It’s hard to deny how smartphones have become attachments to our careers. Today, Monick Halm discusses with YouTuber and host of The Classy Climb, Ericka Williams, the significance of smartphones in real estate investing. Showing people how to become a Smartphone Millionaire, she teaches us how we can capitalize on technology to make our real estate transactions easier and faster. She also shares to us her strategies on selecting markets and asset classes.
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Be A Smartphone Millionaire – Interview With Ericka Williams
On this show, we interview amazing real estate investor goddesses, badass women who are investing in real estate and our guest is no exception. Our guest is Ericka Williams. She’s a YouTuber and a small business owner. She shows people how to become Smartphone Millionaire. We’re going to talk more about what that means. She created a channel on YouTube called The Classy Climb to change the perception of what a real estate investor is “supposed to look like.” She started The Classy Climb after closing a business in North Carolina and moving to Texas. In Texas while working as an apartment manager, she learned about apps, real estate investing and how to get into partnerships to grow her income.
Her YouTube channel makes a healthy six figures a year in sales via courses, consulting and she’s making a huge impact in the internet community. On The Classy Climb channel, she shows how to grow their skills, money and time to help their families in the changing economic times. She’s on a mission to educate, empower and inspire people interested in building wealth through real estate investment and investing apps. She has a similar mission in that way. When she’s not working or looking for her next investment, she’s enjoying outdoor music concerts in the great city of Austin, Texas. Welcome, Ericka. It’s great to have you here.
This is Ericka Williams from The Classy Climb blog.
Thanks for being on the show. Tell us more about how you got started in real estate investing and what made you want to get into that game?
To give people a little background on my family, we are from North Carolina. In the ‘80s, farm crunch times, everybody in the family went military, police officer, some type of new career-ish if you would say. Along the way, I learned about as a kid growing up and as getting older, what tax liens were because of family situations and life. While I was in North Carolina, before closing my business, I went and I tried to buy a tax lien off the auction sale of North Carolina, in the federal where I was at. I kept getting upset bid. I eventually didn’t get the property. It made me dive in deeper to learn about everything, whether it was farming, vacant lots, seller financing and everything at the time. It sparked this interest in me to find out more about real estate.
I’m enlightened as well. I’d never heard of the word tax lien or the phrase tax lien. Hearing younger woman they go, “I want to invest in tax lien.” What was it that made you say, “This is one interesting thing for me to do?”
North Carolina is a weird state, it’s more tax deed and tax lien but it’s mostly still tax lien. Essentially there were tax liens on our family’s property and I was like, “What does this mean? I don’t understand.” I got this whole learning lesson of what it meant and also seeing some of my family members go invest in tax liens in South Carolina. I learned a ton of things, hands on and it was a great lesson.
You have that personal experience with tax liens and then you’ve got into it. What was the first thing that you purchased?
I ended up purchasing some vacant lots in North Carolina with the mindset and purpose to put trailers on them. In the end, I ended up selling both of them. When I got to Texas, as I was working on apartments, I was like, “I could go back and do 10X of what I could’ve done in North Carolina.” North Carolina in comparison was cheap. I’m in Austin, Texas which is incentive. I ended up doing a partnering deal with my mother, end up doing another partnering deal with a friend. I ended up buying more vacant lots in South Carolina and North Carolina, all with the intention to put mobile homes on them. In certain states, you can still do mobile homes, 2 or 3 on a piece of property, not all states though. A lot of states have, I would say, zoning laws have changed for certain areas. Imagine these laws are usually more on the country or the edge of the city, because that makes sense. That’s how a lot of that got started.If you don't know something, ask someone or build up a network of people you could ask. Click To Tweet
You bought these lots and put mobile homes on them. For those of you who have been following, I have an investment in a mobile home park. One of the beautiful things is if somebody comes, they put their home on there and they pay you a rent. You’d be able to have their home on that. They’re not all that mobile. Was it a trailer or was it a manufactured home where they are putting on those lights?
