RE investors with humble origins?

60 Replies

Calling all underdog RE investors.

If you got into real estate because you were an engineer, lawyer, doctor, or otherwise have large amounts of discretionary income, that's cool, but I want to hear from the unlikely heroes out there: the dark horses, the longshots, the defiant ones who found success despite everyone's expectations to the contrary.

Are you an average person whose desire for more in life has helped you to overcome huge obstacles?

Did you drop out of school but never stopped learning?

Did you decide that a dead end job wasn't good enough anymore?

Has your path to real estate success been anything but "conventional"?

I want to hear from those who struggled, failed, tried again, pulled themselves forward, and made it through to the other side. Please share your story, lend us inspiration as we dig deep to get that first big break, that first great investment, that next one or even that last one.

Originally posted by @Erik Stewart :

Calling all underdog RE investors.

If you got into real estate because you were an engineer, lawyer, doctor, or otherwise have large amounts of discretionary income, that's cool, but I want to hear from the unlikely heroes out there: the dark horses, the longshots, the defiant ones who found success despite everyone's expectations to the contrary.

Are you an average person whose desire for more in life has helped you to overcome huge obstacles?

Did you drop out of school but never stopped learning?

Did you decide that a dead end job wasn't good enough anymore?

Has your path to real estate success been anything but "conventional"?

I want to hear from those who struggled, failed, tried again, pulled themselves forward, and made it through to the other side. Please share your story, lend us inspiration as we dig deep to get that first big break, that first great investment, that next one or even that last one.

 I was 21 and managing a RadioShack when I bought my first house in 2009. Running a $50M+ portfolio with 60+ employees these days. Over $200M in investor sales under my belt.

started selling fuller brush at 14 door to door.. bagged groceries.. went to collage for a year did not like it.. 
got my RE license at 18  and my brokers at 20  top producer within 2 years.. never looked back.

on the job training as it were.. I am all about getting paid to learn..  Has not all been wine and roses though
have lived and worked through 4 major economic Calamities that affected real estate..

Originally posted by @Erik Stewart :

Calling all underdog RE investors.
Are you an average person whose desire for more in life has helped you to overcome huge obstacles?

Did you decide that a dead end job wasn't good enough anymore?

Has your path to real estate success been anything but "conventional"?

I love a good Rudy underdog story, so thank you for asking this. 

Not to get too sappy and whoa is me, but I grew up in a poor dried up logging community in MT in the 80s.  Median household income there today as per a recent national podcast of Small Town Murder is $19k.  Less than half the national average.

Anyway, it was the same when I was there.  I got by doing ranch and chicken farm work.  Both with teach you where you don't want to be, especially during calf and harvest time. Or the winter.  Or the spring.  Or changing sprinklers all summer.  LOL

Rough time in rough town equalled getting into trouble. No branch of service would take me other than the Marines.  4 years of that let me see the world and earn 4 rows of ribbons, but no marketable skills. 

But there I learned to drink.  Alcoholism grabbed hold and I was chronic late stage by 37.   

The ranching and USMC taught me a good work ethic and that I wanted more.  Broke but not poor.  Poor to me is more of a forever mindset.

When I decided I wanted more, I cut my living expenses to nothing by moving into a trailer park for 5 years.  Housing expenses were less than $300 a month.  Saved and invested and pulled ourselves up the ladder.  Bought a 'luxury' househack after building up to 35 units.  Quit the drink as buddies died of it.

Now if I see a ranch, I wonder if I should buy it vs ask the guy if I can buck his bales for a nickel a pop.   

 

@Jay Hinrichs

Love this! Sounds like you were self starting even as a young man! That's a rare skill indeed!!

If getting your real estate license was the launching pad, then there's always foundation building that has already happened.

What made you so motivated at such a young age?!

@Steve Vaughan

Thanks for sharing! So many great points in your story.

I totally agree that doing work you don't want to be doing can definitely illuminate a better path, one that you couldn't see before. At the very least forces you to ask yourself the rough questions like: how do I be the owner and now the worker? Those are powerful questions!

Overcoming alcohol is a huge accomplishment. It reminds me that not every obstacle is going to be business related. "The toughest battles are the ones we have within ourselves" I love this quote and agree 100%.

