Financial Literacy 2007 - Mortgages
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A conversation with ... Bob Greene

Long before Bob Greene became the health and fitness guru to Oprah Winfrey, he was moonlighting at reclamation of a different sort: fixing up houses.

The New Jersey native started young, collecting real estate magazines. In graduate school at the University of Arizona, he caught the fixer bug but lacked the capital to make a go of it. But Miami in the early 1980s was ripe for renovation and Greene jumped in with both feet.

At a glance
Name: Bob Greene
Hometown: Cherry Hill, N.J.
Education: University of Delaware, B.S., health and physical education University of Arizona, Master's degree, exercise physiology
Career highlights:
  • Began as physiologist and trainer for professional athletes at his Health and Fitness Institute in Coral Gables, Fla.
  • Opened the Doral Telluride Resort & Spa in Colorado -- one of his first customers was Oprah Winfrey in 1992.
  • First book, "Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life," co-written with Oprah Winfrey, hit No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller List, 1996.
  • Author of "Get with the Program! Getting Real About Your Weight, Health and Emotional Well-Being," (2002); "Bob Greene’s Total Body Makeover: An Accelerated Program of Exercise and Nutrition for Maximum Results in Minimum Time," (2004); "Best Life Diet and Daily Journal" (2006).
  • Health and fitness correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning America."
  • Regular contributor to O Magazine.

Bankrate had a chat with the creator of "The Best Life Diet" about his passion for properties.

q_v2.gifWe generally picture you shaping up such celebrity clients as Oprah. But shaping up real estate for resale is another one of your passions, right?

a_v2.gif It is. When I finished graduate school, I moved to the Miami area and I had a great job at a hospital; I ran a sports medicine institute, physical therapy and weight loss programs. Then I started buying properties in the Coconut Grove area and fixing them up. I'd come home after a full day of work and start fixing up these properties. I started with my own house and then rental property. It became like this second passion and love of mine.

q_v2.gifHow were you able to afford to become involved in real estate initially?

a_v2.gif Right out of graduate school, I wasn't. But a little-known fact, right out of grad school, in the early '80s, I went to Miami and the Latin dollar fell and you could buy things because a lot of things were under foreclosure in Coconut Grove. This was before Coconut Grove got really popular. So I basically sold my car to afford the down payment on my first house; I didn't need it because I worked within biking distance of the hospital. So I went without a car for a little while and was lucky enough to get a loan, and just started buying up a couple of rental properties as I got more equity. Then I started selling a couple of them quickly after, because they fixed up very nicely and the timing was good. To be honest with you, it became a very good living. My passion was health and fitness, but unless you reach a certain level, which I hadn't at the time, I made a much better living in the real estate.

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q_v2.gifWas financing several properties at once tricky?
 

a_v2.gif No, because in the '80s, there were a lot of foreclosures and the banks weren't regulated in the same way as they are today. So you would go to a bank that owned a property that was being foreclosed on, and you could deal directly with the bank. Instead of just writing off the loss, it was, "Hey, we have a buyer, let's try him out; he has enough for a modest down payment, let's go with it."

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