Real estate investing can be a profitable and empowering space for women. Join Monick Halm as she sits down and talks with cancer researcher and real estate investor Becky Nova. Becky is the founder of Lady Land Lords and loves advising and empowering women trying to get into real estate. Becky and Monick talk about Becky’s early forays into real estate investing, the challenges and opportunities in the space, and what she learned early on, and what she would do differently. A solid must-listen for women wanting to get into real estate investing.
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Empowering Women Through Real Estate: Discussions With Becky Nova
I am so excited to have with me the incredible Becky Nova of Lady Landlords. She’s a native New Yorker. She’s a cancer researcher by day and a real estate investor by night. She’s lived abroad on an international business. It’s a fascinating history. I’m excited to know about it. She moved back from the US penniless and homeless, which I can relate to because I did this. I lived in Argentina in 2003 for a year. I came back penniless and homeless too. She bought ten doors in two years in a competitive market. She started Lady Landlords right before the beginning of this pandemic to create a safe place to come and ask questions. It’s been blowing up. I’m super excited to have her here with us. She’s like a soul sister. We both share a mission to help women invest in real estate. She’s empowering other women through their real estate events, accountability groups and worksheets courses. I love interviewing all-female real estate investors, but I particularly love the ones that have the heart and help other women as I do. Welcome, Becky. I’m so thrilled to have you.
Thank you. Now we have to travel connection and abroad. That is something unique to us.
Where do you live abroad?If what you want doesn't exist, you just create it. Click To Tweet
I used to live in Spain for a couple of years. I used to own a tour company there and then I moved over to Portugal. I used to own a bar there for a little while.
Where in Spain were you?
I was in Seville, down in the South, which was the perfect place to me. It’s one of the smaller cities. It’s very traditional and has all the large festivals there. It was great. I got to be so immersed in the culture. It was the perfect place for me to live.
My parents had retired to Spain and a bunch of families all there in the South, not in Seville but in Cadiz in Algeciras, around there. More things we share in common. Mostly, it’s about real estate and our love for that. Let’s talk about your story. How did you get started in real estate investing?
I always tell people I hate telling the story about how I got started in real estate investing because I always have to admit that my husband was right, which drives me crazy. It’s this perpetual thing that I always have to tell people. Since I lived abroad for many years, moving into my own home and buying my own property was never something I planned on doing. Once again, I was broke. I was like, “No one’s ever going to give me a mortgage. I wanted to move abroad again. Why would I ever buy a house or put down roots?”
My husband is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. He very much follows that American dream perspective in the United States. He’s more than like me. I feel like he’s a lot more patriotic than I am as a person. He wanted that white picket fence house, that 2.5 kids and all that type of things. We were boyfriend and girlfriend at that time. We just started living together. He was like, “If we’re going to move forward, we need to get our finances right. I want to buy a house. This is what we’re going to do.” I said, “I like this guy, fine.” I almost prove to him. I was like, “Fine, I’ll do this just to show you that I can.” I got myself out of debt. I figured out my finances. I was able to save for a down payment. I was able to move forward on that. That was the first part of it.
I was the one that went back to him and said, “We can buy a house but I don’t want to live like mortgage payment to mortgage payment.” I said to him and I always tell people I thought that I had the most original idea ever. I was like, “I know what we should do. Let’s buy multifamily. We live on one side. We rent out the other side. We make money off of that.” I had no idea that there was a term for that and this was something other people thought about. I thought I had the most original idea ever. That’s how we got started. We bought multifamily, a duplex in New York up in Yonkers. We started there. Once we closed and got paid a check at closing for the tenants having rent, I was like, “I’m getting paid to buy a property? We got to do this again. We have to figure out how to do this again. Let’s go.” From there, we grow.
I started house hacking too except that I wasn’t that deliberate. I didn’t think about it like, “Let’s make this pay for itself.” I was just like, “This is the only way I can afford a property in Los Angeles. I have somebody subsidizing this.” That’s how I got into it but it’s also the same thing, duplex and house hack. That’s a great strategy.
