Fighting Cancer, Financial Freedom, and 20 Units in 2 Years


Financial freedom isn’t something that most Americans strive towards. For the most part, working at a job, getting a steady paycheck, and bringing home the bacon is enough. That is until something forcibly stops you from working. It could be a workplace injury, a family emergency, or even a cancer diagnosis. What do you do when you can’t work or provide for your family, all while fighting a life-threatening disease?

Josh Goldstein was in this exact situation in 2015 when doctors gave him a rough diagnosis—pancreatic cancer. Josh and his wife knew that he could make it through the treatments, but the financial problem still loomed largely. How would they be able to pay the bills, take care of their kids, or continue living the life they loved without any money coming in from Josh’s work? The answer—real estate investing.

After years of analysis paralysis and a deep obsession with BiggerPockets content (woohoo!), Josh bought his first property as the world was starting to shut down. But he didn’t let the lockdowns stop his plan to hit financial freedom fast. Over the past two years, Josh has gone from zero to twenty units, some of which he’s never laid eyes on before. This portfolio, which was built out of a life-threatening situation, is now bringing in hundreds of thousands a year for Josh’s family, providing them well-earned financial independence.

David:
This is the BiggerPockets Podcast, Show 692.

Josh:
I think the biggest fear was trusting people that I didn’t really know. I was meeting these people through Facebook groups, or through different online platforms, and it’s hard to trust, especially when you’ve never done a deal before, what they’re saying. And so, I think being able to verify, and again, in your book you kind of give resources on how to double check things, and how to circle back. I think that helped so much, in terms of my trust in them.

David:
What’s going on everyone? This is David Greene, your host of the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast, here today with my co-host, Henry Washington, as we interview Josh Goldstein, an out-of-state investor who has a pretty amazing story, and a very simple solution to problems we all have. We want to make money in a way that we like more than our job, and we want to be to travel, and have freedom, and not be stuck in one location doing things that we don’t like. Today’s episode is awesome, and you’re going to learn a ton about long distance investing, overcoming problems, analyzing properties, decorating them to maximize your return, and more. Henry, I know I probably just took the big stuff, but was there anything I didn’t mention that you liked about today’s show?

Henry:
Yeah, no, you did take the big stuff. My favorite part of the show is just, honestly, I love hearing stories of people that are doing things that a lot of folks would say is difficult, or impossible to do. So, being able to stay positive when you get bad news, and then giving… Not just saying, “Hey, I remain positive,” but giving some practical steps on how he does that, which is super cool. And then, just changing your life, deciding to invest, and then doing it when everybody thinks you can’t. You live inexpensive market? Okay, I’ll go buy a property somewhere else. And then putting the action behind those steps to actually do that in a way that is financially beneficial. So I love it.

David:
Absolutely. This is a very easy to listen to episode. Josh has a really cool story. I don’t want to give it all the way, but make sure that you check this one out, because you’re going to love it. Before we get into the interview with Josh, today’s quick tip is, consider things to be grateful for. It’s so easy to focus on things that are going wrong, and no one knows this more than me. In business, I am frequently, as the leader, the person that has to deal with all the problems that nobody else wanted to, or chose to deal with, and it’s easy to get upset. But there’s always a solution to these problems, and if you take the stance of, “I will look for the answer, or the solution,” instead of, “I will look for the reason to not have to solve it,” you will often find that most of the problems, or the obstacles that are stopping you from making progress, are not nearly as significant as you think. Henry, any last words before we bring in Josh?

Henry:
Yeah, I just kind of want to add into that. When I get in the same situation as you were just talking about, I sometimes have to remember to be grateful for the problems that I do have. Because yes, even though they may be infuriating, there are loads of people who would trade places with me in a heartbeat, who would love to have the problems that I have. And so, I just try to keep that in mind, and it helps me stay focused.

David:
I bet you that you 10 years ago would’ve loved to have the problems that you today has, versus the problems you had 10 years ago, right?

Henry:
You’re right, buddy.

David:
Isn’t that funny? If you went back 10 years and said, “Hey, I can give you the life you have right now,” then, they’d be like, “I hit the lottery. This is everything I wanted.” But we get used to it, and every day we wake up, and we’re like, “Oh, another problem I got to solve. My life sucks.”

Henry:
Right.

David:
That’s exactly right.

Henry:
That’s right.

David:
Love that perspective. All right, let’s bring in Josh. Josh Goldstein, welcome to the BiggerPockets Podcast. How are you today?

Josh:
I’m doing great. How about yourself?

David:
I am doing very good. I appreciate you waiting. I had to take a last minute phone call there before we started recording, so you’re very gracious, and I appreciate that. And Henry stayed awake the entire time, so I also appreciate that from you, Henry. I know listening to me talk can be very boring. But today we want to hear about Josh. So Josh, I understand you have a very interesting story of how you got started in real estate, so we’re going to ask you about your first deal, but before I do, take me back to where you were emotionally, and what was happening in your life, before you got that deal.

Josh:
I started in the entertainment industry, and I went along working. As I rose up and made more money, I was spending more money, I was kind of doing it, now that I know, wrong. And I got to a point where I was making decent money. I love what I did. I didn’t see anything changing until in 2015 I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and obviously everything changed from there.
I, at the time was renovating our dream house that I’m living in right now, and the doctor said, “You’re not going to be able to work for a while.” They didn’t say a timeline. And basically, I was in debt going in, renovating this house, and I kind of freaked out, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I did have a great support system. My family, and friends kind of rose up and helped me financially while I battled this thing, and I changed my mindset. I knew at a certain point I had to make a change, and make money elsewhere, and not just rely on my actual job.