The part where my grandma’s is, it has a manufactured home but on the other side it’s trailers. The thing about trailers is, especially in North Carolina, if you own the land, you pay no transportation fee. They come and they set it up, as long as your septic tank connected to the property, you’re good to go. That’s why they make so much money, because people, once they own the land, could do what they want. They get this, almost delivery free set up for free situations and that’s why it became easy for people.
You started off with these lots and mobile homes and trailers on your property. Where are you now? What is your current investment?
Imagine 10X on 10X, like steroids. Just to condense it in, I own four Detroit properties with a group, then I’m going to do two rehab them and spring in Detroit and I’m going to do two more house purchases in Charlotte. I’m in the process. I bought some land in Granbury, Texas, which is way up near Dallas. I have one lamb lot in Florida and I’m trying to acquire some property closer to Charlotte, but its concord. I have several doors, if that makes sense, in various partnerships and some by myself. I even got one property for a dollar. I did a video on that. People love that. It’s a subject-to property. It’s a creative buying situation.
Essentially, I alleviated a family who had an adult, child living at home and they’re like, “We want to rent this house out and be free of our problem.” That’s all I did, I solved their problem. The only other thing I’m trying to build myself up to is, I joined some apartment investing groups here. Every deal they do, it’s fast. It blows my mind but it’s awesome. It’s a group in Dallas and a group that’s trying to buy stuff up in Birmingham. That’s something on the horizon, if I can get into one of those.
Into an apartment syndication?
Oftentimes, you have to build a new stack. You have to make quick decisions and get in the game quickly. You have quite a breadth of different types of investments and different markets and a lot of diversity in what you’re investing in and where. For those of you reading out there, I normally give my guests a certain question beforehand so that they can think about the answers. I’m going to ask you a question that I haven’t asked as I’m hearing all of the different variety of different things that you are interested in and investing in. How are you choosing your markets and asset classes? How are you choosing what you’re investing in?
The best answer is, for the partnerships in Detroit, the group does a lot of due diligence. Before I even set foot in there, they’ve done a lot of due diligence. They have a lot of the documentation you need. I’m throwing in a portion of income, here’s a portion on this property, get a win on this property. Those four are easy, get a check quarterly and keep it moving. The properties in North Carolina, the reason I picked the ones in North Carolina is because they were in Fort Bragg, where I tell you about the farming. Across all our family members, there are probably 30, 40 properties at this point. For example, one of my cousins owns all the houses around where his mother lives. We know that area. We know the prices. We know military renters for that area are the flow of the city. In Charlotte, we know that area because we have another family member who is living there. South Carolina became a thing and Florida. South Carolina became a thing because we had a niece and nephew who lived on the islands in Edisto Island. It’s a nice tourism area that’s going to be booming even more. It will be like Hilton Head at some point here.
As I was doing tax liens in South Carolina, I did get stuck with the property, but it wasn’t bad it was an empty lot. I was like, “This isn’t terrible. It could be worse,” and that’s how that rolled out. Those are the most that’s like, if we were to post it and put it on a piece of paper, my markets are usually where someone can do the good due diligence and management, if I’m working with a group or my two favorite areas, North Carolina and Texas. I live here in Texas. I have a thumb on the marketplace. Before Apple was coming, I knew it was coming. The street I drive on all the time, all of a sudden that street had got repaired. The school had $7 million on both ends of the street and it’s going to be coming on. All of a sudden, all these millions of dollars are being invested in this area and I was telling people, “Something is coming here.” People thought, “What do you think is coming here?” I’m like, “I don’t know but if you look at the street and the progression, something huge is coming.”
You hear on the news, “Apple is coming and they picked Austin.” I was like, “I know I can see the area.” I feel Austin is going to be the Silicon of Texas. People laugh when they hear that. If you’re in California you’re like, “That’s ridiculous.” We get 157 people here moving a day. We’ve got 293 people moving to Dallas a day. We have at sometimes 300 people moving to Houston a day. The people that are moving here in Austin though, the bulk of them are company startups, smaller startups and companies relocating.