It’s a great way to get started. For anybody, it’s a great strategy, but especially for those of us in these high costs of living areas. It can make a difference in being a homeowner or not. I’m glad you made that work too.
You start with the house hack, then ten doors in two years. How did you proceed from there?
In closing, I was like, “This is fantastic. We have to do this again.” It was probably 24 hours before I called my realtor and my mortgage broker. I was like, “I want to buy another house.” They were like, “You can’t do that.” I said, “Yes, I can.” They’re like, “No. You can’t buy another house today.” I was like, “Fine. I’m going to figure this out.” After about that duplex, I spent the next few months diving into real estate education. That’s where I learned that house hacking had its own term. That’s where I learned about all these different resources, communities and podcasts like yours that I can listen to and start learning about. I dove into all of that but I still kept in touch with my realtor, mortgage broker and all the people from that “real estate team” that we have. I let them know that I want to buy another property.
It was probably about 6, 7 months later when finally, after all my phone calls, I was talking to my realtor again. He goes, “I know of an off-market property that might be a good fit for you, but you got to get pre-approved so I can tell you more about it.” I’m like, “Perfect. I’m going to go call the mortgage broker.” I’m calling the mortgage broker to get our pre–approval. My husband came home at the time. He was just like, “You’ll never believe who I saw.” I said, “Who?” He goes, “I saw our realtor across the street. I wonder what he’s doing there.” I’m like, “That’s the off-market property he’s talking about.” That was exactly it. Long story short, during the appraisal for our duplex, our realtor was clearly here. The little old lady comes walking up the neighborhood and taps him on the shoulder. That’s what the old lady in the neighborhoods do. It’s like, “I don’t know you. Who are you? What are you doing in my neighborhood?” He said, “I’m a realtor. I’m helping somebody buy this house.” She goes, “I might be interested in selling my house. Keep in touch.”
They did for that same 6 or 7 months. She called and said she wanted to sell her house. That was exactly the conversation. My realtor said back to her, “I have somebody that would buy it. You don’t even have to put it on the market.” That was how they put it together and ended up being a quadplex that also comes with a parking lot, which for any New Yorker, somebody in Los Angeles, we know how valuable parking can be in these cities here. We ended up buying that. Oddly enough, we ended up purchasing that property one day to the year. We closed on the exact same day. We celebrate May 22nd, our house buying day, more than we celebrate our anniversary. It’s our house anniversary. It was the same day, same office, same realtor, same bank attorney, same attorney. It was on repeat. It was cool. That was the next one that we picked up one year later. It shows what that networking and staying in touch with people. Also, telling people what you want. I would have completely missed that property if I never told my realtor I wanted to buy another building.
How convenient it is to have a property that you’re managing across the street?
All day long, all you will see is my husband and I being like, “Is the ladder over there or over? Where are the hedge clippers? Where’s the hammer? Where are the screwdrivers?” We walk back and forth all day long. It’s great because we only have to have one set of tools.
You started Lady Landlord. What made you start that?
I started to have multiple properties. Now I have all these tenants. There are all those situations that come up that nobody talks about. We’ve all heard of the infamous toilet backs stop at midnight. It’s not something that usually comes up. There are all those little things where a tenant will ask you and you’re like, “Can we do that or not do that? Is this something I should agree to or not agree to? This became a problem. How do I stop this from happening again?” All those things just started happening now that we had 6, 7 to 8 sets of families. Those are things that we had to figure out.
I looked around. As much as I can love my friends, not all of them understand those differences of being a landlord. I was like, “I need a place that’s dedicated for landlords.” One of my best friends in high school says, “If what you want doesn’t exist, you create it.” I’m like, “Apparently so.” That’s what I did. I saw that there were other groups out there but I wanted a little bit of a different tone. I started my own group. I started Lady Landlords which were women-focused. I feel like we have a different set of issues being landlords. Either people not taking us seriously, the way that certain people feel that they could talk to us or treat us. Also, we’re in a male-dominated field still. I felt like I needed a safe space to be able to ask our questions, to get our help so we can feel much more confident handling tenants, buying bigger properties, building our real estate investment empires. That was where I started it. It was for my own questions. That’s because I thought it’d be me, my mom, the group and nobody else would ever join.
