than waiting forever to time the market.” So I guess it’s just like just do it kind of mindset that you have to have, and then just along the way you’re flexible. It’s like what Bruce Lee says, “Be like water.” Water basically takes the form of the container it’s in. So basically whatever comes up you can be flexible and pivot to make your strategy work.
I invest in college towns. I actually invested in the place I went to pharmacy school. So I was able to rent out the houses per bedroom to essentially double the expected rental income that I would be making on these properties. So for me it made a lot of sense to invest in a town that’s an hour away that has a lot of college students, and a lot of great quality college students as well.

Felipe:
You're right, and I like what you said a minute ago. I'm going to backtrack a little bit where you talked about your rent and how even in a recession, even if the value of the property goes down, it goes up, it's irrelevant, right? Because your goal is the cashflow, and as long as the mortgage is getting paid and your cash coming in is plus what the mortgage is, then you're going to be fine, right? What you don't want to do is have a negative cashflow from the beginning, for then your value of your property goes down, so does your cashflow, so does the rent, and then it's a disaster. But if your cash flow can hold your property through a recession, you're not going to lose anything because you're not going to sell the property.
Now, if you go in, there is a recession and you sell the property, well then obviously you’re going to lose money. The goal is to keep the property through the recession because it’s going to bounce back two or three times more on the other end. Historically we’ve seen that through ’08, through ’91, through ’80 something. We’ve always seen that real estate bounced back twice as hard, but the cash flow is what keeps you alive during that time. So I love that you said that. I think a lot of times investors, especially rookies when they’re in the game, they’re like, “Well, what if the value of the property goes down and then I lose all my money?” I’m like, “Friend, you don’t lose any money during a recession. You lose the money when you sell the property.” If you have the right capex, you have the right reserves and emergency fund for the property, you’re going to be able to ride the market, and the cashflow should keep you through and through, right?
So I love that you said that. I think it’s a great strategy. Ryan, I know you mentioned you have four properties now. But would you give us a quick elevated view of what your portfolio looks now? What’s your niche of investing? Then we’ll get into a rookie deal that you have for us.

Ryan:
Yeah, that’s a great point you made, by the way. Real estate is truly a buy then wait game rather than a wait then buy game because you really don’t-

Felipe:
I like that.

Ryan:
… want to try to time the market, right? Instead just buy, get the asset now, and every month that goes by you’re getting that rental income and that cash flow, and that’s so important. So you don’t have to worry about a recession. So for my portfolio each house I purchase is around 200 to $300,000 and I bought four properties. They were actually bought as three bedroom two bathrooms, but I look for opportunities to add a fourth and a fifth bedroom. So I have three four bedroom now because I added that extra bedroom, and I have one five bedroom property. Because I create that extra bedroom I’m able to charge an extra $620 per month for each bedroom that I can add. That really adds a lot of value to the property. For example, for my five bedroom property I’m making $3,100 per month on the property. When I look on rentometer.com it used to be a three bed, two bath, it estimated my rent to be only $1,500. So I was able to essentially double the amount of rental income by renting out per bedroom.

Felipe:
Sounds familiar.

Ashley:
That’s really interesting because I never lived off campus, but when I remember going to other people’s houses and the dining room would be a bedroom. You’ve got a kitchen and a small living room, and any extra room was turned into a bedroom. So that’s a really interesting strategy. I never really made that connection before as you want to maximize those bedrooms and that’s why they did that. What do you do for property management? Because I know people who house hack, like Felipe for example, that rent by the room, not necessarily to college students. They have trouble finding someone who will manage those properties because it is room by room.

Ryan:
Yeah, exactly. So I actually self-manage my property. I am a full-time pharmacist and I'm able to self-manage it on the side because I use these systems. I put these systems in place for when things come up. Like let's say there's a toilet leak. My tenants know to message or text message my contractor team and they know exactly which number to text message because I have a sheet for them. Okay, if this happens do this, if this happens do that, so it's very systematized.
I also assign tenants responsibilities as well and kind of empower them, especially if there’s a tenant to tenant conflict. I’ll tell the tenant who is complaining to talk one-on-one with the other tenant, come up with an action plan. Say why you’re upset first off and then come up with an action plan together so that you guys don’t have conflicts in the future. Doing things like that really has cut down on a lot of the calls I have, or text messages I get from the tenants to manage the property.

Ashley:
I love that. You give all this stuff to them upfront when they move in?

Ryan:
Yes, exactly. I got a sheet, kind of like a Airbnb, right?

Ashley:
Yeah.

Ryan:
They’ve got that sheet for here’s Wi-Fi, here’s this, here’s the rules, that type of stuff, yeah.

Felipe:
I love that you-

Ryan:
Exactly.

Felipe:
… made it into baby steps though. Hey, if the water leaks you do this, this, this and this. Sometimes you have to do that, because I get two types of tenants. I get the tenant that never calls me and tells me until I go figure it out, and by then there’s a pool of water in the backyard or a hole in my wall, or I have the tenant that calls me when a light bulb goes out. I don’t have anything in between. I don’t have like the cool, you know? I have an extreme on both ends. What I’m figuring out is kind of like you said. If you just give them the availability to kind of call it in themselves, then it does help out. I think it’s great that you’re doing that. Like you said, you have little instructions on how to handle certain situations, and like you said, it kind of empowers them to where they can take action on their own. I think that’s great.

