Was it Luck?
When I tell Jonathan we got lucky with real estate, he tells me it wasn’t about luck. I know, it wasn’t entirely luck, it was a lot of research, a lot of watching what the market was doing, and a lot of buying and selling at the right times. But did luck play a role?
I bought my condo in Los Angeles in 2011, when the housing market was still struggling and properties were relatively cheap (for Los Angeles, they were still crazy expensive!). I couldn’t afford a single-family home, even then the best single-family homes I could afford either needed a whole lot of work or were in the middle of extremely questionable neighborhoods. If I was going to buy, it would be either a condo or a town-home.
I decided to buy a nice two-bedroom town-home in a safe, gated community. The town-home was brand new when I bought it, which was a big plus! It also had solar panels, an electronic water heater, and a bunch of other energy efficient upgrades. It was in a nice community with a pool, a basketball court, and park. It was a great first home!
I loved my town-home, and I loved my life in Los Angeles. I had amazing friends, a great job, and a beautiful town-home. But sometime in 2016, I realized that I was working to basically pay for my house. The mortgage payment and HOA fees ate up more than half of my monthly income! I also realized that the housing market had made a pretty amazing recovery. The homes in my area were selling like hotcakes, at prices 40% higher than what I had paid. Jonathan and I talked, and we decided it was time to move.
Hard work can lead to getting lucky with real estate
Getting the house ready for sale was a huge project. Jonathan is amazing at things like this, he helped me so much! I don’t think I could’ve done it without him (Another reason why having in partner in fire is beneficial, wink wink). He said we’d sell the house faster if it was a blank slate, and he worked diligently for a month to get it ready for the market.
We got rid of all our extra stuff (yay for downsizing!), replaced the carpet, re-painted, and power cleaned everything! I paid for the carpeting and the painting, because we wanted the house to look absolutely amazing, and it did. The house was immaculate, it looked like a model home! Our real estate agent (REMCO) was super impressed with all of our work (I say our, but I use that term very loosely. This was mostly Jonathan!). We put the house on the market for 50% more than we paid for it, and within in 5 days had a full value offer. Score!
Hard work and Luck!
I do think luck played a part. It was very fortunate that I was able to buy a home when I did. I credit that “luck” to being a veteran in the Army. But Jonathan is right about that too. It wasn’t lucky that I joined the Army and served for six years, it was hard work and dedication. But the Army did offer a VA loan, and without that, I would never have been able to afford a home in Southern California, even at the bottom of the market. Check out my post on Military Service and financial freedom to learn more about how the VA loan helped, and to discover whether joining the military can help you in your quest for financial freedom.
But it was lucky that I was in a position to be able to buy when the market was low. It was also lucky that the market made a great recovery in my area. However, Jonathan is right too, a lot of hard work went into this real estate success. Sometimes big wins take a lot of effort and a little bit of luck.
Why FIRE 101?
So why is this post in the FIRE 101 section instead of finance or lifestyle? Easy! One of the best ways to achieve financial independence is to move from a high Cost of Living area to a Low Cost of Living are (HCOL —> LCOL). It was our first major step towards FIRE, and big sacrifice. We did it though, and maybe you can too!