If you have a significant other and you both don’t know what to do, it’s never a bad option to join your finances and go into real estate to build a strong foundation. That is what Reshawn Lee did with her husband, and now, she is traveling around the world. Join your host Monick Halm as she has a 1-on-1 with Reshawn on her journey into real estate syndication. Reshawn is the founder of Learn Hustle Grow. She coaches people on how to manage their finances. Discover some of her real estate deals that got her and her husband enough money to travel around the world.
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Reshawn Lee On Building A Strong Foundation Before Going Into Real Estate
I am excited to have with me, Reshawn Lee. Reshawn is someone I met at one of my favorite places, FinCon. This is a conference for influencers in the financial space, people who have podcasts or YouTube channels or blogs. She has a popular YouTube channel, Learn, Hustle and Grow, which she’s started with her husband. She’s in search of a more balanced life to prioritize financial independence.
She and her husband, Rob, are real estate investors who are also invested in the stock market, had no consumer debt, paid off their mortgage after getting serious about their money. They are now debt-free, empty-nesters living their best life and working towards financial freedom with the goal of having more control over their time. They also traveled all around the world and had quite an adventure. I’m super excited to have her here and share how she did it, how they did it and what they’re doing now. Welcome.
Thank you so much for having me, Monick.
There’s a lot to say about you. You’ve done so much and it’s been incredible. I remember we were in Austin. I was looking at all of these incredible pictures from your travels all over the world. How’d you get started in real estate investing? You were both in the military, right?
Rob and I are both veterans. However, we did not meet in the military. We get that question all the time. I served as a member of the US Army Reserves and Rob served as a member of the US Marine Corp. Now, I got started in real estate investing through my first home. I bought my first home in 2002. Rob and I met in late 2007 and were married in 2009. Rob always had a dream of being a real estate mogul. At the time that we got married, I was down with keeping the one we had and buying another home, but I wasn’t yet sold on the idea of investing in real estate broadly. However, he did change my mind. He convinced me and we turned my first home into our first rental property back in 2013.
Why were you resistant to and what convinced you to go broader?
For me, Monick, I had a very high stress job, high paying but high stress as well. You don’t get something for anything. They are paying you a lot of money so that they can take up your time in accordance with what they need you to accomplish. As a sales professional in corporate America, I didn’t have the time to think about investing in real estate. That happens to a lot of people. You get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Don’t forget, we also have two children. We’re a blended family with two boys who are adults now but at the time as full-time working moms. When I met Rob, I was a single mom. There was always something that needed to be done. It was the idea of thinking about investing outside of my retirement account. It seemed like a lot. That was my only resistance to it, honestly.
A lot of women have that resistance, like, “I’m already so busy. I got the kids and the job.” What got you over that resistance?
Rob had been listening to a podcast called BiggerPockets for years. I know you’re familiar with it. He was a huge fan. I happened to be at a point where I was open to listening to podcasts. He’s like, “Please listen to the podcast.” I started listening to the podcast and thought, “There are some things here that make sense. We could do some of this based on where we are now, financially.” When we came together, we decided to join our finances, which was huge for us. Joining our finances gave us a better look at the big picture. Once I got on board with the idea of investing in real estate and believing that this was an opportunity for our future, long term, we started looking for rental properties back in 2013 and the market has started to change.
Rob had this idea during the recession. He was already interested when we got married, but as a newly married couple, I thought the idea of going out and buying a lot of real estates together is probably not what you want to do in your first couple of years of marriage. I thought it could be stressful. I also felt the same way about buying a new home. We were married in 2009 and didn’t buy our next home until 2013. We took it slow, but I feel like that helped us to build an incredible foundation. After that, we kept pushing.
What did you do after that? The first thing is a common way a lot of people start as they have a house they already use. They get another house. They rent down the previous house.
It honestly is the easiest way to go.
