Investor Spotlight: Priya
We recently spoke to one of our investors. Her name is Priya and she’s from Arlington, Virginia. We asked Priya to share her real estate investment journey, as well as any insights she’s collected along the way. Being a real estate investor can feel somewhat isolating. It’s difficult to know what other investors are thinking or what their short or long-term strategies are. It’s our hope that by sharing Priya’s story, all of our investors will be able to take away something valuable.
MT: What first inspired you to get into real estate investing?
Priya: It was really my parents. I’m originally from London, and when my parents were younger they had gotten married and settled into their home. When they were able to gather together some money, they started to invest in a couple of different properties. They didn’t do a lot, but the few they did invest in, they did really well. It’s helped them a lot in their retirement, too.
Also, in the community where I was brought up, a lot of people invested, so when I got older my brother and I decided to invest in property ourselves. Ultimately, it was really having that influence around me. My parents really inspired me to get into it. I saw the benefits and kind of wanted to start it early in my own life.
MT: How old were you when you first invested with your brother?
Priya: I was about 26 when my brother and I decided to go ahead and invest together. At the time, London had plans to implement a new underground train line called the Crossrail. It was basically about bringing the East and West outside of London closer into the city. So my brother and I found this particular area called Woolwhich. So we decided to take a look at the area. The area wasn’t great at the time we bought the first condo. I think it was the first renovated building that had been completed. So my brother and I got the property fairly cheaply, but within a few short years and after a lot more development it had doubled in price. A lot of gentrification happened on both sides of the Crossrail and it brought that whole area closer into the city. It’s like 15 minutes by train into Canary Wharf and another 15 or 20 minutes into the financial district near London Bridge.
This made us feel very confident, so we refinanced the property, and then with the extra money we bought another property on the other side of the line where we knew more development was planned, and that property has also done really well.
That’s basically how I got started. At that point, we were looking at properties for their appreciation potential. We rented them out and didn’t have any problems with that. Our goal was to find a property in a growing area that would go up in value and then we’d refinance and buy another property with that money.
MT: How did you come to live in Arlington?
Priya: My husband lived in America so after I got married I moved to Arlington. When I moved here, I had enough savings that I thought, you know what, I’m just going to put this money into a property.
But the problem was I didn’t know much about the real estate market in America. So for me, it was just a complete starting all over again in terms of finding different areas where to invest. I actually found a really good real estate agent and she guided me. In 2015, I ended up investing in a condo in South Arlington, close to where we live. I held onto that for many years; in fact I just sold it earlier this year. For the most part it’s been rented out the whole time, with no issues at all. And we were happy with the income it brought in. We didn’t have any thoughts about selling it until Amazon announced their intentions for a new headquarters here. Then the property prices really went up quite a lot. We started thinking that with the profit we could buy ourselves a nice home to live in here in Arlington. So we put the condo on the market actually right in April when COVID was peaking and it sold just three weeks later for full asking. Although this was a great investment, I won’t be buying any more condos I didn’t like that they had high condo fees. I was uncomfortable that it’s a variable expense they can put up any time they like.
MT: So you took that money and bought a house to live in?
Priya: No actually, the home prices In Arlington are very high at the moment and we started thinking that we might not want to tie up all our money in a down payment nor did we want to commit to 30 years on large mortgage payments on a new house at this moment in time. We wouldn’t be able to gain any sort of financial freedom if we did go down this route until the mortgage was paid off. One of the things we are quite keen to do is to become financially independent sooner in our lives so we can enjoy a better quality of life with our family.
MT: So what did you decide to do?
Priya: We actually thought to do things a little bit differently. So we thought, what if we invest the down payment money into real estate; buy maybe 10-20 homes? Instead of us having to pay a big mortgage every month, we’d just have income coming in. We kept thinking it over and did a lot of research. We spent at least six months, and closer to a year really, researching and making a plan. We learned about different areas in the U.S. to invest in, and just committed to learning as much as we could about investing. We decided we were going to take this approach instead of chaining ourselves to a mortgage for 30 years.
MT: What specifically did you research?
Priya: We figured out our own finances in terms of what we could afford to do. We set a goal and talked extensively about what we income we wanted to generate from real estate. We learned how to calculate our returns. We wanted to make sure that we understood quite a lot inside out before we actually started. Even though we’d had experience in buying properties before, this was a different and more structured approach. So now, we’ve decided that we’re going to hold off on buying our own home and just use the money right now to invest in a bunch of properties. Our goal is to target a certain number of properties every year. If we achieve that, that will give us some level of financial independence in the next five to six years.
MT: What’s your strategy as far as how long to hold a property?
Priya: In the past we only bought for appreciation. But now we’re literally buying just to hold onto for the next 30 or 40 years and generate a steady income flow and have the rent we receive pay them off.
MT: Have you noticed an improvement in your lifestyle since investing in real estate?
Priya: Yes, definitely, even with my situation right now. We recently had our first child and I was able to take off more time afterward. In the U.S. the paid maternity leave isn’t very long, but because of our real estate investment income, I could stay home longer. And now, because of COVID, I lost my job as a project manager, like a lot of other people in the country. But we have that extra income every month, so we’re not stressed out about that, either. I don’t have to worry about finding another job straight away.
