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When we ask people how they want to make money while traveling, one idea always comes up: making passive income through real estate investments.
IT’S THE DREAM.
You only work a few hours, you have a property to come back to when you’re done traveling, and real estate is a great way to diversify your portfolio. It’s a no brainer.
But it’s also a completely daunting and intimidating prospect.
You have to buy a house.
Get it ready for tenants.
And then let strangers live in it.
Heath and I have wanted to get into real estate investing for years, but the magnitude and upfront costs always scared us off. So today we’re interviewing realtor Jordan Knoll on her experience renting and managing seven rental properties (while she was RVing in Mexico, no less!).
Listen to the interview:
Before we get into this article, today’s interview was sponsored by AirSkirts. Airskirts are inflatable skirting for your RV so you can travel in extreme temperatures without bursting your plumbing. They keep your RV insulated to save on heating and cooling costs and are built to outlast your RV. (Yep if you buy a new RV, the skirt can come with you!)
Use the code REF25 for $50 off your purchase.
Jordan and her husband, Ian, wanted to travel more and their jobs were really getting in the way. They didn’t hate their jobs; they just wanted to live a travel lifestyle.
So they decided to figure out a way to build up sustainable income and free up their time for travel.
Jordan binged podcasts on travel, retiring early, and financial freedom and found that they all shared one common secret to making money: passive income through real estate investments.
After deciding this was the fastest track to attaining the full-time travel lifestyle they dreamed of for so long, Jordan got her realtor’s license and quit her sales job. Real estate investing was going to be the sustainable income stream that allowed them to travel without working too many hours.
Let’s dive into some of Jordan’s biggest tips for making passive income through real estate.
How do you buy your first rental property?
According to Jordan, there are a few options you can take.
You can pay off the property in full if you have cash on hand. Jordan did this with a cheaper home in a risky neighborhood where they weren’t sure if they could rent the property.
Or you can get a conventional loan and put 10-15% down (whatever your bank is requiring).
Or you can buy a multi-family unit, live in one unit, and rent out the rest. This is a good strategy to have a place to “live for free.”
(Those are just Jordan’s favorite options, but other real estate investors have tried other options!)
Typically though, Jordan looks for cheap houses (under $100K if possible) and runs the numbers on three things:
- What will the value of this property be after a rehab?
- How much will it cost to renovate and fix up this house?
- How much can I charge in rent once it’s fixed?
Let’s look at this in practice.
How much money can a rental property earn?
Jordan’s latest real estate deal looked a little something like this:
They bought a duplex for $215,000 and put 15% down. They could’ve put down more or less but after running the numbers, 15% gave them the best rates.
Each side is currently 2 beds, 1 bath. But while they live on one side, they are renovating the other to be 4 beds, 2 baths. When that side is done, they’ll move to the finished side, and rehab the other side to the same specs.
By doubling the bedrooms and bathrooms, they are effectively doubling what they can charge for rent (estimated around $4,000 in rent total in her area). Fortunately for Jordan, rents are on the rise in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Buying a house for $215K is double what Jordan likes to pay, but because she ran the numbers and figured out how to double the rent, she can create a solid cash flow for her investment.
The best way to save money on renovating an investment property
The biggest variable with the numbers Jordan is running is the renovation. How can you fix up a house for as little as possible?
Also known as good ole DIY, do-it-yourself.
Contractors are expensive, but a rehab presents costs that you can control.
Refinishes hardwood floors.
Learning these skills saves thousands of dollars and “gave us five extra years,” says Jordan. Saving that money now only increases their runway.
(Plus, this is a great active project to do with your spouse…or might cause you to need some marriage counseling. It could go either way!)
Long-term vs. Short-term Rentals
Government regulations can heavily dictate which type of real estate investment you pursue. But location plays a big factor too.
