An Introduction to my Real Estate Stories


If you have visited anything else on my website you will know that I was a missionary with the Wycliffe Bible Translators for over 25 years. First in Africa. Then for a period of time in Dallas. And then again in Africa and then back in Dallas, where the organization is headquartered.

It was a bit strange for some of my friends and family when I decided to pack that career in and start another one in real estate. I have always known I had some “entrepreneur” in me. I left Wycliffe around 1997 to start a small ministry thrift store. I ran it for fifteen years on the corner of Vermont and S. Ewing in Oak Cliff (and, for about 7 or 8 years we had two other stores, one in Pleasant Grove and the other in Duncanville).

However, it became very clear to me very quickly that I could get that operation up and running but it would pay me nothing. I had already been buying rent houses and knew my way around real estate. So, to put food on the table I ramped up the real estate. Because I was in Oak Cliff and wanted to be near the store (called Gleaners) I started buying apartment buildings in the area between I 35 and I 30 in the area that was as close to downtown Dallas as you could get, but on the west side of the river (the Trinity). It turned out to be an ideal time to buy small apartment complexes (4-14 units).

No one helped me gain a better grasp of “how to” than Bill Cooper, 25 years my senior but who became a good friend. And there were others, like C.W. Sparks, a very successful investor and property manager in Oak Cliff. But mostly, from trial and error, I more or less figured out what to do and how to do it. I have never read a single book on real estate (except those required to become an agent). I have never been to a single seminar (which I believe makes more money for the guys doing them than they ever made in real estate).

Real Estate (RE) is really very straightforward. It is not complicated. Almost anyone with an ounce of common sense can figure out what to buy and where to buy it and how much to pay for it. And where to find the money. And to fix it up or pay someone else to fix it up. But I can tell you, through experience, that the fulcrum on which everything rests if you are going to rent RE (vs. flipping) is management. Almost anyone can do the other stuff. Almost no one can manage well. Trust me. I learned the hard way and I’ll tell you about it (we currently manage nearly 300 properties).

I have no secrets. I will tell you what I know and hopefully it will help you. The way I will do this, primarily, is through stories. If you read a story and wonder what the point is you are not reading it with your mind in gear. Every story has a point.

One last thing. No one goes into missionary service to get rich. In fact, it is almost a certainty you will end up on the low end of the financial spectrum. And no one is just going to hand you money to get started in RE whether you were or are or are not a missionary. I did it with no money. It is possible. I think you can too. We will talk about that.

I am almost retired now. I will dabble in RE until I die, of that I am sure. She has been good to me. I hope she is as kind to you.

Steve Van Rooy
Dallas, TX
Spring, 2015