Thinking outside the box when investing in real estate can possibly lead you to close more deals and investments. Host, Monick Halm, interviews financial coach, Acquania Escarne, the Founder and CEO of RRD Investments and the person behind The Purpose of Money—a website created for women focused on building generational wealth for their families. Today, she gives us some tips on how to find the right areas to invest in as well as the right properties. She notes that simply Googling REITs and picking one is not enough, but rather looking at reviews and researching at what companies are investing in can seal great deals.
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“Outside The Box” Finance Tips And Tricks – Interview With Acquania Escarne
On this show, we interview successful female real estate investors who share their stories, triumphs, biggest mistakes and best advice for us. I’m excited to have Acquania Escarne as our guest. She has great results in her real estate investing, but also because she teaches people about money. She helps people think out of the box ways around money. For most people, the way that society teaches us about money and wealth keeps people from being as successful as possible. The lessons that I was taught as a kid were not serving me to build wealth. They would have kept me working and decidedly middle-class and in debt in a lot of ways until my retirement. It’s only by learning how to think differently around money that I was able to shift my life and have a more lucrative experience and that’s the same for a lot of people.
Acquania is the Founder and CEO of RRD Investments. It’s a real estate investment company focused on leveraging the power of real estate to create generational wealth. She owns almost $1 million of real estate in Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Her passion for real estate stems from her entrepreneurial spirit inherited from her parents. In addition to handling the daily demands of running RRD Investments, Acquania is a financial coach who equips her clients with outside the box finance tips and tricks people can incorporate in their daily lives in order to meet and exceed their financial and personal goals. Her coaching is individually tailored to address all financial situations. With a keen eye on developing the next generation, she also teaches youth financial literacy classes. She has launched a new website, ThePurposeOfMoney.com for women focused on building generational wealth for their families. Welcome to the show. I’m excited to have you.
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
How did you get started in real estate investing?
Interestingly enough, my dad and my mom are both inspirations to me. My mom being self-employed most of my life and my dad is a real estate investor himself. My first introduction to the concept of real estate and not wanting to live paycheck to paycheck was from my dad when he gave me Rich Dad Poor Dad in high school. Also at that time, he owned about ten plus properties in Georgia where I’m originally from. I’d always had this desire that when I have enough money, I want to be a real estate investor too. I have to admit, the first property that my husband and I acquired was by opportunity stance. My job shipped me off to Dubai and allowed me to take my family with me and we have to rent our home. It was a property we lived in and then we eventually rented. It wasn’t until we came back from Dubai that I was a lot more intentional about real estate investing and pursuing a property in Philadelphia where the property held value, good neighborhoods, but also rented well. I tend to focus on buy and holds because I’m a little more conservative sometimes when it comes to real estate investing.
You owned your own home and then you left to go to Dubai, which is cool. You are an accidental landlord, an unintentional landlord and I could understand that. When you came back and you were in Philly, what was that first property that you purchased as a rental?
I was still living in DC. We never moved to Philly, but I had a colleague that I work with who’s from the area and went to Temple. She goes to Pennsylvania almost every weekend to hang out with friends and it was cheaper to buy a home than to rent a hotel and when she told me that, I was like, “I don’t understand. Please explain more.” That’s when she got into the numbers. There are some west Philadelphia properties all throughout the city that are fairly affordable and the mortgage is $250 to $300, and I said, “That’s impossible. Where do you find stuff like that and what do you rent for?” We started talking about what you can rent at $900 to $1,200 and you have this $250, $300 mortgage.In order to be a landlord, you have to have tough skin. Click To Tweet
I immediately was like, “I’m curious and I want to check it out for myself.” I asked for her realtor recommendation, which she gave me his name and I called him right away. The first weekend I went out to Philly, I saw about 5 or 6 properties in one Saturday. He works with investors, so he was like, “I’m going to show you things that don’t look pretty, but they have potential.” We looked at estate sales, properties with current tenants who the owner was trying to sell or potentially move the tenants out and start over. They were what we call ugly houses, they were not pretty by any means, but he showed us the potential as well and even was able to suggest potential contractors.
