How to Scale Commercial Real Estate Podcast with Sam Wilson On the New York City Podcast Network

From Math Teacher To Financial Freedom Using Real Estate

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Sia Senior began her career as a Mathematics educator at the high school and community college level She earned her MBA in Economics and Finance and started in real estate as a real estate professional before transitioning to real estate investment With nearly twenty years of real estate investment experience Sia has helped build and manage an impressive rental portfolio Sia is responsible for company operations and asset management 00 00 – 06 06 Opening Segment Sia Senior a former math teacher achieved financial freedom by investing in real estate She empowers others to achieve the same through education and connections Sia how she became a real estate agent and how she transitioned from flipping properties to buying and managing rentals She experienced highs and lows with her flipping business but eventually learned how to pick tenants and manage her properties successfully 06 06 – 12 01 Getting the Best Tenants and Scaling UpYour Portfolio with Tthe Help of A Mentoring Group Sia shares her love for teaching Sia shares her experiences with landlords Joining a mentoring group with people who are interested in commercial real estate would help you scale your portfolio 12 01 – 18 05 We Got a Handle on Commercial Property Underwriting Sia s company has been doing commercial property underwriting for 10 years and is now educated enough to do multi-unit investments They found a 16-unit townhouse community in Tennessee and got seller financing for 24 months They are self-managing the property and have been working well with the tenants 22 31 – 24 34 Closing Segment Reach out to Sia Senor Links Below Final Words —————————————————————————– Tweetable Quotes We don t want people moving in and struggling to afford the rent and so we re pretty conservative with that And that helps us because then if something happens in an emergency it s not choosing between eating and picking the rent we don t want those kinds of struggles for people We don t want those for our tenants – Sia Senior Connect with Sia by following her on LinkedIn or you may visit their website at https arrowheadcap com to know more Connect with me I love helping others place money outside of traditional investments that both diversify a strategy and provide solid predictable returns Facebook LinkedIn Like subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts Spotify Google Podcasts or whatever platform you listen on Thank you for tuning in Email me sam brickeninvestmentgroup com Want to read the full show notes of the episode Check it out below 00 00 42 Sam Wilson Sia Senior is a former math teacher that achieved financial freedom by investing in real estate She empowers others to achieve the same through education and connections Sia Welcome to the show 00 00 51 Sia Senior Thank you for having me I m so happy to be here 00 00 53 Sam Wilson The pleasure is mine Sia There are three questions I ask every guest who comes on this show in 90 seconds or less Can you tell me where did you start Where are you now And how did you get there 00 01 02 Sia Senior Ooh in 90 seconds So I started as a high school math teacher I worked with my husband We picked up our first rental transitioning to be real estate agents I did that you know part-time while I was teaching full-time we picked up enough rentals and enough you know flips and things like that that I was able in you know 2015 so 10 years later to go full time into real estate We continued to build our portfolio until we Enough that we self-manage a little almost 30 units along with joining other people in two years last year to pick up a 16 unit you know joint venture in Tennessee And so that s kind of where I am and quickly how I got there 00 01 38 Sam Wilson that s awesome That s that was very very quick That s probably the fastest 96 version I ve gotten Yeah no I love that Sorry Tell me tell me this I mean it s it It s one thing to be a high school math teacher cuz that s what you re trained to do is to teach high school math And then it s an entirely different thing to say Not only am I gonna start investing differently than everyone around me but I m also gonna get involved in a in a career in an industry I know nothing about Walk us through that 00 02 03 Sia Senior process Yeah So I mean I think what happened was for us you know it happened by chance So we you know working my husband worked for the federal government as a contractor So both of us w two S the regular work every day you save your money and you ll get there eventually Right And so when we first purchased our our first home we were like wow that agent made a lot of money Real quick And she didn t really do much you know what I mean She showed us a couple properties no offense but you know that s really what happened so true We should do that too so on the side we became agents And so we were doing that you know getting income coming in you know spurts of it And you know decided for our house that we were living in we were gonna convert that to our first rental So we moved out Of our primary residence made a new primary residence and made that first property a rental And we were seeing immediately oh wow look at this cash flow That s coming from a house that we own you know we have a low mortgage on it cuz we had lived in it before Right And so the