If you think that family and business are two irreconcilable animals, this REI supermom’s story will prove you wrong. Colorado real estate investor and accountability coach Jill Johnson literally started her family in real estate. She met her husband and partner in real estate and continues the legacy of real estate investing within the family by teaching it to her children. And they are no slouches, too! Since they started investing in 2017, they went from 0 to 58 doors in just over two years. Life is never dull for Jill. Apart from managing their properties and investments, she spends her day homeschooling her five kids, molding them for future success. On top of all that, she is also an accountability coach who helps other women reach their full potential. Learn more of Jill’s story as she sits down to talk with host, Monick Halm.
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Life’s Never Dull For REI Supermom, Jill Johnson
I am excited to have with us, Jill Johnson. She is a homeschool mother of five and wife to her partner in crime and real estate, Joe. They started investing in real estate in 2017 and less than three years, they went from 0 to 58 doors. They started single-family and another multifamily. What I love is that she is teaching her children about the business. She is an accountability coach and passionate about helping women reach their full potential. She’s a soul sister of mine in helping women, which I love. She has an awesome blog called Life’s Never Dull, where she writes about real estate accountability, lifestyle and travel with her family. She travels in their Sprinter van and camper as much as possible. They’ve created an amazing lifestyle through real estate. I’m super excited to have her. Welcome, Jill.
Thank you for having me. I’m super excited.
You have a great story, which is inspiring. Your story will inspire a lot of people. Tell us how you got started in real estate investing.
My story is not traditional. I got started through the real estate after celebrating fourteen years of marriage with my husband. The day after Christmas, he passed away from pancreatic cancer and left me to raise our five children. They were under twelve years of age at the time. For the last years, I was their mom. I was running a household. I was supporting him, but he was going out and being the breadwinner. Thankfully, we were in a great spot financially, but trying to pick up the pieces and see what our life is was going to look like without him. I quickly realized that I needed to find something to do, but we had always homeschooled and I didn’t want to stop that.
I didn’t want to go work a traditional job because you’re grieving, your children are grieving. The last thing that you want to do is to throw them in school where they’ve never been. I started searching and ironically, my first real taste in real estate came in the form of a hard money loan that I lent to a family member. That was a neat taste to see what that cashflow did and how that changed for the kids and me. When that was coming to an end, I did not want to put it into the market. I don’t know everything about the stock market and things like that and it scared me to do that.
I always had an interest in real estate. To make my long story a little bit shorter, through all of this, I met someone new, my now husband, Joe. He was in the construction world. For me, one of the biggest fears was getting a home or getting a rental property and not knowing what to do with it and how to fix it. He gave me the confidence to move forward. I took that money and bought a home with an apartment in the back, but it’s two units. I started there. It was March 17, 2018 when Joe and I formed our partnership. In April, we had five single-family homes. In August, we formed a real partnership and got married. He married all six of us. We did that a little bit backward, joined our partnership first, and then got married. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but if you’re going to do that, make sure you have all the necessary paperwork. By 2019 Christmas, we have 28 doors.
You guys created quite the dream team. Where are you investing and what are your investments? Where are your investments? You said you have 28.
We now have 57. We sold one to a renter. We’re doing an owner carry for them, which is working out great for them, but also working out well for us because we were able to be the bank. We get to make 8%. We have 30 doors in Colorado and 27 doors in New Mexico. That’s where our properties are. We manage the Colorado ones ourselves. We do have some boots on the ground there. Some people we can call on and trust on. In New Mexico, we have a property manager that handles everything.Start investing from a place of confidence, not fear. Click To Tweet
Are you mostly in Albuquerque?
Yes. In New Mexico, we’re in Albuquerque. In Colorado, we’re in Central Colorado in the mountains is where we’re located.
What was your biggest mistake? What did you learn from it?
The feedback, the knowledge that we gain from messing up. I would think the biggest mistake we made is I started renting in a place of fear instead of a place of confidence that this is a home that’s going to be something valuable to people. Instead, we would close on the property and I would hurry and get a tenant in there. That wasn’t necessarily always the right match. We learned the hard way about that. Our process has gotten a lot better. We’re much better at vetting. I don’t worry about it. I know that we’ll get the right tenants in there, but we had to weed through some things and it’s all a learning process.
Qualifying tenants is important. Give us a little bit more feedback. What didn’t you look at that you’ve now learned that you need to?
