In the beginning...Or, How I Got into Real Estate Investing
I’ve always wanted to get involved in real estate investing, I watched the late night infomercials growing up but never did anything about it. Granted, I was relatively young and there was another calling that was stronger and consumed my life for 30+ years. At the tender age of 17 I joined the Hawaii Army National Guard as an 11B Infantryman assigned to the Scout platoon. My parents had to sign the paperwork letting me join and although my dad signed willingly, he served during the Korean War era, my mother was reluctant to do so. She did finally sign once she realized that not doing so only delayed the inevitable.
I attended basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia with an all Hawaiian platoon which just meant we were all guys from the state of Hawaii and our drill sergeants referred to us as Pineapple Heads and other rather creative names not fit for public consumption. This was the start to a career that would see participation in several conflicts and combat tours as an Infantry soldier and later a Logistics Officer. Although I started in the National Guard, it didn’t take me long to transition to active duty and eventually getting my commission as an Army Ordnance Officer with a specialty in Maintenance Management. Actually not too bad of a fit considering I was a bit of a gearhead and loved tinkering with cars, and anything mechanical.
Ironically, I never intended to be a full time soldier and had started studying business and marketing in college before I went onto active duty. Suddenly, it is 2015 and I am standing on stage with one of my favorite bosses, Brigadier General (Retired) Hector Pagan, as he presides over my retirement ceremony. 32, not to be confused with 42, “Answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” That was the total amount of service time I was walking away from and I hadn’t the faintest clue what I would do next. How do you follow up a career as a jack of all trades and master of none? I wasn’t specialized in anything realistically, unlike Robert Kiyosaki who became a pilot with the Marine Corps, I ran the gambit of duties from that of a trained killer to a strategic planner finishing my career as an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA. On the other hand, I was great at herding cats or, as the professional term is, a very good project manager.
Given that I chose to get my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification and sought positions in that role. It was a hard transition for me, after all, I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel so finding a position in that senior of a role is a challenge in Corporate America and, as stated earlier, I wasn’t a specialist in anything. Sure, I was a logistics officer and I could plan, coordinate and execute multi-million dollar logistics support plans in the middle of Africa, which I did for three years, but that doesn’t always translate to the civilian sector. During this time of transition, it entered into my thoughts only once about going into real estate. I’m not totally sure why I didn’t do it but it just didn’t seem like the right time. Maybe it was my arrogance that I could do better as well as my lack of understanding on what the benefits of real estate investing really were. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until June of this year that I made the leap, no static line, small reserve, no knowledge of winds on the ground but prepared to do a dynamic PLF (parachute Landing Fall) when I hit the ground!
I will have to credit my time in Corporate America that led me to this decision as I did land a high paying job as a Senior Manager at a multi-billion dollar Defense Industry company. It was during this time in the rat race that I realized I wanted out of it. During a business trip to California things came to a head while I was dealing with a strategic partner as well as government customer. I called my wife to discuss it and she said, “do what you need to do.” Thus, I resigned my position and spent a couple of months deciding what to do next. I was fully enjoying not doing anything as I got to finish my workshop so I could work on my cars but I also realized that my retirement income would not be able to keep up with my desire to find old cars to fix and drive. Once again, I was in a bit of a quandary, what should I do next?
Fatefully, we kept in contact with our real estate agent, Walter, who was a friend of a friend and helped us find our home in Florida. Walter wasn’t just an agent, he was also a broker with his own company and also a real estate investor. Upon meeting with Walter he spoke to me about helping him with a software project that targeted the real estate industry. He was looking at my expertise in program/project management and thought I would be able to benefit him when it was time to release this particular project. Walter’s original background was in the dot com industry and he had his own company at one point before things went bust. After moving into real estate he combined his knowledge in real estate with his dot com experience and hit on an idea that he believes will be a big hit in the industry. Sure! Count me in!
One catch, it’s not quite ready yet. OK, now what? Well, after some thought, I have another discussion with Walter and it is decided that I will go and get my real estate license and work as an agent for him. This will do a couple of things, it will get me some income but, more importantly, it will educate me about the industry so that I could better understand what we were trying to accomplish with his software project. Now, just gotta find a school...
I’ll be brutally honest, the real estate exam was easy for me. You have three hours for 100 questions, it took me about an hour. Remember, I am also PMP certified, that test gave you 4 hours, was 200 questions and was the most challenging test I have ever taken. It took me 3 ½ hours to complete the test and I spent close to three plus months preparing. In contrast, I spent two weeks at a real estate course and a month prepping before testing but only because I couldn’t get the test scheduled sooner.
Still, after I got my license I wasn’t fully committed to becoming an investor. I was focusing, as most do, on being a good agent. I still wanted to get a few properties for rental income but that was a side project at most. It wasn’t until I started writing blog posts as an agent that focused on understanding what a VA loan was that things changed. It was shortly after I wrote a post on VA loan myths that a former comrade in arms, Jessica, sent me a note. I worked with Jessica on several exercises in Africa, she was a Navy Lieutenant at the time working with the SEALS and I was developing and coordinating logistics support to Special Operations Forces in the Africa region. After I left we stayed in touch and she sent me a message on FB that I should check out Biggerpockets.com.
At first I checked it out on FB but was still not sure what it was. After some additional investigation I found the main website and started to fully understand what it was all about. Jessica and her husband currently have I think eight properties that they cash flow. It wasn’t long until I realized the value of BP and started to listen to the pod casts during my drives as well as started to download and read the books they offered. My only complaint is that I am a slow reader and there are so many things to read! I wish I could read faster but I just never really developed that ability. At this point I decided that I was all in. By the way, I don’t play poker, don’t really understand the game but I do understand the term. Thus, my adventures began and, being the strategic planner that I am, I started to read, research and develop a plan. That is a story still being written that will appear a bit later.