Real Estate Deals Are Surreal

By Mike Johnson

You’re just a normal couple but your actions have summoned a banker, a Realtor, a closing agent and a seller to the conference table.

Three of those people are somebody’s employees so are dressed in suits. You and the sellers are private citizens, working for yourselves, so dress casual.

You sign a few forms and suddenly own 18 trailer homes, 7 log cabins and 32 lots on five acres along a river.

Our first trailer park deal had seven tenants who owned their trailers and just rented the lots. The other 25 rented the homes and lots.

Just like that, 32 families now owed their monthly rent to us.

We also assumed all expenses and operational responsibilities.

We dove into the daily operation and learned the business by firsthand experience. Within 6 months we’d learned enough to hire a manager, getting us off the front lines and off a schedule.

From then on, it was mostly just managing the manager.

Over time, we bought two more parks where we owned no homes and only rented the lots (far less work!). Do something once and the next deals are easier. We also had experience, which to bankers, equals credibility.

At our max, we had 140 rent streams and three managers. We could've duplicated the successful formula forever but we stopped at "enough."

Like anything, there were good days and bad days. Easy days and difficult days.

But we were free and in charge. We created the systems and the rules.

But we also felt the responsibility of playing a big role in our tenants’ lives. How do we treat them when they can’t pay? Or need a repair? Or have a dispute with a neighbor?

If you have a heart and a conscience, you realize that serving and compassion are requirements to sleep peacefully at night.

Like all aspects of life, treating others fairly keeps your burdens lighter.

After 17 years in the business, we sold the parks and went from mostly-retired to fully-retired.

Now those thousands of experiences are reduced to memories.

We’re back to owning just one homestead.

Which still feels surreal.

Life is but a dream.

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