Bruce Springsteen once sang a song called “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come),” which included this stanza:
They bought a house on the hillside
Where little feet soon would rock
Well from small things Mama, big things one day come.
That had nothing to do with real estate, though it could have. And indeed it has been definitively shown that in that realm, big things do in fact come from small things. Forbes notes that the average net internal rate for real estate equity funds of at least $1 billion in assets was 5.7 percent, while it was just 11.2 percent for funds $200 million or less.
The Forbes report went on to outline the reasons for that, including the ability of a smart manager to take advantage of the inefficiencies typical of smaller funds; the fact that there are fewer middlemen involved with such funds and the fact that the interests of managers and investors are aligned — i.e., they each have a stake in how things shake out.
There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence to support this claim. Entrepreneur.com related the tale of Dean Graziosi, an Arizona-based real estate maven who came from modest means and — despite no credit — established a portfolio consisting of some 400 properties. That same report noted that Kent Clothier, who operates out of San Diego, had just $500 in an escrow account when he flipped his first home. Now he flips 1,000 properties and manages 5,000.
Then there is Dana Bull, who with her boyfriend bought a condo in Salem, Massachusetts, at age 22. Over the next several years the couple acquired several more properties in the Boston area — largely small multifamily properties — enabling Bull to quit her job as a marketing consultant and devote herself fully to real estate.
And indeed, entering into the long-term rental space has been proven to be one of the best ways to make money in the field, as noted in the Entrepreneur piece. That same piece goes on to relate the oldest real estate maxim of all — that success in the field is a matter of location, location, location. There was a particular emphasis on investing in distressed properties in prime areas — rehabbing them, adding desirable amenities, etc. — and then renting them.
Doing so allows investors to realize what Bull did — that you can achieve positive cash flow, see properties appreciate over time and take advantage of tax breaks on such things as interest, maintenance and business write-offs. She also writes that it is possible to leverage properties by using the equity that results from paying down the mortgage.
Note that the multifamily space is far from the only place in which it is possible to make money. There are also lease options, which require little in the way of money or credit; fixing-and-flipping, which have grown increasingly popular as a result of a bevy of television shows centering on that topic; short sales; vacation rentals; and commercial real estate development.
From all those small ways, big things may one day come.