As a successful real estate investor, and a woman, I am often asked how I got started in this field. I have pondered this question for over 20 years, and the best answer I’ve come up with is that I just did it. I believed I could do this, and then did.
Having a real passion and business plan, researching the market and hiring professionals are all part of success as well, and should not be diminished in any way. But had I not simply decided, “I am investing in real estate,” and followed through, it would never have happened.
I started by going to my credit union for a line of credit. They told me they would loan me money based on how much I could save each month for six months. So I ate tuna fish and saved $500 a month for six months. At the end, I qualified for a $9,500 loan. As ridiculous an amount as that was, I was determined to buy property with it.
I tried several times to hire a real estate agent, but they all laughed — I was so young and had so little money. One agent, who believed in my determination and wanted to help, eventually listened to me. (I went on to use her services for years, and we became friends for life.) She found me an ugly patch of land that I could afford and that was near the airport. With fingers crossed I purchased the land, hoping the airport would grow and need my land. It was a small thing, but it was a first step.
Everyone thought I was nuts, but I continued eating tuna fish and making that $500 monthly payment for about two years. Not long after paying it off, the airport did indeed expand and need my land. I earned a little more than double what I paid for the land, $23,000 or so, and it was a glorious day. That was almost a year’s salary for me at the time. All because I’d taken a calculated risk and just done it. Then, I was in love with real estate. I was hooked.
I immediately took $6,000 and bought my first duplex — an actual building! It was small but manageable for a fledgling investor with little money and big ideas. I made a plan and executed it: Buy duplexes that had an income of about double what the payment would be. Keep working my day job, and take all the money from the duplex income to keep buying more, until the monthly income was sufficient to replace my salary. Not rocket science or brain surgery — really a quite simple plan. Within five years I accomplished my goal and then some. Along with that I had learned and done many things with my own hands: installed tile, replaced a roof, cleaned out toilets, been ripped off by tenants, learned how septic systems work, cleaned out gross refrigerators, dealt with fires. I was scraped, blistered, sore and tired many weekends, but I had done it all.
Was I a bit lucky? Yes. But I had put myself in the path of that luck, as a friend likes to say. If you put yourself in the path of success, you can be lucky too. These are the first steps of your journey:
1. You need to assess where you are financially. What disposable income do you have to dedicate to investing? Be honest about that number.
2. What do you want to accomplish with your investments? My goal initially was to earn enough to quit my day job. Your goal needs to be specific so you know what you are sacrificing for when it gets hard.
3. Your most important step, and what I highly recommend to dreamers of all kinds, is to draw up a real plan for success. By this I mean be realistic, and write your plan down in detail. I made a spreadsheet and calculated, and proved, I could save $500 per month, and with that, I could afford to buy one duplex the first year. I like to think in five-year plans personally, but you should establish the timeline that is realistic and helpful for you.
Each person’s goals and dreams are different. What are your dreams? Perhaps they include sending kids to college, saving for retirement, buying a dream boat or traveling the world — the list and opportunities are endless. And buying just one investment property can change or improve your life. However big or small your investing dream, the first step is deciding to just do it. There are a million other steps to successfully investing, but first you must decide you will do it — and then that you will do whatever it takes to make it work.