3 Highly Motivational Real Estate Success Stories

January 25, 2024

Produced by:
Richard Stevens

Richard Stevens is an active real estate investor with over 8 years of industry experience. He specializes in researching topics that appeal to real estate investors and building calculators that can help property investors understand the expected costs and returns when executing real estate deals.

The Short Answer

Real estate is one of the most attractive industries, thanks to the potential it offers for building wealth. The good news is, anyone can make money, and if you’re thinking about getting into the real estate industry to invest, we’ve got a few real estate success stories to motivate you.

 

  1. Sean Conlon went from being a janitor to a real estate mogul by saving enough to buy an apartment over many years. He then sold it for a profit a little while later and became an expert on zoning laws and local real estate markets, which ultimately led to his success and opening his own real estate investment business.
  2. Melanie Bajrovic started out getting minimum wage working in her family’s restaurant and at a bar. She saved enough to buy her first home and continued to purchase investment properties from there. She eventually started her own real estate business at the age of 27 and became extremely successful.
  3. Elisa Covington worked a regular 9-5 job when she invested in her first property which needed remodeling. She rented out the second room to help pay for the mortgage. From there she bought a fix and flip property, and eventually quit her job and created a multi-million-dollar real estate business.

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Real estate may look glitzy and glamorous on the TV shows, which can be attractive for many people, and there certainly is money to be made in real estate. It may not be in such glamorous ways, but real estate has been a way for investors to build wealth for a very long time. In fact, it’s often said that 90% of all millionaires have made their money through real estate.

In this article, we’ll dive into 3 inspiring real estate success stories, from rental properties to fix and flips, and highlight the key elements that future real estate investors can learn from them. If you’re thinking about getting into real estate, we’ve also got some useful tips on how to get started.

3 Inspiring Real Estate Success Stories

1. Sean Conlon - From Janitor to Real Estate Mogul

Houses

Sean Conlon’s life began in the quiet Irish town of Rathangan. He lived with the other 6 members of his family in a small home. At some point during his childhood, the bank attempted to repossess their home, while his parents struggled to make ends meet. It was this event that sparked the idea for Sean that owning a home could give one security.

Conlon saved $500 over some time and headed to Chicago where he began working as an assistant janitor in 1990. Conlon worked at his janitor job by day and painted apartments by night for a few years until he managed to save enough money to buy an apartment. His savings were neatly kept in a shoebox until this time. This was the start of his real estate investing journey and he didn’t look back.

On the sale of his first apartment, Conlon made $4,000 which motivated him to continue. Eventually he was earning around $14,000 per year, so he began selling real estate as a sideline job. For 3 years he did this, until he became one of the top real estate brokers in the US. He attributes this success to sheer hard work and determination, which led him to his first job in a brokerage in 1993.

In 1996, Conlon became a millionaire. He had become an expert on the zoning laws and lot sizes in each neighborhood and when the market boomed, he cashed in on investment properties. 4 years later he started his own boutique real estate investment firm, Conlon & Co, and then went to college to graduate from DePaul University with a Bachelor of Arts.

I was an ordinary person who did some fairly extraordinary things. It’s America. You can still do those things.

Sean Conlon

2. Melanie Bajrovic – From Bartender to Real Estate Investor

Melanie Bajrovic became a multi-million-dollar real estate investor at the tender age of 27. How did she do it?

Melanie started working in her family’s restaurant from a young age, which is where she began to learn the value of dollar. Here family instilled investment and finance knowledge in her from the age of 12. She started saving as much as she could from this age, thanks to her mom’s advice.

Melanie went on to start working as a bartender at the restaurant earning minimum wage and continued to save almost all of her money. By the time she reached 22, Melanie had saved enough money to invest in a property, at her dad’s recommendation. After looking at over 100 properties she finally chose a single-family home and pulled the trigger on her first real estate investment.

Melanie didn’t look back and continued to purchase single-family homes to build up a real estate portfolio. The idea was to create funds for her retirement and build savings. By the age of 27, Melanie decided to start her own real estate business while she continued working at bars and studied. So, she bought her first piece of commercial property and began her commercial real estate business there. To do this, Melanie used the money she had saved from working 3 jobs and leveraged the properties she already owned as collateral.

Melanie has become a #1 international best-selling author and successful entrepreneur and real estate investor. With no real estate education and no family money, Melanie’s story highlights the fact that real estate isn’t just for the wealthy or highly experienced. Real estate offers a variety of opportunities to almost anyone.

I always recommend, first and foremost: education is incredible. But, it’s not the key. Knowledge without execution is useless. Not only do people need to become educated on real estate but all the magic is in the action.

Melanie Bajrovic

3. Elisa Covington – From Yield Manager to 7-Figure Profits

Elisa Covington was working a regular 9-5 job as a yield manager and in 2012 she had saved enough money for a down payment on a home. Her first property purchase was a short sale, which meant that the property needed some work. So, she did the renovations that were required to make it livable.

Once she had moved into the home, she rented out the second bedroom, to help pay the mortgage. This made Elisa a landlord for the first time. House hacking is a successful strategy for those in a similar situation to get help paying off their mortgage and build up equity in a home quicker.

After a few years, home values in the area began to rise, so Elisa decided to purchase a rental property, using a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). This way, she could tap into the equity she had already built up in her home, to help with the purchase of her first investment property.

