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Hacking rental portfolio to $20k MRR in just 15 months while doing a full-time job! AMA

My last post was 4 years ago and I was making $0 while full-time indie hacking.

I am now making $4k/month in profit without doing any work and the best part is this number will increase on its own!

I want to share my story because I believe it's unique and reflects that indie hacker is a mindset more than anything.

Out of college, I had no coding skills. I started working at a startup that grew really fast from 30 employees to 5000 in the 6 years I was there.

Was very close with the owners and I could have lived a happy and easy life forever.

However, as you might guess Indiehacker in me was not happy. I was stagnant!

More than money, I have always wanted the freedom to do my own thing. I have a million interests I want to pursue

Long story short, I quit a $200k/year job to start my startup in healthcare. Joined Techstars and learned a lot from the mentors especially the power of talking about the business before building the product and business.

6 months later my co-founder who was the tech guy decided to quit on me.

Back to ground zero and here comes the flood of regret of leaving my job + other all accompanying negative emotions of fear, self-doubt, etc

This was 2015 and I felt the lowest of lows!

This is when my life started pivoting. I got into morning routines, spirituality, discipline, which set the foundation of what was to unfold the next few years.

This also gave me the courage to decide I am not going to give up and started looking at the long game!

Now, I could go back to the corporate or learn coding!

Of course, joined a coding Bootcamp and started working on a travel app for detail-oriented travel planners.

I hustled out for a year and a half and learned everything in the full stack + more.

Made terrible decisions along the way and also forgot about the lessons from the mentors at Techstars to validate and sell your idea before building it.

The arrogance to think I knew more than the users about their needs led me astray.

I folded finally because I failed in execution. I wanted to build everything for the launch but failed flat.

I learned the importance of feedback loops and building with the users with super fast releases.

Money had run out so I had to join the corporate world again and man, did I hate it!

A year into my first job, Mckinsey reached out and I decided to give it a shot because I lacked the business and strategy knowledge and I could learn a lot!

After 13 or 14 grueling rounds, I got in. Immediately realized I was different in my attitude around problem-solving and solution-finding. I used the scrappy and lean approaches from the startup and indie hacking days and mixed them with big strategic thinking from the management consulting world to deliver successful outcomes.

Also started forming my own framework around critical thinking and problem-solving to move really fast with my decisions.

Meanwhile, met a friend who left his software engineering job and was flying planes, climbing mountains, spending time with the family, and whatnot with a lot of free time on his hands.

And he made his money through real estate investing on the side in around 5 or 6 years.

I got intrigued and the indie hacker started waking up again.

After a year of research, I found the RE space to be archaic and slow and realized there was an opportunity for me to use my coding skills to gain a competitive advantage.

Also, one major insight for me was that unlike startups or some other side projects, the gratification wasn't delayed. It was instant - What you put in is what you get out especially in terms of financial rewards and that mailbox money is instant motivation to keep going.

Not to mention the power of leverage and equity build-up from the principal paydown

I had saved up some money from my years of corporate gigs, so at the start of 2019, I looked at the census data and some other data sets and created a data product using Jupyter notebook and python for myself to find submarkets with tremendous growth potential.

The was the first application of that hacker mentality but now armed as well with the skills from those coding years back in 2015.

Then I used my Mckinsey skills to define a strategy using business frameworks like 5C's, SWOT, Porter's forces, etc, and also created a risk mitigation framework.

After I found the market, I started looking for specific properties that fit my strategy and goals.

I was spending hours every week analyzing different properties and there was not a single tool I could find that would optimize my workflow so again I used my indie hacking skills to create a chrome extension, which would scrape the data from the listing and tell me the return based on pre-defined calculations while I am checking out the listing.

That unlocked efficiency by 80%. I was spending 10 hrs a week and with the extension, it was only 2 hrs a week.

Also helped me move really quickly on my offers which sellers loved.

2nd application!

In Dec 2019 I bought a duplex with those tools in place, then bought 20 more units in 2020, while the market was really hard and good deals were almost impossible to come by.

Along the way, I used more coding and integration tools to automate my workflows to spend less and less time in finding deals and turning them over.

In March of 2021, I started realizing the management of the units and tenants was sucking a lot of my time especially the leasing of the units.

It would take weeks in coordination with prospects and being physically present for every showing.

Products on the market were not solving this unmet need and I had 22 units to manage at this point.

Decided to problem-solve again and use technology and ended up building a self-showing system where I didn't have to be present for the showings.

