Tiny Home to Empire

Dear hosts, we're back with another episode of The Hosting Journey. In today’s episode, “From Tiny Home to an Empire,” I talk to Rob Abasolo from the Robuilt YouTube channel. And we discuss his very specific niche, tiny homes, and glamping.

Have you stayed in a tiny home? Or do you wonder if you could fit one into your backyard? Well, that’s what Rob did! Oh Yeah.

In this episode Rob and I discuss:

  • How he got started
  • His secrets for dealing with naysayers
  • The big life changes he has just made
  • What makes Rob’s life rich

Yeah, it's not just guacamole for his Chiptole; and if you follow Rob on YouTube, you know what I'm talking about.

Listen up to “From Tiny Homes to an Empire.”


Evelyn (00:00):

Dear hosts, We're back with another episode of the hosting journey. And this time I have Rob from Robuilt and we talk about his very specific niche, which is tiny homes and glamping. I know! Have you ever stayed in one? I haven't yet, but I'm always curious. Now, if you ever curious about that niche, come and listen to this ep isode and we talk about his journey, how he started, what kept him going, and also what makes his rich life?

Yeah, it's not just guacamole for his Chiptole and if you follow Rob, you know what I'm talking about! So let's get to the video. Hi, Rob, welcome to the hosting journey. I am so glad we finally were able to connect. How did it all start for you? What was your journey?

Rob (00:51):

I've always had a fascination with tiny houses and, you know. I moved to LA and we were so broke at the time. I wanted to create something that was going to generate a little bit of money. I like calling it to house hacking and, under my house in LA, and when I was making like two or $3,000 a month on Airbnb, I was like, my goodness. Like I should do this over and over and over and over again. So then I decided to build a tiny house in my backyard in LA. And when I was going through it. I was thinking about building a tiny house that I would have like on my driveway or on the side of my house. But I knew that that was going to be a depreciating asset because it's not a real piece of real estate.

Rob (01:32):

Right? And so I was like, “0kay, I want to build it on a foundation. I'm going to do it in my backyard. I'm going to go through all the permitting processes and all that kind of stuff. And I remember just like so many people, like, you know, laughed that I wanted to build like such a tiny house. Right. But, um, but it really worked out. Like I got so many good compliments from it. All my neighbors would come in introduce themselves to me. So after getting so much positive feedback from it, I decided what the heck? Like, why not just build it in Joshua tree and build it way nicer. And so that's what I ended up doing. And again, a lot of people laughed at me in Joshua tree, like all the time.

Evelyn (02:06):

I know, but now you laugh at them. Let me ask you a question because look, I know, I know what it's like when you're on the other side right after you take that leap of faith, but who do you think? And this is like, who do you think you have to be to go from — I'm living with strangers downstairs and I'm going to make this huge investment because we're not talking about $500 and sheets and towels. Do you know what I mean? And like setting up space, you're talking about building, like, it's your family in construction. Do you have that kind of background?

Rob (02:49):

I mean, not really. I mean, my dad is like the smartest dude on the planet. He was a doctor in Mexico and you know, they moved here to the U.S. to give us a better life. I, you know, my, one of my sisters was born in Mexico, me and my other sister, we were born here and my dad basically gave up his license, um, and worked a minimum wage job for a lot of his time here in America, which is like really tough seeing, you know, growing up because he was always the smartest guy in the room, but he was so good at remodeling. And you know, it wasn't until he moved here and he was forced to be good at it, that he was like such a great handyman and builder and, um, kind of construction expert. So I kind of saw that growing up and I was like, kind of around it, but that was pretty much the extent of my experience.

