Buy More Than You Think You Can Afford
“If you want to have a lot, learn how to live with little.”
Last Sunday, we said good-bye to a dear friend. He was 92. This is not a eulogy, but rather my personal reflections on the life of a remarkable person.
Charlie Glass was born in a small town in Poland, not far from the border of Germany. Germans occupied Poland in 1939, and soon after he was sent to a concentration camp.
We met Charlie and Hanka in 1982 at an open house. They were selling their first home on 1950 Ulloa Street. After we became friends, Hanka gave me advice:
The Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated by allied forces in 1945. There he met Hanka, who survived the Auschwitz death camp. Five years later, the couple immigrated to the United States. Since then, Charlie has believed in angels. Arriving in San Francisco in 1950, Charlie borrowed money and opened a liquor store in the Mission district. He worked day and night, paid off his debt, saved some money, and opened a Laundromat, then another one until he had 19, maintaining them all by himself. Then in the 1970’s, he and a business partner started to buy apartment buildings, while not knowing anything about real estate.
Many people died all around, but he, it seemed had a guardian angel. Once, a group of inmates were sent to work and on the way there, they were locked in a school building. It was the middle of the summer and inside was unbearable heat. Suddenly, an older man came to him and told him to take a warm winter coat. He was surprised, but listened. This coat saved his life later on in the winter when he had to build a road in the bitter cold. Another time, when the camp was bombed by the British planes, Germans took the inmates out somewhere on a train. There was a stop when everyone was commanded to get out. He was the last one to leave. Suddenly, someone tapped him on his shoulder. It was an old man, who gave him a big piece of bread. Charlie hid it in his coat. The inmates returned onto the train, but the old man was nowhere to be found. This bread kept Charlie alive during the next week’s journey.
It took them 20 years to accumulate 7 buildings—many of them in Pacific Heights, where as in the past, he managed them by himself. When his partner died, the buildings were divided between the children and gradually Charlie agreed to pass on the management of his properties to his daughter, who hired property managers. Charlie was able to accumulate a lot, because he knew how to live with a little.
“Manny, when you are going to be READY to buy your home, buy MORE than you think you can afford.”
When we were ready in 1984, Charlie lent me $5,000 for the down payment. A year later we were ready to pay it back, and offered interest, but he refused. During the funeral, we learned he helped many other people as well.
Those who read my book “The Mortgage Game: The 5 C’s and How to Connect Them”, know that we were able to buy our first home with little money, no job, and little credit because like Charlie, I knew that with hard work, everything will work out. I followed his advice and bought more home than I could afford at that time.
Since then, I have given many of my clients this same advice. It does not work for everyone, but those who listened and were ready, did well. I was simply sharing the advice that I received from my angel and his wife.
WHEN READY, BUY MORE.
I decided to write this story after we went to their hill top home on Lawton Street after the funeral. Charlie built this home with incredible views of the city. I took these images from the balcony.
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