My landlord Dick, once a poor taxi driver,  bought his first home for 300$ down, in 1960, a total cost of eleven thousand, -- using his GI loan. He heard about this house when a taxi fare was complaining that he was about to lose a property. Dick snapped it up in spite of fact that Dicks' new wife said he was crazy and they were too poor to spend 11k on a four bedroom house! Crazy like a fox. He now owns 22 houses which he rents to screwups like me. And the nagging wife has a beach house and he doesn't have to see her every weekend, either!

I mention this as 86 year old Dick came today to fix the pipes. His assistant, his wetback worker, Pablo, was outside painting thresholds and doors which they do once a year. Real oil enamel, too. By hiring Pablo three days a month, 10$ an hour, Dick Delaney fixes all of his 22 homes. So we screwups live in pretty deep clover. Pablo does, too, and especially the wife at the beach and Dick in the city, with 22 grand a month revenues streaming in. I have four bedrooms and two fenced gardens with honeysuckle hedges on them, filled with fruit trees....all for 995$ a month. In L.A. 20 miles south, that sum will not even get you a one room studio apartment in 2010.

Pablo the mozo is interesting. He undervalues himself. Charges 10$ an hour to Dick. He's about 70 years old. Fit as a frijole. Can climb a tree and saw off high branches. Does it every January to the 3 big, ferny Chinaberry or Melia trees. (ASK FOR SEEDS!).  He once drove a jeep for the Mexican army. Dumped bodies that infamous day when Diaz Ordaz shot 1000 student activists dead in a famous pre-Olympics 1968 genocide at the poorer of the many Universities in Mexico City, not the autonoma. He dumped bodies in the river for weeks afterwards. I always wanted to tape Pablo telling about that. Well, Pablo is a gem, can do anything, paint an entire house, climb trees and saw branches. Dump hundreds of bodies under a bridge if you need it done. He's as charming as an armadillo though.

Dick Delaney is both charming and pretty handy. He can take out a furnace gas burner and reinstall it. (If I didn't lose the parts, that is, which I did when he left them lying around for weeks, going in search of a shop for certain instruction.) He installs plumbing materials. When Dick can't figure something big out, he gets guerilla contractors. The man who re-piped this four bedroom two bathroom home in copper charged 650$ for three days work. Pipe was another 300$, and that's kitchens, baths, all pipes in the house. Dick found the guys WORKING for a much more costly contractor with licenses. ( He stole them away with a surreptitious business card put in each palm and 'habla me, por favor.' whispered. ). Of course this house has pipes in ceiling, walls, not under ground or under floors! Those guys that did it had been apprentices for big contracting plumbers and knew their cookies. Home owners and multiple home investors need to know people like that. Asking around gets you those contacts.

HE had a guerilla electrician who took off the old box, installed a new one fitted for higher, bigger and more. No more flickering lights and burnt fuses. If city came by and saw it they'd tag but they are not coming. With 13 cats I don't let the city in!

Anyway what I'm getting at is it's easy to be an owner of multiple dwellings. Dick was a taxi driver when he started. The house I live in today is where he and his wife and kids lived back then. 7000 square feet of gardens, front and back and a small, four bedroom house. Great black clay soil. Once was a chicken farm. But Dick bought a second house and rented it out and then a third house and rented that and he kept going until he had 22 houses worth 7 million dollars total. You can do it too.

You start with a nice house agent to advise you. Now what Dick warned me is, Most real estate agents don't spend time with people. They take you to six houses and say which one do you want? Don't do business with a real estate agent who pushes you. The are not good as instructors, they may try to explain to you but they are not interested in you ....they want a commission.

There is, however, one brilliant way to use that agent. For your first house, buy a half price repo from HUD. You get them thru that agent but most agents don't want to bother with them as it represents less profit for them so they'll give you reasons why you shouldn't, try to scare you about 'ghetto areas,' etc. Real estate is real estate. If it's in a ghetto, you can help gentrify the ghetto if you stay there. And if you own it a few years, (to pay no taxes, you must own it and live in it for two years, you can still turn a profit selling it.

I once was told by a wealthy guy who lived in a big house in my all-white neighborhood that all his properties were in the ghetto. Same rents there as here and the houses cost half what they do here. He was black by the way and no slum lord.

So get a repossession which is basically a half price house. You can't beat a sale! My landlord was here today so he told me that there was a house in my area recently, a repo but I'm too happy with Dick's old house. My rent is half what it would be in the city of L.A.

But Dick told me that HUD occasionally will do another thing. They want a certain kind of buyer so they put the property into a lottery exclusively for schoolteachers and policemen. Dick was following one this week. There were 44 bids on that property. The property was valued at 135,000. It went for 70.

Every week HUD has a list of repos in your city. If you have one of these two esteemed jobs, investigate HUD. Not all houses are on the PREFFERED JOB LOTTERY. HUD will pick out thirty out of 200 (in L.A.) and put them into a lottery designed to move police officers and teachers into substandard areas to upgrade the neighborhood.

When you buy a house, your loan can go 'conventional' (my landlord calls it) or you can go FHA 3% down. Conventional can be 5% down or 10% down. To get an FHA loan you need a two year credit history and paying taxes. That is called qualifying. OR you can do a LAND CONTRACT.

NOTE: Emily my Real Estate lady NetChum says: "When lower income people are buying a 4 unit building together, it's much easier to do with two families on the loan.  Loans put real estate into about 3 categories: 1 and 2 families, 3 and 4 families, and over 4 families.
It may be easier to find a landlord of a multi-unit apt. building who is willing to sell it with owner financing.  Apt. buildings are very hard to sell.  They may have tax considerations, so it may be advantageous (for the old owner) to do a lease-option on the whole building rather than sell it to you right away.  Something about the IRS recapturing the depreciation they took over the years."
You do not need to qualify for some loans in the 10% to 20% down range. Where you need no background. You go thru a lender like Countrywide Funding, an internat'l funder. They will find these for you. You get an agent like Ronnie Hollander, who Dick uses. His phone number is 818-999-8288. He is in Ventura. But wherever you are in the world, Ronnie can find the local Countrywide agent there. And I have the phone # of the Fannie Mae lender for SoCalif. And if you want to debrief Pablo on what the Mex Gov did to the radicals in 1968, cornering a thousand students in a plaza demonstration and shooting them all dead,  I can't arrange that, he lost his mind. I could tell. He'd go to work mowing the lawn next door.