It’s only when you are faced with death is when you start to realize your why. Firefighter Andrew Tom faced this decision when he was literally face-to-face with fire. He realized at that point that he should be building for financial freedom, and he found that in real estate by house hacking.

Join Craig Curelop and Zeona McIntyre as they talk to Andrew Tom about his house hacking experience. Learn what happened to him after the building fire that changed his life. Discover how he got into real estate and managed to house hack in San Diego, of all places! Listen to his crazy stories of how he met his realtor and how he dealt with squatters. Find your why today by listening to Andrew’s story.

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Andrew Tom On Finding His Why Through House Hacking

Z, how are you doing?

It has been a little challenging. We’re pet sitting and one of the things that can happen is that sometimes you get old pets and sometimes, they’re maybe going to die. We are pet-sitting friends of ours pet and he had just had surgery. He’s got cancer and he took a turn for the worst so he is at the vet. I had to rush him over there before the show and I’m a little worried about him. Sometimes, bad things happen as a pet sitter.

Is it because of his old age?

Yes, and he’s a big dog.

I know you’re babysitting 60 chickens too. Do any of those die? I feel like chickens die pretty frequently.

I would wish that but I don’t think so. They keep multiplying. They’re like bunny rabbits out there.

We haven’t heard them on this episode.

I’ve been muting myself.

You’ve done a great job at that.

Thank you.

Our episode is super interesting and entertaining. I highly recommend you read through this whole thing because he has story after story. This dude could write a book on a crazy life-threatening story and then we’re like, “How did this get me involved in real estate?” Check out this dude’s stash. It is impeccable. I’m jealous of it honestly. We’ll keep that between you and me and all the readers here. We can all aspire to him. Z, we got to get you one of the fake stashes because we need that stashfecta. Read this story. It is truly amazing. I’m excited to bring Andrew on the show.

Andrew Tom, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

I’m doing amazing. This is a dream come true. I have added this in the BiggerPockets for a few years but I can’t believe I’m on it. It’s amazing. How are you doing?

Dream come true. That’s the first I heard that.

This is the second-best show of the BiggerPockets.

Technically, we’re not. BiggerPockets is number two. We’ve officially declared that. We hit our 100,000th episode. BiggerPockets is probably still behind us at some point. Speaking about journeys, BiggerPockets, 100,000 and all that good stuff, Andrew, I want to hear your story from the beginning as to when you first heard about financial independence.

I have this little story to tell you. I’m a firefighter and I was when I started to hear about financial independence. It was May 16th, 2020 when I almost died in a fire. While I was on fire in the building, I realized I needed to be financially independent and retire early. Ironically, on fire, I found fire. When I was in the building and I was going to die, I’ve seen the opposite of what other people say you see when you’re about to die. I saw what I had missed out on and then I was trying to think, “What’s going on? Why am I in this building?”

Andrew, this seems like a story you need to tell with a little detail. I hope you’ve told the story probably multiple times before so that you know how to tell it. Tell us when you got the call, did you know you were going to go into the building? How did you feel going into the building? How did you feel while in the building? Did you accomplish the mission of saving people? Take us through all that because most people reading this probably have not been in a burning building.

I can try to make this quick because it’s a long story. Short story long. I’m working an overtime shift in Downtown LA. It’s mostly commercial buildings but there’s a street there that’s known as Bang Row so there are a lot of products that are illegal there. 6 of us go into the building and 5 go to the roof. It’s a standard operation for firefighters to go put out a fire. I’m in there with five other guys when we hear a loud noise and it’s immediately turn around, a run-out-the-building type of deal. One second later, we get trapped in there and on the ground of heat and fire.

Usually, when something exploded, it recedes. You see it in the movies. When it explodes, it shoots out the windows and the doors and then it recedes in the smoke. When we were trapped inside there, the fire was blowing out. When you see the videos, we’re trapped in there for all 45 seconds. It’s all on fire and there were firefighters on the roof trying to get out.

The sad thing is we were in there to save the property, which almost killed us. There were no people to save. We were trying to save butane products and illegal tobacco products. When I was trapped in there, I thought I was going to die and everyone else did. We thought it was the end of our lives. There was no way out. When we got to that point, I realized I missed out on life and the things I wanted.

I wanted to try new experiences, travel the world and start a family myself. I was probably the only single person in there with no kids, no wife, nothing. I was like, “I didn’t even have kids. I have nothing. I’m going to burn and incinerate right here and that’s it.” That’s why I am where I am now because I found my real why, where some people don’t know their why until they get their line. I got it right there.

You will get to where you want to be when you find your real why. Click To Tweet

It’s amazing that when you are faced with death or these crazy life scenarios, that’s when things start to become the clearest, even though you were in such a state of distress. I’m not saying anyone to go and put themselves in a life-threatening situation but how do you gain that clarity in such a way? It was clear that you knew what you needed to accomplish like you wanted to travel and start a family. There was more to life than work. What made you get into the real estate financial independence side? There are so many ways to do it. You could have been a Forex trader, crypto geek or whatever else.