David:
Okay. So, I mean, life hit, and the comfort level, the routine, the way you’d always known, isn’t going to work anymore. You may not be able to work those hours you were working, those opportunities might not be there. I mean, if you think about it, most jobs in American Works is within the framework of a W2 environment, which means in general, you are servicing a lead, or a revenue source that somebody else has created.
So, if you’re an actor in a movie, somebody else has secured the revenue for that movie. They’ve written a script, they’ve done all this stuff. They just need a person to play a role in the bigger picture. And that’s every job. If you’re working at Walmart, if you’re working at a landscaping company, in general, not many people work in sales. They’re servicing sales somebody else has done, which means you’ve got to serve at the pleasure of whoever your boss is. That’s how this thing works.
And when something happens to you like it did, you physically can’t meet the demands that this person would have, and you’ve got to be creative with finding a way to make money. So, I love hearing these stories of someone who didn’t just give up and say, “Well, I guess that’s it. I’m just going to be a burden on everyone else.” You found another way to do it. So what were some of the concerns or fears you had as you started to realize, “Okay, I think I can make money investing in real estate, but obviously there’s no safety net here in a W2 job?”

Josh:
The one thing I should say is I was actually freelance. So that was the big difference, is I had a background in maybe not having the most secure amount of money, but as I worked in production for a long time, I’d felt like I was secure, because jobs kept coming, and I knew enough people, that I was pretty sure in getting jobs over and over again.
The one problem, even outside of me getting sick, was it was hard to take time off. I mean, if I was taking time off to go on vacation with my family, I’d have to turn down a big job, lose that money, and then spend the money on going on vacation. And mentally that was really tough for me. And I always felt like if I turn down jobs, what if it’s a big commercial campaign, and I lose multiple jobs from that? Which I know does happen. So, there was definitely fear based in that.
So, during that year, I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad as many investors have, and it was kind of like a brick to the head. I mean, it’s something where, I was always interested in real estate, I was always interested in properties, and values, and looking at it, but I just never realized that I could make money off of it. I don’t know, I thought maybe you needed to have a top hat, and a monocle to be a real estate investor.
I don’t know. I still might buy that, just so I have it. But, during that year, after I read it, I was very focused on healing, and getting through the treatments, so mentally I couldn’t really do much more than that, but I knew once I recovered, that I needed to make a plan and actually change things. During that time, I mean, I think it was the smart move. It takes so much time, and effort, and energy on healing, and focusing on my family, and getting through this, and that’s basically all I was able to do that year, that I went through it.

Henry:
Man, I am smiling as I’m hearing you tell this story, because it is very similar to my story, outside of the illness. It’s not an illness, that wasn’t my wake up moment. Well, nothing near what you had. My wake up moment was I had a panic attack, similar thought processes as you prior to that, is that I was starting to realize some life events were happening that were making me realize that the traditional way I was making money wasn’t going to be enough to even live a reasonable life, nonetheless an extraordinary life.
And I had a wake up call after a panic attack, and I like that you mentioned you had this mindset shift once you got sick, that you needed to find a way to make money. But, I would imagine that that mindset shift was around… Because you have to have a mindset shift about healing, and getting better, as well as a mindset shift around what I need to do to change my financial landscape. Can you talk a little bit about, were those two different mindset shifts? Or did your positive outlook on healing help you change your mind about investing, and how actually achievable it is? Because I think a lot of people are in a place where they know they want to invest, but just saying, “Change your mindset,” it’s hard for them to grasp that. What about these mindset shifts made that easier for you?

Josh:
Yeah, I mean I guess I should start… I am naturally a positive person, but I have to say my wife is even way above me in that scale. So, when I got diagnosed, I was actually in the hospital, she was home with the kids, and I woke up from some painkillers, and there are two doctors sitting there, and they told me that I had pancreatic cancer. And I think this actually relates a little bit towards my job as a producer, where problems come to me all the time. Obviously this is a different problem that I never thought in a million years I’d have to deal with. But, I took a breath, and I paused, and I said, “Okay.” And the doctors looked at me again and said, “Do you understand what we’re saying?” And I said, “Yes.”
And so, I said I wanted to call my wife and I did. And her response from the get go was, “Okay, let’s figure this out.” So that was the baseline of our mindset going into this. I feel like it is something that I did in my production career, whereas when problems come instead of freaking out screaming, whatever, take a breath, figure out how to solve it, because screaming isn’t going to actually solve it. So, throughout that year we kept that going, and I feel like that mindset helped tremendously, because it relates to so many things in life, but real estate is one of them. Problems come up all the time. It’s how you deal with it, how you solve it.

Henry:
100%. And I love that you’re saying like, she said, “Okay, let’s figure this thing out.” And you’re right, the mindset is very similar, because I feel like success in investing, especially if you’ve never done a deal, or if you’ve only done a couple of deals, you may not know the exact steps, or have them all laid out in front of you, to know exactly the play that you’re going to run. “I’m going to do step A, that’s going to lead me to step B, and step C.” And you don’t know them all ahead of time.
One of the things that helped me be successful when I started off investing, was that I just decided I was going to figure it out. I didn’t decide I was going to go learn every single step, and then figure, and then take some action. I just decided I was going to figure this out. It’s a similar mindset to what you had about be getting healthy again. You said, “Okay, we will figure this out. I have no idea what the next step is, but I know I’m going to stay positive about it, and I know that I’m going to figure out all the things that I need to do.” And you solved the problem that’s in front of you. Man, that’s super inspiring.

Josh:
Well, and it’s funny, I’ve heard not just from you, that similar things have happened in people’s lives that change their mindset. And obviously, pancreatic cancer is an extreme version, but that thing, whatever it is, can relate to so many people, because it could be something little, it could be something big, it doesn’t matter. It’s just that little switch, making you think, “I need to do this differently.” And I think that helps a ton, and it relates to a lot of people.

David:
Did you have any nagging little thoughts, or ideas before the diagnosis came, where you were kind of like, “Yeah, probably this isn’t going to work forever?” Or like you mentioned, that’s such a good point. “If I want to take a vacation, I actually have to pay for it twice, because I have to pay for the vacation, but then I lose the money that I would’ve made at work.” We call that opportunity cost in economics, and it’s something that people don’t factor into their financial picture, is when you have a job that you have to be in a location to earn money, when you take a vacation, you also lose the money you would’ve made working. So there was some inner just ideas that were in your head saying, “Hey, this isn’t great.” Do you feel like the diagnosis was the spark that jump started this? Do you think you’d have got there eventually? Or was it just you had no idea at all until this news hit?