Erez (episode 206) runs multiple Airbnb rentals in Destin, Florida. Destin is a huge tourist destination year-round because of its sunny beaches, so he can make way more with short-term vacation rentals than long-term rentals. (Highly recommend listening to his episode for resources on running an Airbnb while traveling.)
But Grand Rapids isn’t a major tourist destination, the local government has more regulations around short-term rentals, and according to Jordan, long-term rentals are just less work.
“Once we get someone sign on a lease, get them moved in and comfortable, we barely hear from them for an entire year. Whereas if you have a vacation rental, yes, you might have a potential for more income. But it’s a lot more variable,” says Jordan.
Plus short-term rentals have more overheard. You have to furnish the unit, pay for utilities and wifi, clean linens, and (maybe) pay a manager or management company.
There are pros and cons to both, but Jordan thinks long-term is the way to go if your goal is passive income and freedom while traveling.
What if I have a bad tenant?
And where do you even find tenants?
“Facebook marketplace,” says Jordan. It’s free to post listings on Facebook and she invests in professional photos of each property to attract the right type of tenants. (Zillow used to be a good place to post too, but they are started to charge landlords for postings.)
You can also connect with your local rental owner’s association for tips on how to be a landlord. This is where Jordan gets all of her lease documents (which are prepared by a lawyer) that will protect her and her properties.
What does managing a rental property from the road look like?
Some months, Jordan works only 30 minutes (total!) managing her rental properties with a little help from automation.
Cozy.co is a free resource for managing rental properties. It’s where tenants apply and where they pay rent (and they can split rent among roommates). It’s where the lease is saved. And it’s the whole reason why Jordan can travel full-time and not worry about actively managing rental properties. Everything is automated to work on its own.
(They also have great free resources on how to get started with a rental property!)
Sometimes, issues with houses crop up.
Like when a furnace went out on new year’s eve and needed to be fixed immediately or risk busted pipes from freezing temperatures.
In the lease agreement (and in Cozy, since the lease can be easily reviewed there), Jordan outlines what tenants should do in these situations and who they should call if Jordan is 3,000 miles away camping on a beach in Mexico.
But in six months on the road, Jordan only got one call for home repairs. The refrigerator lightbulb went out and needed replacing. It took five minutes to order the bulb on Amazon and ship it to the house and the tenant replaced the bulb two days later.
Do you need a realtor’s license to invest in real estate?
Jordan does have her license. “It has afforded us a lot more insider knowledge,” she says. But it’s definitely not a requirement. In Michigan, becoming a realtor took 40 hours and $250 to work through the course. (Plus $80 to take the licensing exam.)
Early on, it helped get her plugged into the community and learn the ropes of real estate investing that much faster.
If you find a realtor you like who understands the strategies behind real estate investing, you definitely don’t need to get your own license.
Jordan’s Advice to Anyone Getting into Real Estate Investing
Don’t try to this alone.
(This is really great advice for any entrepreneur and something we talk about in our RV Entrepreneur course!)
When you can surround yourself with people pursuing the same goal as you or who have the skills you’re trying to learn, you can get yourself to where you want to be so much faster. Progress was slow going for Jordan at first. After getting her realtor’s license and getting plugged into the community, she and Ian moved with more confidence and support.
How can you get plugged into the rental community?
- Join Bigger Pockets (free) to connect with local realtors and investors
- Join your local rental owner’s association
- Go to networking events (when possible)
- Interview property management companies (even if you don’t plan on hiring them!)
What’s the ultimate goal with real estate investing?
Maybe it’s selling the homes.
Maybe it’s passive monthly income.
Or maybe it’s paying down mortgages to increase cash flow to grow your savings.
For travelers like Jordan and Ian, the answer is freedom. How can they set themselves up to retire early and be free to travel the world? They are currently at max capacity managing seven rental properties and are focusing more on improving those existing properties to maximize income instead of acquiring more properties which takes more time.
Jordan, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us!
Will you dive into real estate investing after hearing Jordan’s story? Let us know in the comments!