System involved using Zapier + Google Sheets + Google Forms + Typeform + Calendly integration + smart lockbox APIs

Now my vacancies get filled in just a few days.

After infusing value at every step of the deal and management cycle through my hacks, I now only spend single-digit hours, and that too only towards acquiring more properties.

I have reached this inflection point on the S curve where I can accelerate exponentially from here on using my current systems to fill more gaps in the traditional mom/pop industry and heck, maybe just blow them out to be real products.

Though, I don't know if I want to frankly even grow, because I am loving every day. If I am making enough for my survival needs plus extra cushion then I just want to be able to have the freedom of time more than anything.

One big realization for me was that if I don't have to have all the time and money to be able to give back at scale. I can do so with the ecosystem of information sharing we have around us.

So nowadays I only take mission-driven projects at my W2 and started sharing my playbooks at https://rehacks.io/ to help folks who might have similar goals as me.

I have folks who work in the building I live in and don't possess the indie hacking skills but have the full mindset to go for their dreams. I am teaching them and the hope and happiness they show is all the gratification for me.

I wanted to share this story with everyone because I feel like indie hacking doesn't mean one has to build that one thing and make it profitable and then grow it.

It's the innate attitude to tackle everything life throws in front of us and that is what is going to get us to our goals.

I didn't have that when Courtland started this site and when I was fully indie hacking and it might even be presumptuous of me to think that there are others in the same boat and this might all sound like a cliched story of never giving up but hope it's educational and motivational especially for the folks who feel they are in the flux like I was!

Once an indiehacker always an indiehacker!

Thanks all!

  1. 3

    Once an indiehacker always an indiehacker!

  2. 2

    Whats the chrome extension you built yourself? Sounds like that entails a lot of value on its own for others to use

    1. 2

      Hey @IronBrands. I use it locally for now - Haven't made it public, but I agree it has decent value because there is an unmet need out there.

      It just scrapes few numbers from the listings on Zillow, Redfin and Realtor and runs them through a calculator to spit out the cash on cash return number. If COC looks decent, only then do I do further diligence. It was pain staking to manually enter numbers in an excel model to understand the returns. I had to go back and forth between the site and the excel model for every property that showed up that day.

      Hope that helps!

  3. 1

    Nice read! Is it fully passive though?

    My understanding is that you still need to do inspections before buying, secure the financing and then get tenants in the property(although you wrote you decided to semi automate the last part).

    What about the deposits to secure the financing? If each property cost an average of $USD400K, then you need to put down $USD100K deposit for each new property.

    If you do buy 40 new units you ll have to put down an incredible amount of money as deposits.

    Finally what about the number of mortgages? My understanding is that banks become reluctant to lend you money if you already have 5 -10 mortgages? How do you get past that limit?

    Thanks for your time in advance.

    1. 1

      Hey @RandomSupernova78. Great questions!

      What I am making from my current portfolio is fully passive. If I want to acquire more, yes I will have to go through inspections and financing work but that too is semi- automated because of my relationships with the inspectors and the lenders. Google Tables kicks off my workflow so I am just overseeing!.

      I started with $150k-$175k capital for downpayments so that helped me kick start. And then I started using my knowledge and systems to work with capital partners - all close friends who wanted to diversity and get into real estate investing. Here is a post explaining my deal structures-> https://rehacks.io/blog/how-to-structure-a-rental-property-deal-with-a-partner-providing-the-capital

      I also carefully chose my market with cash flow and high growth so in few months I'll be able to pull out my money through cash-out refinancing strategy so scale is very achievable. The sticker price is around $100k to $140k for these properties btw!

      I am also getting into value add projects and currently hacking a workflow to find distressed properties that need work and the seller would rather sell. When I get any leads, I'll be able to pull all my money out in 3 months and still own the property so almost infinite return! Plus I can keep recycling my capital into new projects.

      If you get loans in your personal name then there is a limit of 10 loans. If you get an LLC loan, then it doesn't show up on your credit so you can keep getting them without it affecting your DTI ratio. You would have to give a personal guarantee though.

      Hope this helps!

      1. 1

        First thanks for your reply.
        I understand your strategy now. Thanks for the link.

        As an Australian its very hard to imagine paying 100K to 140K for a single property. At the moment the Australian property market is just off the charts.

        100k would not buy you a shed in middle the desert!

        Thanks for the explanation regarding the loans. I wish I was in the US so I could get in this market!

        1. 1

          US Rental market is very unique with strategic flexibility and higher rent to value ratios. In some markets, I can essentially get 1% of the property price in rents!

          Good Luck!

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