One of the things I like is he knew his market well. I do like to work with people of color if I can and he is a person of color. He was able to show five strong properties in one day. We put a bid on one of the properties that same weekend that happens to be an estate sale where the previous owner had lived there since 1980. One person owned it in the last twenty plus years. The family wanted the cash. They were up for negotiating. That was something in our favor. We negotiated the price. We also worked with them on a short timeline for closing. Those were two things that worked in our favor. The bones of the house were not only good, but some of the houses were too. The owner being the person who lived there and kept it up, worked on the things that needed to be done. A lot of the work that we have to do was cosmetics. We repainted, we changed some of the floorings and then we had a little bit of plumbing to do, but it wasn’t as significant rehab as you would say.
There are many great things about that. The fact that you tell people real estate investing is a team sport, so it’s important to get the right people to work with you. You have this great realtor who knew the market. That’s important too, to have somebody who’s familiar with the market and can also understand investing. Not every realtor or most don’t understand what an investor needs. A lot of them tell people that owner-occupied for your own homes because they don’t understand. That was smart. Looking at the numbers and knowing that you live where you want to live and that’s where the numbers make sense. That’s also the market. Going and finding a house that maybe you wouldn’t want to live in that’s ugly, but it’s something that makes sense. People think that they need to invest in a place where they’d want to live like, “I don’t like that house.” It doesn’t matter that you want to live there and that it would be your standard. It’s important that it’s their house that you could rent out and the numbers will work. I like houses that are ugly ducklings with good bones, and that’s what you need to look forward to. You had a motivated seller.
A motivated seller and a great neighborhood, the other bonus was winter. We were in a season where not everyone is selling their home, whoever is, was probably willing to negotiate. We had an opportunity to view the block for the type of people that live there and how well they took care of their own homes. One of the things I also liked is, it was around Christmas and people decorated, and you had a neighborhood watch. When they thought that we were going to own or occupy, they were introducing themselves to us. These are all things that I took into my mind and said, “This is a neighborhood where people care.” They’re decorating for the holidays, keeping the block clean, getting to know each other, which paid off. When we did do some of the work we did in the house, we had the neighbor next door who was willing to take out the trash in the event we weren’t able to put it out when it was trash day, which was helpful because I’m commuting from DC.
They didn’t know that, but I knew that. I had a few trips that I made but then I also, in the process of finishing up the house, I identified a property manager who would facilitate some of the day-to-day and checking on the completion of some of the contracting projects until I could get up there and do my checklist for each contractor before paying. That was helpful because to me. That showed that this is a solid community where finding a tenant would probably be easier because the community is well kept. It has access to shops and schools. It was still rentable. Those are the things that I look for before making that final decision to invest in Philly.
That’s how you started and now you have properties in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. What is your focus now?
I’m fortunate that all the properties are rented and they’re producing some level of cashflow, but I haven’t figured out the next step. That was one of the reasons I went to a conference in September called FinCon to help me focus on what are the next steps that I’m going to make in my businesses. At the end of FinCon, I came out with an inspiration to create ThePurposeOfMoney.com, because I had spoken to a lot of mentors there who do freelancing, who do real estate investing, which I’m also a freelance writer in financial coaching.
I was like, “My passion has transitioned into helping people one-on-one with their money while still keeping my streams of income in addition to whatever other streams I can create.” My immediate passion is to help people through ThePurposeOfMoney.com, the online community and blogging. By writing for my website and for others, I’m getting access to a lot more people that I may not be able to touch physically. There are also other streams of income for me as well. When I freelance, I’m getting paid to do so. I have the financial coaching business where I can also, as a licensed life insurance agent, sell life insurance and other products that help people get their finances together.
I’ve been focusing on all of that. It seems a lot sometimes, especially with family and kids, but it’s been working well so far. I’m focusing on those businesses so that they grow and that they get stable and then I’ll pursue multi-units. I always liked that one-on-one single-family home option but in the long run, I want multifamily units. I know the value of having one property that produces several cash flow streams because you have more than one property there. You also have more than one tenant to leverage the good and bad times. If one is not paying, you have someone else who still is. My next investment, I want it to be in the, at least 3 to 4 unit range but if I can do larger, I will. That’s my next real estate goal, but the immediate is to focus on the website and the one-on-one coaching or group coaching.
