The future of real estate investing is in the new generations. Reaching out to teach Millennials and new investors alike how to break through the industry, Pongee Barnes, CEO of Little Owners, wrote Real Estate & Chill. In this episode, Monick Halm interviews Pongee about her real estate investing career and how she is offering guidance to new investors and helping teach children the basic foundation of financial literacy. Starting her own journey as a college student at age twenty, Pongee has definitely been in the shoes of someone in real estate who felt confused, created mistakes, and learned from them. She shares with us how she navigated through it all and imparts some great advice that parents can also teach their children about investing.
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Starting New And Young In Real Estate Investing With Pongee Barnes
I am excited to have this badass with us, Pongee Barnes. She’s from Chicago. She began her real estate investing career as a college student at age twenty. She’s done rentals and flipping. She has a portfolio that consists of multifamily, partial, and single-family. Her competitive edge is building a real estate portfolio by buying undervalued distress properties. She is an author of several books. She wrote Real Estate & Chill. She also has a children’s book series with Little Owners teaching kids about investing. Is that something that you wrote with or inspired by your sons, Benjamin and Franklin?
Thank you for having me. My children inspired it. I was more inspired because someone asked me to speak at a school for Entrepreneurship Day. That’s what inspired the series. I was speaking at a school that was underprivileged and the children weren’t exposed to what entrepreneurship looks like, let alone what a real estate investing looks like. They were excited when I was explaining what I do as a real estate investor. I said, “These kids have to have access to this on a daily basis and not just one time a year.” That’s what sparked the series.
Before we get into that because I do want to hear more about that, how did you get started in real estate investing? What made you as a college student go, “This is one thing I should do?”
I was in college and I’m a bookworm. I wasn’t partying like all my other college friends. I was broke like most college students. I was watching these shows overcoming on HDTV and CLC, like Flip This House and different shows they had back in 2005. If anybody knows anything about that era, everyone was flipping a property and they were making large sums of money. They were doing small cosmetic repairs to the property. I’m thinking, “All they did was put paint and carpet in the house and they made $100,000. That sounds awesome.” I was naive and I got a loan and during that time, anybody could get a mortgage because you have to do the signed papers, and do you have a heartbeat?
It was simple. Every bank was giving away mortgages. I was able to get one with my husband. We were able to buy a condo in Chicago. It needed a little bit of work. It wasn’t a rehab project. It needed some cosmetic repairs like the kitchen. We refinished the floors and did some updating in the bathroom. We did complete that flip and we wind up losing. I got a call from my attorney when my husband and I were celebrating, thinking we were getting ready to pick up our check. He was like, “If you don’t get down here to the closing table, we can’t close because you owe money.” My first flip was a big disaster. I did not know my numbers.
Yet you kept at it. What made you do it again?
I didn’t have a choice because at the time that I was in the process with the contract with the first condo, I saw another condo that went on sale for $30,000 less than we had bought this one for. I was like, “We could flip another one in the building.” By that time, I had given my earnest money. I was in the middle of getting it financed. I had no choice. I’ll either lose my earnest money. I was glad that one turned out successful. We made money from that one. If I had not been in the second one, I wouldn’t have kept going. That was a blessing.
Tell us about Real Estate & Chill. That was your first book. What inspired that? What’s that one about?
I have younger brothers. They’re in their twenties. As I’m flipping and rehabbing, their friends will often come to me and ask me how they can get started. What I used to do is refer them to a book to read so they can get the basics. They never do. They come back and ask more information. I said, “I want to reach this generation, the Millennials.” I want to be able to give them a book that they can relate to with a catchy title, left off in Netflix and chill, and talk about my experience, bad issues that I went through, the good hurdles that I’ve got overcome and some of my wins. I put that all in one book. That talks about how to buy a property, how to finance it, tenant proofing, Section 8. Screening is a big chapter in my book. We talk thoroughly about it and it’s been getting great reviews. It’s 4.5 stars on Amazon, 50-plus reviews. People love the book and they can relate to it. It’s conversational. It’s an easy read.Never go into a deal without knowing your numbers. Click To Tweet
Thinking about teaching kids investing, for that series, what are some of the most important things? If somebody like a mom out there or they’re parents and they have kids, what advice do you give them to teach about investing in real estate?
In our books, we try to simplify it as much as we can. It’s teaching children about how important it is to invest, to grow your wealth, about saving. Another thing in our book is delayed gratification. That’s what makes successful entrepreneurs. It’s building that delayed gratification. You can’t teach your children that the minute you get money, you go out and buy candy or toys with it. Those are some of the things that we talk about in the children’s book series. There are about eight of them now.
Some of those things are leadership, delayed gratification, what savings can do. Can you put in the stock market? You can also put it in a savings account and get some small interest off of that. It’s different ways that children can invest. I have a book, Valerie the Vendor. That is one of our bestsellers because parents can go and help their child purchase a vending machine and then that’s like a little job for them. It’s bigger than the lemonade stand. They’re responsible. They can learn what profit and sales are. They can learn many things about business on a small level that they’re responsible for.
I didn’t know this was a possibility. Tell me more about this. How much is a vending machine and how does that even work?
My kids are saving for one now. They want a bubble gum machine and they also want the bigger one that allows people to use their debit card. What we’re working on the bubble gum machine we can get for $350 and then the other bigger one is $1,000 and up. Sometimes they’re about $2,500 if you want a brand new one. That’s something that my children are using their allowance. They also sell their books. They’re putting that money away.
Where does this go? What do you do with the vending machine?
