In real estate, you need to have a vision board and go after that vision if you want to play a bigger game. For Camilla Jeffs, that means going after that apartment complex and investing passively into syndication. Camilla is the Founder and CEO of Steady Stream Investments, and has been a real estate investor for eighteen years. Today, she joins Monick Halm on the podcast to talk about passive investing and syndication and share her real estate journey.
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Passively Investing In Real Estate: A Set-It-And-Forget-It Investment That Grows With Camilla Jeffs
I have Camilla Jeffs who is the Founder and CEO of Steady Stream Investments. She has been a real estate investor for eighteen years. She holds an MBA and has successfully started several businesses. She’s the mother of five amazing children and includes them in her business rehabbing homes. She has a passion for helping others build wealth through real estate so they can live their lives with intention and purpose. Welcome, Camilla.
Thank you, Monick. I’m happy to be here.
I’m happy to have you. How did you get started in real estate investing?
I got started when I was young. I was 22 and I did a house hack. I got married young and had my first baby at 22. I did all these at the same time and then we house hacked. We got a house that had a basement apartment and let other people live there. We were able to rent out that apartment. It was awesome because I could only pay about $100 a month to be able to live there. Around that same time, I read Rich Dad Poor Dad and I started thinking, “There’s something to this real estate investing.” That’s when it took off from there and I kept doing it.
After you read Rich Dad Poor Dad, what was your next one after that? The first one was a house hack then what was your next investment?As a real estate investor, you can have a powerful impact on many people's lives, especially when you invest in apartment buildings. Click To Tweet
The next one was a live and flip. It is the method where you move into a house that needs to be rehabbed. You rehab it while you’re living there. You live in a mess and then you live in it for at least two years, move out, rent it for about three years and then sell the property after five years. That’s the strategy that we did and we did that several times. We’re doing one now. We’re doing a live and flip with all the kids. It’s messy but it’s fun. It’s a great strategy.
One of the things I saw that you were starting to do is get passive investing. What’s your main focus now?
We do live and flips and that’s one of my specialties. The other specialty is apartment syndication which is passive investing. As I started going through real estate, I put on my vision board about ten years ago that I wanted to buy an apartment complex but I didn’t know how. Throughout all of my real estate investing, I’ve done it on my own. I’ve been a solopreneur, got into small multifamilies, bought small multifamilies with some investors. I realized, “I need to play a bigger game. I wanted to step up and play a bigger game and go after that apartment complex that was on that vision board.” I went after it. The first step I did is investing passively myself into a syndication which was a cool way to get into real estate and now I’m hooked.
It’s the most amazing thing because I don’t have to do the work. I don’t have to go out and find it. It’s great and an easy way to get into real estate investing. I’m singing its praises and telling everybody that I know trying to spread the word about a way to invest in real estate rather than investing in the stock market because it’s similar. In stock market, you put money into the stock market or into a mutual fund and someone else manages it for you and you don’t think about it. It’s a set it and forget it investment. It’s the same with syndications. You can put your money into a syndication and professionals manage it for you. It’s a set it and forget it investment and it grows. The cool thing is it grows way better than the stock market. It has more benefits.
Do you mostly passively invest or do you syndicate?
I’m syndicating now and I joined in as a general partner. I helped to raise money for syndication, spread the word for other people. Also, working on a couple of deals to try and get them closed. It’s been hard during the last couple of months to get a deal to close, but we’re still working it.
What have been your biggest challenges during this crazy period?
I was working on before COVID struck, before the economy shutdown. I was working a three-property portfolio and it was about 300 units for all three properties. The seller pulled out one of them because he realized he had a prepayment penalty. Another one we got in after accepted LOI. We got in and we’re looking at the deal. It’s 70% occupied by students. You know what happened with student housing. All the students got sent home and lenders are completely halting thinking, “I don’t want to lend on a student housing deal.” As we are going through this, we got tripped up in the lending because one day they were okay with it, the next day they weren’t. That was the tricky part about this particular portfolio deal that we’re working on. We’re down to the one property that we’re still attempting to purchase. That’s not a student housing because we couldn’t pull off the student housing one but we’ll see how it goes.