Craig, I want to know how he got out of the building.

We can go through the quick out of the building. There was this ladder like you’d see at Home Depot. A lot of people reading this have seen those ladders because we all try to DIY and go to Home Depot a lot. There are ladders that you can get to higher shelves. There was one in the middle and there was an aisle that we were going down.

When the chaos happened, the whole building was shaking, the fire and everything or one of us. That ladder turned perpendicular to our entry hallway in and out. We couldn’t get around it when we were crawling in one of those ladders. You can’t pick it up and move it. When you’re about to die, you get that extra crazy strength and somehow, we moved it a little bit, crawled around it and then got out of the building.

I would’ve crawled for miles because I was so scared of the building collapsing, the fire and everything. That led to me having to recover, I couldn’t go back to work. I had burns on the back of my ears. When I was recovering, there was only so much Netflix, Disney Plus or whatever you can watch. I already read Rich Dad Poor Dad right before the fire so I already knew about real estate, properties and what it can do for you. I started listening to BiggerPockets. My brother had the book called The Book on Rental Property Investing by Brandon Turner, the blue one. I couldn’t go out in the sun so I read that book while listening to podcasts every day.

Starting from episode one was boring at that time because I didn’t know any of the concepts but I got all the way and caught up. I then started doing times one and a half. I finally sped up my podcast listening and then got to times two. I’ve reverted because they added a 1.4 so I listened to 1.4 because I’ve already caught up. I got into that and was like, “I wanted to live my life,” which I’ve always wanted to be the San Diego. I was like, “It’s time to buy a house in San Diego and I’m going to house hack it because that’s the fastest way to financial independence and the easiest as far as being new.”

You then read the House Hacking Strategy and it was all good from there. I hear that is a good book.

When I started hearing about your show, I bought that book and it was good. I was like, “I’m implementing all these things without even reading it. This is great.”

It’s a great concept. It’s fun. I love hearing those but I love hearing the stories of that superhuman crazy strength and focus. Nothing else was on your mind when you were in that fire except getting out of there. Honestly, it’s a blessing that you were out of work so that you could learn and see this greater future. You are where you are now and we’re going to get into that a little bit. You’re moving to San Diego. What year is this that you’re moving to San Diego?

It was right when the peak of COVID. May 2020 was the fire. After that, I had time off. I was like, “I’m going to drive to San Diego and check it out.” I met my realtor on a little walking trail. He was walking his cat and I didn’t know he was a realtor but it was great. He had one pound brand new Bengal cat. I was like, “This is cool.” We started talking and then he ends up being my realtor. I told him what I wanted to do and he was on board.

Tell me you’re in California without telling me you’re in California.

That’s exactly what it is.

The moral of the story is go find somebody that’s walking their cats and that’s your realtor. We have two cats so I’m going to start walking up to start getting business like that.

It might work. If you moved to California, it work. He’s trying to push me to multifamily but I’m brand new so I’m still scared. I’m looking at both. He’s sending me multifamily and he knows all about house hacking and all that stuff. We find this one where we’re both like, “This is the one. It was a 4-bedroom, 2-bath house.” His has extra square footage that is unpermitted. A lot of San Diego homes have sunrooms that are unpermitted but they’re finished and they look nice. We went in on that one and got it.

I feel like we need to stop you because it sounds like this is the deal that makes you a real investor. For some people, it’s an accidental deal but it sounds like you were being intentional about this. You’re so divinely led through this whole story. I need to throw a little woo sparkle in there. I love that you had read Rich Dad Poor Dad before the fire.

When you’re in the fire, you’re like, “I need to live for financial independence.” You get out of it and randomly find this guy on a path when you’re going to visit the place where you’ve always wanted to live. It feels like you did this side step of like, “This is where I want to be in my life. I’m going to go there and figure it out.” Everything laid itself out for you so I’m loving it.

It’s working out the way it’s supposed to work out. It’s a little slower than usual compared to some other people and that’s what I realized. It’s not fast, which a lot of people need to realize. Real estate isn’t like TikTok where you get it instantly. This is a long game.

Real estate isn't like TikTok where you get it instantly. Real estate is a long game. Click To Tweet

I need to tell you something right there. Something you said that low-key triggered me is you’re comparing yourself to other people. Never do that. It is the worst thing you can do because it will demotivate you. You’ll never be at the top. Elon Musk is at the top. If you have a desire to reach Elon Musk, then you’ve got something wrong with you. Everyone has got their journey and thing so keep chugging along at your pace. Let’s get into this first deal as step number two. Tell us a little bit about what this deal looks like. Was it a single-family quad? How’d you finance it? What was the price? Give us all those juicy. Spill the tea.

