“You need to figure out what you want in your investment career and kind of work backwards from there.”

-Craig Curelop


Craig Curelop (aka the FI Guy), is stationed in Denver, Colo., and is a real estate agent, investor, author, and employee of Bigger Pockets. He is primarily known for taking a very aggressive approach toward achieving financial independence. He moved to Denver in April 2017 and closed his first property in June 2017, a duplex that he house hacked for one year. He is also the author of the house hacking strategy book, which teaches the tricks that savvy investors have been using in the real estate industry to save 1000s of dollars in monthly expenses.


In this episode, Trevor and Craig discuss:

-Craig’s introduction in real estate investing and the type of investment he started

-How to house hack

-The difference between house hacking by room and house hacking in different units

-Recommendations on whether to start with house hacking or pay off student loans first

-How to grow your portfolio

-How to manage properties that are halfway across the country

-The financing for house hacking and how to get more deals

-The pros and cons of being a real estate agent

-And a lot more!


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Full Transcription Of Today’s Episode

Trevor Oldham  00:44

Hey, everybody, welcome back to The Real Estate Investing exposure podcast. And today on the show, we have Craig Curelop. He is a real estate agent and investor based out of Denver, Colorado. Craig is also the author of the house hacking strategy book, which teaches the tricks that savvy investors have been using in the real estate industry to save 1000s of dollars in monthly expenses. As you build your financial independence. Starting off with $90,000 in student loan debt and net worth of negative 30k. Craig has worked his way up to become financially free in a little over two and a half years. Craig, super excited to have you on the show today.


Craig Curelop  01:21

Yeah, thanks so much, Trevor, for having me on. It’s been a pleasure to be here.


Trevor Oldham  01:25

And Craig, for our audience out there, that just hearing your name for the first time, which would be a little outrageous three, seeing as big as you are,  working with bigger pockets and your house hacking book. But for those in our audience who still have never heard of you, do you mind just giving them a little bit of your background into real estate?


Craig Curelop  01:41

Yeah, for sure. So I think like a lot of people probably listening to this show, I got motivated to start thinking about passive income because of a job that I really hated. I was working at a venture capitalist type company out in Silicon Valley, California. And I started being Silicon Valley, I kind of wanted to think of passive income as building a business, right? Come up with some ideas, have some money for you. And that absolutely is a type of passive income, but it’s not the most guaranteed, right? So I wanted something guaranteed I want us to truly invest in. And that’s when I found bigger pockets and I found real estate investing. I was like, Okay, I don’t need to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, I can just be a little Craig and invest in real estate and have some passive income through rentals. So that was like 2016 When I discovered financial independence 2017 I ended up moving to Denver and got a job at bigger pockets. And that’s when I got my first real estate investment.


Trevor Oldham  02:36

And for that first real estate investment Do you mind walking our audience? You know what that was? Was that a house hack? Was that a multifamily? Or were you renting the room in that scenario?


Craig Curelop  02:45

Yeah, that’s great. So back in 2017 renting by the room wasn’t super popular, really, the only way to house hack was to buy a two, three or four unit live in one side rent at the other. Of course, it wasn’t the only way but it was the only way bigger pockets, taught it in really the only like well known way. And so I was looking for a duplex triplex or quad. I found a duplex that was just a mile and a half from the BiggerPockets. Office. In a really good up and coming area. I did not know it was up and coming at that time, but I got lucky. And so I rented out, I bought it for a few 185,000 I rented out the top unit for 1750. And the bottom unit I lived in and so my rental payment on that property was about $2,000 a month. So it was not quite covering the mortgage. And so I was really determined to cover that mortgage. So what I did was I Airbnb it out of my bedroom, and I slept in the living room on a futon like behind a curtain in a cardboard box room divider type thing. And that was kind of how I got started. Right, right, being super frugal and just trying to figure out a way to make it work.


Trevor Oldham  03:50

And how was that experience? Like a lot of times when people hear of house hacking, they do think of  buying a duplex or three, three or four family.  I think when I first heard of your story, renting by the room, and especially you are being billing that room and  sort of living on a divider on the other half of the as the house or the multifamily I’d love for you just to walk through your experience and what that was like sort of,  house hacking by the room versus house hacking,  in different units.