Good luck. There have been a lot of shifts. The blenders, they were blending, they assess risk. There’s much risk now. They’re not sure how to handle it. A lot of lending on the commercial side has been halted. I want to ask you a question that I ask all my guests and this is my favorite question to ask. I feel like I get the most gold from this one. What was your biggest mistake? What did you learn from it?
There are many mistakes and so much learning in real estate. That’s why I love it. It’s a chance to fail often, but you learn a ton from those failures. One of my biggest mistakes was a tax one. I made a mistake at taxes. It was a property, a single-family home that we had held for ten years. Over the course of ten years, we’d gotten great tax benefits. The depreciation, mortgage and all these tax benefits that we got. We sold the home and made a decent profit and we’re patting ourselves on the back. Come tax time, we realized that there was a problem because that depreciation came back to bite us in the end. Since we did not know this was going to happen, we did not 1031 exchange. We didn’t do anything to protect that gain that we received from the sale of the property and almost to the penny taxes wiped out that profit. I was devastated and angry. I was embarrassed and I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You did not make this mistake,” but I did and it will never happen again.Fear is going to hold you back from progress; you need to push through the fear. Click To Tweet
The tax benefits of real estate investing cannot be understated, but you have to plan for it and be thoughtful about it. I didn’t realize that at first. I had always assumed the more money you make, the more you pay in taxes. That’s what they say. The system is supposed to work like that. It’s like progressive income tax. You make more money, you pay more taxes. Real estate doesn’t work that way. One of the big reasons why people invest in real estate is because of the preferential treatment it receives. Even though you’re making money, it often looks like you’re losing money because of depreciation but you do recapture that when you sell unless you do some other thing like 1031 exchange or you have other losses that can offset that. You need to have a good CPA that understands real estate and talk to them before you do anything.
We stumbled upon the tax benefits in the beginning because we didn’t understand what was happening. We got a couple of investment properties and then when we started filing our taxes, suddenly our CPA is like, “You guys don’t owe any taxes.” We paid $0 in tax for several years in the beginning and we’re like, “That’s cool.” He didn’t have any strategies or ways. He wasn’t a real estate CPA, which is another important thing that as real estate investors you need to have a CPA who knows real estate in and out so they can give you the best advice. We got general advice from our general CPA, but now we have a real estate CPA who gives us specific advice so we’re not going to lose our gain again.
That is a painful mistake. Everyone reading and investing in real estate, make sure you have a CPA that understands real estate investing who is an investor themselves. I like having team members that are investors because they get it. What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the fact that I have continued to push through and become an entrepreneur. I love owning my own business. I get proud of that. I like calling myself a founder and CEO. It’s fun to own your own business and to have something that you’re creating and building because it can always be built in lots of different ways. I’m also proud that the business that I am building is a purple and intentional business. I care about my tenants. As I’ve grown in real estate, I’ve come to understand that as a real estate investor, you can have a powerful impact on the lives of many people especially when you invest in apartment buildings. You can go in and make those apartment buildings cleaner, safer and better to live and tenants are happier. You’re building communities. Instead of affecting one family at a time, you’re affecting hundreds. I love that about investing. I love having impact.
I love that too. My mission is to only invest in properties where I can leave the property and the community better than I found it. Might be my prejudice, but I think women are more intense on that and how can we do this? Being a slumlord is not about getting every dollar out of a deal, it’s how can we use this to make people’s lives better? That’s what I love about real estate. What do you attribute your success?
My success has come from having perseverance and passion. You fail a lot as an entrepreneur and you come up against hard things. One of the interesting things that I’m facing now in my business is online marketing. I’ve never knew about online marketing and how to do that and what even to do. I’m stumbling through that and the tech. It’s getting better and better each time, but I think it’s that perseverance to say, “I don’t know what I don’t know. Let me figure it out.” Marie Forleo’s book, Everything Is Figureoutable, that’s my mantra that I’ve adopted like, “Everything is figureoutable and I can figure out how to do it.” I’m proud of that because not only have I learned that, I’m passing that down to my children as well. We always approach it with that growth mindset that, “We can do this. We can figure this out. Let’s do it.” Whether it be in a rehab that we’re doing. We’d come up like a problem with the tile in the bathroom, school project, even problems with friends or social issues that we come up against. We’re always like, “Let’s figure it out.”
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out in this field?
