Future Former Real Estate Investor
Ditching the American Dream of home ownership
At one point I owned a dozen homes.
Through a successful online business, I was able to accumulate a nice savings… a savings that I did not invest in the stock market (other than a small amount invested through a financial advisor)... a savings that peaked as the real estate market was crashing.
It was 2010. I had sold my home a year earlier as the Atlanta real estate market bubble was bursting. Luckily, I walked away from the sale with no loss.
In an attempt to reinvent and rediscover my life, I decided to move to the heart of the city… a quest to find simplicity. I would live in an apartment, without a car… I would make my home in an area where everything I needed was a short walk or subway stop away. Midtown was a logical decision.
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I now had a park, coffee shop, bakery… all of things I enjoyed during the months I spent in Amsterdam… all just a short walk from my doorstep. I was living in an apartment in Midtown, having decided that simplicity would be my path, and the “American Dream” of owning a home was not necessary.
My plan worked for about six months then the opportunist in me awakened.
Google had changed their search algorithm and my online business was floundering. Amazon had become the dominant online marketplace. My sales had dropped… a lot! If I did not want to be reliant on the big guys, I needed a new income source. It was time to turn my savings into an investment.
I started by purchasing a home for myself in September 2010. I closed on my first two rental property in June 2011 and added another property later that year. I added a couple more in 2012 and by the end of 2013 I had 10 rental properties.
BAM! My simple life was gone.
I had no master plan for my investments. I only knew that I needed to supplement the income from my dying business. My rental business had now become my primary source of income; my online business was now secondary.
The real estate market had recovered. I was finished playing Monopoly (almost).
As the real estate market recovered, I began to see my net worth grow. It was in the midst of this growth (circa 2014) that I started to ask myself…
Was the goal just to attain more?
I had taken my eye off of the prize… simplicity.
My final real estate purchase was a 450 square foot condo in Downtown in 2015. I would rent my condo in Midtown and this would be my new home… my base while I searched for adventure.
Fast forward to 2019 and my real estate investments were working for me. I was living in a van (more on this later) and began to meet other nomads. One of these nomads explained that he was also invested in real estate, but through a real estate investment trust (REIT), specifically through exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
I was vaguely familiar with REITs, as my financial advisor had placed a small amount of my retirement into one of these trusts only to see it liquidated in 2016. However, the concept of an ETF was foreign to me.
After researching how ETFs work and watching countless hours of YouTube videos, I decided to become a more passive investor. It was also during this time that I discovered the concept of FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early). I decided to sell my real estate investments and build a three-fund portfolio consisting primarily of US stock, foreign stock and bonds.
I began selling off my real estate investments in 2020. I sold six properties that year, followed by three in 2021. I closed on the sale of my tenth rental property in June 2022. My final rental property will be listed in August. I have even decided to sell my personal home (which I have also been renting). It will hit the market in August, too. If all goes as planned, I will be houseless in September 2022. All of my investments are now in ETFs (with a bit in savings).
As I write this, I am living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I signed a 12-month lease on an apartment in December 2021. My real estate investing is now limited to playing Monopoly on my iPad. The only decision I have to make is which token to choose. (I always pick the cat.)