People tend to put a premium on travel, treating it as a reward after years of working hard and saving up. But thirty-year-old Sarah Weaver did the opposite—she’s been traveling the world for a decade AND found a way to sustain it through just two rental properties, credit card hacks, and her real estate business – that’s right, from abroad!
In today’s inspiring show, Sarah shares her story: growing up in Kansas City, spending over a decade as a backpacker, still graduating on time, and getting into real estate. She has been working remotely since 2015 as a real estate coach.
Stick around for some real estate pointers and credit card hacking 101 from this ambitious investor and self-proclaimed “nomadic vagabond”.
Listen to the podcast here
Living The Travel Hacker FI Life W’ Real Estate Investing NOW – Not Later! With Sarah Weaver
What is up, Z-Money?
I love that. I knew that you’re going to come up with this little name. I like it. That could be my nickname. What is new with me? I fell in love with a condo that I want to buy because I’m obsessed with the stuff. Whenever I see something I like, I instantly want to buy everything so that is a problem I have but I am working out how to do it.
Are you under contract?
No. I love a challenge. This one is in a building where only 9 of 34 units are owner-occupied so no lender wants to touch the building so I’ve got to find cash or the one stray bank that will say yes to me. I’m doing a hunt but I’ll let you know. It might happen. I own a condo two doors down. It’s that investor by the block thing.
Is this in Hawaii?
You’ll have to keep us posted on that. Maybe you’ll have some more news.
I will. What about you?
I am still working through rehab on the house hack that I purchased because the city of Arvada is painfully slow at permitting and getting back to us. Once the thing is good, it’s going to be really good, but it’s a slow and painful start to this whole process. We’re getting that underway and we all are working on another rehab by Stone Lake here in Denver. It’s a duplex that my lender and I bought. The permits are almost done. They’re almost able to be pulled up so we can start work. Things are rolling.
It’s exciting stuff.
Speaking of rolling, we’ve got a cool guest who tends to roll all around the world. Sarah Weaver, the world traveler. She is in New Zealand now. She’s got an incredible story and how she’s made real estate investing fit her life versus her life fit real estate investing. It’s an incredible episode. It’s truly inspiring. If you’re going to travel or want to travel, I highly recommend reading the whole way through. She gives some crazy good pointers at the end about credit card hacking that I thought I was a decent credit card hacker but shows that I am much rookie level.
I love it because it’s an unusual show for us and I want to dig into different FI stories. People are not talking about travel as much now because we are stuck in our homes with COVID but later, we’re all going to want to bust out and do that a lot more than we ever did. It’s great to learn from people that are making it work for them and she’s doing it with two properties. Stick around and read her story. Sarah’s great.
She’s amazing and with that being said, let’s let her tell her story.
Sarah Weaver, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Great. Thanks, guys.
We connected because of the famous Investor Summit.
You’re both presenters at the Investor Agent Summit because we all love working with investors.
It’s going to be a fun time. I know that I’m going to enjoy it. Zee, are you excited? What do you think?
I’m super pumped. Sarah and I have done a lot of fun stuff. We worked on that presentation. We also did a promotional presentation. It’s been fun getting ready for that. There are some good nuggets. People should definitely sign up.
Sarah, where can people sign up?
It’s at the InvestorAgentSummit.com.
If you guys haven’t checked that out, definitely do so. You’ll hear me give a 30 to 45-minute presentation and I’ll hopefully be there for the Q&A. I’m sure Zee has got the same thing but this show is not about the Investor Summit. We’re turning the tables on Sarah here because she’s got an amazing story. We want to hear where you came from. Why financial independence? What happened? How’d you hear about it? How’d you get started?
My story is funny because a lot of people find FI when they are making either a lot of money or they know that they want to retire early. They save up or they figure out ways to create income and later at the end of their journey, that’s when they figure out, “I have freedom. What should I do with it?” That’s when they try to travel. I’ve spun it on its head. I spent a lot of my twenties traveling and living the lifestyle. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to sustain it and pay for it.
I feel like Sarah and I have lived parallel lives. I love hearing her adventures because I’m like, “We did that at the same time. You’re so great.”
Is that where you guys met? Did you guys meet prancing through the fields of South America or something?
We’ve probably stayed at some of the same hostels and been to some of the same festivals, but we met through real estate investing.
When did you start traveling?
The first time I went abroad, I was nineteen in 2009. I did not grow up in an international traveling family. It’s something that I discovered later during college and I never looked back. I’ve jokingly been backpacking for the last few years.
In 2009, you’re nineteen and you started traveling. Did you go to college abroad? Did you skip college? What was that?
I went to university for a year and I studied abroad that summer after my freshman year. My poor parents got a phone call that said, “I’m sorry. Do you know how I told you that I bought a roundtrip ticket? I lied and I bought a one-way. I’m now going to drop out for a semester and travel but I promise I’m going back to university.” The story goes that my parents hung up the phone and they were like, “That girl’s never going back to college.” I did go back and I graduated on time. I was a hustler. I feel like I wear two different hats. I’m this nomadic vagabond that loves to travel but I’m also incredibly ambitious and driven. It’s definitely been a dance to figure out how to weave those two personalities together.
Where was the first place that you went?
I went to Ireland for a weekend because I found a $100 flight from Chicago to Dublin. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy learning Italian.
That sounds very romantic.
Little nineteen-year-old Sarah kept looking at things and being like, “People live here.” That was my catchphrase for that summer. I was like, “Somebody lives there. This is so beautiful.”
When does real estate come into your picture because I know that it was the step maybe even before you figured out about FI?