First of all, don’t stop. Don’t get scared and keep going. Fear is going to hold you back from progress and you need to push through the fear. I think of it as when you step into a dark cave, fill your way around and your eyes will adjust and it will find the light that’s in the cave in order to illuminate what’s around. You’ll be surprised at what you can see. Don’t stop, keep going. There are two easy ways to get into real estate. Number one is the way I did it, house hacking. House hacking is a simple way to get into real estate. You start learning how to get the right tenants and you start figuring out all the things that you have to do to keep the property up and running.
Second is if you have a great job and you’ve been earning a lot of money, passively invest in real estate. My heart dropped for my friends who were all-in in the stock market earlier of 2020. You’ve got to diversify. An easy way to diversify is to invest passively and there are great benefits there because you start learning from syndicators like me and you, Monick. We can help teach you how to get into this world and then you’re off to the races from there.
One last question before we get into our famed end of the show, trinity. What do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?Women need to plan for their financial future, or they will end up without help. Click To Tweet
At the beginning, I wish I would have known about passive investing. I would have invested earlier. Investing is fun. You get a thrill but you also get a lot of hard days when you’re swinging that hammer or negotiating the deal and it’s not working. If I would’ve known about that earlier, I could have started on that plan much better. There’s a great ten-year plan. You do this ten-year plan and invest every single year in one passive investment, you’re going to be well on your way. You’ll have replaced your income in ten years. I wish I would have known that earlier than I would have started, but I’m on my ten-year plan now. I’m happy about that.
I wish I had known too. I live in Los Angeles with an expensive market. The passive investments are more lucrative than the ones that I’ve done all the work here. It’s like, “Why did I not know this for long?” I’m glad I know it now. You reading out there, now you know it. Check it out. How can people reach you? How can they find out more about what you do and connect with you?
You can visit my website, SteadyStreamInvestments.com. You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, all the Grams, the social media. I’m out there as Steady Stream Investments. I’d be excited to connect with any of you who want to learn more about real estate. I’m happy to share.
It is time for our trinity, which is brag, gratitude and desire. What’s one thing you’re celebrating now? What’s your brag?
I have almost finished a digital course about passive investing. It’s going to be a free masterclass that I’ll be offering to anyone who wants to take it on passive investing. It’s all the ins and outs, the risks, the rewards, everything you’re going to need to know about passive investing. I’ve almost finished that and it will be my first digital course that I launch ever online. I’m excited about it. It’s going to be great.
What’s one thing you’re grateful for?
I’m grateful that I’ve been able to learn and educate myself about financial health. It’s important especially as women that we take control of our financial health. Unfortunately, women end up single and alone for a lot longer than men do. Eighty percent of women need to plan for our financial future or we will end up without help. We need to make sure that we control the finances. That doesn’t mean ourselves control like, “Don’t let your husband touch it.” That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is you need to know what’s happening with finances and you need to be well-educated so you can help make those decisions and take control of your financial future. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to be educated and learn about this that now I can share with others.
What’s one thing you desire?
I have big desires for my children, to feel empowered, to do anything that they want to do. That’s also part of my journey as an entrepreneur mother is to teach my children how to take the steps, how to have the right mindset, how to have the perseverance to do what you want to do. My eldest daughter graduated from high school and she is launching her first online business. I’m super excited for her and I hope that it goes well.
So shall your desire be or much better than you can imagine.
You’re welcome. Thank you for coming on. You can reach Camilla at SteadyStreamInvestments.com or @SteadyStreamInvestments all over the internet. You can connect with me at REIGoddesses.com. There you can find out if you want to learn and find out about passive investing opportunities. Join our Investor Club there and join our community of amazing real estate investor goddesses from all over the country and all over the world. I think we’re in 22 countries now. Join our community through the website, subscribe to the show, share it with friends, comment and join us next episode for another interview.
- Steady Stream Investments
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Everything Is Figureoutable
- LinkedIn – Steady Stream Investments
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- Investor Club
About Camilla Jeffs
Camilla Jeffs is the founder and CEO of Steady Stream Investments She has been a real estate investor for 18 years, holds an MBA, and has successfully started several businesses.
In addition, Camilla is the mother of 5 amazing children and includes them in her business rehabbing homes. Camilla has a passion for helping others build wealth through real estate so they can live their live with intention and purpose.
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