It’s a very easy way to start.Sometimes, taking things slow can help you build an incredible foundation. Click To Tweet
We already own the property for years by that point. If I bought it in 2002, 2013, the house is almost paid off. We buy our new, larger home, which is the house we live in now. This is where we record our YouTube videos also. When we bought this house and rented that one out, we committed to buy one new rental property a year based on our budget for rentals in Dallas-Fort Worth Area. We kept up with that. We bought one new property a year. Eventually, we invested in syndication as the market started to change.
The prices started to increase. Syndication is a good way to get in. At this point, we’re a part of a deal where they’re more than a hundred units. We decided in 2018, before we left the country to travel, we had left our job. Before we left our jobs, this was key. We always tell people who want to invest in real estate, “Don’t quit your job yet.” The easiest way to get financing for a rental property is to have a W-2 job. We knew we wanted to leave. We started taking advantage of all the different vehicles. We’d learned about it through the podcast and the books we’d read.
We sold one property in 1031 exchange from a single-family year and purchased a six-unit out of state. That was our first out-of-state and first small multifamily. That was an incredible opportunity, so we did a cash-out refinance on that first property. We cashed out refinanced on that property and paid off our primary residence. We sold a property that we weren’t in love with and used the profits from that sale to fund our year of travel around the world. We’re pulling every lever. There’s an idea we’ve tried. We’re like, “We can do that.”
Talk about that trip around the world because a lot of people decide or think, “I want to do that because I’d love to travel. I’d love to do that.” What did you have to line up in order to be able to do that trip? Tell us a little bit more about what that whole experience was like for you.
It’s funny that you asked. I am having lunch with a girlfriend of mine that I’ve known since high school. She’s in town and she had traveled the world when we were in our twenties. It sounded glamorous. I was like, “I want that life. I can’t wait.” It was even better to do it with my spouse, who loves to travel. The way a 20-something travels the world versus how a 40-something travels the world is different. We have been best friends for so long. She was giving me a lot of input and she had a lot of great insight. We decided to get started because we bought a one-way ticket to our first country then we planned we were going to buy one-way tickets from there. This is a complex way to do it if you decide to do this.
Would you recommend it?
No, it’s stressful because you don’t know your decks. We had an idea of what our next step destination was. We started in Argentina. We landed in Buenos Aires on December 31st of 2018 to ring in the New Year. On our way there, someone had already got a hold of one of our credit cards and started charging in New York. When you start traveling internationally, it’s like the credit card thieves and the fraud is unreal. That was the first time that happened but not the last time during the course of our travel.
Credit cards do protect you from that. Unless you have a history of a report of this thing, they take it seriously and they give us the money back. That’s how we started in Buenos Aires and from there, we visited four different states in Argentina. From there we went to Brazil, so we hopped. We knew we were going to try to hit all the continents with the exception of Antarctica. By the end of 2019, we had visited six continents and over 35 countries and maybe 50 cities in each country. It was quite spread out. We had done a lot during the course of that time.
That’s a lot of the world. That’s amazing. You had good timing because you left and came back in 2020.
Yes, we came back right before the pandemic.
I was going to travel around the world in 2020. We started 2020 in Australia and we were going to go around and it had different plans for me.
I understand. We were going to push our travel business into full force in 2020, but all bookings are canceled or rescheduled and a travel agent doesn’t get paid unless you make the trip.
That’s amazing, though. That is what a lot of people strive for to have that freedom to do what you want, whether it’s to go to 35 countries in a year or be able to play golf every day.
It’s been a blessing and we are fully aware of that fact. We are grateful and thank God every day.
You have done a lot of things. We learn the most not when things go right but when things don’t go right. What would you say was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
From an investing perspective, the only real estate investment we’ve lost money on was the syndication deal we were a part of. If you are familiar with syndication, which I know you are, but speaking from the perspective of someone who’s reading who might not be. When you have a syndication deal, there’s a deal maker. The deal maker is responsible for finding the deal and gathering funding. He has a CPA and an attorney. He or she puts together all the components of the deal. They simply reach out to investors for funding.