That’s what got me starting this show too. It’s great to have other women on this journey with me. I find that we learned so much more when things don’t go right than when they do. What was your biggest mistake? What did you learn from it?
I’m going to answer this in two different ways because the first one I can’t fix. The first one is I wish I had done this sooner. I wish I got involved in real estate years ago. People will say, “What would you go back and tell yourself ten years ago?” It would be, “Buy a real estate now.” The power of real estate and building generational wealth through real estate is insane. There are thousands of different ways to get involved in real estate. You don’t always have to buy rentals and be a landlord like me. There are so many ways to get in. If you have money or if you don’t have money. If you have time or you don’t have time. My first mistake was not getting involved until a couple of years ago. I wish I’d done this years ago. On a more practical like what did I do that I thought of at the beginning was also building out what my portfolio looks like.
Once again, we fell into this. I bought that first property thinking I would only own one home. That was even crazy to own one home. I wish I had more knowledge of what real estate can do for people and how it can change your personal finances. Also, I wish I had thought about more of what do I want out of life because real estate investing can be a vehicle to get me there. I could have built my portfolio in a way to get me there faster and sooner. For thinking there was a certain amount of cashflow where I could then leave my day job, if I had thought about that at the beginning, maybe I would have picked a different house. Maybe I would have done a long–term investment or long-distance investment instead. I wish I’d had more information upfront than I do now. Otherwise, I feel like sometimes you have to make mistakes to learn.
They’re part of the process.
This is the fun one. This was probably the most practical mistake that we made. When we bought our first duplex, we bought it oddly enough from house flippers. I didn’t care. I’m making money. You’re making money. That’s fine by me. I had no problem buying from a flipper. We bought this property from the flipper. The house was vacant. When we came through for the final walkthrough, there was a leak or two under one of the bathroom sinks. We told the guy and he’s like, “Not a problem. We’ll get them fixed.” He has a whole construction team. It makes it easy for him to get that fixed. We didn’t want to deal with anything. We were looking and hoping for that turnkey property to move into, especially since that was a very big goal of my husband.
We now go to the closing. There’s still that little bit of a leak. The owner or the seller was like, “Not a problem. I’ll have one of my guys take care of that for you.” They were supposed to paint a small little thing on the outside of our property. The same thing that wasn’t done. He said, “Not a problem. We’ll get that done the next day, nice and easy for you.” We said, “Okay.” We went through with the closing. That turned into a problem. The next day, the construction guy that had done all the work on the house came. He wasn’t a contractor. He was a handyman. He looks at the leak and says, “You guys need a plumber. This is not something that I feel comfortable fixing as a handyman. It’s out of my wheelhouse.”
We call the seller. The seller is now on speakerphone with the handyman and the seller is like, “I’m not spending all that money to hire a licensed plumber. I’m not going to do that. You, Mr. handyman, fix it as best you can.” The handyman goes, “You already owe me thousands of dollars that you have not paid me. I’m not doing any more work for you.” I know I can patch this situation and fix it. I’m not going to. The handyman walked out of the house and said, “I’m done. I’m not dealing with this guy. Sorry guys, it’s not your problem but good luck.” The seller agrees. I have nobody to paint that little thing outside. He puts a check in the mail that day. Perfectly fine.There are thousands of different ways to get involved in real estate. You don't always have to buy rentals and be a landlord. Click To Tweet
Now, we have this leak and once again thinking New York, remember that you’re thinking townhouses, multiple floors. In New York, we have more space vertically than we do horizontally. Our property is a four-floor property. We now have a leak running through all four floors of our house. We’re trying to get it rented and also move into it. We then hire the plumber. We’re like, “We need to get this fixed than later.” We ended up getting the plumber. They had to open four floors and come to find out that the same handyman, when they were renovating the property, decided not to have to walk down the stairs to take out all the drywall. They were flushing it down the toilets for years, which then clog the pipes. Even though we got the house professionally cleaned before we moved in because you don’t want all the construction dust, we want this place to be perfect, they now had to open the pipes in the basement. Our pipes were covered with not only the dirty drywall but everything that the construction guys had used to go to the bathroom for the past year all over our basement. That’s on day–two of house ownership.
