I wanted to share my real estate journey in hopes that it can help our community. The struggles, mistakes, personal growth, failures, and successes have challenged me in many ways in the past several years.
In the beginning, I joined the Navy 11 days after 9/11 at the age of 17--my mom had to sign my contract. I then served with 3rd Bn 4th Mar, India Company as a Navy Corpsman and served two tours in Fallujah, Iraq. I later transferred to Rota, Spain and worked in the emergency room for three years. After that, I started to lose passion for medical and began focusing on finance. I then left active duty in 2009 to go to study finance. It was the worst time to get out of the military due to the job market, yet thanks to my mom, I was able to buy what I could afford in South Central Los Angeles when home prices were very low in 2010.
I joined the Navy Reserves and struggled so much financially. During that time, I was introduced to personal development books such as "Rich Dad Poor Dad", "Think and Grow Rich", and "How to Win Friends and Influence People". I struggled for a few more years trying to feed my family until I deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in 2012.
I rented my single-family home to a fellow parent from my daughter’s preschool with no background check, no application, and rushed the entire process. I should have known things would go bad when he came on the first day and said he didn’t have the security deposit. It ended up that he didn’t pay me for the last 6 months of my 12-month deployment. My first landlord experience was the worst and I was ready to quit, but I didn't! I meticulously vetted the next tenant and he has paid his rent on time since 2014. This helped me pay down my debt and increase my equity for years; which would be key in 2018.
Fast forward to 2018--I was working as a private banker for a large national bank and was very successful and at the top in my district. I noticed my wealthiest clients were all into real estate, but it still didn't click. It didn’t seem attainable--especially with not knowing how many creative financing strategies there are out there. 2018 also represented many struggles in my personal life--including a separation, my father’s failing health, and my youngest sister’s tragic passing, which made me stop and reevaluate my life. I appeared successful on the surface, yet I found myself reduced to renting a room with a friend and his family. My mind was in a lonely place and I was constantly reevaluating what I wanted. Then, things began to click.
I stopped listening to music for a while, stopped watching TV and stopped going to happy hour with coworkers and clients in downtown LA. Every minute that I wasn’t with my children or at work, I was listening to bigger pockets podcasts, reading books, and speaking to my clients about real estate. My failed experiences, chats with my clients, and personal development lessons from years past started to make sense and point to one thing: passive real estate investing. My mind began to shift as I explored this new world of investing. I needed to get my time back with my children after a painful separation. I was determined and there was a specific story that inspired me and focused my mindset on "burning the ships" in my mind to push towards my goals.
"Burn the Ships" focuses on Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conquistador. He landed on the shores of Veracruz, Mexico on a quest to conquer the Aztec empire. Upon landing, he ordered his army to burn their ships. This was to instill that defeat was not an option. Hernan Cortes was set on conquering the Aztec empire and succeeding at all costs. Winning was the only option for Cortes and that was the mentality I adopted. I had to get my time back with my children and fulfill my promise to them. To do that, I had to focus all of my energy and time to succeed in real estate. I could do this by generating passive income.
In early Dec 2018, I applied for a home equity loan on my primary home and it closed in 10 days. Ten days later, I used the funds to purchase my first out-of-state single-family home. I made several mistakes with that purchase, but with some basic knowledge applied, the home cash-flowed and still does today. My original intent was to stay in the single-family home arena and purchase more.
I purchased my second out-of-state single-family home a few months later near the same area. Both homes cash-flowed a couple of hundred dollars together, but I quickly realized scaling at that pace would never allow me to get my time back as quickly as I wanted. I began studying multifamily more.
Around the time I purchased my second investment property in Feb 2019, the military was knocking on my door with a 12-month mobilization. I was devastated because it would take me away from my children, but I also recognized the opportunity. I was being recalled to New Orleans for a year and made lemonade out of the lemons I was given. I reached out to a realtor in New Orleans who helped me get into an owner-occupied fourplex in a growing area. The fourplex was purchased at a great price--with some built-in equity and has continued to appreciate nicely. The fourplex was all section 8 housing which helped me learn the pros and cons of the federal program. At this point, my portfolio had seven doors within five months. The cash flow in the fourplex showed me the acceleration of multifamily, yet I wasn’t satisfied with my projected timeline to reach financial freedom. I began to read more, became obsessed with podcasts, and became intrigued with mobile home parks.
The same realtor who helped me find the fourplex was now on the hunt for a mobile home park. The process brought many challenges, including financing and the due diligence process. Buying a mobile home park was very different from purchasing a single-family or a fourplex. I had to go through nine different banks! Finally, I found a lender who understood the business well enough to finance a mobile home park. I went into contract on two mobile home parks, which fell out of contract in the due diligence period. Feeling defeated, I continued to network and let everyone know that I was looking for a mobile home park. At a local real estate meet up, I waited until the end to say thank you to the speaker. While I was waiting in line, I mentioned to an attendee that I was looking for a mobile home park. I found out he was a realtor and a listing agent for a park. Long story short, I bought a 23 unit mobile home park from him. Financing the park was a very creative process--I used a combination of my 401k, a small leftover portion of my HELOC, 0% credit card checks, and a loan from my biggest fan--my mother. Very little money came out of my own pocket for the down payment.
In about 9 months, I took my portfolio from 1 door to 30 doors. At this time, my goal is to get to 100 doors within the next 11 months. I'll accomplish this by raising money for a large down payment from trusted family and friends. The 100 door financial goal is only a stepping stone to pursuing a passion to help others. My children are very involved in my real estate business and my goal setting. Our goal is to use the wealth built by real estate to help children in impoverished countries. We will continue to do this by acquiring more real estate and by keeping a ‘burn the ships’ mentality every day!