I've always admired the discipline, grit, dedication, and mental toughness displayed by my 2 marine step-brothers.

I think my favorite part of your story was that your made the decision with intention to get more from life. It wasn't easy, just the opposite. You cut living expenses and did what was necessary to achieve your goals. I think that's what separates success and failure. Most people want great lives, but then you tell them to sacrifice, cut living expenses and live in a trailer for 5 years and then they can't do it. To most people, a short term sacrifice isn't worth having an amazing life in the other side. Not sure if it's fear that it won't work out or that they are too comfortable with the familiar, but I say they are missing out!

What are your favorite pieces of advice to give people who are struggling in their own journey but maybe can't see the bigger picture?

Originally posted by @Erik Stewart :

@Jay Hinrichs

Love this! Sounds like you were self starting even as a young man! That's a rare skill indeed!!

If getting your real estate license was the launching pad, then there's always foundation building that has already happened.

What made you so motivated at such a young age?!

My DAD... !!!   he said son.. if your not going to be an airline pilot ( which is what i wanted to do but 74 was not the time to get into the business to many Vietnam pilots coming out )  and your not going to get an advanced degree.. then commission is the way to go.

Plus they let me live at home for the first 6 to 9 months.. but after a year I had saved enough to buy my first home in MIlpitas for 80k 

10% down  10% second HM in those days allowed  9% first.. If you know the bay area .. then you can imagine lived there 18 months house was then worth 160k  and never looked back.. I was hooked.

 

Originally posted by @Erik Stewart :

@Steve Vaughan

Thanks for sharing! So many great points in your story.

What are your favorite pieces of advice to give people who are struggling in their own journey but maybe can't see the bigger picture?

Thank you, Erik. Your response is thoughtful and spot on.  Are you a podcast interviewer by chance?  You'd be great!

If anyone cares to ask for my advice, I try to dream with them 5 years down the road.  I'm huge about will this matter in 5 years like tenant leaving a mess. And will this put me in a better place in 5 years as to larger purchases. 

So, if asked, and only if asked, for my advice about someone's financial journey I will paint a picture with them and work on the why vs the how.  Nobody says yeah, driving a beater and not having the latest phone, game, gadget or going out with my friends all the time sounds awesome!  Why comes first.  

 Same with couples.  One is gung ho to budget and sacrifice for their future, one isn't.  The guy says guess what, honey?  We're selling your car! The guy needs to dream with him or her and go on that vacation or be able stay home with the kids or what have you.  When the dream and why is in place, the how comes easier.  

Awesome thread, I am looking forward to read more of these stories.

I graduated college with an associates in electrical/software engineering. I left early seeing the massive debt I couldn't afford even with the best job ever. At the time I didn't understand interest rates or mortgages. My federal student loans were at 8% interest.... Forced to live with my parents I found that condos downtown(Before my home city became popular) were half the price of rent and I would get a second bedroom. Boom accidental house hack and I was living for "free."

Shocked that this was not normal and that everyone in the world was not already doing this I bought my second home, a very rough single family home. Unfortunately I made my greatest mistake to date and rented this home to friends. Lesson learned.

Third home I did the same thing and now I'm on to my fourth and fifth with the six lined up for January.

I can't stress enough that my success was only possible because I am a handyman. Having grown up fixing everything in my family's home with my father I now can do it all, Plumbing/electrical/heating systems/carpentry/appliance repair/etc. Without my handyman skills I could have never started my mini empire with only $5,000 and a lot of luck. I did all of this till recently without any real-estate knowledge or understanding. I am self-taught. I did not know all these biggerpockets theories and strategies. So not know what I couldn't do was a great help at times.

I'm a teacher and my husband's a barber.  He moved to the U.S. in his early twenties with no English proficiency and no college education in the most expensive city NYC.  He worked odd jobs 60 to 70 hours a week. Always a great saver.  He took English classes at a community college became a licensed barber and eventually learned e-commerce.  When we got married, he wanted to learn how to invest.  We started this journey together a year and a half ago 5 units and this is just the beginning. We both read and listen to podcasts every day.  It just takes a vision, persistance, and financial literacy. You don't need to be a high income earner to get into real estate!