Josh:
I think there was something in me that knew something. I mean, in terms of research for real estate, I watched HGTV, and the flip shows, and stuff like that. But again, it’s more entertainment. But like I said, I’d always been drawn to real estate and design, and locations, and values and stuff like that. I just never, stupidly, realized that I could make money off of it.

David:
No, I appreciate you saying that.

Josh:
Yeah, no, so I just feel like I knew I needed something. I just didn’t know what that was until I had my diagnosis, and read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and everything came way more clear.

David:
Yeah, I mean that book is the portal from one world to another for so many people. And it’s funny, it’s good to hear this, because there was a time I didn’t know you could make money investing in real estate. And when I got into it, it was 2009, late 2009, it was not considered a thing you did to make money. It was considered a thing you did to lose money. That’s all everybody talked about, is, “You’re a real estate investor? That’s the dumbest thing ever. Why would you?” It was almost mocked at the time. So, it’s good to hear this. We have a big listener base that’s new. They’re like, “What? You could buy a duplex and get $500 a month?” It’s not known to everyone out there. So, I appreciate you sharing that part of the story. Now, how did your first deal work out? Did you know what you were going to do? Did you fall into it bass ackwards? How did you end up buying your first property?

Josh:
So, I was definitely in analysis paralysis for a couple years, and after I healed, and was working like crazy to get out of debt, I really dove into BiggerPockets with the podcast, webinars, books, everything. I just lived and breathed that as much as I could. But, the one thing that I did, is this is all theoretical. So I know didn’t know any of this actually worked. It was all in theory.
So, I looked at different markets, I tried different… I actually made some offers on properties, and backed out of them over as little as $500, which I’m embarrassed to say right now. But, I thought in my head, “I’m sticking to my guns, these are my numbers, and I am not going to waiver one bit.” And so, when I first started, I thought that was the right thing.
I think that what really changed that, is I actually listened to one of your guys’ episodes with Whitney Hutton, and she was talking about turnkey rentals, and it was something that I had never really wanted to do because I wanted to capture everything. I wanted the equity, I wanted the whole shebang. I wanted it all. But I realized as she broke it down, at least starting off, this is such a good… It’s like training wheels. I had purchased a house, or two houses before just to live in, so I kind of knew the process of that, but the investing side of it, it was still so foreign to me, and this was just a very low barrier to entry. And so, that’s what really got me into it. I actually reached out to her, and she gave me a property management recommendation, and they started sending me turnkey deals.

Henry:
I think that’s super cool, because this whole story is starting to piece together, and it’s… Because what happens a lot of the time is people say, “Well, I want to be an investor.” And they start looking and researching, and they get overwhelmed in analysis paralysis, and then they never actually take any action. A couple of things that you did, which were super cool, is you made some offers. Even though you backed out of the offers, actually analyzing the property, and making the offer is a form of action. And so, you’re training your mind to say, “All right, we’re doing this.” You were double Dutching your way in, and back out.
But the super cool part is, you made a decision when you got sick, that you were going to figure a way out. And when we make decisions like that, we tell our brain, “Hey, I’m going to figure this thing out.” And that doesn’t mean you’re going to know exactly what to do next once you make the decision, but you’ve told your brain to listen for it. And then what happened was, as you started to research, or listen to other podcasts, you heard someone say something, and you went, “Hey, that’s the thing. I think this is what I can do.”
And then you dive into the research on that part and then you take the action. And I think that’s what a lot of new investors need to hear. It’s not that you’re just going to start investing and the plan’s going to perfectly unfold, It’s okay. But if you can truly make that decision and mean it, you’ll start to hear and see the things that are going to guide you down the path, that will get you started. I think that’s a good, realistic way for people to think about investing. Make the decision, even if you don’t know how, even if you don’t know how… I don’t have the down payment, or whatever the obstacle may be, just tell yourself, you will figure it out, and be sincere about it, and then immerse yourself in the information, in the culture around other investors, and how starts to reveal itself. Man, that’s just really cool.

Josh:
I think also within those two years of me being in analysis paralysis, things did shift, because when you’re first starting to learn, I was like, “Okay, let’s say I buy a single family rental, and I start cash flowing 150 bucks, 200 bucks after all expenses.” It’s not a ton of money. And then it’s really overwhelming to think about, “Gosh, how many of these houses do I actually need to make a dent in my life?”
And my question was, “Well, how am I going to get money over, and over, and over again to buy these houses?” And then I found Burr method, and really do dove into that, and that really sparked some interest, and made so much sense to me. And so, from that, I moved into researching that. That’s when I started making some more offers, and backing out over minuscule amounts. But I feel like where I was going just was shifting as I was learning more. I was adding more tools to the belt, so that even though without the practice of it, I just knew more, and was able to talk the talk, and kind of progress from there.

David:
All right. So, you had several deals you backed out of, you mentioned. Now was this to buy your first deal, or was this later in your career that was happening?

Josh:
First? Yeah.

David:
Okay.

Josh:
The very first one.

David:
And that was basically just a defense mechanism, right? “I don’t want to get taken advantage of, so if anything’s wrong…” And when you’re new, that’s normal. We all have things that we look back on our first day of school, or your first time doing something, where you were ultra hyper aware, and you look back, you’re like, “Okay, I was overacting. But that’s just how life is. You don’t know what to expect. So, eventually you did buy one. Tell us about the deal you bought, why you liked it, and how you decided to move forward.

Josh:
So, it was a turnkey deal, but it actually… I call it my accidental Burr. It was a three bedroom house in Kansas City, Missouri. It was $70,000. They sent it out in December, 2019, and it said, “Holiday special.” And they said that the comps were around $90,000. And so, I looked on my own, and I agreed, I’m like, “Yeah, it does look like it’s around 90,000.”
So I went forward, already had a renter in there for $800 a month, and they fixed some things through the inspection, and by the time we closed, I just started getting checks. And one thing that did happen, is my lender actually backed out two weeks into the process. And so, I had a choice of backing out, or using a line of credit to actually pay for it in cash. And so, I decided to move forward, and I basically paid cash with someone else’s money. And a month afterwards, I went to go refinance, and without doing anything to it, it appraised for I think $116,000, and I pulled out $74,000, which was my initial amount, plus closing costs.