It’s so interesting because one of my first jobs was what’s called the DOFI, Director of First Impressions at the Keller Williams office in my hometown. Little did I know, I almost forgot that it even played a role in my life, because I completely forgot about it after that job. Later, I became a real estate agent in 2015 thinking that I could make my own hours. I was great at sales and I loved houses. My dad works for a new builder in Kansas City so I grew up on job sites and understanding the construction piece. Real estate has been weaving throughout my story but it wasn’t until 2017 when I bought the first investment property that I was 100% committed to. This is what I’m going to do for at least the foreseeable future.
Were you traveling when you bought your first investment property? If you’re traveling this whole time, that’s cool.
In 2017, I was living in Denver so it’s in your guys’ neck of the woods. I realized that I wanted to house hack because my dad has that construction background. I innately have it and I wanted to do a big rental project. I took I-70 over to Kansas City and bought my first house, a little 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath. I took it completely down to the studs and turned it into a 4 bedroom, 2 bath and house hacked it.
You definitely took the wrong way on I-70.
I don’t have any bad words to say about Kansas City but there were tears. I couldn’t see the mountains disappearing behind me because I cried that entire drive.
It sounds like you made a sacrificial choice because you thought Kansas City was an easier and more beneficial market to house hack in, probably better price points and all that stuff.
The reality was I knew that it was a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain. What’s cool is I bought that house, renovated it incredibly quickly and filled it with roommates. I did the rent by the room strategy and I spent a ton of that first year abroad. I moved abroad full-time in 2019. Kansas City, I didn’t necessarily want to live there full-time so I didn’t. I spent most of my time abroad.
That’s a good way to do it.
We definitely want to get into the numbers on that first deal. The rents that you would have been paying yourself by occupying a room, I suspect you filled that room. Did that rent that filled your room ended up paying for a good amount of your lodging as you started to travel? It’s a wash.
That first summer, I spent time in Europe but with friends, so I lived on a total budget. That second year, I was living in South America spending what I consider almost no money. It definitely was cashflow positive.You can be a nomadic vagabond that loves to travel, and at the same time, also be incredibly ambitious and driven. Click To Tweet
What I love about this and what I want to highlight to people is that a lot of people put travel on a pedestal or make it expensive in their minds. People that start traveling early like you and I realize that you could do it on such a shoestring budget. Even in expensive places like Europe, you can find ways to be creative and get by. It’s great that you had that foundation of having traveled before so you knew that even the small rent of a room after I have this house hack can carry me a long way in my travels. That’s super-valuable to highlight.
For the renovation that I did on the house, I was using credit cards to travel hack. Every dollar I spent on my renovation costs was giving me 2 to 3 times points through Chase Sapphire. I could travel around the world four times now, especially since my airline miles are not being used. I think I could travel around the world three times now for free.
I want to get back to, “Travel can be cheap.” I traveled a bit through South America. One of my friends that I met was given $1,000 a month for twelve months and his goal was to make that $1,000 a month last the entire month. He was doing it with ease like living in hostels, going out to eat and doing the things that you want to do. He was backpacking, Machu Picchu and doing some of the fun stuff that you want to do but if you truly did want to travel and experience that culture, you absolutely can do it on a shoestring budget. I wanted to further your point there. Sarah, let’s get into the numbers on that first deal. We know what you did. Let’s get down into the nitty-gritty.
The purchase price of that house was $217,000. What was cool back then was getting seller contributions was a thing. It’s not a thing anymore in 2021 but it was a thing back then. I brought less than 3% to the table because of seller contributions. That was helpful because I was 27 and I knew I had a big renovation ahead of me. I did a lot of labor. My dad looked at me at one point and he was like, “We’re never doing this again,” because it was blood, sweat and tears. Mostly tears on my part and a lot of sweat on his part but it was a lot of work. We kept the cost down. My overall budget was $10,000 and that included furnishing the entire house except for the bedrooms. We were on a budget.
How did you do an entire rehab? You said you tore it down to the studs for just $10,000.
The upstairs down to the studs. The kitchen was done. It’s not done to my liking but it’s done. I didn’t have to touch the kitchen. We did the upstairs so I turned an unfinished attic into a fourth bedroom and turned a half bath into a full bath. Frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to do it that cheap without my dad and his connections in Kansas City. He has been in the industry for years and it helped to be able to use his Rolodex.
Are you from Kansas City?
Yes, I grew up in Kansas City.
I want to point that out too. Sarah, another big reason why you made that move was that you were dealt a hand. The hand dealt and the resources to your advantage is your dad is in construction. He’s got connections and you have family in Kansas City that can help. That was also probably why you moved back. People are probably reading, “My dad’s not in construction. I could never do that.”
You were probably dealt a different hand and have different resources than what Sarah has. Use the resources you have to your advantage and make them go as far as you can. Sarah, you did a great job of emulating that. I want to articulate that point. $217,000 purchase price. You ended up putting less than 3% down. Was that a $5,000 down?
It was $5,700.
$10,000 on the rehab. Do you know what the ARV was on that property?
When I purchased it as a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, it appraised for $230,000 but it probably comps closer to $250,000.
After your rehab, was it more than $250,000?
I would love to figure out what it is but definitely, directly after that, it was closer to $300,000.
For your $270,000, you have $15,000 all-in with the down payment plus rehab costs. You’ve put in that $15,000 and you’ve increased your net worth by $83,000. That’s a massive return on your investment and that’s not even going into rental rates, what your mortgage payment was and all that.
My PITI, Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance was 14.78% and I rented out two of the four rooms for $1,500. One girl moved in three months later, which is cool. Talk about a quick turnaround. The second roommate moved in, three months after that. Within six months, I had $1,500 a month coming in and I lived there.
What would you associate your living costs to be? Did you rent your room out for $750 when you left as well?
You’re living for free. You’re essentially paying yourself $750 a month. You move away and now your property is making $750 over the mortgage. Did you have to set aside anything for CapEx and vacancy? How did you work that out?