I have a friend in San Diego who knows everything about San Diego. He is the ultimate tour guy of San Diego. He knows the geography and everything. He’s been here his whole life. I said, “Where is a good place to buy that’s going to appreciate everything?” He mentioned this neighborhood called Serra Mesa. It’s right above where the San Diego Chargers stadium used to be but now it’s the San Diego State College stadium.

They bought the whole area around it and they’re going to revamp it so this would be a good place to buy. Some of our friends grew up in this neighborhood so I looked into it. All the homes are single-family built in the 1960 range. I found a 4-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,500-square-foot home that is 1,900 square feet because it has extra sunrooms that they have. It was listed. I don’t know if it was priced but it doesn’t matter.

It’s about the purchase price. I purchased it for $755,000. They gave me all the closing costs so I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. I did a 10% down on a conventional loan because I’m still new and a little scared so I played a little bit down. The interest rate, which is peak COVID, was only 2.875% at that time. It was a fixer so I was going into like, “It was going to be a house hack and then I’m going to BRRRR it,” but I haven’t BRRRR it yet.

What made this attractive to you? Was it the sunrooms that they forgot to add the square footage?

I knew that I wasn’t going to buy anything turnkey because I wanted to put work into it and build equity. It was a huge lot, which you don’t find in San Diego that backs up to the Canyon. That’s also for my happiness. I’d like to have the Canyon view and still be in 20 minutes from the beach and 15 minutes from Downtown. You get to nature, your isolation and be close to the city. That’s what draws me into it. Also, I can fix this up. I’ve been watching a lot of HGTV when I was off.

I’m curious, $729,000 is a pretty high price point. For you on your very first deal, were you concerned about the price point? Did you have to get a co-signor or have the money all saved?

It’s my first intentional real estate investing deal. I have a house in Las Vegas that I’ve owned since 2014. That’s been rented out and is still rented out. This is where my mistake. I bought a condo in LA and then I sold that one. I hate condos now. HOA fees kill you. I have a pretty frugal guy so I had a lot of saved up for the $750,000, 10% purchase price to put down and rehab it. The plan was to get it all back but I haven’t done that yet.

You bought this thing for $755,000. It sounds like you put about $80,000 down after closing costs and all that good stuff. Does that sound about right?

Yes. Around 80,000 and then rehab was around $65,000 initially plus furniture because my strategy was to house hack it to a mid-term rental to travel nurses. That’s what my older brother had done. I was like, “I can furnish it and rent to travel nurses that already had background checks, like good credit and good jobs.” Especially during the pandemic, they were the most stable tenants.

Z, you know a finger or two about mid-term rentals, don’t you?

I sure do. Maybe this is a good time to take a pause and put in our ad. You know that we are doing these ads to keep the lights on so bear with us. I want to talk about my book. Sarah Weaver and I wrote a book called 30 Day Stay: The Investors Real Estate Investor’s Guide to Mastering the Medium-Term Rentals. We like that medium-term word but mid-term, we’re going to let Andrew go on that one. It’s a great place to get stable tenants that will pay more than long-term. If you want to learn A to Z and how to get it done, pick up our book at the BiggerPockets bookstore, Back to Andrew.

Z, why don’t you like mid-term? Does that remind you too much of college?

It’s because it’s short and long. No medium.

I don’t have the book yet. I have to change my terminology when it comes out.

To get with the Gen Z times, it’s suz, mid and lit. Back to Andrew and your deal here. We already talked about the purchase price and how much you were putting down. Your plan was to do a medium-term rental because you could get a little bit more and you like that business model. You bought a four-bed house. Were you going to rent out the rooms on a medium-term basis or were you able to put the house in a way?

I renovated and updated everything that needed to be done. I had a friend that’s a firefighter down here in San Diego so he was going to rent a room for me. I had my one core property manager when I’m gone at work. As a firefighter, you’re gone at work twenty fire shifts so I don’t even spend a lot of time at the house. If you’re a firefighter or anybody who does shift work, you might as well house hack. It makes sense. I only sleep here 8 to 10 nights a month. I had him come by who also only sleeps here 8 to 10 nights a month so a nice little tenant there. I got my second tenant from the travel nursing. They have Facebook groups and stuff where you can find them.

If you're a firefighter or somebody that does shift work, you might as well house hack. It just makes sense. Click To Tweet

I got one from there and then a friend had a friend that was going to move here. I was like, “I’ll take that friend as well.” I got three rooms rented out and then I’m staying in the smallest room to maximize all the profits I could get from this house hack. A few months down the line, that one tenant that was a friend of a friend is going to leave. There’s a Facebook group page for regular San Diego roommates which is insane that in 1 to 2 days, you will get 50 to 100 messages from people trying to get rooms in San Diego but these aren’t the travel nurses. I did it to see and you get a lot of messages. You get a lot of good tenants and bad ones.