Rob (03:34):

He would always ask me to help him. And I would always be like, no, I don't want, what do you know, I want to go play with my friends. I want to go play football or whatever. Right. So like I never actually wanted to help him. And that ended up biting me in the butt later on, like when I actually ended up buying my own house because I would call my dad like all the time, it'd be like, dad, how do I hang this? Or like, how did I tear this down? So I had to learn things a lot the hard way because I was so lazy when I was younger, but ultimately it all worked out, I think

Evelyn (04:01):

Yeah. And, and, and that leap of faith, right? Like, like going from like, cause I get it, you know, we learn from our times and our experiences, but taking the leap of like, yeah, I think I'm going to believe in this dream. And I, and I'm going to link to the video that you have of your journey at the beginning of your journey. Um, and especially when you hadn't naysayers anybody in your life that was sort of like saying yes, yes, this is good. Um, yeah,

Rob (04:29):

I think overall, like I got a lot of support from friends and all that kind of stuff because I would post it on Instagram and I would show people like all the progress that I was doing and everyone for the most part was like, you know, uh, you know, this is awesome. Like you need your own HDTV show. Like this is like, you know, you need to start a YouTube channel and all that kind of stuff. It was really kind of like, you know, people a little bit people from like the older generations that didn't necessarily understand the tiny house concept because, you know, like back in the day homes were like 2000 square feet, right? Like they're a lot bigger.

Right? So the concept of downsizing into a tiny home was very odd for a lot of people to understand. But honestly, the biggest naysayers were all the people, all the bureaucrats behind the desk at the city and planning, you know, the building and planning departments and stuff like that.

Rob (05:14):

But, you know, it just takes a lot of endurance to kind of like deal with like, uh, uh, all the, all the restrictions involved with tiny homes, for example, and really kind of walking through all the red tape to get it done. Like from a naysayer perspective, it was very tough to get the city to like really co-sign this stuff in LA specifically, but you know, a little bit of persistence and I was able to get it done. I'm not sure I want to build anything in LA ever again, but I did it one time and I'm proud of that. Yeah.

Evelyn (05:44):

Oh my God. And I love it that then your word, um, what I wrote here was endurance. Cause it's like, you just went through it and you just kept at it and, and a lot of hosts have those streams. And I think it's either when you give up or you follow through and you just keep going, especially when you're doing the red tape and you doing it right. Like you went ahead and did this tiny home. Correct. And now how many have you built? Cause I know you have the Joshua tree places and then you have your own glare glamping. So how many have you built in total?

Rob (06:16):

Yeah, so my portfolio is about 10 years. I think it's exactly 10 units now. And I've got a tiny house in my backyard. I've got a tiny house in Joshua tree. I just built a small home. It's not quite so tiny. And I sold that. Um, I just closed on it a couple of weeks ago and then I have five glamp sites out in Arizona, a chalet here in Tennessee and a condo in Austin. So all of that, I'm pretty sure is 10. Pretty sure. No one's going to check.

Evelyn (06:42):

They will. Anything else? Do you feel that it was sort of like what propelled you? That, that it was that, that, because there's so many people that want to do it and they don't take that leap, what would you say to someone? You know,

Rob (07:00):

I think for me, like one of the things that I've kind of had to learn the hard way over the past year, specifically since I started my, um, you know, my, my YouTube journey, for example, like time is so important in valuing time is so, so important that I think that's one of the things that we don't budget for. You know, we budget for curtains and for paints and for tile and all that kind of stuff. But if we don't really assign a value to the time that it takes to kind of run the Airbnb and all that kind of stuff. And so not that long ago, about two months ago, I really sat down and started calculating like my job and how much time I was spending doing it. And then calculating how much money I was making on Airbnb, on YouTube, on consultations and all that kind of stuff.

Rob (07:48):

And it really kind of came down to the point where when I actually sat down and actually assigned a value to my time working a full-time job to me was keeping me from really kind of pursuing my passions and really like, it was keeping me from significantly more money because like I was so trapped in comfort. I like to call them, I like to call advertising like the golden handcuffs, right. Like, you know, it's a very, it's a very high paying job and it's great and it's not hard. It's kind of hard, but it's not, you know, compared to other jobs, it's like relatively chill. We can sit around and talk about movies, but that comfort in that paycheck and the healthcare that I got from it was really holding me back from like true success. So I, I think that it's like very easy to kind of get stuck and paralyzed in the, in the deal analysis and getting analysis paralysis.

