Anyone who has the mind of an entrepreneur would invest their time, money, and heart to grow their business. Real estate investor and creator of Yarusi Holdings, Pilialoha Yarusi, is no exception. Her passion is taking old, rundown, and underappreciated properties and turning them into homes that deserve a good family. In this episode, she shares getting into and growing her flipping business, finding the worst homes and giving them a heart. Pili then lets us in on her real estate journey while being pregnant and the secret to successfully being in business with her husband. Get into this episode full of heart and learn a thing or two about finding that balance between real estate and family life.
Listen to the podcast here:
Investing With Heart – Interview With Pilialoha Yarusi
I am excited to have Pili Yarusi. I interview badass real estate investor goddesses, women that are crushing it in real estate and Pili is no exception. Her birth name is Pilialoha Yarusi, but she goes by Pili. She’s originally from Hawaii and has also lived in California and New York and in snowy New Jersey. After working in the arts, managing restaurants, running bars, and owning a farm, a few years ago she decided to dive into real estate. She got her real estate license and has not stopped since. She has done multifamily and flipping. Her passion is taking old, rundown flooded, moldy, fire-ravaged, termite-eater, overgrown, underappreciated homes and turning them into homes that deserve a good family. She finds the worst homes and gives them a heart. She and her husband Jason have three lovely children, Luke, Lilly, and Leo and two fur babies, two English Bulldogs, Jack and Jill. She’s taking time away from this big brood to come and talk with us. Welcome, Pili.
I’m grateful to be here, Monick. Thank you for having me.
I’m happy to have you here. Back in 2013, you started in real estate. What made you get started in real estate investing?
I got pregnant. Let’s back up a little bit. I was in the bar industry with my husband. We’ve known each other for years, but we’ve only been married and together for a few years. We were in the bar industry together and we decided on one October that we were going to get pregnant. I got pregnant and I was like, “I can’t do the bartending thing while being pregnant.” We moved to New Jersey. We figured out what we’re going to do. He started getting into his family’s construction company. I could be here all day talking about that. His family’s construction company is fantastic. We lift homes. We take them off their foundations, lift them, and give them a new foundation and a new path in life.
We have the family’s construction business. I am currently unemployed and pregnant, and Jason is switching into the family business. It made sense. Jason and his father sat me down and we started talking about real estate and we thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if you’ve got your real estate license?” We started branching out into flipping homes, doing properties, lifting homes and adding square footage to homes ourselves. Our big idea was, “Why don’t we take these flood-ravaged homes and lift them up again.” We’re putting in a second story, a new first story and a garage underneath that, thereby adding value to the house. I don’t know how many flippers you talked about when most of the talk about flipping their first homes, they’re like, “I’m going to put some carpet and things in this house and put it back up.”
“We redid some bathrooms and kitchens.” They’re not lifting the house and adding a second story underneath it.
That’s how we started. It’s by going big.
You had the construction piece of the pie already and you’ve got into doing these single-families and flipping them. I know that you’re doing multifamily. How did you get into that?
We were systematizing and growing our flipping business. As we were doing that, one of our early mentors called me up and said, “I have a couple of properties in Indiana that I’m trying to get rid of. I have a duplex. Do you guys want to run the numbers with me and see if that’s something you’re interested in?” We ran the numbers and they made sense. He was a turnkey operator, so we were like, “Let’s do something different. We’ll purchase the property through you. You can put in whatever fee you want so you can be the wholesaler. We’ll push the property. We’ll pay you to do all the renovations and you’re managing a company that can take care of it. We’ll only hold the property.”
We did and that property, we ended up buying two duplexes. They averaged about 22% ROI. They were fantastic. We held them for a year and sold them back to the person we bought them from at an obscene profit. The reason why we let those go was because this opened up a whole new world of awesomeness in Jason’s eyes. For me, I was like, “This is cool. We’ll get a couple of duplexes and start getting some cashflow in. We can start putting stuff away.” Jason’s like, “No. What if we do 100-unit apartment building?” I’m like, “I need to process things a little bit more.” Jason’s all about jumping in, so he jumped into that. We were systematizing our flip business. As we were systematizing our flip business, we started growing this multifamily business and we put our first 94 units. We closed on that at the end of 2016. Now, we’re up to 428 units.With multifamily, you have to trust and build out your team and built it out correctly. Click To Tweet
Where are your apartment buildings or your complexes?
They’re all in Louisville, Kentucky.
You’re in New Jersey. What made you go to Kentucky?