I ended up finding a travel nurse and then a regular guy. Those are two good tents but I only have one room. I was like, “I’ll get you both but this is what I got to do. I’m going to move one in now.” I have a shed in the backyard that I’m going to convert and then I’m going to move out into the shed. Credit crew style and sleep in the shed and then bring in the second good tenant. I renovated it. The renovation cost $6,000 to renovate the shed.

There’s no plumbing and electrical there. I did buy this solar generator that I can plug all my stuff into. I’m only here 8 to 10 days a month so it’s no big deal for me. I honestly think it’s one of the best prices in the house because it’s private, detached and quiet. I use the whole house, the kitchen and everything in here but I have to go back there to sleep. I can compare it to, if I had a 10,000 square-foot mansion, it’s a shorter walk from my kitchen to my shed than a kitchen to the master bedrooms in those 10,000 square-foot homes.

I want to talk a little bit about your return on investment on that $6,000. Did you run those numbers in advance and say, “If it’s going to cost me $6,000, how much more am I able to generate and rent per month with this $6,000? When am I going to get paid back? What’s my payback on that?”

I did but I don’t run numbers like easy math. If I rent my room for $1,000 and this costs me $6,000, it will all get paid back in 6 months. I rented that room for $1,000 and that 1 person stayed 6 months. I was like, “In six months, it was paid off.” I don’t know how long but it’s probably been another six months with that room rented. I’m in the positive 6,000 for that investment in less than a year.

That’s a 200% return on your investment If you think of investments in terms of annual. You spend $6,000 now and in 1 year, you’ve got $12,000. That is an investment that any logical person would make any single day, especially if you’re trying to accelerate your journey toward financial independence. Kudos to you for thinking creatively in doing that. What are you getting in total rent for this house?

In total rent is $4,400 but it includes utilities. My mortgage cost is $3,587. I’m also giving my friend a hefty discount because he’s in the master bedroom with the private bath and he’s about to move out. It’s going to go up to $4,900.

Why do you give your friend a discount?

He was first so at the very beginning, I didn’t know what I was doing. I said, “My mortgage is approximately $3,700. Let’s do the math to break even. This room is going to be $1,000. This room is going to be $1,100. This room is going to be $800. Whatever equal, I was going to be down $800 or whatever I was using the room for.” It was $3,700 at that time. It’s lower now to $3,587. That’s why I wanted the smallest room. I’m slowly increasing the rent. That room that was $1,000 to make a move to the shed is $1,100. Everything is going up in San Diego.

What do you think is the next move? This sounds like a Todd Baldwin opportunity where you could look for 6-bedroom, 8-bedroom or crazy big houses that will rent by the room for so much. It sounds like you can get $1,100 to $1,200 a room or something like that. Maybe more if it’s the master.

The masters in San Diego are at least $1,500. The next is I did buy another duplex but I was looking for changing strategies into house hack strategies of getting more bedrooms. Everything has to be a minimum of four in San Diego to cashflow. You can’t cashflow off of three rooms. Even if you’re renting all three rooms out, you can’t cashflow. You need to have all four rented out to cashflow. I wasn’t looking for anything less than four bedrooms. There are not many houses like that. I wasn’t willing to build partition walls to build bedrooms because it ruins my out if I’m going to sell the place. That’s my out. If all fails, I can sell it. If I have a cut-up house with eight bedrooms and no living room, no one is going to want to buy that unless they listen to Craig Curelop.

In San Diego, you can't cash flow off of three rooms. Four has to be the minimum. Click To Tweet

I want to ask a little bit about that first place. I have one last question on that one to recap it. You’re anticipating about $4,900 a month. Your mortgage payment’s going to be is $3,600 or so. After you pay utilities and money aside for repairs and vacancy and all that, you’re cashflowing a few hundred dollars a month still living in San Diego. This is one of the most expensive markets in the entire country.

In these expensive markets, to cashflow, you need to get creative. I can’t think of a more ideal example than what you’re doing with this short-term rental, renting out to friends, medium-term rental and living in the shed. San Diego is warm so you can live in the shed. That’s the formula right there. You try to find a duplex and rent it out traditionally. You’re not going to do that in these expensive markets but if you want a cashflow and get that appreciation, you’re going to become very wealthy from these properties because you’ve got your cake and you’re eating it too.

Craig, Andrew said that the next thing he bought was a duplex so maybe he is going to make it work. Let’s see what Andrew has to say.

I ended up looking around and now I’m ready. I don’t need a single-family anymore. I can do a duplex like the Stack Method of 1 to 2 to 4. I’m on the two. I find this a great side-by-side duplex. Utilities are separated already. Gas, electricity and water are already separated, which is a huge deal. It’s detached side-by-side, not even attached.

It’s 2 single-families on 1 lot, 2-bedroom, 1 bath. It meets my four-bedroom requirement. It’s an upcoming neighborhood, which means it’s ghetto. The interest rates are low. This is where I was debating, “Do I wait to cash out to refi, get my money out of the equity in this house that I already bought or do I capitalize on these low-interest rates and spend what I have left?”

