Story of a Self-Made Real Estate Mogul: ‘I Quadrupled My Net Worth in Five Years’

net worth quadrupled MMIn our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours—and we recognize their strategies may not work for everyone—but we welcome your responses.

Today, one man explains how he built a savvy real estate investment strategy—one property at a time.

Hi, I’m Tim. I’m 34 years old—and an aspiring member of the Kiss My You-Know-What Club.

An old co-worker introduced me to this “secret society” years ago, declaring that he could do whatever he wanted in life—even retire that very day—because he’d achieved financial freedom.

That conversation stuck with me, and I’ve made it my mission to achieve the same status.

How am I getting there? Through careful savings, a diligent focus on income growth and shrewd real estate investments.

The Start of a Beautiful Relationship … With Real Estate

I was attending the University of Texas at Austin when I executed my first deal.

I’d started working at an e-commerce site around Christmastime during my freshman year, and was fortunate to still be working there when the company went public in the spring of 1999.

I’d had my eye on some nearby property—land that was being developed into large custom houses. It was right on Lake Travis, and I relished the idea of getting out of the city to enjoy it.

A combination of intuition and market research led me to believe the land was undervalued—and the IPO was just what I needed to make the purchase. So I bought a couple hundred shares of the stock, and waited until my money increased 20%. Fortunately, it didn’t take long—in just a few weeks, I sold half for about $3,000.

I combined that with some of my earnings, and put a 10% down payment on the land, which cost $52,500.

Stepping onto a piece of property and being able to say, “This is mine!” was so exciting. The right, emotional side of my brain couldn’t wait to relax, listening to the lake lap against the shore. And the left, analytical side of my brain saw some serious potential for wealth creation.

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  • Greg Haney

    One of the best Money Mic articles. Congratulations sir, both on your process and the success you have achieved with it.

    As an ambitious 26 year old with similar goals, this greatly interests me. However, I am seeing that majority of your success stems from rental properties, and that you started this process after coupling with Maria. My question, is the second income what enabled you to embark down this path? It sounds like your wife’s salary was the enabling factor to allow your investment of rentals. Would your success have not been possible at this rate or level if you did not have this additional income flow to rely on?

    My curiosity is stemmed from my single-status, and therefore single-income as a limiter to this kind of opportunity.

    • Tim

      Thanks for the comment, Greg. Being a DINK (double income, no kids) certainly helps with additional income, but it was not a pre-requisite. The key is spending less than you make so that you can accrue enough savings for a down payment on a new rental property in an appropriate frequency for your life & financial plans. Is that easier to do on 2 incomes? Certainly. But not impossible on 1 income.

      If you are flexible on your living arrangements, a great twist on this strategy is to purchase a new primary residence and convert your old home in to a rental. Qualification is easier and interest rates and required down payments are lower for a primary residence than an investment property. Buy your first house now, build some sweat equity through upgrades that will add rental income later, and focus on rebuilding your savings. In 24-36 months, purchase a slightly more expensive house, and rent out your former residence. Rinse and repeat, as the saying goes.

      Good luck and feel free to reach out if your needs happen to be in Austin specifically!

      Tim

      • Craig

        Greg,
        I did some of the same things right after college. I graduated with $4,000 in the bank and purchased a 3 unit property 6 months later. Now I am 27 and own three properties worth over $1 million and positive cashflow on each. This was all done with a wife that is starting her own business (ie little to no income) and most recently a kid. So it can definitely be accomplished, but you need to know your stuff and be willing to assess and calculate the risk.

        • Ronald Major

          Hey Craig,
          May I ask how much did you pay for your first rental property and did you need to renovate before renting it out? Thanks!

  • Sharon

    Tim, great job on the investing! Real estate / landlording is where it’s at! I am 41 and I own 30 rental properties in Miami. Some I own through an IRA, so I don’t get the income now, but it will come in handy when I’m older! Even though landlording comes with some headaches (repairs, tenant turnovers, vandalism), for the most part, it’s the best return on your income.

    • Tim

      Wow, Sharon, congrats! 30 rental properties is a huge accomplishment! I’ve kicked around the idea of purchasing properties inside a self-directed IRA. I managed a couple of properties for a client that had done so.

    • Nickole Krupa

      Sharon I’m a single mother working full time in Miami. I’ve been wanting to purchase a home but it seemingly impossible to purchase anything decent in a good area for less than $500k
      I am toying with the idea of partnering with a good friend and business associate to purchase, so its my primary residence, and making improvements over a year then putting on the market for sale to avoid capital gains tax. I figure with two people covering mortgage, taxes, insurance and upgrades it wouldn’t be such a burden and then I could take the profits and roll it into another investment or purchase my own home on my own. I hate uprooting my son. I want to lay down roots.
      What are your thoughts?

