Graham Stephan: “What’s up you guys, it’s Graham Stephan here, so I just wanted to share my story my background about how I became a millionaire by the age of 26.
Just as a quick background here, I started selling real estate as a real estate agent shortly after I turned eighteen years old, so now I’m 27 years old. In that timeframe, I’ve sold a little bit over 120 million dollars worth of residential real estate here in Los Angeles, which has given me a little bit over two and a half million dollars worth of commission.
During that time, there’s a lot more, that goes into that than just you know X amount of commissions, because after taxes and expenses and everything.
It actually takes quite a lot more than just making you know X amount of money to actually be worth over a million dollars, especially by the age of 26, so I’ll break it down, I’ll share with you guys exactly step by step by step by step what I did, share with you guys everything I did from start to finish, how I came to this point, and hopefully, you guys enjoy it.
I did not come from any sort of wealthy family, whatsoever no one in my family was working in real estate, both my parents by the way we’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Graham Stephan Autography
I grew up in a very tiny home here in Los Angeles, nothing like craziness or anything like that, I don’t want you to get the impression that I came from well-off parents that were spoon-feeding me deals and 120 million dollars of sales because my parents were both in real estate and they you know gave me all of these deals in these clients and all of this business.
I started out with zero connections, no one in my family was in real estate, my parents knew nobody that was buying and selling multimillion-dollar estates, and both my parents were renters none of them had no money, but they were super supportive parents.
Graham Stephan First Job
A lot of this started when I was like 13 or 14 years old I was really into reef aquariums and I ended up getting a job at a marine aquarium wholesaler that would import and export exotic fish and coral.
My job was to go and take pictures of the inventory that would come in I would Photoshop it and then I would help put it on their website and I got paid $1 for every picture, I would photograph pretty much between 20 and sometimes 35 pictures done per hour which means I was making about twenty to thirty-five dollars per hour, which when you’re like 14 or 15 years old and you work a few hours maybe in a day you can make a hundred dollars in a day, and for me at the time that was a ton of money.
It was at that point that I realized I started disliking school because I didn’t see the point of that. I didn’t see how learning science in like freshman year of high school was gonna help make me money, I didn’t care about the cells biology, I didn’t care about learning algebra, I didn’t care about learning history, I didn’t care about learning Latin, all I cared about was just making twenty to thirty-five dollars an hour photographing fish and coral and photoshopping that and putting it on the website, and that was for me a bit of a downfall when it came to school because that changed my mindset to like all I want to do is work and do things to make money and not so much as to waste time in school.
My grades started suffering dramatically and I was never the student that was like getting in trouble and stuff, but I just did not care at all about homework I hated it, and I just didn’t see the point.
So as soon as I got my driver’s license I Just went downhill because now I can ditch school. I had a car to get to work and I would do a lot is one to two days a week I would completely ditch school and go and work instead and it was the same thing, I would be sitting in my geometry class thinking like this is a 45-minute class I can be photoshopping 25 pictures in this time what would I rather have 25 bucks or sitting in this stupid class that I’m never gonna do anything with and I just would skip. I had terrible grades in high school absolutely terrible.
Unfortunately when I was about 16 years old, shortly after that, the business was sold, they shut it down. At that point I’m still in high school but I still don’t care about school and at that time, I got into a band and I realized I’m just gonna be a famous drummer and that was my goal in high school.
Graham Stephan Failed Dream
I wanted to be a famous musician and I was a drummer in a band. Not to toot my own horn or anything or not to sound arrogant, but like the band was pretty good and we were touring like the Roxy the Knitting Factory that we played at the Viper Room. I mean, we played like a lot of these cool places on the Sunset Strip, we got our music actually played and a few TV shows and a few like indie movies and stuff like that, we still actually get royalty checks to this day, like five or ten cents like every few months but he still actually get like royalty checks.
I really loved investing, I love money and I love making money, so I thought Investment Banking is what I want to do so the senior year of high school. I applied to one college because I thought for some reason I thought I’m gonna get into Pepperdine, and it was the only school I applied, to now I loved Malibu, I loved the campus of Pepperdine and I just applied to that one school.
I had like C’s and D’s and a really low SAT score but I thought not even gonna bother applying to other schools because Pepperdine is gonna take me, they’re gonna see my potential and that’s it, I didn’t get into Pepperdine.
