How rising gas prices and my father’s death have brought me here.

8 Replies

Hello Bigger Pockets Family,

My father’s truck is the reason why I joined bigger pockets. It was given to me after he passed away from a heart attack at the age of 58 in 2012.

I’m a teacher in a small rural town in Connecticut. The gas mileage was taking a chunk of my pay when it reached $4 dollars a gallon. I went out and bought a 1992 civic hatchback VX that gets high 40s for MPG. The perfect gas saver although it lacks the modern day amenity’s, one of which is a radio. I was thinking what to do with an hour of my time driving to and from work and found the bigger pockets podcasts. Currently I’m on show 76.

2012 was also the year I graduated college with a degree in Health. With 76k in student loans and no job I started to worry how I was going to live. Being 25 and living with my parents, sister, and my nephew who was 2 at the time wasn’t exactly what I had dreamed of. I love my family but I really wanted my freedom, my personal quiet time, and a place to call my own.

In 2011, a year before I bought my house my parents went through a tough time. After the crash, both of my parents had lost their jobs within months of each other. They tried working with government programs to save their house but had no luck. The day we lost the house we were told we had two weeks to move out of our home, the home we had so many Christmas parties, birthdays, and family events. It hurt so much, it struck something deep down in me. With two weeks left in the semester during finals, we had to clear out everything I had ever known from most of my childhood. It was a flood of emotions. What hurt the most was the pain on my parent’s faces; it said we had failed our children.

We had gone on to rent a small 3 bed 1.5 bath for 1500 a month. That summer was spent working on my resume, doing some odd jobs, detailing cars, and staying active and healthy. I had sold a motorcycle I had built with my father and a old car I was restoring, my dad was in the auto body industry so the itch to work on cars and motorcycles rubbed off on me. He would always shake his head and say you’re wasting your time working on car projects, I can still hear his “put your money into a good investment” mantra in the back of my head. As the summer was coming to a close I only had one job lined up a few weeks before the new school year. It was at a private catholic school that was paying $25,000. My professors recommended taking the job to help build my resume. When the time came to sign the contract the sweet old nun had read the wrong teachers contract. This position is only $22,500 with no health benefits. So of course I had to think about it, so I went on a hike to clear my mind and that day I received a call from another school I had interviewed for back in May, the teacher ended up leaving so the spot opened up. The position was double the pay with amazing benefits.

So the first few months I was able to save most of my money and I applied for a loan as soon as I could and got preapproved. I didn't have a lot of capital at the time so FHA was the only viable financing. In the meantime I ordered a bunch of real estate books. The only one I read before buying a house was Brian m. Chavis Buy It, Rent It, Profit! It had a formula in the back that I used to estimate properties.

So I was off to the races and looking mostly online and practicing writing out the NOI and other acronyms I had written out on notecards. I'm a resourceful person; I can find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties. I picked up these traits from my father while he was working on cars; he could see a wreck and picture the final product. So I used that to my advantage where as one of my friends had to see 180 houses before he finally bought one. I had looked at one house and made one offer. My realtor also said it was also the only house to sell under the appraised value for the calendar year.

During the closing process my father had gone on his usual friends hunting trip the day after thanksgiving. And just like every year we say our good byes in the morning, hug, and he says the same thing he has said since I can remember. “You’re the man of the house now, you look after your mom, sister and nephew.” I said, “I know dad, I love you.” And he was off for his usual week.

About 3 days into the trip my mom gets a call from his best friend Arnie around 5 am saying that he had passed away. She comes running into my room and waking me up with the news. And I just held her… Thinking in disbelief saying it wasn’t possible, at age 58, no way... I didn’t know what to say, and I don’t think I ever will. So I just remained quiet, working it out in my own ways.

The one thing I learned through that experience is that you can always count on family. The support from family and friends during that time was overwhelming. And that reminds me why I push so hard to get ahead. The reason why I am in real estate is for my family, to support them and to make our lives a little more comfortable. Losing a home hurts, and I can get over that. Losing a parent is something you never get over. Its something you learn to deal with.

A few weeks later I had closed on the property; it has two houses on the same deed and was listed for 269k and I purchased it for 245k. One house has a 4 bed 2 bath and the other a 2 bed 1 bath that I was going to live in after I had cosmetically rehabbed it. I had worked out a deal with my parents that I would give them the same rent price they were currently paying. I would also get to live in the big house why I worked on the little one. It really only needed a few things.

I found an outlet for the pain of losing my father. I worked from sunrise to sunset during the school winter break and before and after school when it was in session. However, I didn’t do the work on the house alone. I had my dad’s best friend Arnie, who was also in real estate and has 5 units. He was a professional painter and showed up every day for free. I had never asked him to help me, but he showed up anyway. That was the type of man my father was, you are just there for each other, no questions.