I’m pretty conservative and also anything that I make I’m reinvesting for the next property so I set aside 5% for maintenance and 5% for CapEx. I pay myself for or put aside 8% for property management because I do self-manage that and I do another 10% for vacancy which thankfully, one girl moves out, the afternoon that same day, another girl moves in so that’s been pretty great.
After you had done this with your dad, you guys looked at each other and you’re like, “We’re never doing this again,” I imagined after it was working and you went traveling, you’re like, “How do I talk him into doing this again?”
I’ll tell you exactly how I did it. I was like, “Dad, here’s my plan. I’m going to move back to Kansas City. We’re going to do this. I’m going to ask a lot of you.” I haven’t lived in Kansas City. At that point, I had lived in the town for probably five-plus years. I was like, “I want to spend a lot of time with you and I’m going to make you work hard. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to pay you for your time. However, I will take you wherever you want in the world for an all-expense-paid trip anywhere. Where do you want to go?” He’s an avid golfer so we had the most amazing daddy-daughter trip to Scotland and Ireland for ten days and as you can imagine, a lot of it was paid with credit card points and it was awesome. It was one of the best trips of my life.
I love that you guys did that together. Not only is it such a cool bonding experience that you get to go into his world of contracting, learning, and being interested in something he’s already doing but then you get to merge the two where it’s like, “I love to travel. Let me show you the world.”
The most amazing gift that the trip gave me. I’ll never forget. We were walking across the street in Scotland and he looked at me and he was like, “This is so easy.” I was like, “What?” He was like, “We got on a plane and now we’re abroad.” I’m like, “Yeah, I know.”
Previous to that, was your family typical Midwestern where they’re like, “We maybe go to Mexico and don’t leave the country,” didn’t have a passport thing.
They’re not avid travelers but by circumstance. It has a lot more to do with money or a lack thereof than it has anything to do with close-mindedness. When my parents were in their early twenties, they grew up in a tiny town in Iowa. My dad followed an uncle who works in construction out to Northern California. I compare that late ’80s adventure of moving from nowhere Iowa to Northern California like me going to Europe for the first time. They are adventurous and open-minded, but their life hasn’t necessarily handed them the cards to travel.
I want to highlight one thing that you’re talking about right now. To bring back Craig’s point is just because your family was in construction and have this incredible skill, it doesn’t mean that they know how to utilize it to become wealthy. It doesn’t mean that it translates to real estate investor because my family in Hawaii, my sister’s husband’s family all do construction and custom homes. Everybody in the family works in the business and they don’t take on flipping. They’re not risky people. They don’t see how to translate that. I’m like, “You’re sitting on a gold mine. Your skills are so amazing,” but it doesn’t always work that way. That’s important to highlight. You have to connect the bridge.
I love my parents, but a lot of their financial decisions have shown me what not to do. They both work so hard and I watched them and my grandparents. I’m like, “I don’t want to be working that hard later in life. I want to enjoy my life.”
That makes sense. That seems to be a trend with Boomers, our parents’ generation, where it seems there’s a lot of pride to be middle-class, work 40 or 50 years, show the blisters and the scars on your hands and retire at 65 with pride. That’s the American dream. We’re like, “F that. I don’t want to work that hard. I want my hands to be soft.” It’s cool that both you and your dad are such great business partners.
You seem to be the mind, the finance the investor savviness to and he’s the construction guy at the bronze and I love that you guys matched up. It’s a win-win for him. He’s able to spend time with you during the construction, which I’m sure he enjoyed teaching you those things and he goes to do the thing he loves most with one of the people he loves most and golf in Scotland.
Drinking scotch and golfing at St. Andrews is all that he probably thought about while I was telling him what to do.Know that you don't need to work that hard later in life. Really just enjoy your life. Click To Tweet
I wanted to also mention how I love that you were saying that the FI for you came from seeing your parents’ money mistakes, how they weren’t good with money so made you go like, “Shoot. I need to figure out how to do this better.” I also came from that where I saw a lot of struggle and hardship and it always seemed like they were doing it wrong. I was like, “I don’t think this isn’t how everybody’s doing it. I want to find a better way.” I wonder if Craig that was true for you or you were like, “I want to do better than my parents,” and they’re already doing okay. What was that for you?
My parents were that middle-class, hardworking people and I did not want to be hardworking for my entire life. Just like all of our parents, a lot of them, it’s hard because, throughout your whole life, you take advice from your parents, your grandparents and the people that you love. All of a sudden you hit your twenties and you’re like, “I don’t want that.”
You stop taking advice from the people that you love and you start taking advice from people that you want to be like, the real estate investors. It’s a hard shift. It’s uncomfortable, “No, Mom. I’m not going to listen to you. I’m going to listen to this guy on this podcast who I’ve never even met. He seems to be doing it right.” That shift is hard and you’re paving the way for the generations after us.
I’m lucky because my parents taught me the soft skills that have made me incredibly successful. My mom can talk to anyone. She could go to Target and come outside with a new best friend and my dad is a great communicator, a great storyteller and a great salesperson. These soft skills set me up to be successful and I had to find how I want it to be successful in the avenue.
To recap your story, to back to your story, you start traveling at nineteen, you do the whole college thing and all that. You buy your first investment and you love traveling. You decide, “I want to figure out how can I make my investments and my business satisfy my lifestyle versus your lifestyle satisfy your business?” You buy that rental property with the intent of traveling to generate some passive income. You’ve got your first one. It is cashflowing $750 a month over the mortgage. After all your reserves, maybe it’s $300 or $400 a month. It’s nice but certainly not enough to live off of. What happens next?