David:
What was the reason that the lender backed out?

Josh:
Because it was through a property management company. They said that the underwriter didn’t feel like it was a traditional deal, and so they felt not comfortable about it. And so, I didn’t question it that much. I mean, the property management company did have a real estate license. So, in retrospect, I probably could have pushed back and said, “Well, here’s their license here. This is the reasons why it’s legit.” But, I felt like it was all happening so fast that I just needed to react, and luckily I did have that cushion to be able to still make it, and move forward.

Henry:
So there’s a lot to unpack there. First of all, having the wherewithal, after you’ve made a couple offers and backed out over $500, and then boom, you do your first deal and your lender backs out two weeks into it, and you’re stuck with that deal, man. So I’d assume you felt more committed then, right? You felt more trusting of those numbers. But, I think there’s a lot of people that may be interested in turnkey as an option. You’d mentioned that you did your own research, right? So, tell us a little bit about how you felt comfortable buying it, by doing your own research. What did your own research look like? Because a lot of these turnkey companies will tell you what the value is, but if you’re brand new, how do you then take that information, and go try to discern that for yourself, so that you feel like you’re actually buying a good deal?

Josh:
Yeah, I mean I basically looked at the neighborhood. I even walked on Google Streets, to kind of see what it was like. I looked at Zillow, I looked at recent sales, I looked at listings that were active, and tried to compare to my house, and the square footage, and the bed count, and the bathroom count, just to see what it looked like. And it seemed like it was really solid. And yeah, it is a funny one, that I felt like I was committed, and didn’t back out, and pulled out a much larger chunk, versus I thought I was going to be putting $14,000 into this as a down payment.
And it was kind of a blessing in disguise, because I was able to refinance much quicker because of it. But yeah, I think it goes to me looking at the numbers, and seeing how good of a deal this actually was. And especially for a first deal, I just felt like… I had looked at other deals that they had sent, and nothing was close to this.

Henry:
Also, and I think that’s great, 100% totally agree. That’s a phenomenal way to do it. It used the resources you have access to. We all have access to Zillow, we have access to Realtor, we have access to be able to look at some of these things. There’s valid information in there to be able to do some level of your own analysis. The other thing to think about is, you don’t live in St. Louis, right? You said you did the walking on Google Maps. And so, what made you… I’m sorry, Yes, I’m sorry. You don’t live in Kansas City, right?

Josh:
Kansas City. Yeah.

Henry:
So, what made you comfortable with Kansas City as a market overall, to then go ahead and buy a property there?

Josh:
Well, someone that we might know wrote a book about long distance real estate investing, and that book really broke down any fears that you have. And to this day, I’ve actually never been to Kansas City, Missouri, and I feel like the only reason for me to go at this point, is maybe to meet the people that I’m working with, and just to get more of a personal feel for that. But other than that, I felt like at a certain point when I was starting to make these relationships with local people, the boots on the ground, I needed to trust them. Because if I wasn’t able to trust them, then this wasn’t going to work at all. And so, of course, I would do what I can to verify the things that they were saying, like the comps, going on Zillow, walking through the neighborhood virtually, stuff like that. But, it just kind of solidified what they said, and kind of proved that they were being truthful.

David:
So, were you nervous about doing this before the book? Did the book help get over some of the hurdles? Or were you already committed to doing it, and the book maybe just provided a framework for the right way to go about it?

Josh:
I mean, that was during my analysis paralysis time period. But it was another one of those notches that solidified… Because I live in the Los Angeles area, everything’s very expensive, and maybe that was part of the reason why I never knew that I could be a real estate investor, is because I felt like, “Oh, well I have to buy it down the street, and I can’t afford that, so I just won’t do it.” But it’s like the book was great at just breaking down every concern, and how to walk through, and actually make a deal happen, without ever going to a place. So, I think that it was invaluable in that sense.

David:
All right. So, when it comes to long distance investing, what was something that you maybe were afraid was going to be the case, or you thought was going to make it difficult, and then once you did it, you look back and you’re like, “Oh, that wasn’t that big of a deal, or it’s different than what I thought it would be?”

Josh:
I think the biggest fear was trusting people that I didn’t really know. I was meeting these people through Facebook groups, or through different online platforms, and it’s hard to trust, especially when you’ve never done a deal before, what they’re saying. And so, I think being able to verify, and again, in your book, you kind of give resources on how to double check things, and how to circle back. I think that helped so much, in terms of my trust in them.

David:
There needs to be a word in the English language for this concept. I don’t know why it’s such a hard thing. But frequently, when you’re a business owner, which you are if you’re buying a property, it’s just a… You mentioned the word mindset. Mindset comes up so much. When you’re the person in charge of the endeavor, and you have to solve the problems, you think differently than when you’re the W2 person in the business and you’re like, “It’s my job to just do a thing.”
Frequently people will come up to me, and they’ll say, “We have a problem. This just happened, we can’t do it.” I mean literally, we’re going through, in my own portfolio… I created a spreadsheet to track all the properties I have, what I owe on those properties, what the payment is. I’m systemizing everything so I can ultimately share this spreadsheet with other investors, and it tracks like, “Hey, these are all the properties you have, these are the offers that you’ve written, these are the ones you have in contract.”
And somebody on my team was saying, “For months we’ve been trying to find your login information for this bank on these properties you bought eight years ago. Can’t be done. And it’s literally been four months I’ve been waiting.” And so, I get on the website, and there’s a chat option, and I click the chat option, and I talk to a person, and within 30 seconds I’m in there. And I was like, “I am not the smartest person on this team.” I’m looking at it, “How can I do it?” And they’re looking at it like, “Oh, I can’t do it, so it’s not my job, I don’t have to do it anymore.”
There’s some magic that happens when you get shifted into this position of, “I have to figure this out,” and you become a superhero. I’m not saying I’m a superhero. In this case, the superpower was thinking to use the chat option, instead of just trying to reset a password when it’s not working. Can you talk a little bit, Josh, about, when you’re afraid to invest long distance, you can think of all the reasons that it’s a bad idea, and you don’t take action, you get analysis process. But when it has to happen, you start finding solutions, you start living this empowered life, you start to feel good about yourself. You start to gain confidence, because stuff that to other people seems impossible, to you, isn’t really that difficult. Do you feel like almost a different person now that you’re investing in real estate, and you’re having to come up with solutions where others are just seeing impossibilities?

