Real Estate

How One Man Bought a Mortgage-Free-House in Hawaii On A $20,000 Salary

Johnny Sanphillippo took the traditional path to success. He went to college, and got a good office job in San Francisco, which is one of the most expensive cities to live in the United States. However, he was miserable at his job, and struggling with the fact that so long as he lived in San Francisco, he could never afford to achieve his dream of owning a home. Instead of continuing the corporate lifestyle, he decided to quit his job and become a housekeeper. He now only makes $20,000 per year.

When he went to a bank for a mortgage, he was denied. Instead of giving up, Johnny began looking for cheap plots of land with the plan to build his own house. Lucky for him, he found it- in Hawaii!

He got an incredible $99 flight, and once he arrived, he paid $3,000 cash for a plot of land. It had been sub-divided years earlier, but the piece of land was so small, it was not attracting potential buyers. So the price had continued to decrease over the years. The property is a block and a half away from the ocean, in the middle of paradise.

The land was only enough room to build a tiny house, but that was good enough for Johnny. He could not afford to get a loan, so he was forced to build the house with cash.

“Mortgages make things fast. They speed up the process. It’s instant gratification. Building a house slowly means you don’t get everything you want right away.”

At first, Johnny just built the bare shell without insulation. He was frugal with his furniture, and just paid for the bare necessities. There were a few years where he could not afford to work on the house at all, because he only had enough for his basic living expenses.

Money wasn’t the only issue. Johnny had to figure out loopholes in the local county’s laws and regulations in order to build a tiny house. And most full-time contractors were not willing to work on his home, because it did not pay enough for their time. So he had to find people who were in-between jobs, and looking to take any gig they could get.

“Instead of asking, ‘How do I please a bank?’ You start asking, ‘What do I need, and how can I help people near me get what they need?'” 

It took him 10 years to build the 480-square foot home, but he did it. He completed his home, and he was mortgage free.

You Can Do It, Too.

If you want to follow in Johnny Sanphillippo’s footsteps, check out for plots of land in your local area. With a lot of time and patience, it is possible to re-create this journey almost anywhere in the United States.

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