3 steps to earn passive income from real estate, according to a 29-year-old who did it (2024)

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  • 29-year-old software engineer CJ McGlown owns a rental property that earns him $12,000 a year passively.
  • He decided to invest in a turnkey home and hire a property manager so it wouldn't become his "job".
  • Taking out a new mortgage worked for him, because the rent checks cover the mortgage payment and more.

3 steps to earn passive income from real estate, according to a 29-year-old who did it (1)


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3 steps to earn passive income from real estate, according to a 29-year-old who did it (3)

According to C.J. McGlown, you have two options when entering real estate: "Do you want to be an investor, or do you want this to be your occupation?"

McGlown, a software engineer and self-made millionaire, wanted to get into real estate investing as a way to earn passive income. That way, he could focus his energy towards passion projects, and his business instead of worrying about income.

There's a big emphasis on the word passive for McGlown. When he bought his first investment property in 2019, he knew that he was strictly looking to grow his wealth, and not make this his new job.

"My true passion is technology," said McGlown. "I use real estate as a wealth-generation strategy only."

Currently, McGlown only spends about three hours every month doing work for his rental property, but it brings in thousands of dollars every year. And to make this his reality, he followed three strategic steps.

1. He made lifestyle changes to save for the property

When McGlown first started saving for the investment property, he wasn't sure if he wanted to finance it or buy it in cash.

He did know that either way, he'd need a good amount of savings stashed away. So, he started saving aggressively.That way, if he ended up financing it then there'd be much less risk, but if he did decide to buy in full, then he'd have money to do so ready to go.

"I tend to choose the thing that's going to be the most difficult because that's where I'll get the most discipline," he said.

Saving for the investment wasn't easy, but it also wasn't new to him. He'd spent the first two years of his professional life paying down $200,000 worth of student loans and already knew how to live frugally.

So, he employed the same strategies he used back then to save up for his investment property.

2. He learned about financing options through free and inexpensive resources

"I started with a resource called Bigger Pockets," McGlown explained, "I started learning the basic things about how you actually make money from real estate."

Through this education, the topic of leverage kept coming up in conversation after conversation."I would hear people say things on Bigger Pockets like 'leverage is better' and 'you can go further with leverage,'" said McGlown.

However, the idea of going into debt again scared him. After finally freeing himself of student loans, the thought of signing on to more loans wasn't something he was eager to do. This is part of the reason he even considered paying for the property in full — something most homebuyers don't do.

His parents had taught him the idea "cash is king," and there was a part of him that still clung to the idea that taking out a mortgage for a house would be risky.

However, he realized that he was wrong after crunching the numbers: If he just invested in the down payment, the monthly rent checks would be more than enough to cover the mortgage. Over time, the property would pay for itself.

"I realized that if you rent it long enough, [it's like] you've never bought it," he said. "You just got it for free."

Financing the investment also meant that he could start sooner and wouldn't have to save additional hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I started to see how I could build wealth and the money could go further with leverage," he said.

By then, he had saved $75,000, which he used for the down payment.

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3. He paid more upfront to save his time and energy

Ultimately, McGlown's entire goal was to have as passive an income stream as possible. In order to achieve this, he knew it would be more costly. He initially experienced this when researching mortgage lenders.

"I started looking into different interest rates, seeing what I could get," he said, but nothing seemed fully like the right choice. Eventually, he decided to try working with a mortgage broker, which helped him find a much better interest rate in a shorter period of time.

"They came back with substantially better opportunities than I ever found," he said. "A mortgage broker is definitely worth the money."

Once he started looking for the actual property to purchase, he was also willing to pay a little more for a turnkey property in a popular location that he was sure would rent out. That way, he didn't need to worry so much about the risk that comes with financing.

"I would rather pay a premium for a property that is in the right location than get a good deal for the property," he said. "Even if you get a bad deal, location [makes up for it] because of the [property value] appreciation."

He also hired a property manager to deal with any issues that his tenants experience, in a continued effort to keep the investment passive. He pays the property manager a percentage of the rent price.

Between the mortgage payments, the property manager fees, and insurance he owes about $1,600 every month. However, he rents the home out for about $2,600 per month, so he makes an extra $12,000 annually from this investment. Additionally, his equity in the property only grows over time.

For McGlown, this setup is exactly what he wanted: Recurring monthly income with little active energy on his part.

"If you want, you can penny-pinch and get as much value as possible," he said. "But then you've created a job."

This article was originally published in January 2022.

Katherine McLaughlin

Katherine McLaughlin is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Though she consistently forgets to post, you can still connect with her on Twitteror ather personal website.

As a seasoned real estate investor with a passion for technology and wealth generation strategies, I can provide valuable insights into the concepts discussed in the article. My expertise in real estate investing is grounded in practical experience and a thorough understanding of the key principles involved. Let's break down the main concepts from the article:

  1. Passive Income and Wealth Generation: The article emphasizes the importance of real estate as a wealth-generation strategy for individuals who want to earn passive income. C.J. McGlown, a software engineer, highlights his focus on using real estate to grow wealth while pursuing his true passion—technology. This approach allows him to have a recurring income stream without making real estate his full-time occupation.

  2. Lifestyle Changes for Property Savings: McGlown's journey began with aggressive savings to fund his investment property. Having prior experience paying down significant student loans, he applied frugal living strategies to accumulate the necessary funds. This underscores the importance of financial discipline and strategic planning when preparing for real estate investments.

  3. Education on Financing Options: McGlown utilized free and inexpensive resources, particularly mentioning Bigger Pockets, to educate himself on real estate investing. The article highlights his initial hesitation towards taking on debt but ultimately realizing the benefits of leverage. Learning about financing options and understanding the role of leverage is crucial for prospective real estate investors.

  4. Decision on Financing vs. Cash Purchase: The article discusses McGlown's internal debate on whether to finance the property or buy it in cash. His parents' advice on "cash is king" initially influenced him, but after evaluating the numbers, he chose financing. This decision allowed him to start sooner and leverage the property for greater returns over time.

  5. Choosing a Turnkey Property: McGlown opted to pay more upfront for a turnkey property in a desirable location, aiming for minimal risk and maximum rental potential. He prioritized location and property value appreciation over getting a bargain deal. This aligns with the strategy of investing in properties that are likely to attract tenants and appreciate in value.

  6. Working with a Mortgage Broker: To secure favorable financing terms, McGlown sought the assistance of a mortgage broker. This decision proved beneficial as the broker identified better opportunities than what he found independently. The article suggests that working with a mortgage broker can be a worthwhile investment for real estate investors.

  7. Outsourcing Property Management: McGlown's goal was to keep his real estate investment as passive as possible. To achieve this, he hired a property manager to handle tenant issues and ensure smooth operations. Outsourcing property management is a common strategy among investors to reduce their involvement in day-to-day property affairs.

  8. Financials and Return on Investment: The article provides insights into McGlown's financials, stating that he pays around $1,600 monthly for mortgage, property manager fees, and insurance. However, he generates $2,600 in monthly rent, resulting in an annual passive income of $12,000. This showcases the financial viability and returns associated with his real estate investment.

In conclusion, C.J. McGlown's success story in real estate investing demonstrates the importance of strategic planning, financial discipline, and leveraging resources to build passive income streams while pursuing personal passions. The outlined concepts serve as valuable guidance for individuals considering or already engaged in real estate investments.

3 steps to earn passive income from real estate, according to a 29-year-old who did it (2024)
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