Join me as I sit down with Tom Brickman, aka "The Frugal Gay," to hear his inspiring story of achieving financial independence. From working at a movie theater and selling products on eBay, to investing in real estate and improving the quality of rental homes, Tom has come a long way.
Discover what motivated Tom to make the leap from traditional employment to self-employment; learn from his experiences and understand what it means to achieve W2 freedom.
Tom shares his expertise on mortgage loan points, giving you the inside scoop on how to save money and when buying your first... or tenth... home.
Connect with Tom and learn more about his journey at https://thefrugalgay.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @thefrugalgay and Instagram at @thefrugalgay11.
For transcriptions of this episode and more, visit https://learnedsooner.com.
Follow Tim Winfred on Twitter and Instagram at @contimporary (it's like "contemporary" but more fun)
00:00 This property that I just purchased, it made sense because I was competing with no one. I got concessions back, just all the same things that you said. And by the time I signed the paperwork and and got the keys, it was a really fantastic deal, even with that seven and a half on that commercial loan.
00:16 And it still makes sense at that. And because I'm not competing with anyone, I'm not overpaying ten or $20,000 for a property because I want to beat out this person and I don't want to get anything fixed.
00:26 And I put that offer in right around Christmas Eve. And my realtor is like, they're not going to take that. And it was the day after Christmas, like, well, it's a late Christmas present, but they accepted.
00:37 Hello and welcome to episode two of season two of the I Should Have Learned the Sooner Ppodcast. Once again, I am your host, Tim Winfred, and I am, as always, super excited for today's guest. His name is Tom Brickman, aka the Frugal Gay, and we had such a fun conversation about his growth over the last 20 years as someone who started selling items on eBay.
01:08 And then he got into real estate and flips houses. He takes unbeautiful, unpretty if you want to go the TLC days, unpretty houses, and makes them pretty again, and then he rents them out and cash flows and he's quit his job.
01:27 So I talked to him about that, and I talked to him about points on mortgages, some exciting stuff. If you're not familiar with what points, are we'll get into that in this episode. So without further ado, let's jump right in.
01:44 And actually, before we do, if you want to share this episode with a friend or rate it on iTunes. It'd really helped me out. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @contimporary. It's like "contemporary," but more fun.
02:00 Alright, here we go. Hello. Thank you so much for joining me.
-Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here. This is a conversation that I've been looking forward to.
-Awesome. Yeah. It's always so much fun to get to ask these questions to people because it uncovered so much and I'm so excited -- you're someone I've been following on Twitter since I think you did a Bigger Pockets episode like a year and a half ago, I want to say, somewhere around that timeline.
02:26 So for those people who don't know who you are, can you give us a little introduction?
-Absolutely. My name is Tom Brickman. I go by the Frugal Gay online. thefrugalgay11 on Twitter and Instagram.
02:38 The Frugal Gay was already taken. And I am 40 years old from Dallas, Texas. I am a married dog dad, and I was able to leave my nine to five last year. It's been a little bit over a year ago, thanks to real estate and eBay flipping, which is really what pushed me over the hurdle of leaving that job.
02:58 Yeah. So you're sort of in the financial independence area where everything that you control, financially, income for your life is -- you're your own boss, right?
-I am. I love being able to fill my calendar with things that matter to me.
03:13 And on days that I want to do nothing, I block out that calendar. So, yes, I'm in that spot where I can go as hard or as lightly as I want. And I love that. No PTO required.
-It's awesome. I talked about that with Tiff in my previous episode.
03:29 A similar thing about scheduling time to not do nothin'.
-And I do that. I try and do it once a week and then usually like on the days that I'm doing and stuff spills over and I'll do something a little.
03:41 But it's nice to have that flexibility. And then it's also nice like the summer. And I thought about this a lot because it was my first summer off and I worked at a movie theater for 18 years, I was able to just go hang with my grandma for a week, and that's something in the middle of the summer I could never go do because it's the busy time and all that.
03:59 So I love the flexibility and the year. I've been off a little bit over a year now from a traditional nine to five, and it looked nothing like what I pictured, but it's way better than what I pictured.
04:12 I'm curious, how did that conversation go whenever you left the company? And clearly it wasn't like, I quit. I hate this job. Flip a table. It was, hey, I've gotten something else.
-Well, my boss was very, what are you going to do with yourself?
04:25 And a lot of my coworkers... I tweet about this a lot, too. A lot of my coworkers were like, we'll see you again soon. And I've seen a couple of them over the past year, the true friends that have stuck around, but then a lot of them had doubts, and I think that there's that little layer of jealousy that goes with it because they're still working, and they don't have that freedom or have that time off.
04:48 And it's been different than what I expected. I'm still good friends with the ones that I was close with while I worked there, and they are happy. And I have some that come and support me and help me with my eBay business and help me do renovations and just go out to lunch to hang out and chat.
05:04 And then there's some that I have not heard from since the day I left. And that's okay.
-Yeah, it's an interesting switch, because it's not what people do normally. You don't normally leave a nine to five.
05:16 I guess starting a real estate business doesn't feel quite as, or even an eBay business, just working for yourself like that doesn't feel quite as, like, oh, I'm starting a business and hiring 20 employees, sort of thing.
05:27 Right. In people's minds, it's like you're going and jumping into the deep end.
-Yes. And it goes against what we're ingrained. We're supposed to be working this. We're supposed to be doing this. You need the benefits.
05:40 You need the PTO, you need all this. So, yeah, it's going against what everyone tells you you need, but it's a goal that I had when I was in my late 20s. I'm like, man, I do not want to just leave and go to another company.
