“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”― Eleanor Roosevelt
I was sitting in the Engineering Control Center (Maneuvering) underwater on board my submarine the USS Albany (SSN-753) when one of my sailors walked in. Maneuvering, while underway, is usually a boring place with little to do but stare at screens or dials that barely move. Time is spent talking about cars or women or, more often than not, video games. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is also a popular game. As a result, when the sailor walks in and tells us his story, we are all ears. He had recently checked his email (yes, we do get email underwater and sometimes even Facebook) and had received a message from his wife talking about their lives back on shore and providing updates on his 3-month-old baby. He paused in his story and I caught a glimpse of a tear in his eye. One month prior to that, we were finishing up some arduous maintenance and preparing for Sea Trials (which, if you don’t know, are a huge pain in the you-know-what). Days frequently started before sunrise and ended well after the sun had set. Some weeks were 7-day work weeks and we were barely seeing our families. This sailor was home so little that his daughter didn’t recognize him and was scared when he tried to hold her…
I thought to myself, “Self, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t intentionally subject my family to that. There has to be something more.” And more there was…
Journey into the Promised Land: Real Estate Investing
I grew up in a modest house in Independence, MO outside of Kansas City. I lived with my dad who frequently worked, so I often found myself alone or with babysitters. I love my dad, and the precious time we got to spend together was personally and professionally meaningful. You see, my dad was an immigrant from India and learned that to make it in the United States you need grit, hard work and a little bit of elbow grease. On his days off, we would spend time fixing the lawnmower, building shelving, fixing water heaters and splicing wires. Those days spent performing manual labor taught me a valuable lesson that has followed me through high school, college and the Navy: Don’t pay someone to do something you can do yourself. Mow your own lawn, clean your own house, fix your own microwave (yes my dad took apart and reassembled our 12 year old Westinghouse microwave). In times of trouble or stress I fall back on that sense of work ethic and resourcefulness my dad taught me. That is exactly what came to mind in that tiny room as I heard this sailor’s story…
Getting out of the Navy after my five-year commitment was always the plan. What I was actually going to do though: no freaking clue. I went to job fairs and hiring conferences and I was astounded at the number of high paying jobs available to me as a nuclear-trained submarine officer. Life after the Navy was going to be sick! I could go work at Google or Facebook, walk the halls of the State Department or FBI, not have to worry about taking leave or having every weekend filled with duty or work. But then it dawned on me: the grass is always greener on the other side. What if by getting out of the Navy and transitioning into the civilian world I was simply transferring from a military uniform to a civilian uniform with the same time commitments, the same type of toxic leadership, the same lack of mobility. How could I start living life the way I truly wanted to live it?
I was going to “carpe diem” and that started with finding a job in which I could leverage my work ethic and handiness, and which provided passive income, flexible hours and the opportunity to travel the world when I wanted.
When it comes to getting started, I’m a cliché, let’s just get that out of the way. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad, had my mind blown, fell in love with the thought of real estate investing and my whole world was rocked. Yada, yada, yada. But what isn’t cliché is the idea of house hacking. I read Scott Trench’s book, Set for Life, lying in my coffin-sized bunk underway and I saw the Golden Goose that is house hacking, especially military house hacking. So what did I do? I learned as much as I could, met an investor-friendly realtor and we started browsing multifamily homes in my area. If you don’t know what house hacking is, take a look here.
The Beginning of It All
My realtor and I probably looked at 7-8 different properties before we narrowed it down to 2. The problem with house hacking is you have to move, which was a pleasant conversation with my wife. “Hey honey, I know our home is here and I know I’ve been gone for 4 months but we are going to uproot our lives, move to Portsmouth and start investing in real estate.” Didn’t go over well, as you can imagine.
Despite the shock value, she begrudgingly helped me pick our 4-plex here in Portsmouth, Virginia. Those first few months were really challenging for us martially and financially. Picking up and moving across town to a small apartment in a not-so-nice area is rough in of itself but we were leaving our first “home.” It was where we first lived after we got married; where we made memories with our small family of two plus a dog; where we tackled our first challenges as homeowners (i.e. a few unanticipated renovations) …
But we got through it. Before we closed on the quad, I found another multifamily home—this time a triplex—around the corner from work. It had popped up on Redfin on a Monday and by Wednesday we had it under contract. The market in Hampton Roads is hot, like most of the country and the triplex had multiple bids by the time we outbid everyone and snatched it up. If you continue reading these blogs, you’ll see that this “turnkey” triplex is anything but and we look forward to delving into “What’s up with Carver” in the future.
So, just like that, in a matter of three months, I had gone from a fledgling investor with only a primary residence home to 8 units across Hampton Roads including a house hack and a Joint Venture partnership. Although it may be daunting, it is possible! This blog is a chronicle of my journey, my experiences and my lessons learned.
In my next post I’ll talk about how I specifically got started learning about real estate. Thanks for reading! This was a pretty serious introduction, but we hope you stick along for the ride as we delve into the different pitfalls we fell into, general information about investing, and resources to help you get started on your own journey.