In 2015, I went full-time remote. I started working full-time in the real estate industry, but working remotely. At this point, I’ve been working remotely for over years. In 2018, I went on what I consider my first vacation. I shut off the laptop and went to Belize in Central America. While I was there, I was like, “Why do I live in the States again?”
I got caught up in the real estate dream and got excited about my rental property. I was like, “I could move out of that house and move abroad,” and that’s exactly what I did. I’ll never forget. It was at American Thanksgiving, November. I went home for Christmas and I sat my family down. I was like, “I’m moving abroad.” They were like, “Great. Can you pass the gravy?” I’m like, “No. Guys, this is a big deal.” They’re like, “You’re always traveling.” I was like, “This is different. I’m moving abroad.” They were like, “Pass the gravy.”
What I decided to do in January of 2019 is buy a one-way ticket to Argentina and see if I could make that work and something cool happened. The company that I was working got acquired and the new leadership recognized my ability to teach agents, coach and do some public speaking. That was my professional goal. They started flying me from Argentina all the way to Toronto to start teaching some classes in brokerages and teaching real estate agents. It was so fun that it took off and I started realizing like, “I like this. I like teaching real estate agents.” I love traveling, especially when it’s on the company credit card. That’s super fun.
I think that I can make an actual difference in these real estate agents’ businesses because as you guys know, I not only could change Zeona and her business, but then she’s going to go and exponentially do that to her clients. That became fun. While I was doing that, I decided that I wanted to house hack again because I was like, “It’s been over a year. I can do it again.” That’s exactly what I did. In November of that year, I bought a duplex in Kansas City and essentially did the same exact thing. I house hacked that and kept traveling.
Before we get into the numbers, I love that you use me as an example because I was like, “Yes, Sarah, maybe I need you as a coach.” I didn’t even know you did these things. The one part of your story that I want to bring back around is that you went full-time remote. A lot of agents have the story that you can’t be remote and still sell real estate and that was one thing that I knew that if I was going to get into real estate, I needed to debunk that story immediately.
Now, I’m in Hawaii selling real estate in Colorado with my team so it’s doable. I want you to talk a little bit about how you did it and I know a lot of people do it in different ways. Just so people know that if I want to get into real estate, it doesn’t have to be this ball and chain that is travel or real estate. It can be both.
That was a limiting belief that I believe to be honest. In 2015, I got my license in Austin, Texas, which I’m sure people are like, “What? You were in Colorado. You’re in Texas.” I was in Austin, Texas, and I thought the same thing. I thought, “I don’t want to live and die here.” Maybe being an agent was the wrong move. I jumped ship, stopped selling real estate and I started working for a recruiting agency focused on real estate agents on their administrative staff.
When I went full-time remote, I wasn’t working as an agent, which is pretty funny because knowing what I know now, I should have kept my license active and I should have been the ultimate referral agent. Do you know how many people I talk to in a day? Sometimes, I’m doing over 100 phone calls a day. I could have easily built the same credible referral business and done exactly what you described. I could be living in Argentina or Mexico selling properties all over the US by this referral network.
That’s what got me in touch with Jennifer Beadles and I now work full time for Agents Invest, a real estate brokerage based out of Seattle, Washington, which is quite laughable because I’m in New Zealand. Jennifer is in Austin, Texas of all places and Jennifer built a referral-based brokerage. What we’re doing full time is expanding that.
You’re living the dream and also expanding what’s possible on people’s minds. Thank you for being that example.
It’s my pleasure. I’m going hiking and it’s funny, one of our other speakers is also on a big thru-hike. That’s a cool example of all of us. We love investing because we want to live a big life outside of it.
Let’s go to that deal. Let’s talk about that duplex because that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to talk about real estate. Give us those numbers.
At this point, I’m still in Kansas City purchasing, but I’m completely out of state remote investing. I went under contract on a duplex because I had a great investor-focused agent in Kansas City. He found me a duplex. I bought it for $180,000 or $180,500. It was an up-down duplex. It’s big. It’s 3-bedroom, 1-bath up the top and 3-bedroom, 1-bath on the bottom. I did everything remotely. I did end up driving in for the inspection but otherwise, I did a remote close from Mexico. I highly recommend it.
I celebrated by releasing baby turtles into the ocean, which was a bucket list item. It was amazing. For the numbers, I bought it for $180,500. I put less than 5% down. I put $7,900 down and the renovation was small on this. I only spent $400 installing a ceiling fan and I spent $740 doing a tenant placement, paying a property manager for tenant placement but then I still self-manage that from there.
I want to mention the baby turtles quickly because that’s something you could do here in Hawaii too, which I’ve never done or seen but I saw somebody post about it. I was like, “I didn’t know you could do that here.” I’ve been like, “If I celebrate every success in real estate with champagne, I’m going to turn into a freaking alcoholic so I need to figure out something else.” I’m like, “Baby turtles. That’s the thing.”
Tag me when you do it.
Sarah, I’ve got a question for you. You are closing in Mexico. You’re doing these low-down payment loans that you have to live in the property. How do you get around that because you’re not living in the property? It sounds like you’re traveling.
For that, you have to check with your loan officer because I’m not a loan officer but for me, I had 30 to 60 days to move into the property so that’s exactly what I did. That top unit was vacant so I moved into the property 45 days later. I got a roommate and I then became the world’s best roommate because I’m almost never there but I did move there. Everything on paper and all the logistics. That’s the beauty of working remotely is if I find a great deal in Tennessee, I’m moving to Tennessee.
You move there for a few days. It’s your primary residence, you have no intention to move at that time so you are satisfying the loan conditions but your lifestyle is such that you travel. You don’t have a residence where you come home to every night. That perfectly qualifies for those loans. I’ve got plenty of clients that live in a van and they rent out the entire place but they use the down payment loan. Zee, have you heard of anything like that in Hawaii?
