BiggerPockets Money Podcast 12: How to Become an “Overnight” Success in 10 Short Years with David Greene

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While David Greene is a long-time real estate investor, best-selling author, and one of the top real estate agents in California today, his career started in the most unlikely of places—as a busboy at a restaurant.

Learning how hard work and hustle, combined with a willingness to identify and serve the needs of others, took him from busboy at a restaurant to a college graduate with $95,000 in investable liquidity. After becoming a police officer, David Greene began building a real estate portfolio on a median income in one of the most expensive markets in the country—the Bay Area in California.

David’s approach of extraordinary frugality, discipline, adaptability, and competitiveness have launched a superstar career. If you want the same for yourself, be sure to listen to today’s show.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money Show, Show Number 12.

“So I think I kind of always had that in the back of my mind that money isn’t what like, it wasn’t all that matters, right? But not having it will bring a lot of stress and strain into your life that doesn’t have to be there if you do so I kind of understood that like, money isn’t evil. It’s also not the goal of life. It’s a vehicle that can get you the goal of life. I didn’t have any clue how to grow it. No one showed me anything. I just had this drive that I didn’t want to be broke”.

It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have, or discover new paths for wealth’s creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Scott: How’s it going, everybody? I’m Scott Trench and I’m here with my co-host, Miss. Mindy Jensen. How are you doing, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I have having an excellent day today. How are you doing today?

Scott: I’m doing fantastic. This is one of my favorite shows. I know I say that a lot but this was one of my really favorite shows. I want to be David when I grow up.

Mindy: I want to be David when I grow up, too. He’s such an amazing person. His investor story is fabulous. He started off in this kind of dead end job and instead of looking at it like, uh, this job sucks. I hate it. Whatever. I’m just going to show up. He’s like, how can I be good at this? How can I master this job? And he takes that approach and puts it at everything he does. How can I master this? How can I master that? Oh, you know what? I don’t want to master this. Let me go someplace else.

And he didn’t start off with a ton of money. He started off with a ton of drive. And just took that and ran with it. And this is yeah, absolutely, one of my top two favorite shows. I really loved the Sarah Wilson show, Episode 6, just because her story is so incredible. So if you haven’t listened to that show, go to and listen to Sarah. But you might want to listen to David Greene’s show first. This is really inspiring. It caused me to invent a new word. At the end of the show, you will hear me say my new word. I think I’m going to add that to—

Scott: New word?

Mindy: Reinvigorated. What was—I can’t even remember it.

Scott: I can’t remember the word. I don’t know. I was like, I’ll look forward to hearing this word again, too. No. This show, though, is for you. You are ambitious. You really want to build a foundation, which is capable of sustaining an incredible career and a large investment portfolio, a large personal net worth, right?

David Greene’s story of hustle will work for you if you want to immediately move towards financial freedom. But more than that, it’s really laying the foundation for superstar success down the line. And so listen to this episode with that in mind and see what you can apply to your own life in order to kind of repeat those results because what he does, it’s a recipe. It’s a formula for success. And superstar success.

Mindy: Superstar success. You know, we try at the beginning of the show to say who the show is really for and honestly, this show is for anybody who wants to make money.

Scott: Yep.

Mindy: For anybody who wants money or for anybody who has money or wants to have more.

Scott: And yeah, this is the approach to get ahead quickly in life.

Mindy: Yeah, this is great. Okay. So let’s bring David in because again, we can tell his story for him or we could let him do it because he knows better.

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All right, big thanks for sponsoring today’s episode.

David, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Show. How’s it going?

David: It is going awesome. I’m excited to be here. This is a pretty cool product.

Scott: Yeah, I think it’s going to be great. I think your story is going to be particularly interesting because one of the things that’s cool about employing the principles of personal finance and wealth-building from an early age and getting started with that right foundation is it can lead to massive success down the road, which I think it would be hard to argue that you’ve experienced anything other than massive success with your career. You’re a famous author with your book in the background there, I see.

And for those of you watching the video, and you’ve got a bunch of long-distance real estate portfolios, your top agent, so today we want to hear about how you built the foundation for that, how you started out this journey. I think you have a really cool story there.

David: Thank you, Scott. I think in my personal opinion, like how I built the foundation is way more important than like what I’m doing right now. I think that’s the coolest part of my story and my favorite part to talk about.

Scott: Awesome. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you start your career? What was your financial position and salary going into your first job, or where do you see the beginning as?

David: Honestly, the beginning for me happened before I ever graduated college, so when I was going to school, I was commuting to a college from Mindy’s hometown in Turlock, CSU Stanislaus, and I was living at home with my parents so I didn’t pay any rent, I was eating their food, I basically had to pay for gas and a gym membership. I didn’t even have a cell phone for most of that time.

And I was saving up as much money as I could because I knew at some point, I wanted to buy a house. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a real estate investor but I knew that I needed to own a home and no one was going to give it to me and I needed to start. And what I would do is I just worked my butt off to be the best waiter at the restaurant that I worked at. So I worked at the most expensive place in town. I worked my way up from a busboy to a host to a server, then I became the top server in the restaurant and then I would start to get like the parties of 20 or 25 that would come in.

And then I became like a manager of some of the other servers, so as a perk to that, the boss would give me the best tables and the biggest tables and I just saved every dime that I could make doing that. And then I went through reconstructive surgery where they had to put my ankle back together from a basketball injury and when I came back, I actually drove, instead of to a restaurant in a city I lived in, I drove to one of about 50 minutes away that was even nicer, closer to San Francisco where the prices were higher.

And it was kind of like a re-evolution where I had to learn all about fancy wine and how to prepare meat with steak and it was very stressful. I was the youngest server there by far. These were like adults that had families that were supporting their kids through working at this place but it forced me to kind of like master the situation I was in and I did. And I did really, really well at that restaurant, too. We made really good money.

So long story short, when I graduated college, I had all my school paid for because I went to a cheap school. I had my car paid for so I didn’t have a car payment, and I had about $95,000 in the bank that I had saved up during that period of time.

Mindy: Oh, my God. You were plus $95,000 as opposed to negative $95,000 graduating college.

David: Which is where all my friends were, right? So that’s kind of like the first area where I did really well, that had exponential returns. Instead of graduating college in debt, I graduated college with a lot of money that I eventually turned into even more through real estate.

Mindy: Holy cow. Okay. So let’s go back to this restaurant story. Because I actually have heard this story before and I want you to share it with everybody because this is such an awesome story. I was a waitress and that’s a job that is not the most fun thing in the world. I think that everybody should be a waitress at least once—or a waiter. Not being sexist.

At least once in their life to really learn what it’s like to be in the service industry, what other people are like. Sometimes, people treat you like crap. I’m bringing you food that you’re putting in your mouth. You should be at least polite to me. You’re going to swallow this food. You might want to be a little nicer. But aside from that, how were you a successful waiter? What made you rise from busboy to host to server to best server?

David: So the first job I had at that really nice restaurant, I noticed that the owner was like obsessive compulsive. If she walked by your table and there was a cracker wrapper that you didn’t pick up from their soup cracker, she was pulling you aside and yelling at you. And all the other employees would like hide when she would come by. They were all scared of her. They didn’t like her. They talked bad about her. And I felt like if she’s this obsessive compulsive, then this restaurant must matter to her a lot. There’s a reason she’s like that, right? So rather than running away from her, I ran to her.