I’ll give you an example. Years ago, me and my friend were driving by this house and it was a rental and I was like, “I probably could get away with using my first-time homeowners again on this property because it’s been three years. You just need to have to wait three years.” He thought about it and he was like, “I’ll go in half with you.” We walked the property, I’m like, “It needs new carpet. This bathroom needs to be redone. I don’t want to spend this money to fix this stuff.” He’s like, “Are you sure? This is a great number.” It was $135,000 in Pflugerville, Texas. I go, “No.”
The next three days, somebody else scoops it up. Before I could even say, “Maybe I should change my mind,” it was gone. This same house, I drive by this area to look for other deals, finished selling from the last owner for $285,000. It went from $135,000 to $285,000 and it sold for $285,000. I keep telling this story to people because I want them to know they’re not alone. A lot of people think, “I’ve missed the market. I’ve missed it. I’ll never make money again. There’s no point in investing in houses, it’s too expensive.” I use that as a test for myself like, “If you do that again, this is what happens. You missed out on huge wins through hesitation or taking too long to do due diligence.” That’s also why I want to stay in the area I invested in.
You made a couple great points. One is another thing that I teach my goddesses and in the courses too, because it’s important that you have a real familiarity with the market that you’re investing in. If you don’t have the familiarity yourself so you have somebody on your team that has that familiarity because it can sometimes see the difference of being on that right street where they’re putting in all of that investment versus maybe a few blocks away where it’s not going to be as valuable. That one block that nobody wants to be on versus the block that will be worth a lot more.
Having that familiarity is crucial. The other point that you’ve made, which is important too, is being able to make fast decisions. I wrote something about that on the Facebook page about how one of the biggest predictors of somebody’s success as a real estate investor is how quickly they can make a decision, either yes or no. Being able to make quick decisions is important in the business. If you take too long or you hesitate, you’ll often lose out on these opportunities. It is important to be able to jump when you see something that’s interesting. Those are great points. The question that I always ask because I feel you learn so much when things go wrong, when you make mistakes versus when things go right. What would you say has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Probably that Pflugerville house. That’s probably the best example of waiting too long. I will also say my biggest mistake is not realizing the value in your marketplace. A prime example is when I was in North Carolina, I had the opportunity to get a home seller financing. It was an amazing deal because I would have been renting the rooms out at college and I said, “No, I pass on it.” That same street, I know this sound like a broken record for me, but it’s the third street on Greenville, North Carolina, where East Carolina University is. I had a chance to do a seller financing deal off of someone who knew our family, but I didn’t do it. At the time I was like, “I don’t understand this seller. I don’t understand that I’m going to still be paying this mortgage and it’s not mine yet.”
At that time, on that street, duplexes were going for $75,000. As a person who’s twenty, you’re like, “I don’t know.” My mother was in Iraq so I was nervous. I didn’t have someone to advise me. My dad lived in Alaska, it was like, “I don’t know where to make this decision.” Now, that same street, those duplexes are $200,000. It’s two times. That’s probably my biggest mistake because at the time, the college I went, it was such a growing year for the college. The college went from 7,000 students to 25,000 students and I was like, “I don’t know if this is a good idea to pay mortgage to this guy. It’s on my name. I don’t understand this wholesale and financing thing.”
What did you learn from that?
The key here is at some point, you’re going to have to educate yourself. If you don’t understand, you need to ask questions. If I’d probably asked them a few more questions, it would have made sense to me. If I had been like, “How does this work and when will it be in my name?” Getting help from people in that area, but I didn’t know a ton of older adults that I thought I could trust. My advisor probably could even give me a good advice on that deal. He was the only real estate in that area. That’s the thing, if you don’t know something, ask someone or build up a network of people you could ask. Don’t ask your uncle who’s never bought any real estate. I ask people who know something. Go to REIA events. Go somewhere where you can get good information. I don’t mean ask a stranger. Get knowledgeable advice. That’s my whole point. A lot of my consulting calls are me giving someone my advice on what I think they should do. That’s what I learned from that. It’s the same thing with the Pflugerville thing. Ask somebody, stop, think about it, ask somebody and double check. That’s why I’ve moved hard because I feel like, “I missed so much time. I’m going to go get a bunch more now.”