I love that you have all of these alternate streams of income, which is smart because the more you can diversify your streams of income, the more likely you are to build wealth and be able to flow through whatever happens because you have various income streams. I was going to ask you. Amazon announced that they’re putting one of their new headquarters in Crystal City, which is not far from you and you are already invested in Virginia. I know that you’re focused on your blog and your financial coaching business. Are you looking to get some properties around there to leverage this great big new corporate citizen that you guys are getting?
My husband and I looked into it. Washington DC area has been on the shortlist for a while. We’ve been getting all excited about Amazon coming to DC for quite some time. Even before they had mentioned Amazon had joined the Washington DC council for businesses and everyone was like, “They’re definitely coming.” I haven’t specifically purchased something in Crystal City with the hope of getting Amazon workers or employees to rent from me because DC is expensive. In that area alone where Crystal City is located, you may be looking at $200,000 to $250,000 for a one-bedroom condo. Thinking about most of the units are single-family, you could be more than half a million or more.
That’s not my focus because it’s going to be a huge investment and it already inflated housing markets. Crystal City and Alexandria are already expensive. The local community is already complaining about how expensive housing is. It’s been competitive for investors too. You will have several bids in one place and then cash or something gets you bumped out of the running. It’s a limited location where there isn’t a lot of new places to build. What you’re bidding on is an older home that probably needs electrical upgrades and a lot of work. The return on your money is not as good because of the competition, because of the work you have to put in and the fact that you don’t have a lot of options, you’re buying old bones.
I haven’t particularly invested in Crystal City or thought about investing in Crystal City, but I am thinking about Northern Virginia closer to where I live. They have mentioned, but they haven’t publicized as much, is that Amazon may have agreed building in Crystal City, but because of the number of employees that they want to bring, they’re going to need annexes too. They’re looking at other parts of Northern Virginia to put those annex buildings. You’ll still have people who may want to live where I live because there are great schools and access to more affordable housing.
You still get new construction options, or you have younger homes that you can invest in. That’s something that I’m looking into to see if it makes sense, but the market is growing fast. I moved to Northern Virginia years ago and we already have six, seven more subdivisions than we did when we moved in. The growth is a little crazy, but I’m excited about how it benefits everyone, not just investors, but even the local community and schools. They all improve when this growth happens. I am excited, regardless of where Amazon settles that they’re coming to our area.Before making a final decision to invest intently, make sure the area has satisfied your parameters. Click To Tweet
I wrote a blog post about it on the Real Estate Investor Goddesses’ blog. There are opportunities probably that are more likely in some areas outside, nearby, but not right there, where Amazon is going to be because it is expensive. In nearby areas that aren’t quite hot, there are opportunities. Let’s switch gears a little bit because this is a question that I always ask my guests because I feel we get so much more insights and we learn so much more from our mistakes than from when things have gone well. What would you say was your biggest mistake in your real estate investing career and what did you learn from it?
It seems a mistake, but it was a great learning opportunity. If I hadn’t done this, I probably would not have ever started down the path of investing. I talked initially about investing in Philly, which was a great opportunity and all the stars aligned, but it was a challenge. One of the things that I didn’t do well is research the nitty-gritty fine prints of everything you have to do when you’re investing out of state. Now I’ve become an expert at it and I can write and talk about it and give people advice, knowing not just what the state requires, but what the city requires. Philly is a tenant-friendly state. It’s difficult to evict people in the winter. My first tenant stopped paying the rent around Christmas time. I could file my paper, but they got to stay in the home through January because you couldn’t do anything in the winter months.
It was one of those states being tenant-friendly that when I did take them to court, they were able to convince the judge that they love my house so much that they should be able to stay there and I get a payment plan to make up for all the backroom rent. That was a surprise. I didn’t see that coming. My property manager didn’t expect it either because the tenant had told me they were interested in buying the home and me trying to empower more people with homeownership was willing to sell it to them until they stopped paying the rent. It’s one of those things where I was like, “I tried to do the right thing.” I even have told them to get a preapproval. Let’s see what you qualify for. Let’s work out a plan and then life happens.
In that situation, I also learned a bit of humility too. I am one to believe that in order to be a landlord, you have to have tough skin. If somebody doesn’t pay their rent, you cannot delay how soon you pursue the eviction process, because that only leads to monetary losses for you, but life does happen. You do ask questions like, “What happened and why did you stop paying your rent?” There are situations they have some stuff come up, but then once we resolve what those issues were and got back on our schedule when they weren’t paying again, that’s when we gave to take action and go for what is best for us.