I had a big project list that started with sanding down the hardwood floors and sealing them. I borrowed a floor sander from a friend and sanded the whole house. Next it was paint and in comes Arnie on day one. I had already gone to Home Depot and bought brushes, blue painter’s tape, and all the fancy paint holders that I thought I needed… You should’ve seen the look on his face and the laughter that ensued. I had bought a brush, but it was too small to hold any significant amount of paint, which led to re-dipping every two inches while lining the ceiling. Arnie is a professional; he has steady hands like a surgeon. So needless to say, I got ragged on for buying the brushes and tape. It was a good rag, the way you rag on your friends for doing something silly. And Arnie was old school, he said things like “If your father saw that, he would be tickled” I thoroughly enjoyed our time spent together. He had taught me more in that month about repairs than I had learned growing up.

I believe everything happens for a reason. And if it weren’t for my father’s death I wouldn’t have gotten to know Arnie so well. I mean we spent hours together and anyone that knows houses there are a million little things that need to be fixed and without the right guidance you can lose precious time; like daily trips to Home Depot and Lowes. So with his knowledge and guidance I had saved valuable time; from floors to trim, to paint to sanding, counters to breakfast nook, and everything else in between, he was there.

By the end of the month when I was just about to move into the house he said something to me I will never forget. During his last vacation, Arnie was talking to my Dad and he said he was so damn proud of me, especially the man I had become. He was happy that I was buying a house that was also an investment. He said that he was so excited to get back home so he could help me work on the house. But he never made it back, but Arnie was there. I wrote Arnie a letter month’s later saying how much I had appreciated his help and how I now realized I couldn’t have done such a great job without him. I also said that we weren’t really working on a house, we working on the pain together. Fixing the pain we felt was more important than the house.

So I was finally getting back to a normal life, eating healthy again and working out. My mom had taken the time off to work through her own pain and her job was supportive. But months later they let her go. And with my sister not working and being a single mother it was a tough financial household. I was helping support my mother and sister with the rental, but six months later and still no job her funds had run out, my mother couldn’t make the rent and had just enough to support my sister and nephew. She had also gotten sick, had severe back pain and needed surgery.

I remember one day very clearly, I went over and she said she wouldn’t be able to have the rent check this month and started to cry. Saying if you want me to move out I will. I looked at her and said; you think I would kick out my own mother? I had all of this because of her; I wouldn’t have had this rental without her help. I said don’t worry, you will find a job and it will work out. Money was tight but I had been tutoring to make ends meet.

2013 didn’t get better. We had program cutting at the school and I had lost my job. I had saved what I could and starting selling some possessions in the meantime to cover the mortgage. I came real close to losing it all. That struggle had taught me an even more important lesson, you can never save enough; you never know what is around the corner. You can also find a blessing in any circumstance; I started taking masters courses and landed my dream job that I currently hold. My mother also landed a job with a nationwide, direct private mortgage lender. She is still active in real estate business.

She came across a local house this summer and I looked at it and said it was a great deal. So it sparked the real estate bug in me again, in order to get a loan through the company I had to have an LLC. And I thought about naming after our last name or something catchy but then I asked myself what's my why? Why do I do this? That question led me right to my father and I thought that is a perfect business name. Its created on hard work and family values, so thank you David Wesley Hollister. The father that gave me everything I know.

So maybe this is a bit much for an introduction or maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. I like to keep things inside for the most part so any time I get to open up it feels like a blessing. I just want to thank @Joshua Dorkin  and @Brandon Turner for the podcasts, a place where education is not only useful but it also makes us grow and think outside the box. As an educator I can really appreciate the knowledge here. So thank you Bigger Pockets.

The struggle is still there. Short rent months are there, some times nothing comes in at all. But all the money in the world won’t make me break a promise. Because I’m the man of the house now, and its my job to take care of them.



Wow what an awesome story. I pray God continues to give you the strength, comfort and sound judgment to continue forward on your journey. I'm sure your dad would be so proud of you. Congratulations, you are making it happen! Keep moving forward, helping others along the way as those helped you when you were in need.

Welcome Scott! All our lives are in Gods hands.  Great story, and keep plugging away.  Hard work is a requirement to live an honest life with integrity, and it sounds like you are on your way to figuring it out. All our challenges ultimately give us strength we never knew we had; I learn this every day more and more... Having three kids :-)

Scott, my heart goes out to you and your family. 🙏 I thought my "character building years" were tough but nothing compared to yours. We all have tough times in life but the difference is how we get thru it. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol to escape. Your dad made you a man, tough in spirit, big in heart, to tackle the problem at hand. You've been dealt a bad hand to say the least but I think if you continue the way you have, YOU will SUCCEED in your journey of life. Your dad would be proud of the man that you have become!

Hi Scott,

I lost my father suddenly as well in a car wreck when I was 16 so I know what a shock sudden death of a parent feels like.

Make sure you truly grieve and don't keep it in. When I was younger I buried myself in business ambitions and working trying to forget. Decades later I am finally getting around to really working through the grieving process.

I am writing a book about my life and my business and so far I have found it feels really good getting things out on paper.

There are very few friends left in the world like Arnie. Even your closest leave and go away when you are in that situation. My salute to Arnie and your dad who had a friend so dear and helpful.

Thanks Scott for sharing. I too got thrusted into real estate with my Dad's sudden passing having to manage his portfolio.  It definitely helped kept me going and eventually picked up a few properties myself.   Keep in touch and let us know how things work out. BiggerPockets is a great resource and glad to have you part of our community.  

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