I’m doing owner-occupied on the duplex so I can’t cash-out refi on investment property, which is the 4-bedroom, 2-bath house. I go ahead and get the duplex because I’m like, “Let’s start the next one.” I’m not as good as I thought I was. I’ve inherited tenants. That’s almost like I’ve had the worst inherited tenant that I’m willing to do inherited tenants. At that time, I was like, “I never go on with a tenant in it again.”

COVID in California is still so we couldn’t remove any tenants. I gave them a shot like, “Here is your 60 days notice. I need to move in because this is what I told the bank I was going to do.” He didn’t. On day 59, I got an email from a lawyer saying he is not leaving. I get my lawyer and was like, “We’re going to get rid of this guy.” Cash for Keys is in the back of my mind but I’m not going to let him know that. He did know that so a couple of months later, I gave him Cash for Keys and got rid of that problem.

Here’s a two-part question here. One, what happens if you go past that 60-day mark and buy this thing as an owner-occupied house but you’re not able to get in because the tenants are in? Is the bank going to come after you even though you’re making a concerted effort and you’ve even got legal attorneys involved to try to make this happen?

I don’t know. Hopefully, nothing and I never find out.

I don’t think so if he has a paper trail. He’s got letters from lawyers so I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine.

As your intent was to move in, this person is not cooperating. I would agree with that. You’re probably okay. You don’t even need to move in. What is your plan with the Cash for Keys? How much were you offering him? How long were you going to him to move out?

I told my lawyer I’ll do up to $5,000. It’s the number I threw out there. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t calculate if he stays 2 or 3 months or whatever it is I’m going to lose that much rent. That was equal to around three months of what he was paying. The tenants were paying $1,455 and $1,355 for the 2 separate units. The market rent, because I got rented out to a travel nurse, is $2,900, including utilities. They’re paying about half of what market rent is. I did a little math but not really. The lawyer came back and said they accepted $5,000. I don’t know what he did but he got him out.

I got the keys and then it gets worse. He’d been there 37 years. He’s an ideal tenant but you got to raise the rent. They probably never did any maintenance on the house. I had to redo everything. I don’t know what happened but the day he gave me the keys and I work in LA as a firefighter, he gave them to my friend who’s the realtor and then I came back the next day to check on it. I’m like, “I got my keys. We’re good to go.” As I’m pulling up, I see the doors open. I’m like, “What’s going on?” I thought I had a locksmith. I called the locksmith, change the locks, get everything changed over the phone and got it all changed that night.

I had to call my guy and say, “Did you close the door behind you?” I’m walking up, the door is open and I can hear people inside. I was like, “What’s going on?” I immediately walk away. I’m down the street with heart rates and you get that adrenaline rush. I call 911 and tell them, “Someone is burglarizing my house. Someone’s in it.” While they were on the phone with me, the police department was like, “Are there people in there?” I said, “It’s vacant,” which I shouldn’t have said. They send a helicopter and all kinds of cops.

I’m there to meet some people that pick up all the trash he left. That was part of the Cash for Keys, “I’ll throw your trash away.” Here’s a hoarder for 37 years. I’m ready to meet my trash pickup guys and they’re pulling up too at the same time as the cops. I’m like, “Get away. There are people in there.” They eventually go and the cops go in there. There are two people in there and they’re transients that move from vacant house to house. They do squatters so they were going to squat here. I don’t know how they knew my place was vacant. I don’t know what happened but they squatted the day after. They’re already in there.

I don’t know if it was a coincidence or not but they had old windows on the house so that you can slide them. There was no lock. I had my guy board them up after that. Since I said it was vacant, this is something everyone could learn. They’re squatters. They’re not burglars so they don’t arrest them. They get a warning and say, “You can’t squat here again. You get one warning.”

The cops told me, “Here are their names. If they squat here again, then they get arrested.” They get a one-chance warning and they go to the next house and squat there and keep going. I guess it’s a squatter. The cops are saying there’s a squatter Facebook group where they know all the addresses that are vacant and all the squatters rotate. They walked out and I was like, “What? These guys caused me all this stress and they can walk away?” We had to go back and get the bag that they left in there for them.

There's a squatter Facebook group where they know all the vacant addresses, and they rotate to the next house when they get caught. Click To Tweet

This reminds me of the story of when I let meth heads into my house and rented to them for a while and I called the cops. The cops didn’t do anything about it because they had a signed lease and they could smoke meth in their house. It was like, “What do we pay you for? We need help. I don’t call for help every day but the one time I need it, you’re not able to help me.” I feel like that’s the situation.

I feel like I’ve already had the worst-case scenario of buying with an inherited tenant. I’m willing to do it again.

You get all these guys out but it sounds like it was a big headache and an added expense. This is dramatically under market rents. What did you say you bought this house for?

$720,000 for the duplex, 10% down.

You’re putting $80,000-ish. Once you got this thing cleared out and cleaned, what was your approach?