Josh:
Absolutely. I mean, people that I know that are not in real estate, they don’t understand how I own a handful of units in a state that I’ve never been to, or a city that I’ve never been to. And I feel like my production background, my producer background is about solving problems. And every job that I do in that world, people come up with an idea, a script, a commercial, whatever it is. Problems are different every single time.
So I feel like because of that, me being able to solve those problems, and I’ve been doing it for a long enough time that I usually know someone that can pull something off. But sometimes they surprise me and they’re like, “Look, we want to do this,” and I nod my head, take a breath, and then think about it, and figure out how to solve it. And so I think that skill really relates to any issues that do come up with real estate as well. And I think taking a breath, and looking at it logically, and like you said, you did the chat button.
I mean, it triggered me a little bit because I’m going through and organizing all my logins as well. But, I’ve done that. Sometimes I’m like, “Well, I’m not going to be able to recover this password, but how can I get a new one?” Because they obviously want me to have access to this. They’re not cutting me off in that sense, because they want me to keep paying, and I have auto pay. So, if my banking information changes or something, they want me to have this. So, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get there.

David:
Yeah, and the way I’ve tended to look at this is, your heart will be the rudder that steers the decisions that you make. If there’s fear in your heart, you will find the reasons to say, “This is impossible, this can’t be done. I’m not going to take action.” If there’s a drive, and ambition in your heart, you’ll probably find the answers. For you, being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with your family’s future on the line, you’re getting over the fear that at one point kept you stuck in analysis paralysis. And all of a sudden thinking, like clicking the chat button, I don’t need to be Elon Musk to think of a solution like that. I just had a strong drive to get logged in, whereas the people on my team had a strong drive to get that off their plate, say, “Ah, it can’t be done. I’ll go do the next thing that I would rather be doing.”
And so, I’m frequently talking to people who are having a hard time getting started, or scaling, or whatever they’re doing, and asking, “What’s in your heart? Is this not for you? Are you terrified, you don’t want to do it? Are you looking for an answer to solving life’s problems that real estate was never meant to solve?” If you’re not good at your job, or you’re not good with money, man, you’re going to get worse with money when you get into real estate, because things go wrong, like you’ve mentioned. There may be some other things you got to fix before you jump into this. The older I get, not that I’m an old man or anything, but I’m starting to recognize, the position of your heart, what is in there plays such a big role in where things end up. Henry, you’re smiling right now like you’ve got something you want to add onto this. Do you want to elaborate there?

Henry:
Nah, I 100% agree. I’m smiling because you’re right. It’s what’s in your heart, and that drives your decisions. And not only does it drive your decisions, but when you think about putting yourself in a position to… Because that’s essentially what you’re doing. When you’re leading with your heart, you may not know what the next exactly step it is that you need to take. But you know in the grand scheme, “This is the direction that I’m looking to go.” And so, you will start to think of creative ways to push yourself in that direction. And I’m just a big proponent of, you steer the ship with the heart, and you’re 100% right man. So, that’s always going to make me happy.

David:
Now, can you tell us, Josh, we see how you got that first deal. What does your portfolio look like now? Where have you scaled to?

Josh:
I’m up to 20 doors. 11 of them are short-term rentals, and the other are long-term rentals. Of those 11, six of them I am renovating. So, only five are live right now. And then the other six are major renovations.

David:
And how are you managing this many properties, especially nine short term rental doors?

Josh:
So, on the long term, I do have a property management company for that. So, once I get it stabilized and set, it’s quite easy to just answer some emails to them every once in a while. All the short term rentals, I am managing myself. I have systems in place where, automated messaging, price strategies, et cetera, et cetera. I did just recently hire a virtual assistant to help me with messaging, so that when these renovations are done, and I more than double my short term rental portfolio, I don’t drive it into the ground without having enough help.

Henry:
That’s awesome man. Tell us too, where in the country the short term rentals are, and versus your long term rentals, and what made you go, “This is the market where I want to do short term, versus long term?”

Josh:
Well, the majority of them are in Smokey Mountains, Tennessee. And so I think what spawned me to that was listening to Avery Carl on BiggerPockets, and I reached out to her, and we had a great conversation. Everything she said just made so much sense. And so, I jumped in, and found a deal that was two cabins on two acres of land. It was way more expensive than my Kansas City place, but it was $635,000, and I wound up using my HELOC for the down payment. We closed March of 2020, the day that everything shut down.
And so, it forced me to do several things. I was planning… I went out there for the inspection. That was the first time I’d ever been to Smokey Mountains. But I was planning on going back as soon as I closed, to help set it up, change the linens, swap out a couple things here and there, whatever. And the day that I was signing, I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to get to a notary. I didn’t know what was going to be open.
So, I did close, and took my time interviewing cleaners, prop maintenance people, stuff like that. And what it did, was it forced me to use them to set up my property remotely. And I thought I had to be there, but it worked, and bookings started coming in. And so I went pretty heavy in the Smokey Mountains. I have nine units there, six of them are the ones that are being renovated. But I did invest one cabin in Idyllwild, California. And the reason why we did that is because we wanted something that maybe we could use every once in a while. It’s a couple hour drive from where I live, and then another one at Big Bear, California. And that for the same kind of reason, it’s good market, but we wanted to potentially use it every once in a while as well.

Henry:
So, it sounds like you’re picking short term rental locations that have a long standing history of being short-term rental locations, even prior to Airbnb being a thing, which I think is a smart move when you’re looking to get into the short term rental game. And your long terms, where… Are most of those in the Kansas City market?

Josh:
Yeah, they’re in Kansas City. I mean, I do have two mobile homes that are on a property that I own in Smokey Mountains, Tennessee. So, I count those as a couple doors, because I have two tenants in there. But yeah, the majority of my units are in Kansas, Missouri, for long term.