Craig Curelop  04:14

For sure. Yeah, so living behind the curtain and Airbnb, I would say doing Airbnb is great, especially if you live there, because most people who are just staying for a couple days are pretty respectful of your place. Pretty respectful of your space. And if you do get someone that sucks, hey, they’re gone in two or three days, right? Not a big deal. Whereas when you have someone living there full time, right? It’s like okay, they get to settle in, they have to move their furniture in, they’re going to be cooking, they’re probably not cleaning but doing a lot of cooking.  like staying home all day to watch TV or whatever like a kind of like when people are home all day kind of stinks, you know? And so that’s how this is between Airbnb and long term I think you asked me about rent by the room involved. are kind of having your own space, right. And so, in the book, we talked a lot, we talked about comfort, right. And on one side of the continuum is comfort, the other side is profit. And wherever you lie on that, right, and so I always say kind of like, having the duplex triplex or quad is getting a little bit more towards the comfort side, because you have your own space, you have your own unit, you really don’t have to see your neighbors, unless it’s in passing outside. Whereas when you’re doing rent by the room, it’s a lot more profitable. But you’re probably going to be sharing some living spaces, like the kitchen, the living room, and maybe some outdoor area, right. And so if you,  most people again, most people are good, and they’re going to do their dishes. It’s not like they’re in college, most people are more mature now. But,  it’s an issue that could arise.


Trevor Oldham  05:43

No, I think that’s an excellent example, for audience and something I think that stood out to me when I was first reading your bio to you going out and doing your first house hack a few years later, is when you had graduated college with a 90k in student loan debt to getting your first house hack. Would you recommend someone let’s say they’re graduating college, let’s say in this may or may 2022? Would you recommend that they pay down some of their student loans first, before going doing the house hack? Would you recommend that they do the house hack first, and then use that additional income that they’re saving to  accelerate the downpayment or accelerate the payment? On the loan? Just curious to get your philosophy there?


Craig Curelop  06:17

Yeah, so I suspect,  the student loan interest rates plugin, be somewhere around five, six, or 7%. Whereas a house hack, you’re going to get returns that are 100% or more, right? So it’s really a no-brainer to do a house hack. I highly recommend doing a house hack first, and really don’t pay off your student loans. I mean, unless after you’ve got a few house X, you get some more income coming in, maybe when you can get a big chunk of money, you put it towards the student loans, but,  I paid my student loans off, like almost 90,000 in 15 months, right. So a little over a year. And that was largely because I had house hacks, right, if I’m mostly paying off my student loans, but never has hacked at this point, right. So  just like house hacking and investing really expedites the amount you can make. And then once you pay off those student loans, obviously, it all goes into other investments.


Trevor Oldham  07:08

I think it’s another excellent example, for the audience and some from you’ve had this first house hack, how have you been able to grow your portfolio? Do you have a couple of units, you have a couple of single family houses they are renting out by their own divine walk your audience a little bit through what your portfolio looks like now?


Craig Curelop  07:24

Yeah, so I’ve done five house hacks. So I’ve got five house hacks here in Denver, I picked up one traditional rental property here in Denver. So I’ve got six total properties in Denver. It’s about 12, or 13 units here. I’ve got six single family homes out in North Carolina. And then I’ve got two plots of land in Florida, and we’re building on one of them.


Trevor Oldham  07:47

yeah, I think that is fascinating. So for you. So you have the traditional,  the majority of it being out there in Denver, but now you have these properties out there in North Carolina, and in the land out there. And Florida. Why? Why those markets, and what’s that sort of feel like it being a lot,  being a landlord from,  pretty much halfway across the country.