Her name was Laurel, and I’d say, Laurel, tell me what is it that you want in the restaurant to make it run better? What is it you wish we were all doing more of? When you come in and you see this, what drives you crazy? And she’d say, well, I can’t stand when I come in and the wine glasses are spotted, that nobody wiped them down. And no one is going to wipe down the wine glasses just because they don’t get paid for that, right? So I’d come in 15 minutes early so that she would see me wipe down wine glasses when she first walked in and I would notice the look on her face was like, I like that guy, right?

And then I would go to her whenever I had free time and say, hey, teach me about whatever you think a waiter should know. So she’d take me into the kitchen and we’d go over the cuts of meat and she’d talk to me all about everything she learned about the restaurant. We’d go in the bar and I’d memorize the nine different types of glasses. Now, I was completely stupid. I did not need to know what cocktail goes in what glass, but learning it and then she would hear me teaching the new people that information, it made her feel like David is looking out for me. He cares about my business so now I care about him, right?

And then the other thing I would do is most people, human beings, they care about their needs and that’s all. And we think that that’s how I’m going to get ahead, is by not worrying about other people. I’m just going to do me. Well, when my tables were taken care of, I’d go grab water and fill up everybody else’s tables’ waters. Or I’d ask the other waiters, hey, can I make your salad for you? Can I make your dessert for you? When their food was up, I would go grab it and run it to their table and ask their customers if they need anything and if they did, I would go tell the waiter, hey, your table needs steak sauce or your table needs another knife, or something like that. I’ll drop it off for you.

So now they’re telling my boss every time they see her, I love David. That guy is so amazing. He’s just the best, right? So what’s happening is this lady who everybody couldn’t stand is hearing nothing but how great I am, which now makes her feel like if everybody else in this restaurant—I’m the only one she can trust and I’m like a 20-year-old kid working with 35 or 45-year-olds and I become the favorite.

And that is totally something anybody can do in any job that you have if you care about serving the person that you’re working underneath and being the best you can at your position, right? I never was thrilled to be a waiter. I was honestly one of the most shy people you’re going to meet. I was terrified the first time I had to talk to a table. I did not have the gift of gab at that time at all, right?

But I knew what hard work was and I had been a basketball player, a big hustler, and I always wanted to be the best basketball player I could be. I didn’t want to play basketball anymore after that surgery. I just took all that drive and applied it to the restaurant world instead. I said I’m going to be the best here.

And eventually, I mean, you’re making, working part-time, going to college. I was trying to make $45,000-$50,000 a year and this was like, 15 or 20 years ago at the time, which is good money for a small town where I lived and I’m saving like almost 100% of it.

Mindy: So this speaks to the kind of mindset that you had that I just think is absolutely brilliant. So I worked for Laurel. I didn’t work for her, I worked for like 20 of her. And my response was not the same as your response. I was not like, oh, I wonder how I can make her happy. I was like, ugh, I can’t stand her. And there were several restaurants that I didn’t last very long in because I didn’t have that same mindset.

That is brilliant, to look at a job and I mean, I don’t want to knock being a waitress because you could make a ton of money being a waitress or a waiter—again, I’m being sexist, I’m sorry. But you can make a ton of money. But nobody wakes up when they’re five years old, oh, I hope I get to be a waitress some day when I grow up. There’s no formal training for it. It’s not like it’s a no-brainer thing but to look and see, oh, I don’t see her as this terrible person.

I see her as somebody who really cares about this. How can I make myself be very valuable to her? That’s so brilliant and there’s so many things you can do with that, like take that mindset and put it into your life and I bet you’ve been a successful person because of it.

David: Well, thank you, Mindy. That’s very nice to think.

Scott: No, I think what it speaks to though is in that situation, other people would have failed in. Other people were failing in and you were like, hey, I’m not going to allow my circumstances to force me to be unsuccessful. I’m going to adapt to the system, the situation that I’m in, and become successful. That’s a recipe for success in almost any business and in any field and that’s why you’ve been so successful, I think, in so many different careers that you’ve had.

David: I think that is the number one key to success, is quit trying to make the world be what you want it to be and go figure out where the world is and adapt and be good in that world, right? So I think the biggest thing that I did to make more money than other people in restaurants, outside of everything I just said, is that I would notice that most servers were inefficient with their movements. They would go to the kitchen, get a cup of soup, bring it back. Go to the kitchen, get a knife, bring it back.

Whereas I figured out, if I go to the kitchen and grab five things and put them on a tray and come out and go in like a circle throughout the dining room and make mental notes—they need water, they need ketchup, they need a knife, they need to have their table cleaned off, then go back into the kitchen, grab everything I needed to make another round. I was literally five times as efficient as the other servers, which I why I always had time to be filling up waters, okay?

Then you would notice that when the hostess was stressed out because she had nowhere to seat people, she needed a seat, I would go and see what tables looked like they were done and I would very politely put a little bit of pressure on them, like it’s time to get moving and we need your table, right? And then I could go back to the hostess and say, I’m the hero. Table five is going to be opening up. I’m going to get a bust for you because the busboy is going to be busy, right?

So who is she leaning on when she has a lot of people that she needs to seat and she doesn’t know who to give them to? Everybody else is panicked because they can’t keep up. I’m looking cool and under pressure because I’m more efficient and I’ve won the hearts and minds of all the people that I’m working with. Boom. All the tables are coming to me.

When I got really good was at the end of the night, when everybody—in restaurants, everybody shows up like bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and then after a couple of hours of getting your teeth kicked in, you just want to go home and like most people don’t live a very healthy life in restaurants. They want to go party, they want to go drink, they want to go whatever. They would all be thinking about getting off and being done and I would say, hey, do you want me to stay and pick up the last tables?

And what I found is that in the beginning, like five servers were there. They would sort of seat you in a rotation, like, one through five. Well at the end of the night, when everybody wanted to go home, everything would just go to that last guy. So I got good enough at my job that I could keep up with a large number of tables. I could literally double the number of tables that I had in the night which would double my income, right?

And it was like, I didn’t understand why they were always going—why do you even come into work if you’re just going to leave after four or five tables when I can do nine or ten and make twice as much money as you, and then I would just pay the busboys extra so they can help me keep up if I got busy, right?

And I’m telling you, a lot of those principles work in the real estate world now. I don’t try to skimp on people’s commissions because I don’t try to skimp on bonuses. I make sure my wholesalers get paid. I don’t try to skimp on it because I want them bringing more deals to me just like I wanted the busboys to be looking after my stuff if I got busy so I paid them a little more.

Mindy: Yes. That is so brilliant and I knew very few people who would do that. They always looked at tipping out the busboys as this thing that they had to do. I had one woman who, I loved her to death but she was terrible at tipping out the busboys. She’d lie about how much money she made so she didn’t have to tip them out. Like they’re working really hard. They’re cleaning my tables so I can get more people.

We shouldn’t make this all about being a waitress show but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into being a waitress that people don’t understand. And I keep saying waitress. I’m sorry. Apologies to everybody who is a waiter or whatever gender you choose to identify with. Scott. But I mean, there’s a lot of these principles that go into just general life principles.

So moving on, we’ve exhausted—well, we haven’t exhausted it. There’s a ton of things you can talk about being a waitress. How did you make the transition to police officer? You went to school to be a police officer, I’m assuming? I don’t actually know very much about being a police officer.

David: So when I was in college, I actually had a lot of anxiety about what to do because I just didn’t know. And I hated that feeling of not knowing what path I wanted to be on. I knew I wanted to be successful. I knew I wanted to do well and I felt like my brain was going at 20,000 RPM but I couldn’t actually get the car in gear to go anywhere. It was like, I just wanted to do something and it was driving me crazy. I didn’t know.

