In my Investor Profile Series, I use a question & answer format to share the stories of actual real estate investors at different stages of their investing careers.
This interview is with Travis Dodge from Oakland, California. I’ve gotten to know Travis during a mastermind group I organized and inside my online course/community Real Estate Deal School.
In this podcast and blog interview, you’ll learn how Travis got started investing in California and then pivoted to begin buying properties across the country in another market. It hasn’t all been easy, so you’ll also hear some of the struggles he’s had finding the right market, building a team, and more.
Travis, take it away!
Listen to the Podcast Here:
Watch on YouTube:
Age (and your spouse/partner’s age, if applicable)
42 / Wife’s 47
Do you have kids? (if so, how old are they?)
2 Kids — Sofia (12) and Eli (9)
What area of the country do you live in (& urban or rural)?
Oakland, California (Urban)
Career/Source of regular income (and non-income producing careers like stay at home parents or volunteers count just as much or more around here!)
Wife works for the Oakland Unified School District in their PR/Communications department
What hobbies do you enjoy? What do you do for fun?
Riding my bike, road trips, travel, collecting cards, fantasy football, attending sports events, geeking out on UNC Basketball.
[Chad: We need to get together and ride bikes! My Clemson Tigers basketball team actually beat UNC AT Chapel Hill not to long ago. Just had to get that one in:)]
A fun/interesting/little known fact about you?
I just celebrated 14 years of sobriety – not really a fun fact but important to my growth.
[Chad: Thanks for sharing this, Travis. The real estate and personal growth journey are so intertwined, and it’s inspiring to know you took some tough steps that helped you grow as a person.]
1. Wealth Stage
How long ago did you begin investing in real estate?
I bought my first rental a little over 2 years ago.
What was your wealth stage when you began investing in real estate? (I define wealth stages as 1. Survival 2. Stability 3. Saver 4. Growth 5. Income/Withdrawal. See this article for further explanation. It’s ok to make a rough guess here.)
Has your wealth stage changed since starting investing in real estate? If so, what is it now?
Not so much but I’m starting to think a lot more about the Income/Withdrawal stage so maybe yes (?)
[Chad: Although I talk about these stages as distinct, lines are definitely fuzzy. For example, I continue to focus on growing my portfolio, but the overriding priority is wealth preservation and income, the hallmarks of the Income/Withdrawal Stage. And many people in the growth stage similarly start “taking some chips off the table” by trying to focus on income and safety in a part of their portfolio while the rest of it they leave in more aggressive growth vehicles.]
2. Real Estate Investing Strategy
What was the primary real estate investing strategy that you used to get started?
I started off as a long-term buy-and-hold investor and continue to be.
Has your strategy changed since then? If so, what is it now?
My primary strategy hasn’t changed but I’ve used the BRRR strategy and am open to others if it makes sense on that particular deal.
[Chad: I like how you said you’re open to other strategies if they make sense. We all benefit from the focus of concentrating on a particular strategy, but it’s a balance to also be open to new opportunities that arise. I’ve had to pivot several times over the last 18 years and some of the new directions just came from paying attention to what was working or not working at any particular time.]
3. Target Investing Market
What regional market do you invest in? Why did you choose it?
I first started investing in Vallejo, Ca — about 20 minutes North of Oakland. At the time, Vallejo was much cheaper than Oakland or other Bay Area markets but still achieved high rents. Chattanooga, TN is another market I invest in. I love the long-term potential of Chattanooga (and affordability).
Do you have a particular sub-market or neighborhood where you like to invest within your market? Why do you like it?
I like the older, South-Vallejo area — charming, single-family homes and tree-lined streets. In Chattanooga, all my properties are in the East Brainerd or Brainerd Hills area but I’m also looking in downtown.
Have you chosen a particular real estate investing niche to focus on, like a type of property (ex: single family houses), a certain price range (like A, B, C, or D properties), or a type of end customer (ex: student rentals)? If so, why?
All my homes are single-family homes or townhouses. Multi-Family and Industrial are other property types that I plan on investing in.
[Chad: I know a lot of Travis’ story behind the scenes since we did a mastermind together in 2020, so it’s been fun to watch him find his target market. I definitely recommend listening to the podcast interview to hear how many zig-zags and frustrations Travis had to endure (and most of us have to endure) before finally finding a location that made sense.]
4. Investment Property Criteria
What formula or numbers do you use to decide if a deal is a good one?
Cash on Cash is a big one for me. If I can get close to 10% cash-on-cash, I’m happy. Of course, you have to look at the cap rates.
[Chad: Nice and simple. I like it. or more on this topic here’s my article about how to run the numbers]
5. Your Team
Do you have any “inner circle” team members like a spouse, business partner, or mentor? If so, how have they helped you to get started?
