The First One is the Hardest!

Doesn’t that always seem to be the truth with all things in life? Whether it be your first home, kid, heartbreak, business, investment property…the list goes on and on. Why is that?

Doesn’t that always seem to be the truth with all things in life? Whether it be your first home, kid, heartbreak, business, investment property…the list goes on and on. Why is that?

“The first step is always the hardest” (proverb) says that beginning a project is the hardest part; it gets easier once you have already started.

From my experience it is because you have to invent the wheel, work the kinks out as you go, try to stay motivated, and face a LOT of unknowns, all while not knowing if you will have to go it alone, or if you will have help along the way. It can feel like stepping off of a cliff and having faith that there is ground underneath that next step.

I feel like I talk a lot fear in my writing and day to day, but that is because there always will be those fears and doubts. I face them every single day! It is then up to me to decide if I take that next step anyway, sink or swim…

When I decided that we should move forward and purchase our first rental, I was BEYOND scared. First of all, I had to talk Jeremy into it. He was totally against it at first and didn’t want to have to deal with the possible headaches, expense and “aggravation” since we were already both busy with our careers already, an 8-year-old (my stepson Luke) and a 6-month-old (Jaxon) at that point in 2012. We already had my previous home rented out and that was enough for him.

At this point I was a realtor and considered an Independent Contractor, so basically my income was commission-only. For those that are not familiar with how that works, when we sell a house we get our portion of the commission, and no taxes are taken out. We get our check and then we are supposed to be smart and set aside some for taxes and live off of the rest. That sounds great, but that also means that you do not have the opportunity for a 401(k) or a typical retirement plan for when you get older and want to collect and not work quite so hard. Since I had no future retirement fund or actual goal, my goal was use equity in any investment properties to upsize and eventually sell them someday to put money into the bank, or build a new house or whatever.

For those of you who know me or my stories, you know that I don’t take NO for an answer and that I am not afraid to do some persuading. This was one of those times. I always tell people that if I had taken the first “no” from Jeremy, I would have never gotten into rentals, had my son Jefferson, gotten chickens or a pool, and the list goes on… so, I didn’t settle for a “no” this time either (it makes me laugh typing this because I tell him this all the time).

I told him my top reasons for why I thought we should buy it. The main ones were: 

  1. I did not have a retirement plan and someday, when this was bought and paid for, whatever the value is, we could sell it for and get all of the money.
  2. If it was completely paid for, with a little work monthly, it would be straight monthly income to add to whatever else we had.
  3. There are a ton of tax advantages with owning real estate investments like depreciation and tax write-offs, just to name a couple, and I know that no one wants to pay more taxes than they have to (always consult with a tax professional to see yours). 
  4. The icing on the cake for me, as scary as it was to think of going into debt and fearing I could not find a tenant, was that the price point was low and affordable if God forbid, I couldn’t find a tenant.
  5. I could ask for a seller’s assist to pay our closing costs if we bought it.

After a lot of persuading, he was in! He was scared to death, but he was on board. Between you and I, as you get into owning rentals and vacation rentals, the fear of buying the first one is much worse than any after, especially as you gain confidence in how it all works, and keeping them full with income flowing in.

We were able to reap all of the rewards of owning a traditional rental, from tax write offs, tenants paying down our mortgage while gaining equity, and appreciation as the value went up over time. So that $120,000 house would eventually be paid for it we kept it for the long haul with whatever rent we had coming in to be straight income, eventually. And then we could sell it and use that money for whatever we would choose to. That isn’t what we ended doing and for those that have read my book Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide, you know part of this story and have figured out that I am talking about our Central Avenue home, which was featured in my book, both Chapters 9 & Chapter 11. 

I highlight this part of the story in hopes that My Resources allow you to ease MOST of those fears when it comes to investing in real estate and vacation rentals. Whether it be my VRA coursemy book or coaching, let me ease your mind and show you that the ground is there, when you take that next first step!!!

This story doesn’t end here. This definitely is a “To Be Continued…” stayed tuned for the rest of the story and pictures, from house fire to public humiliation and then ultimately being able to reflect on the big picture and see why things worked out the way they did and why we have transitioned most into vacation rentals or sold our traditional rentals. It has all offered so much equity, experience and abundance for our family and we are so grateful that we took that first step. And ***side note, Jeremy is a LOT easier to convince now!

Here is our first rental, 65 Central Ave, Wellsboro. Please stay tuned for the “rest of the story”.  And make sure you sign up below to connect and be in the “know”.

Chris

P.S. Follow me on Instagram @christinavandergrift  or on your other favorite social media apps! 

