Homeownership, The First Building Block in an Empire

Real Estate Agent with Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities #1 in Forest Land Mgmt

Homeownership, The First Building Block in an EmpireHomeownership

Back in 1988, after working in most of the Western States for the US Forest Service, I was heading home.

Back to Wisconsin, a state with the highest education scores, a great place to get my 2.5 young children a good start, a place for my wife to teach in a fine school, and of course to be close to family friends and grandparents.

As I was planning the trip home one of my priorities was that I was finally going to set down permanent roots and buy a home with some acreage.

A place where I could call my own, a place to build equity, and never have to move from again.

I was also ready to start my business and plans for my new home were competing in my head with plans for my successful Forestry Consulting business.

We started off renting for a few months while my wife worked for a small college in Ladysmith Wisconsin and I worked for the State of Wisconsin and on my business each day after I finished my duties for the state.

6 months later my wife was offered and accepted a new job about 25 miles away in Cadott.

While she was setting up her classroom one day I came along and found myself visiting with the janitor during his break, and like I did with many people mentioned that I wanted to find a low-priced rural home with some land.

Homeownership time to buyTo my surprise, he stated that he had an old farm that he would like to sell, he said that it was not much, and I may want to tear down the house, but it was cheap.

$30k for a huge farmhouse, barn, and a falling down shed, and nearly 3 forty’s (118acres), and he was willing to finance!

Now to come up with a 10 percent down payment…

Loans from a few relatives got me most of the way, my small savings, and delaying payments on student loans and a few other things got me the rest of the way.

We were so overjoyed to move into this beat up old farm house, and willing to overlook the many problems.

That first year was rough, with snow blowing in through the cracks, tons of field mice invading through other cracks after that first frost of fall, leaks in the roof, plumbing issues and more.

My mother in law kept referring to it as a “Hunting Shack”.

Fortunately, she was good about helping with the restoration. That first year my father in law and her were over nearly every weekend, with supplies and labor.

A new roof and windows were first on the list, then new plumbing.

Later we worked on more insulation, upgraded electric, new siding and much more.

All these upgrades took a lot out of us, but they were building equity, and the 40,000 trees that I had planted on the land were also building equity.

Both in increased aesthetics and in timber value.

By 2000 we had sold off several lots and a few chunks of the farm as well as leveraged the equity into several other good property investments.

This first building block was growing and helping our net worth to grow.

I still own this home and about 50 acres around it, using it mostly as a field office, place to grow trees, and equity to draw from when I need it for a project or purchase.

This equity has helped with many big projects and many other purchases over the years, and is sure to continue to as is serves as the first building block in the Woodland Companies.

Let me know when You are ready to start accumulating a few Building Blocks for your Future!


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James Dray
Fathom Realty - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

Morning Bob.

After reading your story, I bet that first couple of years was a challenge.  Good to hear you stayed with it.

Jul 01, 2019 02:02 AM #2
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Bob. Everything worthwhile seems to come with challenges at the beginning. Enjoy your day 

Jul 01, 2019 04:44 AM #3
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

What a great story of home ownership, Bob. YYou, Sally and family worked hard to make it a home. Nice that you still own that "hunting shack" and much of the land. 

Jul 01, 2019 05:31 AM #4
Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector
SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

I have followed you for a while, and my son just completed his Masters to go with his Forestry degree fom S.Il Univ. I am sending him this post as a good road map for himself. This is a great post on starting out. 

Jul 01, 2019 06:36 AM #5
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Bob Crane - What gifts you received from the janitor offering to sell his property to the relatives who supported the two of you to achieve your American dream. It was quite challenging but that's what made you tougher, wiser, and a wealth achiever. Being rooted in education and forestry paved the way to your future.

Jul 01, 2019 06:45 AM #6
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

all life needs a place of origin and one to return to how much more mankind?

Jul 01, 2019 06:52 AM #7
Ben DeHaven
Haven Realty & Investments - Winter Haven, FL
Proudly serving Winter Haven & Lakeland, Florida

Great Story Bob! Wise of you to make that happen. Thanks for sharing.

Jul 01, 2019 07:29 AM #8
Rob Spinosa
Guaranteed Rate, Marin County, CA - San Anselmo, CA
Vice President of Mortgage Lending, Marin County

"You don't need to be great to start, but you need to start to be great."  Somehow, your story brought this quote to mind.  Great post!

Jul 01, 2019 07:37 AM #9
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Bob - I like this post for the inspiration it encourages when we attempt to follow our dreams. One step at a time.

Jul 01, 2019 09:28 AM #10
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good afternoon Bob Crane ,

I love your story and so glad to see it featured. Another great example of how investing in real estate can help build wealth! 

Jul 01, 2019 10:25 AM #11
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Bob, what a great way to get a jump start, even with repairs needed.  Lovely story.

Jul 01, 2019 01:16 PM #12
Robert Hicks
United Country River City Realty - Savannah, TN

Great story Sir. Thank you so very much for sharing..

Jul 01, 2019 05:40 PM #13
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667 (MT), 914-419-0270 (NY), Broker in NY with Grand Lux Realty and in MT with (coming soon!) - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

What a great story! My in-laws have a similar story, not about the farm, but about purchasing a home they just had to have which needed a lot of work. Their first winter was spent with no heating system. Brrr. It sounds like your home was definitely a labor of love. I loved this post.

Jul 02, 2019 03:22 AM #14
Gloria Todor
Century 21 Absolute Realty - Springfield, PA
& Doug Durren (484) 431-3686 in SE PA

Nice to hear about the early days of your empire Bob.  Good timing and help from family.  All well worth it.  Enjoy many more years!

Jul 02, 2019 11:04 AM #15
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Interesting personal story!  ONe of my clients, who just bought his first investment property, just said to me "it's the beginning of my empire!"

Jul 02, 2019 02:06 PM #16
Diana Dahlberg
1 Month Realty - Pleasant Prairie, WI
Real Estate in Kenosha, WI since 1994 262-308-3563

Congratulations on the FEATURE Bob Crane ... Your story from Rags to Riches had me spell-bound while reading about your humble beginnings - all the people involved along the way,  the sacrifices and hard work along the way. Well it paid off in high dividends! Thank you for sharing your Success Story!

Jul 02, 2019 06:21 PM #17
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Love your story Bob!  You set a great example of how real estate is a big part of an estate and can be the baseboard to other investments.  Great story!

Jul 06, 2019 11:33 AM #20
Robin Wells
RAW Chimney Sweep and Inspections - Penetanguishene, ON
Giving Peace Of Mind One Chimney At A Time

Great post and thanks for sharing.  We all have struggles and it great to read how others are successful in meeting their goals.

Jul 07, 2019 05:29 AM #21
Liane Thomas -Top Listing Agent
BROKER Allison James Estates & Homes BRE 01885684 - Corona, CA
Bringing you Home!

I'd love to see photos! It sounds so beautiful. We don't have trees like that in my area. That janitor really put you on a path to wealth, too. 

Aug 30, 2019 07:24 AM #23
Janice Zaltman
United Realty Group - Boca Raton, FL
South Florida Residential Real Estate

Hi Bob Crane . What a great post and inspiration to many. How wonderful that ou are surrounding my so much natural land and resources. What a blessing!

Sep 17, 2019 01:40 AM #24
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Bob Crane

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