One of my favorite examples worked out for years but went downhill. They came waving cash. Don’t do that. Don’t take cash. There were maybe some discrepancies in some of their applications. We use Buildium. We’re efficient with our background screens and things like that. I was a little bit more trusting than I should have been and where follow up on things. Go with your guts. I think that was one of the things where sometimes as a mom, you’re like, “I want to help them and I want to provide a home for their kids.” We can still do that. That is part of our mission as a real estate team is we do want to provide that, but we also need to make sure it’s still a good fit for us as well.
I’m still going to explore more because I was like, “Cash is not necessarily a bad thing.” What was typically the problem that you didn’t see before?
I think it ended up being in an issue of where the cash was coming from. They were probably into some things that they shouldn’t have and not truthful about their employment. Even though we did follow-up with some things, we should have gotten another level. We got much better with credit checks and background. There are many different things that you do need to look at. It’s not just, “This person got $1,200 and that’s great. Let’s go ahead and rent it to him.” We do everything through direct deposit. We don’t take cash, even checks, we’ll get some people but we like it to be all automated because we manage many. We want to be as hands-off as possible at that.
That’s a great lesson for people. These people are going to be in your house and on your home, the properties that you own, especially depending on where you are investing, it is not the easiest to have people to get rid of bad tenants.
It could be expensive too.
Do lots of your intelligence upfront to make sure you have good tenants. What are you most proud of?
I think what I’m most proud of is the partnership that we have formed being a husband-wife team, and scaling quickly as our investors and owning our properties. I’m also proud of how we’ve brought our kids into our business. Our oldest two own one of our units and they have learned so much through that. We try to teach them that they can go on and take with anything in life and a good work ethic. The other thing that I was super proud of is last December 2019, we were able to buy another ten units because we had improved a twelve-unit, we’re able to refinance. We didn’t have any money out of pocket, just the earnest money.
I’d love to hear more about how you do this as a family. How does your partnership work with your husband? Although a lot of people are curious about that. How do you make that work? I work with my husband and I love to hear from other successful real estate couples. How are you doing it? How do you make it successful?
From the beginning we each kept our roles and then we both came together to make offers, to look at deals, and decide if this is this something that we wanted to take on. We’ve always had those clear, “This is what you’re going to do. This is what I’m going to do.” We’ve also been flexible enough with each other to help each other when we need to. That’s not to say that things haven’t also evolved. As I get busier with homeschooling, as kids get older and things like that, he’s had to take on more and he’s my construction guy. It makes sense for him to take on a bigger role. As the kids leave the house, I see that changing again.
Communication is the key. Talk about everything. If something bothers you, get it out because you can’t fix it. If you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you fix it? What works for us may not work for your husband and wife team. Figuring out your strong suits and what you truly want to do and sometimes things that I don’t want to do, he loves doing it. Things that he doesn’t want to do, I love doing it. It works out, not to say there are not growing pains, but we’ve truly loved the business. We’ll go on vacation and choose to talk about real estate because it’s something that we love, like, “Let’s look at this deal.” We’re passionate about it.
That’s what I have found too. When you have clear roles though, “This is your job,” not that we don’t work together, but to the same with us, as a couple and communicating and like always keeping each other informed and airing things when there is a challenge. Those are all great pieces of advice. How about with your kids? How are you getting your kids involved in the real estate investing business?Teach your kids about money and business. They are never too young to learn about the realities of life. Click To Tweet
Since we homeschool, we’re blessed to be able to work it into their curriculum and we do basic financing, family budgets, things like that. Cashflow is a term we use all the time. Our kids understand that you have this mortgage, but someone else is paying it down. It’s a long-term investment. Our oldest two were able to purchase a deal from us and that’s been cool when the sewer backs up. They don’t make and get rent. We have to go and pay for that. Learning that is not fun, but that’s the real world. We’ve done everything from like a Dave Ramsey family budget class. We play Cashflow for fun.
Our boys have an app that they can invest in the stock market, not real estate. That’s been interesting because they were doing well. It was giving them this false sense of security. I then had them check it right after COVID hit and they were like, “Mom, our money’s gone.” I’m like, “I know.” Let’s talk about this because we were fortunate enough to be able to work with tenants that we didn’t suffer and everyone paid rent. That was such a good lesson for all of them. We’ve also had our kids get on Zillow and say, “Find us a property that we can look at,” and we teach them that. As they’re getting older, they’re learning more. You can start with someone young to start to learn to save and that there’s much that we weren’t taught necessarily. We talk about money all the time in our house. I think they should know if we have a tenant that destroyed something, it costs us money and that’s reality. That’s real life.