My last semester there, these women came in and they were, what would you call it, like recruiters for the Department of Health and Human Services, looking for fraud investigators, and it was like, we needed people to do a job and it was like, I need a job, what do you need to do? They said, you need to have your minor in criminal justice and then apply by the state. So I was a psychology major and I realized if I needed a minor in criminal justice, I needed to take new classes. I was supposed to graduate after the next semester.

So I had like one more semester left. And I went to the Chair of Criminology and she said, I’ll tell you what, David. If you can have this many units in criminal justice, I will let you have a minor. They won’t have to come from all these different categories. So I realized I had already taken one class and I needed eight. So I had to take seven classes on top of the two or three that I had to take already. I had to get like the dean of the school to sign off on letting me take 30 units or whatever it was, right?

In order to get that degree. And the cool thing was, by the time I was a senior, I had figured out how college works. I knew when a teacher says, you need to go read chapter three tonight, that doesn’t mean you need to read chapter three. That just means they’re telling me that. I just needed to know when the tests were. I need to know when the papers were. And that was an insanely high workload to try to keep up, especially commuting to school.

But what I would do is I would go to class. I’d make friends with like a nerd. I’d have them take notes for me while we were in class. I’d be typing up my paper for the next class. I’d print it off at the library, go turn it into that class, get the notes from the nerd that had taken them for me and that’s what I would study for the test that was coming up like next week. And I just got really good at knowing what’s the 20% of things that I need to do to be able to pass college rather than thinking I had to do all of it.

And I was able to do that and still work like four days a week at this really nice restaurant and keep saving money because honestly, that was more important to me than the degree. I didn’t even know what I was even going to do with a degree but I knew I could be making money at this restaurant.

So when I graduated, I found out that I missed the deadline by like a week. I couldn’t apply for that job. It was like incredibly discouraging because I had just done all that and I missed it for a week. I spent about two weeks just like sulking around and hating the world because of it. And then my grandma saw an ad for the newspaper that said they’re hiring deputy sheriffs. I decided I wanted to be in the FBI so I thought, eh, I’ll just go be a deputy for a couple of years and then I’ll just go to the FBI. I thought it would be that easy.

Mindy: That’s how that works.

David: Yeah, basically, that was kind of how I backed into being a cop. And when I decided I wanted to do it, it was just like this overwhelming fire took over and it was like, I wanted it so bad, I could not stop thinking about it. At that point in my life, I was very afraid of rejection. I hated doing anything I wasn’t going to be good at. I avoided anything I thought I would fail at. I was very insecure in a lot of ways.

And I had to apply like to 11 different departments and go through a pretty lengthy application process, tons of written tests and physical agility tests and backgrounds and all kinds of stuff before I finally found someone that would hire me. The day that I got hired, I just knew I worked so hard to get here. There’s no way I’m not just going to go give everything I have to this department and that was kind of how I ended up become a police officer.

Mindy: So were you in a city or were you in a county deputy?

David: I was a county deputy and I started off working in the jails so I worked like the high security jail in the county, which is kind of where all the top recruits got to go. And eventually, I worked my way into getting to work in intake and that’s where they bring in the people that just got arrested and usually have like the most rebellious attitudes still. It’s kind of the hardest place to work.

Once they get up to like a module or a pod, they’ve kind of been like indoctrinated a little bit with what they can or can’t get away with and for the most part, they’re pretty well-behaved and when they’re first coming in intake, they’re trying to break in wild stallions all day long. So that also had like a really big impact on my personality, in areas that I had to grow, in ways that I had to realize like man, I am just not strong enough to live in this environment. I’m going to have to make changes if I want to adapt here.

And experience like that is really good for a young man, as far as like, I think I was able to do it because of those experiences I had before, basketball and being a waiter where I knew I could adapt into an environment that you put me in. I don’t have to run and hide from things that are hard and find something that’s easy, which allowed me to grow even stronger in that world, which had taken that kind of a mindset into the business world helps me a lot now.

Scott: I think that’s fantastic. Everything you do, you do 100%, it sounds like, in terms of your career, life, everything. Let’s talk about the financial side of this. So you graduated college with $95,000. And you get this job at the jail as a deputy. What are you thinking financially? How are you thinking I’m going to grow my financial position and what is your reason behind wanting to do that?

David: We grew up not having a ton of money and I would remember seeing my mom go ask my dad for money for new shoes or to take us to McDonald’s. And then I’d see them fight like viciously about how we couldn’t afford it. And I just hated knowing that I felt like I was sending my mom to the chopping block to go on our behalf and that sick feeling of guilt I would have every time I asked for a toy, mom gets yelled at.

And I somehow knew as a little kid, this all has to do with money. If we had money, this would not be a problem. And I just made these agreements with myself that I will never be broke. I will never get to the point where money can cause this much pain again. So I think I had that kind of always in the back of my mind that money isn’t what—it’s not all that matters, right? But not having it will bring a lot of stress and strain into your life that doesn’t have to be there if you do.

So I kind of understood that like, money isn’t evil. It’s also not the goal of life. It’s a vehicle that can get you the goal of life. I didn’t have any clue how to grow it. No one showed me anything. I just had this drive that I didn’t want to be broke. I ended up getting my first rental property—I talked about that on the BiggerPockets podcast, Episode 169. I just backed into that, too. I had a buddy who was buying a house and he ended up not able to buy it and he was going to lose his deposit.

So I went and looked at it and I bought it instead and boom, I’m a landlord. But this was in like 2009 when the market had just crashed. So I’m saving and I’m saving and I’m saving as I’m watching home prices go up. Like, I’ve got to catch up with it. And then they crashed and now I have all this money that I don’t have to spend on just one house. I could go buy like four of them, right?

So I’m saving money as a deputy and I had saved up all this money from working in restaurants and I’m buying like a rental property or two every year. Not sure this is what I want to do but kind of like, hey, this is cool. It works. I’m renting out.

Scott: So I have a couple of questions here real quick. What year did you start in the workforce?

David: I started as a deputy in 2008.

Scott: So that was the year that you graduated college, or the year before, around some time as well.

David: I graduated in like 2006. So it was like a year of trying to get hired and then a six-month police academy and then a little bit of a wait and then you’d actually go into work.

Mindy: Is it like the movie?

David: Which movie? Which one? Police Academy? Yeah, I wish it was like the movie. It was six months of hell.

Scott: So you’re in the police academy and what’s like your financial position when you start the job and what’s your savings rate as you’re in that position?

David: So when I joined the Academy, I moved and I rented a room from someone on Craigslist for $500 a month so I was really close to the Academy. And they paid us, I think it was like $3200 a month or $3300, which is not very much in the Bay Area. That’s like, more than half of that would have went to rent for just an apartment.

Mindy: All of that would have gone to rent.

David: Yeah, pretty much. It was really bad. And this is, I’m not really proud of this but like I was so thrifty that I think I used the same sandwich bag for like all six months of that Academy, because I didn’t want to have to drive to Safeway and buy new ones. I was like, I need to go home and study because I didn’t want to get yelled at the next day, so I would just buy lunch meat and bread and like a granola bar or something. And I would take it in a big every single day and you would only get like 22 minutes to eat your lunch and change out for the next part of the day.

So you’d be like eating and changing at the same time. So a sandwich is like all that I would have had time to eat anyways. And I was so focused on doing well in the Academy that I didn’t think about, what do I want to go spend money on this weekend? I’m bored. What should I buy? It was literally like, that doesn’t matter. I just need to do the best I can with where I am now. So I was saving money throughout the Academy when everybody else was kind of dipping into their savings.