Craig Curelop  08:05

For sure. So I have property management, so I don’t really do much. The property management company takes care of most of the stuff. I picked North Carolina because I had friends out there that were really well networked. And they had contractors and property managers and all that stuff. And they were investing in that market. And the price point was where I wanted it to be. So it just made sense. There’s better cash flow markets out there, then I’m in Fayetteville, North Carolina, there are better cash flow markets, and there are better appreciation markets for sure. But I went with like, I know people, it’s gonna be easier, less risky. So I went with that. And so that was why I prepared for Lima. And then Florida, I’m actually building my parents or retirement home. They are going to like, basically help cover the mortgage when it is but I’m doing all the work and putting all the downpayment and stuff down. So the property is going to be mine. And so that’s what we’re doing in there. We’re building them a new building, then we bought a plot of land right next to theirs. So someday, maybe we’ll build an Airbnb, maybe we’ll just leave it as a bigger yard for that. But we’ll see.


Trevor Oldham  09:03

And then with regards to financing, let’s say for the first house hack you do, let’s say three and a half percent or 5% down. And then as you’ve grown your portfolio, have you done have you continued to  go from there and say put 20% down or have you sort of created a financing to get those deals done?


Craig Curelop  09:20

Yes, I’ve always done so yeah, that the House acts have all been three to 5% down the the stuff in North Carolina, it was all 20 25% down price points are cheaper. So it ended up being about the same downpayment as it would be for how second Denver and then Florida was actually 10% down because it’s a vacation rental.


Trevor Oldham  09:42

Yeah, I think that’s another excellent overview for our audience. And I want to sort of,  flip the script a little bit and go into your real estate agent company. And for someone that’s out there that thinks that in order to become an investor, they should become an agent, what would you recommend telling that person should they become an agent to also become an investor or should they just become an investor, just curious to get your opinion on that.


Craig Curelop  10:03

It really depends on your goals, I’d say, becoming a real estate agent is beneficial. Because if you can do your own deals, obviously,  you’re going to get paid a commission at least once a year for yourself, you’re going to have, you don’t have to wait for a realtor to go see the house, you can just go see a house whenever you walk your way through and offers and negotiate for yourself. So those are some of the pros of being a real realtor. Other cons are,  if your goal is not to be like a real estate agent, and to like crushing a real estate agent, then you’re kind of wasting your time, right? Just get a real estate agent, hire a professional, just like you’d hire a contractor to do your roof or write something like that, or mechanic to fix your car, right? Have a realtor buy you the houses and you work on just the investment portion. You were trying to get other deals, you weren’t trying to raise money, you work, whatever it is. So I think you need to figure out what you want in your investment career and kind of work backwards from there. 


Trevor Oldham  11:01

What has that experience been on your side of building up the five teams from yourself to having a few agents working with you?


Craig Curelop  11:07

Yeah, so it’s been incredible. So we’ve got, like, pushing on 20 agents now. In fact, most of that growth has just been for the past year. In 2020, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. And it was really stressful. And so I said, I have to either create a team or I have to quit. And so I really liked our mission, which is to help people achieve financial independence through real estate investing. I love our big, hairy, audacious goal, which is to reduce the US retirement age to 55 instead of 65. And so to do that,  we had to start a team, we just kind of started going nationwide soon. But yeah, and so really, it’s just been getting the systems in place and growing that team, so that our buyers and our people looking to house hack can like and trust the agents on our team. So  they can be easily helped.


Trevor Oldham  11:57

I think that’s perfect, especially trying to lower the retirement age by about 10 years or so. And it’s always crazy to me, when someone  graduates college, say the average age around 22 is working 43 years, I think being able to get 10 years of their life back. And hopefully, if they’re smart, they’re going to give me more years of their life back. I think that is definitely a great goal, haven’t I? I wish it could be achieved for everyone.


Craig Curelop  12:17

Yeah, same. But perfect.


Trevor Oldham  12:20

And let’s say  you have the house hacks and you have the real,  the real the five teams. I should say, with the real estate agents, what are your goals,  in the next year,  what are you looking at in 2022?  to really,  can sort of get to that next step and  do you have any goals that you’re looking to achieve?


Craig Curelop  12:36

Yeah, so we’re really focusing on now and have just built like my main focus right now is building the brand. So I’m the fire guy, if you don’t know me on Instagram and on tick tock and so I really want to grow their Instagram and tick tock and all that and become a really big, become like an influencer, like a true influencer. And from there, I think we’ll be able to help and educate more people,  to get to start house hacking and to start investing in real estate and to build that financial independence through real estate investing. And so that’s kind of like my goals. As far as my goals for the team. We want to at least probably be in one or two different states by the end of 2022. And then 2020 will hopefully be our once we figure that out, we’ll have our big growth. It isn’t 23 where we can kind of just copy and paste what we did in other states across the nation.


