In the last post, I did some reflection and concluded that I needed to be more careful with my investments as I try and navigate through the last stages of early FI.
And just like it is my nature, I then go around and do something the complete opposite of that (explanation below)! This week, I put in an offer for another Bay Area rental property, and just learned that the seller accepted the bid!
So, just like that, I am now under contract to secure my fourth rental property this year. Since this property is located in the Bay Area (and I’m trying to be more conservative!), it will be another partnership deal. However, unlike the last few rounds, I am going into this deal with just one other partner.
As we wrap up 2014, the following has taken place this year:
- Closed Rental Property #5 in February
- Closed Rental Property SH #1 in August
- Closed Rental Property SH #2 in September
- Won Rental Property SH #3 in December
Oh boy, and this year was supposed to be marked as Year 3: The conservator… As is life, things don’t always go quite as planned…
When 2014 first began, I had a strong inkling that this would be my final year in high-tech. I was just about ready to check out of the game, so I knew that in order to make early FI possible, I would need to ramp up my cash flow production. In securing Rental Property #5, I was able to increase my passive income to about $3,000/month on a perfect month. With vacancy/maintenance issues, I’m guessing the net cash flow is closer to about $2,000/month (so far)…
After winning Rental Property #5, my strategy was to try and pick up some more cash flow rentals out-of-state. I was originally thinking that maybe another few cash flow properties would just about do it and allow me to exit stage left for good.
As the year progressed, I thought about all sorts of things. From 1031 exchanges to buying a commercial apartment building, I entertained many different investment strategies…
In the end, I realized that I wanted to stay close to home and try and win some more Bay Area properties. Everywhere I looked, I saw development and growth. From the new 49er’s stadium, to the Bart extension through to Berryessa, to the new Samsung and Apple campuses, etc. There is just so much money pouring into the Bay Area these days! Further, land is scarce here and demand has never been greater for Bay Area real estate.
Bay Area Experience
Yes, cash flow in the Bay Area is almost NIL to begin with on Day 1 with a conventional 20% or 25% downpayment. But there are other things to consider outside of just pure cash flow, or cash-on-cash returns.
For starters, appreciation does matter and it is something that can have a HUGE impact on your long-term returns. I know everyone likes to clamor about how appreciation is just speculation and ultimately “wishful thinking”… That is, until you actually experience it for yourself and realize its true potency… In fact, the only way I can even close SH #3 is to tap into equity courtesy of a cash out refi.
I would never suggest to invest purely for appreciation, as it is never assured, but it also isn’t extremely difficult to try and figure out which locations are better suited to experience such gains. When in doubt, go to where you can find the following in quality and abundance: jobs, schools, weather/lifestyle.
Also, in my own experience, my best tenants are the local ones. There is a great deal of peace of mind knowing that you can locate tenants that are responsible and will pay rent on time each month! Around here, it isn’t difficult at all finding: 700+ credit scores, dual income families grossing $200k+ salaries, etc.
Further, we can debate all day long about the future demise of Silicon Valley if high-tech were to ever leave, but my own take is that the Bay Area is resilient (more than just high-tech), and even more importantly, people CHOOSE to live here (despite the enormous cost-of-living disparity with most of the rest of the country). Much of the big money and venture capitalists are also stationed here. Really, the only real fear I have with Bay Area real estate is the next big earthquake…
Investing is a balancing act. You have to know your own risk tolerance, and ultimately make decisions that you are comfortable with! For myself, my real estate investment portfolio now looks like this:
Bay Area: 5 properties (2 partnerships at 25% and 1 partnership at 50%)
Chicago: 2 properties
Indianapolis: 1 property
Granted, if we are able to close this latest deal, I will have ownership in 8 properties, and 10 units in total. Effectively, I would own 3 properties (3 units) in the Bay Area and 3 properties (5 units) out-of-state.
And that’s an allocation that I’m comfortable with, moving forward. The out-of-state rentals cash flow better today, and the Bay Area properties will appreciate much more rapidly in the future.
Cash flow + Appreciation. That’s my recipe for sustainable early FI!
Where do we go from here? As of today, my line of thinking is that this will most likely be my FINAL real estate purchase prior to declaring early FI.
I’m over-leveraged and have no desire to take on any more loans! From here on out, I’m just going to stash cash and invest in stocks. Although I may elect to attempt another cash out refi to obtain even more cash as a security measure (another $100,000 in liquid funds would do A LOT for added peace of mind!).
If everything goes smoothly, I will use ~1/2 of the cash out refi money (~$100,000) to fund this deal. The other half, I will park in cash reserves, or dividend growth stocks/index funds.
So, although 2014 was supposed to be a year of conservation, it didn’t quite work out that way. As I’ve explained before in the past, my insistence on winning deals has a lot to do with the fact that I won’t be able to qualify for any more loans once I walk away from the 9-5.
For me, the time to act has to be NOW. I can purchase dividend growth stocks for the remainder of my life, but real estate is something that is much more difficult to buy without the use of financing… especially in expensive locations.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that interest rates are still near historic lows! With 3% financing now becoming available, this should only push prices up even further as well… Well, until the next bubble burst…
It’s been a pretty eventful year… More details to come as they emerge. Now, I need to go find me a lender! 🙂