It worked in our favor in the long run, but it was one of those situations where had I done a little more research and been a little more aggressive the first time, I might have got them out sooner, probably before the winter months. Not having to accept a payment plan because they made a strong case in court that they love the house, those are the things that I don’t tolerate, thank goodness. Those missed payments and late payments or anything because I know what the rules are. I know exactly how many days after something happens, I can take action and I take action. I know all the paperwork because Philadelphia is big about paperwork, and all the paperwork I need to file and the licenses that I needed and the things that can be put into the landlord’s name and cannot be put into the tenant’s name and things like that.
Those are things that new investors don’t think about and then they have a tenant. They have a home, and then they learn about, “You have to file this license and you have to do it in person and it has to be you.” Those are the things that are helpful to know, but I learned it. I’m sharing and I’m more in a better position. I still think Philadelphia is a place of growth. Most people get their money back on their investment five years or less. It’s booming, it’s affordable and it has a good neighborhood and good schools. There are people who are willing to live there. When I did get rid of that one tenant, I didn’t have a large gap between the next one.
That is important to remember. It is something that a lot of people don’t think about. I highlight for my students too and my clients about the importance of looking at how tenant-friendly a market is. As a landlord, if somebody stops paying you, it’s important that you’ll be able to not let them stay there for months. You still have to pay your mortgage. You still have to pay property taxes. You’d still have to pay utilities. You still have to pay insurance. Especially if you’re doing single-families, you’re getting zero income but you still have to outlay. In certain markets, I live in Los Angeles. It could take six-plus months to get somebody out. You could lose your property. Those things are important to learn. You learned it the hard way, unfortunately. Hopefully somebody reading will learn from your mistake. The flip side is, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the new course of action and direction I’ve taken since FinCon, I feel I had set some aggressive goals there, but I’m hitting them. One goal was to start ThePurposeOfMoney.com website, which I started the day after FinCon finished and got the site up in a week. I boosted my freelance clients since FinCon and joined a group of other FinConners who we talk weekly and we put out some goals and we make sure that we’re hitting them. I’m glad that I’ve been able to not only stick to the conversation schedule but also the goals schedule. I’m working on the additional income, additional financial coaching clients and putting good content out there for readers that will benefit and be inspired to pursue generational wealth.
In families, men are always encouraged to be the breadwinner and to provide. Women are empowered in the same way to know that you are just as capable of giving this family a better foundation than it had when you joined and creating wealth through real estate, through businesses, through better saving practices. I also feel not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, but there are ways that you can still empower your family through wealth and have a 9:00 to 5:00. It’s all about how you’re spending the money you do make and how are you reinvesting it into things that are bearing better fruit. That’s what I’m most proud of because it’s working. I’m getting more than family and friends to read the site and to join your followers. That’s my celebration.
Let me ask you a question because I did say we were talking about outside the box finance tips and tricks. I did not prepare you for this. Give our followers two outside of the box finance tips.
Black Friday is coming up. I’m not a personal Black Friday shopper. If you insist on doing it, you should go ahead and create your list of what you need. Start comparing what sites are saying, “There’s an offer.” Use lots of apps that you can put on your computer or phone. Ebates is one that I use because they give you cashback on your purchases. Honey is also good about searching coupon codes and making sure you save the most. I not only did my Christmas photography pictures a little late than normal but got some done. I also ordered my cards and Honey saved me about $175 at Shutterfly by repurchasing coupon codes and applying all of them. My beautiful Christmas cards that are over $250 value, I got for $75 or less, plus some other freebies I threw in there. Definitely price compare, it’s worth it. I definitely recommend shopping online versus hitting stores, if you want to be amongst the crowd, be safe, plan ahead and map out a route for you at your local mall so you can do some orderly shopping.
I also use Ebates and Honey. Two quick questions before we get into our trinity. First, what do you wish that you’d known at the beginning of your real estate investing career that you now know? What advice do you have for a woman just starting out in this field?