I got to go back to where I got more money from. I got it from that first property in Las Vegas. I cash-out refi that one. This is a no-brainer for me. With COVID, it had shot up in price. Finally in Vegas, it took forever. I was able to cash out refi on an investment property at a lower interest rate. It was 4.25% and then I cash-out refi. It took $100,000 out and it lowered my interest rate to 3.725%. I was like, “I’ll do that any day.” I took that money and used it for the down payment on this duplex. I was going to renovate it again and then go to the mid-term renters of travel nurses and furnished it again. I’ve been using the same contractor. It took him a little longer than the four-bedroom house but I’ve got it rented.

I want to go back to the cash-out refi for a second. For the readers, how are cash-out refi looked at tax-wise? You’re not selling your property. Is it seen as capital gains or do you get to sidestep that until you do sell your property?

I’m pretty sure it’s not capital gains because I showed my account and all this stuff. They didn’t say anything about it. I don’t know much about that but I didn’t have to declare anything like that.

That’s probably why people use that strategy. I wasn’t entirely sure. I haven’t done that.

It’s not a taxable event unless you sell. You can refinance it a million times. That’s why leverage and HELOCs are so powerful because you can get that money. It’s tax-free money. You can use it again and again. If you’re going to sell, you’re going to pay taxes on the gain of your equity whether you’ve got debt on it or not.

Thanks, Craig. You’re educating everyone around the world.

One day at a time. Andrew, what is this property look like in terms of their total rent? What’s your mortgage payment and all that good stuff?

I got a travel nurse in there and she pays $2,900. She’s been blasting the AC, which is a problem. I only budgeted $400 for utilities. She’s hitting the $500. It’s essentially renting it for $2,400 versus what it was before. It was $1,355. Who knows how long they stay? One thing about travel nursing in San Diego, this is where travel nurses come to die. They never travel away. They stay here forever.

San Diego is where travel nurses come to die. They never travel away. They stay there forever. Click To Tweet

That first one I got in my four-bedroom house is still there. It’s almost two years and she hasn’t left. They love it in San Diego and never leave. I got to give the other unit 60-day notice and have them leave so I can renovate their unit. It is terrible. They’re living in poor conditions. I am doing them a favor by having them move out so I can renovate it. There are cockroaches everywhere. Everything needs to be removed.

If the top unit is nice, there’s no issue with the cockroaches moving up to the top unit.

They’re separate side by side. They’re detached side by side. That was one thing. I didn’t have to ever move into this duplex because it took over a year for me to finally renovate it. I technically could have moved in when it was in poor condition but I didn’t because I had to renovate it. It was terrible. By the time a year hit of the owner-occupied loan part that we have to abide by, it was already passed so I still stay in the shed.

You’re being creative in a market that you need to be creative in. You don’t say, “I can’t invest in San Diego.” You say, “How can I invest in San Diego,” and figured out a way to do it. The cashflow in these properties seems pretty good for the high-appreciating market. If you don’t know exactly, it’s okay but ballpark at how much equity you’ve got in these two properties in San Diego.

The house appreciates a lot because San Diego appreciates a lot in its house. That one I’ve gotten probably $300,000 equity. It’s going down in 2022 so we’ll see and then $100,000 of equity into the duplex.

In 2 houses in 2 years, you’ve increased your net worth by $400,000 from these 2 properties. That’s $200,000 a year. That’s a pretty good salary. That’s why real estate investing is so powerful. That’s why I always say cashflow is great. Cashflow makes you free. It makes you financially independent but it’s the appreciation that makes you rich. You’re a clear example there.

I’m not cashflowing as much as I could if I was in the Midwestern or anything like that. The appreciation is huge and I’m living for free. I’m saving money for the next purchase.

Are you going to buy a quad for your next property to continue the stack and then fill it with only nurses?

I’m always looking at them. I like Redfin. Their interface is better but I get a little email blast about them. I’m trying to figure out my DTI, my Debt-To-Income and trying to figure out what’s the next move. It’s going to be to renovate this duplex, the other unit and then get more cashflow from that. We’ll see what I can get. With these interest rates going up, I haven’t hit up a lender to see what I can afford but last time it was $500,000, which is nothing. You can’t get anything in San Diego for that.

With the single-family home, what keeps you from putting nurses in every single bedroom? It is because you can generally get more for them?

With nurses, what I’m finding through my experiences, they like their unit. I’ve blasted on the travel nurse page, which is funny. I run the San Diego Traveling Nurse Facebook group. I accept my landlord’s competition, decline all the scammers in there and accept all these nurses. It’s a headache. It’s 1,000 person group of all the people for San Diego travel nursing. That’s why I get my little market research in that they like their unit.

Now that I have this master bedroom, this is comparable to their unit so they like this. I’ve blasted on the other San Diego page. It’s regular roommates, not nurses or anything. I’ve been finding good quality tenants from there. I’ll give the travel nurses a chance. They get a weak leeway to hit me up and then I’ll blast on the other page and get a good tenant from there.

