The Real Estate Success Story of John Jacob Astor ($800M)

In this article, I will share with you a unique real estate success story that shaped New York City in the US. Without him, the city might not be as it is today. It’s the story of John Jacob Astor, the world’s first self-made millionaire with a net worth of $20 Million at that time, in the 1800s. Today it would be worth around $800 million.

This is his story, his incredible journey of how he became super rich when there was no way a man could become rich by himself. He brought the self-made trend into this world, and others followed it.

Before we begin, I want you to know that his grandson John Jacob Astor IV died in the Titanic crash. He was the wealthiest man on that ship at that time. The wealth Mr. Astor built over time served his generation and kept them in a high class in society and government decisions.

His family built many buildings in New York City and Manhattan, and they own a football club FC Astoria Waldorf in Germany, where Mr. Astor was born. Today many Germans and Americans idealize him for his contribution to his country and as an Anglo-American capitalist and philanthropist. He was an inspiration. Let’s learn his incredible story.

Real Estate Success Story – John Jacob Astor

John was born in 1763 in Germany. At a young age, he had to move to England, where he worked at a music instrument company. But soon, the American Revolutionary War took place in 1785, and he moved again, but his time in America.

Americans know very well what it was all about. It was the year they started to crave independence from Great Britain, and after one year, on July 4, 1776, America become an independent country. Hurry! Let’s get back to the story.

After shifting to America, John started a Fur Trading business. Because he thought more and more people were moving here from different parts of the world. So they need Fur, lots of Fur. By using this opportunity, he stated that business. He says:

  • The market is far more important than the product itself.

If your market is good, then you will succeed no matter what. That is why you must first find a good market before the product.

His First Real Estate Investment


That Fur business was running quite well. So he got married to Sara in 1788. He saw a great opportunity in the real estate industry, as there were very few players in the real estate market. He thought if we flip lands, we will make good money.

So he bought a few lands in New York City and sold them for a profit. He continued to do so until he bought land with a total size of 70 acres in 1803. At that time, he was rich as his businesses were running successfully. 

He started to develop buildings and also continued flipping lands. As the population of New York City gradually started to increase, more and more construction was happening, and he invested more money and become wealthier over time. But there was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he can not miss.

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity for John 

In 1830 he saw a great opportunity on Manhattan Island. The city was developing at a rapid speed. More and more people started to build properties there. He did not wish to miss that. 

He sold all his Fur trading business assets and started to develop apartment buildings on the Island with everything he had. Time went by, he developed more properties, and slowly he became the wealthiest man in America, with a net worth of $20 Million in the 1840s ($800 million in today’s money).

Today, most of his properties are for rent. They are generating millions every year for his family. Because he knew the best way to achieve financial independence was to have a constant cash flow. He applied that and become one of the richest men in the history of the United States.

Read also: Richest real estate developer in the whole world

My Leanings From This Real Estate Success Story

Five important things I have learned from Mr. Astor’s real estate success story. Those are as follows. It is the summary of his real estate journey as a self-made man.

1. Trend and Opportunity


When the opportunity knocks on your door, don’t think much, don’t hesitate and take action with whatever you have in your possession. Invest all of them now. Who knows this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you like John Jacob Astor.

2. Focus on the Market

The market is more important than the property itself. Follow the market, and you will succeed as Mr. Astor did by starting that Fur trading business, flipping lands in New York City, and then developing Manhattan Island. The market is far more important than the product itself.

3. Due Diligence is the Key

Due diligence is the best way to find a good trend. Mr. Astor saw that Manhattan Island was developing at a rapid speed. Every year more players are entering the market. 

He anticipated that this New City will become one of the best cities in the US. He wants to take part in it. He understood the trend, and then he took action and become the wealthiest man in the United States.

4. Just Do It, No Matter What

No matter what your friends and family say about you or your goal, just do it. Have a clear Goal. Focus your full effort on that without any distractions. You will see that success is awaiting.

5. Don’t Settle in One Business, Build More

And lastly, anyone can become rich if they can identify a good opportunity and know how to use this money to grow the business and build another business over time. From Fur trading to flipping land and then developing apartment buildings.

These are the five things I think I have learned from the success story of John Jacob Astor. He died in 1848. 

Most American knows him as a fur magnate and founder of a renowned family of Anglo-American capitalists and philanthropists. His Fur Company is the first American business monopoly.

Last Words

Mr. Astor opened the door for the self-made millionaires in the world, and by following his footsteps, more and more people become rich, and 90% of them belong to the real estate industry to date.

You can imagine how easy it is to become wealthy through real estate than in any other industry, and it gives you cash flow as rents and capital gains if you sell it. Real estate can do wonder if you do what you are doing.

I hope this real estate success story will inspire you to become a better investor or a developer in the real estate industry. Good luck. Thanks for reading. See you soon.

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