Then I started working as a deputy and you get a pretty healthy raise. We probably went up to more like $4000 a month or something at that time, maybe up to $4500 or so. And I just kept renting a room but I rented it from a different cop. So I found a guy. Everyone at work was saying, Juan just bought a house. He just bought this huge house. Juan was stupid with money. He did not need a house that big. So I called him one day and congratulated him on his house and I’m like, hey, what are you doing with it? And he was just like, oh, it’s just me and my wife.

He actually had a wife that would like travel on cruises and work as a contortionist in the circus on the cruise, so she’d be gone for like nine, ten months at a time. And he just had like this five-bedroom house that he just lives in himself. So I was like, do you want to make another $300 a month? And he said, how? I said, let me rent a room from you. And he said, okay. Like $300 a month was stupid. He could have gotten like two to three times that by renting it. But he just didn’t care about money. He didn’t know how it worked.

So I got to move in with him and I actually dropped my rent and got closer to work and had a better living situation. I didn’t have five people living in a house with me. It was just me and him and I just started working overtime. We’d get three days off every weekend and I usually worked two of them and then take one day off.

So I got close to probably increasing my income by 30-40% by working overtime and I just kept saving money. Now, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with it but I knew I wanted to do something great and I was going to need money to do that.

Scott: That answered my question.

Mindy: How long were you working before you bought your first property? You said you started working ’08 and you bought your first property in ’09?

David: It was like one year after I started working, which was right about how long I needed to get a loan. I had to be one year in that profession. So I bought my first one in ’09. I bought my second one in 2010. I bought one in 2011 and then a fourplex in 2012. And right around the time I bought that fourplex is when I realized, dude, this is where it’s at. This thing is making me like a 30% return on my money. I need a lot of these. And that was actually how I learned what ROI even was. I didn’t read BiggerPockets at that time. I didn’t know much about it. I just did the calculation in my head and I was like, I’m going to make this money back in three years. That’s got to be pretty good.

And at that time is when California prices took off on me. It was too late. You couldn’t buy houses anymore. They were just raising like $20,000 a month. It was stupid. And that ultimately led me to learning how to invest out-of-state because now that I had this bug, I wanted to buy real estate but it was too expensive where I lived and I had to find another way.

Mindy: Okay. So let’s talk about your first couple of properties. Let’s just gloss over the numbers really quick. What did you buy them for? What were they renting out at? Have you had any problems with these properties?

David: Yeah. So the first one I bought, I paid $195,000 for. It rented for about $1400 so it’s still cash flow at that point because interest rates were really, really low. And my only problem I’ve ever had was that first house that I decided to manage on my own. Stupid idea. I was worried about the $100 bucks I was spending on property management. Not the thousands of dollars I could go making at work, working overtime and letting somebody else deal with it. The tenant took me for a run. I talked about that on the podcast, 169. Like he was just better at being a tenant than I was at a landlord. He was a professional and I was not. So he ripped me off pretty good.

And then the next time, I used a property manager for everything and I paid $183,000 for the second one. That one rented for about $1500 and then the third one, I bought for $135,000 and that one rented at the time for about $1100. My fourplex, I had bought for $250,000 and that one, at the time, each unit rented out for $800. So I had a total of $3200 on that fourplex.

Mindy: Where is that fourplex for $250,000 in the Bay Area?

David: Well, that was in Manteca. So that’s probably like an hour and some change east of the Bay Area. And it was very distressed. It hadn’t been rehabbed. The tenants were rough. The agent who was showing me the home, she actually owned it. Got bit by a dog of one of the tenants while we were looking at the house and I went and sat with her at the hospital for a couple of hours as they like cleaned it out. And she sold it to me for $20,000 less than what she was asking because she was so happy to like, hung out with me that whole time. But those rents then maybe have like skyrocketed so much.

The one that I first bought that was renting for like $1400 or $1500, that one is at like $2150 now. The one that I bought for $183,000 and rented for $1500, it’s at $1950. The third one, I rented for like $1100, that one is up to $1650. So they cash flowed good at the time but they were like extremely good now. What was $200-300 a month is now like $900 a month on some of them.

So I have been able to refinance those, put it on a 15-year notes, pay them off a lot quicker and they still cash flow really, really strong and that’s one of the cool things about being ready with having capital. It’s like you put yourself in a position where you can enjoy that future game instead of looking back and saying oh, I wish that I had bought when I could.

Scott: So how did you—you’ve got these properties. What an incredible story of how you just hustled, saved up the money, continued to be frugal, and found opportunities and exploited them. How did you transition out of your profession as a police officer and what was the tipping point where you were like, I need to leave and go pursue this career?

David: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So, what I did was, once I realized I wanted to be an investor out-of-state and I bought my first couple and I realized, hey, I’m actually getting good at this and I’m starting to get some attention for it, it was right around the same time that being a police officer changed in the country. The political landscape changed, the lock—we went from being people that little kids would wave at to like three-year-olds would flip you off because their moms and dads were teaching them cops hate them.

So we were getting in trouble just because it was like trendy to show, hey, I got a cop in trouble. You should vote for me. The mayors were putting a lot of pressure on the police. So the job was becoming less fun, much less rewarding. It actually started to feel like self-preservation. You’re just trying to keep your job all the time. And at the same time, I’m seeing real estate is actually a happy place.

So I kind of switched around and I started working as much as I could, trying to set records for the most hours anybody had ever worked, working 90 hours a week, sleeping in my car, saving every dime. I’m still renting rooms from cops at this time so there were periods of times where I could be saving like $10,000 a month because I would live at work, be on the clock all the time, and had zero expenses, right?

So at that rate, I could buy a house every three to four months with the houses I was buying in Arizona. And then Arizona got to be too expensive so then I moved over to Florida and that’s when I learned how to BRRR and when I learned how to BRRR, it was like, what I thought was doing well completely just supercharged exponentially increased. I went from buying two to three houses a year to two or three a month if I could get the financing right.

I got more affiliated with BiggerPockets. I did the podcast. I started getting a lot of people calling me all the time and wanting advice and my buddies would start to hit me up when they wanted to sell their house and asked who I knew. And I realized, I should just get my license and start helping these people. And when I did that like a year into it, I got so busy doing that that I couldn’t keep up with that job and my police job and I had to make the decision and I just finally realized that like there’s not really much more I’m learning being a cop at this point.

I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I’m not growing anymore. It’s just comfortable. Being an agent is super scary but I think that that’s like the new situation I need to be in that’s going to force me to grow and adapt and get better. So about a year ago is when I made that decision, like hey, I’m going to go be a real estate agent instead of being a cop and continue to use that money to buy real estate.

Now for me, a lot of the stuff I learned as an investor works at being an agent. There’s a synergy to how those two things work together and so I’ve done really good at being a real estate agent and the things that I learned being an agent, like the business skills, worked really good in my investing world, the way I’ve learned to talk to people. The way I’ve learned to incentivize people. The way I’ve learned to guide people. I start taking that to my property managers, my lenders, my contractors. Their business grows better, I get a better result, and I usually end up getting deals coming back my way as a result of that.

Scott: An overnight success.

David: Yeah, exactly.

Mindy: 90 short hours every week and you can be an overnight success, too.

Scott: This story is just absolutely incredible. I think about what you just went through here. You started with frugality. You saved everything you could and you made the best of the situation you were in, which was as a waiter. You didn’t take the highest income-producing route after that and go into something else. You got a salaried median income job as a police officer and continued busting your butt, living frugally, and giving yourself the opportunity for success.

