After my city job was finished and my consulting assignments were completed, I faced the prospect of being unemployed. Stated more positively, I had a lot of free time to do what I wanted. I already owned five buildings, and with the support of my wife, I decided to do something I had always been eager to try – become a full-time real estate investor.
I look back with real fondness on the days after I left my last (and final) job. Many days I would walk the streets of Chicago or Aurora, looking for property that might be profitable to purchase. I loved exploring. Other days I would sit home (especially in the winter) and read self-improvement books. I also read about spiritual practice, money, health, and of course, real estate.
This is a snapshot of the journey that I took to become a full-time real estate investor
I would try to take an hour a day simply to think. Then I’d write down my thoughts on various questions. At times it was difficult, to be honest with myself, but I did achieve some insights. Among the topics I covered during my “thinking” periods were:
- What are my lifetime goals?
- What is my mission in life?
- What holds me back?
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
- How do I want to expand in real estate?
- How can I improve myself?
- What are my passions?
- How can I be more loving toward my spouse?
- Who is the best possible Me?
After that, I focused on my craft. I tried nine different approaches to find bargain real estate:
County Tax Records
I went to the county tax records in Chicago and Aurora to identify taxpayers of record (most likely the owners) of properties in my target areas. I then wrote the taxpayers, inquiring about their interest in selling.
With the help of realtors, I checked the multiple listing book each week for all buildings for sale. I asked the realtors to call me right away if a listing looked promising, and I then investigated the property. My agent reluctantly agreed to contact every seller of a multi-unit building and offer a letter of intent to purchase the building at 25% less than the listing price. Unfortunately, none of the sellers responded.
- I ran ads in the Chicago Tribune stating that I was a motivated buyer of real estate.
- I attended public and private real estate auctions. These included sheriff's sales as well as brokerage office sales.
- I followed foreclosure notices to see if any properties could be purchased below market value.
I contacted several banks to ascertain if they had foreclosed on any REO (Real Estate-Owned by the lending institution) properties and wanted to sell.
I made a pest of myself at the county offices where probate records of deceased real estate owners were kept. I truly believe the clerks began to dread seeing me show up, as I requested hundreds of files that had to be pulled and refiled later. I then contacted the attorney for the owners’ estates to see what real estate was owned and if it was for sale.
I talked to several funeral directors to see if they knew of any estate property that was available.
I spent days walking through up-and-coming neighborhoods on a block-by-block basis, looking for run-down buildings that could be upgraded for increased property value. I'd write down an address, find the taxpayer of record through the tax records, and contact the person.
I Became a Full Time Real Estate Investor
In retrospect, it was an exhilarating, though at times frustrating and time-consuming, process. I really enjoyed prospecting for property. I loved attending auctions, digging through public records, and searching for the elusive gem. The thought of finding a small gold mine that
would spout positive cash in the future and help in my efforts to be financially independent excited me and gave me hope. It should give you hope as well. I turned my hope into hard work and realized my dream of becoming a mini-apartment mogul in the mid-west.