That’s good advice and I’m glad that you clarified that because I would not recommend to people that you invest in things you don’t understand. Don’t invest if you don’t understand. If an investment opportunity comes, make sure you ask the right people so that you can understand it. Understand what the opportunity is and what the risks and benefits are and make an educated decision. I want to go back because there’s something that you talked about and you show people how to do on becoming a smartphone millionaire. I want to ask you what that means. What are some of the ways that people can use their smartphones to do well with real estate?If you get your mindset under control, the sky's the limit. Click To Tweet
I was in Texas for 1.5 years. I would read Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Business, just what my degree was in. I still study finance and stocks. I invested in stocks in colleges and then I lost 4,000 penny stocks but then I learned better. I always was studying and I was like, “This gig economy conversation, these apps, what is that about?” As I started, from the palm of my hands, searching on my phone, I started researching, testing different apps and I was like, “Someone could make a six-figure income from some of these.” People could save thousands of dollars or invest thousands of dollars via their hands, which is their cell phones in their hand usually, in various companies and various thoughts.
Not only can you make money, you could invest money. Not only could you invest in a company or invest in a startup, the sky is the limit. I know I try to criticize when people use that cliché thing, but it truly is. When you pick up your cell phone, the amount of opportunities is endless. It’s like rabbit hole endless. What I always recommend to people, even if people would get my book, pick 2 or 3 and hammer it. When people were saying, “Ericka, I can’t make any money. I got laid off, something happened.” I go, “Open up your phone, go to you Play Store and look through the apps.” People will see the most downloaded apps or the most activity apps, usually.
Let’s say you’re in your Android phone and you’re looking for, “I want to do some deliveries for my car.” First, you’re going to hear DoorDash, Lyft, Uber and all that stuff. If you keep scrolling through your phone, you’ll see what’s popular like TaskRabbit or your local carrier stuff where you’re dropping packages off to offices or Amazon Flex. There are so many things you could do that is. It’s hard for you to not have something to possibly tap into and do. There’s no reason by the end of the week you couldn’t have raised your income up double. That’s where it started, but then I said, “What if you even use it to invest?” If you go the flip side of that conversation, you’re a guy or girl and you’re working and you’re making money, “Ericka, what do I do with my money?”
Anywhere from a MidApp, BillGuard, HelloWallet, DIGITS, Robinhood app and all these different apps are out here at your fingertips to use and put your money into. Also, if you look at it, there are over 50 crowdfunding real estate sites. You could pick three. Every time you’re putting $500 or $1,000 into some of these, Fundrise, is the most popular example. You’re getting 10% back on your money. 8% to 12% but I’m going to say 10% for the sake of argument. Where are most people getting 1% or 2% at? Most people are getting 2% from their bank, if that and then when I say, “You can get 10% back on your money.” I don’t know if you ever heard of the book, The 16% Solution. It’s talking about tax liens. I would tell people, “This tax lien I got in Florida, I’m going to get 18% back on my money.” People would look at me like I was on drugs or something and I would be like, “This is a real thing.”
I started doing more videos on it, talking about laddering up your income. I kept putting $25, $100. Every time I got extra money, I throw it into my lending club app. When I looked up, I had over 600 notes at one point and I was like, “That added up quick.” What I learned out of all that is, if you were playing, if you’re putting $2,500 away, you’re putting $500 a week away or something of your choice, you would have an amazing portfolio. I laugh every time I would print off my K-1 statements because my CPA would be like, “Really?” It’s paper after paper, like the long write out notes and dividend stocks. It was a light bulb went off.
