I graduate from college on May 2nd this year with a degree in finance from Michigan Tech. 3 weeks later I started my first job as a program manager for an engineering company in the maritime industry. 3 weeks after that I closed on my first 4plex. 3 months in and loving every minute of it, even through the minor hiccups.
My typical day starts at 6:30am when I wake up. I'm to the office by 7am, and leaving work for my home depot run by 4:30 or 5pm. From here I have spent every night fixing, repairing, or renovating something.... I am usually working till about 9:30 in time to cook diner, watch a short Netflix show, and hit the hay.
The plan was to tackle a complete renovation of one of the 4 units first. Given my rather significant experience in renovating properties I figured I could do the work in 2 months. Well... that hasn't exactly worked out the way I wanted.
One of the first weekends after closing my parents made the 1hr 30min trip to come help for the day. After a long and successful day we were cleaning up when all of a sudden my dad starts screaming from the basement... not a particularly good sign. I ran down to see sewage pouring out of the old and now broken cast iron pipes. Luckily we work well in a crisis and had a section of my sewer pipes redone within a few hours. We had already been working for 10 hours and that pretty much put my mom over the edge...
Fast forward a month and I was just closing my eyes for bed when my upstairs tenant comes knocking on my door at 11pm... now what?! Come to find out there is water leaking through the wall and dripping onto his window sill right by his computer and other electronics(I recommended he buys renters insurance when he signed the lease)... hmm. The next day after work I crawled up onto the first level of roof to see if I could spot the problem. Yep, the water is going right through the cracks between the brick. With no gutters and 135 years of rain, snow, and ice the mortar had been completely compromised where my pitched roof ends. I paid a home inspector before purchasing. He even went up in his boom truck to look at the tuck pointing. He mentioned it would need to be redone in the future but he failed to point out if you tapped on some of the bricks you could practically pull them out. Luckily the significant damage was only in a few non structural points so I had to take two weeks of late nights standing on my ladder chiseling, cleaning, and tuck-pointing the bad sections. What made this job even more fun were the hornets that built a nest in the holes and attacked me while holding tools balanced on a ladder 25 feet in the air... Needless to say after a few bites I have no more leaks.
Just as I thought I was about to wrap up my renovation on the empty 2 bed I noticed the sound from the apartment next to it literally made it seem like you were in the same room. No insulation of course. I believe in doing things right and wanting to make a place my tenants can call home so out came the layers of particle board, drywall, and then plaster and lath. New insulation, tub and drywall went back up. Thank goodness I did that because I found a cracked pipe that would have leaked as soon as a tenant moved into the apartment.
After all this in just the first 3 months I am still loving it. Real estate is something I absolutely love and my property is step one in me working to reach my goals in life. I understood all these things would happen when I bought the property, I had just hoped a few of them would end up being projects that would need to be done 1 or 2 years in, not the first week, and months of ownership.
My message to anyone looking to get into the game is to be realistic about what your getting yourself into and be ready for the unexpected expenses. Don't think you will have a few years before the problems may come. I am lucky I know how to fix most problems myself or can reach out to my dad for advice if needed. Each problem cost me a few hundred bucks between material and new tools I had to buy. If I couldn't do the work myself those bills would have been significantly higher!
I'm about 2 weeks out from finishing the vacant 2 bed that I was hoping to finish over a month ago. I will post some photos when its all done. Just finishing mudding in the bathroom and tiling the tub surround and floor. I'm hoping to get $700 a month out of the unit. Its a large 1000 square foot open concept unit. $6000 in renovations for the unit gave me updated ceilings, LED lighting, floors, a kitchen with granite counters, and a brand new bathroom. The only thing I am contracting out is the install of the new carpets. Similar units in my area that are outdated rent for $650 so I'm asking about 8% more then market rents. As a note, when I did my financials I planned to only get $650. My strategy is to have the best looking units in my town for the "B" price range so my vacancies get filled first and hopefully my tenants will want to live in the building longer term.
I'm looking for my first 4plex now; thank you so much for sharing your story. I'm sure stepping into the situation with realistic expectations has made this an enjoyable experience. You seem to be handling everything like a pro. So excited for you. I look forward to seeing some of your pictures. It's a great money saver doing all that work yourself. The best part about it; being a handy man now makes you the type of landlord that renters appreciate and will most likely recommend to their friends and family with little money out of pocket. You will have much success.
Great job on requiring the tenants get renters insurance. I'll need to make that a part of the rental agreement. Keep up the good work.
Congrats on you 4- plex! Post some pictures. I went to Michigan Tech and was one year away from an engineering degree when I decided it wasn't for me. I transferred to Northern Michigan and got a degree in finance. Shortly there after I got sick of the 6 months of winter and moved south to TN. Loving it. I'm focused on doing flips and single family rentals at the moment. You've got a bright future and are headed in the right direction especially for your age. What's your plan next?
I have a few pictures here @Pat Martin . I'm actually from Marquette so you know both of my towns I have lived in quite well. I work in Iron Mountain now. I want to keep buying multifamily properties from Marquette to Appleton. Someday I would like to move into the Milwaukee market as well. I would like to focus on building the business, renovations, and financing, not so much the day to day management in the future.