Ryan:
Yeah, exactly.

Ashley:
You’re cutting out the middle man really having your tenants call the contractors directly. Have you had any issues where they’ve called the contractor for something that they probably shouldn’t have called them, that it wasn’t even an issue, maybe a false alarm or something that they could’ve done themselves, like flip a breaker switch, anything like that? That would be my concern as to having them call directly. They’re calling every single day for these minor issues.

Ryan:
Right, yeah. No, I’ve definitely had that happen before where they kept saying, “The oven is broken, or the oven is making this weird smell or whatever.” And the contractor had to come over multiple times. But by then I basically I do have them check into it, but if after many times it turns out that nothing is wrong, then I’ll just have to talk with the tenant and say, “Okay, this is not really … You shouldn’t have to worry about this. The contractor checked into it and we also got a professional to look into it.” Maybe I called up the PG&E company to check into it if there’s any gas leaks of if there’s any concerns there. But yeah, my contractor is actually my next door neighbor, believe it or not, my main one. So he’s not too worried about just going over next door and checking out if something is wrong.

Felipe:
That’s amazing to have next door. Okay, so right before we move to our rookie deal I’m going to add one more thing. One of the things that we did when we were in college that I really liked and that we’re going to implement is the when someone moves into the house, the first $100 worth of repairs is on them. So if everything is working when I get them into the room, and let’s say the toilet goes out or something happens, I always tell them, “Hey, the first $100 is on you because I’m giving you the house in working order.” So that’s another thing where people aren’t calling little dumb things, like hey, the light bulb went out or things like this. This also empowers them to hey, I can probably fix that. It’s going to cost me two bucks and no time. So anyways, there’s a little piece of advice.
All right, Ryan, so let’s move on to the next segment of the show. For this part we want to hear about one of your deals. We really want you to go into the numbers. We really want you to go in how you found the deal. I mean, from A to Z, break it down as much as possible with as much emphasis on how you got it, money, just the whole outcome. Then at the end we’re also going to ask you how you can break that down for someone else. So go for it.

Ryan:
Yeah, exactly. Good question. So second deal that I purchased. I'm actually just going to take a typical deal. I'm not going to take my best or worse. I'm going to take an average so you guys can get a good idea of what student housing looks like in terms of the numbers. So I bought my second deal for $315,000. I put 20% down payment on it. Interest rate I got, it was about three years ago, was 3.625%. Then my closing cost was $6,280. I was able to actually get my closing costs down because I was looking at several lenders. I actually contacted my mortgage broker. I had two mortgage brokers and then a lender that I was looking into. So I kind of had them compete a little bit on the price for the loan as well to see what interest rate they could give me and lower closing costs if possible. So I kind of had a little bit of a bidding thing going on there.
So then I was able to add a fourth bedroom and charge about $620 per bedroom. Then the master bedroom I [inaudible 00:16:17]able to actually get a couple into it. So the great thing about renting out per bedroom to college students is sometimes you could get two people in one bedroom and usually I charge about 30% more for the place. So instead of $670 for the master bedroom I was charging $470 each, which added up to $940 for two people. So all in all my total rental income was $2,770 per month on that property.

Felipe:
Wow.

Ryan:
On Rentometer, I looked on Rentometer, it’s actually $1,600 as expected rent on Rentometer. So I was making 75% more rental income than the expected rental income.

Ashley:
That is so cool.

Ryan:
Thank you.

Ashley:
Can you elaborate a little bit onto us about the financing of this deal?

Ryan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, so I used conventional financing through Freddie Mae, Fannie Mac kind of financing basically. That I think you can use that all the way up to like five or 10 properties, something like that.

Ashley:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, usually 10.

Ryan:
So it turned out to be the best option for me. I mean, there's definitely other options out there, like portfolio lending and all of that, but for me I have a W-2 job, so it's easy for me to get conventional financing. I think that's one key for people just getting started. If you have that source of employee income it really helps you get some of the best financing out there really.

Ashley:
Then for your down payment, what advice can you give people to help them save for a down payment?

Ryan:
Honestly, for me I kind of grinded it out, right? I was working two jobs, I was working as a hospital pharmacist and a retail pharmacist. I was working overtime as well because I had that dream, I’m not going to do this forever. In fact, the first day I think I came in to my hospital job as a pharmacist I was just talking to some of the pharmacists and I was like, “Oh, what do you like about this particular job? Why do you like working here, right?” And one of the pharmacists, the senior pharmacist, he kind of whispered into my ear, he was like, “To be honest, I really hate my job. I would’ve retired a lot earlier, but I need to collect my paycheck.” So I was like, “Oh, man.” I didn’t want it to be like I’m staring at myself in the mirror right there, like my future self. So I was like, “Oh, man. I got to get out.” I mean, I can’t do this forever. I do love working as a pharmacist but I don’t want to be doing this for 20, 30 years.
I had all these dreams as a kid that I would do other things, like one of them was developing a cure for allergies, and real estate kind of allows me eventually to have that freedom to pursue those other ventures.

Ashley:
That’s really cool. I have kind of a similar story, but I didn’t stick it out like you did.