Elisa bought a property and then got to work remodeling it, however the remodel was a year-long process, so she rented it out for part of this period. She then sold the property and made a 40% profit on it, and once she’d had a taste of a fix and flip, Elisa knew what she wanted to do.

In 2017, Elisa decided to give up her 9-5 job and become a full time house flipper. Since then, she has successfully flipped more than 20 homes using a combination of hard money loans to fund the majority of the purchase, and her own money for about 10-20% of the purchase price, as well as the remodel. In 2019, Elisa earned her first 7-figure profit from house flipping and went on to create a multi-million-dollar real estate business.

Now I try to use comparable sales that are on the lower side. I also try not to buy flips where the required sale price is higher than the median sale price in the area.”

Elisa Covington

What You Can Learn from These Successful Investors

  1. There’s more than one way to become an investor

Whether it’s through rental properties, commercial properties, fix and flips or REITs, there are a variety of ways to get into real estate. As we can see from each real estate success story mentioned above, real estate offers multiple avenues for people to begin investing, each with its own strategy. So, you can choose the investment path that best suits you and your financial goals.

 

  1. You don’t need an extensive education

An ivy-league education isn’t necessary to get into the real estate game. Adequate research and financial advice can go a long way towards your success in real estate. Don’t be put off by the fact that you may not have an extensive real estate knowledge yet. You can get to work on learning more about it and get a mentor, to find your way through the process.

 

  1. You can become a real estate investor at any age

Real estate has been making millionaires for a long time, and this means anybody from people in their 20s to people in their 70s can invest in real estate and be successful. Real estate doesn’t discriminate, so people of any age can begin their journey and still become successful. We can see this from the real estate success stories mentioned above where age isn’t a deciding factor for their success.

 

  1. You don’t need a huge amount of capital to begin

As we can see from the success stories above, to be successful at real estate investing you don’t need to have millions in the bank. In fact, almost anybody can invest, using either money that they have saved or a loan from a variety of lenders. The bottom line is, you don’t need a large amount of capital upfront to make money from real estate.

 

  1. Real estate investing requires consistent work

Getting started in real estate investing doesn’t happen overnight. While almost anybody can do it, it requires research and knowledge, access to funds and hard work. Once you’ve bought your first property, that is just the beginning. You’ll need to continue investing, to build up your portfolio. The amount of effort you put into your strategies and deals in the beginning can set you up for later where you can hire others to manage it for you.

What Stops People from Investing in Real Estate?

Lack of funds

One of the biggest reasons preventing people from investing in real estate is a perceived lack of funds. There is a common misperception that real estate investing requires a large amount of capital upfront, however this is not the case. These days, real estate investors can get funding in a variety of ways including crowdfunding, financing from family and friends or via hard money loans.

Even if people have the funds, they may not want to spend it on buying a property as they fear the risks that are associated with it. To combat this, the best thing to do is increase your knowledge and make sure that you plan ahead adequately and have a well-thought strategy to minimize the risks as much as possible.

Not enough experience or knowledge

Another one of the most common reasons for not investing in real estate is a lack of knowledge and/or experience. The real estate world can seem daunting when you don’t know much about it. However, there is a lot of information easily available online that you can use to educate yourself further, so that you feel more comfortable about spending money on real estate and making good decisions. Potential real estate investors don’t need to be scared off by a lack of knowledge anymore.

Waiting for the right deal

Potential real estate investors can get bogged down with trying to find the right deal. If you’re expecting to find the perfect deal to appear easily, chances are you won’t find it. Investing in real estate means going out and finding good deals, they may not be perfect, but they can be successful. This requires actively searching and getting to know the neighborhood real estate market well.

Rental property management

Another aspect of real estate investing that may put people off is the idea of purchasing a rental property and then becoming a landlord and having to deal with property management. Being a landlord requires a lot of work, it also requires finding the right tenants, collecting rent and managing the property every month.

Thankfully, there are property management companies who are well versed in this. They take control of the property management and handle the tenants for you if you don’t have the time or knowledge.

If you’d prefer not to use a property management company, you could use a real estate agent to find tenants for you. A real estate agent will be experienced in finding tenants and could make the process quicker and easier for you.

How To Take the First Step In Your Real Estate Investing Career

So, you’ve decided you’d like to invest in real estate? Great decision! However, without any real estate investing experience, this may feel daunting. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Figure out your finances: Take a detailed look at your finances to work exactly what you can afford. This will determine the type of property you can purchase and the down payment that you can afford. This is the first and most important element of real estate investing as it will dictate the direction you’ll need to follow next, in terms of getting financing for your purchase.
  • Pick your strategy: There are various ways to invest in real estate and investing strategies include residential real estate, commercial real estate or land. Evaluate the pros and cons of each strategy, and what type of financial commitment each one will require. Once you’ve picked the real estate investing strategy that you feel will be best suited to you and your financial situation, for example buying single-family homes, you can take the next step on your journey.
  • Choose a target real estate market: Location is one of the most important parts of your real estate investing journey, so it’s vital to make the right choice here. Do your research on the real estate market in various locations and choose the one that will best fit your strategy. For example, an up-and-coming area can be a good place to get a deal on a property that you can upgrade and flip.
  • Get to grips with cash flow: Cash flow is one of the most important concepts for real estate investors. Each real estate deal will be weighed based on its profitability which includes its cash flow. The quicker you can get up to speed on how cash flow works for each strategy, the better. This includes learning about what a postive cash flow

These are the foundations of your real estate investing journey. From here, you can begin searching for an investment property, and then your journey is officially underway.