Well now you know and understand why I started my Real Estate Investment career, and soon you’ll know how. My goal in this post is to give you some ideas on how and why to start your own Real Estate buy-and-hold career and a way to start working on your first step, if you haven’t already.
Meeting the man with the crappy Honda that changed everything
It was a day at work much like any other day. I was the assistant manager at the time and covering the sales floor for a sales associate for their lunch hour. A guy walks in and starts browsing our stereos on the wall. I walk over to introduce myself and see if he needs any help or any questions answered regarding the stereos. He tells me “I’m looking for a cheap and basic radio, all I need is for it to make sounds and play songs so I have something to listen to while I’m working.” I go through some options that fit his needs and he quickly picks one of them out without much thought. He then proceeds to say “I guess I need a couple of speakers too so the radio will play.” I show him our speaker selection, he asks which one’s I would choose, and I point to the Kenwood speakers we had in stock. He immediately says ok, and I direct him over to the computer to start tendering his purchase. I ask him what kind of car he has, a Honda Civic hatchback, and if he would like us to install his equipment. He tells me “Absolutely but I need to show you the car so you know what you’re up against!” This perks my interest with the way he smiles when he says this and I follow him to his car parked in the parking lot. He opens the door and gives me a look inside. And that was when I first believed this guy was crazy.
When l looked inside the car, I immediately notice there’s NO center console! Its completely missing. I ask him if he has it at home? He smiles and proudly responds “Nope, I bought the car without it!” I continue looking around in the car and see that this vehicle has better days. It’s littered with stains on the carpets and seats, the dash is all scratched up, and the hatchback area is full of paint spills and splotches. I pull my head out of the car feeling a little annoyed that I didn’t see this sooner. This had to be a joke.
I had to stay professional, after all I was at work employed by a company that demanded it, so I simply told the gentleman that I thought the install of the stereo equipment was going to cost him more than his car was worth unfortunately and that I recommended against moving forward with it. But to my surprise he told me that didn’t matter to him and that the car was essential for work but he needed tunes so price wasn’t an issue. He clarified for me that he didn’t care about the look of the install, but only that it worked. I told him it would cost him roughly $800.00 for the work to be completed, and just in case something was off here which I suspected there was, I had him pay in advance and in full. He did without batting his eye!
Since this job was “custom” and I had the most experience, the job was mine to complete. It took me almost four hours to get it done, but it was done. That early afternoon, I called and let the customer know I had finished his car and that it was ready for pickup. He told me he would be right there and that he’d see me soon. When he pulled up in a truck that looked to be an exact replica of the monster truck “Bigfoot”, I have to tell you I was awe struck! I mean, a truck like that had to have at least $150,000.00 into it. The tires were taller than me and the paint, suspension, and every other detail was flawless! It was the kind of truck you dream of owning as a boy, but when you get old enough to drive you quickly realize how far off that reality is. He jumped down from the cab and asked if I could follow him to his house around the corner and he could drive me back. My first thought was that I may get to ride in this beautiful truck, so I agreed, jumped into the Civic, and followed him to his house.
When we pulled up to his house, I noticed two things: It was pretty big looking just from the curb, and he also had contractors actively working on it. They were dragging supplies in the front door that looked like they were working in the kitchen. All I could wonder was “How does this guy afford to spend all of this money?” I mean, between the truck and the house, he’s gotta have one amazing job that pays him REALLY well to be able to spend money like this!
I placed the Civic in Park, locked the doors, and jumped into another car he started up to drive me back to the shop. That’s when my curiosity got the best of me. I had to ask the obvious question because it was really driving me nuts at this point. This guy obviously had more than enough money to do what he wanted with it, driving his dream cars, building his dream house, and living what most of us would consider to live his dream life. Think about it: He couldn’t have that hard of a job considering he’s available to get stereo equipment installed in a car in the middle of the day on a weekday. In fact, he seemed to be really relaxed with his day, not seeming to be in any hurry, and dressed very casually in a t-shirt and jeans. So I asked, “What do you do for work?” This is where the story really starts to get interesting.
He looks at me thoughtfully for a moment, then replies “Open the glove box and see what’s inside.” Now picture this scenario for a moment: A stranger that doesn’t seem to have a job and looks to have a lot of money to spend from an unknown source just asked me to open his glove box to see what’s inside. Sound like a typical start to a murder novel to you? Needless to say, I was keeping a very close eye on him while I was doing as he asked me expecting him to try and surprise me at any minute with an attack of some sort! But when I opened the glove box, there were no guns or drugs to be found, (Thank God!) but what I did find were several checks.
I pulled them out and looked at each one. They were all made payable to him and they were each for several hundred dollars, and some for a couple thousand dollars. There must’ve been 15-20 of them! He asked me if I knew what they were for and I honestly had no clue. My guess was as good as anybody’s, but I still was guessing it was something completely foreign and probably out of my realm of comprehension based on how much money these checks represented in my hands. How and why does somebody receive so much money from different people like this? I told him I had no idea and asked him to let me in on how he gets these.
“They’re all rent checks from properties I own! People send me these checks every month to pay me rent to live at my properties. And some people don’t mail their rent to me but need me to pick-up their monthly rent they pay in cash, which is what I use the Honda Civic for, because nobody likes to give money to a guy who drives up in a fancy vehicle that looks rich.”
My immediate thought was, oh great, I thought I might be able to learn how to replicate his process to earn more money, but he must come from a family with money because I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of properties to rent out. I mean, I believe I had roughly $300.00 in my bank account! He saw the hope leave my face when he was explaining this to me and divulged more of his story to me:
“I didn’t have a lot of money to start with. It has been about 10 years since I first started this journey. You can do it too. You just have to start with one, and then go from there. If you stick to it, you’ll be where I’m at before you know it.”
His advice was very inspirational to me, but left me with nothing more than a hope and a seed of a dream to start growing within me. His current living situation was definitely within the scope of what I was wanting to accomplish of not having to have a job, but the details of how to start were extremely fuzzy. “How would you suggest I start my journey?” I asked. His reply was simple and rhetorical, “Just work on getting your first property to live in that you could rent out when you buy your second. Once you do that, buy number two, then repeat!” Uh, yeah, he sure makes it sound easy…
He drove me back to my job and dropped me off. While we were saying our good-byes, I thanked him for sharing everything he did with me and promised I would do my best to start my journey as soon as possible. His last piece of advice to me still echoes within me today, “To start is only a decision, and once you make that decision, the next steps to continue along the path always become easier and clearer.” Now that its been 16 years since meeting this gentleman, I can tell you with extreme certainty that this is true in every sense of the statement. The first step in any journey is always the hardest!
This meeting and interaction with this gentleman was extremely pivotal in my life and I know for sure that if we never crossed paths, we wouldn’t have started down the amazing journey that it has led us down. Marla and I will always be grateful for the free advice and inspiration this individual was willing to share with me. It truly changed our lives for the better. Not only financially, but because Marla was able to be a stay-at-home mom and wife for your entire lives from birth, and I was able to not work any more time than I wanted to, it gave us an amazing balance in our lives that enriched all aspects of our daily lives! We thank this nameless individual (we wish we could remember his name!) from the bottom of our hearts!