Ryan:
Oh yeah.

Ashley:
I worked as an accountant after I graduated college. So I started full-time in September and by February I was ready to quit and I put my two weeks notice in. I said as one of my excuses the money wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and the main CPA there was like, “You know what? To be honest, I don’t even make that much money.” And she was a partner at the firm. It’s like, “Okay, are you trying to persuade me to stay? This is not helping.” She’s like, “You don’t make a ton of money here. Blah, blah, blah, you should stick it out.” And stuff, and I was like, “This is even more of a reason for me to leave by you saying it. It’s motivation to go do something else.” So I can see how that impacted you, that guy saying that. But it gives you a glimpse into what your future could be like, and you’re like, “I don’t want that.” And that’s why you grind and hustle, and that’s why I turned into property managements doing real estate instead, yeah.

Ryan:
Exactly. I always say work hard now so that your life could be easier later, right?

Ashley:
Right, right.

Ryan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Felipe:
It's interesting Ryan that you mentioned the W-2 situation because I feel like that comes out a lot. A lot of people are like, "How do you know or when do you know that you should quit your job?" And I always tell them well, that really depends on how quickly you want to move into real estate, because for example if you have a high paying W-2 job, it doesn't even have to be a high paying W-2 job, it can just be a W-2 job that the bank will allow enough for you to invest in real estate. A lot of times people quit their job prematurely and then find out that it's harder to get loans if you don't have a lot of money, great credit and two years work history on whatever field you're in. With a W-2 job sometimes 60 days is enough to be able to start using that job as another weight in getting more investment properties. You go to the bank, you have a job, you have a high paying job, so I think it's a great opportunity for some people. Like you said, you're grinding it out, you're grinding that job out so that you can get loans easier as you're investing in real estate, knowing that you're not there forever. You're there for a time and you're using that job to buy more rentals.

Ashley:
My sister was 21 when she graduated college and she got a letter saying that she would start her part-time job in a couple months and that was enough for her to get a mortgage, was having that letter that she was going to be starting a job. So yeah, Felipe is right. Having that W-2 job gives you so many opportunities, not even having to wait six months or a couple months.

Ryan:
Right, definitely. Yeah, financing is a lot easier. Another tactic I actually used is I tapped into the existing equity on my current house, because my first house went from 262,000 to $320,000 about in the course of two years. So I was able to take out something called a home equity line of credit to tap into that equity and use that as a down payment as well, along with reinvesting the cash flow that I was getting from that property. So really the first house is the hardest to get, but then after that it kind of becomes like exponential growth. You really can scale it because you can reinvest your cash flow and you could tap into the existing equity on your previous properties. So just the first one is the hardest one to get, but once you get that, guys, it becomes a lot easier down the road.

Felipe:
Ryan, walk us through the process of how you did the home equity line of credit and how you used that to buy another rental property, if you would?

Ryan:
Yeah, no problem. So a home equity line of credit it's basically like a credit card on a house. You're taking out, like I took out $100,000 of equity on that property because it went up $60,000 and I also paid down a good amount of it. So I was able to use it kind of like a credit card. It's a variable rate. It's based off of the federal prime rate, they call it. I think my rate was around 5% or so or 5.5% at the time. So you pay that interest on that money, but if you're making a return on investment of like 20% or 30% cash on cash return, then it makes a whole lot [inaudible 00:22:58]because you're paying only 5% interest on that money you're taking out, but you're making 20% or 30% returns on where you put that money. So that's why a HELOC is so powerful

Felipe:
How did you use yours, Ryan? For a personal experience, can you walk us through how you used yours to finance a deal and can you walk us kind of through the numbers?

Ryan:
Yeah. So I took out $100,000 and then I put $80,000 toward my fourth property to purchase it as a down payment, because HELOC money can be used as a down payment for a property, and that’s how I leveraged my money there. As far as to payment, there’s a 10 month, or no, a 10 year period where you don’t really have to pay toward a principal. You pay only interest if you want to, but it’s like a credit card. So if you wanted to pay it all off the next day, you can. If you had $100,000 at your disposal, you can just pay off the whole loan right then and there, and then the day after that you can take out $50,000. So it’s like a flexible credit card basically with very low interest rates.

Ashley:
I really liked that analogy of it’s like a credit card. That is a perfect way to explain it, and I’ve never heard anyone make that comparison, but it’s true. You swipe it or you draw the money off when you need it, and you’re paying interest on what you owe and then you pay it back, except the line of credit has a lot better interest than a credit card would. Except I just started using actually 0% interest credit cards. I was amazed at how many out there are actually available and how easy it is to get those. So I started using those to cover my rehab cost where it’s like 18 months before interest would be due on them and my rehabs will be refinanced and closed by then.

Ryan:
That’s another great strategy.

Ashley:
So that’s been interesting. Yeah, yeah. So what’s going on with this deal now, you have it rented? What else is happening with it?

Ryan:
Yeah, so actually with Covid coming on, my school actually unfortunately closed for the fall semester, but I was still able to get-

Ashley:
Oh no.