David:
What are your concerns with the short term rental market becoming oversaturated? This is something we hear a lot of people talk about. It speaks to that fear thing like, “Ah, everybody’s getting into short term rentals, I’m not going to be able to get the bookings I’ve been getting.” It’s obviously a volatile market. You get changes with municipalities, you get regulation that comes in, Airbnb changes their algorithm, the whole thing gets turned on its head.
It’s clearly a market that has not set it and forget it, which is… I bring it up because for so long we’ve hyped real estate investing as passive income. The idea is it’s just money that comes to you. And at some point in life, that might have been partially true, but with the level of competition that we have now, there’s nothing passive about this. I was working this job, and now I’m working this job. And it’s better, I think all of us would agree, it’s a better way to work and it’s more freedom to it, and it involves more creativity, but it’s still a form of work, and there is still some risk. So, what are some of the things that concern you about the short term rentals that you have, and how are you mitigating that risk?

Josh:
Yeah, this is actually coming from someone who just purchased what, 15 short-term rentals in how short of a time, David?

David:
Well yeah, that’s exactly why we’re talking about this.

Josh:
I think it still comes down to the core basics of real estate, and if you buy it right. And my strategy with short-term rentals is improving them. I like the value add strategy. I love design. It actually gave my wife an excuse to buy some really cool design furniture, and decor that we don’t even have at our house, and put it in a place that we could make money off of it. Yeah, I mean there are going to be ups and downs with short-term rentals, in terms of occupancy, and rates, and whatnot.
I think people still need to go on vacation. So, whether it’s a lot of people are going on vacation, or less people are going on vacation, if you buy it and you analyze it right, conservatively, you’re going to be okay. Now, how much you’re actually making from that is going to vary. But to me, if I could cover my costs, and then make some profit off of it, that’s really the main goal. And then hopefully over time, all of this stuff is going to appreciate anyways.

David:
Henry, what about you? You’re involved in several different kinds of real estate endeavors out there in Arkansas, a bit of a connoisseur of real estate, kind of dabbling in many different things here. What concerns do you have with the short term rental market specifically?

Henry:
Yeah, I mean the normal concerns everybody has. My main concern is… Well, speaking specifically, so I have short term rentals, but they’re all here in my local market. Well, I say I have them, I have three of them. And my concern, or the thing that I’m keeping an eye on is, the reason I bought in the market, or turned the properties into short-term rentals that are in the market that I’m doing it in, is because it is a travel destination for both corporate, and for leisure, but there’s not a lot of hotel options. There’s just a shortage of places for people to stay, in conjunction with the amount of people that come here, and need a place to stay for a short period of time.
And so it’s currently what I would call a safe option, but I am paying attention to what’s happening in the future. And so, if you stay connected to your local cities, and municipalities, and you are connected to the people in the city council meetings, and following them on social media, people think you got to do a lot of… There’s so much technology now, you don’t have to be in city council meetings to understand what’s going on in your local market. You can follow the cities and municipalities on social media, on Facebook, on Instagram. They post a lot of what’s coming through those channels.
And so, you can stay connected that way, and I am starting to see that a lot of the families, and institutions that have money around here are building hotels to solve for that issue. And so, my concern, or the thing I’m keeping an eye on is, when are these hotels supposed to be completed? How many are they building? How many rooms are going to be in them? So that I can try to understand if it makes sense for me to continue to grow a short-term rental portfolio in this market, because my 2 cents, or my thought process goes to, if I am a wealthy person, or persons, and I want to build hotels, and I have that kind of money, I probably have influence as well over the city, and maybe some of the rules, and laws. And so, I would assume there may be some sort of regulation that comes down the pike once those hotels are up. So, those are some of the market specific things I’m concerned about, and keeping an eye on.

David:
Josh, what about the future? Where do you see yourself investing from this point going forward, and what types of asset classes?

Josh:
I do like the hospitality area, which is short-term rentals, and I’ve actually joined with several other investors, and we are creating a fund to buy short-term rentals, and small boutique hotels. And so, this is new to me, but some of the people in the group have done several boutique hotel deals. I guess five of the six cabins that I’m renovating, that was my first commercial deal, because it was five cabins at one time, and the renovation costs were built into that. So, that’s my limited knowledge about commercial loans, and that kind of world. But, I’m learning a ton, and the people that I partner with are great at what they do, and what I could bring to it is finding where that market is, and what the experiences that people are looking for, and what we could put into those short-term rentals, or hotels, to make the guest experience great.

David:
The last question I want to ask you about is with your story, with the Nest lock that ran out of batteries. Tell us what happened in that situation with your tenant.

Josh:
Yeah, so I am in California, which is three hours behind Smokey Mountains, Tennessee, but this guest for some reason didn’t arrive till 2:00 AM, or 3:00 AM, which even for me that’s past my bed time. I go to sleep early. But for some reason I was up, and I was about to go to bed, and I get this message saying, “We can’t get in.” Which is never something that you want to hear, especially that late, in a market. “How am I going to solve this?”
And I had to call a maintenance person that I was using quite regularly, so I felt like we became pretty friendly about five times to wake him up, and have him go over there. What I realized, and something that I have in my process now is, first of all, I have someone checking my batteries once a month, because I never want to be in that situation again. Second of all, it was a Nest lock. So, what I realized is you could take a nine volt battery, put it at the bottom, and it gives it enough power to unlock it, and then you could solve the problem later. So, I actually have lock boxes on all of my cabins that I keep a nine volt battery in. And in an emergency I could give the guest that code to get the nine volt, to get in temporarily, and then actually fix it when it’s working hours, and not have to wake up a poor maintenance man that was dead asleep at three in the morning.

Henry:
That is the physical manifestation of, “Never again. Never again is that going to happen.”

Josh:
I learned my lesson.

Henry:
Awesome. Before we transition to the next part of our show, I heard you mention a few times you kept saying, “Hey, you just need to breathe,” or, “I just had to breathe, and give this some space, and think about the problem.” And I interpret that as taking a step back, removing your personal feelings out of it, and looking at the situation logically. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of these steps that you’ve implemented into your life to deal with both real estate, and health, and how that’s helped you?