05:55 I want to build something myself because I don't want to work for another employer, because I'm going to have the same issues there that I have with this employer here. And that was just kind of, I think it was by like 31 or 32.
06:07 I'm like, I can get this before 40. I can get to this before 40. And that was a goal that I stuck with and worked on, and it got really hard. And then I tried in 2019 to leave, and I stuck around because of self doubt, and I regretted that two extra years that I stayed.
06:24 But it helped me get a couple of extra properties and make me even more secure. So when I did jump, it was a lot easier because I had already prepped for it two years ago. And then the groundwork that I laid during those two years helped me substantially.
06:39 I could ask a bunch of questions and make this whole thing about that. I do want to get into the first question because I'm sure it'll lead right back to where we're at. But I'm curious to hear, and for anybody who might be tuning in for the first time, this is the primary question of the show.
06:54 And then we'll lead into two other questions. But as the show title says, I Should have Learned this Sooner. What is something you know now that you wish you had learned sooner?
-Something I know now, and something I preach about a lot is interest on loans.
07:11 What are points and how do loans work? I bought my first property when I was 21. I had no idea what I was signing, no idea what I was doing. They were saying all kinds of terms about if you pay $750 and you pay down this point and then you do this, and then if you sign this, you don't have to pay this.
07:29 And I just signed away. I was like, I want to pay less in rent. I bought a duplex. It was a $90,000 duplex. And I signed away. And I learned the hard way all the things that came with this loan about prepaying points.
07:46 I could never get the PMI removed from the life of the loan. I mean, there was so many things that I just had no idea when I was signing. And I'm like, Why am I paying this $143 every month? And they're like, that goes for the life of the loan.
07:57 I'm like, why? I thought it said right here in this document, it goes for 80% of the value. And they're like, no. So I think that I walked into that blindly with absolutely no idea what a point was, and it trickled down for years.
08:13 And because of that, I'm very well versed in what points are and how loans work and how terms work and how PMI works and MPI and the different types of loans now. And I just was so clueless back then that I'm like, hey, I can live here for $138.
08:28 I'll sign this paperwork. And that was my goal. And I did live there cheap, but I paid the price on all the uneducated steps that I took along the way.
-Literally paid the price.
-Yes, it was an expensive lesson.
08:45 I mean, a lot of lessons in life, you learn more from just jumping in and doing it yourself. I talked with that in my first episode as well. I'm curious for those who are not familiar and just in general, there's a couple of things you mentioned.
09:02 The first: I'm assuming you bought your house on an FHA loan.
-I didn't. It was a conventional with 10% down. It was a $90,000 purchase, and I had unknowingly been purchasing Gap stock since I was 18.
09:16 And I cashed it all in. I figured it out. I'm like, I just thought I was paying a ton of interest, and I used that gap stock as my down payment on the first property.
-Okay, you mentioned PMI, and it's not going away.
09:29 I just bought a house, and so this is. A lesson for me right here, actually, I was under the assumption that PMI: so there's two things right. There's mortgage insurance on a conventional loan, and then there's private mortgage insurance on an FHA loan.
09:43 So whenever you have an FHA loan, I was under the assumption that you had to refinance out of it once you got above 20% equity to get that private mortgage insurance taken away. But if you had a conventional loan, whenever you have that 20%, you still have to refinance out of it to get that mortgage insurance taken off?
10:04 Typically, no, but I bought a multi family and I signed paperwork saying that I understood. Mine actually was 60%, so I had to pay down 40% and have 40% equity in the house before they would remove it.
10:19 And I paid that one off early because of that mortgage insurance and I just didn't know what it was. I read 80% on the loan paperwork and then in the very fine print, they're like, but if you have a multi family, it's actually 60%.
10:35 I know. Because I'm like, no, I remember I signed that paper, it said 80%, and they're like, no, it's a multifamily. And it was just one of those. So yes, you are 100% accurate for FHA. It stays on there the life of the loan or until you refinance out of it.
10:52 Conventional, typically it's that 80%, but it's different rules with different banks with different types of properties. So this was a duplex and you had to pay down more of it and it was a higher risk to the bank.
11:04 I mean, I went round and round with the bank. I didn't want to keep spending that extra 140 something dollars every month on this. So I wanted it gone. So, yeah, I learned that and I also didn't understand what points are, which I wanted to touch on because a lot of people are like, oh yeah, I'm just going to pay down the points.
11:21 Points are just prepaid interest, so if you're in a really high interest rate, they'll knock you down to six or 7%, whatever it is. And you're just prepaying that interest. So if you're not going to keep that loan for the full 30 years or 15 years, whatever the term is, you're just giving them free money by paying down those points.
11:38 So a lot of times when I'm looking at these different loans as I purchase properties and they're like, oh, just buy down these points, I'm like, no, I'm probably not going to keep this for the whole 15 or 30 years.
11:48 This is me just giving you extra money upfront instead of on the actual loan. And if I refinance it in three or four years, you're ahead. And I have just shorted myself. So that is what points are.
12:02 So this is also something I went through. I purchased in October. So interest rates, I think, peaked in early November of 2022. We've been coming down since. So I got a 6.75% interest rate. And so quite high, compared to what people were getting a year ago, a year and a half ago.
12:22 And to me, first of all, I purchased something that it was less about the interest rate and more about the monthly payment. I was like, if I can afford the monthly payment, I'm fine. But in order to reduce the cost of my monthly payment, at least for the first two years, I did a two-one buy down.
12:42 So two points for the first year and one for the second year. So that's one strategy is doing that. And so that I think it reduces. For the first year, my interest is 4.75, and then for the second year, it's 5.75.
