Chris Ashenden: Action is My Drug of Choice – Part 1

I don’t traditionally initiate too many posts but with a little pushing from Marcus et al I am going to post the story of my real estate investing so far. A bit of a warning….It is not a brief story as I have fired in a number of posts and emails that I made at various time’s along the way. I hope you enjoy the reading for I have definitely enjoyed the journey …

I first read Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki about 6 years ago. I can remember thinking at the time that the ideas were solid and that I should take some action. I did nothing. I think I bought each of Robert Kiyosaki’s books as they came out, and I can even remember trying his basic debt reduction strategy and giving up after about a month. Suffice to say I continued my poor financial ways, although it wasn’t too bad initially as I couldn’t borrow much “consumer” money.

As a young man I started and failed in a couple of “S” quadrant job type businesses while spending time at University. I say spending because I definitely wasn’t studying and my life was basically going nowhere. However I did have a bit of fun. I was quite entrepreneurial in my own way so I decided to quit Uni, pitched my then part time employer and he became an investor in my first attempt at a proper business. For a number of reasons (which I won’t go into here but which all rhyme with Chris Ashenden) this business failed in fairly spectacular fashion. This left me feeling betrayed, very broke, and very depressed. It also left me feeling sorry for myself.

-NOTE: I failed to take responsibility for what happened in this business failure for FIVE years, basically until Keith Cunningham made got me to take a long hard look in the mirror, but at the time, I was the ‘victim’ from hell and I let my self confidence plummet. It was all “someone else’s fault”. Looking back at it now I was my own wet fish, feel free to slap me for it if we ever meet-

I lost around $10,000 in this venture which while isn’t much to me now was a killer then. Luckily the only debt I had was a $1,400 phone bill so I did a bunch of odd jobs to cover my food bills (including time as a car wholesaler, cold calling dealers – which though I didn’t realize it at the time was great sales and rejection training) then while trying to get out of the hole that I had dug I took a career change and in 2000 graduated from the NZ Police – and suddenly everyone wanted to give me a credit card, HP or personal loan. This was bad, very bad, and by March 2002 I had a net worth of – (MINUS) $62000. My net income after tax and before living expenses and debt servicing was about $440 a week. I was living way beyond my means and spending about 120% of my weekly income. I’m sure you can do the math. It wasn’t very pretty.

I didn’t really see it coming at the time but I looking back now I realize that my level of self-discontent was growing towards action status.

I read Real Estate Riches by Dolf de Roos in late February 2002. For some reason the combination of discontent and reading this book gave me an absolute kick in the pants. I became consumed with real estate, financial literacy and wealth/freedom creation and began devouring everything I could see on the subject. I physically looked at over 300 houses inside a 2 month period. I think I went to every open home in Avondale and Mt Albert, dutifully making notes on every property that I saw. After all that I only made ONE offer and it wasn’t accepted.

In March or April I read JB’s “Money Secrets of the Rich” and decided that this guy told money how it was and gave more ‘how to’ than any other author that I had found at that point. I liked everything I read by him but decided at the time that his “wrap” idea wasn’t for me as I wanted long term ownership.

I kept looking at houses and after responding to a newspaper add that seemed to be showing incredible yields I discovered the property market in Southland. Spotting the fact that rents had more than DOUBLED and prices were just starting to catch up I saw the potential at the time. I was then (and still am) a cashflow buyer. More importantly I was learning my lessons about leverage on my time and I started interviewing agents over the phone in Invercargill. I proceeded to make over 100 written offers over the next three months of which 11 were accepted. After selling my car and using credit cards for deposits (not highly recommended) I eventually purchased 8 houses and settled the first on May 15, 2002, less than 90 days from reading my first book on real estate. I settled the other 7 staggered over the next two months.

– NOTE: Most people at this point ask me how I bought these houses when I was 62K in consumer debt. I’m not going to tell you so you will have to BUY MY BOOK. I’m just kidding, I don’t have a book. If you recall that I had made my one offer on a house in Auckland. This property was the worst house on a good street. The owner had lived there for 5 years and never spent a cent on ANY maintenance so the property had a lawn consisting of bamboo that was higher than the house and on the inside… Well, let’s just say that she had some big ‘ole cockroaches in there. I knew all this was easy to fix and so immediately made a very low offer subject to finance. No one had offered on this property in six months of being on the market so with absolutely no money or financing in place I proceeded to go home and absolutely S*** myself that the vendor might actually say yes. As fate would have it, some one else bid 4K more than me the same evening with a cash offer so they got the house. This individual immediately spent about $5K removing the bamboo and cleaning it up and two weeks later sold it cash unconditionally for $50K more than he paid for it. I realized then that while I had the right idea I was on the wrong track with both my time and the financing. Sorry, I digress. How did I get the money for the Invercargill houses? My mother who had initially been rather skeptical now offered me her individual life savings of $3,000, for which I gave her 10% of my new company. More to the fact I then proceeded to sell my car, got a couple of consolidation loans and using credit cards as the deposits, bought a bunch of very cheap houses, which were yielding between 16-20% on purchase price. I don’t recommend the practice of using credit cards to anyone. Everyone can read that, so enough said. –

Still devouring information I discovered the john burley forum while reading through creonline (another US property forum). I searched the whole thing for NZ, read everything apart from personal chats and eventually plucked up the courage to make a few posts. This resulted in coffee with a regular contributor from the website which was very rewarding. This individual was incredibly helpful and even though I had not asked a real question on the forum at that time I had my first introduction to the power of the SHARING that is such a part of propertytalk and a (rare) few other websites as well as the reality of an abundance mentality. I met a number of posters from the JB forum over the next couple of months and I have to say that taking people in the know who have DONE it out for a lunch/coffee will frequently be the one of the best investments you can make.

At this time I did a residential do up in Epsom (pp 300K, spent 27K, after repaired RV 450K) which my girlfriend kept in her name and also a JV on a small commercial property deal in Newmarket where I got to borrow against the property if I could add 50% to its value. I managed to do this in three weeks and had myself a hard money investor (a bit like a line of credit).

I staggered off track for a couple of months while trying to start a business with/for my partner. During the course of this I took NO action in RE for about 7 or 8 months other than structuring these few deals with/for my then girlfriend. I just read. I went to JB’s seminar in Auckland in November (my first ever) and it was pretty cool but I still took no real action. This was mainly due to my fear that if I stuffed something up I could jeopardize my girlfriend’s new business. This was not a risk I was prepared to take at the time although I now admit that it was entirely psychobabble.

Read Part 2 here …