Graham Stephan in Real Estate
Now What, I figured out I could at least get my real estate license for a year and then reapply to colleges, so as I’m getting my real estate license I would go to open houses and I just talked to other agents and asked their opinion about the business and any advice from me. I was about to turn 18 when I started studying for my classes and by the way I was doing all my classes online, I got like my entire real estate exam and all my licensing done online which was amazing.
I used to go to these houses and talk to other agents and every single agent was so discouraging. Real estate market then was just about to peak and was just starting to go down. Almost every single agent I met with who’s telling me it’s not a good time to get into real estate, basically everyone was telling me not to get into real estate. but sometimes I think to the advantage of being young is that you have selective hearing.
I kept doing that for like two months and then randomly I went into this random open house in Bel Air, I think it was like a four-and-a-half million dollar home and I met a guy, he was the only one that I’ve ever met that was super encouraging of me going into real estate and he just flipped it around, he told me it was the perfect time for me to go to real estate.
know about Graham Stephan
I Graham Stephan don’t have any kids, I don’t have a wife, I don’t have a house, I don’t have a mortgage, and I don’t have any payments, it was the perfect time for me to learn. It was the best time and by the time all of my friends graduated from college you’re gonna have four years of work experience and he promise me after four years I am gonna be making over $100,000 a year, that was that little bit of encouragement that really just set me over the edge.
He gave me this offer that I will never forget, that I would have been an idiot to turn down, he said if you’re interested in working with me I will teach you what I know about the business and we’ll split everything 50/50, and no joke I started there like two days later working for him.
Now, real estate is not something where you just you go in and you know you sit down in your office and clients are fed to you. Real estate is one of these businesses where you go into the office and then you sit there, and you’re like now what?, because it’s all on you now, at the time I think I had maybe five grand saved up in my checking account that was all I was worth.
Five grand that was from me working several years over at this marine aquarium wholesaler me saving up you know what I could over summers and spring breaks from working part-time in ditching school and all that was basically what I had was about five grand that was enough to pay my way through all the real estate licensing all the realtor fees and like MLS fees.
I noticed a lot of these agents just wouldn’t have good photography on their lease listings, so I go to other agents in my office and say listen, I see you had this lease listing how about this I will go and take pictures of your listing, I have a great camera, I know how to Photoshop them, I’ll make it look amazing and I’ll give you these pictures, in exchange for that all I ask is that you let me post your lease on Craigslist to get it some more exposure if you lease it on your own those pictures are yours you don’t owe me a dime.
But if I lease it I can represent the tenant and this was a win-win for both people involved because for me it got me exposure on Craigslist to get calls from tenants and maybe find them a rental or at least that place and for them, they got free great real estate photography of their listing, and I did this over and over and over again and I ended up getting like 12 lease listings from my office that I can post on Craigslist.
I started getting a lot of calls I started doing a lot of leasing from this and it was like 500 bucks here and sometimes like 300 bucks there, and $1,000 here and 700 bucks there, it really started to pick up and I did this for about nine months and in that in those nine months, I probably made about $35,000.
Now, keep in mind when you’re 18 years old this to me was more money than I had ever seen in my life and I was saving all of it, because, I am just naturally the type of person who doesn’t spend, I don’t like spending a lot of money, I like saving it instead so basically everything I just saved it and saved it.
Graham Stephan app
I had yet to sell a house and that was one of the big ones for me, so many people were telling me who was gonna trust you at 18 years old to go and sell a house nobody’s gonna trust you, that’s the biggest investment people are gonna make of their life why would they go and trust an 18-year-old.
A random couple walks in and we ended up hitting it off and they basically gave me the chance to help them find a home now I think I reminded the buyer of himself when he was younger and I think someone had given him a chance when he was younger and he was somewhat repaying me with that chance and I ended up finding him home about a month later.
It was close to $3.6 million dollars in Beverly Hills and we closed on it. Now keep in mind that Commission that I made off $3.6 million dollars was more money than I had ever seen in my life, that was basically the equivalent of me winning the lottery, I mean that’s really how I felt and I remember having that Commission and depositing that in the bank account.
I realized I’m I can never go to college after this, like why would I go and waste time in school when I just made this huge Commission? I’m showing my parents like bombs out like I just made this Commitment, this is real this is an actual career, I can really do this let’s not go to college let me do this another year and continue to recreate this. When I got that Commission by the way I did what any 18 almost 19-year-old would do at the time.
