As a young man growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, Rob Dold experienced his first brush with real estate investing when he purchased a small condo and rented out the extra rooms to his friends. At the time, it just seemed like a fun opportunity to live with friends rather than a serious financial opportunity, but Rob was quick to see the value in his new investment.
A year and a half later, Rob moved to the United States for a professional opportunity, but continued to manage the condo back home, thinking he would eventually move back one day. Instead, he began to see an accelerated amount of rental income, and in just six years, Rob had completely paid off the initial loan.
Rob settled in Nashville, Tennessee, and it wasn’t long before he heard about a strategy that would change the way he thought about and practiced real estate investing. Rob began purchasing properties in low-income neighborhoods near downtown.
“I was able to pick up three properties in reasonably short order before things got too crazy competitive,” Rob explained. “I ended up having those properties for about five years and they’ve all shot up in property value, which has been fantastic. I was looking more at appreciation than cash flow. Now, I realize that I got very lucky and it might have been a different story had the market not been on the rise.”
That was his first migration into what he considers more sophisticated investing. He has been hooked ever since, and he’s picked up a few lessons along the way. From a cash flow perspective, Rob Dold found that investing in low-income areas can be extremely unreliable.
“The tenants that you have in those types of properties and the things that they’re going through in their lives are just so different from what we’re used to. Unless you’re able to get Section 8 properties and tenants, where at least a portion of the rent is guaranteed through the federal government, I’ve found that some months you get paid in full, other months you may get a partial payment, and some months you might not get paid at all.”
Today, Rob Dold continues his work as an engineering consultant, but real estate investing has become his vehicle toward achieving financial freedom and he has shifted his mindset to scaling quickly. In just a few years, Rob has expanded his portfolio to include single-family homes, duplexes, syndications, a commercial office flex space in Milwaukee, and most recently, short-term rentals in the Smoky Mountains.
“If the goal is financial independence, you can go the single-family home route, but you’re going to have to buy a lot of them to be able to achieve it,” Rob explained. “But with commercial properties, you can do one deal that would be the same as doing 20, 30, 40, or 50 single-family deals.”
Although it’s not where he got his start, Rob actually prefers commercial properties to residential ones. For him, the higher return on investment makes it a no-brainer.
“Commercial tenants and their lease terms are very different from regular tenants in single-family properties. The commercial property I have is about as hands-off as you can get. The tenant pays for everything, it eventually all gets reimbursed, so it’s easy to see what your cash flow is going to be each month. You’re awarded more certainty and net income with commercial units than with single-family homes.
“My ultimate goal — I’ve got it on my desk next to me printed out — is that I’d like to get enough passive income to more than cover my base salary,” Rob shared. “I want that snowball to be started by the time I actually pull the cord on my W-2 job, and I want that snowball to be able to feed itself long after.
“It’s been a great process. Scary at times, but if it doesn’t make your heart stop or if it doesn’t make people’s eyebrows go up, you’re not thinking big enough.”
About the Author:
Leslie Chunta is a marketing consultant with nearly 15 years of experience in creating dynamic marketing programs and building brands for startups to enterprise organizations. She has worked agency- and client-side with high-growth companies that include Silicon Valley Bank, JPMorgan Chase, SailPoint, EMC, Spanning Cloud Apps, Ashcroft Capital, Netspend, and Universal Studios. www.thelabcollective.com
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.