12:57 So one point at least on that two-one buy down equates to one percentage point. If I'm not mistaken, there's another way to buy down, which is you can buy a point and it equates to a permanent buy down.
13:13 Is that correct? Can you explain that one?
-Yeah. And that's more what I was referring to is the permanent buy down, which is you buying it down, that 1% or whatever it is. And that, typically, the cost of buying it down is what you would pay in interest over the life of that 15 or 30 year loan.
13:32 And that's what gets thrown around a lot. And I'll be talking to a client, and they're like, oh, yeah, I'm going to prepay. Or they got me down to,I'm like, what's your rate? And they're like, oh, they got me down to five, and this, and this and this.
13:44 And then I'm like, you know, this is just you prepaying that interest. You're still at this point. And I want to tell you just so you don't feel bad, my loan on that Duplex was 6.875. So don't feel bad with your 6.75, because I started right there with you.
14:00 That was in 2004, and that was the kind of the going rate at the time.
-Well, yeah, relatively, we're still in a low interest historically, not with recency bias. If you take that into consideration, we're in a bad area.
14:15 I had just followed up with the historically, we're in a low interest, and recency bias plays into a lot of it, where people think that this two, three, 4% interest rate is normal. And look at there's been a swarm of buyers back in the market just since it's come down from 7% to 6% over the last couple of months.
14:40 So it's that sort of excuse that I'll buy whenever interest rates are low again, then interest rates become low, and then you're competing against ten people for a house. So I decided to jump in with my 6.75 at that point because I was able to get concessions from the buyer to do my two-one buy down, and they fix stuff in the inspection.
15:04 And six months prior, in April of 2020, nobody was getting that, and it was mostly a finished house.
-I just bought a property last week, and I'm exactly the same way. And I was looking at everything that's sold in this neighborhood where I bought and yes, you were getting in at a lower rate.
15:23 But you're paying such a high price that you have to do your checks and balances. So this property that I just purchased, it made sense because I was competing with no one. I got concessions back, just all the same things that you said.
15:36 And by the time I signed the paperwork and and got the keys, it was a really fantastic deal. Even with that seven, I'm at seven and a half on that commercial loan, and it still makes sense at that. And because I'm not competing with anyone, I'm not overpaying 10,000 or $20,000 for a property because I want to beat out this person and I don't want to get anything fixed.
15:56 And I put that offer in right around Christmas Eve. And my realtor is like, they're not going to take that. And it was the day after Christmas. He's like, well, it's a late Christmas present, but they accepted, and he was surprised that they took it.
16:08 And we threw it in because we had thrown in another offer the day prior, and I got outbid on that one. But yeah, you have to weigh out that. I'm not bidding against anyone, but I'm paying a higher interest rate, and I'll take that versus bidding against ten people and overpaying $20,000 for something.
16:25 Yeah, in the same way... it's common theme. It's the analysis paralysis. I feel like this is going to come up in almost every episode because people are just afraid to take that first step. In a similar way that you regretted two years extra in a job that you didn't have to stay two years longer in.
16:45 If people are always going to be able to find an excuse to stay, whether it's, oh, I love my coworkers, or I don't think I have enough saved up, eventually it's going to cross the threshold.
-I think I would still be there if I didn't surround myself with a certain crew of people on Twitter, which just sounds crazy, but I would give them numbers and they'd be like, why are you wasting your time handing people popcorn?
17:10 You do not need to be doing this. Like, your income is here. This is here. You have all your ducks in a row. Like, what are you doing? So I hung around with these three and we all aligned really early when we were all really small accounts and we started this weekly spaces on Twitter and just surrounding myself with them.
17:30 And we did it for a year, was what I needed, because it was other people who are working towards the same goals that I was, and they understand the numbers and the ability to generate income from real estate, from alternative forms of investments.
17:45 And they're like, stop wasting your time doing popcorn and go all in on real estate. Go all in on eBay, do whatever you need to do, but you've got it down already. You need to just get over that hump of self doubt.
17:57 Yeah. So what you said about the community and building community, I recently, the home that I purchased was in the Denver metro just north of Denver. But the Bigger Pockets community out here is like, if you want to go to a meetup, a real estate meetup, you can go out here two to three times a week.
18:17 There's one tonight, there was one last night sort of thing. I didn't go to the one last night. I might go to the one tonight. But it's that where... as soon as you're able to find yourself in a room with those like minded people, you're able to just talk about things that maybe in another room people wouldn't care about.
18:36 And those people are so passionate, and they have so much more knowledge, and then eventually you become that knowledge person and get to share that with people. I've noticed that slow transition happening, and it happens in careers of all sorts of ways, but it's just amazing to see that the Twitter community, I think Instagram is my other favorite one.
18:59 There's a few people on Instagram that I really love. What is the Mortgage? He's one of my favorite, if you're familiar with him. And it's just all of these little tidbits that build on top of it. Listening to the Bigger Pockets money show for three years before I bought my own house.
19:16 Eventually you hear those -- Similar stories, and it's like 90% of what people say are the same strategy, you know, and then there's that 10% of flavor, like with you having the the eBay business. I tried to do that at one point.
19:29 I tried to go into Goodwills and thrift stores and, you know, buy stuff and sell it. It's not an easy thing. But that's not your strategy, right?
-No. I do more of the new product, discontinued product.
19:41 I do a lot of small, inexpensive items like the bras, like makeup. That's really my bread and butter. When I can pick up a discontinued color and hold it just long enough, because I'm also one of those that we'll buy now and then hold it till all the other resellers are out of it and then I list it at top dollar.
