How I’ve made a living in real-estate and will be taking a demotion at my job at the end of this year

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Guest post by howimademoney

So first off a few things I have got to admit too…part of me got lucky. However I still learned some valuable lessons and thought I would share. I also live in an very affordable part of the country (i.e I’m not in New York City, but Georgia)

I grew up in a family that valued home ownership, my dad always drilled it into me even as the housing market crashed. In finished High School in 2007 and I started working as a Technician for an HVAC company that same year. I was living with my parents and I started saving for my first down payment on a house. It took me a bit more then 2 years to save up about $25,000~. Also during this time I purchased everything that I would buy on credit cards, if I went to lunch that went on a credit card, if I went to buy clothes that went on a credit card. I always paid off my balance.

So its 2009 and the housing market has crashed but I was still determined to buy. I ended up buying my first home for $75,000 and put $15k down. I used another $6-$7k to remodel and fix her up. It was a nice 3 bedroom 2 bath house. I lived in that house for about 4 years. For my first two years of living in the house I really didn’t plan on anything and just slowly kept saving (very slowly…I spent my paycheck on other things). However about 2 years into my home ownership my dad brought up the idea of me looking for some rental properties.

So I spent the next year saving up for a rental property and got about $7k saved up. I ended up buying a 2 unit Duplex for $105k and was able to get away with just 3% down. Because of the market, my good credit score, and the fact that I was picking up this duplex for less then market value I was able to get the bank to cover some renovations for me. I got the two units up and running and I hired a property management company to rent it out. I then developed my own system

  • half of my rental income after my mortgage/etc is paid will go to a savings account to buy more homes
  • half of my rental income after my mortgage/etc is paid will go to a savings account for any unexpected bills (repairs, vacancy, etc) until I get to 10% of my property value. I.E once I had 10.5k saved up in the bank for the Duplex all my money goes into down payment savings.

A year later I ran across a really good deal on a foreclosure it a 2 bed, 1 bath and I was able to pick that up for $35k (it’s in a bad part of town…but still)

A year after that my company promoted me to a Service Manager at another location. My initial plan was to rent out the house I was living in and just buy another one to where I move. But when my real-estate agent looked over the house he told me my property value (this was 2013) had climbed significantly and we could sell the house straight out for $125k~. This would give me 55k~ in cash to do what I want with so I agreed I would sell my first home.

I ended up selling my first home and after everything was said and done I walked away with about $55k in my pocket. So it was 2013 and I moved to a larger city with the intention of buying another home there and using my $55k to put down on a new house. By this time I was already seeing myself retiring off my rental properties in a few years as of this point I owned 3 rental properties, and sure we had a few issues along the road but nothing crazy. However the city I moved too prices were crazy high for homes. I ended up renting a pool house from a lawyer for $900 a month which was a lot better in my opinion then buying an apartment or house as everything was at least $600k and up.

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I then took my $55k topped of my savings for incidentals and had $50k left over I ended up buying 3 different rental properties over the next 2 months. All were single family homes. One was a 2 bedroom 1 bath and the other 2 were 3 bedroom, 2 bath. I remember it being a lot of as I would close on a house, go in and clean up what I could then hire out the rest of the work to someone else.

Honestly buying those 3 houses back to back was a huge mistake, and it cost me a fair bit of money. By buying those 3 homes so quick back to back in my home town it meant doing a lot of the deal remotely and I missed a few things that cost me money. However because I had my savings I was OK.

After about 6 months of pure hell in getting the units up and running there were. I then promised myself something never buy more then one home at a time. A home is a big deal, it takes a lot of work to get right…do it one at a time.

So it was 2013, almost 2014 and I now had 6 units and my net take home after all my mortgages/etc were paid was about $1,200 a month, also keep in mind each time I make a mortgage payment I’m also building up equity as well. I ended up incorporating my business and putting all my rental properties under my corporate name. To protect myself, this allows me to “pay myself” and shield myself from any potential legal issues down the road. It also allowed me to organize myself.

I found my sweet spot as well. You see the purchase price difference between a 3 bedroom, 2 bath place wasn’t that much higher then a 2 bedroom 1 bath place. However the rental income was like 40% more. In my market a 2 bath, 1 bath place will rent for about $500-$600 a month a 3 bedroom 2 bath will rent for $850-$1,000 a month. But the purchase price is only make 5-10% higher. I had also found a home inspector that I really respected and was honest which helped and I had developed a great relationship with my real-estate agent as well.