cash flow was doing really well We re like wow this might work This might work And so we just started to you know build up buy more properties You know we really worked on buying properties cuz we re in the DC area So we bought properties that were in the Baltimore DC area We re distressed So you know we fixed them up a little bit and we re able to put people in them and get great cash flow And so we just continued to do that We did some flips in a DC area you know it s a high appreciation area so you can definitely force the app you know the value of the property once you fix it up So we took that active income and we used it and transitioned it to buy more rentals So that we can continue to increase the passive income coming our way So as we worked and my husband actually you know after two years of doing the flips and buying the real estate he went full time And so I stayed as a teacher 10 more years while he continued to focus in on finding the properties and taking out the residents and tenants and you know flipping we did that so that we had a lot of active income coming and converting into passive income which is why you know in 2015 I was able to go you know full time into real estate and manage other 00 03 53 Sam Wilson rental That s awesome I mean 10 years is a long time to be slowing those seeds of residual income I mean that s what what allowed you to say all right we re gonna stay the course on this Was there I mean tell tell me about that 00 04 08 Sia Senior Well well I think for me you know I could have done it sooner cuz we you know we by that time in 10 years we had probably maybe like 15 properties so I probably could have done it sooner I was I wasn t necessarily ready to leave the golden handcuffs as they say right Of of the w two the consistent income coming in when you re flipping a property or you re a real estate agent even with the rentals Well the rentals are pretty consistent if you buy it right Which we did but with the active income from flips and you know being a real estate agent There s highs and lows Sometimes you have a lot of money coming in and then sometimes you don t have any right Feast and famine So for me I was really concerned as we started to grow our family that we always had something consistent like health insurance because that could be very expensive especially if something unforeseen happens you know And so for me I needed to be comfortable knowing that we had enough foundation that if something happened financially we will be able to handle it And so I could have left sooner but I really just wanted to be confident That you know we would be taken care of If that makes sense 00 05 06 Sam Wilson Was there any confusion and or kind of awkward glances from your colleagues as you told em what you were doing and what your plan was 00 05 13 Sia Senior Oh I mean all the time they d be like why do you renters Why do you have renters Like why are you doing that Oh don t aren t the tenants annoying I don t think they call you at night and da da da which I mean if you handle it correctly we are really good at communicating with our tenants We are really good at you know Picking them well right So we re very upfront and communicate well about what the expectations are And we do a good job of screening so that we don t have a lot of that It took some time to get there but by the time we had you know 10 units I had gotten enough bumps and bruises to figure out okay here s how you pick a tenant Here s how you don t pick a tenant And so By the time I was ready to leave the last you know let s say three years I was preparing to leave You know it was no big deal I mean I was able to do it on the side while I was teaching So I knew that if I left teaching and all of the grading of the papers and dealing with students all the time I would have more time to be able to even grow which we did cuz we definitely expanded and increased you know our assets after I went full time into real estate Sure But yeah definitely There was definitely like why would you leave this This is this is easy This is there s nothing to do which it was Teaching is you know well here and there it s really you know a a great job to do It s easy It s one and it s fun especially if you enjoy it But just being able to control my time was much more important to me and spending time with my kids you know so that was much more important 00 06 25 Sam Wilson Fantastic 00 06 25 Sia Senior I ve 00 06 26 Sam Wilson got a question for you on the picking your tenant s Well topic you mentioned that I want to hear what it is You feel like your secret sauce is that helps you do that 00 06 37 Sia Senior Wow Yeah Well I think we ve learned you know when we first started out we were definitely like okay we need the warm bodies so you know we were just so desperate to get people especially when you have one or two units the goal is to get somebody in there get them paying But when we become the realize is that like okay just because they re a warm body and they might have What looks like a decent income coming in If you re not really qualifying them overall it really you you can t guarantee that especially in some places that are not landlord friendly like Baltimore which is in Maryland isn t as landlord friendly as maybe some of the you know locations in the south And so it it sometimes is a struggle to get them out And so what we learned is that we really needed to one make sure we met with Prospective tenant that met our qualifications that