Ryan:
… tenants, believe it or not, because there’s still people out there who want to study with their friends. There’s graduate students who have to come in and do their lab work. Even some of the students actually still have to come in and do their lab work. So I was able to still get tenants, but I had to do a lot more pushing to get tenants. I advertised on these Facebook groups, like class of 2022 to get my tenants. Then what I do nowadays is I hop on a call with them and ask them what are any of your concerns or objections you might have to staying at my property, and then maybe I could provide a discount for them if a budget is a main concern for them and all of that. Do they want a larger bedroom or a smaller bedroom, that type of stuff. That kind of adds that personal touch that really helped me pretty much fill all of my rooms to full occupancy. I only have I think two rooms left to fill. So I’m almost at max occupancy still.

Ashley:
Wow, that's great. What did you do during the spring? Was the school shut down and everybody sent home? Did you let anybody out of their lease during that time or did everyone stick in it?

Ryan:
Yeah, it was kind of a tough time. They did sign a one year lease. A lot of them actually didn’t ask about it, but there were some who asked, like, “Can I leave early?” Right? So what I did was let them a month early, just kind of as a compromise.

Ashley:
Right, yeah.

Ryan:
And I also allowed them to sublease to other people who might be interested in staying. So there were some other houses where one person was leaving and everyone was on one lease, so the other three people had to find a place to stay. So I ended up taking in some of those tenants as subleasers basically.

Ashley:
Oh, I see. Okay.

Ryan:
Yeah.

Ashley:
Yeah, that’s interesting. What is another challenge of having rent by the room? Do you ever … How you just said, that like one person left and then there was three that needed somewhere to go. Do you ever deal with roommates bickering and fighting? I know you said you have your action plan. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that? Because I mean, I’ve dealt with people in a duplex fighting, but actually living in the same house, that would drive me crazy, or maybe you have a great story to tell us.

Ryan:
Yeah, no. Definitely, I have a lot of great stories. So I would say that happens about once or twice a year. You can expect that to happen once or twice a year. The first time that happened I had a tenant who smoked a lot of pot. This was actually when it was illegal back then too in California, so that was a big issue. He also played a lot of loud music, so the neighbors were complaining, and the cops actually got called to come over to see what was going on. So my tenant was … One of the tenants was complaining and said, “Dude, this guy, he’s causing a lot of trouble. I think he’s bad for the house.” And I was like, “Okay, I’ll go talk with him.” Right? And that was a big mistake because I talked with him and said, “Oh, the other tenant complained.” And then as soon as I said that, the other guy was like, “Dude, the guy is talking behind my back. I’m not okay with this.” So the drama just got worse because he was like, “The other tenants don’t respect me, I’m unhappy.” It really just got even worse.
Eventually I had to talk with the tenant’s parents and then they had no idea that their son was smoking pot and all that, but they had a talk with him, and then basically after that that solved the issue. So I could always go to that, but there’s always I guess a step-by-step process. I realized it’s better to have them talk one-on-one with each other so I don’t have that this guy is talking behind my back type of issue. Then maybe I’ll talk with them one-on-one and then go to the parents. So having that system in place was very important for me.
Another thing I had to deal with at the beginning was actually filling the rooms, believe it or not. I had trouble filling the rooms because I wasn’t good at advertising. So I created this system of advertising that I teach my current mentees, because I teach people student housing, how to get into student housing, and it’s called the prime method. P stands for placement and advertisements. So first you have to kind of determine where your target tenants hang out, because if you’re advertising in a place where your target tenants don’t even hang out, then you’re just fishing in an empty pond, right? So what I do is I go onto these Facebook groups, right? College or class of 2022, textbook exchange group, off campus housing group. I also talk with the student government and sometimes they’re able to hang up my flyers on the boards around the school campus. So just basically kind of thinking about where your target tenant hangs out and putting the advertisements there. That’s placement of advertisements.
R is review social media. So, that means I kind of do like a background check by reviewing their Facebook. I look for any smoking, drugs, alcohol, if they're like a party type of tenant who goes to a bunch of raves, or if they're more studious and they're maybe a medical student, pharmacy student or a dental student where they need to really focus on their studies. So I really do target those third or fourth year students.

Ashley:
Hey, you’re saying you target nerdy students that have the good careers? Is that what you’re saying?

Ryan:
The straight A students only, no. But ones who are definitely more focused on their school work rather than wanting to just throw a house party, right?

Ashley:
Right. Oh yeah, yeah, for sure. Probably a lot less damage.

Ryan:
Yeah, definitely. I in prime stands for identifying the type of tenant. So I try to figure out, are they just a tent who wants the cheapest deal versus the one who wants the best quality bedroom available? So it’s like the difference between staying at a Motel 6 versus the Ritz-Carlton, right? Some people want the Ritz-Carlton, but other people just want the Motel 6, they just want a place to stay. So those types of people who just want a place to stay I’ll put them in the smaller bedroom and the ones who want a nice bedroom, higher quality, I’ll put them in the master bedroom, right?
M stands for measuring responsiveness. So I kind of determine how fast they’re getting back to me when I give them paperwork or when I give them a task to do. So usually the ones who get back to me right away, they end up being more responsible tenants versus the ones, they sit on it for a couple weeks, then I might have problems down the line. If I were to contact them about late rent, I want them to get back to me right away, right? I don’t want them waiting an extra three weeks to say, “Oh, sorry, I just saw this message. Here’s the rent.” So measuring that responsiveness really determines how responsible they are as a tenant. Then E, the final step is ensuring proof of income. So always asking for … For me I ask for last two month bank statements or a credit score. I also ask for student loans or pay stubs, just any proof of income that they can show to make sure that the parents can afford the rent on the house.