We now have a couple of $1,000 bill from the plumber. My next favorite part of the story is all of a sudden, I get a letter from our city saying that we had a lien on our taxes. I brought this up. We have four-hour closing, which if you’ve been closing, they use lien on our taxes. I’m like, “I’ve owned that house for a week. What did I do to get a lien on my taxes?” I find out that the seller, since he was flipping the house, didn’t clearly have enough money. If you remember that whole he didn’t pay the handyman part. He never paid the water bill for years for the property.
They didn’t find that in closing? The escrow and title company?
No. The title company never did its job. I hated our title company. I had to find another attorney to help call up the title insurance and explain, “There’s a $7,000 water bill that you guys missed.” I now had to get my $4,000 bill from the plumber cover, the $7,000 water bill that I owe to the city, all that stuff fix. That was within the first two weeks of us owning that property. We even ended up suing our attorney because one of the things that she should have recommended was to have money. This is the learning story for all your readers here. Since there were things that were not finalized on the house, if we chose to move forward with closing, they should have been money put in escrow. There should have been $10 put in escrow so that way, if the seller decided not to finish things, we have the money to cover those leaks, the plumber and get all that work back and fixed. That was something that we were not advised to do. That was a mistake. How does that work for you?
There were a lot of lessons in that one. Did you get the money back from the title?
Yes. We got every single penny.
That’s all’s well that ends well. You learned a lot. That’s the importance of title insurance.
Everybody’s always like, “Why do we need title insurance? That’s pointless. I don’t use that.” This is why.
When you’re going through conventionally doing the bank, you’ll get title insurance and all that stuff, but if you are seller financing, a lot of people think, “I don’t have to do that part.” Yes, do. Make sure that you own what you think you own and you don’t owe things don’t know you owe. Those things will travel with the property. What are you most proud of?
One of the things in life that I’m proud about myself is I’m good at problem-solving and identifying like, “This is a stressful situation. Here’s the problem that we have at hand. What is the best way to get this fixed? What is now the best way to get this fixed, in the fastest rate of speed that’s costing me the least amount of money but still being the most effective that I can get?” Those to me are the most important thing. I am proud that when we have situations like this, I can put that hat on and say, “Yes, this is stressful. This is a horrible situation. There’s horrible stuff covering my basement. I don’t want to be the person who has to clean that.” It’s something that I feel I’m proud about saying, “How do we get this solved?” I feel like one thing that I hear from a lot of investors all the time is, “Buy the first one,” but I can’t figure out how to get the 2nd and 3rd ones. That’s something that I do well with my problem-solving skills, figuring out a solution and figuring out a way to always make things work.
That’s something to be proud of. It’s a skill that you need to use a lot as a real estate investor because things happen, issues with sellers, tenants, the city, plumbing things that you don’t expect. There’s just a lot of inherent drama in real estate investing. It can be wonderful when things are going great but sometimes when things don’t go well, you have to be able to fix it.
There will always be something that will happen. Maybe it’s a tenant issue, maintenance issue, legal issue, finance issue, but there’s always going to be something. That’s perfectly okay. Let’s solve it and move forward.
It’s not all the time. You can go years without anything but things do come if you’re in the business long enough. To what do you attribute your success?