@Jay Hinrichs

Whoa! Doubling in value for your first house as a young man! Seeing the possibilities first hand like that, so early in your career, must have been like rocket fuel!

I think a lot of investors have certain moments in their careers, especially looking back, where they can see that the floodgates opened and there was no going back to an old way of thinking. I love the paradigm shift that unlocked so much potential for you and a successful real estate career. I'm hoping to encourage the same paradigm shifts with others who may be reading these posts!

Originally posted by @Anastasia Gamino :

I'm a teacher and my husband's a barber.  He moved to the U.S. in his early twenties with no English proficiency and no college education in the most expensive city NYC.  He worked odd jobs 60 to 70 hours a week. Always a great saver.  He took English classes at a community college became a licensed barber and eventually learned e-commerce.  When we got married, he wanted to learn how to invest.  We started this journey together a year and a half ago 5 units and this is just the beginning. We both read and listen to podcasts every day.  It just takes a vision, persistance, and financial literacy. You don't need to be a high income earner to get into real estate!

I just have to comment on this.. one of my neighbors and golf buddies came to CA as a Barber and no English.. then worked in the Vineyards then learned English.. Then started managing other workers for a fee.. the old Italian winery owners loved him..  40 years later the second largest vineyard management company in north CA  owns his own winery and label.. Both kids graduated from Stanford and now run the company... his name is Sal  I call him Radar he hits it very straight and can putt lights out..  Just a fabulous person and story in my mind. 

I think last I talked to him during the crush he had over 1000 workers working for him.

 

I definitely don't consider myself an underdog story or anything, but my wife and I are teachers and I definitely had to bust my hump in high school and at a warehouse through college to try to get ahead in life.

It cracks me up when people assume I'm destitute or something.  I wish I'd written down the comments over the years, but some of my favorites:

"I wanted to be a teacher, but I knew I would never be able to live on that income."

"I tell people I have a rich son (my brother) and a poor son (obviously me)."

I always try to work finance into my classes, so students will ask me stuff like:

"If you know so much about money, why didn't you do any of this?"

"Shouldn't you be a millionaire by now?"

Haha.  Good times!

@Chris John This is no easy time to be a teacher and it was never easy to work in a wharehouse. We need teachers, and teachers can also be investors and build their wealth on the side! Thank you for all your hard work and yes, I have gotten some of those comments as well! If you are on BP, it is most likely you have or on the path of wealth building! 

@Ray B.

I love the self-discovery story! I can definitely relate to the accidental house hack because I did the same thing. What's investing without making the classic rent-to-friends mistake haha. I've been there as well (though mostly worked out well) The coolest thing for me was learning that there's a whole community of people on BP who are all at different points in their own journey and willing to share so that we can all help each other find success!

Congrats on acquiring multiple properties! That's awesome! What are your current goals and how are they different from when you were just getting started?

There seems to be some debate on the handyman skills, in investing. Personally, I think that being able to provide the skilled labor is such a huge advantage over paying for it. It's perfect for this thread where those of us who have an idea or a dream we want to pursue and use everything at our disposal to make it a reality. If that means doing all the manual work, learning accounting, door knocking for deals, then that's what we do to succeed. It might be different depending on where we are in our careers as well.

Congrats on your success so far, but more importantly, congrats on your self development and mindset!

@Anastasia Gamino

Exactly! Thanks for sharing! Once you decide that you are going to start investing, it's amazing how much opportunity and success one can find through consistently applied effort. As you said, financial literacy is a must and without it, one is at such a huge disadvantage. It's the foundation for everything. You must be a great teacher because you summed it up very accurately and succinctly. Good luck moving forward on your journey and happy Thanksgiving today!!

@Chris John

Thanks for the cool perspective! When I read "The Millionaire Nextdoor" book, I thought it would be cool to be independently wealthy but not let it show through in my lifestyle. I don't really need the luxury items, but prefer the freedom to use every minute of my day the way I decide and not have to follow the traditional career path. Good luck moving forward!