Then, you began investing that systematically in things that you learned as much as you could about. And then eventually you began seeing clear side streams that you can exploit alongside that and you just continued to do that and grow and grow and grow, and now you’re an overnight success entrepreneur with tons of properties around the country. I mean, that’s how you do it, right? There’s no other way. I don’t think there’s anything else you could have done to increase your odds of success, or is there? Was there something that you messed up here?

David: The only thing that I would have done different is that I would have learned to BRRR sooner. So if I had focused a little more on education and a little less on just pure hard work, I might have been exposed to some ideas that would have made more sense and then maybe connecting with people that had done this before that liked me, that would have probably helped a little bit because they might have come up with some ideas. But the reality is, if I would have tried to go big quickly, I probably wouldn’t have had a foundation in place to sustain me and I would have lost a lot of it.

When I hear people telling me, David, I want to do what you’re doing in real estate, I want to kind of copy your shoes, I’ll even ask them what they’re doing right now and very few of them are trying to crush it in the spot they’re in. In fact, most of them are unhappy where they are and they’re looking at real estate as their escape route, like I want to get out of my unhappiness and I want to go into real estate. They haven’t learned to control themselves. They haven’t learned to control their budget.

They haven’t learned to control their work ethic or their emotions and they think that they’re going to walk in and they’re going to control and asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that they could potentially break them. And they’re going to lose. You have to be already doing good at what you’re doing before you try to take the next step up or that step isn’t going to sustain you. And that is where I feel like BiggerPockets, that’s why I love the podcast you guys are doing. That’s the skills people need. I mean yes, real estate is a vehicle that gets you there but it doesn’t mean you know how to drive it just because it’s been handed to you.

Scott: I love it. I completely agree with everything you just said. The whole point of this is real estate should be something that helps you advance your financial position. When you become dependent on it exclusively for your sustenance, that’s when you’re at risk. That’s when I think the danger occurs is when you’re over-leveraged and you’re allowing real estate to control you versus real estate to advance your position and be a part of it. You are going to be successful regardless of this.

You’re saving $10,000 a month. Your next property—maybe you win, maybe you lose on it. You do everything you can to give yourself an advantage and have it advance your position. But if it does go badly, you’re fine. That’s one bad piece of the puzzle. A lot of people are doing exactly as you said. They’re not controlling themselves and they’re investing from a position of financial weakness instead of strength.

David: Yeah, and you’re going to have a bad experience if you do that. You’re going to live in fear and anxiety and you’re going to worry about everything. Those are the people that when you hear like the naysayers like, oh real estate is a scam and you’re going to lose a lot of money, it’s because you’re doing what you’re discussing, right? Even the types of properties that you buy, I talk about in the book Long Distance Real Estate Investing, if you’re just starting off, go to a market with a really low barrier entry, very low price points, high price rent ratios where even if you screw up really bad, you’re still going to end up with a strong cash flowing property and kind of learn how to swim in the shallow end. Don’t just jump into the big end and try to start a syndication on your first deal. And then worry why you hate your life and you’re terrified all the time, right?

I’m in a position right now where I have enough cash flow. I could retire if I wanted but I couldn’t have the life that I want to have, right? So what happens is the security and the safety that comes from that cash flow allows me to take bigger risks that are no longer risky. That risk is mitigated by the cash flow that I have coming in and then as I play in that medium shallow or medium area of the pool and I get good at it, that will open up doors to take bigger risks furthermore that I don’t have to worry about losing everything because I just gave it my all in one shot.

Scott: And by the way, you consider that the shallow end because you saved up $95,000 in college on a median income waiter job and had a huge savings rate, right? That’s not the shallow end for the guy who is making the same income but saving $400 a month. That’s everything he’s got and then some. So that’s the key distinction that you kind of approach this whole thing from a position of such strength.

David: Yes. You need to change the way you look at money. That needs to be the first thing that you do. I wrote a blog post on my website, and I talked about, money is like an apple. There’s people that look at an apple like a source of food that I can eat and feel good right now, and there’s people that look like an apple as a source of seeds that I can take out and I can go plant, right? And if you start to look at the seed aspect and you plant more trees that grow to produce more apples that have more trees, you get into this exponential return of money.

If you look at it like it’s a food that I deserve to eat and be immediately gratified, you’re eating your future. It’s like a horrible way to think, right? I remember one day in the restaurant when we were slow, talking to my buddies, who would all smoke week and drink beer—that’s what everybody did when they were like in college working in a restaurant and I calculated how much money they spent a year on just alcohol and weed, nothing else. Not even food.

And for four out of the five of them, they were spending $23,000 a year. As crazy as that sounds. That’s how much they were spending on that stuff. Now, if you took that times the four or five years you’re in college, boom, you’re leaving with $80,000 to $100,000 that anyone could save with the money that we were making.

Scott: So what about the guy who is not willing to do this? So you know, I kind of approached my life from a similar perspective with you—how can I optimize in all these different fronts and give myself the strongest possible financial foundation? I agree completely. But what about the person who’s already got that lifestyle that wants to kind of repeat the success? What do they have to do to give themselves the good odds of doing that?

David: So let’s look at an organization that’s already successful and try to model and that’s what I think you’re saying. So what I hear you saying is, I want to have the success of the New England Patriots but I don’t really like getting tackled. It hurts. I’m not willing to put my body on the line, right? That’s not my thing, bro. I don’t have that chain of toughness. I can’t work that many hours. I like to have my leisure time or whatever. I don’t want to put myself in a position of uncomfortability. You can still make it but if you’re not willing to get tackled, you’re not willing to run at practice, you’re not really willing to work in, you better learn to be the best damn like coach that you can on that team.

And you better understand that sport better than the athletes that are playing it so you can still bring value to the owner, get hired, and work in that industry, right? There are people that will be much more successful than me because they’re lazy but they have the confidence to go learn one thing so good that they become the guy that can do that thing and they’re hired to be the quarterback coach. That’s all they do. They just work with quarterbacks and they will always have a job because there’s always going to be a need for like a quarterback who has the skills. He’s willing to put in the work but he doesn’t know it. He doesn’t want to learn it, right?

There’s guys that can do that with investing. You can be the guy that’s like super good at raising money or get super good at analyzing deals, right? You go find someone that has a ton of money and you have such a good presentation for analyzing properties and finding deals that they partner with you and all you have to do is that part.

You can’t do it if you’re also not willing to get really good at understanding the vehicle. You either have to be willing to work really hard or you have to like become a super sharp knife that can just slice right through this stuff. But it’s going to have to be one or the other. You can’t just be a fan sitting in the stands and wondering why can’t I get on the team and play in a game.

Mindy: That’s such a good analogy. I was going to say, if you’re not willing to get tackled and be the New England Patriots then you’re going to turn into the Chicago Bears.

Scott: That answered my question, by the way. What a thorough response to these.

Mindy: Yes. So what I’m hearing you say, David, is that you have to do the work. You can’t just sit there and do nothing.

David: Yeah, but there’s so much different work you can do. It doesn’t have to be the work you hate. I’m not a super social butterfly type of a guy. I go very deep in the relationships I have but I have a hard time meeting new people. We just did the Meetup the other day in Colorado, right?

Mindy: I don’t believe you at all.

David: I had to turn it on for like three hours of that and when I got done, I just laid on my bed staring at the ceiling of the hotel like I felt like I just worked out and I had nothing left to give.

Scott: I’m the same way, yeah.