19:59 So usually when I'm buying stuff, it's always out of season. Like, I'm getting lots of Christmas stuff right now that will be held for next year. And because you get great deals that way, it's the biggest markup that way.
20:09 There's lots of opportunities there for the stores that are trying to dump the product and clear the shelves and get the new product in and sell it at the top dollar. So that's been my strategy. And I have done... never done Goodwill, but I've done house sales and that type of thing.
20:23 And I've always gone back to you have less problem with the new items. I like the small stuff, easy to ship. I don't have any missing parts because I bought it at the store used, and it's been a good one.
20:35 And I started that out of necessity in college. It was like I didn't have enough money for books. And I was at a close out store in Cleveland, and there were these purses next to the register for a $1.50.
20:45 And I'm like, Are these really a $1.50? And the cashier is like, yes. And I pushed that whole cart up there and I bought these purses. And eBay didn't even have to buy it now, yet it was just like you had to auction it off.
20:57 So I auctioned two colors off. Every week I would sell a set of two purses, and that paid for my books. So that was just one of those that I started, that was my way to generate enough to pay for the books, and I had tuition reimbursement from Gap, so I had to pay upfront.
21:12 And that was always a struggle getting that money in, and I always got it back on the back end because I worked extra hard in those classes that Gap was paying for because I didn't want a chance not getting reimbursed.
21:23 And there was one time I missed it. It was a devastating I got like a C plus, and you had to get a B minus or better. But yeah, that was just another one of those. So it worked early on, and it's changed a ton over the last 20 years of doing eBay, and there's way less profit now.
21:39 They had a much different fee structure 18 years ago, 19 years ago, whenever I started. But it's still one of those if you can find it at the right price and the right item and hold it just long enough, there's money to be made there.
21:52 And that's been my my thing. And eBay is kind of... I call it my safety blanket. I'll do it as little or as much as I want, and when I have a really expensive month, I'll sit on Sunday nights and watch Netflix and just list 100 items because I have stuff just waiting to be listed, and it's helped me with the purchases.
22:11 I wouldn't have been able to buy a property every year if I just relied on that movie theater income that I did for all those years. So that was my way to kind of speed the process along.
-Is there a reason you're still doing it yourself as opposed to getting a virtual assistant?
22:27 I have a virtual assistant for listing, so I have an assistant that comes, and she will help me process, help me organize, help me make sure -- because there's stuff that I'll buy that has expiration dates on it and stuff.
22:39 So you don't want to hold something so long that it's going to go bad. So she'll come usually two or three times a month and help me process merchandise and pack items and do that. But the listing, I don't have an answer for you.
22:50 Besides, it's just habit, and I'm getting better. Like, I've had a virtual assistant helping over on Twitter because Twitter kind of after a Bigger Pocket, it became overwhelming. And there were days that I'm like, I don't even want to sign on because I have 27 DMs, and I feel bad if I don't respond to people.
23:02 And so I'm getting better with that. And I'm working on systems, and I'm also, you know, changing the structure because I... last year, I spent so much time doing free sessions that I ignored eBay for four months.
23:17 And then at the end of the year, I saw my eBay sales, and I'm like, Man, I'm down 30% year over year. How did I let this happen? And I put it on vacation mode for four months because I was doing the coaching.
23:26 And, you know, at the end of the year, when I saw all of that, I'm like, you know, I know that I can do eBay, and I know I can generate money from eBay, and I don't want to ignore it. And the other thing was, I bought five properties last year, and three of them are generating income right now.
23:41 One of them is about to start generating income, and then one of them is still under renovation. In a normal year, I would never buy five, but I also wouldn't let them go as long as they have, like, the one that's almost ready I've been working on since July.
23:55 So I ignored what I'm good at to try and do other stuff. And then at the end of the year, I'm like, you need to go back to what you know how to do, because you can generate income from real estate. You can generate money from eBay.
24:06 Don't ignore what you're good at to try and do something else. Yeah, I'm working on that.
-That's six or seven months at that property.... I'm assuming you buy really distressed properties, fairly distressed.
24:22 They're not always like, torn, burn out, whatever, but you flip them into a nice livable, something that someone would want to pay in that neighborhood, a nice amount of money to live there because of what you do to it.
24:35 And so you've held this property that you're about to... is that standard? Do you usually keep it for seven months before you rent it out?
-No. So the one in Dallas that I just purchased that will be rent ready by April.
24:50 I mean, usually it's a 60 to 90 day timeline, and that one's just gone slow because I'm not there. I'm not local. Every time something else happens, the priority goes to that, and then that gets put on the back burner.
25:03 But yet, three of the five last year were out of commission. Broken pipes, didn't have electric, and these were properties that I put back in commission. I mean, a lot of them had good bones, and they were ugly, and that's why people were overlooking them.
25:22 And I can deal with ugly.
-That's the quote of the show. I can deal with ugly.
-I can make ugly work. That's that's kind of and even with the purses, because the purses were ugly. And I remember my mom said that when I brought them home.
25:40 She's like, those are ugly. I'm I'm like, mom, these are diesel. I'm like, These are $70 a piece. I don't remember Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom. And she's like, they're ugly. Nobody's going to buy those.
25:50 That's why they're a $1.50. And I'm like, Somebody's going to buy these because of the brand. And I remember, like, the second week of me doing it, she's like, okay, you were right about the purses.
26:01 How much did they end up selling for? Do you remember?
-Like, because it was auction, so I would say between 60 and 70 apiece. Usually it took me a $1.50 into 60 or 70. And their fee structure, again, was very different back then.
26:16 So there was more profit then. And I remember, it was a different beast than versus now. So some improvements, some setbacks. But anyways, yeah.