It made more sense by the economies of scale and the numbers. In New Jersey, for instance, our buying numbers for our flips are anywhere from $150,000 to about $350,000 and that’s for one single-family home. Whereas, you can purchase our entire building in Kentucky for upwards of $24,000 per unit. You can see the price differences were astronomical. Back to our flip business, that was our mainstream. That was what we were focusing on but multifamily is the way to go.
I’m into multifamily, so I get it. That’s where I live because I live in Los Angeles. It’s so super expensive. Do you have a team in Kentucky and Louisville?
That’s the thing with Jason and I. We are hands-on people and it’s probably the reason why it’s taking us longer to systematize and grow our flip business than it is our multifamily business. With multifamily, you have to trust and build out your team and built it out correctly. Especially if you’re going out of state and you have to focus on your team and make sure that team is solid. Whereas if you’re in New Jersey, for us, it’s like, “We’re going to pick up the hammer and do it ourselves.” Whereas, we can’t go to Kentucky and lift somebody’s toilet.
You’re not too glad you can’t?
Exactly. Whereas, here in our flip we’re like, “There’s a hole in the wall here. I’m going to go patch it up.” I’m like, “No. You don’t do that. Put the hammer down.” It’s a big focus on the team when it came to building out our multifamily empire.
Switching gears a little bit because you were pregnant when you started in the business, and now you have three kids. What do you think about real estate investing for mothers? Most of the times I’ve seen you and talking to you, you have a baby on the boob, literally.
I almost came with my son. I was like, “That’s going to be a little awkward but I can make it happen.” Real estate investing for mothers, the biggest thing I tell them is, “This is for everybody. Give yourselves grace. You are growing a child, even if you already have children. Give yourself grace because your children are your main focus no matter what. Make sure you build a circle of people that honor you and what you’re trying to do. Honor your family.” I have the same mindset. It’s true what they say, “You are the six people you hang out with.” Hang out with the best people that know you, your heart and know you’re trying to do the best thing for your family.
When I started, I was in my first trimester. I went to real estate school. Thank goodness I had a teacher that let me sleep during class. I wouldn’t be here where I am if it wasn’t for that first guy who was like, “You’re pregnant, take care of yourself.” I’m snacking in class. I did well on the exam, got it done, and started my career that way. We started back in 2013. We had our first son in 2014, our daughter in 2016 and our baby was born in July of 2018. I’ve been pregnant throughout our whole real estate journey and it’s been a ride. I will say that growing a family and growing a business at the same time is like having this fourth child. All my businesses are our other children. They’ve been needy children.
It is nice as a mother because of the flexibility you have when you’re an investor. Depending on how you do it, there’s work to be done when you’re building a business and you’re scaling it. It’s work. You’re not sitting on the couch eating bonbons all day.
What you said it’s true. I take so many of my business meetings while breastfeeding my child with a room full of gentlemen on the video call. I was like, “I’m not going to show my video. You’re going to hear my voice for this call.” You make it happen as much as we make it happen. We make it happen for our children and our businesses. I give kudos to all the mothers out there and all the ladies out there who are looking to be mothers. Even if you don’t want to be mothers, it’s having that mindset that as a woman, they’re not your mother. You can do this no matter what. You’re a goddess.
Also, this is for everyone out there, not only mothers, not only women, get rid of the things and give away the things you don’t want to do. For instance, you have your house cleaning lady someplace in your office vacuuming when you told her not to vacuum. Ladies, I know you think you can do it all. Have someone else vacuum your house. Please. If you can afford that extra $100 to $150 get somebody else to do it. You will be surprised how much time you free up. All of a sudden, I had all this time to spend with my kids or to work on my business because your time is valuable. Your time is worth that extra whatever an hour for somebody else come and do those things that you should not be doing yourself.
We started talking about how I pay $120 a week or something for my cleaning lady to come in and that is the best investment since. Hands down, it is worth exponentially more to me than not having to clean the toilets, vacuum, do the laundry, and all that stuff. It has added so many hours to my life and I get to do the things that I love doing versus not having to clean.
Don’t you feel bad that you’re not cleaning your own house?
There are no bad feelings at all. I’m so excited. What am I supposed to do?
No. Stop thinking about that. You’re supposed to be taking care of your family. Take care of your family is to get rid of those things that you don’t need to do. That goes for your business too. If you’re not good at organization, picking up the phone and calling people, get somebody else to do it. Hire out, leverage people. The same thing in life it’s the same thing in business. Leverage people that are good people.