This is probably as cliche as it sounds but it’s that why. Why is this important? I feel like that’s a step that people tend to skip over. They’re like, “I just want to make money. I got it.” It’s like, “Okay, but let’s dig a little bit deeper than that. Why is it important?” I feel like when I lived abroad, it was almost practicing for what I want in early retirement. I wanted to live on a beach. We run a bed and breakfast. It’s still that tour company and bar that I used to own. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and be like, “What do I want to do with my day? How do I want to enjoy life? What do I want to see out of it? That’s something that has always been a big driving force for me. That’s something that every time these problems happen, I can always be like, “Real estate is giving me the opportunity to enjoy the life that I want to have and that I want to see.” If you’re not a person that wants to go travel, you want to spend more time with your kids, you want a little extra money to help cover a car payment, whatever it may be, all of those things can be done through real estate investing. You just have to identify what it is and then go after it.
It’s great to have your clear why to drive you. Also, so you make the right decisions. There are a lot of different ways to do real estate. It’s not one size fits all. It helps to figure out, why do I want this? What do I want it to lead me to? Depending on what you want to do, it’s going to drive different cap strategies that you choose. What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out in this field?
Figure out what you want out of this. We hear people all the time be like, “I want to be a real estate investor. What do I do?” Figure out what type of real estate investor you want to be. What are your goals? What are you trying to get to? If there’s a very different strategy, if you’re trying to replace your 9 to 5, a six-figure salary, versus if you’re trying to make an extra couple of $100 a month. Identify what it is that you want, then pick your strategy and plan accordingly. Also, don’t ever feel that you cannot do this because there is always a way to make real estate investing work for every single person out there.
It doesn’t matter what resources you have or don’t yet. You can make it happen. What do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
Real estate investing is a lot easier than we think it seems. Sometimes we get bogged down especially with social media, “This person is doing this,” and we start looking into all these crazy options. We feel like we have to do this. We have to do things this way. It’s not that difficult. You need to figure out what you want out of it. Have a plan in place and just go.
Before we get into our famed end-of-show trinity, which are brag, gratitude and a desire, how can people connect with you and find out more about what you do?
The easiest way to find me is our Facebook Group, @LadyLandlords, nice and simple there. Otherwise, the second-best place that you can find me is on Instagram @BeckyNova24.
It’s time for our trinity. What is one thing you’re celebrating right now? What is your brag?
One thing that I’m celebrating right now is I’m in New York. New York is finally starting to open up. There are businesses now still moving on. It’s been a hard year for people between either those that have lost family members, those that were sick themselves, those that have lost their jobs. One thing that I am very blessed to think about is that if my husband and I both lost our jobs in 2020, we would have been financially perfectly okay. Thanks to real estate investing.
What’s one thing that you’re grateful for?
One thing that I’m grateful for is pioneering women like yourself who helped put us in this position, who are helping and showing us that we can do this, that you don’t need to be like an old dude to invest in real estate, that this is something approachable and functional for everybody. All those other women out there who have been doing this a lot longer than me are the people who I have so much gratitude for, and those who followed me on Instagram for a year.
Last but not least, what is one desire that you have?Figure out what type of real estate investor you want to be. What are your goals? What are you trying to get to? Click To Tweet
My one desire would be that I can somehow pick up the state of New York and move it to a Caribbean Island. You’re going to be so much better if there was no snow. That would make life easier.
So shall your desire be or so much better than you imagine. We are not sure how it could happen, but New York is likely a place where everything is possible. Thank you so much, Becky. This is so fun to interview you and have you here. You can connect with Becky @LadyLandlords on Facebook. Find her Facebook Group. Connect with that incredible community and @BeckyNova24 on Instagram. Connect with me at REIGoddesses.com. There, you can connect to all our socials, to our awesome Facebook group for Real Estate Investor Goddesses and find out about our events and training. I’ll talk to you, then. Bye
- Lady Landlords
- @LadyLandlords – Facebook group
- @BeckyNova24 – Instagram
- Real Estate Investor Goddesses – Facebook group
About Becky Nova
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