-Something you said that. Is kind of if I'm not mistaken, you had got like someone had gotten and responded to something you posted on TikTok and caused a little bit of drama.
26:38 And I want to bring that up just because it's something that I've been struggling with personally, myself is sort of the morality of being a landlord. And especially in the short-term rental.
26:55 First of all, first question, do you do short term rental?
-I have one, yes. Okay, you do one.
-But a lot of what you do is you buy, like you said, these distressed properties, and you turn them into something nice and livable that someone would want to live in.
27:09 So you buy houses that tend to like, as we talked about, that tend to be run down, and you flip them in nicer places to rent out to people.
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28:14 Can you talk a little bit about, I guess the conflict that you got into was about the morality of buying properties, and I know there's a lot of struggle, especially even like with myself, and the morality of owning multiple properties.
28:29 I do see the benefit 100% of buying a property and making it nicer because it makes the whole neighborhood nicer. So I'm just curious, your thoughts on everything that you do.
-So the landlord hate has come up a lot in the last five years, and then I really focus in on my tenants.
28:52 I know the majority of my tenants, but I think about a lot of them, where they are in the walks of their life, where they're like, I hit one of my favorite tenants, and I know it's terrible to say I have a favorite tenant, but she's an elderly tenant who lost her husband and she just couldn't take care of a house anymore.
29:09 And I remember her telling me this. This was two or three years ago when she moved in. And she's just like, "I can't keep up a house, but your house is beautiful, and I want to live in it. It's the nicest one on the street.
29:18 What do I need to do?" And she put in her application, and I'm like, we can make this work. And she's been in there, and she's great. And she's one of those -- all different walks of life. My tenants are in divorces.
29:31 My tenants are having children. They need a bigger place. They need a smaller place. And I like being able to provide them with something nice. I do like to make it stand out where it's the nicest one on the block.
29:41 And a lot of I just was tweeting and doing instagram about this today. Like, the property that is about to be rented was leased up until I purchased it. I purchased it in May of last year, and it was leased.
29:55 The person who leased it, they had gotten evicted in April. And it was like I was I remember sitting at that closing table and I was, like, biting my tongue because I could not believe the condition of this property and someone was actually living in it a month ago.
30:07 And I just sat there with this utter disbelief and this disgusting so there's landlords that let their properties absolutely deteriorate and just collect. Collect, collect. And then there's landlords that are constantly putting money back into the properties or bringing them back into service.
30:23 And like, the one that I bought in August, it was a bank foreclosure. It had been listed for three or four months. It's ugly. And that's my thing with a lot of these, is... I'm doing the work that nobody else wants to do.
30:38 And that's fine because I can make it nice. And I actually prefer my Realtors in both states. No, don't show him anything move-in ready because he's not going to want it. Because I want to personalize it.
30:47 I want to make it nice. I want to pick the color scheme. I want to put in the certain countertops. As you go through this, you have finishes that you like. And I had bought this property in July, my short term rental.
30:58 And my contractor is like, why are you pulling out this toilet? I'm like, It's not the toilet that I work with. This is the toilet that goes into every one of my properties. So I get why people have the landlord/slumlord hate, because I've seen it and I've bought it and I've done it.
31:15 But grouping every single landlord like that and you know what? There is a human element with late fees and all that, that as a landlord, you have the ability to be human and not just a computer saying, yes, you need to pay this $50 late fee.
31:28 No, you don't need to pay this $50 late fee. I run it like a business. I take care of my properties. I communicate with my tenants. That's one thing that I always say to people when they're like, I want to be a landlord.
31:38 I'm like, I notice that you avoid a lot of things if you have someone who's renting from you, you're going to have to respond to them. If this breaks or that breaks, you can't ignore them. So don't get into this if you're going to just ignore.
31:50 So I get both sides, and I know, I'm collecting rent from 18 or 19 people this month. I try and take care of my tenants. I try and make sure that I respond to them as quickly as possible, that their homes are taken care of, that are maintained.
32:07 Also, I struggled for years with when I own single families, like, the tenants are supposed to take care of the lawn, but they don't do it. So I pay someone to go and make sure that the lawns are taken care of and the properties look good.
32:17 So I'm not the eyesore on the block. And that's one thing that I also think that goes along with landlords is that, oh, that's a rental down there. It's the crappy one on the block. And I don't like that reputation.
32:27 And it goes with that territory know, you get labeled into that as, "oh, it's a rental," or "oh, it's it's this or that." And I hate that. And that's always been my thing since doing this. When I bought that first property, it wasn't like, I'm going to be a landlord.
32:44 I'm going to get out of my nine to five. I'm going to do this. It was I wanted a cheap place to live. But once I got to number five. Door number five. I'm like, oh, I can actually make money doing this.
32:53 And I can actually -- a lot of what I've bought over the last 28 or 20, about 20 years, it was 19 years, has been properties that no one else wants, that are uninhabitable. And I remember when I bought my primary about two years ago, I'm like, this is the first time I remember buying a house that we could actually move into.
33:13 It's ugly, but we could actually move into it because it's got plumbing, it's got electric, it's got everything good in it. And that was a weird feeling after all these years of doing it, buying something that you could actually live in.
33:24 And we moved into it relatively quick, but we did a lot of work as we lived in it.
-So I really appreciate that answer, because I guess I didn't think about it from the fact that a lot of the messaging of landlords are evil.
33:40 Sort of messaging out there comes from the idea that people think someone buys a property and just every month collects money and sits at home and counts it and laughs evily, right? As they're eating their steak or whatever.