Josh:
Yeah. Especially being in the short term rental business, I’d say the majority of my guests are great, but there are those guests that really can get to you. And so, when they write those messages, or send you something that your immediate response is infuriating, and you want to just strike back right away, I’ve learned through production really, because so many problems do come up, that before I send that message back, before I send that text back, whatever it is, I take a beat.
I might have to walk away from my phone for a couple minutes, until I get control of myself. I mean, this is something I even implement into my children, where I say, “Go get control of yourself, and come back, and then we’ll talk.” And sometimes I do it myself, in my family. It’s like I feel myself getting worked up, I say, “I have to give myself a minute,” and I walk away, and then come back, and then you can actually deal with the actual problem, and be a little more logical about it. And that goes for anything, any part of life. It’s like just take a beat. Don’t be so reactionary, don’t be so emotional, because that’s not always the best response that you could do to solve the problem.

Henry:
You know how many times… I allow myself to write the message. I’ve just got to bang on the keyboard for a minute, and give the keyboard a piece in my mind, and then I delete all the stuff, and then come back a little later. But, that is a wise approach.

Josh:
Instead of banging on the computer, I think I’m in my head going through all those responses, and that’s like part of my minute or two that I’m like, “Okay, I got those out, now let’s actually deal with this, and what’s going to solve this? And how should I actually respond?”

David:
All right. Well this has been fantastic Josh. I love hearing your story. I’ve loved hearing about how you’re taking on the challenges that are coming your way. When you were talking about that nine volt thing, it brought up the whole W2 versus 1099, “I’ve got to figure this out,” mindset. I can absolutely see somebody who doesn’t care about finding the solution saying, “Oh, the battery’s dead, there’s nothing that we can do, the guests can’t get in. I guess they’ve got to sleep in their car. There’s nothing that can be done.”
Versus you probably went and Googled how to open a Nest lock when the batteries are dead, and there’s something on there about this nine volt battery trick, and then you could have looked up the closest place to go buy a nine volt battery, and texted the guests, and been super apologetic like, “Look, go do this. We’ll get you in there.” There’s always a solution. It’s just, are you looking for the solution, or are you looking for the reason to not have to look for the solution? It just depends where your heart’s at. So, thank you for sharing that. That’s been great.
The next segment of our show is the Deal Deep Dive. At this segment of the show, Henry and I are going to take turns firing questions at you as we dive deep into one particular deal that you’ve done. Question number one, what kind of property is this?

Josh:
This is an A-Frame cabin.

Henry:
How did you find it?

Josh:
It was actually on… I found it originally, someone posted it on Instagram, and then I looked up the listing, so it was on the MLS, but there is a community of A-frame lovers all over the world, and I do follow some of those accounts, and this popped up in a market couple hours away from me, and that’s what spawned me to go check it out, and have something a little bit closer that I could use.

David:
Those A-frames are very cool. I bought one of them myself in the Smokey Mountains, and the pictures just really stand out for some reason when you’re looking at that A frame cabin.

Josh:
Absolutely.

David:
All right, question number three. How much was it?

Josh:
So it was listed for $300,000. This was June of 2020, where everyone was still very unsure about the real estate market. It had been sitting there. I offered 250, they came back at 275, and that’s where we closed.

Henry:
Whoa, fantastic. You are a savant, because the next question was, how did you negotiate it?

Josh:
Yeah, I think it’s just because it was sitting there, and being still the beginnings of COVID, no one knew where the real estate market was going to go. I at least had those Smokey Mountains cabins that were up and running, and I saw how valuable it was. So, I just wanted to jump on, and get as many as I possibly could. So yeah, I think it worked my advantage for sure, when we made that offer, low ball offer.

David:
Okay. And how did you fund it?

Josh:
So I use my HELOC, actually purchase the whole thing, and do renovations. Because again, I had another lender back out on me. It was something where I got the lender from my real estate agent, and I thought that there was just something off, and it was something where they would ask me for a certain document, and I would send it within an hour or so, and then two days later, they would ask me for the same document. So, I would send it again.
I just felt like there’s something that’s going to be missed. And we got down to the wire, and so in my head I needed a backup plan, got down to the wire and they’re like, “Well this isn’t going to work.” And they basically pulled the rug from under me, or we had to go back, extend the contract even more, and potentially lose it, and provide way more paperwork. So, I used my HELOC to buy the whole thing cash.

David:
Now do you refinance after that?

Josh:
I did. So, that one we actually put $80,000 on top of it, into renovations, and that was building a bigger deck for the view, adding a deck for the hot tub, adding a hot tub, air conditioning, and then décor, and stuff like that. So, yeah, so afterwards we did raise the value quite a bit, and then we refinanced to pull the money out.

Henry:
Awesome. Well, we know what you did with it, but we assume you did a short term rental, but the next question is what did you do with it?

Josh:
Yeah, so we did make it a short-term rental. I think the first year it grossed $100,000, which is tremendous for… I mean, I was all in at $355, and after the refinance, we pulled out about $330,000. So, I was maybe in it for $20,000 total, and grossed about a $100,000 the first year, which was pretty phenomenal.

Henry:
That’s a good cash for cash return.

David:
Yeah. Remind us where we are?

Josh:
I closed June, 2020.

David:
2020. Holy cow, man. You made a hundred grand in the first year on a $20,000 investment.

Henry:
I’d take that ROI.

Josh:
It wasn’t too bad.

David:
Yeah, what’s funny is there was a lot of people in 2020 saying, “Oh the market’s going to crash, it’s too hot, these prices.” Can you believe that someone’s paying $250,000 for a cabin? And that cabin’s probably… What do you think it’s worth right now? I mean, I’m skipping ahead, but…

Josh:
I would maybe say 500-ish, I would imagine.

David:
How big is it?

Josh:
It’s a little smaller than a thousand square feet.

David:
Okay.

Josh:
So it’s pretty small. It’s a two one, but it’s an A-frame that, the top level is is a really nice bedroom loft, A frame area.