David: I could do it for a period of time but it will drain me and I’m exhausted and if you try to talk to me at that point, I’ll probably snap at you or be really short with you and be like, David seems so nice, now he’s really rude. I just don’t have that much to give so what I do is I pick and choose my spots in the areas where I know I’m not strong and I only worry about the stuff for the most part, my 20% that I really love. Analyzing deals, putting together big picture type of a look at things, building a system, identifying talent, and teaching it how to help me accomplish whatever my goal is in helping it in its place.

Everybody has something that they like about investing. You might not be good with numbers. You might not be good at analyzing properties but you’re a great people person and you can connect people. I know lots of people that make way more money than me and they’re just really good at connecting people. It kind of makes me sick. I wish I could do that sometimes. But that’s not me, right?

You might be incredibly shy, have zero people skills like stare at your shoes and chew on like cardboard or something but you’re weird. But you’re a genius when it comes to analyzing things, right? Like you can look at a spreadsheet and feel like a fish in the water and do something that other people are intimidated by. Strengthen that one skill it is that you do have and then find someone to partner with that needs you and you won’t mind putting in the work when you like the work, I guess, is what I’m saying, right?

Some people can’t work 90 hours a week like I could. They would just go crazy. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do anything. There is something that you like doing 90 hours a week. You do have to put in the work but that doesn’t mean it has to be something that you hate. There’s so many things when it comes to business and real estate investing that there’s something out there that you do like and you’re good at. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be like listening to this podcast in the first place.

Mindy: Such a good—wow, I’m so glad I had you on, David. I’m so glad that it was my brilliant idea to bring you onto the show. So you have mentioned BRRR a couple of times and not everybody listening is a BiggerPockets member. Can you explain BRRR and how you used that? You said once you discovered BRRR, you just took off? Can you explain how that works and what it stands for?

David: Yeah, BRRR is a way of purchasing property. It’s like the order in which you do the work and when I combine that with long-distance investing, it’s where I started—my net worth just started growing incredibly fast. They are two underutilized ways of understanding how to invest in real estate that when you master them, doors open for you that you didn’t even know were there.

So BRRR is an acronym. It stands for Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, and Repeat. All it is, is the order in which you go through the process. First, you buy a house, then you rehab, then you rent it out, then you refinance it, then you repeat the process. Now, that’s in direct opposition to the traditional method, which is buy a house with financing up front, then fix it up, then rent it out, then go to repeat it. And the difference is, when you do the traditional method, you add value to the property but your value is stuck in the property as equity. When you use the BRRR method, you add value to the property, then you pull that money back out of it so that you can reinvest it again.

This is something that I’m spending a lot of time teaching on and studying and really like drilling down on how I become a master at all five of those levels that the BRRR and R because I know that like, that forces me to become the best investor I can. Like, buy. How do I buy the best deals, paying the least amount of money, in the areas that have the most potential upside?

The rehab—how do I get cheaper rehab for more value? How do I add value to the house through my rehab? How do I add bedrooms and bathrooms? What’s the cheapest way to add a bedroom or a bathroom? When do I put a roof on? When do I not put a roof on? The rented out—how do I know what areas the rents are going to be increasing in over the next five years versus the ones that will be staying stagnant, etc. So by forcing yourself to master the BRRR method, you will eventually force yourself to master real estate investing overall.

Scott: I love it. Can you give us a quick example of a recent deal so that people can kind of grasp the concept in a practical sense? Like how much money you put into a deal, fix it up, what’s it worth?

David: That’s a great point and I can never do this in California. So I have to go to other states where it works. So the last deal I bought was a really, really good one. I bought it in an area that is like up and coming in Florida. It’s kind of like where all the hipsters are moving into. It used to be a rough area and now, all these like 22 or 23-year-old hipster kids, they all want to move there. So value is increasing and there’s not a lot of inventory. I bought a two-bedroom, one bathroom house that is completely tore up. It needs completely new flooring, holes in the drywall. It needs a new roof. HVAC doesn’t exist. The kitchen was half remodeled and they didn’t finish it. It was like a flip somebody ran out of money to buy. So I think I bought this thing for like $47,000. Horrible, right? The ARV on it as it stands right now is about $95,000.

Scott: After Repair Value.

David: Exactly. The After Repair Value. What it will be worth after it’s completely fixed up. Right away, that’s a really good deal. It needs probably I’d say $30,000 as is to get that thing fixed up without a new roof, maybe $38,000 if I add the roof. But what I’m doing is, it has a Florida room. So in Florida, they have these areas of the house that are not part of the square footage of the home. They’re like an enclosed patio so that you can sit outside and the bugs won’t chew you up, right?

The cool thing with Florida rooms is you’ve got a foundation laid. You’ve got framing put up and you’ve got the roof that extends over it. It’s basically just no drywall, but it’s just windows and this one has electrical already run through it. And it’s a big-sized Florida room. So what we’re doing is we’re taking that Florida room, we’re attaching the plumbing from the other bathroom that’s very close to it, making it into a master suite. So we’re creating a bedroom and a bathroom and it’s only going to be like $6500 to do the actual addition and maybe another $5,000 for the bathroom.

So for $11,500 bucks, I’m adding about 400 square feet to this house, adding a bed and bathroom. Now, in these houses that you’re buying, a 2/1, 1100 square feet type things, now I’m making it a 3/2, closer to 1450 square feet. The comps that the appraisers are going to use to determine After Repair Value just jumped up huge because a 2/1 sells for way less than a 3/2. Nobody really wants a 2/1 anymore, right? So now instead of having an ARV of $95,000, I’m probably looking more at $135,000.

So I added, what’s the difference? Like $40,000 more in value to that house by spending $11,500 to add this bedroom and this bathroom on. That’s a deal that once it’s fixed up and I pull my money out, I’ll be all in for around, what’s the math on that, $80,000 or $90,000 and it’s probably going to be worth $135,000 on the conservative end. So I’m going to get back more money than I put into it after I go get a loan on it.

The bank’s going to let me borrow 75% of what the appraised value is, which is my ARV. I’m going to get back more cash than I put in and have a place that cash flows and it’s basically been rebuilt from the ground up so my cap ex is going to be very minimal for the next ten years. Now, that is a way better way to invest but it takes more work. You’ve got to be willing to do a big rehab. You can’t be scared about it. You’ve got to have the vision to see, can I add a bedroom or a bathroom?

You’ve got to have good agents that tell you they know this area and they know that 3/2s would sell for this much money and you’ve got to be willing to go for a four to five month period of rehab without having any income coming in, right? There’s a lot of things you’ve got to have in order to do it. But it’s so worth building up to get that because like, who wouldn’t want a rental property that you’re getting paid to own with cash flows?

Scott: And you’ve got to have the $70,000-$80,000 to go in and buy the deal, which comes right back to that whole financial foundation thing, right? This is a tougher deal if you don’t have that money in the first place. And you have to all that work at the same time.

David: Yes. The only reason I can buy that house for the price I’m paying for it is that it won’t qualify for conventional financing because it’s in such bad shape. So as a cash buyer, immediately, I eliminated 95% of my competition because only 5% of the investors out there can pay all cash, right? And I’m in Florida, where $50,000 goes really far. That’s a lot of money in Florida. It’s nothing in Denver or California. So I basically found inefficiencies at every single level and I’ve maximized each one of them and at the end they all come rolling back to me and I get way more money in, or back than what I put in and it’s cash flowing property. Now, you multiply that times two or three houses a month and can consider how much money you’re adding to your net worth and cash flow every year.