Rob (08:35):

But I think if it's like something you want to do, like you don't have to go all in at first, like try one, try one thing, try one, deal one Airbnb. And if you really like it, and if you're really passionate about it, then kind of scale up from there. You know, but for me, I had created so many income streams for myself. I have like eight income streams now, basically that I didn't even realize that those other seven income streams were significantly more than what I was making at work. And so it got to a point where really just had to take a bet on myself, take a gamble and say, you know what, I'm going to quit my job. And I'm going to use that as fire to make me successful in everything else that I do. And so far it's been working out like I've been having such a great time, really learning like that. You know who I am and who I was meant to be and all that kind of stuff. Not to get too cheesy.

Evelyn (09:26):

It's not cheesy at all. We are TC Polica house. We're, we're, we're getting, let's call them inspirational, you know, sort of like, I mean, because look, I know that there's that whole thinking of like the hustle and make millions of dollars. What is your ultimate goal? Like what is like, how many properties do you think you want to have? I know you you're looking for the tiny village. Um, but anything else that you were thinking like, yeah, this is where I want to go.

Rob (09:54):

Okay. That's a good question. I've been thinking about this. When is an a, what is enough, right? Um, I'm gonna say, uh, there's not really a monetary amount, I guess. Like, I want to be like, quote unquote rich, but not because I want like fancy cars or, I mean, I do, I'm not going to say I don't want a cyber truck, but I, you know, like I don't, I'm not doing it because I want nice things. Like I want to be quote unquote, rich or wealthy so that I can truly like buy my parents, literally anything they want. Like my dream is to like buy my dad a brand new truck. My dream is to like buy my mom a house because, you know, they gave up a lot to come to America. So for me, like I want to have enough money to where I can build anything I want without having to worry about money.

Rob (10:46):

So my tiny house in Joshua tree, for example, that was $165,000. And it was really hard to, to pay for it at the time, but I figured it out and I always have ideas like that. Like, I have so many ideas for things that I want to build and concepts that I want to execute, but I like tree houses, uh, Airstream, tree houses, like all that kind of stuff, but it takes money to do that kind of thing. Right. And I'm always trying to figure out how I'm going to pay for stuff. So for me, my goal is to be, you know, doing well enough to where I can say, yeah, you know what? I'm going to build an Airstream tree house and no one can tell me anything about it because I can afford it. I'm going to go buy it. I'm going to go do it right now. And I want to be able to just make decisions about my projects and be able to fund them without ever having to like go and approach investors and all that kind of stuff. So for me, I think it's more about fulfilling my creative spirit than it is about making money. But, um, I don't know, like, uh, I'm, you know, a net worth of a 50 million. No, I'm just kidding. I don't know. I don't really have a natural

Evelyn (11:52):

And I get it. And Robert, I knew you were Latino, right? I'm you, you know, cause I'm from Puerto Rico. So I was like, he's, he has to be this have to be something Latin blood in there. Um, and, and I get it. I get that though. You know, my dad is a taxi driver in New York, you know, so I get that whole mentality of like, we're doing better than our parents that we want to do for them as well. And it's that mentality of that rich life, because he doesn't have to do with money. It has to do with the mentality of what is a rich life for you. Um, like for you to spend time with your kids. I know you were about to have another one

Rob (12:30):

I am. And that, that that's very, that's honestly, what was such a game changer for me, it was when I had Aila, you know, she's 14 months now. I was sitting on the couch with my wife, like a month in, this was like right before, um, right before COVID and we were just sitting there. She was asleep in my arms and I was like, I can't, I'm sick to my stomach thinking about going back to work and being gone for 10 hours a day and then coming home and she's already asleep, you know, like I was like, I was like, this is like, I was like, we have to do something, let's quit our job. That's moved to Arizona. Let's like expand our glamp site. And she's like, you're crazy. And I'm like, I know I am, but what's crazier is working 60 hours a week for someone else and not being able to see y'all, you know?

