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“…who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

“If not me, then who?” PART 1

 August 2018
I remember the day it happened. It wasn’t long after we found out we were expecting our son and as I sat on the couch that evening, I felt several emotions. Excited, scared and grateful were just a few of the feelings that dart through you when you realize you’re now responsible for another human being.
At the time, my only source of income was my full-time position as a fireman with a mid-size fire department in the Washington D.C./ Baltimore metro area. It is an amazing career and one I have wanted to do since I was very young. Most kids want to grow up and become professional athletes, astronauts, etc. Me? I wanted to be a fireman. After graduating from college and having a management position for a few years, I decided to pursue firefighting and have done so for 10+ years. However, my entrepreneurial thirst wasn’t always quenched with the work and there were things I wanted to do that firefighting wouldn’t be able to provide.

After the initial wave of emotion, I found myself dreaming of all the events, experiences and moments our soon-to-be family of three would share. One experience in particular had me curious; the quintessential American kid vacation…Disney. Then I wondered what it would cost to go there. A few minutes later a number north of $5,000 was staring back at me.
A few quick calculations and I realized that based on my income at the time, it would be in the neighborhood of two extra months of work. Great! I can afford to take my family but it’s at the expense of spending time with them.

That was the day I decided to do something different. I began to devour every piece of information I could find about franchises, businesses, real estate and more. Over the course of the next few months I evaluated everything from buying into a SUBWAY, Liberty Tax, lawn care business, real estate and carpet cleaning company. I kept coming back to real estate. Something about real estate always seemed to interest me. Even better, it provided what I initially set out to find: a way to not trade time for money. It was a way to leverage both.

The more I began to research real estate and the many facets of the way you can participate in it, the more I began to think of the possibilities. So, as I continued down my education path, I started to work overtime shifts and a part-time job to acquire some money to get started. How many times I’ve heard “I’d love to do real estate but I don’t have the money”…guess what?! You can find a way or you can find an excuse but you can’t do both! I had saved up about $5,000 working extra shifts and a part-time job and I had found my new vehicle to reach my financial goals and quench my entrepreneurial thirst: rental homes.
In my next post, I will outline the highlights of my first deal, what I learned and my journey since that time. With these articles, it is my hope to share with anyone, especially public safety professionals, which are willing to learn how financial independence from real estate is possible. So, how many sources of income do you have? What if you got hurt or for some reason could no longer put on your uniform anymore? How would you provide for your family? Are you going to count on someone else to show up, pay your bills and keep food on the table?

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by fallen Marine 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion:  “If not me, then who?”


As we talked about in the Part I of this post, I had saved up some money to get started, made a focused effort on obtaining education and I was ready to take action. Nervous but ready to take the leap.
Early on I identified the type of property I wanted to start with: the duplex. In our part of the country it is common to have what we call duplexes and they are just semi-attached homes that share a common wall. For me, one of the attractive parts of a duplex was there were two units. Even if one was vacant, the other unit being rented would cover my mortgage.

I teamed up with a Realtor I had met who was investor friendly and also loaned money. She showed me several duplexes throughout the market I had identified. I’m not sure how many I looked at before I made an offer but eventually I pulled the trigger and made an all cash offer on a duplex that I had found. As it turned out, the duplex I offered on was owned by an accidental landlord who was moving out-of-state and they didn’t owe anything on the property. (What I would later learn is AWESOME!).

The duplex I offered on was listed around $125,000 and I offered $101,000. I don’t recall how I came up with that number because I had not discovered Bigger Pockets or the 2% rule, yet. Since it was my first property, I paid to have a home inspection done and they cited a several items (as they all do). When I received the inspection report, I took it to the seller and showed them the repairs that were needed. They offered to give me a seller credit to make the repairs. After some negotiation and obtaining quotes for the repairs, I was able to get a credit of around $18,000.

Now you might be wondering how I made a cash offer for $101,000 when I said I only saved up $5,000 to start. Well, like I said I was working with a Realtor who also lent money. So, between her, my money and borrowing some from a family member, I was able to get the purchase and rehab done.
While the repairs to the property were warranted, some of them I did were what I would later come to know as over improvement. Once completed, these units were both 3 bedrooms/1.5 baths on each side and rented for $925/ month plus all utilities. They were nice and they rented relatively easily.

Repairs to the property had run around $20,000. So, I was all in this property around $105,000 by the time you figured closing costs, holding costs, etc. I really thought because this property was built in 1985 and all the comparable sales were built in the early 1900’s, mine would appraise much higher. WRONG.  The appraisal came back around $125,000 which was about $25,000 less than I thought it would.

Knowing what I know now, it shouldn’t have been a surprise for it to come in at that number. At the time, it was like a kick to the stomach. The bank I was doing the refinance through would allow 70% of the appraised value to be pulled out with the re-fi. I was able to get a check at closing around $87,500 to pay off the folks I borrowed the money from. However, this left me short of getting all the money back out by about $18,000. So, I did a little more learning by doing and worked out a secondary loan for the remainder and gradually paid it off.

That was the day I learned how important ARV’s were!

You might be saying “see?! That’s why I don’t do real estate! It’s risky!” At the end of the day, I didn’t lose any money and I learned SO MUCH from doing my first deal. Did things go as planned? Not 100% but do they ever? In my opinion, it is more risky to leave your livelihood solely in the hands of your employer or one source of income. This property was the first next step to me securing the financial independence I sought and taking action for my families’ future…because remember…“if not me, then who?”

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The Castle
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2500 Castle Dr
Manhattan, NY

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