Ashley:
So you do have the parents co-sign-

Ryan:
I do, most times I do.

Ashley:
… on the property? Yeah.

Ryan:
Yeah.

Ashley:
Okay, yeah.

Felipe:
Awesome. So when you have people move in … So I’m going to ask you a couple questions and you can just kind of fire them back? Do you have them split the bills or do you cover the bills in accordance just with the rent that you charge?

Ryan:
So I get the utility bills and then I split it among them. Some of the houses I actually have one tenant, especially if they’re all friends, I’ll have one tenant have the bills under their name and then they basically pay the bill and split it among the rest of their friends.

Felipe:
Because I do this with like 60 tenants, right?

Ryan:
Oh wow.

Felipe:
Yeah, I have a lot of them. What I have found is that at first that method worked for me, but then I quickly found out that a person might have a mini fridge in their room, and one guy might have a 72 inch plasma flat screen up on his wall and using a lot more electricity than the other person. So I quickly found out that that method wasn’t going to work. What I did was I just upped everyone’s rent to cover the cost of bills, and I just assumed my bill was always going to be high. So I took that out quickly, so that’s why I was wondering how you do it. Splitting the cost of the bills quickly turned negative for me because they were like, “Oh, well he uses a lot more hot water than I do. I take five minute showers, he takes 45 minute showers.” So I was just wondering how other people are handling that situation.

Ryan:
I mean, yeah. There’s no wrong way, for sure. For me I do prefer the system that I use because it kind of incentivizes them to save money by turning off all the lights, and maybe not running the AC down to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, right? So I prefer doing it this way, having them pay for whatever they’re using because they are in full control of their bill, right? It’s not like a set amount. So yeah, that’s why I did what I did.

Felipe:
I have a Nest and I control it if they get too happy with it. I have a notification.

Ryan:
[crosstalk 00:33:29].

Felipe:
If it gets down to like 71, 72 or lower, I’m like, “All right, guys. What’s going on?” I just crank it up on them. I’ve gotten a couple messages, but they end up catching on pretty quick. Another thing that I’ve noticed, if I just leave the fun running in the house I might have to change the filters more often but the AC gets circulated better. So it’s always helped out a little bit more.
Ryan, let me ask you something about when you are renting by the room, when you put their parents on the lease, do you ask the same information from the parents as you do from the kid in regards to the application?

Ryan:
Usually for the contact information I get that from the kid, but for the parents I usually get the bank statements and FICO scores. So usually it’s not actually the kid’s bank statements, it’s the parent’s bank statements I ask for [crosstalk 00:34:13].

Felipe:
Then do you get a deposit per room?

Ryan:
Yeah. I get a security deposit of one and a half times the month's rent to insure if I end up with holes in the wall, I could use the security deposit to cover that bill. But I've never had any issues with actually holes in the walls or the place being super trashed. I usually have a maid come in once a year anyways to clean up the whole property, but I've never had any major party type tenants, and again, that's due to the targeting. I look for studious tenants, usually third or fourth year students who are more mature, their party life is out of the way, right? And they're pharmacy, medical professionals, so yeah.

Ashley:
Jeez, Felipe, we would never be allowed to live in one of Ryan’s houses.

Felipe:
I would not. I would not be in Ryan’s house.

Ryan:
You guys are big [crosstalk 00:34:58], huh?

Felipe:
No, not at all. I just would just go on to the next rent by the room. Jeez, I might as well rent an apartment. But that’s actually really smart though. I mean, you’re dealing with kids that are under 24 years old, right? I think every city has its niche. For example, I rent to traveling professionals who are in the construction business or know how to operate a certain crane and they’re brought up from another state to live in this state to run that for 18 months or whatever. Mine’s a little bit different. I can’t necessarily ask for certain things. For me it’s more like, “Hey, how long is your contract here?” And I’ve never not been paid rent.
Ryan, one last thing before we move on is how do you handle when someone doesn’t pay the rent? How do you evict someone from a room?

Ryan:
I’ve never actually had that issue before just because-

Ashley:
That’s great.

Ryan:
Yeah. To be honest, the student housing, what parent is going to want their kid being evicted from the place they’re staying in at college, right? So I’ve never actually ran into that issue before, but I do keep that hefty security deposit. So if I do get unpaid rent, I could use that toward that rent.

Ashley:
[inaudible 00:36:03].

Felipe:
I like that.

Ashley:
Okay, awesome. Well, I want to move us onto our next segment. This one is where I want to find out who is a key player in your business and who has really helped you grow your real estate portfolio. So this could be a lender, an attorney, whoever. We call this segment the …

Felipe:
MVP, MVP, MVP.

Crowd:
MVP, MVP, MVP.

Ashley:
So Ryan, I want to know who is that MVP, that most valuable player on your team?