There are people who are good at that thing and like it. I’m happy for her and for me. On the other side, we’re talking about mothering, but you also work with your husband, Jason. I too work with my husband. My question for you is, what do you think makes for a successful partnership with your significant other?If you work with your significant other, make them significant in your life. Click To Tweet
That’s the word. It’s partnership and communication. No matter what, in business, life, love life, every single part of your life, you need to communicate. You need to communicate on a regular basis. Jason and I try to have date nights every week. We try to have alone time with ourselves. As I’m saying this, I’m like, “I need to get on those date nights again.” Since we had our third child, we’ve been slowing down. Make that time. You need to make that time for each other. If you work with your significant other, make them significant in your life. I’m a huge proponent of time blocking and the One Thing.
First thing, when I do my schedule, especially at the beginning of the year, I’m putting in all the personal time, the kid time and this is Jason’s time, this is date night. All that goes in first. If you’re working with your husband, you need to put your personal life with him first before business. Is this going to be a close second because you guys are partners but you need to put your love for each other and your faithfulness together first, the reason why you decided to partner up and be business partners? You could’ve been a business partner with anybody else, but you guys chose each other. This is the key and this might be hard to say, if it’s not working out, acknowledge that you have not failed. You tried. Talk about it, see what you need to do, work it out, and move forward. If it is working out, continue to move forward, continue to give yourself grace and continue to work together.
The great thing about Jason and I is, we met working. We bartended. For a season, I was his manager and we flipped and he became the manager. It’s this whole hodgepodge of bartending bliss. We’ve always worked together. Getting into business together in real estate was like a no brainer, but we were always communicating and we always have each other’s back no matter what. Always have that support system. He’s my support system. I’m his support system, and we’re always there for each other no matter if it’s something to do with our children or our businesses. We’re good at delegating things to each other. For instance, I am mostly in the single-family flip realm. He is mostly in the multifamily realm, but we jumped into each other’s realms all the time to give each other support. If stuff ever hit the fan, I would go family first and he would take care of business. Family is always first but we know if somebody needs to go pick up the kids, “I’ll go do that and you go take this business meeting that I don’t need to be at.” We know what each other’s strengths are and lead with your heart. It works.
I love that and it’s true.
I work with my husband and we have an amazing partnership together. That’s a lot of what you’re talking about. We each have our roles and distinct roles that we handle. We consult each other and support one another as needed but we have our lane, usually. You do have to put the relationship first. You have to put your family, each other and love first and the business is second. Knowing that having your partner and having somebody you trust as your partner, who you love and, and know that they will have your best interest at heart because your interests are so aligned. It’s special and amazing.
I usually get asked, “What’s the best business decision I’ve ever had?” I always say, “Jason.” That’s true. He’s the best business decision I’ve ever made and the best decision I’ve ever made for my heart. It’s the partnership. It’s going back to the people that you surround yourself with. Your husband, significant other, wife, or partner they are the most important person in your life. Yes. You have your children, you decided to start this. Whether it’s business, life, partnership, your everything, acknowledge that, honor it, and lead with that.
My next question is a question that I always ask other guests because we learn so much more from what doesn’t work out and our mistakes than we do from let’s meet smooth sailing times. What would you say was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from that?
The biggest mistake is on the market. This is supposed to be a test flip. We were testing the market in the town we live in. We love living here and we were like, “Why don’t we start trying to flip homes here?” We found a home and as long as everything went to plan. I looked back at the numbers and they were there. They were spot on but with this flip came a series of mistakes that we weren’t prepared for. This flip has taken us about two years. Now, I would never do this house. Now, I would be like, “Not in this town. Not that house. We’re not going to do it.”
Why not? Break it down for our readers. What specifically did you learn? What was wrong with the town? What was wrong with that house?
The town was a little more difficult to work with. They were more stringent on their policies. This was the first home that we were doing in this particular town, even though our construction company has been doing business for 40 to 50 years, depending on when you asked my father-in-law. There were zoning issues. We had to get variances there. There were things that the building department told us that we could do when we first went in there. We did it in writing so when we went back, they were like, “You have to do this thing and the other thing.” It took us nine months to almost one year to get out of zoning.
On top of that, there were construction issues. We’re working with a construction company so we had the time divvied out for the project when it was on our timeline. It started getting behind and our construction company has all these other projects that we have to work on. It was put in whenever it could be worked on because of all those mistakes and issues, the purchase price was too much. We bought it for too much. I hadn’t known that we were going to run into this time because it should have only taken us nine months to flip this house. I knew it was going to take us a while. It was pretty much a new build. We were popping up the top. We were going to lift it, but we couldn’t do that in the town so we’re going to pop up the top and build a new house.