I wanted to specify that she was saying she thinks it’s about 60 days. It is 60 days. You have 60 days to move into the home. I was speaking to a loan officer about it and she said, “What they want to see is that your insurance says primary residence because there’s a different price in primary residence insurance versus rental property insurance for six months.”
At least that won’t trigger anything so you want to make sure that you have those little ducks in a row. I’ve heard of a lot of people saying, “I’m going to keep this basement room that’s not as great as my room and I might leave some stuff there but that’s almost storage because I’m traveling a lot. I’m not renting everything but I don’t live there.” It still satisfies the primary residence thing. There are lots of creative ways to do it.
I didn’t say that I lived there and went and rented again in Denver. That’s my primary residence. I get my mail there. I voted in Missouri. I live in Kansas City, Missouri.
After you moved out to New Zealand or traveling the world, did you rent out your room or did you keep it vacant to satisfy that requirement or to play it safe?
For a whole year, I kept it vacant because that’s the rule and something interesting happened. The tenant downstairs, they’re a three-generation family so it’s the grandmother, mother, daughter and the daughter’s our age and also has a kid. There are four generations. That was totally fine for them. They lived like that for years but then COVID came. The kid is doing remote school, the moms working from home, the daughters working from home. I said, “Would you guys be interested in renting out the top unit for this price? I know it’s a lot of money so you guys tell me but I wanted to offer it to you before I found another tenant.”
They jumped on it faster than I could finish the sentence. It created a huge win-win because I need to renovate that kitchen, which I absolutely can do remotely again because of probably my dad’s connections and now the encouragement of seeing all these other out-of-state investors do full-on BRRRRs. I’m like, “I can renovate a kitchen from abroad.” They kept me from having to do that and I’m making even more money than I was when I had a roommate.
Do you have more than two properties or is it those two right now?People really love investing because they want to live a really big life outside of it. Click To Tweet
I want to have more than two properties, guys. I have written thirteen offers and I’m under contract on zero.
Are these all in Kansas City?
No, all over. I’ve written offers and Columbus, Ohio, Albuquerque, New Mexico, San Antonio, Texas, Clarksville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m expecting a wave net.
How are you picking these places? In legacy, you have a massive referral connection. Is that how you get your realtors?
That’s what Agents Invest does. The brokerage that I work for, that’s what we do. We build relationships with investor savvy agents like you guys and those agents are finding our investors’ deals. I told them exactly what my criteria is and they’re already sending us deals every week to put in front of our investor networks. That is essentially how I’m making those referral connections.
I want to re-state that investor savvy agent because you mentioned it when you were getting your duplex. Honestly, so many people don’t realize how important it is to have an investor-savvy agent or one that is an investor themselves because there are lots of agents who are either getting started have never invested in property or they only sell that one-time dream home. It’s such a different clientele. Could you say a little bit more about why that’s important so our readers spend a little more time getting the right agent for them?
Absolutely. It’s one of the number one reasons that I’m so excited about the Investor Agent Summit is because it is hard to find an agent who gets it. We, as investors, need to be working with someone that understands the market well but it needs to understand the rental market. I want to know, can I buy this house, what will it rent for and what value add opportunities can I have there?
An investor savvy agent is the only one that can do that. If they don’t own rental properties themselves, then they don’t get it. You and I can read all the books in the world but we don’t know how to do brain surgery. No one’s going to hand us a knife and some anesthesia. I would say the same thing with an agent. I’m not going to have them look over a lease agreement if they’ve never managed tenants before.
You may have answered the question that I was about to ask you but I want to ask it to clear it. What qualifies an agent in your sphere to be an investor-friendly agent? What allows them to be on your team? What criteria?
They have to have the after-the-deal Rolodex, “After I purchased this house, do you have a property manager that you can put me in touch with that is going to make this deal a home run?” If this deals a home run, then I’m not going to buy one house from you, Craig. I want to buy five. I want to have a property manager. When I do renovations, do you have a general contractor or contractors that you can refer me to? Do you know how to calculate cap rate and cash-on-cash? What is the ARV? If I update this countertop, can I get more rent from that? If you don’t know the answer, you better have a great property manager on your phone that you can text and they can get the answer right away. It’s way more than the knowledge, it’s the network.
I feel that what we’re doing is extremely synergistic. That’s exactly what the FI Team is. It’s agents who invest and you’re not allowed to be able in the FI Team unless you are an investor. You could read every book, and listen to every podcast but until what it’s like to place a tenant or deal with a crappy tenant, you don’t know.
You’ve got to get your hands dirty.
Someone asked me, “Sarah, as an investor, if I don’t own any properties, what should I do right now?” I said, “Don’t read any books. Go find someone that owns a property and ask them what to do. Have an investor-savvy agent show you what to do and get you under contract and start writing offers.” I know the same analysis paralysis is so common but I’m tired of meeting people and then three years later, they still own zero properties. It’s like, “You’ve been reading too many books.”
I have a lot of compassion for that, too. Everybody has their own time. What I love to tell people is that in real estate, wealth is built over time. You don’t get rich on your first deal. If you wait forever for that perfect deal, you’re going to miss the opportunities of all of these years of things compounding, appreciation, pay down and many things that happen there.
I’m going to let Craig jump in here but I do want to put a little place hold that I want to talk about credit card hacking because you bought it up a couple of times and this is such a FI Fire Movement thing. We don’t talk about it on this show and I think it’s super cool and such an important skill to have. Let’s come back to that. What have you got for us, Craig?
Zee, to build off your point of reading too many books and you lose a lot of the appreciation, the loan paid on all that stuff. You think you’re overpaying for a deal right now but if you’re in the buy and hold game, I almost guarantee that in two years, you will be blown away by how cheap you bought that property.