Before we go into the final part of our show, I’m curious, are you using Furnished Finder too or do you do all the Facebook groups? I thought those are a heavy list.

No. I’m as cheap as you can be. I don’t pay for anything. I see the Facebook groups and get 50 messages in my spam folder in 1 day.

Frugal check. Frugal versus cheap. Honestly, for $99 a year, you can use it for all of your units. You’re getting tenant leads so it’s worth it. Another hack for you so you’re maximizing yourself is you can use Airbnb for 30 days plus so list on Airbnb. Even though they take 3%, it’s a good move for you. If anybody is reading, these are important. Reach out to me if you need help. Andrew, come back. You’re going to know that I’m right.

I’m getting old that I’ve never booked with Airbnb and we’re in 2022. I’ve never used it. I’ve had a friend’s family book it and I stay there but I’ve never got on the website and looked for anything but I should. It’s like using a flip phone but I’m not using it.

Craig, Andrew is old but he looks good. He’s got that good skin. He’s hiding behind that mustache but he’s an old guy.

What is it that Asian don’t raise him? That’s the epitome of that right there.

I’ve had plastic surgery.

Your wife is Asian. That’s the only reason why. That’s okay, Craig.

My wife is 100% Chinese and I’m half Jewish. I feel like all the Asian and Jew jokes I’m allowed to say. If anybody is offending, stop reading. I’m kidding.

I always joke though because after the fire, we went to the burn center and the burn surgeon or whatever we went to is a plastic surgeon. I did get plastic surgery. When I say I’ve had plastic surgery, I actually have.

Andrew, we are about to head into our final part of the show. Before we get there, do you have any parting words of wisdom for our readers?

There are so many things I could say. That’s why I’m here. It goes to the book that I’m reading. I don’t know if we want to go into that. The book that I read is called The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. He talks about how we all grew up in our lives. It’s based on whatever your parents taught you as a kid is how you are now. If you grew up in a different family, country or city, you have a different mindset on life. My advice out there is to think about what your parents taught you. Is that the only way to live?

Do you want to live exactly like your parents or live a different life? That’s the path I’ve been on. I grew up and my parents did well. They did a great job but I want to live a different lifestyle. I want to travel, see the world and see things you can never see 1% of the population in the world will ever see. That’s what I want to do. I can’t do that if I do the standard buy one house, have a mortgage, pay off for 30 years, retire at 65 and then live your life. That’s how we were taught and how it has to be. Think about what you can do. Reach what you want to do. If you’re going to do the same thing your parents taught you, then you’re going to be your parents.

It’s interesting how each generation seemed to have its little flavor. In our parents’ generation, it was successful to get the big house with the white picket fence, the dogs and all that could settle down. This generation is more travel and freedom, this and that. It seems to work in cycles. I wouldn’t be surprised if when we were grandparents, our kids are probably where our parents were or something like that.

It’s important because your parents are somebody that you look up to your entire life. Probably to the age you’re eighteen, they are typically the idols. That’s whom you look up to. When you see that they’re working at age 50 and 55, you’re like, “Maybe I don’t want to be like my parents.” You need to make that switch of like, “My parents have done me great up to this point but I got to look somewhere else and look up to people in other ways, career-wise at least.” Andrew, you illustrated that perfectly.

For analogy purposes, everyone will get this analogy because everyone has seen the office. Do you want to be like Jim Halpert? He works at a paper company forever. This is what America is teaching us. You should work at a paper company, in an office, you’ll meet your love, start a family and stay there forever. If that’s what you want, you can go on that path. If you want something different, you got to do something different. House hacking is different.

That should be your next t-shirt slogan, House Hacking is Different. Do you want to be different? House hacking is different. It sounds cool.

Andrew, thank you for that. Let’s move into the Final Four.

Andrew, you ruined this because my first question is, what are you reading? Maybe you started a new book so what are you reading?

I’ll tell you what I read before that book. It’s one of my favorite books and I’d recommend it to anybody who has zero properties. It will get you out of that. I forget what it’s called when you’re scared to move on.

Analysis Paralysis.

If you’re scared of anything, this is the book. It doesn’t have to be real estate related but if you have any fear or resistance, it’s called the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I don’t know if you read it but it’s a basic easy read. You’ll finish it in two days, maybe, at most. Every page is one paragraph and it teaches you to identify your fears and resistance and overcome it. If I would’ve read that before, I would’ve been fired.

I need that. I’m afraid of cats. I don’t know if you know this about me because it sounds like I did a lot of cool shit but I’m afraid of everything.

I didn’t know about you. I thought you were a fearless rah-rah.

Everybody thinks that. I know. I need this book.

You put on a good facade.

You’ll finish this book instantly. It’s such an easy read. That’s why I recommend it. If you’re going to read one last book before you make a deal or buy a property, it’s this one.