Our dealmaker was very experienced. He had done a lot of deals, came highly recommended. We met him as a referral through one of Rob’s former colleagues. We were excited about this opportunity because it was in Waco, Texas. Who doesn’t know Waco? Now that we’ve had Fixer Upper there. They used to be known for the cults.
A lot of people know it but not as real estate investing.If you want to invest in real estate, don't quit your job yet. The easiest way to get financing for a rental property is to have a W-2 job. Click To Tweet
Fixer Upper came in if anybody who watches HGTV knows Chip and Joanna. They came in and flipped a ton of houses in that area. That developed that city. The city is also known for Baylor University. Baylor University is a large private university and is quite expensive. We thought this would be a great opportunity because you could provide alternative student housing for those students who might not be able to afford the higher-end dorms or higher-end apartments. We’d always wanted to try investing in a college town. We thought it would be a great opportunity. Our deal maker was or is alumni from Baylor. He attended and graduated. Without this, what doesn’t sound great about this money?
What went wrong?
What we had were Class C properties and our syndication deal was a bundle of three different properties, but they were Class C in nature and a Class B plus area because it was right near the university. However, they were Class C as far as what they offered in amenities. I believe it went wrong because kids and their parents who are willing to pay $50,000 a year for tuition, room and board and don’t want Class C housing. There was a ton of Class A and B plus properties or apartments in the area. We never could get that thing to the 90% to even do the cash-out refi portion of it. We didn’t get the investment back there. Since we could not keep it at the occupancy level that we needed, it never even reached quarterly payouts.
We bought that back in 2016. That was an investment made in 2016. It’s supposed to be ready to be out of it after three years. Out of it and profitable. We held it through 2020 and at the end of 2020, we made the decision to exit and we lost. We made a $50,000 investment. I want to say we lost $22,000. Maybe more. I’m trying to think. I want to do my math right. Maybe we lost 50%. We got $25,000 back or $28,000.
That is painful.
Especially since we could have easily put that into a couple of single-family homes and continued our buy and hold strategy, which has continued to be successful.
As a syndicator and sponsor, I can think of certain things that I would do differently for where I wouldn’t have gone with that particular deal. What did you learn from that?
Now our position is that we’re going to continue to manage our own real estate because even in the deals that we’ve bought that we hadn’t loved, they’ve all been profitable. That’s what we’re in this for. We’re in it for the money.
There are many things about that that surprise me.
He is an author as well.
I don’t know what the occupancy was like before. Normally, I invest in things that are already cashflowing from day one or they’re stabilized already, so it’d be already at 90% plus occupancy when I buy them. That’s how I invest. That would be a different thing.
This is a deal that there was some money put into it to fix it up. I believe that that was the day role that once we fix it up, then you’re going to get even more. It sounded like a great opportunity, but it didn’t work out.
It was understanding the student market more. That was going to be your tenant base. Understanding what they were looking for would have helped, having great property management that understood that area.
The deal maker came back and he said, “This is the first deal I’ve ever lost and I think I have a lot to learn about the student housing market.”
Also, it’s hard to believe that something bought in 2016, with the market appreciation in 2020, wouldn’t make money.
Commercial real estate wasn’t doing that great in 2020. The residential was doing excellent but not, let me say, here in this market, in Waco, Texas. The commercial space for this Class C was not doing great. If we had held it until 2021 when everybody decided that they wanted to buy into more of these larger multifamilies because there are smaller multifamilies, continue to do great. These larger ones where you needed someone who could come in and buy 100 units. If we held until 2021, we might’ve been able to get out with a profit.
There was a point in 2020 where it was hard to do financing, the banking.
They closed a lot of opportunities for us in 2021. It wasn’t profitable up until then. That’s why I was like, “We’re not going to blame COVID.”
It’s to sell it because that’s like, “Market appreciation.” That’s something people aren’t in luck with.
We’re always learning or we take it as a lesson and keep it pushing.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the fact that our YouTube channel reached 7,500 subscribers. YouTube is much harder than I thought it would be. I’m excited that we’re seeing some growth there.
To what do you attribute your success apart from investing?