  • Alix

    Just wondering, how were you able to save the additional ~$50K needed for the down payment on your first property? If I’m reading this correctly, you were only a freshman in college (18 years old!) and had that much saved?

    • Tim

      The purchase price of the property was $52,500, the downpayment was only 10% of that – $5,250. Oh, how I miss the days of easy credit!

  • Kathy

    I own three rental properties, one out right, and I manage my own property. I love it. I would love to be able to buy a multi-unit place where there is low turnover. Any ideas? I live in California and want something local.

    • Gaby

      Kathy, I’m making a move for a job to LA soon. I wanted to buy a house in LA and rent it, but honestly most of the houses seem more expensive than they are worth. I have the money to put down a 20%, even 30% down payment on a 400k-600k house, I just don’t know if the LA market is worth it. Any advice on how to navigate the LA market?

    • Tim

      Kathy,
      There are some great MF properties available in Austin. I manage a couple of duplexes that have had the same tenants for 10+ years. Can’t make any suggestions for local to CA. Good luck with the search!
      Tim

  • Jay Reid

    Tim, great story! I personally own a 2 family house that I just bought back in 2008 and I live on one floor and have the bottom floor rented out. I’m blessed to have really good tenants whom have been with me since I bought the house in 2008. I live in Massachusetts and I’m single and 34 years old. The thing with Massachusetts, not sure how it is in other states, is that the tenants have the law more tilted towards their side than my side as a landlord. Is that the same case in Texas ? I want to eventually buy a nice single family house and rent out my unit which would help pay for my single family.

    • Tim

      Jay,
      I’m a member of the largest organization for residential property managers – NARPM – so have a chance to interact with a lot of PMs and rental property owners from around the country. I’d think about joining if I were you, or if not NARPM, at least your local apartment association. It will help you network with other like-minded individuals and learn more about LL-tenant law.

      Texas is pretty landlord friendly, relative to most of the coastal areas, especially CA. Not to say that it’s like the wild west and there is no tenant protection, but we don’t have to deal with specialized housing courts, rent control laws, etc.

      The biggest legislative threat here in Austin (imported from the West Coast, as many things are), is making source of income a protected class. That would require private landlords such as yourself to accept Section 8 vouchers. It’s a logistical nightmare and requires signing a HUD lease addendum whose terms supercede anything in your lease.

      The flip-side to TX being landlord friendly is that it is also very debtor friendly. No wage garnishments & lots of exempt property make it a great state to be a deadbeat in. Collecting on a post-eviction judgment is very difficult.

      • Jay Reid

        Tim,

        Nice okay I will look into joining NARPM. Thank you also for getting back to me. Yeah Massachusetts is not landlord friendly at all it tilts more toward the tenant than the landlord. My tenants are with section 8 actually so the government pays me a certain portion every month via direct deposit and then the tenant pays me their portion. With section 8 they also have their yearly house inspections as well. So yeah I know all about that! lol! Wow Texas seems like a great state to live in! lol! I’ve never been there but I’m dying to visit. Especially hearing from you how TX is landlord friendly than thats something I’ll definitely keep in mind.

  • http://www.lbeeandthemoneytree.com/ Lauren Bee

    LOVE this article and love hearing from other real estate investors who got started young! http://www.lbeeandthemoneytree.com

  • Alex

    Great article and some great advice on how to delve into any investment while minimizing risk. I too go by the motto of “figuring out the worst case scenario for an investment and analyzing if that worst case is something I’m willing to accept.” Going by that has worked out for me wonderfully. I encourage everyone to do extensive research into any investment beforehand and also go by the above. Doing just these two things alone will put you ahead of the game compared to most other investors.
    With my most recent property I expected the worst case scenario to be no appreciation for the next 2-3 years. However, I was buying with cash and my ROI (from rent after all monthly expenses paid) would be 10.5% so I purchased the property. Not only have I hit my ROI but this property has appreciated by over 22% in just 9 months since my purchase! My net worth increase is similar to your’s Tim. Currently my net worth is increasing anywhere from 84K (at the lowest) up to 108K/yr. Just like you I’ll be set to retire by 48 even if I don’t do anything besides what I’m doing now.
    Congrats to you and the others who have posted on this thread on your success! I wish you all good luck on your future endeavors.