One of the things I started doing is investing in a real estate investment trust. I have to be honest, before I found out about those, it was all about buy and hold and flips, which made me nervous. Investing in a house that you have to transform before you can make any real money terrifies me. I’m still not ready to flip. REITs or real estate investment trusts are great ways to put money in the game, but not have to do the hustle and bustle of finding a tenant or signing the home. I invested in one that I’ve been following for a year. Don’t just research or google REITs and then pick one, but research companies. Look at reviews and look at what they’re investing in. It’s a great way to get into commercial real estate without having to have millions of dollars or a group of investors to do it with you.
The one that I went with has a monthly return. You can watch using the return on your money every month. You get online access to your statements and often get updates on what they’re investing in, who are the tenants in the commercial property. I liked this company because most of the tenants are either government agencies who don’t move that often, you know they’re going to be there for a while or stable companies that need a location for a certain number of employees who also are not going to move that often. That’s one of my latest ways to diversify real estate in my real estate investing. I wish I had done that first to build capital and then to get to the investing.Women are just as capable of giving their families a better foundation through real estate and business as men. Click To Tweet
That’s great advice and something that I love to teach people. A lot of people think if they’re going to invest, they have to do deal with the three Ts, tenants, toilets, and termites themselves. You don’t have to. There are a lot of different ways in which you can invest that take little time and are fairly passive. I’m a big fan of this. Before we get into the trinity, what’s the best way for people to reach you and find out more about what you do?
Check out ThePurposeOfMoney.com, I have a contact page. I’m also on IG, @ThePurposeOfMoney. I would love to hear some of you guys. I am always posting. I use my favorite platform, YouSave. Check out the tips that I’m posting and the things that I’m doing and check out the site. I cover real estate investing, health and wealth savings tips, and my story. If you are looking for inspiration and more women, we’re trying to do what you’re doing, check out our website.
ThePurposeOfMoney.com or @ThePurposeOfMoney on Instagram. Time for our famed end of show trinity. The trinity is a brag, a gratitude and a desire. What’s one thing you’re celebrating? What’s your brag?
I’m bragging about the FinCon, the relationships, the contacts and the opportunity.
What are you grateful for?
I am grateful for the family, of course. I’m thankful to be with my family. We made a road trip up to New Jersey to spend time with my sister-in-law, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. My kids, I am grateful for them every day but most especially when we can all come together and seeing as though we live across the country.
Last but certainly not least, what’s one thing you desire?
I want 2019 to be my greatest year. I want all of my businesses to double in income, success and impact. That is what I’m looking forward. I’ve already started planning my smart goals and I’m excited to see them happen and I’m going to have my accountability group hold me accountable. Maybe in a couple of months, I can report back on my process.
So shall your desires be or so much better than you can imagine under grace and in perfect ways. Thank you so much for being on the show. That was awesome. I appreciate you. I’m grateful too that we met at FinCon, which is an amazing conference for people who are bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, social media personalities in the finance and investing space. I met tons of great people there. I highly recommend it, if you’re interested in doing that yourself or connecting with people like me and Acquania. I want to end the show by saying how grateful I am to you for tuning in and being here with our amazing guests and the beautiful, amazing ways that you do. I’m grateful to you real estate investor goddesses out there and to real estate investor Adonises. I know some men follow as well. I’m grateful to you guys. I hope that you stay blessed and also in touch with all of the many blessings that you have in your life. Thank you. That’s the end of our show. We will catch you next episode for another incredible Real Estate Investor Goddess Interview.
- RRD Investments
- @ThePurposeOfMoney – The Purpose Of Money’s Instagram page
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
About Acquania Escarne
I am a financial coach, freelance blogger, and public speaker committed to helping people find financial freedom and build generational wealth. Let me show you how to invest and save more today so you and future generations can live a more fulfilling and prosperous life.
My passion for personal finance and investing began when I was in high school and my father gave me a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. As a result at 16, I opened my Roth Individual Retirement Account and have been seeking financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) ever since. I want to create generational wealth for my family. However, I am not only working hard to save for our future. I have created multiple streams of income for my family to enjoy today!
Honestly, my journey has not been perfect or easy. In my first two years of college, I worked two part-time jobs to support myself while I was also a full-time student. I was determined to get an education and avoid significant debt. Therefore, I continued to apply to scholarships until I got a full ride.