Thanks @Astrid Cuas ! Good luck on picking up your unit. A 4plex was a great 1st step in my opinion. Its enough units that if one is vacant all bills are still paid for. Going bigger on the first unit would have been a bit more stressful. My advise would be to buy good bones! Yes I have run into some issues right away, but structurally this building is rock solid. It was built as a fire house and then a health center at one time. The floors are 12inch beams 12inch on center. You don't find that anymore. Being 135 years old nothing has moved. You can tell little things like that walking through. There is a tile floor that was clearly there when the building was renovated in the 70's that hasn't cracked at all. Those are the types of signs your looking for. All the windows were and roof was new in the last 10 years. I had a heating expert come do an inspection of my boiler since it is old. Other then the ignition source ($100 part) he said that although not super efficient, the boiler is going to last a long time if you have a technician do biannual maintenance. Being a brick building though the heat holds extremely well though so it shouldn't be too terrible this winter.
I bought the property for $125k. Total rents if I wasn't living in a unit would be $2300 to $2500 for the building. I have 80% of my purchase price on a commercial loan for 5.25% and the remaining 20% on a private loan for 8%. After all expenses the property on average through the year will be about $1700 a month. So that puts me at $600 to $900 a month cash in my pocket on my first property when fully rented.
Let me know if there is anything I can help you with!
Glad you are having fun. Sounds like our very first house. My husband spent our first night in the house replumbing the laundry room, because it popped. Another time was when we were redoing the bathroom my a pipe burst and the husband had to hold it for an hour. since i was shopping for materials.
At the end of the day, our cash flow and principle pay down is what keeps me going. Good luck and keep baby stepping your way. We started at 23, and 4 year laters are at 7 houses soon to be 9 by the end of the year.
May I ask, @Joel Florek
Why did you use a commercial loan instead of a conventional loan? I thought a 4plex was still considered a single-family.
Nice work mate, Nice pickup for $135K. how much do you think you'll be putting into it with repairs?
@Joel Florek Congrats! Keep up the good work!!
I'm really impressed with this post. You really seem to know what you're doing. You found a great deal, a great way to house hack, and I can't believe how much you know about rehabbing already. Fantastic job.
That's awesome! Way to dive in!
Nice, sounds like you had just about every issue possible! I'm glad you said you expected it, most people would have thrown in the towel at this point. Water is definitely something not to be messed with and needs to be tackled immediately.
I'm pretty sure the tile you have in the kitchen is the exact same tile I put in my guest bathroom in my primary residence. It's the $2.5/sq ft at home depot tile? It looks amazing and is of very high quality!
I enjoy doing renovations myself. It's nice seeing things come together and watching hard work pay off. As you know real estate is a long term game. Your hard work now will pay off!!!!!!
@Joel Florek Thanks for sharing this story! And really nice work on your first buy and hold.
I'm not too far away from you. Its great to see other investors in the area. Very cool that you have family to help you. Good luck with your investing!
This is awesome!
Looking forward to seeing many more pictures.
@Luka Milicevic Thanks!
The on the floor is actually from Lowes. I am a fan of their tile selection best between Home Depot, Menards, and Lowes. But about the same price. That tile flows from the landing at the top of the stairs, through the kitchen, and through the bath. I decided to only go with lower cabinets but include upper shelves. Im excited to finish and see what I get the unit rented for. That will determine how I approach trying to fundraise for the next property I pickup.
@Corie Bilotta no way! Your not far at all! I drive through there often in fact and havent been enjoying the construction this summer.
Reach out if you are ever in the Iron Mountain area!
Thank you! Its been an adventure, thats for sure. Ill have some more posts going up as I finish the unit and can show the final numbers for the renovation and hopefully details on how quickly I can get the place rented in a small town.
@Federico Gutierrez Thanks! There are actually quite a few mutli family properties in town for sale now that are 4plex. All the other 4's are listed from $199 to $275k which is way too high in my opinion. $150k is the most I would pay for a 4plex in my area for 90% of the cases.
I paid $125k and the property was originally listed for $150k. Each unit needs $4k to $6k in upgrades to make them beautiful units, but there is nothing wrong, or uninhabitable about them. Ill only be renovating 3 of the units as one is currently rented by a tenant that has lived here for 9 years and he wants absolutely nothing to change. I do need to bump his rent up $25 but I will do that once I have a new tenant in my vacant unit. I will likely be putting in about $20k into the property which I am using cash out of pocket to do. I bought the place 100% leveraged so my equity is being built by my renovations.
Ask away! Because I own the property through my business I have to get a commercial loan. Also, commercial loans from my local bank are very easy to come by since I do have a well paying full time job. I get a lot of discounts on insurance being owner occupied in one of the units but once I move out I will run into higher monthly payments for the insurance cost.
Inspiring! Thank you for illustrating your commitment!
Love it!!! Way to go, this is amazing!
@Joel Florek , Thanks for sharing . I love to work on houses. It's why i got into this business.. My wife had little to zero experience in home renovations, after our 1st home gut, she was ready to quit her job. I keep telling her we need her RNs income to buy more. :) anyways, love the post..
@Joel Florek Congrats. It looks like you have a great income property in from of you for the future and a very inexpensive place to live for you in the short-term. House hacking a live in flip allowed me to get my start right out of college as well. This success has paid large dividends for me to continue investing in income property over the past 8 years. Keep it up.
Oh and my two cents would be to avoid the carpet you mentioned installing. I know you are in MI where it is colder than TX, but looks for a harder surface in rentals has been king for me to cut down on long term expenses. Lately I have been either refinishing the original hardwoods or installing the $2/ft Allure from HD. It tends to last well, can easily replace just one piece if damaged, and is super simple to install. It floats over flooring and sticks together. This limits the amount of surface prep work. Being vinyl you don't have to worry about water damage from a pipe or a careless tenant. I know carper is soft, warm and easy, but it can be damaged super easy. To each there own.
Congrats and good luck!
Really enjoyed reading your thread. Well done.
Makes me wish there were more 4plexes in Central Florida. I'd be all over this strategy.
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