If you could see the forest or the trees and if you’re in it for the long game, I don’t want to say it’s impossible to lose but it’s almost impossible to lose if you’re able to hold on. My first duplex in an up-and-coming part of Denver, I bought for $385,000. I look at that and it’s worth probably close to $600,000. I’m blown away. Even the properties that I bought in 2020, I’m like, “Holy crap. How did they get it for so cheap?” It’s how real estate works. I was nervous. Everyone is nervous. You just have to trust the process of real estate investing. It’s worked for so long.
What I want to highlight for people is that it’s not that you just buy a house because some people tell me like, “You would say that buying this house is a good investment but I’m not sure I haven’t quite seen that yet.” I’m like, “The house that you live in and you’re not house hacking, that’s not necessarily an investment.”
There’s a big difference between buying a place to live and buying an investment that you’re utilizing with creative strategies or creative rentals and making it work for you. I want to make sure that people notice that difference. You can’t just go buy any house. You have to have a plan behind it, which is why it’s important to have an investor on your team who knows how to advise you to find those right properties.
Let’s get into credit card hacking.
What is it, Sarah? Tell us about this thing.
We were about travel hacking and house hacking here on the show now. Credit card hacking, I call it travel hacking. In times of COVID, it probably makes sense for us to call it credit card hacking. What it means is putting anything that you can on a credit card knowing that you can pay it off. I get a lot of savvy finance people that are like, “I don’t believe in debt.” I’m not saying put things on credit cards and not pay it off.
When I was doing my renovation back in 2017, I was paying off the credit card every Friday. It put me in the right mindset for the weekend so I didn’t spend too much money and it also ensured that I paid it off every time. What you have to do is put everything that you can on the credit card because every dollar you spend, you accumulate points.
If you get savvy, you can use what’s called the portal. I was buying everything from Lowe’s or Home Depot through the portal online and then getting three times as many points. What’s nice is Home Depot puts it all together for you to do a drive-by pickup so that you’re not wandering the aisles and as a female, getting harassed at Home Depot. “Can I help you?” “No, I’m good. Thank you. I can find the nails that I’m looking for.”
I would get three times the points on anything that I purchased and then I can turn around and I can use those points for anything. You’ll get little promo emails from Chase saying, “You can buy the air pods with your points.” “You can buy a new computer,” which I know a lot of people do. I save them all for airline and hotel because your points go further and I like to travel.
You get sign-on bonuses if you’re savvy about that. Of course, that depends on your credit score and what they’re offering. I know since COVID, the sign-on bonuses have gotten a little slim but you can still find them and then it builds your credit. Sometimes people are needing to build their credit to get to a place where they’re qualifying for a loan that gives them the best interest rate.
If you’re doing something where you pay it off every Friday, it shows up as more payments and gives you better credit history. There are some great bonuses to doing this but you have to be someone who is responsible for paying things off and knowing that money is going to be in your bank account. Don’t get carried away with it.
As real estate investors or anyone interested in the FI movement, we’re already in love with spreadsheets and tracking our money anyway. This goes easily hand in hand with what we’re already doing.
I have a question. I want to get this straight because I’ve done basic credit card hacking, get the points and do those things. You said that you can get a Home Depot credit card. Can you run that through?
I’m using my Chase Sapphire Reserve or my Chase Sapphire Preferred and then going into what’s called the Chase portal. They have partnerships like Olive Garden, “If you buy a gift card from Olive Garden, you’ll get two points for every dollar you spend.” They had the same thing going on with Home Depot, which was great because I was spending all my money on Home Depot. It’s through the Chase Sapphire Reserve. There are other credit cards that I can recommend. Those are the two that I like the most and that I recommend for everyone, especially as baby credit card hackers. Step one is to get a Chase Sapphire card.
You’re getting the points twice because you’re spending the money on the credit card and then you’re spending the money on Home Depot. That’s like scratching the tip of credit card hacking. I know that there are podcasts on credit card hacking, books and all that stuff.
I’ve taught a 90-minute class on this. There’s so much you can do. I admit I’m not even that hardcore. I have a friend that’s hardcore. He would open credit cards and buy gift cards and closed credit cards. Frankly, that’s another part-time job.As investors, it's really hard to find an agent that understands the rental market really well. Click To Tweet
I know people with 20 to 40 cards a year. They have a whole system. Anytime they open their wallet, they’ve got little stickers on each card. “This one’s for groceries and this one’s for gas.” It’s like, “You guys are crazy,” but it works for them.
Some people say it’s the next level. Zee, I know you know Tim and Amy. We’re going to get them on the show. They’re traveling full-time. In my mind, Tim is the credit hacking master. He has so many credit cards and little spreadsheets. We like to recap the story to get a good understanding of where it is. It’s a little confusing with your unique way of doing things.
You start traveling in 2009. You realized you started loving travel and you figured out, “I want to travel more.” How do you do that? You figured out real estate investing. You were living in Denver and you moved out to Kansas City because that’s where your resources were. You bought your first property. That was a single-family that you redid with your father. That’s rented by the room and cashflowed you a few hundred bucks a month. You started traveling like, “Holy crap. This works.”
You came back and got a second one. You released your turtles in Mexico or Belize or wherever you were. Now, you’ve got two properties generating some passive income while you’re also still working while remote in the real estate business. That is funding your lifestyle now traveling nomadically. That’s an incredible way to do it.
Did we get your total passive income? What are you getting off that duplex on top of that $750 you’ve got from the first place?
It’s about $730, just shy of $750.
For each so they’re both there. You’re at $1,500?
I imagine you’re not fully living off of that. That’s why you’re still working. It’s a great place to start. I want to know what’s your future vision. I know you’re looking for more properties, but sometimes people have a FI number or sometimes they want an X amount of doors. What’s your vision for this going forward?
