Nicole Rueth is the number one purchase loan originator in Colorado, and one of the top in the country. But when she graduated from college as a finance major, the mortgage industry wasn’t on her radar.
Early in her career, Rueth was hired by Accenture, where she worked for more than seven years. She credits the firm with teaching her work ethic and agility, two attributes that would serve her well as the operations manager at a friend’s mortgage company.
Two other attributes that drive success in mortgages: “I love numbers. I love anything to do with strategy,” Rueth said.
When her business partner left the mortgage company, Rueth was left with a choice.
“The phone never stopped ringing,” she said of the company’s clients. “I could either pick it up or I could go do something else.”
Rueth picked up. She got hooked on doing mortgages, and a new phase of her career had begun.
“There’s a charge that you get doing loans,” she said. “It’s addictive.”
“I didn’t grow up understanding the power of real estate”
She eventually found her way to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation (which owns Home.com), where she is now a senior vice president and branch manager.
These days, it’s not just the charge of closing loans that drives Rueth. It’s the opportunity to help transform homebuyers’ lives.
“If you can help them choose wisely and finance correctly, you can change the trajectory of their life,” Rueth said. “If I can get them to see beyond that first house to the second and third, now I’ve changed the trajectory of a family for generations.”
Rueth knows this from experience. A chance encounter with a local investing group more than a decade ago persuaded her to purchase a fourplex as an investment property for $400,000. Today, the property is worth more than $1 million, and Rueth owns 10 other properties, including a shopping center.
“I wouldn’t have done any of those things,” without the help of an investing mentor, she said. “I was raised on food stamps and lived in rentals. I didn’t grow up understanding the power of real estate.”
When Rueth talks about changing the trajectory of a family for generations, she knows something about that, too. Since becoming a real estate investor herself, she’s also helped her three children buy homes when they turned 20. Her goal is to help each of them buy five properties by the time they’re 30.
“Then I think I’ve been a good parent,” she said with a laugh.
Rueth wanted her children to develop skills around property management and budgeting as early as possible. But she also wanted them to benefit from owning early so their properties had plenty of time to appreciate in value.
“What you can’t manufacture is time,” she said, which is why she encourages other young people to purchase now as well. The property doesn’t have to be your forever home, and you don’t have to plan to live in the same city for years to come.
The Rueth house hack
Rueth is proof that you can buy a house, or condo, or townhouse, or apartment, and begin growing your wealth as your equity and the home’s value increases.
You can also buy with less money down and fewer hurdles than you think.
“If you buy a home with 3% down with down payment assistance, you can house hack and get your roommates to pay your mortgage,” Rueth said.
House hacking is the practice of buying a home as a primary residence with a low down payment and mortgage rate and eventually turning that property into a rental.
And if you decide to move to another city or travel the world in a couple of years? “You don’t have to live there,” she said. “You just need a really good property manager.”
That’s not to say that buying your first investment property is easy.
“It was a lot of work, and it was stressful and overwhelming,” Rueth recalled of purchasing her first fourplex in 2012.
But as soon as it was done, she was looking for the next investment. She had learned so much the first time around, she didn’t want to waste all the knowledge she had gained.
Her message to anyone who feels intimidated by the prospect of buying an investment property is to act now so you can maximize the value of the home.
“You think you can’t, but I would tell you that you can’t not,” she said.
When she’s not at her office, Rueth enjoys running and bicycling and spending time with her family and their two dogs, a Labradoodle and a Havanese. She and her husband work together, and her three children all went to college in Denver and live close to home.
“They’re always in my house,” Rueth said gratefully. “I never lost them.”
But she’s often working, because she’s passionate about what she does.
“My purpose is to educate as many people as I can about the opportunities in real estate,” she said.