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With the help of the Motley Fool and others I am learning how to invest better in the market. I have not been overly successful here but I have made a lot of money on homes.

In 1992 I decided that paying rent was sending money down the drain. You build no equity. You get no return on investment. After years of paying rent you have nothing to show for it.

When I started buying houses I was in the military and could look forward to moving every 3 to 4 years. Luckily I kept moving into hot housing markets.

I had my first house built. I found that having one built was often cheaper than buying an existing home because you don't have to pay to have the house made over to your liking after you purchase it.

I lived in my first house for just over three years and made almost $14,000 on it after all closing costs and realtor fees were paid. I am now having another house built and it will be my third house. When I sell the one I am I expect to make anywhere from $78,000 to $100,000 after closing costs and realtor fees. I have lived in this house for almost 5 years.

I started this little housing trip with no skills geared towards home buying or real estate valuation. I followed a few simple rules anyone can apply.

Even if you don't have kids buy in a subdivision that has a good reputation for public education. Don't buy where crime is on the rise. Eyeball the neighborhood at different parts of the day. Buy at the low end of the communities market. Lower end units will appreciate along with the higher ends and usually do it a little quicker.

When finishing the home with carpet, paint and the like, always use neutral colors like off white. Find a house in a section that is growing the most.

The last thing I can think of at the moment is that it is very helpful to be a handyman. Your home is your castle and you will put more sweat equity into it than anything else you own in order to make it more pleasant to live in and more valuable when you do to sell. Doing improvements yourself is cheap and easy. I have no formal training in any kind of construction but by reading books and taking advantage of free Home Depot classes, I was able to install a sprinkler system, a brick walkway, built-in book cases, custom closets, resurface my driveway, paint my house, install a water fountain, plant trees and shrubs, install ceiling fans and mini-blinds and a host of other things. It cost me some time and a few books.

It has been ten years since I bought my first house and I am about to move into a house I am having built that I could not have imagined living in 10 years ago. Ten years isn't a long time. The things you learn along the way are invaluable and will serve you for the rest of your life.


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When Life Gives You Lemons
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