Ryan:
Yeah, so my MVP would definitely be my real estate agent, believe it or not. He was the first guy I ever got in contact with in terms of my first partner and looking at real estate. He really broke down what I should be looking for in a deal, because he invests in rentals himself. He actually has five rentals himself, so he was able to show me hey, look at this part of the house. I don't like this part, maybe you should consider actually purchasing another place, right? This probably isn't the best place for college students. He would also give me off market listings as well because he knew exactly what I was looking for. He knew I wanted that value add where I could add that extra bedroom. So he was definitely a key player in just everything, the whole process, making it easier. He was very responsive. He was very professional as well, and that taught me kind of how to be more responsible, responsive to my tenants, treat my tenants with respect and treat them professionally too. It kind of rubbed off onto me.
So at the last house I purchased I actually cut him a $1,000 check in appreciation for all the hard work he'd done. Usually the seller pays the commission, so he already gets commission from the seller, but I like to give back as well. So I treat him out to dinner and I also gave him a $1,000 check just as a thank you. So it's really if you treat your team right, more deals will come to you. It's really the law of reciprocity, right? Also treating your tenants right and then they'll treat you right as well.

Felipe:
I couldn’t agree more, Ryan, because one, that $1,000 is probably going to be a drop in the bucket compared to how many deals the realtor is going to find for you, because he’s going to think of you first when things come to market or even before they come onto market, which is those amazing off market deals. So how would you tell our listeners how they could find a rockstar realtor like the one you found? What is it that attracted you and vice versa?

Ryan:
Definitely BiggerPockets is one of the best resources too. They have a place where you can look up the real estate agent by wherever you live, right? And you can read through the reviews and see, like are they an honest person? So things I look for is honesty, responsiveness, knowledge of the local market and years of experience. So just looking on BiggerPockets. You can also go on Yelp and even do a Google search for real estate agents in your area and just read through the reviews and see what type of person they are and how many years of experience, and that's how I found I really connected with this real estate agent.

Ashley:
Did you just look at him and you’re like, “Okay, he’ll be my agent.” Or did you look at multiple agents?

Ryan:
I looked at multiple agents. So I definitely read through all the reviews, I called them up. I actually did interview them as well. So two questions I ask when I interview a real estate agent is one, are you a real estate investor yourself? Because the ones who are real estate investors themselves, they know exactly what I’m looking for, right? Two, do you work with other real estate investors? So that kind of helps them, or you find what the best real estate agent for you because someone who is just selling a house to a family, the family is going to look for something totally different than a real estate investor looking to rent out the house to other tenants.

Ashley:
Ryan, that was the perfect answer I was looking for, because that has been a common theme on this podcast, is people say when they found that great person is they interviewed a ton of people. They didn’t just take the easier route and be like, “Oh well, here’s the first person that comes up on Google, I’ll just call them and hire them or do something with them.” So that’s great, great job knowing exactly the answer I wanted to hear.

Ryan:
Thank you, thank you.

Ashley:
Felipe, do you want to take us to the next segment?

Felipe:
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, Ryan. So we’re going to move on to the next segment of the show, and this part is called the Rookie Request Line. All right, we’re going to read, you have a question, you’re going to be able to answer that and we’re going to go from there, okay?

Ryan:
Sounds good.

Felipe:
All right, let’s go. Just so you remember guys, anyone can leave a question at 1-888-5-ROOKIE and you can leave us a voicemail and we might be able to use it on the next show.

Lola:
Hey, my name is Lola and I was just calling to find out about bookkeeping. If you have multiple properties, would you say that you open up a new bank account for each property for your tenants to pay rent? I know there are so many apps these days, so I’m not sure if an app is the best way. But if you have multiple properties, what’s your suggestion for how to keep I guess the numbers separate, the capex stuff, but just to make sure each property is performing properly? Thank you.

Ryan:
That’s a great question. So I do have one bank account for all four properties. I use the Zelle app as a payment app, and it does direct deposit. So it tells you exactly when everybody paid the rent. So I can tell if they paid late rent or not, and I have a five day grace period as well. After those five days it’s considered late. Let’s see, what else do I do?
I do do my own bookkeeping and I have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything. I also write checks to my contractors, so I also have that checkbook that I can refer back to to see what did I pay them and what date did I pay them. But yes, I do do my own bookkeeping. Eventually I’ll probably hire out for that, but at the beginning because I want to save that money in self-managing my property, I can do that. Plus, I’m also pretty savvy with numbers, right? So I like doing it. It’s not a big issue for me to put numbers into a spreadsheet and keep track of my finances. Plus, it also helps me really understand if I’m making profit or not and what areas I can improve on, because I’m examining them as I put the numbers in, I’m like, “Oh, okay.” Maybe this house has a really high energy bill. Why is that, right? Maybe do I have to change the filters on the heater and the AC, maybe that might help out, or things like that.

Felipe:
I like that, and you’re right. I’ve actually changed all my light bulbs to the LEDs and-

Ryan:
Yeah, LED, definitely.

Felipe:
… all my filters are actually washable. So I paid a high price for them, but I don’t have to buy them anymore. So what I do is I can take it out, I take it outside, I hose it down, I dry it off and I can put it right back in. So I’m able to reuse that, recycle it, and now I don’t have to continue to buy them. So those are some of the things that I have, as well as I don’t have any lights outside except on the front because people just flick the lights on and leave them. But that’s all here and there. But hey, Ryan, real quick. Before we move onto the four questions where we want to get to know you a little bit better, what is one piece of advice that you would give our listeners if they want to get into the rent by the room game when they’re first starting out?

