It's never too early to start

3 Replies

I've been doing real estate investing for about 4 years now, and when people ask me about it, one of the first things they mention is how hard it must be, how they are too old, or some other excuse why they don't pursue this if it interests them.

So, I thought I'd share my personal experiences and hopefully inspire some people out there to take the leap:

In 2008, my wife at the time hit me with a bombshell.  She wanted a divorce.  Sure, we fought like any other couple, but this was out of left field.  So, I kept hearing horror stories about people who went bankrupt, went to live with their parents, etc, after a divorce, and I swore that wouldn't happen to me.

So, I kept the house and we split the debt.  I was making $2,600 a month net with a $1,750 a month mortgage and $10,000 in credit card debt.

As you can imagine, I was in a panic.  I didn't want to face bankruptcy simply because my marriage fell apart.  A friend of mine told me to offer to settle with the credit card company for $5k and tell them I wasn't going to pay them a dime more.  His point was I already had a house and a car, so I didn't "need my credit rating".  I am a pretty honorable guy, and believe in paying my debts.  Plus, I had the feeling my credit rating might come in handy later on.

Fast forward to 2011.  My area is smack in the middle of the recession from 2008-2009.  Housing prices have bottomed out.  Houses that were $200k 3 years ago were now selling for $140k.  I managed to find a place that was listed for $140k and got it for $110k.  I put my 20% down + a few thousand for misc. things like a fresh coat of paint.

Tenant moves in 3 months later.  I'm making $250 a month profit.  YAY!

Fast forward to April 2014.  Tenant is perfect.  Taking care of property, paying in full and on time every month, etc.  Market rebounds, I decide to cash out finance and buy my next property.

Because the market has rebounded, EVERYTHING is out of my price range.  What to do?  I listen to a podcast on here and the guy being interviewed has properties all over the US.  The interviewers ask him if he's comfortable with that.  He says yes.  They ask about driving by your properties to make sure all is well.  He asks when was the last time you drove by your properties that you have locally?  That is the question that inspired me to look outside my area.

I've only driven by my property when I wanted to show off for a girl.  :)

So, through TONS of research, I find a city that has decently priced houses ($40k-$70k), that rent for around $800-$1000 a month.  I think there must be some mistake.  Anyone who can do basic math can tell you that you could buy the place and have it be literally HALF price of what rent is.  But, I looked around, and there are several cities that are like this.

Fast forward, I bought a small $40k house that rents for $795 a month.  Put a few bucks into it for some minor upgrades (all less than $1k total), and things are humming along nicely.  I happen to have some money left over from my refinance of my first place, and I bought a third place a few miles from the second.  This deal was a bit more complicated and I probably shouldn't have done it.  The $40k property was making me around 35% cash on cash return, but this one was on a flood plain, and I didn't pay attention to that fact.  Bank required me to get flood insurance.  That, coupled with the fact I overestimated the rents, meant I was making a "meager" 10%.  Still VERY good!

Fast forward further, I decided to sell my first property.  After my cash out refi, I was makign a profit of $44 instead of $250.  Got hit with a $900 repair, and that wiped out almost 2 years worth of profits.  Did a quick spreadsheet of sell vs. keep, and found that I could buy 4 houses in my new city and make a profit of around $1,500 a month across those if I sold.

So I sold, and those properties were closed on the 31st of last month.

Now, I took calculated risks, saved my money like crazy, denied myself fun items like an upgraded computer and a few toys, and did TONS of homework.  Asked people questions, found holes in my strategy and corrected, found trustworthy people to work with (property manager and bank).  

I could have taken the easy way out.  I could have bought toys I wanted, complained about flat wages in America, or made up some other lame excuse as to why I wasn't wealthy.

I started this at the ripe old age of 37.  I overcame the brink of bankruptcy, divorce, self greed, and more to get where I am, and there's no reason why you can't get to where you want to be either.

There's a reason why they call America: Land of Opportunity.  They don't call America: Land of Free Stuff.  You have to make that leap, but I promise you, that if you pay attention, make calculated risks, you'll be just as successful as anyone on here.

So your $250 "cash flow" didn't include vacancies, repairs, maintenance, cap ex, or property management? If so, that's where your mistake was. If you are renting the 1st one for $1,000/month, just putting 5% away for repairs/maintenance would have paid for a $900 repair without touching your profits. Just giving you a tip for future investments. I just finished rehabbing a duplex yesterday that we bought for 39k, total investment of about $75k after rehab. Projected rents are at a minimum of $800 per side, so a gross rent of $1600 minimum.. After we refinance it, our note will be about $630. When you add in tax, insurance, repair/maint, vac,prop management (even though we manage our own props), our cash flow will be about $340/month. If you just take rent minus note, our cash flow would be $970. Calculating this way is a sure way to fail and sell your property to me at a great deal. I am by no means an expert, this duplex is only my second rental, but I have learned a lot from bigger pockets, mainly the podcasts. Good Luck!
Originally posted by @Nick Fuglaar :
So your $250 "cash flow" didn't include vacancies, repairs, maintenance, cap ex, or property management? If so, that's where your mistake was. If you are renting the 1st one for $1,000/month, just putting 5% away for repairs/maintenance would have paid for a $900 repair without touching your profits. Just giving you a tip for future investments. I just finished rehabbing a duplex yesterday that we bought for 39k, total investment of about $75k after rehab. Projected rents are at a minimum of $800 per side, so a gross rent of $1600 minimum.. After we refinance it, our note will be about $630. When you add in tax, insurance, repair/maint, vac,prop management (even though we manage our own props), our cash flow will be about $340/month. If you just take rent minus note, our cash flow would be $970. Calculating this way is a sure way to fail and sell your property to me at a great deal. I am by no means an expert, this duplex is only my second rental, but I have learned a lot from bigger pockets, mainly the podcasts.

Good Luck!

 Oh no, you're absolutely right, and I should have explained further.  When I do get the profits in, I don't spend any of it.  It just sits in my account, waiting for repairs and the like.  When I'm ready to buy the next property, I leave X amount in the account for repairs, vacancies, etc, and use the rest.  I was speaking strictly from the "well that wipes out all the cash flow for the next two years" way of looking at it.

Forgot to add that the $250 a month is after property management.

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