we communicated clearly what the expectations were that we were consistent So you know we have a minimum credit score We ve got you know how much we think you should be making in terms of income We don t want people moving in and struggling to afford the rent And so we re pretty conservative with that And that helps us because then if something happens emergency it s not choosing between eating Picking the rent right Like we want we don t want those kind of struggles for people We don t want those for our tenants And so you know clarifying that and making sure that we do a thorough background in credit check which we didn t necessarily do in the beginning again but we do a a quality thing that and what I also do I think that really it s helpful is that when we pre-qualify them so that we re not spending a lot of time showing everybody at the property we make sure that they re you know they ve met the household income We go meet them at the property show it to them or someone will show it to them not necessarily us Then we let them know okay Before you Because now you like the property That s great Here are the qualifications that we re looking for And so when you tell them that front they disqualify themselves you know what I mean Because it s like oh I definitely don t meet that Oh I don t meet that You know And we don t have to worry about that So we get left over people who are pretty much right there They wanna be in the property they ve seen it And we ve we ve met them So we have a a good idea about like are they the type of tenant that we could work with and and them for us as well Right And so that by that whole doing all of that upfront and making it clear it really Eliminates the people that would be difficult to work with and that couldn t afford it and might run into something So that s pretty much what we do We also do a home visit So visit mm-hmm So we visit their current place of where they live And I think that is the trigger too because some people don t want us to come to their house but think about it Like it s not like we re going to yay or nail you from the house Right But in terms of like on the home visit but If you re concerned about you know someone coming into your home to look at it to see how you live you may not be the right tenant for us because what we re looking for is not necessarily if you were coming from a slum slum landlord we would know that right Like the mold and things like that the ceiling not being repaired that has nothing to do with the tenant That s what the landlord but you keeping a place that has like you know there s crayons all over the wall You know it s not being kept up There s holes punch in the wall That was clearly by someone s fist And not necessarily by you know like some those are things that we would notice And so we re not gonna be having someone that is gonna treat the property live in like that in our rental And so we they disqualify themselves on that because if you re not comfortable showing us your home there s probably a reason why And so we do that for everyone and people who don t have a problem with it it s no big deal And they end up coming in you know How do you I think that that s our secret sauce 00 09 46 Sam Wilson No I that s The first time I ve heard that I love that How do you do that objectively so that you re not violating any fair housing law And and again I don t even know what I don t even know what law there would be out there that would say Hey you just didn t like your cuz your house was right Like how yeah So you do that with a with a consistent score card that you can then put in the file and say Hey I reviewed Sam s And yes he has crayon on his wall and like whatever it is I don t know 00 10 14 Sia Senior Tell Right Well I ll tell you like because as I said because we give that upfront to let people know everyone every home that we ve visited we ve no one s ever been as qualified on their home so It s worked out right So the ones who have done those things right Like if you re some a tenant that has destroyed your rental place where you live you wouldn t let us in because you ve destroyed it If if it has mold because of the landlord you re not you have a problem letting me in because it s not you it s a landlord And we would know that from seeing it So we ve never disqualified anyone on on moving into the home 00 10 50 Sam Wilson That s brilliant I love that I love that Cuz they ve disqualified themselves When you say that they 00 10 55 Sia Senior disqualified themselves Yeah And we tell em upfront So then we don t have to worry about that because You know I m a tenant I m proud of my home I have no problem with it Come and see right The ones that have destroyed it they don t wanna see their house They never they re like no we don t want we don t want a home visit Okay Well that s part of the that s Everyone has this It s the it s everyone everyone every one of our tenants we ve had a home visit before So it s we re being consistent It s not like we re choosing whose house we go to Everybody s house gets visited 00 11 19 Sam Wilson Right Oh that s really smart If you re listening to this and you re wondering how to find a good tenant there s a great screening feature that you know I haven t quite heard before I think that s really cool Let s talk about scaling up your portfolio I know you guys are working on some larger projects now and tell me how you re doing that 00 11 39 Sia Senior Yeah So we you know 20 20 we before 2020 we were