33:56 And as I said, I bought my first property, and I'm learning all of those things. I'm getting a plumber. I had a kitchen added to my basement so that I can rent that out. The landscaping around me, I wrote out a spreadsheet that was like 115 items.
34:14 Some of them were big items that I won't have to replace for 15-20 years, but it was just recurring maintenance. And I have a basement cleaning out the window wells, stuff like that, that has to happen on such a regular basis that whenever you're used to like I have been for the past over a decade of my life, living in apartment buildings, you don't have to take care of any of that.
34:35 You leave your house, and as soon as you're outside of those four walls, everything out there is maintained by someone else. But as soon as you get five inches of land, suddenly that five inches has to be maintained.
34:47 And it's interesting to hear just because -- Yeah, I really didn't think about it from that aspect. It's that continued maintenance and especially over the long term. I had, this past summer visited some family out in Iowa.
35:01 And while I was out there, I was like, let me go check out some properties. And of course, I picked the cheapest ones because it was going to be out of state and I needed to be able to afford a down payment of 25%.
35:13 And I had gone to this one and there were no pictures of the inside on the listing for good reason. It was like, hoarder, smells like as soon as I walked in, I was like, let's go. I don't even want to spend more time.
35:26 And that was a tenant who was living there for 20 plus years. It was in a great location. The house was probably going to have to be torn to the studs sort of thing. And that's the sort of service that that landlord was providing.
35:42 And that, I think, is the evil sitting there counting their money type of person. They might not have ever raised their rent, but they were still collecting money every month for doing nothing.
-Yeah, you're doing a disjustice to that tenant by not doing a walk through, understanding what's going on in your property, because some tenants won't tell you when something's wrong.
36:03 And I've walked into those where it's been a while since I've been in there, and I'm like, "what the hell is this?" And it's like the air conditioner is about to fall out of this. I'm like, "no, why didn't you tell me about this when it started, when I could have fixed it for $200 instead of waiting for me to have to replace thousands of dollars worth of equipment?"
36:22 So I think that those landlords are out there and it makes it harder for all landlords because of them going at it where it's this is an investment and it is, it's an investment, but I want to do everything I can to maintain my investment.
36:38 I want my properties to look good. And I'll never -- I was trying to buy a lot from the city and they said something about one of my properties and it had trash cans out front. And the trash cans just sit out there.
36:50 And whenever they said that to them, I like turned white like a ghost. And I'm like, I just need to have landscapers go by and do this and have it maintained and have actually my property manager, part of his walkthrough up there is on Tuesdays, he goes over to two properties to make sure that the cans get rolled in like the tenants are supposed to.
37:10 And if they don't, he'll roll them in or roll them out for them. Because that's the other thing, is when you have multifamily, a lot of times I don't know whose can that is, and then they'll be overfull and no one will roll them out.
37:19 So on Tuesdays, he'll go through and check that and make sure that they get taken care of. Because again, I don't want to be the eyesore on the block, I want to be the nicest one on the block.
-Yeah, thank you for that.
37:30 I want to jump into the second question. We took more time on the first one. I loved everything we chatted about, but I do want to get into the next one, which is, is there something a book, a quote, a city, a conversation, anything that really impacted your life?
37:47 There is. The Four Hour Work Week with Tim Ferris. I remember when I read that and I actually didn't read it, I just lied. I listened to it on Audible.
-Someone else read it to you?
-Yes, Tim himself read it to me.
38:01 I just connected with that and I knew that there was more than punching a time clock and I knew that I could create a product and I knew that I could really do what he was talking about and I could get on board.
38:12 And there's so many different ways to generate income. And you know what? I don't even give them shade when I get the DMs of people trying to sell me stuff, because they're out there hustling. They're out there trying their best and I think that's great.
38:24 And that's why I said I sometimes dread when I log into Twitter and there's 24 DMs that need responses because I'll respond, I'll say, no, I'm good, thank you. But I want to acknowledge them that they're doing their work and I think that there's so many different ways to generate income.
38:39 And that book kind of opened up my eyes to that. And again, real estate was not. Like going to be... My father had one rental when I was growing up. It wasn't something ingrained into me, but I bought that first one.
38:55 I was cash flow positive. I still am. I still own that property today. And it fell in value. And people are always like, what about if it falls in value? When I read that, everything kind of made sense, and it stuck with me.
39:10 And I knew that I didn't want to work for another employer again. I do work more than 4 hours between Twitter and eBay and collecting rent, but it was well delivered and well written, and it kind of helped me see that I could get out and do something on my own, which was what I took from it.
39:33 There's another one called The Velvet Rage. I don't know if you've ever heard of that. I haven't. It's not a financial book, it's a doctor, I think he's in California wrote it and was like, overcoming being gay in a straight man's world.
39:46 And that was another one that a friend of mine recommended. And I'm like, no. And then he actually bought it for me and I read it and then I bought that on Audible and I listened to that and it's one of those that just clicked and made me understand; I can do this.
40:02 This is okay, this is normal. Everyone struggles with this. So those two have really... they're still, I would say I listen to both regularly on Audible once a year because they're in there and it's just good to put that on in the car and kind of -- on the bad days and listen to it while I drive to the gym.
40:21 Have that reminder motivation.
-The four hour work week. I've never... I know the gist of it, and I've watched the YouTube Sparknotes type of videos of it. To me, it sounds like even if you did work 4 hours a week, you would sit there and maybe go like a little bit stir crazy.
40:44 It just sounds like as we chatted about earlier, you don't have an assistant doing the stuff for you even though you probably could because it's just a part -- it's so ingrained into who you are at this point that even if you could afford to, what would you do instead?
41:02 You'd end up filling your time with other projects and then you just have too much going on. I would think to manage and think about and just be overwhelming.