Ryan:
Yeah, definitely I would say the first thing is … I mean, there’s a couple things you could do, definitely, but the first thing is trying to identify the market that you’re going to invest in, because if I invested in Sacramento area, the cashflow wouldn’t make as much sense, right? So for me, I was able to go an hour away and invest in a place where the houses are almost half the price of where I’m currently living, and that’s where the cashflow makes sense.
Another thing is actually finding a mentor. I highly recommend it. Find someone who does exactly what you want to do, whether it'd be flipping, student housing or whatnot and get in contact with them. Just kind of get to know them and give value to them, right? And then they can give you value back and provide that expert advice so you don't run into a lot of the same mistakes that they ended up running into. Look for people who really care about the people they're trying to help out, right? They really care about their tenants, they really care about their team and they really want to give back and sincerely want to help other people out. Those are the type of people you want to look for.

Felipe:
Ryan, how do you find that person? How do you find a mentor that’s sincere?

Ryan:
I would say BiggerPockets is one of the best ways to make a lot of the connections. I’ve connected with a lot of people through the forums as well. Just reaching out and saying, “Hey, I’m thinking of getting started in real estate investing.” Introducing yourself and just have a conversation, maybe even get them on a phone call, right?

Ashley:
I actually had two weekends ago, I guess, I was able to meet Felipe's friend Diego Cortes, and he does a bunch of mentoring. Listening to him talk about how passionate he was, and he doesn't do it for the money, he has his whole real estate empire and he's a millionaire, but just listening to him talk about helping people and what he wants to do with it and everything. It was so exciting and so inspiring to hear that. Those are the kinds of people you want to find to help you, where they're talking about it passionately, they're telling someone else how much they love doing it. Those are the people you want to look for for mentoring.

Ryan:
Exactly.

Ashley:
Yeah, that was really cool to talk to him and just see that passion. I’ve experienced that before listening to people talk about something and just the passion radiates out of them and you’re like, “I want to work with them.” I want to be around that excitement, that passion.

Ryan:
Oh yeah, definitely. Just the vibe when you talk with that person or you hear them speak.

Ashley:
Yeah, yeah.

Felipe:
All right, Ryan. We’re going to ask you a couple of random questions just to get to know you a little bit better, specifically in the niche of real estate that you’re in. My first question is going to be, Ryan, how hard, what kind of insurance, what do you have to do to your houses when you rent by the room regarding insurance?

Ryan:
Regarding insurance. So I do compare quote. I get a couple quotes, right? For homeowner’s insurance, and then I just choose of course one of the best options and kind of look what they’re covering exactly. I would say to be honest I don’t really look into it super hard or anything like that.

Felipe:
Do you ask the tenants to get their own insurance, like renter’s insurance?

Ryan:
Oh yes, yeah. I definitely mention that at the beginning. We do recommend rental insurance. It's only like $10 a month or something like that and it covers things like stolen items, right? The other thing actually I forgot to mention is I actually do do umbrella insurance. It's a little bit difference than an LLC where you incorporate. It does limit your liability. It basically covers anything that your normal insurance policy would not, like if costs that go over your normal insurance policy, the umbrella insurance policy might cover it. It's pretty cheap, it's cheaper than the LLC. I forget what the price was, but it seemed to me to be one of the better options out there, so that's what I chose.

Felipe:
Good answer.

Ryan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley:
Yeah, that’s what I have too on some of my properties is the umbrella policy. So my random question, and we haven’t actually asked this in a while, is what would be a good book recommendation that you would like our listeners to read? So this could be either a real estate book, maybe even a personal finance book. I mean, you’ve obviously been able to save and work hard to make these down payments. Are there any books out there you would recommend for people to read?

Ryan:
Yeah, there was actually a book I read not too long ago. It’s hard to remember the name. It was written by Brendon Burchard. It was like the eight successful or six habits that successful people have. It goes through, I don’t know if you guys remember the name, but it goes through getting clarity on your goals. It goes through creating energy to-

Ashley:
Oh, is it the High Performance Habits book?

Ryan:
Yes, that’s the one, yeah. High Performance Habits.

Ashley:
I sound super smart but I just Googled it. But I do, I have read that book.

Felipe:
Ryan, did you hear how she said it? Oh, is it the six … Like she didn’t just Google it.

Ryan:
[crosstalk 00:48:25].

Felipe:
She was like …

Ashley:
Yeah, that is a great book.

Ryan:
It is, right?

Ashley:
Yeah.

Ryan:
I would say that was one of the better books I read to kind of work on the mindset piece. It goes over how to develop your team and everything, right? In any area of life.

Ashley:
So what’s one action that … Sorry Felipe, I’m stealing the next question. What’s one action item you incorporate, you took from that book and you’ve incorporated into your life or one habit?

Ryan:
Yeah, so one of them is that first chapter is about clarity, getting clarity on your goals. So I do a lot of journaling in the morning to kind of see what can I appreciate today. Having that attitude of gratitude. I also do five to 10 minutes of meditation in the morning as well and then I kind of really think about what are my goals for today and setting an intention for each day. So that really sets you up for success every day that you wake up basically [inaudible 00:49:21].