I went and bought my dream car at the time which was a 2006 chrome Orange Lotus Elise I bought the glow to solis I had money left over in the bank, which gave me the confidence to tell me I can sell again, if I could do it once, I can do it again.
And not even like two months later I sold another home for about 1.2 million dollars also in Beverly Hills, and then a few months later I sold another home for close to two million dollars, and it was just the initial confidence of that first deal that showed me what it’s actually possible and I can actually do it now. I kept doing that and by the third year of my selling real estate I was hitting over $100,000 per year and I was saving pretty much all of it.
Graham Stefan Food
I was living off $5 Subway sandwiches I was basically at that time just hoarding money, I was beside the car like the Lotus Elise was the one thing that I had really spent money on besides that I would go out of my way to try to save money.
A lot of that came from when I was 16 years old both of my parents filed for bankruptcy around the same time and I remember having 20 bucks and really making that $20 last and I remember thinking that was $10 of gas and two five-dollar footlongs sandwiches, and I would make that last I could make a $5 Subway sandwich last like lunch and dinner.
I had that same thing going on in the back of my head that even though I’d be making like 50, 60, 70 thousand dollar Commission’s. that in the back of my mind I’m thinking that’s a lot of Subway sandwiches and that’s a lot of gas money, it never occurred to me that 70,000 wasn’t 70,000.
Now in 2011, I noticed real-estate prices be really really really cheap and I thought that there was no way that real estate could be this cheap for this long I started focusing on an area in San Bernardino that I thought was just massively undervalued, At that time I had close to $200,000 saved up.
It is my three and a half to four years in real estate earning over $100,000 per year after taxes. California taxes are crazy by the way, so I had about 200+ thousand dollars that were saved by the time I was about 21 years old.
I noticed real estate was so cheap in 2011 and what I did is I figured I should buy some rental property, the reason why I thought that was because real estate for me even though I was making decent money at it it was pretty inconsistent and I felt very uneasy knowing that I’m only as good as my last deal and so even though you might make a $50,000 Commission.
It could be six months before you make another one of those and it was that inconsistency that really made me feel nervous knowing that I don’t know when my next paycheck is gonna be, I figured you know what I can buy a property and just rent it out these are properties by the way in San Bernardino that were selling like two hundred and fifty sometimes two-three hundred fifty thousand dollars that we’re now selling for 60 to 70 grand.
I bought my first house for $60,000 and I bought these plates, by the way, all cash because these were all short sales foreclosures and the banks didn’t want to deal with properties that you know had a loan contingency on them they wanted cash deals. I ended up getting three properties and I ended up renting them all out and that rental income when I was fully done with that pretty much paid the base of my living expenses. so I kept my living expenses basically three thousand dollars per month from these properties.
About 2013, I started noticing is a lot of my lease clients that I at least two years ago wanted to all of a sudden start buying so maybe I made a $500 Commission in 2009, well then they came to me and then bought a one and a half million dollar house there’s a thirty thousand dollar Commission right there. I’ve had many of those I would say maybe about one in five maybe one in six lease clients ended up buying something from me and that equated to a ton of sales from 2013 on my sales volume just skyrocketed. They ended up referring me to other businesses and the business just continued to get better and better and better every year.
Since starting I’ve done better than the year prior, now at the time I learned putting money in an SP 500 index fund which as we know in 2013 again, was something that just went up considerably since then, and the values of my properties really started going up as well, so then I just continued saving and saving and saving and saving and my business just continued to get better and better and better.
I saw massive potential in these areas on Venice and Marina del Rey in California, that we’re seeing a lot of this tech boom and I saw a lot of the money moving further east well I ended up buying a house there and renovating it now that house I bought for close to 800 it’s now worth about 1.2 and then I continued saving and the business continued to get better and better and better in terms of real estate.
I, Graham Stephan bought a duplex this year that I’ve renovated I’m in at about 650 and the value of it is now worth about 850 so that’s another two hundred thousand dollars in equity. I will say that by the age of 26 I, Graham Stephan was worth over a million dollars that’s exactly how I did it from start to finish and then as far as the future.
I could never see myself giving up real estate sales like I love being a real estate agent for me that is one of the funniest jobs in the world, I absolutely love it as I would just be bored if I wasn’t making real estate sales. in the future I eventually might want to transition a little bit more towards the investment side it’s just very expensive so like I have to continue to make money too.”
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