I recently toured a high-end condominium building under construction that’s a bit more than half finished.
As I walked around studs, past installed windows to check out the view from the balcony, I listened to the developer and his attorney talk about how the developer had finally purchased the last house on the block, after nearly a 10-year wait, for about $600,000 more than he wanted to spend.
Ah yes. Another overnight real estate success story.
At least Matthew Martinez, unlike so many other real estate book authors, doesn’t promise you’ll get rich overnight in real estate. He claims it’ll take at least 24 months to bank your first million — and it’ll involve a little luck plus a lot of hard work.
In his new book, 2 Years to a Million in Real Estate (McGraw Hill, $21.95), Martinez, founder of the Boston-based Landlord and Investor Group (landlordandinvestorgroup.com), tells the story of his years as a high-flying director of international business development for Lycos, at one time a top portal and search engine.
But when the company began to downsize 50 to 100 people at a time, Martinez realized he would eventually be on the hit list. So, he began acquiring rental properties, following in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of other taxpayers who declare more than a million dollars in income on their income tax returns.
He bought his first property, a condo, as a place to live in the year 2000. While he says he’d now never recommend purchasing a condominium as an investment (“It’s unlikely that you’ll generate enough income to pay all the carrying costs associated with the property,” he writes.) he bought it to live there while he traveled the globe for Lycos. The property rose so much in value that two years later, he was able to make several rental property purchases using the equity.
In 2002, after his boss left Lycos, Martinez decided it was time to start investing.
His strategy included buying properties within a 30-minute drive from his residence, locating up and coming neighborhoods and buying property there, buying property near public transportation and close to major job centers, never buy property with negative cash flow, and choose neighborhoods that he felt safe and comfortable visiting.
Martinez then visited all of the major real estate brokerage firms that dealt with multi-family sales. At each one, he asked to speak to the most experienced agent and then “pestered” that person to keep him in mind if they got a new listing that fit his criteria. Finally, he got a call from an agent who offered to show him a 3-unit building that day, since she was listing it the next day.
He went over, and instantly made an offer that was 15 percent less than the list price. The seller countered and they made a deal before the day was over. The property was never listed. He then refinanced his condo, took the equity and put 20 percent down on the property.
Within a few weeks, he bought a 3-unit building that had been completely rehabbed and was going to be sold as condominiums. Martinez bought the whole building and rented out the units. By the end of 2002, he had 6 rental units and property valued at $840,000.
By June, 2003, Martinez had 12 rental units and rental properties valued at $1.8 million, and by April, 2004, “I was generating sufficient after-tax cash flow from my rental properties to leave the 9-to-5 world,” he writes. “I accomplished this feat in less than two years and was thrilled at the prospect of no longer having to work for someone else.”
Although he admits that the real estate world has changed from the turn of the millennium, he believes that landlords will profit. Higher interest rates mean fewer people can afford to buy a home. So, they’ll rent. Those homeowners who used exotic mortgages like option ARMs and interest-only loans may find their loan payments unaffordable after the interest rate adjusts. They’ll also rent.
“Landlords stand to make a fortune in the coming years,” Martinez notes.
For landlords wondering how to make the most of their available tax deductions, check out the new edition of Every Landlord’s Tax Deduction Guide (Nolo.com, $34.99), written by Stephen Fishman, an attorney and author of other tax books.