Why I Decided to Invest in Oklahoma City

Downtown Oklahoma City
(photo credit Gerson Repreza via unsplash.com)

About a month ago, I was having a conversation with a guy in my mastermind group. He lives in England and was in the process of doing his first BRRRR (Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat) in Iowa. Up until this point, my real estate goal had been to purchase 1-2 single family homes per year via turnkey properties. When I learned this guy was living in England and had put together a team to invest in Iowa, I thought: why am I not doing this? The lightbulb moment. This is the beauty of a mastermind group – you are inspired to do more than you thought you could because others around you are crushing it. You don’t want to be left behind! 

After the conversation, my mind was whirring with the thought of

putting together my own team and buying distressed properties, rehabbing them, renting them out, and refinancing to get my capital back. Why was I not doing this already? Am I an idiot for not doing this already? No, but needless to say I was motivated. 

Where would I invest? I own properties in Milwaukee, WI and Pensacola, FL and I like those markets, but I also like the concept of geographic diversification. I would need to find a market with solid cash flow, room for appreciation, while also landlord-friendly. What other factors would I consider? I bought my first in Pensacola because I was stationed there, and I lucked out because it ended up being a great market. I bought in Milwaukee (and will buy a third property there this year) because thats where Storehouse 3:10 Ventures operates their fantastic turnkey model. But where to invest next? I turned to the most reliable source for real estate information: BiggerPockets.com

Learning About Real Estate Markets

I started reading member blogs and forum posts about choosing a market, and I went back and listened to older podcast episodes that discussed markets. The best source for this info ended up being the articles within BP Insights: the area of BiggerPockets reserved for Pro and Plus members. (Oh yeah, I also purchased a Pro membership because I wanted access to as much top level real estate info I could get my hands on!)

These articles discussed things I had not yet considered such as population growth, rent to income ratios, and rental growth. I knew I wanted to avoid the coasts, as price points tend to be higher there. I wanted a large, diverse city not reliant on any single industry. After significant research into markets all over the country and conversations with more experienced investors in my mastermind, I decided on the market: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Why Oklahoma City?

Growth and Progress in Oklahoma City
(photo courtesy Gerson Repreza via unsplash.com)

OKC has been aggressively investing in itself since the early 1990s. Before then, the city was struggling because it was so reliant on the oil and gas industry. In 1993, the city approved what would be the first iteration of the MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects), a visionary new capital improvement initiative designed to create and improve sports and recreation facilities, schools, cultural centers, and much more.1 The initiative was so successful, more MAPS were proposed and approved over the last three decades, resulting in the fourth iteration of MAPS which was approved last year. 

These programs have brought businesses, people, and JOBS to the area. If you’re looking for a healthy real estate market to invest in, these are the metrics you want to see. OKC has created an increasingly desirable city for businesses and people to migrate to. 

Oklahoma City Is Not Reliant on a Single Industry

Everyone knows the Detroit story: it was completely dependent on the automobile industry, and when those companies struggled, Detroit struggled too. The oil and gas industry has always had a big presence in Oklahoma City, but it is no longer the only show in town. Thanks to a friendly business environment, OKC continues to attract businesses from various industries. The Aviation and Aerospace industry makes up the largest sector in both employment and economic impact.2 The other major private sector economic contributors include Bioscience, Energy, Healthcare, and Manufacturing. 

The local economy is further buoyed by federal employers including the Federal Avation Administration, and two local Military bases. These make up roughly 20% of the local jobs.3 

Without businesses and jobs, you can’t have tenants. OKC has a diversified economy supported by a welcoming and friendly business environment, which has directly contributed to an influx of jobs and people seeking an affordable place to call home.

Homes are Affordable in Oklahoma City

The state of Oklahoma has the nation’s 4th lowest median home value. Oklahoma City’s median home value is $158,3374 which is significantly lower than the national average of $295,300. This means you can purchase investment properties for much cheaper than other markets around the country. Also, many properties in B and C class neighborhoods in Oklahoma City meet the 1% rule, which means the property’s monthly rent is 1% or more of the purchase price (for example, a home that sells for $100,000 and rents for $1000 per month meets the 1% rule). 

Oklahoma City National Memorial (credit Jack Finnegan via unsplash.com)

OKC has a Healthy Rent-to-Income (RTI) Ratio

RTI is a lesser known but useful metric for a market’s overall health.5 To determine a market’s RTI, you simply divide the city’s median rent by the median income. Housing experts recommend individuals spend no more than 30% of their income on rent, and you’ll see many property managers using a number around 30% when evaluating if a prospective tenant can afford to rent a particular property. 

For example, New York City has an extremely high cost of living, and boasts a 68% RTI. That means many people are spending around 68% of their income on rent! Oklahoma City, on the other hand, has a much healthier RTI of 21%. It’s an extremely affordable place to live which is a big reason why so many people are migrating there from higher cost of living parts of the country. 

Oklahoma City is Landlord-Friendly

Landlord-Tenant law in Oklahoma CIty favors landlords. If a tenant fails to pay rent, or is involved in illegal activity on the property, the landlord must provide a 5-day notice to pay or vacate. Once that period is over, the landlord can file an eviction which is usually a 7-day process (under normal, non-COVID circumstances). 

This is a factor many investors don’t consider before buying property in states like California. You are much more likely to have “professional” tenants in tenant-friendly states who know they can live for free in a property for 6 months or more before the courts catch up to them.

Many people turn their noses up when places like Oklahoma and other “flyover states” are mentioned, but states in the South and Midwest can be fantastic locations to invest your money!

Do you think Oklahoma City is a good place to invest? Send me a message at doug@honorandequity.com to discuss more, and make sure you follow @honorandequity on Instagram!

