Andrew Bresee never wanted to work for someone else. “I don’t want to build somebody else’s dream,” he says. “I want to build mine.” And that was his motivation for putting in the work it would take to become financially free just two years after buying his first investment property.
In an episode of the BiggerPockets Rookie Podcast, Bresee explains the obstacles that could have easily led him to give up on his dream and how you can cultivate perseverance even when your luck seems to run dry. He lets us in on the lessons he learned while developing his investment strategy and even provides the “cure” for analysis paralysis, giving real estate rookies hope that financial freedom is in no way out of reach. “Whether it’s two years, five years, 10 years, it will be much quicker than you think,” he says.
As a 15 or 16-year-old teen, Bresee was checked out. “All the Ritalin in the world couldn’t get me to focus at school,” he says. But when someone gave him a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it sparked an instant passion for real estate investing. “I knew from then on I wanted to be a real estate investor, and I didn’t want to work for somebody else for the rest of my life.”
Of course, saving the money he needed to realize his dream would require working several jobs and a lot of sweat equity. Even before Bresee and his wife were ready to purchase their first property with the income they saved, they got some experience rehabbing his parents’ basement, laying the groundwork for the hard work to come.
“My parents were super generous with us, let us move into the basement, and we took six years off and on, building a full apartment in the basement. So we put in every Sunday for eight hours and then whenever we could during the week we built a full bathroom, a full kitchen, put in a laundry room, put a bedroom, we put a window below grade.” So when they viewed a property with four units that needed love, Bresee had the confidence to move forward.
Putting in the Time and Rolling with the Punches
Bresee and his wife used all their savings to buy two duplexes, one with an FHA loan and one with a conventional loan. When the transaction was complete, they had only $2,000 left in the bank. But Bresee had the ingenuity to recognize the right strategy that would get all four units in rentable condition. “And [the] first thing we did was say, ‘Okay, which of these four units is in [the] best shape that we can get on the market?’”
Over six months, they moved from one unit to the next, making the most urgent improvements first. “It was just all hands on deck every moment we could possibly put in before work, after work, whatever we could do.”
They made it work by putting in the time and rolling with the punches. For example, when they couldn’t permit one of the one-bedrooms for a short-term rental, they used the monthly or medium-term rental strategy. “I turn over the unit every two, three, or four months and I still get almost as much as I would get as a short-term rental,” says Bresee. And this strategy has lifestyle benefits for the couple as well. Longer-term tenants tend to be more respectful of the landlord next door.
Bresee says he’s clear in the Airbnb description and title that the unit is ideal for extended stays to encourage bookings for the unit. With all repairs and expenses covered, including his personal internet access, he says, “We’re on pace to make about $1,200 a month.”
There’s a Time to Hustle and a Time to Delegate
Putting the labor into the first four units left Bresee with a faulty mindset. “I thought I could do more or better than others. So we bought another duplex, and I ended up, when I quit my job, rehabbing that for an entire year.” He was stuck in the mindset that he needed to protect his cash, preventing him from seeing the opportunity cost of finishing the work himself. “And so I should have farmed things out sooner.”
Now, Bresee has put his tools in storage (literally) and resolved to get help from contractors who can finish the work quicker. This allows him to earn more money by getting units ready for rent sooner. Still, there’s a time to hustle, he admits. “If you don’t have a W-2, if you don’t have a ton of extra money,” sometimes putting in the work with your own hands is the only way to get started.
“We put $40,000 into those four units together [over] six months, and we worked our tails off. That was a good use of my time [back then] because my ability to get another deal was contingent on me getting those units up and going, spending the least amount of money possible because I didn’t have any money left. But later on, it was the exact opposite. I was still in the frame of mind that I was going to do what I did before, and I was not treating it like a business when it should have been.”
That’s where a flexible mindset is important. Evaluate your strategy based on your current financial situation rather than trying to pinch every penny in repair and remodeling costs. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but also don’t be stuck like I was in a mindset that held me back.”
Bresee says if you know what you’re doing and feel confident in the outcome, you can even take the risk of buying your materials with a 0% introductory APR credit card. “And then all you need is cash to pay your contractor,” he says.
Accelerating Your Success
Bresee says he has the cure for analysis paralysis or overthinking a problem to the point of avoiding action. We’ve already seen that his success was partly due to the extra time he put into work—but he says how and when you make time for your goals is also essential.
“If every day you just got up 30 minutes earlier, instead of giving your time to a boss,” if you gave “the best moments and brain power of your day” to accomplishing your goals, you’d accelerate your success. “I got financial freedom long before I thought I would. And I believe it’s that consistent daily action. 30 minutes is plenty to make tons of progress.”
On the other hand, if you don’t make a concerted effort, you’re probably not going to have the life you want. “It’s a snowball, but if you don’t start it now, you’ll wake up at [50 years old] building someone else’s dream.”
Whatever your motivation for financial freedom, keep it at the forefront of your mind and allow yourself the time to take steps towards your goals. It may require you to sacrifice screen time for the first 30 minutes of each day. In fact, it will probably require a lot of sacrifice throughout the process. But if Bresee’s story is any indication, you can realize your dreams faster than you think. So pour everything you’ve got into the next few years of your life. We dare you to try it and see what happens.