Trevor Oldham  13:23

And and for those other states obviously Colorado and then there’s  a ton around you do have any  certain areas that you’re looking to expand to I have a map just to my right so,  I can imagine you you’re maybe I want to expand I don’t know how Big Kansas or Nebraska or Wyoming is Brazil have certain  territories that you’re looking at.


Craig Curelop  13:41

Yeah, so we are actually going to be moving to Idaho. So that’s just a natural one that I think we’ll probably do quarter Lane Idaho which is like the Northern Panhandle is a beautiful part that not many people know about. And I think it’s a great market for Airbnb ease and their regulations are pretty, pretty low. So I think that since we’re moving there, it’s just natural that we’ll probably go there. Then after that,  maybe Seattle, maybe Austin, Texas, maybe California la San Francisco, Atlanta just kind of like more places where house hacking seems to be a little bit more feasible.


Trevor Oldham  14:18

And then let’s say that someone is concerned they have the opportunity to do you know a house like or they have an opportunity to buy an Airbnb and rent out. Do you have a preference for one or is it just more or less it comes down to the financial aspects of it.


Craig Curelop  14:34

Um, I think Airbnb is just kind of a method to house hack right now and so like I like Airbnb, you can make some more money, but it’s kind of like this right? You make a lot in the summers and not so much in the winters and you kind of like you got to be able to deal with that volatility. So yeah, it all depends on  it’s a little bit more work. You’re kind of living and dying by reviews. So there are definitely pros and cons to each. It’s just a matter of,  What you’re looking for,


Trevor Oldham  15:01

I think it’s another good explanation. And then as you’ve been an investor,  let’s say that you’re looking back,  when you first got started, are there any things that you wish you knew? Now or wish you knew back then that you know now  some of the challenges that you’ve overcome that you’d be able to share with our audience?


Craig Curelop  15:17

Yeah, I would just say like, listen to other people’s advice, because sometimes,  I think a common piece of advice in real estate is like, don’t, don’t compromise on your, like standards when you’re screening tenants. But every single time you hear a sob story, and you kind of become a softy, and then you’ve got a man, and then they end up screwing you over. Right? So just say, like, make sure you just stick to your criteria, because I’ve been burned a couple times by trying to be the nice guy.


Trevor Oldham  15:46

If I can, I can definitely see that, at times, even for me, myself. But Craig, I just want to say, I really enjoyed this interview today. I just had a couple of quick questions I wanted to ask you, before we end the show today. Sure. Do you happen to have a favorite real estate investing or business book that you’d recommend for our audience to check out?


Craig Curelop  16:06

No, other than my own. I always go back to the Miracle Morning. by Hal Elrod, I think that book is the one that if there’s one book to read, it’s gonna change your life and you can actually start taking action on it tomorrow. That book is like the foundation of changing your life so I would say the Miracle Morning.


Trevor Oldham  16:26

Yeah, I think that’s an excellent recommendation for those listening in the audience. Definitely recommend that and I know how, how has another book i It’s slipping the name cuz I think he just came out with the miracle equation. Not too long ago. But this is even before he had the Miracle Morning brand, he had a book come out, and it’s slipping my name. I can pick a picture but for those of you listening,  feel free to go on Amazon. Type in how L Ron, you’ll see his book that came out even before the Miracle Morning and that one is very good. And, and definitely recommend that book as well. But Craig, last question of the day is where can our audience find you.


Craig Curelop  16:57

Yeah, so I’m on Instagram. I’m the FIguy. TikTok is the FIguy as well. And also we’ve got our own podcast. It’s called invest to fi invest in number two find like financial independence. So yeah, your stuff.


Trevor Oldham  17:12

Awesome. I’ll make sure to include that in the show notes for today’s episode. And Craig, thanks again for hopping on.


Craig Curelop  17:16

All right. Thanks for having me, Trevor.