They cried when they sold their house to John. The elderly couple didn’t want to move. The two-story house in a small town in Sweden was fully paid for, had everything they needed and had been in their family for generations. But they were getting too old to take care of the big house on their own.

John, who was looking for a new investment opportunity, was happy to take it off their hands. He immediately saw that the house could be turned into two apartments without any effort. He rented out the upstairs place to a small family and the downstairs apartment to a group of friends.

The elderly couple moved to a smaller house across the street. They quickly became good friends with their new neighbors — the ones living downstairs in their old house. They now spend most of their time hanging out in what used to be their own living room.

See what happened here?

The elderly couple went through the pain and trouble of moving. They thought that their old place was too big. They are now paying extra for a new smaller house, but spend most of their time in their old house. Why on earth did they not just rent out the apartment upstairs themselves instead of selling the place to John!? They could have stayed in the downstairs apartment of the house they loved, lived in a smaller space AND not just saved, but actually made money by collecting rent from the family upstairs.

It makes no sense.

The thing is, they hadn’t even thought about it. It just hadn’t crossed their minds. They assumed that if the space you have doesn’t fit you anymore, your only option is to move out. And they certainly hadn’t considered that their home could be a source of income!

Who can blame them? We all have our limiting beliefs. Most of us have learned to get up, go to work like programmed zombies, go back home, cook dinner, put kids to bed, watch TV, sleep and repeat. Constantly just trading hours for money and thinking it’s the only way to live.

But there are other options. With relatively small tweaks we can reach an entirely different level of freedom and personal finances. We may believe that people who make investments and who have found a way to buy some freedom, already had money to begin with. Or that they are some big-shot businessmen. But most of them didn’t. And most of them aren’t. They just learned to change the story of their lives.

John certainly wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. And he knew nothing about buying or managing property. All he did was to decide that he didn’t want to work for someone else for the rest of his life. He stepped out of his comfort zone and he started looking for opportunities.

John’s mindset shift started when he bought his first house. He had always dreamt of having a charming old cottage in the countryside where he could spend his summers and weekends away from city life and modern facilities. He wasn’t picky about the location and found a very basic, small cottage that only cost him around $30,000 to buy. He got a mortgage to cover most of that and only needed money for a small down payment. But there were still two big problems for John; one — he has no skills in home repairs and couldn’t fix anything around the house to save his life; and two — he would have to pay for the house all year around, even when he wasn’t using it. It was time to get creative!

He put up the house for rent. Prospective tenants had two options — pay the full rent and do nothing, or pay a reduced rent and fix something around the house. For tenants who chose the second option, he would provide a list of things that needed to be fixed and of course stipulate how they should be done. He would pick tenants who had some home improvement skills to make sure that any renovations were done professionally. This way, he got the standard (and the value) of the simple house improved without doing anything himself.

The contract also included a clause about his own access to the house during certain weeks of the year. This may sound strange, but as this house was mainly for temporary summer guests, it was never a problem. In winter, he shut the house down and the rent he collected during the rest of the year, more than covered the minimal cost during the winter months.

This experience gave John a taste for more. After saving up some money and also taking out additional mortgages, John ended up buying another three houses that he rented out. The house he bought from the elderly couple was his third house. That specific house costs him less than $400 per month and the rent payments he collects from the two apartments in the house add up to roughly $1300 a month.

Obviously, $900 a month isn’t going to make him rich or allow him to quit his job, but it’s a start. And with a few more houses and a lot more confidence, John is well on his way to building a new lifestyle for himself. The rent payments from all his houses provide a security for the future and a steady income that allows him to work less. In addition to collecting rent, the value of his houses increases every year thanks to the tenants’ repairs and improvement work.

Without having extra time, any special skills or the funds to make big investments, John found his own creative way to add new sources of income. He now owns four houses and is looking to buy another one soon.

Buying property is of course just one example. The point is that there are many things around us that we, just like the elderly couple, assume need to be in a certain way. We don’t even consider that we could do things differently.

If we have the courage to challenge our old beliefs and look for opportunities in places we normally wouldn’t, we would start realizing that our homes, our cars, our skills and our knowledge are all potential sources of income. And not only that, they may very well be the keys to our freedom.

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