On this episode of Secrets to Real Estate Investing by House Flip Master host Holly McKhann is joined by Thom Gilbert. Thom graduated college 15 and a half years ago at the age of 23; shortly after he moved to Lake Tahoe where he worked at a ski resort. On Christmas Eve, 2001, Thom was enjoying the beautiful day and the fresh snow with his younger brother. The brothers decided to take one last run in the snowboard park before before calling it a day. Thom had been skiing and snowboarding for several years and at that time he says he just made a bad judgement call by not checking out the jump closely and assuming that it was the same as the year before because it looked the same. Thom says that he took the jump at full speed and when he hit the divot that was made at the end of the jump from other snowboarders he flew ‘superman’ style into the air and landed on his neck and shoulders. Thom says that the impact of the jump causes his legs to basically end up at his chest. Thankfully he was close to the ski lift and ski patrol and they were able to assist him immediately. The ski patrol came to help Thom and after removing his snowboard they asked him to move his toes. It was in that moment Thom says that he realized the magnitude of what had happened to him. Thom recalls not being able to move anything and was airlifted to Reno so that he could receive medical attention. Thom shares that he was diagnosed with an incomplete spinal injury and he had to undergo surgery.
At the age of 23, Thom’s life was turned upside down; his doctor told him that he would no longer be able to have kids and would have to learn to live his life in a wheelchair because he would probably not be able to walk again. Thom shares that after his accident he had tremendous support from family and friends who helped with medical bills and physical therapy. Once Thom felt confident enough to be on his own again he moved to Oregon where he pursued a masters degree. Thom says that while he was in Oregon he used that time to figure out who he was after this accident and that is also where he met his wife and where they had their first child - both Thom and his wife were told they couldn’t have children but were blessed with two children!
After Thom graduated with his masters degree he landed a job in the Bay Area with a startup company that ended up closing up shop after just 8 months. Thom found himself looking for a job which is what led him to the San Diego area. Thom found a great job and was there for several years, he was promoted and received raises during his time there but on his final review he was given more responsibilities but was no longer receiving additional income because he was capped out on his salary with the company. The lack of additional income but added responsibility are the factors that Thom said led him to start his real estate investing journey.
Thom said that before he even knew he was going to do real estate he said that he read a book that he claims planted the real estate seed even before he knew he was going to become a real estate investor. Thom says that he grew up doing a lot of physical labor because his dad was a contractor. Thom shares that he knew he didn’t want to do physical labor his entire life which is why he pursued an education.
Holly asks Thom if he decided to get educated on real estate before or after his corporate job; Thom shares that he started doing it while he was still working. He says that he got up earlier each day and would eat his lunch on his breaks from work and he would make phone calls on his longer lunch. Thom says that he says a friend told him to just do one thing everyday because after 100 days you will still have completed 100 things. Thom shares that he knew that he needed to be patient and focused on what he was learning and trying to put in place. He shares that he took advantage of his corporate job and steady income to learn the business and to gain confidence while also building passive income.
Thom focuses his deals in Central California and Holly asks how he was able to do that while he was working because his deals were 5 to 7 hours away from his residence in San Diego, California. Thom shares that he would go to his deals on the weekends and would check out a lot of properties online through the MLS because he did have a job to maintain during the week. Holly asks Thom to share what he started out doing when he started his real estate journey. Thom shares that he has been doing real estate for 5 years and during that time he started with buy and holds and moved to rental properties. Thom mentions that he’s done fix and flips, as well as created notes but he mostly did buy and holds during the beginning of his real estate journey.
Holly asks how the transition worked from Thom before he was able to quit his job. Thom says the plan was to quit his job in 3 years but ended up holding on for another year because he needed to try and refinance a few of his properties but they had too much debt to income and they weren’t able to refinance the homes. Thom was getting frustrated with the refinancing and also with his job and he knew that it was time to jump. He said that he knew worst case they could sell the properties that they had and use that income to get what they needed. Thom knew that he needed to quit because he felt like a double agent he was doing his corporate job but the entire time he was there he was thinking about real estate and freedom. Thom shares that he didn’t want to have to ask permission to hang out with his kids and his wife; he wanted more, he wanted the freedom that real estate investing offered. Thom says that his accident really opened his eyes and showed him what was important in his life. He says that real estate has allowed him to get his time back; it allows him to create memories with the people that he loves. Thom agrees with Holly that he is not looking to create a machine and manage other people with his real estate business, he just wants to build freedom for him and his family.
Holly asks Thom to share a great deal and a not so great deal with listeners. Thom says that some of the great deals that he has had are the deals that he has bought and help because of the rising value of the homes. Thom shares that refinancing properties is a great way to get extra money to put to use.
Holly asks Thom to share with listeners advice that he has for those who are looking to get out of their backyard when they are purchasing and looking for people to manage their properties. Thom says that he had to create a team and get a property manager to take care of his remote properties so that he doesn’t have to go back and forth between his home and his remote locations. Thom says that he lets the property managers do their job and he works to manage the property managers. He advises that you test out several property managers and don’t be afraid to end the business with them just because you’ve built a relationship with them because at the end of the day they are helping your business run correctly and in the most profitable way possible. Thom says that it’s also great to network with landlords so that you can find more properties and realtors who can help you find properties. Thom says that landlords are the best source because they understand the game and they are eager and willing to help you start off your business.
Thom has created a downloadable resource for listeners of the questions that he asks landlords and property mangers when he is vetting the people he is considering to keep on his team. Simply fill in your information to get this free download.