I get asked fairly regularly about how to get started as a landlord or real estate investor. My husband and I own several residential and commercial properties and people are always curious about how we got our start.

Our start was actually the result of our inaction when we had our very first opportunity to invest in real estate.

When I first started selling real estate fifteen years ago, my husband and I lived in Alamogordo, NM, which was his first duty station as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. When we moved there we hadn’t built our savings yet and we knew we would only live there for two to three years before being transferred to another base, so we decided to live in a small duplex on base instead of buying a home in town. The housing market in Alamogordo was good and rental homes were selling well because of the transient nature of the town population, given a large portion of the population was stationed at Holloman AFB.

My husband didn’t make much money in the military although we had very few expenses. We saved each and every one of my commission checks, lived simply, refrained from buying things we didn’t really need, and our savings started to add up quickly. I had a client who wanted to sell a home he owned as a rental because he wanted to use his equity in the home to buy an apartment complex with a group of his friends (who were all F117 Stealth pilots). He told me he wanted to sell it quickly to someone he trusted, and asked my husband and I if we wanted to buy it.

Rental houses were somewhat of a hot commodity in Alamogordo. The ideal tenants were members of the German Air Force who were stationed at the German flying training center on Holloman AFB. Why were they ideal tenants? Because the German government provided them with housing benefits that exceeded what the average rental rate was in town, and they would even pay a substantial premium if the home had a pool!

My husband and I debated the opportunity, overthought the entire situation, played the “what if” game 1,000 times, and ultimately passed on the opportunity to buy the home as an investment. As soon as I sold the home to someone else for my client, my husband and I immediately began to regret our decision. We both swore we would never let another opportunity like that to pass us by.

After we finally settled back down in Texas to start our family, we found another opportunity to buy or first investment property. This time we were not going to let the opportunity pass us by. Since then we’ve bought several more residential properties and a commercial property.

Sometimes it takes inaction to create action in your life. We made a mistake and the regret caused by that mistake is what has given us the fuel to continue in our path of investing in real estate.