Scott: You are remarkable, sir.

Mindy: What’s the name of your book again?

David: Long Distance Real Estate Investing: How to Buy, Rehab, and Manage Out-of-State Rental Properties and I talk in that book about these systems that we’re talking about, like how you maximize them at every level.

Scott: That book, by the way, is fantastic. I read it recently. Actually, I read it and then I listened to the Audible version as well and it blew my mind and it’s something that I’m going to attempt to transition and replicate over the next couple of years myself.

David: Thanks, Scott.

Mindy: Yeah, so I just want to add before we get to the last segment of our show which is the new Famous Four. I want to add that I am so excited about real estate just every single day and I am renewedly excited. That’s not even a word. I’m going to make it a word. Use it in a sentence. It’s a word. I am renewedly excited again. I want to be like, what is the city in Florida? Because I want to have a second house but I can’t afford San Diego and Florida is just as warm. I want to go do this and I’m excited to do this so yeah, let’s talk after.

David: That’s awesome. I’m excited at my job.

Mindy: Yeah, you did. I’m like so excited again. Reenergized. That’s a better word than renewedly whatever I used. Okay, so with that awkward transition, let’s go to the segment that we call the Famous Four. These are questions that we ask every guest every single time—what is your favorite finance book?

David: Richest Man in Babylon.

Mindy: Yes, that’s mine, too.

David: I’m telling you, like every kid should have to read that in school. It’s so many of the world’s finance problems would be fixed if people just read this super short, easy to understand, easy to read book. It’s like a magic pill.

Mindy: Yes. And It’s a hundred years old and every single bit of it is still relevant today. It’s crazy.

David: I think it’s like $3.00 on Amazon. Like it’s the cheapest book I’ve ever seen.

Scott: I thought it was 4,000 years old.

Mindy: It might be 4,000 years old but it was first published in 1920.

Scott: You’ll get that terrible joke after you read the book. What was your biggest money mistake?

David: Biggest money mistake was oh god, that’s a really good one. This is going to sound odd to a lot of people. It was thinking that being conservative was the same as being safe. And they’re not. I was scared. I should have been buying houses in the downturn as fast as I could because everything I bought cash flowed and needed like zero work. It was like the best time in the history that I’ve ever seen to buy homes. And I didn’t buy them because I talked myself into thinking, I need to be able to pay every single mortgage for six months all at the same time.

If every tenant quits going in, there’s no reason to be that conservative. I thought being conservative was keeping me safe and what it did was it ended up costing me a ton of money. Realistically when you’re saving $10,000 a month, there’s no reason that you should be scared of vacancy in a property where I’m spending $900-$1000 a month if I have a vacancy.

What I should have done is have more confidence in myself, bet on myself, and trusted that I would find a way as a single guy who was willing to do whatever it took to make those payments.

Probably if I would have bought four houses a year instead of one, every one of those houses has gone up by a minimum of a quarter million since I bought them. I mean, some of them more than that, right? So you can imagine over three years, buying three extra houses a year, each of them going up a quarter of a million, the difference that that would have made in my future.

What it taught me is that, don’t confuse being conservative for like safety. Not buying a deal which you can convince yourself is the safest way to not lose money can actually cost you a ton of money if you look at what it would have made you over a period of 30 years.

Scott: That’s awesome. The way I look at that concept is in terms of risk. And risk is not the probability of having volatility in your portfolio. The risky option is the one that’s going to leave you definitely far less wealthy over time. And you took more risk by not buying more properties when you had a good thing going than you would have if you had just stayed out of it in that particular scenario.

David: You’re totally right.

Scott: You’re keeping your risk, your volatility risk manageable because of how you are living your life and running your personal finances at the same time.

David: Yep, that’s exactly right. So now, moving forward, I have tried to ask those questions. Rather than saying, what could I lose by doing this, I try to say, okay, what could I lose by not doing this? Some things that grow exponentially just giving you a six months’ head start can have a huge impact on your future financial situation.

Scott: I love it. Fantastic.

Mindy: I love it, too. Wow. Okay, what is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

David: My best piece of advice is to stop looking at your money like an apple and start looking at it like a seed. Change the way you think about money. I’m a very competitive guy. Scott, you play rugby so I’m sure you can kind of relate to it, right? In order for me to do my best, I have to turn everything into a game and I have to find some way to keep score. That brings out my competitive juices so what I do is I said every dollar I make is mine to keep until I give it to somebody else. How do I limit the ways that I’m letting other people get their hands into my money?

Going out to eat. Going to movies. Taking a girl on a date when you know that this isn’t really going to turn into very much. Those are all things you just throw away and if you multiply it over the next five years, it’s a lot of money that you’re dumping. Find a way to keep as much of your money as you possibly can and then to make as much of it as you possibly can so that when the opportunity comes, you’re ready and you don’t miss it. I think everybody’s biggest fear shouldn’t be if I lose money, it should be what if an opportunity comes and I can’t get it because I was $5,000 short?

Mindy: Love it. Yeah, I didn’t buy anything in 2008 because all of my money was stuck in one house.

David: And that probably burns you alive now.

Mindy: I wish I had a different 2008.

Scott: All right, well here’s the toughest question of the Famous Four. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

David: Oh man, I usually try to avoid jokes at parties.

Scott: I told you it was the toughest question.

David: I know. If I find myself in a situation where I’ve got to tell a joke, I’ve said something stupid and I’m trying to back my way out of it. What is my favorite joke to tell at a party? I don’t really have much coming to mind right now. I usually get asked for cop stories so that’s an easy way to get out of it as a cop. Somebody will want to know—

Mindy: What’s your favorite cop story?

David: What’s a funny one that I can actually say on the air? Something that happened. Oh man, I am going blank.

Scott: It’s Super Troopers dazing, you know.

David: Oh, I know. There’s so many good ones but I can’t share a lot of it. All right, so in the police academy, we had a recruit that was not really much of a physical threat. He was kind of like a very short, stumpy, bald white guy. He looked a lot like those little—you know those little Ukranian toy where there’s like a doll inside of another doll? Have you seen those before?

Scott: Oh yeah, the Russian, yeah.

David: Whatever you call those. He was shaped like one of those. And he would—

Mindy: How did he get into the police academy?

David: Well, it’s hard finding cops right now. This is a sidenote, they’re literally recruiting Best Buy Geek Squad officers because they do not want like aggressive take charge because they’re so afraid of the bad publicity. So they’re going to Best Buy and trying to get Geek Squad guys to try to sign up to be cops. Kind of a crazy world. But this guy, he had this crazy waddle when he ran and he did it with his arms. So he looked like a tiny little T-Rex that would just like move side to side as he ran.

So one day, we were all lined up and he had forgotten to take off his hat when he went inside the building. There’s like a million things you’ve got to learn and they’re kind of teaching you to always have your brain—you’re never on autopilot. So we run into the building and everyone takes off their hat and he forgets to take his off. So he gets called out while we’re all standing at attention and we’re standing there for like 20 minutes, not moving, not breathing, can’t scratch an itch. I guess you’re breathing but you’re not like making any sudden movements. Can’t scratch an itch, can’t like keep your weight off your feet, nothing.

And then we hear, and you better buckle that chin strap, too! And like the door flies open and he comes waddling in in a very fast pace right into the room. And he’s wearing like this ridiculous plastic helmet like a little child’s Halloween costume of like an English Bobby type of a cop, right? Like a really shiny, it didn’t have a bill on it, it was like a straight little helmet and a little plastic chin strap that he then grabs and he’s trying to buckle it as he’s running.

