Last Updated on June 15, 2020 by Mark Ferguson
I wrote a plan in 2013 outlining my goal to buy 100 rental properties. I created this plan because I wanted a huge goal that would push and motivate me. I have not come close to reaching that goal, mostly because I stopped buying houses when the market increased so much in Colorado. In 2017, I started buying commercial real estate. While I have only bought 26 rentals up to this point, one of those rentals has 68,000 square feet, and I think counts for more than a house or two!
When I wrote out my plan to purchase 100 rentals, it came from my barely legible notebooks that worked out how much cash flow and net worth I would have each year when buying these properties. Those writings, while cumbersome, were incredibly motivating and implanted that goal in my head. I have not written out anything that detailed in many years, and I thought it would be fun to try it out with a new goal. After having success with commercial real estate, I have decided I want to buy 1,000,000 square feet of rental properties by 2029.
Why set a ten-year goal?
I hate to admit this or even think about it, but I turn 50 in 2029. I turned 40 this year, and that was crazy, but I know I can’t do anything about that. If I am going to be that old, I might as well make a pretty awesome goal to go along with it! That is also about ten years from now, which is a great time frame for a long-term goal.
I like to have short- and long-term goals. Long-term goals often set the path for the short term goals and give me a clear idea of what I am shooting for. The long ten-year plan gives me an idea of what I need to do each year, my yearly goals give me an idea of what I need to do each month, and my monthly goals give me an idea of what I need to do each week.
I love looking at the big picture because if I tell myself what I want in the future and what I want my life to look like, I have a much better shot of living how I want to live. If you have no idea what you are doing in life, it is very hard to get what you want! I can guarantee you will achieve your ideas, but that may not be what you want from life. A long-term plan gives you a road map for your life.
It is okay if your life does not go exactly as planned—there will be roadblocks and detours—but you are so much better off starting with a plan than randomly doing things and hoping it works out. My plan to buy 100 houses has not worked out exactly as I thought it would, but it still helped me tremendously, and I know I have done much more because of that plan than I would without it.
How many rentals and how much square footage do I have now?
I just bought my 26th rental property, which is a mixed-use property with a 2,600 square foot commercial building and three houses that total about 2,500 square feet. I had about 118,000 square feet of rentals before this purchase, but I also used a 1031 exchange to buy this property and in the process sold a 1,600 square foot house. I gained 5,100 square feet and lost 1,600 for a gain of 3,500 square feet. I now have 121,500 square feet of rentals.
I know you may be thinking that it is going to take me a very long time to get to one million square feet of rentals at this pace! However, I bought three other buildings this year that were 10,500, 1,600, and 2,500 square feet. I ended up buying 19,700 square feet this year and selling about 3,000 square feet since I 1031 exchanged another rental as well. Last year, I bought two rentals with 69,000 square feet.
It will take 878,500 square feet more in rentals to reach my goal! That seems crazy to me now, but many of the things I have accomplished so far would seem crazy to me ten years ago. You can see all of my rentals here.
How do you work a goal backward?
I need one million square feet total and 878,500 square feet more. That seems like a crazy number, and it is hard to visualize that goal with such big numbers. How can you possibly work towards something like that? You have to work it backward. I have 9 years to complete this goal, so I would need:
- 97,600 square feet each of the next 9 years.
- 24,400 square feet each quarter.
- 8,100 square feet each month.
That is still a lot of square footage to buy each month and year! However, I do not have to buy the same amount each year. I assume things will continue to get better, and I will learn more each year. I can start out buying less square footage and increase what I buy every year.
I could buy 50,000 square feet in 2020 and then up that amount each year:
- 2020: buy 50k square feet
- 2021: buy 70k square feet
- 2022: buy 90k square feet
- 2023: buy 110k square feet
- 2024: buy 130k square feet
- 2025: buy 150k square feet
- 2026: buy 170k square feet
- 2027: buy 190k square feet
- 2028: buy 210k square feet
- 2029: I am good
If you add all of those up, I have just purchased 1,170,000 square feet, and I only needed 878,500. I can reduce those numbers by almost 300k and still reach my goal. Now things are looking much more attainable, and I even stopped buying before 2029!
I have a brand new book that is all about commercial real estate. Build a Commercial Rental Property Empire. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I go over all the details of investing in the commercial business and include 10 case studies on my own properties. You can get the book on Amazon.
Why do I like commercial rental properties?
I started out buying single-family properties, and they were very good to me. I made money each month, built equity as soon as I bought them because I always got an awesome deal, and gained even more equity thanks to a great market in Colorado. However, I could no longer buy great rentals in Colorado after 2015. Prices were too high and the rents too low.
I thought about buying in different markets, but buying out of state is very difficult. Then, I discovered commercial real estate in my market. I could buy cheaper properties with higher rents. I also like the fact that most of the tenants are more stable. They tend to stay in the same property for years. They also tend to have less drama and take care of the place better.
There are downsides to commercial rentals: the taxes are higher, and it takes longer to find a tenant. It can also be harder to rent them out in a down market. However, there is tremendous potential to add value with commercial properties, and you do not have to count on the market appreciating. On one of my commercial properties, we added almost $2,000,000 in value in less than 2 years.
We bought the property for $2,100,000 in February of 2018. It was a 68,000-square-foot strip mall with a grocery store, a restaurant, a coffee shop, and some vacant spaces. We were able to manage the property better and add two tenants. In late 2019, the property appraised for $3,950,000! We can refinance the property and take out almost $1,500,000 in cash tax-free.