Rob (13:18):

And so she was like, you're right. That, that makes a lot of sense. And so that fast forward to today, and we're in Tennessee now, not because we want to be, you know, not because we like that. We're passionate about Tennessee. I love Tennessee for, you know, for a lot of reasons, but I'm here because like I'm trying to build something for my family. Right. And so material things, I always wanted them. I've always wanted them because I've always been broke, but like three months ago, I wasn't, I'm not broken anymore to the same degree because I realized, Oh my God, like, I'm not, I'm not broke anymore. I've been saving. I've been, you know, like creating income streams. And so now that I have more money to kind of like spend, I actually don't, I mean, I buy things like every so often, like this microphone, because it's an investment for my business. But other than that, like, um, I'm not really spending more money even though I'm making it. So there is like a point where I think as soon as you reach a level, it's less about buying things and more about being happy that you can buy the things and that you can provide for your family.

Evelyn (14:19):

Yeah. It's that point of, I don't have to worry about money. Yeah. You know, it's, it's like, I don't have to think about the, yeah. I could go to whole foods and buy the, already the, the pre-made, the pre-cut salads and it's okay.

Rob (14:35):

No, it's even more than that. It's walkable, they on the Chipotle burritos, it's going to, to, uh, the grocery store and saying, you know what, I'm going to buy two pounds of shrimp today because I deserve it. You know, like seafood for like, I love seafood, but I never bought it because it's so I was so broke, but now I buy seafood whenever I want, because I earned it. You know what I mean? So it's like, that kind of stuff to me is like the daily joys of like, okay, like I can spend, like I can, me and my wife can order our own Cokes at dinner instead of splitting a Coke for the last 10 years. You know, it's like that kind of stuff. I'm like, okay, I'm good with that. Like, all I want is to like, you know that and I want to, you know, buy my dad a truck. I went by my mama house and then I want a Tesla cyber Trek. But other than that, other than that, I'm good to go. Yeah.

Evelyn (15:24):

Do I want, yeah. Did your business change at all during COVID? Cause I know for you, you blob

Rob (15:30):

It was only concerning for like the first month, right? Like when, when all the cancellations were coming through for all the different hosts and like, we had no idea what we were getting to do. And I, like, I found a pivot, like my pivot was like, I'm going to convert to long-term rentals on Airbnb. And I started taking month to month leases on Airbnb and my tiny house in my backyard. And I was started hosting, uh, nurses, like travel nurses. And then in Joshua tree I had just launched my listing and it was crushing it and then Corona hit. And so I found someone that was going to live there for two months and then someone else lived there for a month. And then as soon as the dust started to settle and we started to kind of like understand, okay, there is a, there is another side to this.

Rob (16:09):

Then my business started thriving. And like I started making more money in all of my short-term rentals and ever before my glamp site, we posted our best months in August, September, October. I mean, it was crazy. So yeah, like we did. Okay. It was hard for a little bit. We had, I had to make, you know, 40 to $50,000 worth of refunds. But other than that, um, it ended up being okay, you know what I mean? So, uh, I'm thankful, but it's all about, you know, every time you acquire a new property or a new listing before you do that, you really want to assess like, can I handle this? Do I have reserves like, you know, thinking about those worst case scenarios. And luckily I hadn't spread myself so thin that I, you know, I was in financial trouble. I was doing okay. Um, luckily I had been so good at saving that I made it. Okay. I was, I was fine. Yeah.

Evelyn (17:01):

Yeah. Yeah. And, um, and your spread in different markets, which is a great thing for you, how do you decide on those markets?

Rob (17:10):

You know, I typically invest in places where there, you know, where tourism is such a big part of, of the economy. So like in LA that's the big reason why I'm never going to invest there again, because a, the regulations are just like insane. You can't actually do short-term rentals for less than 30 days in LA legally. That is so for me, I decided to start leasing all of my stuff on Airbnb long-term. And so now on Airbnb, I only host people that are there for 30 days at a time. So now I'm looking for places like Joshua tree or Gatlinburg where millions of people are going to those national parks because it's a tourism friendly place. And so I kind of avoid regulations because I'm looking for cities that embrace Airbnb. So I would say for you, one thing to consider, if you're in New York, check out Hudson Valley, like I've done a lot of research, Catskill, New York, Marlborough, like all of those towns in the Catskills, highly profitable places.