If you hear some of the interest rates I hear in these phone conversations, it would blow your mind. People are out here paying 20% to 22% interest on cars, 18% or 29% interest on credit cards. I’m hearing a lot more people paying 10%, 11% on mortgages and I’m like, “Who gave you this horrible deal?” On the flip side, they’re paying these high mortgages and when you try to tell them, “You can get 18% of your money, tax lien.” You can get some of these apartment investors when they are doing these speeches. When I’m in Dallas, they’re talking about 23% returns. When I tell people this, they don’t believe it. If you know it, each one teaches one theory like, “I’m trying to share it so that you can’t say you never heard of this or you didn’t know.”
There are many different ways that you can make money as a side hustle. You can definitely use your phone for real estate investments. This is a good segue, I’m going to do a teaser because Real Estate Investor Goddesses have something is coming up, where you’ll be able to use your phone to invest in real estate. Stay tuned because it’s going to be exciting. Ericka, you’ve done many different things and you have a lot of success, to what do you attribute your success?
I’m one of those kids that if I want to read about it like, “Show me.” Sometimes you’re like, “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot.” I’m like, “Are you sure it’s hot? Let me see.” That can be good and that can be bad. My family followed my energy into reading. In the summer, we would do the library thing. I would read all these books. If I look at my mom’s house, there are 300 books in her garage. In where I live, there are probably another 400 books. I was a voracious reader for a little bit, but then I took a ton of action. I don’t want people to miss that part of the story. I have all these books but I would read something and I would immediately take action. I would test it to see if it was true. I would test it to see if it worked. I’m like, “I’m missing something.”
I remember buying this book by Bob Rice and it was called The Alternative Answer. I read book and it was giving examples where to invest. The first thing in the front of the book when you open it, it says, “Yale has a billion-dollar endowment fund.” They only put 6% of it in the US stock market. The rest is invested. You name it, anywhere, farm land, timber companies, equities, everything. In that moment, if it’s good enough for Yale, it’s good enough for me. I would read a book and I’d go, “I’m going to attempt this.” When I got that book, The Alternative Answer, half of the stuff it was telling people to do, I was already doing it. It had me at intermediate investor, and I laughed because. There’s so much power with our phone and it’s all about your mindset. If you get that mindset under control, the sky’s the limit. I would say a little bit of it is stubbornness and a little bit is curiosity. I want to see. Let me see if this works kind of attitude.
Learn a lot and take action. For those people who want to connect with you and find out more about what you’re doing, where can they find you?
You can find me on YouTube. I have 1,600 videos on YouTube. I do great live shows. I bring on other business owners to speak about it, because you could come on here and be like, “Ericka, I don’t know about that.” If I keep bringing you person after person, sharing what they’re doing, showing you that it’s real, that it’s possible, it opens up your mind. If I bring on some young kids, younger people can do it. If I bring on some older people, older people can do it. Honestly, people aren’t alone. If you’re that one family member talking about real estate and your family doesn’t want to hear it, you could go to the internet, you can go to real estate conventions or conferences, you can go to REIA groups. There are people out there for you to connect with. That’s why I still do it. It’s a crazy lead magnet. Not because it makes me six figures, which I’m grateful for and Uncle Sam is too. The side of it is connecting with people I never would have connected with any other way.
What’s the name of your YouTube channel?
Ericka Williams, The Classy Climb.
It’s time for a quick end of show trinity. It’s a brag, a gratitude and a desire. What’s your brag?
My brag is I helped my nephew had his little lawn care business this summer. He got a riding lawnmower. He’s eleven. It’s a quick brag. It was cool.
What are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel, be in Texas and be in good health. Every year I’m always surprised, people get in car accidents and things happen and I’m grateful to be flexible and travel. One thing I desire is I’m going to try to do a month in Italy. We’re trying to get the Airbnb straight and everything. I desire to make sure the company and the two employees I have get to a point where I can be in Italy for the summer, in love. That way, I feel I checked off my list.
So shall your desire be or so much better than you can imagine. That was beautiful a trinity. If you want to connect with Ericka, you can go Ericka Williams, The Classic Climb on YouTube. You can connect with me at REIGoddesses.com. You can check other episodes and some freebies and goodies we have for you there. Join us on our next episode. Thanks and bye-bye.