David:
That’s what’s tricky about short-term rentals, is like you might look at the traditional metrics like size, and sleep count, and not expect it to perform well, but it’s got something unique about it that makes it stand out on Airbnb, and it’s at the top of the list, and everyone books that little sucker.

Josh:
Well, part of the reason why I loved that cabin in particular, besides it being an A-frame, and we kind of fell in love with the style of it, is it seems like it’s remote. We are at the end of a dirt road. When you’re there, you feel like you’re completely alone. So, it’s really for couples, and small families, and us as a small family, we went up there, and we would just have a blast, and you just feel at such a peace. And we decorated it with pretty high end furnishings, so because of that, I think we attract people from Los Angeles that want better style, and are willing to pay for it a little bit more.

David:
I look for that as well, especially when I’m in buying cabins. I don’t like it when you look out your window, and there’s another cabin right next to you. You’re sitting in the hot tub, and you’re looking at the other person sitting in their hot tub. I always skew towards the ones at the end of the road, or the elevation’s different, so you’re sitting above the other cabin, there’s trees in the way. You’ve got to look a little bit harder, but I absolutely feel like if you’re going to the woods, you want to feel like you’re isolated. You don’t want to feel like you’re in a HOA.

Josh:
It’s part of that experience.

David:
Some of them literally are like track houses, but they’re just cabins. They just have wood everywhere, and a little bear figurine.

Josh:
Absolutely.

David:
But they’re sitting on a concrete pad that a bunch of other ones are built on, all next to each other. It’s the most bizarre thing. I always think this is like what a ghost town’s going to look like. At some point they’re all going to be vacant. People are going to like, “Here’s a community of homes that no one’s lived in for 30 years.”

Henry:
Is it a requirement?

Josh:
Well, and I know this only from production cause I’ve scouted it a couple times, and I don’t know if it still exists or is like this, but right by LAX, there was a community of track homes that was abandoned. And so, literally, it’s all these houses. You go to this neighborhood and it’s completely empty, and you can walk around, and it’s this weird kind of vibe, and a lot of people do wind up shooting there, filming there. But yeah, it kind of exists. Maybe, this was a while ago.

David:
All right, my last question that Henry’s got one more. What lessons did you learn from this deal?

Josh:
I learned that this was a new market for me, in short term rentals, and what I learned was how to look at the market as an individual market, and what to bring to that market, versus the other markets. Because people that visit those markets are different than that visit the Smokey Mountains. And so what I really focused on was making a cabin an experience that really calls towards those guests.

Henry:
And the last question is, who was the hero on your team for this deal?

Josh:
It’s got to be my wife on this one. I mean, she helped design the cabin, and we get so many compliments, and people just love it. I mean, it’s so comfortable, and it looks great.

David:
Awesome. That’s very cool to hear. Remember, you too can find the hero for your next deal, and maybe through BiggerPockets. Head on over to the BiggerPockets nav bar on biggerpockets.com, and find all the ways that the BiggerPockets marketplace can help you. All right, Josh. Moving on to the last segment of our show. This is the Famous Four. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, pardon the pun.

Speaker 4:
Famous Four.

David:
In this segment of the show, we ask every guest the same four questions every episode. Question number one, what is your favorite real estate book?

Josh:
Not to blow you up too much, but I’m going to have to say Long Distance Real Estate Investing by David Greene.

David:
First time anyone’s ever said that. I love it.

Josh:
I know that’s not true, but yes, sure.

Henry:
Awesome. And what is your favorite business book? I haven’t written one, so you can’t flatter me.

Josh:
I was trying. I looked, looked, I’d have to say a Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. I just feel like it’s really inspiring, and to see a company, how big it is now, and where they started and how they struggled and how they built up to where they are was really fun to read.

Henry:
Awesome, thanks. And tell us a little bit about what are your hobbies?

Josh:
I love playing tennis, and I’ve gotten my whole family into it. The kids started learning, my wife felt like she was going to be left out, so she started learning. So, all four of us play a lot of tennis. And other than that, we like to travel together.

Henry:
Do you play a little mixed doubles as a family?

Josh:
Sometimes. She’s a little more… I grew up playing in high school, and before, so she’s a little more self-conscious. We’ve done it. I keep telling her that she’s 100% in her games, because we’ve beaten all the couples that we’ve played against, but we’ve only played maybe three nights. So, she wants to keep that 100% statistic going.

David:
She picks opponents very carefully.

Josh:
She does. They’re not very good.

David:
Tennis hustlers. All right.

Josh:
Exactly.

David:
Next question. In your opinion, what sets apart successful investors from those who give up, fail, or never get started?

Josh:
I think it’s taking action. I’ve heard so many times while I was learning, that your first deal’s the most important, and it’s hard to understand theoretically when you’re just learning, but when you put your learnings into action, everything becomes clear, and you start to see, “Oh, this actually works. This isn’t just a theory.” So I think you have to take action.

Henry:
So, tell us where people can find out more about you.

Josh:
Well, I’m on BiggerPockets, obviously. You could follow me on Instagram at Bunk House Worldwide, and we show some of the deals that we’re going through, and some of our cabins, and struggles that we go through when we’re renovating, maybe. And you could DM me there. Also you could reach out to me at [email protected], is my email address, and yeah.

David:
All right, Henry, where can people find out more about you?

Henry:
Best place to find me is on Instagram. I’m @theHenryWashington on Instagram.

David:
All right, Josh, this has been fantastic. I appreciate you sharing some time with us. Do you have any last words that you want to share before we get you out of here?

Josh:
I would just say go out there and do it. What you’ve learned works, and just trust your instincts, trust the numbers, and go, go, go.

David:
That is great advice. Thank you very much, Josh. And also thank you for sharing your story with us. Everybody likes to talk about the success points in their struggle. They don’t always like to share the parts that were not as good, but those are very important to hear. So, props to you for sharing that. I appreciate it. We’re going to get you out of here. If you guys would like to follow me, I am DavidGreene24 on social media, and that is the same on YouTube. You can now put @DavidGreene24. You should find me there. All right. This is David Greene for Henry the Hulk Washington, signing off.

 

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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