They have companies where you can place them. I know someone who had this place in the break room at the post office. There are some people that have theirs at an office. There are some people that had theirs at a laundromat. There are many various ways like hair salons and different places where you can place them on. We’re going to go with an agency and not do the placement ourselves. There are many ways to place them. The children can go, restock, get their money out and count what their profits are after they paid for the merchandise to put in there. It’s a great way to show children about investing and starting a business.
Going back to your real estate investing. You started off with flipping these two condos. What are you focused on? What are your investments?
I am rehabbing a multifamily. We got through with one unit and we’re working on a second. We also have a commercial building that we’re going to be rehabbing soon. We bought a commercial building, but we’re not touching it because there is a specific grant that the City of Chicago was offering to help entrepreneurs revamp certain corridors of commercial buildings. We’re trying to see if we’re going to be chosen for that. We’re excited because it has two commercial units and one residential apartment upstairs. I’m excited to rent this out to another entrepreneur to help improve the neighborhood. My brother co-owns it with me. That’s my first partnership in real estate. He’s already found an entrepreneur that’s going to be selling smoothies and other healthy things at the community in that particular neighborhood. They don’t have access to that. I’m excited about that. That’s what we’re working on. We’re finishing up our multifamily and then going straight into the commercial to help other entrepreneurs live their dreams.
I’m going to ask you a question that I asked everyone I’d interviewed because this is where so much of the gold comes in. What was your biggest mistake? What did you learn from it?
My first condo was my biggest mistake and not knowing my numbers. Back then, I feel like there weren’t as many real estate investing tools. Now, there are many websites where they have calculators that will help you explain and break down the numbers. Back then, I was looking at TV shows and I didn’t write down, “You have to pay an agent to sell your property. You have to account for that. You have to account for all these closing fees, your attorney fees, and your holding costs when you’re selling the property. I would say it’s not knowing my numbers. That failure helped me to understand that never go into a deal without knowing your numbers.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of building a $1 million real estate portfolio. That for me is something I’m extremely proud of. My husband and I have worked hard. To see finally all this hard work that we’ve been doing since 2005 and finally increasing our net worth has been rewarding.
To what do you attribute your success?
I’m going to say discipline and persistence. Keep going. You’re going to have some bad times. The economy has gone to do what it’s going to do. Sometimes you’re going to get bad tenants, sometimes your contractors are going to quit on you or run off with your money. You’re going to have bad experiences. My advice would be to keep going and get better. Learn from those mistakes and find ways to get better.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out in this field?
My advice would be to find a community of women that are doing what you’re doing. Mentorship is important in real estate investing and you’re not alone in this. There are communities of women in your local state. Find a community of women to go where you’re trying to go or they’re getting started as well. It will be helpful in your journey.
Two more questions before we get into our famed end of show Trinity. First, what do you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
Mentorship is important. Back then, I didn’t have a mentor. I was feeling my way through and reading books and trying to improve it. Now, I understand the importance of connecting with other people so that you don’t have to feel you’re walking this journey alone. They’ve been where you’re trying to go. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can have someone that can give you the blueprint of mentorship.Keep going, learn from your mistakes, and find ways to get better. Click To Tweet
How can people reach you or find out more about you?
They can reach me @RealEstateAndChill on Instagram and Facebook @RealEstateAndChillBook. If you’re interested in our children’s book series, you can reach us on Instagram @Little_Owners and Facebook, @LittleOwners. Those are the platforms I am on most. If you want to check out our books, there is LittleOwners.com.
It’s time for our Trinity, which is the brag, gratitude, desire. What is one thing you’re celebrating? What’s your brag?
We’re celebrating that we are getting some press for Little Owners. It’s exciting to see the community’s embracing the book series for children. That’s one thing we’re celebrating.
What’s one thing you’re grateful for?
It’s the health of my family. Health is the number one thing I’m grateful for.
Last but not least, what’s one thing you desire?
I desire to grow the book series so that it can reach every school district across America. I want to make sure that financial literacy is incorporated into every curriculum in the school system. Children need to know the foundations before they leave school about being able to function and be a successful adult. My goal is to make sure that kids don’t leave school without knowing the basic foundation of financial literacy.
Your desire to be is much better than you can imagine. Thank you, Pongee. I’m inspired. I’ll get your books and get my daughter to read them. I want to give her a vending machine. You can reach Pongee at RealEstateAndChill.com. It’s the LittleOwners.com to get the books. You can find me at REIGoddesses.com, @REIGoddesses on social. If you’re looking for a community of women, we have an amazing community to join. You can go to the website to join our community of women to get that support and mentorship, which is so crucial. Thank you and also subscribe. Join us next time for another amazing interview.
Thank you so much for having me.
Thanks for coming.
- Real Estate & Chill
- Little Owners
- Valerie the Vendor
- @RealEstateAndChill – Instagram
- @RealEstateAndChill – Facebook
- @Little_Owners – Instagram
- @LittleOwners – Facebook
- @REIGoddesses – Instagram
About Pongee Barnes
Born and raised in Chicago, a political-science graduate of SIUC. My real estate career began as a college student in 2005 at age 20. I have done both rentals and flipping, my portfolio consists of properties with a mix of multi-family, commercial and single family. My competitive edge is building a real estate portfolio by buying undervalued distressed properties.
This passion birthed my first book “Real Estate & Chill “ and I have added the title author to my two sons Benjamin 9, and Franklin 6, we have a children’s books series, Little Owners teaching kids about investing.