Read that book. Also, if you do find yourself scared, be like Z and fake it until you make it. Andrew, second question. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I’ve received was when I was trying to be a firefighter. It can relate to all of life. Being a firefighter is competitive. It’s hard because once you become one, you never leave. You stay there for 30 years before you retire, which I do not plan on doing. I plan on retiring sooner because it’s a demanding job. You lose a lot of time because you’re at work all the time and you could die.

The best advice I was given was when I was trying to become one and someone told me, “Don’t get discouraged if you don’t pass the first test or don’t get hired by the first department because the ones that keep trying are the ones that get hired and eventually, you’ll be a firefighter.” You can use that with anything. Don’t get discouraged if you put in an offer and don’t get the deal. Don’t be like, “I’m done. I’m quitting.” Go on and move on to the next house. It wasn’t meant to be to get that one. Don’t get discouraged. Keep moving forward. It’s the best advice I’ve gotten.

Don't get discouraged if you don't pass the first test. The ones that keep trying are the ones that get hired. Click To Tweet

There’s no such thing as losing. Only quitting.

I don’t have any good questions for you because our other question is what is your why? We already know it. It’s because you almost burned down in a fire.

My why is to get my time back a lot. I lose a lot of time at work. I’m trading time for money and that’s not how I want to live. Trading time for money is not ideal. Time is losing but I realized that when I almost died. Everyone needs to find their why as I have. I ask people, “Why do you want to do this?” It’s usually something like, “To be rich.” I’m like, “That’s the basic level of your why. Why do you want to be rich?” “To buy a boat.” “Why do you want to buy a boat?” “To have experiences on the water, go fishing or wakeboarding with the family.” “That’s your why. Not to be rich.” Try to find your why as I have. My why was to get time back so I can travel and experience new cultures and the world. Eventually, one day have a family, which is the hardest part of the why.

Just being rich shouldn't be your why. Ask yourself why you want to be rich. Click To Tweet

Andrew, last question. Who would you rather have as a roommate? A bird or a goat?

This is a hard one. Does the bird talk?

It can be a parrot. A parrot or a goat?

I would take a fainting goat. Have you ever seen a fainting goat?


It entertains me every single day. They get super rigid and fall over. They faint. They get scared, stiff as a board and fall over. They’re so funny. You can do YouTube videos of fainting goats. They can do it on purpose but it is hilarious to watch those videos. I’m okay with that. I don’t like a little bird. It poops everywhere.

You can at least milk a goat and get some milk. Make some feted cheese, goat cheese and all that good stuff. A goat has some utility. A bird is annoying.

I chose goat also because you can leave it outside.

Andrew, where could people find out more about you?

The best place to reach me would be on my Instagram. @AndrewBTom is my handle. I have my email, I don’t know if you can find me on Facebook. A long time ago, I hid so you can’t search my name. LinkedIn is Andrew Tom.

Look up @AndrewBTom on Instagram. Hit him up with any questions. Andrew, thanks so much for coming to the show. It was great to get to know you and your story. It’s very inspiring and probably one of the craziest ones we’ve heard.

It’s my pleasure to talk to you too. This is a dream come true.

Maybe we’ll meet you in San Diego.

That was Andrew Tom. Z Money, what do you think of Andrew?

He’s so entertaining with all the stories. That whole one about his tenant and how has tenant got, I’m blaming the tenant but I’m like, “How did he change the locks?” There were squatters there the next day. He probably went on Facebook and alerted all the squatters because he was vengeful. I don’t know. That was quite a story and I was pretty mad about that lawyer. It sounded like you didn’t even negotiate that $5,000. He just made him an offer. It was pretty lame.

Oftentimes, these professionals take the easiest route that this customer is giving them. They’ll be like, “Are you happy with $5,000? We’ll save 5,000 then.” It would’ve been nice if he negotiate it down a little bit. That’s what happened. The lesson learned there. Don’t necessarily state your price. If you’re bottom line or the highest you’re willing to go is $5,000, say $3,000 and then you can be lenient to $5,000 in your head.

His story is truly inspiring like the guy on fire. That’s literally on fire. His story is so amazing about how he found real estate and how he’s acting on it. He’s able to house hack. Even if he didn’t almost die in a burning fire, the story would be amazing because he’s cashflowing in one of the most expensive markets in the entire country. There’s no such thing as I can’t. It’s how can I figure out creative ways to do it. He did it through mid-term rentals. Z, don’t you have some book or something about mid-term rentals?

I already talked about that book but if you want to pick it up, you can go to

We’re asking pretty please for a five-star review on iTunes because that is what makes our show stand out, grow and keep wanting to serve everybody here. Please go ahead and do that. Let us know when you do. Shoot us a DM. I’m @TheFiGuy on Instagram. Zeona McIntyre is @ZeonaMcIntyre. Thank you all for reading. We will see you all next time.


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