The One That Got Away

As we close out today show first-time investors, I’d like to share a story from my distant past. You could call it the one that got away. It’s a pretty common phrase. Sometimes it means the fish you almost caught. Sometimes it refers to a relationship you had that didn’t quite work out.

But this story is about real estate. And the great life changing investment that got away.

When I was right out of college I worked in a commercial real estate brokerage in Baltimore. My job was to keep the buildings filled with tenants. And I actually lived in a rental apartment in one of the properties we managed.

And so I got to know the landlords who owned those apartment buildings. And they were a great bunch of people. And I became good friends with the man who owned the building where I lived. My very own landlord.

So, when he decided after a few years that he was going to move to another country, he made me an offer. He offered to sell the apartment building where I lived to me. And it was a great offer. Because for a building with 12 units, in a beautiful part of downtown Baltimore, on a corner no less, he offered to sell it to me for $50,000. That’s right 50.

No at the time, I was just a kid. 22 years old. And while I was learning the business of real estate, I was still an amateur. I knew how to show apartments, how to prepare the leases, how to collect the security deposits and the first month’s rent, and after the tenant eventually left, I knew all about preparing the apartment for the next renter.

But…I knew all that, and not much else!

So when I got his offer to buy the place, I didn’t really know what to do.

I wondered how I would come up with $50,000. I couldn’t imagine borrowing that much money. And what if I had vacancies? Plus like many young people I had dreams of going from City to City, trying out new places. Traveling. And being relatively mobile.

I know you can see where this is headed. Because I turned him down.

And that was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in real estate. If I had kept that property it would have been really easy to pay off that $50,000 purchase price. and now? That building would be worth millions.

And that was not only my biggest mistake, it was also one of my biggest lessons in real estate. Because when it comes to real estate people always say two things. Always.
One of them is I’d like to buy real estate but it’s too expensive.

And the other thing they say is I should have bought real estate in the past because it was cheap then and much more expensive now.

So fast forward to middle-age. When i had another chance to invest. A rental apartment where I used to live came up for sale and I bought it. And then the same seller offered me a second property. And I bought that too. I was determined not to let a great opportunity pass me by again. And I’m glad I did it.

So how about you? Sure it’s true that real estate is expensive. But it’s also true that if you pass on a piece of real estate today, next year it’ll be much more expensive. And the year after that and on and on. So just think about it. And ask yourself – do I go for it? Or will I always regret .. not buying the one that got away.

Because no matter how old you are, whether you’re a kid or you’re middle-aged or approaching retirement it’s never too late to get on the game, and become a first-time investor

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