New to Bigger Pockets but not to real estate

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My name is Omar Ismael. I live and invest in New Jersey. I’m a licensed real estate agent, an investor in real estate and a certified union carpenter. I am also an active buy and hold investor looking to grow my portfolio of properties.

I came to America from the Caribbean to be a pilot. Now let me tell you how I became a real estate investor then later, a realtor. Becoming a pilot didn’t work out for reasons that seem more along the lines of destiny than anything else. I was renting a three bedroom apartment in New York, at the time I was married to my first wife and our son was about five y/o. Anyway, we separated and I decided to rent the other two rooms at $175 a week each to pay the rent with ease. I was young and hardly ever home so this arrangement was convenient at that time. Investors would refer to this as “house hacking”. I liked that ease of being able to take care of bills passively. I knew the apartment wasn’t my direct asset, but I had a lease and my landlord had no problem with my operation. In fact, my landlord was the first person who advised me to purchase my first property in New Jersey, he must have thought I had a level of chutzpah or bravado to become an investor after seeing my small operation I was conducting in his apartment. I followed him up on it though, it was between his motivating words and the beginning of my reading for success journey where my riveting choice of book at the time was “Rich dad poor dad” and what really stuck with me during that time was, “If you want more money, simply change your thinking”. The chapter then continued to say, “every self made person started small with an idea then turned it into something big.” I felt every bit of that as a man from the Caribbean who wasn’t afforded a university education like my other siblings, middle class at best who came to America to fulfill my greatest ambition that didn’t work out. I was the perfect exhibit of someone who needed to make something of myself with no option than to do it by myself. The epitome of “if you want it, you have to work twice as hard to get it” as it was made very clear to me that luck was no trait of mine. It took me approximately one year later to build myself to a point where taking risks would not affect my family’s productivity. The plan was to buy my first investment property, do the necessary renovations all while working to sustain my family without living hand to mouth. That one year was crucial to my growth, I worked harder, my goals motivated me and I achieved exactly what I wanted, a way to have my money work for me. It was just the beginning. The first property I bought which was in Newark, New Jersey, paid in cash. It was around November 2009 but the process was complete in January 2010. This was the beginning of my real estate journey, 9 years ago. It was a single family, two story house with a finish attic, five bedrooms, two bathrooms. I bought it for $26,000 and my first tenant was a Section 8 tenant paying $75 out of pocket while the government paid the remaining $1425. That rental property is still being rented out for $1500 a month excluding utilities.

Fast forward to the latter part of my 30s. Divorced again, three kids in and a burning desire to have and be more. I started investing in real estate and had my now second ex wife invest with me in my next four properties. I saw where investing in real estate would have made me the man I wanted to be. I was built for long term investments and my savior complex allows me to turn any dismantled property into pristine homes. On that note, let me backtrack to my come up between my pilot school debacle and real estate. I learnt the art of construction from my first wife's brother who took me on doing menial labor like sweeping the floors then within a few months taught me carpentry. From that, I became a union carpenter. With keen knowledge of construction, I was able to grasp the concept of housing in America with swiftness and rationalize property worth based on any property's makeup. So ofcourse I knew what and what to not accept for a given price and I'm able to help my clients in that regard as well. In addition to that, 90% of the time I end up assisting in refurbishing properties for clients after being their realtor especially if it it is an investment property they've purchased as an REO, "property purchased from the bank at a low cost." Real estate rehab might be my favorite aspect of real estate for me since it's a grand combination of what I enjoy doing, construction, reconstruction rather and being a realtor. With becoming an investor, I had to meet a few inconsistent and unreliable realtors who had no idea about what investors require because they themselves weren't actual investors. I'm talking about realtors who couldn't answer basic need to know questions, realtors who wouldn't take phone calls due to feeling overwhelmed by not knowing enough. So I decided to get my real estate license to be my own realtor and to help other future investors. It's been 7 years, I own and co-own a total of eight properties. All either currently being rented or renovating with the intention of being rented. The journey as an investor has been fruitful, but with all good things comes it's challenges such as obstacles with tenants, the respective city laws,co-ownership nd etc. I will write all about it as a general reflection for present and future investors in real estate with hopes of generating helpful discussions and classified and exclusive guide for persons wanting to know more about real estate, real estate investments, real estate rehab, construction and the laws of New Jersey which caters to the previously listed.