Dear Reader: Jerry owns nearly 3,000 apartment units, an amazing number.
But today's story is not a get rich quick piece, but one that will show you some of the perils of building a real estate fortune. What you will see is a test of character and courage.
Now 61, Jerry began modestly by paying his way through community college and then the University of Southern California (USC), working as a machinist, and as a house painter.
Jerry also got his California real estate sales license, yet in three years of part-time summer work he sold just one house and that was to his cousin.
But after graduating from USC in 1976, Jerry focused on sales. In his first month, he made two sales, in his second month he made six sales, and in that brief time, earned more money than he had in a year as a machinist.
But what began his real estate empire was that during this time he also bought a 4 unit apartment building in Redondo Beach, California.
Jerry hadn't yet received his commissions, so he didn't have the money to buy this fourplex. But he found an investor to buy 75% of the building as Jerry bought the other 25% using his commission from the sale and borrowing $3500 from his dad.
And as is common in real estate, Jerry got a mortgage for the rest of the purchase price.
This would be the first of many building purchases he would make by regularly refinancing: Which is to put new, bigger mortgages on his buildings, paid for by rising rents, then using the money to buy more buildings.
This formula made Jerry wealthy.
That is until in 1981, when Jerry bought land in El Segundo, California. He built condominiums there, but ran into financial trouble, when interest rates soared, hitting their highest level since the U.S. Civil War (1861 – 1865).
It was almost impossible to sell those condominiums and Jerry lost nearly everything he owned. "It was devastating," he said, and it would take him years to recover.
But he didn't quit, and as interest rates dropped, California real estate rebounded and Jerry made a bigger fortune using the same formula as before.
Then in 1990, the California economy collapsed, taking real estate with it, and Jerry went into a financial freefall. By the early 1990's, "I owed $12 million more than what I had."
How did Jerry rebound from his devastated finances to make the fortune he has today? Ironically it came from a disaster, the 1994 Southern California earthquake.