My late parents. Father emigrated to America in April 1966 at age 40 with my mom and three brothers. Tailor by trade. Mother was lucky to get a job as an SEIU janitor. Neither knew a word of English. No savings to speak of. By September 1968 they were the proud owners of a Chicago three-flat purchased with seller financing. Next door was a Sunoco station. Behind the alley, Florsheim shoe factory. As kids, we played baseball in the loading dock area. Rents from the upstairs and basement apartments paid off the mortgage in a few years. Used savings from business and rents to purchase a 12 unit building on the northwest side and then another 3 flat near the Jefferson Park El station and property in Florida. Dad died in January 2006 with significant net worth.

Here's my story and it proves I am not the sharpest crayon in the box but as I have always said I am a bull dog. Never give up.

I was raised by my Dad who kept me and my brother after being divorced from my Mom. Dad worked in a factory and tried to run a small farm. The farm failed just before the agriculture economy boomed in the early 70's and me my brother and Dad moved to town.

As long as I can remember I wanted to farm, but I had no money and Dad made it plain that he couldn't afford to send me to college so I went to work , and I had an Idea. I would buy houses fix them up while I lived in them then sell and go again. A live in rehab. In 1975 at the age of 18 I bought an 800 square foot 4 square for $4000 nothing down and 50 a month. Later that same year I bought an identical house for the same money and the same terms.

My uncle was a home builder and I had worked for him 2 summers and I was now working as a carpenter for another home builder. So I was learning some skills I needed. I fixed up house # 1 sold it for a profit then moved to house #2 and rehabbed it and sold it then used the money to buy house number 3. This was a 4 bedroom 2 story that I planned to stay in for a while, and I did until 1984.

Construction in my area got really slow in the early 80's and I needed to find a different way to make a living. I went to work in a factory in '84  and stayed there for the next 32 years. I sold the 2 story house that i wanted to convert to a duplex but had never been able to make it happen, and I bought a 2 bedroom fixer upper at auction and paid 4050 cash there seems to be a pattern here. The next year I found a farm 40 acres, and bought it for $2500 down and 20 year contract.

My plan was to build on the farm but it was very isolated and my wife was not happy about that. It so happened that a man out of the area owned the property adjoining and contacted me saying he was not aware the land was for sale and would I sell to him and I did taking a small profit. 

This started the search for my next farm and the next year 1986 I found 135 acres with a 3 bedroom house and 100 acres of old growth timber. I paid $8000 down and $6500 a year for 20 years. Interest was 9%. I rented the house in town. This was the first time I had ever rented a house. My tenant completely trashed the house in 9 months and I sold it to the church next door at a loss. They made a parking lot.

Back on the farm I started selling timber right away and in 1988 I bought another place 147 acres with 87 acres of tillable ground and a very nice 3 bedroom ranch house $25000 down 7% interest for 20 years. I rented the house on the first farm and the tenant there right off started selling drugs. I got them out and didn't rent anything else for the next 30 years.

I got divorced in 1993 and had to sell my farm that I loved, but I finally realized that the only money I had ever really made was in real estate. With my half of the proceeds for the sale of the farm I bought a house in town fixed and flipped, then another. I also bought my primary plus the 10 acres it sits on in '95. I flipped 3 more houses over the years and then bought 60 acres in 2007 which I still own.

I 2019 I got back into the buy and hold business. I first bought a mobile home on 4 lots, then a house, then a lot that I rent for a mobile home. In 2020 I have bought 2 houses.

I'm sorry for the long post but I am old and it takes time to tell the story.   

 

Originally posted by @Erik Stewart :

@James Wise

PS how do you become a Store Manager at age of 21?! That's pretty impressive. Did you know then that you were capable of much more?

 Absolutely.

@Erik Stewart

I lost my W2 position with a company I just relocated for, and right after being told I was part of the long term team (worked there 7 years). I took my entire savings, and bought my 1st BRRRR project sight unseen. Fast forward 2 years, and I have 25 doors.

Love the question. I'm not a shining success story just yet, but I am scraping and clawing my way through the process! I started in real estate in 2016. Spent the first 2 years just learning as much as I could. Got my first flip in 2018. After that I limped a long until just about a month ago I got my 2nd flip property that we are just days away from listing, and we are already in the process of our next property. 

It has taken me almost 4 years to get real traction, but it's finally coming together and I won't quit till it does!