In Northern California, I have a real estate agent, mortgage broker, business partner, and contractor. All it took was one call to my agent and we closed on a property a few months later. My business partner and contractor were also a huge part of our first deal as they did a lot of the rehab.
In Chattanooga, I have an agent, mortgage broker, and property manager —- although I might be switching up my PM pretty soon. My mortgage broker introduced me to my real estate agent, who brought my last 3 deals to me.
What other team members have been crucial to help you get started?
Chad – you’ve been a big help along the way – as well as our mastermind group.
[Chad: Thanks Travis! That means a lot. It’s been fun to watch you grow and build this business from across the country.]
6. Financing & Cash
What type of financing did you use for your first deal (or deals)? And was it difficult to obtain this financing?
Traditional financing with the help of a mortgage broker. Not difficult at all.
[Chad: This is a great example of playing to your strengths. Travis is a busy guy with a full-time job, which makes carving out time for his investing tough. But he does make good income from that job and has good credit, so traditional loans are easier to get. This is when you go for it and try to get as many of those long-term, low-interest loans as possible before you hit your max at 5 to 10 loans.]
Do you plan to continue using this financing in the future? If no, what financing is next? Why?
Probably, but I’m sure there I’ll tap into private or seller financing at some point.
Where did you get the cash for your first down payment, fix-up money, and reserves? How much did you need to raise?
I got the cash from savings. I have a business partner and we put in 70K each (Down payment and rehab). 6 months later, we refinanced and bought our 2nd rental using the cash from the 1st property.
[Chad: Saving money. Not sexy, but critical!]
7. Deal Finding
How did you find your first deal(s)? What was the owner’s situation that motivated them to sell?
My agent brought it to us. The seller was an elderly lady who lived there for several years and was transitioning into a nursing care facility.
Did you try any deal-finding strategies that didn’t work?
Not really. Our search was pretty traditional. Our agent knows the area well and brought us any deals he thought were worth looking at.
How many potential properties did you look at and/or make offers on before buying your first deal?
We submitted only 2 offers before closing on our first property.
[Chad: It doesn’t always work this easily! But I’m happy it did for Travis in this case. I’ve had other students who made 10-20 offers before finally getting one that worked.]
Your First Real Estate Deal
What were the basic numbers like purchase price, remodel costs, rent, resale price (if applicable)?
Purchase Price: 315K
Remodel Cost: 70K — added a bathroom, new plumbing, electrical, upgraded kitchen.
What were the biggest struggles and challenges on the way to your first deal?
We greatly underestimated what our rehab would cost — and how much time it would involve. My business partner and I (who’s a childhood friend) also had to have some difficult conversations about involvement and contributions. Finding a tenant was also a little stressful even though we found renters within 2 weeks.
What has been the overall effect of this deal on your life? Lessons learned?
It gave me a ton of confidence to execute a deal, rehab a property, and find a tenant. It also motivated me to find better deals. As for lessons learned, I would have looked harder at the numbers before purchasing the property. I would have looked harder at the rehab and gotten a few more estimates. I now understand how clear my partner and I have to be about expectations and roles. The more communication the better if you have a team.
[Chad: This to me is a good example of a single to get you started. It’s not a home run in the SHORT run in terms of your cash on cash return criteria. But it’s a good location and could make you a lot of wealth over the long-run. Just a different strategy.]
Final Tips & Recommendations
What books, blogs, podcasts, and/or YouTube channels have helped you to get started or do you just find extremely valuable? (Can be categories in business, investing, or life/philosophy – other than a sacred book)
Up until I turned 28, I had zero financial education. I routinely was in debt, moved from job to job, and had no savings to my name. I didn’t know what an index fund was and really didn’t understand stocks.
The first book that taught me the basics was Personal Finance For Dummies. No joke. From there, I read a lot of personal finance/real estate stuff. Below is some of what inspired me (other than Coach Carson’s book of course):
[Chad: Great list Travis! It’s amazing how you just started educating yourself in the world of books and podcasts until you were more confident and had a strategy.]
Any big mistakes you’ve made that others should avoid?
Interview multiple property manager candidates — not just one. I’d recommend buying a turn-key property on your first rental. Run your numbers. Get multiple rehab estimates.
Anything else you’d like other current or aspiring real estate investors to know?
Real estate investing is not passive. It will take a lot of work to research, execute and manage properties (even with a manager). Stay organized with accounting and paperwork. Know your numbers. Know what income is coming in and what money is going out.
If you’re sitting on the sidelines thinking about investing in real estate, I’d say stop overthinking it and just do it. You’re perfectly capable of investing. Although it takes some research, it’s not rocket science.
[Chad: Thank you Travis for this awesome blog and podcast interview! I can’t wait to see where the next steps of your financial journey will lead you!]
If you have any questions or comments for Travis, please leave them below
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