-I'm about next month will be my year or two years of doing the Frugal Gay.
41:17 And I started that up because I knew I was going to be leaving my job and it's turned into something that I never dreamt of. But my goal with that was, okay, I'm leaving my job. I don't have this 40 hours that I need to allocate to this.
41:31 Okay, maybe I can do something with this. And the Frugal Gay was never a money thing. I had started it years prior and abandoned it and come back to it and abandon it and it was just a blog and a way to connect with others in the personal finance community who are working towards the same things.
41:49 Yeah, and there's so much out there, there's so many different mindsets and every single story possible out there about it. I really love you do a lot of these Twitter threads where you start it and then just sort of post the different steps along the way that you took for X or mistakes you made.
42:13 Is there one that has been your favorite?
-A favorite Twitter thread or a favorite mistake or a favorite I was.
-Thinking Twitter thread but now I'm kind of curious, curious about the favorite mistake.
42:26 So the Twitter thread, I wrote one on my birthday, on my 40th birthday and it's crazy, I wrote it like a month prior and I'm usually like a month ahead of my content for there and it just connected really well.
42:40 Because it was really genuine and it was really broken down on. Like, these are the things that I've learned the hard way over the last 40 years, and they were all just kind of a bunch of mistakes. I bought properties I shouldn't have.
42:52 I, you know, made a whole bunch of mistakes along the way, but it's still good. And then mistakes. I think that it was an expensive mistake when I was 23, and I bought my third door with no money down, but I'm thinking -- lost $22,000 on it when I sold it, and I lost money on it every year I rented it.
43:10 But I'm kind of glad that I did it because it makes me overanalyze a lot of these deals now, so I don't make that mistake again. So I think it was like a $22,000 lesson, and that's one that I share a lot on Twitter and Instagram because I've been there and I've made these costly mistakes, and I see others just putting nothing but wins.
43:30 So when you put your failures out there, number one, it keeps them fresh, and number two, it ensures that you, or hopefully others, don't make that same mistake and buy properties with no cash down and go into it with unrealistic expectations.
43:45 Which is what I don't do a ton over on TikTok, which is probably why I started that little fight over on TikTok. On the angry landlording or the angry person about landlords. But yeah, that would be my favorite mistake, I think.
43:58 It's the sort of thing where I think everybody, just in general, social media, we mostly want to post about our wins or things that we have fully finished accomplishing, right? And a lot of people don't, especially whenever things are happening or in the thick of it, in the middle of it, people will not necessarily post about the things that are going wrong.
44:23 It's like they'll wait till the end and then be like, look at this great thing that I did. I've given presentations. Like, I went to a coding boot camp, and I've been invited back to speak to that group multiple times.
44:35 And every time I do, you know, it's weird to put, like, your history of things, because it's like, I went to college and I got this job and I traveled here and then I got this job. It's like, those are all the fun, exciting things.
44:50 I always put it over like a Milky Way of stars, you know, like just a bunch of stars. And I'm like, I just want to put that in the back just so you guys see that those are all of my failures. Usually they're a lot smaller, and there's occasionally that really bright star that you see there that's a bigger failure.
45:10 But I don't focus on those because those don't define me. I mean, they definitely brought me to where I am, and I've learned probably more from the failures than the successes. But it's interesting how many people do just focus on social media, on their wins, and they want everybody to think they're perfect, but as soon as you put that humanness behind it, people kind of run to it faster.
45:38 They do. And I think that's why I got overwhelmed with coaching, because I had so many requests all at once of all the different people who are like, you're showing your failures. I love that because I don't see that a lot.
45:52 And it connected because, you know that, we all fail. There's times that we try and we do stuff and we mess up, and it just doesn't look anything like what we want it to. And I think that that's important because landlording is not sitting on a beach and drinking maitais or some of the TikTok reels that you see.
46:14 It is. There is. And again, you can be completely hands off with it, but there's still a layer of responsibility as you, the owner of the property, need to take care of. And I like showing that because I think it's what others can relate to, because it is.
46:30 You know, we've been there and we've done it, and we've messed up and. We've rebounded, and this is how we're doing it now, and we're not going to make that mistake again.
-Yeah. All right, well, you know, we're coming up on our hour, but before we end, I do want to get to the third and final big question of it is, based off of the overall theme of learning, what is something you're working on learning now?
46:51 Something I'm working on learning now is... I guess it is working with other creators in the space is very challenging because we all have big ideas. We all have our own brands, we all have our different visions of how it should go.
47:09 And there's some content creators that I love working with, and I'll go sit, and we can eat tacos and talk all day. And then there's some content creators that I get grouped into who are in the real estate space, who I can't stand, but I have to be there and participate, and I don't want to miss out on this opportunity to create with them.
47:28 So I think it is even though I am working for myself, I still have to work with others and be human and be reasonable and realistic. And I really love supporting those in the community, especially the ones who clicked follow back when I had 1000 followers or 800 or 500 followers because they were the ones that kind of said, "okay, this guy is okay" from the very beginning.
47:53 And I hate the ones that ignored me at the very beginning and I don't want to do a lot with them. And now all of a sudden, I've passed them on followers, and now they're commenting on everything. So I think being able to cohabitate with these other creators as they work on projects is something that I'm working on.
48:09 I'm doing a lot of stuff with other investors as well, which is exciting because everyone has a different money mindset. And some of these investors will be like, "do you think this is a good deal? Okay, we'll do it."
48:20 And then they're, like, ready to throw down $70,000 on a house today. And then there's other investors that need, like, the 18 page analysis and want to talk about it and want to do this and want to do that.