I’m going to say teamwork. My husband and I make a great team. We have an excellent partnership. He started by building our foundation early on in our marriage. Praying and believing the best for each other and making that decision to accept to becoming one. Things could have gone a lot different had we not made that decision. We did premarital counseling. We did as much as we could to make sure that we were on the same page as a couple. That helped us with everything else that we wanted to do after that, whether it’s investing in real estate, investing in the stock market, traveling the world. Everything started with us creating that foundation early on.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out?
Invest in yourself. If you can’t afford to invest in real estate now for whatever reason, invest in education. Take some courses, listen to great podcasts like this one. Watch some YouTube videos. Do everything you can to fill yourself with the knowledge and information that you need because it will help to boost your confidence. When you get out there to make that first deal, you need confidence because it can be scary. Now, after that first one, I think a lot of us get comfortable but feed ourselves with as much knowledge and information as we can, even if it’s getting a side hustle until you have your funding ready but do something.
What do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
I wish I’d bought more properties. I wish I had known that the price in 2013 when I thought it was going up wasn’t up. We bought one a year, but I wish I had known to reach it by two a year. I’m only speaking from my own courage level of courage. I was like, “Be real,” even if you knew.
“Stay with me. I wish I’d bought more earlier. I wish I had known that.” Hopefully, somebody who’s reading, you know now. When’s the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. What’s the next best time? Now. It’s the same with real estate. It would’ve been great. There’s still opportunity, always. Before we get into our famed end of show trinity, which is a brag, gratitude and desire. What is the best way for people to connect with you, find out more about what you’re doing?In real estate, you're in it for the money. Even if there are deals that you didn't love, still make it profitable. Click To Tweet
Our YouTube channel is Learn, Hustle, Grow. Instagram, @LearnHustleGrow and Twitter, @LearnHustleGrow. Feel free to reach out, check out the videos, post a comment. We do respond to all of them. We’re excited about the engagement.
@LearnHustleGrow on all the socials. Now, it’s time for our trinity. What is one thing you are celebrating now? What is your brag?
We are celebrating and bragging that we have survived as members of the self-employed community for a few years now. We left corporate America in 2018 and have not had W-2 jobs since then.
Congratulations and well bragged. What’s one thing you were grateful for?
I am grateful for every day and the opportunity to live the life we live. To be a blessing to others as well through being able to help our family directly or being able to share our story and our experience with others who might need to see an example that reflects who they are when they see us.
You have been a blessing to many. Thank you. Lastly, what is one thing you desire?
One thing I desire is for all women to be able to take care of themselves. I love the idea of a partnership in a healthy marriage. Unfortunately, I have seen some circumstances where the marriage doesn’t work out and a woman is left to be unable to support herself. The women are generally, in most families, the primary caregiver of the child and can become a sole caregiver. My wish is that all women take a position to learn something, sometimes skill or tool or invest or investment strategy that allows them to take care of themselves under any circumstance.
Shall your desire be or much better than you can imagine.
Thanks. I shared that. My mission is to help one million women create financial freedom through real estate investing. I hear you.
That’s why I agreed to do the show because I understand your mission and I fully support it.
I love that. I’m so glad you came on. Thank you for sharing your brilliance. I loved hearing your story. You can connect with Reshawn at @LearnHustleGrow on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram. Connect with me at @REIGoddesses on Instagram and REIGoddesses.com. You go to our website. You can find out about our programs, our events, our investor club and get our free guide, how to invest in real estate from $1 to $1 million, investing strategies for every budget and every goddess. Subscribe so you won’t miss another episode.
- Reshawn Lee
- Learn Hustle and Grow
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About Reshawn Lee
Reshawn of Learn, Hustle, Grow is in search of a more balanced life and prioritize their financial independence. Reshawn and her husband, Rob are real estate investors who also invest in the stock market, they have no consumer debt and have paid off their mortgage after getting serious about their money. Reshawn and Robert are now debt-free empty nesters living their best life and working towards financial freedom with the goal of having more control over their time.
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