trying to figure out how to scale because buying one or two or four units you know at some point you re gonna run outta either money or time or something like that And so we knew the best way to do that would be to com connect with other people And so we joined a mentoring group that had people who were interested in scaling and doing commercial real estate We networked for a while We really got a handle on the underwriting for commercial properties because we could do obviously the underwriting for single family four units and two units small ties in our sleep We had been doing it for 10 years plus so we really wanted to be as Educated as possible Particularly because when you re doing larger assets and we know we were gonna be bringing in family friends and other investors you know the last thing we wanna do is lose our money and theirs You know what I mean So we took our time really just you know networking with people and getting a good feel for what it meant to have a profitable multi-unit That was bigger than what we had been used to dealing And so we networked enough that we connect with some people particularly through an underwriting group that I had been joining you know for over a year and networked with some of the people there And someone in the group found the 16 unit in Tennessee And you know we connected we looked at underwriting and it looked like a great investment So 16 unit a townhouse community it was Built by the seller who was selling it it s about 20 so years old and he was starting to offload all of his units So he had a whole bunch and he was just letting them go And so we were able to pick up that one we got seller financing for yeah for 24 months which is good you know so we ll we ll see how things go I know the market s a little crazy now but we ve got some time you know the were grossly on the market particularly because you know he was on his way out so he wasn t necessarily pushing rent and that kind of stuff And so we ve been able to really do a good job of You know communicating with the tenants first of all and you know making sure that no one was afraid of like new land you know new owners coming in and rent are going up even though they were under market by like almost 400 So we ve been working with them the the units ever opened we were able to bring that up right away doing a you know minor details and minor upgrading to it The other residents who were there because of the type of people that we connected with that have the same value We were able to work with them and slowly work on building The the rent increase And so we were communicating with them And so we didn t jump those rents up right away But the goal is to do that and they we ve communicated with them And so they know what s coming They also knew that they were dealing with a great asset where they had you know undermarket rents cuz when you looked around they they were sitting pretty And so they recognize you know what was happening and we were communicating with them which made it a much easier to deal with you know besides doing some upgrades to the outside of the property and making sure that you know the issues they had were taken care of So it s been really good So Now 00 14 14 Sam Wilson I mean you may have said this and I may have missed it Are you self-managing this property 00 14 18 Sia Senior as well No it s in Tennessee And so you know we self-manage in a DC area So this one cuz it s a joint venture This is our first time doing a third party property manager And we picked one of the top ones in the area And so it s been great for me to be able to just you know see I guess as an asset manage side where I see someone else running the rentals and taking care of it as opposed to you know us doing ourselves And so it s been a great experience So What 00 14 40 Sam Wilson have been some things as you interviewed your potential property management companies what were some qualifiers and or disqualifiers that you used 00 14 50 Sia Senior So I wasn t actually on the team that picked that group But when we met as a team to discuss it we definitely talked about making sure that we had someone that was really familiar in the area because of where it s located in Johnson city It wasn t like you know the DC area Baltimore big cities where you have lots of property managers Right 00 15 06 Sam Wilson You mean John city Tennessee is not DC 00 15 10 Sia Senior right right So we ve really had I know Right I know So We had to really hone in on like you know who were the top players in that area And we went on referrals as well We also looked at a national company that was gonna be Maybe putting an asset manager or a property manager close by that would add on to our units you know But we ultimately went with one of the top two That have been there for a while that know that area because you know they re familiar with what the rents could be When you come from the outside there s not a lot of like Zillow and things like that to give you a good feel for what the rents are in the area And so they had a good handle on it And so for us it was more important that we picked someone local that was really educated and been in the community and could do a good job And so that was pretty much what we we chose even though we had a couple other options to go That s really 00 15 56 Sam Wilson cool I love that Rewind your journey over the last gosh I don t even know how long it s been 15 Call it years that you ve been in real estate What s one that