I hope everyone reading with kids are learning from that. You can bring them in and teach them these things. I didn’t get my first investment until I was 30. If I had known this as a kid or a teenager, what a difference that would make of my life? To what do you attribute your success?
I would probably have to say courage, in the beginning, to run the numbers, see that the numbers worked and then go ahead and take the step to write an offer. Even if we had to offer a low offer, we still wrote offers. We still went after properties that we wanted to have. Even people that we talk to or that we help, they get stuck in that analysis paralysis. They aren’t taking that next step. I think that’s how you move from 0 to 58 doors in such a short amount of time. We also have built an amazing team. Each of our areas that we invest in, we have realtors who are bringing a couple of our deals, buildings that we own we’re off-market deals. There were pocket listings that we were able to hop onto. We also have some construction people that help us. I think having the courage to take the step, but then also making sure you’re bringing along people with you to help to build that team.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting in this field?
I would say read everything that you can and listen to podcasts. There’s much education out there that’s free. I would also find somebody like a mentor coach who is where you want to be and get them to help you. Run your numbers and write an offer. Don’t be afraid to put an offer in. It’s not that scary. It’s a lot of fun.
Take action. What do you wish you had known at the beginning that you now know?
I think it goes back to that fear of whatever happens, we’re going to be okay. We’re going to fix it. If it’s a bad tenant, we’re going to go through the courts and get them kicked out. If they trash the place, we’re going to get in and fix it. If COVID hits, we’re still going to be okay. We’re still going to weather that storm. Waive late fees and have them make a payment, whatever the systems that you put in place to handle things like that. We will be okay and we’re going to weather. There isn’t anything that we can’t find the answer to find someone to help us to get us over that.
Before we get into our famed end of show trinity, how can people reach you to find out more about you or connect with you?
Life’s Never Dull on all the social media, Instagram and Facebook. Also, I have a blog called LifesNeverDull.com. I would love to connect. That’s one of my passions is connecting with other women who are driven and excited about life.
Life’s Never Dull all over the place. It is time for our trinity, which is a brag, gratitude and a desire. What’s one thing you’re celebrating now? Let’s do brag.
My brag is I started accountability coaching, which has been much fun. It’s blown me away from such a quick start that it’s had. It’s my passion to help women be their best selves, reaching their potential for their families but most importantly for themselves. Creating that balance and harmony within them to go out after what they want. It’s been rewarding and real estate has afforded me to be able to start my accountability coaching.
What’s one thing you’re grateful for?
God, He’s carried me through many things and given me this beautiful family with amazing health, and I’m truly grateful for that.
What’s one thing you desire?
My desire is to travel more with our children. Our oldest is turning seventeen. These times are precious and because of real estate and not working for someone else, being able to work for ourselves, we can pick up and travel. We were on a six-week trip when the whole virus hit and we were able to stay the course safely. It’s seven of us in this tiny little camper and it is the most precious time. We are looking forward to getting back out there this fall. We’re already planning a trip and real estate affords us to do that. When we’re on the road, rent is getting paid. It’s a beautiful life and I’m super grateful.
Thank you for being on and sharing your awesome story, your inspiration and wisdom. If you want to connect with Jill, you can connect with Jill Johnson at Life’s Never Dull on the social or LifesNeverDull.com. Connect with me at REIGoddesses.com. There you can get access to our free training on how to get started real estate investing even as a busy professional woman. Subscribe, like and share this show and join us next time for another interview.
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About Jill Johnson
Hi, I am Jill Johnson, I am a homeschool mother of 5 and wife to my partner in crime and in real estate, Joe. We started investing in Real Estate in 2017 and in 2.5 years went from 0-58 doors. We began with single family homes but now invest in multifamily. We make real estate a family affair, teaching our children the business is something we are passionate about.
I love CrossFit, keto, blogging, and being with my kiddos. I am an Accountability coach and am passionate to help other women reach their full potential. I write about real estate, accountability, lifestyle, and travel, on my bog Life’s Never Dull. As a family, we love to travel in our Sprinter Van and camper as much as possible. Real Estate has created the lifestyle so that we can make spending time as a family our top priority.
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