Felipe:
I couldn’t agree more, Ryan.

Ashley:
That’s awesome.

Felipe:
I think that’s really cool. Really funny. It looked like when Ashley was Googling the name of the book. Have you guys seen … What’s that’s movie where, what’s his name, becomes like god or whatever, and he’s like typing out all the emails really, really fast?

Ashley:
It’s on Bruce Almighty.

Felipe:
Bruce Almighty.

Ryan:
Bruce Almighty, yeah.

Felipe:
Have you seen that? Ashley looked like that when she was-

Ryan:
[crosstalk 00:49:41].

Felipe:
… typing up the book.

Ashley:
I was trying to go super fast.

Ryan:
[crosstalk 00:49:47].

Felipe:
That’s so funny. I bet Google was like, “Cannot compute what you’re talking about.” Anyways, all right, moving on.
Ryan, so-

Ryan:
Oh man.

Felipe:
… what is one piece of technology … You say you self-manage, right? So give us a couple apps that you use to self-manage your properties that others could probably find really useful as well?

Ryan:
I always say honestly I'm not super fancy. I do have that Zelle app which does do direct deposit. I use Excel for my spreadsheets and I use Zillow to find listings as well even. I have Zillow send the emails so if there's a really good listing that pops up, I'll hop on it on the first day that comes out. I'll see the property and in the next day I'll offer on the property. Because I had that first jump on it, I really eliminate a lot of the competition for people who might look at it later.

Ashley:
Do you do your screening through Zillow too? Do you do background and credit checks? Or yeah, you said you did that. What program do you use for that?

Ryan:
I usually actually just have them email me those documents.

Ashley:
Oh, so they do it. Okay.

Ryan:
Yeah.

Ashley:
So they would print off their Credit Karma. Okay. Okay, cool.

Ryan:
Stuff like that, yeah. Uh-huh (affirmative), or a screenshot of their credit score if that can be done. Some banks usually provide just like a estimate of the FICO score.

Ashley:
Yeah. Okay, awesome.

Felipe:
Very cool.

Ashley:
Well, thank you so much for all of this information today, Ryan.

Ryan:
Yeah, no problem. Happy to help and kind of give back to you guys as well.

Ashley:
Yeah. Where can people find out more information about you and possibly reach you?

Ryan:
Yeah, so I actually offer this free PDF for newbies, just trying to get into the student housing market, or are interested in the student housing market, or just trying to get started in real estate even. You can find that on my home page on my website, which is www.newbierealestateinvesting.com. That’s www.newbierealestateinvesting.com and newbie is spelled N-E-W-B-I-E.

Ashley:
Hey, come on, Ryan. You’re trying to steal our rookies and turn them into newbies.

Ryan:
Oh, definitely not. That’s not my intention.

Ashley:
Are you in the Facebook rookie page too?

Ryan:
Yes, I think I am. I think, yeah, yeah.

Ashley:
Okay, well make sure you’re in there so that people who have asked questions they can reach you there, and definitely check out Ryan’s website and we will add it to the show notes at Biggerpockets.com/rookie34, or is this 35, Felipe? I think I’m wrong.

Felipe:
You are absolutely wrong. This is 35. Ryan, thank you so much for coming out, man. We’ll talk to you later, brother.

Ryan:
[crosstalk 00:52:19]All right. Thank you guys.

Ashley:
Bye, Ryan.

Felipe:
Bye, Ryan.

Ashley:
Thank you.

 

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How Ryan is succeeding in one of the most expensive markets in the country, the Bay Area
  • Using his job as a pharmacist to get conventional financing
  • Creating generational wealth through real estate
  • How he saved up to buy 1 property per year, 4 years in a row
  • Why he rents his houses to college students
  • The systems he uses to manage 18 tenants and avoiding roommate drama
  • Unlocking hidden value and boosting rental income by adding bedrooms
  • Lessons learned from a difficult tenant who smoked weed and played loud music
  • Why “buy then wait” beats “wait then buy”
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Rookie Deal

  • Home Price: $315,000
  • 20% Downpayment: $63,000
  • Interest Rate: 3.625%
  • Closing Costs: $6280
  • Revenue (Rental income): $2770/month
  • Expenses:
  • Gardener: $50×12 months = $600
  • Remove rug and install vinyl floor in bathroom and replace leaky Fixtures: $1200
  • Replace sprinkler heads with drip system: $393
  • Treatment of roaches: $200
  • Housekeeping: $260
  • Total Yearly expenses: $2653
  • Total monthly expenses: $221
  • Vacancy rate: 0 (I have back to back leases)
  • No HOA or property management fees (I self-manage)
  • Tenants pay utility bills
  • Mortgage:
  • Mortgage payment (PITI – 15 year loan): $2237
  • Mortgage payment (PITI – if used 30 year loan): $1569
  • Cashflow:
  • Cash Flow (15 year loan): $312
  • Cash Flow (if used 30 year loan): $980

Ryan’s MVP

Books Mentioned in this Show:

Connect with Ryan:

Ready to go take action? Every Wednesday, the Real Estate Rookie Podcast will arm you with tips, tools, and inspiration to help you launch your real estate investing career. Hosts Ashley Kehr and F...
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