My passive income goal is $8,000 a month. I have an idea of what that looks because as far as door numbers but I’m wanting to create a conversation shift to more about income and less about the amount of doors. A lot of people, especially online, are like, “I own 1,000 doors.” You’re like, “How much do you make a month?” Let’s get more comfortable talking about money.
I was having this conversation with someone. I was like, “You could have ten $50,000 properties making $150 a month or you could buy one.” I know it’s like all the eggs in one basket but you will learn how to find those great properties. He was like, “I want that million-dollar home that’s killing it like a short-term rental or something like that.” I get that. I’m like, “Why not just have 5 to 10 properties and chill and not have to worry about 100?” People don’t realize that even if you’ve got property managers, you’re managing the property manager and it can be a lot to have so many places.
I love that you used the word chill because that’s something that I need to do better. It’s funny, I have two different personalities or hats that I wear. I’m this fun backpacking nomadic person. I have a van here in New Zealand that I was living out of for a while, but then I’m also this incredibly driven, ambitious investor and entrepreneur.
What I’ve decided is I’m working so hard to hit my FI number but the reality is a lot of people are chasing that FI numbers so that they could live in New Zealand like I am. I’m at a point in my life where I’m thinking maybe I extend that timeline out a bit. Instead of being obsessed with getting that number in five years, maybe I sit back and realize I’m already living my dream.
How is your life going to change once you hit your number? It sounds like you’re going to do the same thing.
I love my job. We did a Facebook Live and it’s so fun. I talked to you guys about being flown to Toronto and teaching agents. However, I don’t want to be one of those people. I’ve heard you guys talk about, “I don’t want to be FI because I love my job.” I want to be FI and I want to love my job.
You can have your cake and eat it, too.
I was in a mastermind with someone who makes a lot of money. He makes at least $350,000 a year. He’s not much older than I am and he wants to quit his job. They said, “What are you going to do once you do that?” He said, “Easy. I’m going to live like Sarah.” Honestly, guys, I had to turn the video off because I started happy tears. I am living my dream. I’m good. I would like more money, don’t get me wrong, but I’m happy.
Sarah, any other words of wisdom for the audience before we move into the final part of the show?
If you’re an investor reading this, write more offers and read fewer books. If you’re an agent reading this, be an investor-focused agent. We’re going to change the world.
It’s the final four. Question number one, what are you reading right now?
I am reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
I finished listening to that one. It’s interesting, isn’t it?
Yeah. I’m probably an hour in. I did a massive hike and started it also on audio. I had to keep going backward because I’m like, “Did I hear that correctly?” I was not a science person or a science major. I’m learning a lot. I’m a little embarrassed. I’m like, “Maybe I should have known some of these facts.”
Some stuff is cool and relatable. I won’t give you any spoilers. It’s good. You’ll enjoy it.
There’s validity to having street smarts versus book smarts because my boyfriend is a book-smart, science-y, math guy like Rain Man and I’m always street smarting in it. Sometimes I feel dumb but there’s a place for both of us.
If any of my ex-boyfriends have anything in common, it’s that they’ve all been intelligent, so I agree.
They couldn’t be that smart if they’re your ex-boyfriends.
I’m smarter and I decided to walk.
Second question, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My favorite piece of advice is to ask for forgiveness, not permission. The best advice that I’ve been given is to focus on the activity, not the results.
Have you heard of The 4 Disciplines of Execution?
No, I haven’t.Investors need the 'after the deal' Rolodex. Click To Tweet
It’s a good book. It talks about lead indicators and lag indicators. The easiest, most valuable one is trying to lose weight. A lead indicator would be, how many days a week do you eat healthy? How many days a week do you go to the gym? Those are things that will result in you losing weight and you have control over those things that you can do. The lag indicator was when you step on the scale and you see your weight and that’s all the actions you’ve done in the past. It sounds like that’s what you’re going for and I totally resonate with that.
Tying it back to real estate investing, that’s how I was given the advice. I’ve written thirteen offers and it pains me to even say that because it’s been emotionally exhausting having that many offers rejected or not accepted. Jennifer tells me, “You got to focus on the activity, not the results. How many properties are you analyzing a day? How many offers are you writing a week?”
A lot of people don’t realize and they all get like, “I don’t want to write an offer because I’m not quite sure about that house.” I’m like, “No, you got to write all the offers. Just get ready. Plan on it just being an exercise in writing an offer and then maybe down the line, you’ll actually get one.” It’s important to do it. What about question number three? Sarah, what is your why?
My why is to live a big, exciting life and encourage other people to do the same thing. Big and exciting to me includes traveling the world and essentially doing what I’m already doing, investing in real estate remotely and teaching people how to do the same thing. I’ve mentioned my parents a couple of times but I want to get to a place where they can have some freedom in their lives so that they can also live a big, exciting life.
The final real question, what is the funniest corporate or business screw-up you have ever heard of?
Immediately in the world of Zoom, I’ve seen YouTube videos of people thinking that their camera’s off while they either change their clothes or go to the bathroom. I am mortified. I’m on Zoom every day. One, I don’t think that would ever happen to me because I always act like the camera is recording. What would you do if you were on the other side and you were like, “Dan, no, don’t do that?”
I was on Zoom. There was a company that wanted me to beta test something and they were showing me all this stuff. The girl picked her nose a few times and I was like, “Does she know she’s on video? Is this casual or am I just sensitive to nose-picking?” I feel uncomfortable. It was not for me.
Super funny. Sarah, where can people find out more about you?
The best place is @SarahDWeaver on Instagram. Feel free to DM me. I love it when people shout out and ask questions because networking is definitely the best way to improve your net worth.