Even with that, the numbers still worked. The time factor made the purchase price astronomically too high. Time is money. When you do your numbers, and this is for all your readers out there, make sure you know the town you’re working in and if not, ask around and make sure that you know the type of build you’re doing and how long it’s taking other builders to do it. I wish I had known that. This was our first time exploring and trying to get into other new things and you shouldn’t have. The purchase price is a big no-no. We bought it too high. The town was hard to work with. We were trying to build the entire thing ourselves without having the time to do it.
It’s winter and I have no market. I had it on the market in November. I had a contract and the buyers decided to walk away because it’s been a few years, we’ve refinanced it. We have other financers on this project and it’s coming up on time. We have to sell this project. We still have plenty of time, but having to put it back on the market. I couldn’t go after the buyers for the deposit because we needed to get it back on the market. They knew they had us there. I don’t know why they decided to walk away, but they did. Unfortunately, it happens. I have it back on the market. If anybody out there wants to buy a house in New Jersey, call me.
It’s a brand-new house.
It’s a beautiful house. It’s a brand-new home. I might move into it if I have to. I’ll leave my husband and the kids in the other house. I’ll make this my big she shed. With this house, I feel that we made every single mistake, and this is after we’ve flipped a ton of homes where it’s gone smoothly. We’ve made a ton of money. It’s this one which we had for a few years. I’ve talked to other flippers and they’re like, “Everybody has that one.” This is probably going to be the first one that we may lose money on. Knock on wood someplace. We haven’t lost money yet. Hopefully, it won’t lose money. I am happy I got that off my chest.
That’s the thing about real estate investing. There will be mistakes. It’s not an if, it’s when. It’s when you have one of those that are tough. We had an apartment building and it was horrible. We closed on it and we sold it. It’s given me gray hair as I’ve lost ten years of my life in that one property.
Your hair’s coming back.
How much have I learned? So much. How much did you learn?
Exactly. The price of learning is worth it.Make sure you build a circle of people that honor you and what you're trying to do. Click To Tweet
You do learn a lot from those challenges.
They’re not challenges. They’re failures.
It’s not a failure. This is my failure. We sold it and we made money. There you go. I learned a lot. I wouldn’t call it a failure but if there were lessons to learn, that were lessons learned. Let’s say that. How about the flip side? What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the multifamily property that we put under contract and we closed on. That was a huge undertaking. I’m going to be honest. This is mostly my husband because I was still in the mindset of, “I don’t know if we can do this. I’m going to focus on our family, the flipping and the things that I know and I can touch. I’m the one that brought those two duplexes to Jason. I was like, “This is going to work and we can do this at a state.” All of a sudden, he puts on a 94-unit and I’m like, “Let me watch for a little bit.” Once he closed on that and it started moving, I was like, “The proof is in the pudding. This makes sense.” Multifamily makes sense. It’s the next step up. I’ve already talked to dozens of flippers. I had a conversation and they’re like, “We’re ready for the next step.” I was like, “This next step. This is who you talk to. You can call me or Jason whenever you want.” This goes for any of your readers out there, you guys will have my information at the end of this. For anybody that’s starting, get over. If you have the same mindset that I did at the beginning, work through it, get over it and work through it because multifamily is where you need to be.
It’s not harder to go bigger. A lot of people think that you have to start small.
In many ways, it’s easier.
When people play Monopoly, you learn first that you need the little green house and you get the other little green house. After you have enough green houses, you can get the red hotel. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t need to work that way. Red hotels are often easier.
In this game that we like to play, you go on and pick out the red hotels and you put it on the spots.
That’s how I play but I had to learn that too. To what do you attribute your success?
To the partnership, I have with Jason and my family, but it’s the partnership that Jason and I have. Without him and without our partnership, we would not be successful. He completes me in ways that I didn’t know needed to be completed, especially in moving forward in this arena. Even this conversation that we’re having. I wouldn’t have dreamt of being here with the knowledge if it had not been for Jason. It’s giving myself permission to excel and know this amazing world or real estate that we’ve gotten into together. I attribute it mostly to Jason and our partnership.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out in this field?
Know that you can do it. Give yourself permission to excel. A lot of times, and I do this to myself, I don’t give myself permission to succeed. We talked about failures and they’re almost a necessity, but giving yourself permission to succeed is key. It’s allowing yourself the ability to take the next step and the next step. Six years later, you’re going to find out that you’re going to be in this place where you have 428 units and a multitude of real estate experience behind your back and you’re starting to teach other people how to do it. When I first started, I was pregnant in some dinky office learning real estate out of this huge book that I threw away or used it as a doorstopper. Now, I get to be in this amazing interview. It works as long as you give yourself permission to succeed.