Another benefit is that we’ve been able to take this opportunity to just breathe and plan for more investing. Before it was hard with both my husband and I working, plus taking care of our child. But with me not working, it’s a chance to really focus on our investment plan. So far this year, by October we will have already met our initial goal to buy a certain number of homes each year.
MT: How did you get comfortable with buying out of state properties?
Priya: Well, it was a lot of research that I did in terms of what areas are good to invest in. Our area is good, but it’s expensive and we couldn’t afford to invest here at this point. We wouldn’t be able to invest as much as we wanted to. So our goal was to look for properties in areas that met our budget that would still give us a few hundred dollars as income after all the expenses. That’s what we were looking for.
So as far as researching I read a lot and watched a lot of YouTube videos about investing in real estate. I learned a lot from the Bigger Pockets website, too. And I realized that actually in other areas of the U.S. we could get good single family homes within our budget. We knew we definitely wanted single family because of our experience with the condo fees on our condo in South Arlington. I was quite keen to stay away from condos.
MT: How did you find MartelTurnkey?
Priya: Well, I looked at a number of different turnkey companies across the U.S. Initially, we were planning to try and do this ourselves – buy a home, get it renovated and rehabbed ourselves – but every time we got close I just hesitated because we didn’t live in that area and it was just tricky. So we looked at a few turnkey companies. You do sacrifice a bit on the return because obviously they’re trying to make money too, but we decided it was the best option as we didn’t have to deal with renovation projects ourselves which made the overall process of investing much easier for us. So after looking at several companies, we decided on MartelTurnkey.
MT: What made you choose MartelTurnkey?
Priya: There were a couple of things that really swayed us and helped us decide on MartelTurnkey. When I reached out to MartelTurnkey, it was so simple. On the site you can just click on one button and download the financials. For me, that was really important. I liked the simplicity of it. Everything was so transparent. And I know every investor has their own way of calculating returns, but I use cash on cash, which is what MartelTurnkey has on their spreadsheets. So that made it easy for me as well. And then when I did reach out to them, they responded very quickly. They aren’t very salesy and they’re very easy to communicate with. They’re just really very, very helpful. If you ask questions, you’ll get a response pretty quickly. For me, that’s really important, being able to communicate. Basically, I just really like the simplicity of working with them and that’s one thing that kind of helped us to decide.
MT: What’s the process like of working with MartelTurnkey?
Priya: The process is very simple and they had everything all set up. So we didn’t really have to worry too much about who the lender is going to be, who’s going to provide the insurance, who’s going to be the property management, all the contacts were reached out on our behalf which was great.
The property management company that they work with/recommended in Cleveland is awesome. We can’t fault them in any way. They’re just really, really good. And they onboarded us pretty quick and we’ve not really had any issues to deal with. And I think for me knowing that Cleveland is a place we’re not going to get to very easily, we wanted to make sure that we don’t have too many issues and once we kind of felt comfortable with how these were going, then we felt we can move on to other buying other properties from MartelTurnkey.
MT: How would you judge the qualities of renovations on the MartelTurnkey properties?
Priya: We relied on professional inspections. So we always made sure that we carry out a full-blown inspection, just to make sure the property is in good standing order. And if we found that there were any issues, recommended by the inspector, we would ask Angelica & Antoine to resolve it. But for us, we’ve not had any major issues so far, but I do feel more confident when we’ve got an inspector to check everything. I think with any property we do no matter who the company is; I think even when it gets to a point where we have maybe worked with the Martels for a while, we would still get an inspector’s assessment before purchasing.
MT: What kind of advice would you give to first time investors?
Priya: For first time investors, there are a few things I would advise them on.
1. Know your own financial situation inside out. This will help to understand what you can afford and what you can’t afford.
2. Make sure any debts you have are paid off first.
3. Have an emergency fund that is separate from your investment fund. Usually that is about six months to one year’s equivalent to your annual income .
4. Learn about real estate as much as you can before you jump into it. Learn about how you calculate your returns, learn about the home buying process. What are the costs associated with buying a home? Because it’s not just your 20% down payment, there are additional costs as well. So to do as much learning as possible. Spend time doing that because that’s going to help you when do you do start investing.
5. Understand your goal. Like, what do you want to achieve In the next five years, 10 years, or is this going to be a short-term thing, a long-term thing; exactly what you want to do and what you want to get out of it, because that’s going to help you understand what markets to dive into and build a plan.
6. Start slowly. Don’t rush into buying, like 10 in one go. Try one and see how you like it. The first one is always rough,especially if you’ve never bought a home before. The first one is going to help you learn the buying process. Do one, assess it, give it a few months, assess the numbers, always know the numbers. And then when you’re comfortable, maybe do another one. Once you’ve done a few, you kind of find it a little bit easier.
MT: Priya, thank you for talking to us about your real estate investing journey.
Priya: My pleasure! Happy to do it!