We said Agent Summit. Craig and I are both going to be there. What is it and who are the people that would benefit from being there?
The Investor Agent Summit is for real estate agents. It’s created by investor savvy agents like Jennifer Beadles for real estate agents. You could be an aspiring real estate agent. You’ve been toying around with the idea of getting your license but someone that’s already in the industry is going to benefit the most. The reason being is because we’ve invited more than fifteen hand-selected speakers like Zeona and Craig who are killing it in the investor focus real estate business.
What’s cool, as you guys know because you did presentations or you will be doing presentations, is these real estate agents are pulling back the curtain on their business and showing you exactly what they did, exactly what they’re doing and the money that they’re making and how they’re making it. I’m confident that anyone comes into the conference and they walk away and they did three actionable steps from any of these twenty presentations, they’re going to make a lot more commission.
I always want to say double their income, but I’m realizing that sometimes a real estate agent’s goal isn’t to double their income, but it’s maybe getting their life back or leverage an assistant. Whatever your real estate business goals are, this free investment summit is one of the best ROI’s you can. Maybe wholesaling is not for you and flipping is or maybe short-term rentals are for you and growing a 50-person team isn’t. You’re definitely going to get something from all of these speakers. Plus, we’re going to have a lot of fun.
Thank you so much for clearing that up. It’s important for people to know what it’s about.
Thank you, guys. Thank you for being presenters and letting me chat about it. We’re going to have a lot of fun.
Heck yeah, we are. Sarah, what happens if someone is reading this after your summit? Is there a way to access the recordings?
If someone’s reading this, visit InvestorAgentSummit.com and you can purchase an all-access pass. You can get all of the recordings included along with some of the bonuses. This is great for real estate agents who are thinking about focusing on investment properties or investor clients.
Thank you so much for coming to the show. We’re going to have to rendezvous in New Zealand once it opens up.
There are a lot of travels in our future when the world opens up again, guys.
I can’t wait.
That was Sarah Weaver. Zee, what do you think of that one?
I love it. I love it because Sarah and I have lived such parallel lives. When she’s like, “I was down to Belize,” I was like, “Which Island did you go to? Because I go to Belize.” I love her. She’s super fun. It reminds me of the FI story that talks about living your life now as opposed to putting off this great life that you dream about in the future because we never know what our lives are going to turn into and how much time we have. It’s a good reminder even for me to be enjoying every day and not putting off until later.
Don’t put off the fun things. She lives by that, too because you’re right. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow and your life could be ruined. It’s morbid, but it could happen. You want to live life to your fullest so that way, whenever you are on your deathbed, you’re looking back and thinking, “I checked off every box I wanted to see. I don’t even care about this life anymore because I did everything that I wanted to do.” That is a successful life. Sarah is on her way to being in that position.
She’s releasing turtles in the ocean. She’s doing well.
She’s in New Zealand. She’s golfing in Scotland. It’s all the fun stuff. Zee, I know that you are super busy and probably have to get out of here, but do you have any other parting words of wisdom for the crowd?
Not really. I’m excited for people to get out there and start investing because that was what Sarah was saying is to write those offers. Get out there and write some.
Take action. Don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. The first step is deal number one. You’re not going to get rich from that first deal so go write your offers and we’ll see you on the next episode.
- Sarah Weaver – LinkedIn
- Agents Invest
- The 4 Disciplines of Execution
- @SarahDWeaver – Instagram
About Sarah Weaver
Sarah is a coach, speaker, real estate investor, and real estate entrepreneur. In the summer of 2021, Sarah went from 3 to 15 units in 68 days across 4 states. She self manages her properties including five short-term rentals. Sarah’s other life passion is travel. Since January 2019, she has embraced a nomadic lifestyle and has traveled to 44 countries on 6 continents.
Sarah runs seminars for real estate brokerages across the United States to inspire real estate agents to focus on building their own portfolios. Sarah also runs retreats for real estate investors to level up their portfolios. Sarah launched Arya Design Services to meet a need in the market for investors to work with an Airbnb investor team to fully furnish, strategically design, and fully launch a short-term rental. Yes, she travels the country furnishing AirBnBs for clients. Talk about a dream life. Follow along on Instagram @sarahdweaver.
REAL ESTATE EXPERT | REAL ESTATE COACH + CONSULTANT 💻👩🏼💻
TEACHER + INSTRUCTOR 👩🏼🏫📚👩🏼💻
I teach real estate agents how to communicate better with their clients and teams, how to hire for success, how to grow from a solo agent into a great boss, and how to be a more effective leader.
COACH + CONSULTANT 💻👩🏼💻
I have worked in the trenches with 270 placements and consulted more than 300 hours with Top Producing Real Estate Agents & Brokers on their hiring needs. I have written more than 500 job ads and provided consultation on more than 200 offer letters. After interviewing more than 4,000 candidates, I have invaluable insight into what agents need to grow their teams. Plus, I know what assistants want, and need in their administrative roles.
INVESTING EXPERT 👩🏼💻💼🙋🏼♀️ HELPING PEOPLE INVEST IN REAL ESTATE
– taught new and experienced investors how to analyze deals and create passive income streams through real estate
– helped brokerages, agents and teams find (and keep) investor clients! 🍾
REAL ESTATE BACKGROUND + INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL 🌎✈️ 🧳
In the last ten years, I have visited 44 countries on six continents (and counting!). You won’t catch me without my passport and laptop. My career is designed around my life, and I designed my life to be dedicated to helping others grow their business while I travel the world.
I followed my love of real estate to Austin, Texas to become a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty. Now, I work remotely from around the world ensuring measurable results for all of my clients. You can find me sipping coffee in Colombia, hiking mountains in Guatemala, and exploring the beaches of Brazil.