That deal was like doing 20 single-family rentals, and it is much easier to handle than 20 properties. I am not saying that commercial is always better than single-family homes, but at this point in my career, it is better for me. If you are just starting out, there is nothing wrong with starting small, and it is most likely a better choice as it is not easy to jump into big commercial deals. You can even start with small commercial deals as my first commercial rental was a 900-square-foot shop that I bought for $72,000.
You can see the video of the big property below:
Why make the goal 1,000,000 square feet?
I have mentioned this goal on the InvestFourMore Instagram page a few times, and many people comment that it seems like a strange goal. Why one million square feet? What does that even mean? I agree it is a little strange as I could buy 1,000,000 square feet of junk somewhere that makes no money. However, I love this goal for a few reasons:
- It is exciting to think about 1 million square feet. I love goals that excite me because they stick in my mind, and I constantly think about them.
- This goal is easy to measure. I will know for sure whether I hit this goal or not and how I am doing along the way.
- The goal is great for marketing. Yes, I sell books and coaching and love to promote this website. This goal gets people talking and is a real attention grabber.
- I have always been very good about only buying deals that are home runs. I very rarely buy a rental that won’t make money and be a good investment. I know that I won’t buy a bunch of junk to hit this goal.
- I will have to work very hard to reach this goal because it is so big and challenging. This goal should help my business tremendously.
I love big goals and goals that are exciting. The best goal I ever made was to buy a Lamborghini Diablo back in 2014. That was so motivating and helped my business in so many ways. It made me think outside of the box and focus on constant improvement.
How much square footage will I buy each year?
The first thing I want to mention is that this is a guideline, not a set schedule. Some years I may buy much more than my plan, and some years I may buy much less. In the end, I am hoping that the years even them out somewhere close to this:
I plan to buy 50,000 square feet of rentals, and I already have 25,000 square feet under contract. I don’t want to go too crazy my first year as I only bought about 20,000 square feet of rentals in 2019, so this will be challenging. In 2018, I bought way more than 50,000 square feet, but again, this is about the big picture not being exact each year.
I plan to buy 60,000 square feet of rentals in 2021. Again, this should be challenging, but I think it is doable. I could buy one big property and hit this goal, or I could buy 5 smaller properties and hit this goal. You may be asking how can I afford to keep buying so many properties. I flip 20 to 30 houses a year and make a decent income from that business. I also can refinance these properties after adding value to pull cash out of them to buy more.
I plan to buy 70,000 square feet of rentals this year. Do you see a trend yet? It is a simple plan, but it will still be difficult to keep buying big properties like this every year. I also cannot foresee any big changes in the economy or my own business. If the economy does change, it may create more buying opportunities as well, although it might make it harder to finance properties.
This year I will buy 80,000 square feet of rental properties. This will put me at 260,000 square feet of new purchases and 380,000 square feet total. Right now, I am making about $125 a month per 1,000 square feet of rentals I own (with some inefficiencies like vacant units). If I am able to continue that trend, I will be making $47,500 a month from my rentals. That will be another way I can get money to continue to buy more rentals.
I will buy 100,000 square feet of rentals this year, bringing my total to 480,000 square feet. I am almost halfway to my goal with 4 to 5 years left! This shows me that I can actually buy less than this plan shows and have a great shot at hitting this goal. I could make up for a slow start by purchasing more properties in the later years.
I will buy 110,000 square feet of rentals this year, bringing the total to 590,000 square feet. I will continue to add value and refinance to pull cash out. By this point, who knows if I even need to flip houses anymore, although I have to admit I love flipping and may never stop.
This yea,r I will buy 120,000 square feet of rentals bringing my total to 710,000 square feet. When I bought my 68,000-square-foot strip mall, I used a partner. That is the only time I have used a partner to buy a rental. I may be using a partner to buy some of these bigger properties, but I would love to continue to buy properties on my own if I can.
I will add 130,000 square feet of rentals this year. This would be about double what I have ever bought before. I am hoping by this time I will have tons of cash lying around just waiting for the right properties. I should be in a position to take on some bigger projects that are a little riskier but have huge value-add potential.
This year, I will buy 140,000 square feet of rentals, which will make my total 980,000 square feet of rentals. I will be making $122,500 a month based on the dollar-per-square-foot I am making now. Although, by this time inflation will have caused rents to increase, and I will most likely be making much more than that.
I only need to buy 20,000 more square feet to hit my goal. I should have a lot of money coming in from these properties and be set for quite a while. I could focus on paying off debt if I wanted or just continue to buy more properties since I seem to be addicted to the process!
What will my rental property portfolio look like?
I have no idea exactly what kind of properties I will have or where they will be or how much equity I will have, but it is always fun to guess! My properties are worth close to $100 a square foot right now, maybe slightly less. I have about a 60% debt-to-value ratio (for every $1,000,000 of rentals I owe about $600,000 to banks).
- If I own one million square feet, my properties would be worth around 100 million dollars, or probably more due to inflation.
- I will have about $60,000,000 in debt, although I could see this being less since we will be paying off loans over time and I assume I will not have to refinance every property to pull cash out as time goes on and we build cash up.
- I will be making well over $100,000 a month and most likely close to $150,000 a month.
- This is all without syndicating or bringing in tons of equity partners.
This is pretty cool to see written out, and I did not have all of these numbers before writing this article!
Big goals are amazing, and they have helped me out all throughout my career. I had been feeling a little unmotivated and stuck in a rut lately, and making this goal really helped me focus on the big picture and create something to shoot for. Will I hit this goal? Maybe, maybe not, but it will be fun trying, and I know having a specific goal planned out like this will help me do more than if I was just floating along hoping for the best.