Rob (18:08):

Like you could go in, buy a vacation rental there and absolutely clean up because I think out there the market is completely right. Anything that you want to tell to someone that is starting out, man, I think it's just starting out. Like, I mean, this is, I think that across the board, like this is the advice that everyone gives, because like the thing is when you're getting into real estate, you're trying to solve like 1000 problems for every deal that you're doing. Right? Like, let's talk about Airbnb. Like you're trying to solve, where am I going to buy? Who's going to be my realtor. How am I going to furnish it? How much am I going to charge? Like you can do so much research, but honestly, you're not going to find out the answer to those questions or those problems until you're actually doing it kind of like college and your career, right?

Rob (18:55):

College, you learn all the core principles. You study, you learn them, but it's not until you're actually working that you're able to apply everything that you learned in college. And then you actually learn way more on the job than you did in college, because it's the experience, right? I kind of think real estate is very similar to that. Where look, you can watch the raw built YouTube channel. You can listen to the, the hosting journey podcast. You can read 20,000 books and you can still feel very confused and unsure where to start maybe, but, or you can have a great understanding of where to start, but it's not until you actually start that you start to connect all the dots and all the synapses start firing off. And then you start thinking like, Oh, that's right. Like I remember Rob talking about like pricing a house this way because people don't like this.

Rob (19:40):

And now once you're in the situation, you're actually able to apply your learning. So I would say don't try to solve for everything overnight. Like try to solve for a pretty, you know, a decent amount of, uh, problems. Like what am I going to buy? What's my budget. Who's my realtor. Right? Like those, those core, big ones, but answer after you've kind of like figured out the answer to some of those big questions, then just jump in and start putting offers out and getting your first deal because it's not really going to be until you're doing it, that you become a master. You don't become a master at Airbnb or a master at real estate because things were easy. You become a master because you learn things the hard way. And the only way that you can make, you know, you can learn things the hard ways by making mistakes.

Rob (20:22):

So like be willing to make a mistake except that early on, get an offer out there and get into your first property like that. Like don't, you know, analysis process gets all of us. Like even me being where I'm at having a decent amount of like successful rentals and everything like that. I still get nervous over analyzing everything. But at the end of the day, I know, okay, I just got to get into this property and I will freaking figure it out. And that's how it's been for me, every single property and every single property I've hit a home run because I have forced myself to figure out the problems that I need to figure out.

Evelyn (20:55):

Yeah. Thank you. I think that is a great way to end this. So where can they find you and reach you? And in this took a little bit about the course that you're coming up with.

Rob (21:05):

Totally. So, uh, obviously smash the subscribe button on YouTube at the robuilt channel. Uh, you can find me on Instagram at Rob built as well. That's R O B U I L T not row built. A lot of people say row built because it looks, I guess it looks that way, but my name is Robert. So it's like, you know, Rob built it. Um, and then, yeah, I've got a glamping program coming out here pretty soon that teaches you the fundamentals of like starting a glamping business. Like everything you need to know about setting up a tent, or should you buy a tent or should you, um, buy a geodome or an Airstream? How much money can you make? Like all that kind of stuff. So I've got that coming out here. You can go to my website, Rob built.co and I have a course waiting lists on there. It's going to go live here in the next couple of weeks, or maybe it's already live by the time this podcast goes out,

Evelyn (21:54):

Robert for being here at the hosting journey and I will see you on the YouTubes

Rob (21:59):

All right. Thanks for having me on.

Evelyn (22:02):

What do you think is tiny home, something that is in your future? Is it something that you want to invest in? Let me know in the comments below, is that something because I really like tiny homes and I love the idea and concept of building something to your specifications. I can only imagine all that I've learned as a person to get there. Now, if that is a market that you're in, let me know in the comments, actually let me know, what are you doing and what are you doing with the markets? And of course, like this episode as subscribe, and I'm going to live a link to Rob's channel. So you can find him as well. Alright.

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