you would do differently if you could 00 16 08 Sia Senior Wow I think probably we would start sooner with joining with other people I think you know it s been a great experience and I think that you know because we were focused on just doing ourselves and having our own portfolio that we re building which we still are doing on the side there s just a lot more fun with other people you know And being able to scale quickly you know could we buy some of the smaller 10 units by ourselves We could but it s much more fun when you do with other people you get different perspectives And I think that s what I ve enjoyed most about coming into this space where I get to hang out with other investors Right And like-minded people So I don t get the word looks like I did from my former coworkers you know 00 16 43 Sam Wilson There there is that Yeah I mean yeah absolutely So you d go bigger bigger sooner and really partner up with other people Yeah Which is a great a great way to scale I mean and for those of us who aren t looking to build out our own in internal teams Joint venturing with other people with similar goals and objectives is a great I mean that s a great way to take down projects and really expand your portfolio That s absolutely awesome What is one thing you feel like you ve done really well that other people should emulate 00 17 12 Sia Senior Hmm I think for me what I ve done really well is really worked well with the residents and tenants in the community I think that that has made a big difference on why we were able to when the pandemic hit we had All of our residents were taken care of We worked with them because of our communication style with them and communicating with them And so if they needed a couple months or well a couple weeks or a month or two of you know working with them for the rents we were able to do that with no problem We lost only one tenant meaning like during the entire You know when there was lockdown we had everyone were communicating with them except for one tenant who I didn t actually qualify the correct way When I went back and looked at my stuff I was like oh man I miss this And so she was the only one that we ended up having to you know evict from the property But everyone else You know was perfect And I think that s because of the way that we connected with people and qualifying them in the beginning and then keeping the communication lines open I wouldn t say they re family but they re really really close you know friends and I know what happens They re when they have kids when someone passes away the kids are married or going college And I think that has really helped us to work with you know Keeping our residents we have a 95 renewal rate and that s just because yeah because of our connections with them and communicating our expectations up front And I think that helps us wow 00 18 27 Sam Wilson A 95 renewal rate That s you know there s always things to learn What was the one thing you missed in that tenant that you had to evict 00 18 36 Sia Senior So for me I think what we missed was I didn t look thoroughly at her background Right And so well I mean I looked through it but I think I gave a little bit too much leeway and it can go either way So sometimes you listen to the stories and you think so for example when you re looking at credit and the credit history there are things that might happen that cause you to get a lower score some things impact more than others So not paying your student loans Yeah That hits you really hard But I mean these college loans are a hundred thousand dollars I mean a hundred th that s a lot of money you know I can understand why that would be a medical issue hits your scores really low but you re Trying to live you know so those are things that we gave a little bit of benefit to and didn t look necessary at the other historical things that would give us an idea about her So even though my gut said no I wanted to give her a little bit of grace and I think I gave her a little too much grace and that s fine cuz you know sometimes you hit sometimes you miss right More of the time more often than that we we hit you know and we provide second chances to those that need it because of life s craziness that happens And I think that s why we re able to you know keep them so long for sure 00 19 38 Sam Wilson for sure And I love I I love that I mean nobody gets it right every time but you know you guys are getting it right again at Well again 95 of the time your your tenants are coming back and you want them to come back So that s a that s that s a pretty pretty heroic effort there Absolutely love it See it Thank you for taking the time to come on the show today and share with us your experience how you ve gone from a high school math teacher to being financially independent to owning a large portfolio of your own And now how you re growing by joint vendoring with other people in the industry Certainly love it and appreciate you sharing Whether it s your insights today If our listeners wanna get in touch with you and learn more about you what is the best way to do that 00 20 17 Sia Senior Well I think they can reach out to me at our website Arrowhead cap com We have lots of information there resources and I m also on LinkedIn So I enjoy you know biding back and forth and talking to people there as well 00 20 28 Sam Wilson Fantastic Sia Thank you so much Appreciate it 00 20 31 Sia Senior Thank you for having me I appreciate it Click here to visit this podcast episode