My First Investment Property – Pensacola, Florida

My first home purchase – Pensacola, FL

Many people have horror stories about their first investment properties, but fortunately my first property has performed really well so far. I’ve made money from the home via Airbnb (short term rental) and renting to tenants via a 1-year lease (long term rental). I thought I would talk about how I acquired the property, how it has performed so far, and lessons I have learned.

Moving to Pensacola

I moved from Tokyo, Japan to Pensacola, Florida in September of 2015 on three-year orders to be a flight instructor. I didn’t know very much about real estate at the time, but I knew I wanted to live in a particular neighborhood called East Hill. It was (and still is) a great neighborhood, and I had a number of friends living there. There weren’t many homes for rent, so I started calling real estate agents that had homes for sale in the area asking if the owners would be willing to rent. This worked pretty well, and I found a place to rent for $1,500 per month. Over the next 8 months I listened to the Bigger Pockets podcast, learned more about real estate, and learned more about my neighborhood. I realized that I could purchase a comparable home to the home I was renting and pay much less per month!

I hired a real estate agent to help me find a home. My budget was right around $200,000 which would mean a mortgage payment of around $1100 per month – just under O-3 BAH (Base Allowance for Housing) for Pensacola. I did not use my VA home loan since the price of the home was relatively low and I had enough to put 20% down on a conventional home loan. I figured at the time that I would save my VA loan to purchase a home in the future in a more expensive area.

The Deal

We found a home that was newer, larger, and more updated than the home I was renting with a listing price of $208,000. The inspection revealed that the home would need a new roof within a few years so we got $10,000 knocked off the purchase price and closed at $198,000.

Purchase Price: $198,000

Bedrooms/Bathrooms: 3/2

Square Footage: 2,134

Interest rate: 3.625% (conventional)

Down Payment: $45,902

I put 20% down ($45,902 total with closing costs) and lived in the home for about a year and a half before I started doing Airbnb.

Short Term Rental – Airbnb

My girlfriend at the time (now wife), and I wanted to live together and we decided her condo in Pensacola was a better option than my house. The problem is, I would now have this large home going unused. Thanks to my budding real estate knowledge, I had the idea to offer up my home on Airbnb starting in the spring of 2018. This was very successful and I quickly became a “superhost”. I used a local house cleaning company to turn the home over between stays and profited roughly $1,500 per month over that summer, which more than paid for the mortgage and other expenses. I enjoyed managing the short-term stays via Airbnb, but summer was ending soon and I was moving to San Diego in the fall. I toyed with the idea of continuing to rent the home via Airbnb, but ultimately decided stop renting it on Airbnb. The summertime demand for Airbnb’s in Pensacola is strong, but I was concerned the demand would decrease at the end of summer. So I decided to find long-term tenants for the home.

Renting to Flight Students

Roughly 6-8 weeks prior to my move-out date of the house, I put up the Zillow ad to test the rental-price waters. I listed the home for rent for $1950, not thinking it would rent for that much, and I would have to drop the price until someone agreed on the price. To my surprise, I received a lot of interest in the property within a few days, and two flight students agreed to rent the property for $1950! I used Cozy.com to run a background and credit check on both tenants. Then I used a simple lease template that I got from a buddy of mine, and we signed the lease in person.

My mortgage at the time had decreased to about $1,050 due to lowered property taxes, so I would make roughly $900 a month before non-mortgage related expenses! I decided to self-manage the property so I saved a lot of money there. They ended up being great tenants and stayed for an entire year.

Those tenants had each of their girlfriends living with them, and both couples wanted their own place so they didn’t renew the lease. I reactivated the same Zillow ad with the home listed at $1950 again, but I didn’t get many responses for some reason. So I dropped the price to $1850 and got a response within 24 hours. Flight students again! They were about to head down to Pensacola to start flight school and wanted to live in East Hill. I went through the same process to ensure they had the necessary credit, and got them to digitally sign the lease since I was in San Diego at the time. These tenants should be staying through December of 2020.

For the 2019 tax year, my total profit on the Pensacola house was about $9,200 which makes for a 20% cash on cash return! Also, the value of the home (using the Zestimate on Zillow.com) has increased by 50% in 4 years to over $300,000! Needless to say, this home has been fantastic as a rental. The cash flow numbers are high, it attracts great tenants, and it has seen enormous appreciation well above the national average.

The maintenance and repair expenses have been minimal and my vacancy has been 0% since I started renting to long-term tenants.

Photo courtesy of Morning Brew via unsplash.com

What Have I Learned?

  1. I should have used my VA loan. This would have preserved more capital for future investments, and I would have gotten a lower interest rate. Hindsight is 20/20 though, and I don’t really regret using the conventional loan. I’m still hitting great metrics on this house even with the conventional.
  2. Home warranties are not worth the cost! I used a home warranty for the first couple of years, and it just wasn’t worth it. You have to pay a flat yearly rate (which was around $500 for this house) plus $75 every time someone comes out to repair something. This home is in great shape and I’ve saved money by cancelling the home warranty.
  3. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good! My real estate knowledge was limited when I purchased this home. However, I knew that I would be able to rent the home for at least $400 more than the mortgage, so I’m glad I pulled the trigger and bought the home. I could not have anticipated that it would rent for almost double my mortgage payment, nor could I have anticipated that the home would go up in value by 50% in only 4 years! Sometimes you just get lucky with the timing.

Hopefully this article inspires you to take action and buy your first rental property. There are so many ways to acquire your first property, and it can be done no matter your experience level, net worth, credit score, or personal background. You just need a positive attitude and a desire to get that first property no matter what! I’d love to chat more about your real estate journey. Send me an email at doug@honorandequity.com or send me a message on Instagram!

I hope you enjoyed this article about my real estate journey. Please share with a friend and follow @honorandequity on Instagram!