What do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
You need to pick one.
I wish I’d known what I said and to give yourself permission. I take a little bit longer to change and adjust. That’s the mindset difficulties that I have. If you have that same mindset difficulty or if you don’t believe in yourself, get rid of that mindset. I wish I had known that at the beginning that I can do this. This is where I need to be. This is where my family needs to be and this is the best thing for my family. I wish I’d known that at the beginning and not to buy that property that I was talking about. Also, learn from other people’s mistakes.
That’s why I always ask that question, so you reading out there won’t do that.
You can learn from people’s mistakes. Find mentors, find people that are out there, and find podcasts. Don’t only listen and be like, “That was a cool podcast.” Listen to implement. When a deal comes across your desk, whether it’s multifamily or single-family or anything in between, make sure the numbers work. Try it in different scenarios. Best case, the worst case in all cases.
Before we get into our famed trinity, which is a brag, gratitude, and desire, how can people find out more about you?
You can find me at [email protected]. You can look me up on YarusiHoldings.com. If you can’t remember my name for some reason, you go to [email protected]. I’m usually good at email. I’ll get back to you and let’s start a conversation.Sometimes, we're not the best versions of ourselves when we're not the best versions of ourselves in front of our children. Click To Tweet
It’s time for the trinity and it’s a brag, gratitude, and a desire. What is your brag?
My brag is to have the best family and best husband in the world. I have the best partnership that anybody could ever dream of. The synergy that we have is so amazing that I get to brag about it.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for my children. They have shown me how to be grateful. They have shown me what grace looks like. It’s giving myself grace for those moments. We all do it as mothers and as people. Sometimes we’re not the best versions of ourselves when we’re not the best versions of ourselves in front of our children, it’s the worst possible feeling. They have given me permission, and I’m grateful for this, to be the best mother. I’ve learned so much.
Last but not least, what’s one thing that you desire?
I’m going with something standard here. I mentioned financial freedom when not at that point yet. I’m going to be honest about that. I’m from Hawaii. I go home at least two times a year. A lot of people would think, “You’re financially free if you can do that.” I’m like, “No. I budgeted that.” I’m not financially free because there are still things that I want to get in life. That’s one of the biggest things and that’s to be financially free and not to have to worry about, “I’m going to Hawaii but am I going to come back and my business is in shambles. I want to be able to take that breath and be like, “Everything is being handled and I can go to Hawaii or I can spend all this time with my children, not have to worry about this profit or that profit.” I’ll still be worried, but my bank account won’t be.
Money’s coming in even when you’re on vacation or you’re sleeping and doing other stuff.
That’s what we all want to be. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you want to be there too. We’re right there or reaching for it. It’s there. It’s in our grasp. We have to give ourselves permission to rub it and hold onto it.
So shall your desire be, or so much better than you can imagine. My mission is to help 1 million women find financial freedom through real estate.
I’m going to get on a call with you to make sure I’m doing everything I can get that financial freedom and I’ll be one of your 1 million.
Thank you so much, Pili. That was awesome. For those of you who are reading, if you want to connect with her, go to [email protected]. You can connect with me at REIGoddesses.com. If you want to partner with your husband and your significant other in real estate, I’m having an event with my hubby in Belize called Real Estate Soulmates. It’s going to be small deliberate 30 couples, but I would love for you to be there and you can find out more about it by going to TinyUrl.com/resoulmates, or you can go into RealInvestorEstateGoddesses.com under events and find out information about that. I hope to see you there.
About Pilialoha Yarusi
Pilialoha Yarusi is a (Wonder)ful Woman, Amazing Wife, Loving Mommy and Awesome Human. She has partnered with her equally awesome husband, Jason, and created Yarusi Holdings LLC a Large Multifamily Investment Firm. Currently, they are General Partners in about 800 units with 250 under direct asset management. Her FOCUS is on large multifamily syndication and asset management. She has a GOAL of 450M in assets under management. Pili’s high-level ACTION STEPS are providing her investors with capital preservation by looking for B-C class assets in the 20 – 50M range. Her markets include Kentucky, Georgia and Florida.
She runs the Investor and Client Relations branches of both Yarusi Holdings LLC and Multifamily Foundation LLC. Multifamily Foundation is Pili and Jason’s interactive education platform for investors to build a strong FOUNDATION with buying Large Multi-family.