My Real Estate Story: From Zero to Ten Doors How Ingrid is Investing in Real Estate

My Real Estate story is a OneSavvyDollar series where we interview millennials who have successfully invested in real estate because; “real estate is an imperishable asset, ever-increasing in value. It is the most solid security that human ingenuity has devised. It is the basis of all security and about the only indestructible security”.- Russell Sage.

Can you tell us a bit about you?

My name is Ingrid and I am originally from Colombia (South America). I came to the United States with my family when I was in Middle School and I remember everything being so different; the culture, the people, and the language.

Currently, I am an Engineer and a real estate investor, and I mainly focus on buy and holds, but I have also done a few flips.

When did you decide to get into real estate? What was the aha moment for you?

My aha moment happened a few years ago.

The company that I was working for at the time was going through a wave of layoffs, and some of my coworkers, people that had been working for years at this company, were given a cardboard box and told they had 15 minutes to pack up their belongings and leave.

They did not get any type of warning. I told myself that even though I liked being an Engineer, I couldn’t let my W-2 job be the only source of income or my only plan for “financial security”.

To build wealth, you can either start a business, invest in the stock market or real estate. Why real estate?

I believe diversification is important. To build wealth, I do both: invest in real estate and the stock market.

I do have a confession to make, I honestly thought only the very wealthy could invest in the stock market, but after educating myself about the subject, I realized anyone can do it.

So I started investing in ETFs, Index Funds, and single stocks. also believe that if you invest in real estate, you pretty much have a business. 🙂

Most people think you have to quit your job to invest. Did you keep your job or are you involved in real estate full time? How has the experience been (either way?)

There is a general misconception that in order to be successful or to be considered an entrepreneur that you need to quit your 9-5 job and have your own business.

Personally, I like my 9-5 job and the income I earn through it has allowed me to invest in real estate. I’ll be honest, it can be tricky to do both, but if you have a plan in place, you can make it work.

What is important is that you need to know what your goals are: are you wanting to be your own boss? Or do you want to be work optional? I am aiming to be work optional and not depend on a company to support me financially.

Tell us about your first home/deal. How did you find it? How much did it cost and do you still own it?

I bought my first deal back in 2014. I did have an agent at the time, but he wasn’t very good. I was the one to wake up every morning and look at properties on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service).

What is important is to have criteria already set up before you start looking, I had a specific area in mind, a specific house size and, for me, the proximity to a major interstate is very important.

Once I had the criteria set up, I was able to narrow down my search. Our first property cost $71,500 and we bought it in cash.

We were competing against cash investors and we were losing deals, as a result, my husband and I decided to use our life’s savings and purchase our first property. We still own this property till today.

What are some mistakes you made during your real estate journey?

Not screening potential tenants thoroughly. At the beginning of our journey, I was more worried about having a tenant in place in order to start cash-flowing, and didn’t really screen applicants. This ended up being a costly mistake.

We had to evict our very first tenant in our very first property.

Presently, I take my time screening applicants, I make sure to do a full background check, credit check, income verification, and references (including previous landlords).

Was there any time during your journey where your friends and or family challenged your plans to get involved in real estate?

My family was excited for us, but they were worried about how I would have the time to sleep, work at my W-2 job, and do real estate. I must admit, it can be challenging at times, but my husband and my family are very supportive of our goals.

As an investor, what is your real estate investing strategy and how do you determine if a property is worth the investment?

For buy and holds, I am looking for a specific net cash-flow per month.

I deduct any expenses from the monthly rent, i.e. PITI, lawn maintenance, repair funds, and if the remaining is greater than $600, I look into the property in more detail. If the property needs repairs before it can be rented then I look at a COC (cash-on-cash) return greater than 20%.

COC is the yearly net income divided by the cash you initially invested in the property.

For flips, the Purchase Price =  (ARV (after repair value) x 0.65) – Repairs.

Currently, we have 9 doors and have one more property under contract. This new property has a 1400 sqft basement with a separate entrance, which means there is potential for 1-2 studio apartments.

Do you invest in state or out of state and which would you consider to be harder?

We invest in state; 90% of our properties are located 3 hours away and I self-manage all of them.

I would imagine being out of state would be harder since you depend on contractors doing a good job and being honest. I have had bad experiences with contractors, so I am hesitant about investing out of state.

Were any resources such as blogs, books, podcasts particularly helpful to you to get started? How did you find the inspiration to get started?

There are really good blogs and podcasts out there: bigger pockets and others, however, the best resource is people.

Talk to experienced investors, there is so much we can learn from them and their experiences. I would recommend if you want to get started in real estate investing, find out a real estate investment(REI) group in your area and attend the meetings.

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals.

My goal is to be ‘work optional’. My husband and I have talked about how much we want to take a 6-month sabbatical and travel the world with our puppy. Our goal is to be at that point in less than 2 years.

Let’s talk about leverage: would you advise reinvesting your profit to pay down the loan or acquiring more using your profits?

Depends on your goals. There are investors that want a specific amount of units vs others that want a specific monthly net cash flow.

I would recommend you put in writing why you want to get into REI and list your goals. Personally, we are looking for a specific monthly cash flow and we plan on complementing this with other sources of income.

We are diversifying our assets and are working on adding multiple sources of income besides our real estate properties.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Start investing in the stock market and real estate sooner. Compound interest and property appreciation are powerful tools.

What advice would you give anyone who is trying to buy their first home or become a real estate investor?

Have a plan, property criteria, network, and pull the trigger. There is only so much you can learn from reading blogs and talking to people, you’ll do the rest of the learning by executing your plan.

What markets do you primarily invest in and which do you avoid completely?

We mainly invest in areas around Atlanta (Ga) and focus on Single Family Homes. At this moment, we are not looking into big multi-family units since it doesn’t support our current goals.

How can our readers keep in touch with you?

You can find me on Instagram: @engineer.on.fire

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Congratulations Ingrid! Wishing you much success in your real estate investing journey!

About Ogechi

Hello, I'm Ogechi. I'm a financial educator, real estate investor, and founder of OneSavvyDollar. I write to empower you into saving more, paying off debt, increasing your net worth, and building real wealth so you can achieve financial freedom

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