48:31 And then by the time we're done talking about it, we've lost the deal because someone else has swooped in and bought it. But that's another, you know, in the business that I'm in, in real estate, I'm comfortable growing at the rate that I am, but others want some handholding.
48:44 So me being open to doing that with them and helping them understand has been an experience in itself. So those would be the two things that I would say I am working on now.
-There's a fine balance, I think, with wanting, like you said, to do the due diligence to understand the property and underwrite it and figure out if it actually is a good deal.
49:07 But there's also, as we talked about, the need to not get analysis paralysis and need everything done, especially with the people who want to jump in immediately. I think that's a little bit more scary than the people who are unwilling to jump in at all just because it's like, wait, you just want me to take your money and you don't have any questions?
49:35 I was nervous on that. You know me from online. But how does that --
-I'm very careful because if I just said yes to everything or everyone, I would probably get myself in a lot of trouble. So I'm very careful about who I work with, what I'm working on, and I've gotten to where I can finally comfortably say "no" to things.
49:58 And that was something I struggled with at the beginning because I'm just like, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And now if it doesn't make sense or I've got something else planned or I don't feel comfortable, I'm all about saying "no" because it's just I don't want to put myself in that position where it's not right.
50:15 Yeah. Especially if this is a long term plan for you. There's a lot of content creators who. Were YouTubers, I think of in particular, who posted a video a decade ago, and then that type of content, you know, if you go back and watch, like, The Office or early South Park, Simpsons, whatever it might be, those don't age well for a reason.
50:43 And the fact that, like, you know, those type of shows are one thing, but whenever you're creating a YouTube video and I almost think certain YouTubers should only catalog, like, the last two years of their content because you can't keep up with that and things you say and times change and for the better, thankfully.
51:04 In most ways, I don't want to go down that political rabbit hole because there's a lot. But for the most part, I think things have improved and people say things. I mean, I get on this day from Facebook from myself in 2007, and I'm like, what the heck?
51:20 Who is that person?
-Yes, I did that recently. I had like a Miley Cyrus quote from Hannah Montana, and I'm like, what was I doing two years ago? I was quoting Hannah Montana. So yeah, I've been there and I've gotten those pop up.
51:35 And I'm like, oh, yeah.
-And then you have people going out looking for those, looking to find a reason to get you canceled. And whatever it might be. It's a fine line working on the internet with perpetuity.
51:50 Hard word to say sometimes, but that's all the time we have. I do want to give you a chance -- You shouted your social media out in the beginning. Is there any projects you're working on that you want to shout out or just shout out your socials again?
52:03 Absolutely. I am doing a group coaching on the frugalgay.com. I have information up on my website. It's thefruglegay.com if you can't remember that, you can just do frugal gay and it'll bring it up as well .com.
52:16 And my social is @thefrugalgay11. I am posting new projects and new renovations and new. Endeavors that the frugal gay has agreed to take on this year. So check me out, Instagram, Twitter.
52:30 Even this house that I'm working on, I'm buying the wrong hardware. And he's like, you know better than that. I'm like, I know, but I still wasted $68 learning it the hard way on the hardware. So, yes, most active on Twitter and Instagram and then sometimes TikTok, as long as I can handle the trolls coming.
52:48 For me, is Tik tok the worst with the trolls of those three. I was not prepared for that. And then I let it blow up, and I made the mistake, and I posted it over on Twitter, and then it gave them more action, because then all the people that follow me on Twitter went over to TikTok and started doing it.
-Started a war!
53:09 I did. And I'm just like, you know what? This was my mistake, and I took a step back, and I took a break from Twitter for a week then, and I'm like, you need to know that this is a different type of troll over here on TikTok, and you cannot give them your platform because it's not doing anyone good besides them.
53:26 Yeah. As a fellow gay, I do have to quote RuPaul to end the show, I guess, which is what other people think of me, is none of my business. I think about that a lot, and it's like, stay out of the comment section sometimes, because most people who are going into the comments section, unless they're, like, your friends or whatever, are usually just commenting to critique.
53:47 People go on Yelp and whatever, and they give a five star or one star.
-It was hard. I had a Business Insider article came out, and when that came up on Facebook and I saw the hundreds of comments, I was like, "oh my gosh, I need to stop scrolling."
54:01 I need to not be on Facebook. This is not for me because it's doing no one good.
-Yeah, it's hard, though. It's hard. You want to know.
-But thank you so much for your time. This has been great. And I guess I hope you have good luck on this project that you're working on.
54:18 Thank you. Thank you for having me. This was a fun conversation, so thank you.
-Alright, until next time. Bye.
And that's it for today's episode. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Tom was really great to talk to.
54:33 I learned a lot and, especially about the morality of being a landlord. You know, it's really hard to embrace the fact that home ownership is expensive, you know, and whether I purchase it or another person purchases it, I don't think that's ever going to change, unfortunately.
54:52 So the responsibility of a landlord like myself, I hope to one day have multiple properties and be renting them out to people, is to take care of that property and to put the humanness into being a landlord.
55:09 Not be a slumlord, not leave them to forage for themselves and figure out everything and have a good relationship, a working relationship, with your tenant. It's someone -- at the end of the day, it's someone who is working and paying you for a roof over their head.
55:28 So it's your responsibility to take the time to make that the best property you can for them. People deserve a beautiful, nice place to live. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this episode. Check out Tom on Twitter and Instagram.
55:46 He's always posting great content. And until next time, take care. Bye bye.
Music for this podcast comes from FilmMusic IO Acid Trumpet by Kevin McCloud in Compotech.org, licensed by creative licenses by 4.0.