So after I got my corporation setup, my rental properties under that I started getting serious about buying property. I ended up buying a new piece of property every 10~ months or so. This went on for about 2 years and in that time I acquired 3 more homes. In 2016 my Duplex was starting to cause me issues, along with my $35k home in the bad neighborhood. It was a combination of evictions, damage to home, drug use in my home etc. After speaking to my real-estate agent in 2016 I agreed it was best to go ahead and sell those two properties and use the proceeds to buy more property.

I ended up selling both the Duplex and the Ghetto House as I had come to call it and ended up netting about $25k after every thing was said done. I had also learned a valuable lesson…buy homes in good neighborhoods with good school district as that’s going attract the tenants you want. I ended up taking my $25k and purchasing 2 more homes, one was a 4 bedroom 2 bath and another one was a 3 bedroom 2 bath.

** Each time I buy a house I put as little money down (typically 3% to 5%) and I do a 30 year fixed rate mortgage. **

In 2017 I bought 2 more homes but I started expanding in a bit nicer of homes, generally 4 bedrooms 3 baths etc. So far in 2018 I’ve closed on one more and will be closing on a 2nd home later this week. This will put me at 11 homes. If all goes to plan my game plan is to buy 2 more homes this year. One will be a 2 bedroom, 1 bath for me to live in and the other one will be a rental property.

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I’m taking a demotion at work to return to my home town at the end of this year. My goal is to live off of my day job, and to buy properties. My real-estate agent is currently talking to me about selling a particular property of mine because its value has gone up so much he feels I should either 1. take out a line of equity on the home to finance the purchase of more units or 2. sell the property and use the proceeds to buy more property.

But a few years I learned over the years

  1. Dirt, and grime doesn’t scare me. I don’t get concerned if I see holes in the dry wall…dry wall is cheap.
  2. I’ve found a crappy yard a lot of time turns off the less experienced home buyers, a yard is super easy to remedy and not $$$ however it does turn off a lot of potential buyers (which is a good thing for me)
  3. I never ever buy a home without having an independent home inspector check it out. I pay $500 per home for him to inspect and I have walked away from a few deals.
  4. I mentally add on 30% of whatever I’m told something will cost to fix. If you tell me this home needs $10k in reno I’m going figure $13k
  5. Work out your troubles with your tenants without going to court. Court is expensive, and time consuming. Example I got one tenant he has a painting business and isn’t the best with his money. Sometimes I’ll waive rent for him and in return he’ll paint a unit of mine when I need it done.
  6. When you get 20% equity in your home call your bank and get that PMI canceled.
  7. You don’t need 20% down to buy a house, I typically put 3%-5%
  8. Be prepared to put in elbow grease. Whenever I buy a home there are a few things I do myself.
  • Clean it out/demo it myself (its not hard, its fun, it saves money)
  • Yard work, I do it myself (saves money, can generally knock out a yard in a day…sometimes it takes two)
  • Small repairs, etc I do myself (again saves money)
  • HVAC I handle myself (I’m lucky because not everyone has this luxury and in the south having working A/C is critical)
  1. Good people are well worth it, my property management company is awesome. My real-estate agent is on top of his game and knows I’m regularly buying houses so he’s constantly on the hunt for the type of homes I like, he’ll call me and say “I got this deal, the yard is crap, the house is a miss, but the bones are rock solid”. My home inspector is by far my most valuable asset as he’s helped me avoid a lot of pitfalls…and finally contractors hold on to the good ones…

Also another thing just because something is cheap doesn’t mean its a good deal, I lost about $10k on my Ghetto Home…I ended up selling it for $25k the condition of the house was terrible, the neighborhood had gotten worse etc, my cheapest purchase ended up being my biggest mistake

Right now I’m netting about $3,000 a month income after my bills are paid. $1,500 of that is going to savings (as I got a long way to go in my savings account at the moment) and the other $1,500 is going into buying new homes. I’ll be able to buy a new home every 4~ months. Once I get to 20-25 units I intend on retiring and just managing my property.

I’m also finding as my business moves along my rent is increasing but my cost to own the property isn’t. Example the oldest house I have now my mortgage on that is about $475 a month. When I started renting it out I was asking $825 a month for it and now I’m getting $975…but my mortgage is still $475.


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