The BEST Investment I Ever Made

Why I love Real Estate and what it can turn into…

Why I love real estate and what it can turn into…

I decided when I was 22 that it was time to have a place of my own. Not a rental, because I didn’t want to make someone else equity, but my own that I bought. I had been selling real estate as an agent for 2 years and had rented for a while in another life (my singing days with my sister in Nashville), and realized during that short interim that I didn’t like spending money on rent and having nothing to show for it, making someone else rich.

I also had been exposed early on to those that invested in real estate early and often, that were very well off, not having to live paycheck to paycheck, and those that didn’t. My family never had any real estate investments, just the homes that they had lived in.

I saw the lifestyles, wealth and freedom that came with owning real estate, whether it be single family homes, commercial buildings, or vacation rentals and knew that I wanted to be like those folks. The ones that were able to take their kids on vacation and had money in the bank and didn’t have to kill themselves till they were old and had no life left to live.

So, I started searching and found my first house. It was a 2200 sqft fixer upper Victorian in Wellsboro on Pearl St. The asking price was $79,000 and when I walked in, I was giddy and scared, but could feel it speak to me. It smelled like old cigarettes and cat-pee-saturated carpets and had old windows, doors, and crooked floors. I didn’t know if I could afford it, but I knew that I was willing to put in the work to try. Out of respect, I asked my dad to go through it on a second showing with me. I was hoping for his blessing, but instead got – “You are an idiot if you buy this place. It’s a dump! You aren’t handy and are crazy if you do it.”   I was extremely disappointed but decided that for the first time in my adult life that I was going to grow a pair and do it anyway! So I did…..

I ended up paying $68,500 for it. I had to put 3.5% down for a 5-year fixed loan. I was only 22 and made good money selling real estate but was still limited on what kind of loans I could get because of my age and basically being self-employed as a realtor. I picked 3/17/08 (St Patrick’s Day) for my closing date and was so excited that I totally forgot to buy pillows or be at-all prepared for staying there my first night. It did come with a loveseat and a couple used old beds, so that’s where I slept…happy as I could be, feeling free! I bought myself a bottle of wine, listened to Irish music and took a bath in my very own claw foot tub. LIFE WAS PERFECT!

Sounds great right!? Fast forward to the following winter, when my gas bills were more expensive than my mortgage and the furnace and radiators didn’t work very well. I kept it 58-degrees in there because I couldn’t afford to have it warmer…it was so cold in there, that I didn’t even have mice! There were many bumps along the way and there were days that I regretted buying it, but my gut told me that eventually it would be worth it.

I was in my early 20’s, working my tail off selling real estate 7 days a week, waitressing a few nights a week, and putting every extra penny that I had into that house. I ripped out the gross old carpet and did the hardwood floors, fixed the driveway, had the doors and windows replaced, redid the kitchen and laundry areas and so much more. My peers were still in college, racking up debt and partying, while I was working and building equity. Like I say in my book Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide – “Short-term sacrifices lead to long-term rewards.”

I learned that ripping and tearing in an old house was very therapeutic for a single young woman, trying to find herself. My house made me happy and angry and gave me projects to take aggression out on when I had guy problems and lean into when I was sad and lonely. It was my safe haven. It was the best investment I have ever made, even though I had no support system to do it – just myself and my work ethic.

Let’s fast forward to me selling it for a better home in the country. I owned my Pearl St house for 3 years and sold it for $119,000. I had roughly $42,000 left over from my equity after closing costs and rolled it directly into my new house. The purchase price for that home was $165,000, so I went into that with instant equity, from my own blood, sweat, risk taking and tears. I had literally gained over $50,000 in equity in just 3 years, as a young 20 something woman!!! The one who went against her dad’s negative reasoning and figured it out anyway.

Let’s fast forward again…I met Jeremy, our relationship went fast (very fast), and we got married and I decided to keep my newest home as a rental. It was a possible backup plan, that I thankfully didn’t have to use. My equity grew and grew and all I had to do was manage it and keep a tenant in it. We kept this home for several years and had a couple reach out about buying it.

By then we had $60,000 in equity and decided to do a 1031 exchange (so we didn’t have to pay capital gains) and use it as two – $30,000 down payments on two rentals back in town. (So as a quick recap – first down payment was around $3000, which then became $42,000 in equity, which then grew to $60,000 in equity as other people paid my mortgage down. And that original $3000 down payment had turned into not just one, but two homes with other people paying for them).

That equity has since grown into hundreds of thousands of dollars – all from time, consistency, taking risks and a little elbow grease.

So why not you? What short-term sacrifices can you make that will turn into long-term rewards and abundance? Are you new to the real estate world? Or who can you inspire or educate, who’s entire trajectory of life could change?

Please save this post and share with that person! I hope that this has inspired you to take chances, invest in real estate and take the time to educate yourself a little more to bring more abundance to your life. These stories are a small glimpse into our real estate world and portfolio, and I have faith that you can do it too! You just need to start! My book is a great place to start, or my course. It will give you all those tools and then some.

Chris

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