Everybody is like trying as hard as they can not to laugh and you’re hearing this explosive laugh come out of people’s mouths and like they’re spitting on each other as they’re trying not to laugh. And then they come in and yell at us for laughing and we’re all doing pushups and as you’re doing the pushups, you cannot stop laughing.

It was the funniest visual that you could ever imagine, right? And I remember doing pushups and thinking, I think my abs are going to give out before my chest because this is like the funny—I can’t even think about this laughing because it was so funny. And like our rallying cry for the rest of the year was like, you better buckle that chin strap, too! It was like Remember the Alamo. That was a pretty good start.

Scott: That was awesome. I love it.

Mindy: That was much better than the jokes we usually get on this show. Scott is a very big fan of the pun.

Scott: All right.

Mindy: A pun is a terrible thing.

David: I can see Scott being the kind of guy that would like read a book of jokes of puns before he goes to a party because you’re never going to catch him unprepared. He hopes he never has to use it but if it does come up, he’s got like four waiting that he can employ at any moment.

Scott: I don’t have any today so I’ll have to buckle down and figure that out for next time.

Mindy: You need to buckle that chin strap. Scott is very smart and Scott has a hundred just tucked in the back of his head. And he makes the worst puns all the time and he’s just right on. You can’t—he’s very prepared. He’s the Boy Scout of puns.

Scott: All right, well, where can people find out more about you, David?

David: My website is It has an ‘e’ at the end of Greene. That’s where I usually post articles that I write, all the stuff I submit on BiggerPockets goes on there, podcasts that I have been on. What we started doing is every time I buy a house, like once a month I release a house and I say how I bought it, what I paid, how the rehab went, here’s some pictures. This is my ROI. This is the plan. This is what we’re doing.

So the people who are trying to get used to real estate investing but they’re scared can kind of follow along and see how my deals look and it gives them like a sense of confidence and like this is—you’re maybe not going to hit these on your first try but this is like the gist of how you should start processing information when looking at deals. And then I’m also on Facebook at DavidGreene24. That’s the handle.

And then honestly, BiggerPockets is a really good way to get a hold of me, too. I love that community. I remember when I was first getting into real estate investing, BiggerPockets was the source of comfort like I’m not crazy, there’s other people doing it, too. And I think every time I do one of these podcasts, that’s my goal, is to create that with the listeners. Like hey man, you should pursue this. It’s worth it.

There’s a way you can lose money but there’s also lots of ways that you can make money and really, real estate can seem risky but of any investment vehicle there is, this is probably like the safest one that you can get into. So I like to be a part of BiggerPockets and hitting me up on there, you’re likely to get a response.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: Awesome. And we will put links to all of this in the Show Notes for this show which can be found at So David, thank you so much for being a guest on our show today. Thank you for sharing your money story. I think that the mindset ideas that you have are just phenomenal. I wish I would have met you when I was a waitress.

David: Aw, that’s very nice, Mindy. Thank you.

Mindy: You were like 9, so.

David: I appreciate you guys.

Scott: This was a legendary show with every possible aspect of personal finance and showing how what you’re doing all these things right just put you at such a good position to have great opportunity and huge success down the road. So I hope you enjoy it.

David: Thank you, guys. Nothing I did is something only I can do. Anybody can do the same stuff that I did and I hope the listeners understand that.

Mindy: I hope so, too. Okay, well, shall we get out of here?

David: All right, guys. Thank you so much.

Mindy: Okay, thank you so much. Bye, have a good day.

David: Bye.

Scott: All right, that was Mr. David Greene, author of the book on Long Distance Real Estate Investing.

Mindy: Where is that available, Scott?

Scott: That is available on We’ll put it in the Show Notes but here is a copy of the book. Again, I thought it was a fantastic book. The guy, besides putting together his approach to personal finances, once you have that financial foundation built, this is definitely something to consider and it’s something that I’m going to seriously consider for myself in the future. Although I have not taken action on the book quite yet. I just finished it like two weeks ago.

Mindy: Yes, and I just looked it up. It is

Scott: Ah, thank you. But yeah, I mean this is an approach and a mindset and a person that I really admire and I think embodies the correct way to kind of go about giving yourself super high odds of success in finance and life, in your career, in everything and if you are starting with a median income or around that, this is something that you need to kind of keep in mind about just doing all of the things that David just talked about.

Mindy: Yeah, I liked one of the last things that he said before he left was this isn’t something that I’m the only person that can do. This is absolutely repeatable. This is repeatable many times over and I’m just so inspired after talking to him. Like I said, I am always excited about real estate. Now, I’m renewedly excited about real estate, just from talking to David for an hour. I can’t wait to go out and talk about real estate again.

So on that note, Scott, shall we get out of here?

Scott: Let’s do it.

Mindy: Okay, for Episode 12 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, this is Mindy Jensen, over and out.


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In This Episode We Cover:

  • David’s foundation
  • Graduating with a lot of money due to his work in a restaurant
  • His number one key to success
  • How to become the best at what you do
  • Transitioning to a police officer career
  • How be bought his first rental property while working as a police officer
  • Common misconceptions regarding real estate investing
  • Why you should be the “quarterback coach
  • How to create a strong financial foundation
  • Focusing on what you’re good at
  • The BRRRR real estate investing strategy
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Money isn’t evil, but it’s also not the goal in life. It’s the vehicle that gets you the goals in life.” (Tweet This!)
  • “The reality is if I would have tried go big quickly, I probably wouldn’t have the foundation in place to sustain me.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Stop thinking of money as an apple, and start thinking of it as a seed.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with David

About Author

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager Mindy Jensen and Director of Operations Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerPockets Money Podcast!
Each week, financial experts Mindy and Scott interview unique and powerful thought leaders about how to earn more, keep more, spend smarter, and grow your wealth.
You’ll get tips for getting your financial house in order and actionable advice from guests who have been in your shoes – and found their way out.


  1. Don Spafford

    I love the apple analogy. David Greene is awesome. Love his book, love the podcasts he has done. I want to be David Greene when I grow up. I plan to start to follow the plan set forth in his book and get into long distance rentals this year. Would love to be able to look over his shoulder and do exactly what he does. Cool dude!

  2. Katie Rogers

    I am always amazed that rehab costs everywhere else in the country seem to be a fraction of what they cost in my community. I am looking at a house right now that is in similar really bad shape as the house David described. It will cost about $300,000 (not $30,000) to rehab.

  3. chris koeppel

    Great job on the podcast. As soon as they mentioned your name I remembered what a great previous podcast you did on the main BP podcast. Had to take work time to listen. Sorry Boss. “Important webinar….”. And NOW you are on the latest podcast surfing with Brandon “the jerk” Turner (your words for pulling a fast question you were not given ahead of time -no hate mail, people). Many words of wisdom, and a great personal development story. Dying to hear of your Florida connections- some areas are just too hot here. Be wonderful to meet up with you when you are checking out the houses here. Thanks Scott (aka “pinky”, and Mindy). Great job getting common-man, personal stories and eloquent speakers on the new show. After forwarding several of these podcasts including this one, the girlfriend just called me the the Most Frugal Person she has ever met. (it is a compliment….). Although she will NEVER fit in a tiny house. Ok ok, David, lunch is ..on……me… ugh.

  4. Joseph M.

    Great episode! I am curious regarding the area of Florida where all the hipsters are moving in.
    Any hints? I know David mentioned buying property in Jacksonville,FL before and the price sounded low enough that it could be in Jacksonville as I’ve bought properties there in the past.

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