Jamila Souffrant 0:00
You're listening to the Journey To Launch Podcast. Leaving Corporate America To Become A Real Estate Agent And Investor, Plus Homeschooling And Unschooling With Erika Brown.
T minus 10 seconds. Welcome to the Journey To Launch Podcast, with your host Jamila Souffrant. As a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave Journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest and build real wealth. Join her on the Journey To Launch to financial freedom in five, four, three, two, one.
Jamila Souffrant 0:34
Hey, Hey, Hey, Journeyers. Welcome to the Journey To Launch Podcast. I'm so excited for you to be joining me today for another exciting, informational, educational, inspiring conversation. I'm going to be sitting down with Erika Brown who, by the way, is a Journeyer. She listens to the podcast, and is going to be sharing her journey to financial independence. And her pathway has been through real estate, and I know you guys love talking about real estate, learning about real estate. And so you're going to hear some great tips from Erika, who left her corporate job for more flexibility and more freedom to create a million dollar real estate portfolio and also create businesses where she can empower her community, provide jobs, and we even get into homeschooling. So she currently homeschools her three boys, and I was all about it. I wanted to learn all the things, so it's going to be a great conversation, so buckle up and get ready for takeoff.
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If you want the episode show notes for this episode, go to journeytolaunch com, or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. In the show notes, you'll get the transcribed version of the conversation, the links that we mentioned, and so much more. Also, whether you are an OG Journeyer or are brand new to the podcast, I've created a FREE Jumpstart Guide to help you on your financial freedom journey. It includes the top episodes to listen to, stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources, and so much more. You can go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart to get your guide right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.
Hey, Journeyers I have a fellow Journeyer on the podcast, who I'm really excited to talk to, and she is Erika Brown. Hi, Erika.
Erika Brown 3:32
Hi, hi, Journeyers.
Jamila Souffrant 3:36
So, the reason why I'm so excited to talk to Eric--I just love when actually I talk to people who also listened to the podcast, and I know you know what this, you know, the vibes, you know, kind of like how we get down here. And, I think it makes sure what you have to say more relatable because you literally are in the thick of the journey yourself. The reason why we have Erika on the show today, is because she is a real estate investor, a unschooling mom, which I can't wait to talk to you, like, about that. Like, I thought I could do that one day, and then the pandemic happened. I was like, "Oh, they need to go to school." But, I just want to get into your story, because I think it's fascinating to learn more about how you got into real estate investing, you own your own company now. You own, you said, over a million dollars worth of real estate assets?
Erika Brown 4:18
Jamila Souffrant 4:19
So, we are going to get into it. Alright, so, tell me about what you currently do, like, what your portfolio looks like, and then we'll go back.
Erika Brown 4:28
Okay, so I currently do a lot. I'm a real estate agent here in Atlanta, and I have a team of agents as well. My family-- We also have a landscaping company that was birthed out of doing real estate. Helping people buy and sell homes for a few years, and we started a landscaping company. Plus, I have a rental portfolio, of, where it's 17 units right now. All here in Atlanta, and I'm a homeschool mom on top of all of that.
Jamila Souffrant 5:01
Oh my gosh --love it. Now, tell me about your real estate journey. I have a love for real estate myself. I haven't taken it as far yet. You know, never say never. I would say for anyone listening, like, you can have a love, maybe not doing it right now, or interest, but it doesn't mean it can't be done. I don't care how old you are. So, tell me how you got started in real estate investing?
Erika Brown 5:21
Yes, absolutely. So, I actually started out, I worked in banking for nine years before going into real estate. And so, I was a banker. And particularly, I started working as a business banker. And so, after having all these business, I'm a naturally curious person, let me set the tone for that. So, after having all of these business clients, and I was working at one of the second most wealthiest branches in Atlanta. I started just ask questions, like, "How did you make your money? And how did you do this? How do you do that?" And one common theme that I noticed with all the entrepreneurs that I worked with, is that in addition to them being an entrepreneur, they also owned real estate, like, all of them, right? So, I was like, "Okay, something is with that connection." And, at the time, we had already owned our first home that we bought, like, again, struggle big time, we had a 589 credit score. I mean, my realtor told me, "I don't know if you're going to close." So, when your realtor tells you, "I'm not sure," you know it's bad, right? And so we had already purchased our first home, in a pretty rough neighborhood at the time in Atlanta. And we rented out our basement. And, that was kind of like the culture of just, like, our friends, any one time, anytime, someone needed a place to stay, you would, like, ask a married couple, and they would like have a room. So, we rented out space not knowing, "Oh, that's called house hacking." So, that was actually my first version of real estate investing when I wasn't sure, I was just trying to help pay for childcare. And, so I was a banker, asking my clients questions, realizing that there was a real estate connection with all of these entrepreneurs, because I naturally moved into an area where, you know, a lot of people were curious about, like, "Are you sure you're gonna live over there?" And, I just began to fall in love with my community. So, I fell in love with real estate as I fell in love with my community. So, more people, my friends, were asking me like, "How do you feel like living over there?" And, I'll show them all the beautiful treasures in the neighborhood. And then, I ended up showing them houses and driving them around, and then passing them over to the realtor. And I'm like, I started counting it up, I was like, "Wait, that's $100,000!" You know, after I've, like, referred all these people, and did not get compensated for it. So, generally, you know, and at the same time, I was with this corporate company that's banking. And, I really thought I was gonna be there until I retired. And then, I just kept applying for jobs. I was trying to get out of the branch, so that I can have a more flexible lifestyle, now that my kids were getting older. And it was, like, shut door, shut door, shut door. And it would be, it would be, like, a situation where I would like, know the head of the department, and they teed me up, and then it was still, I would not get the job. So, obviously God was just like, "No, this is not the place I have for you." And I ended up, you know, saying, "Okay, well, we're gonna try real estate." So, we had, I talked to, I called a friend who had done a similar journey the year before. And she was like, "Okay, well, you want to be an agent?" And I was like, "Well, I don't really know how I want to get into real estate, but I guess this is the first way to, you know, get my feet wet." So, we had the time, like, $20,000 in debt. And so, we set up a plan to, we got a debt consolidation loan, we got credit card debt. We got a debt consolidation loan, and we paid off, we made a plan to pay off all that debt. And so, I got my real estate license. And we were trying to do both, but it was rough. And so, eventually, I just quit my job, and I was the breadwinner, also at the time. So, that was a big deal. I quit my job. And then, because I had been following these business folks, it's like, "Okay, I know that even though we're just depending on my husband's income right now, I need to get some kind of passive income." So that's when we purchased our first investment property.
Jamila Souffrant 9:22
Okay. So many questions. I love that you read that down for us. How long ago was this that you quit your job?
Erika Brown 9:28
This was in 2016. So, this was five years ago.
Jamila Souffrant 9:32
Okay. 2016. And you said that you quit your job, you still had the debt?
Erika Brown 9:37
Well, so, we were able to pay off the debt...the credit card debt, before quitting my job, but the goal was to pay off the debt, and then build six months of, like, savings. But, we didn't have that.
Jamila Souffrant 9:49
Erika Brown 9:50
We had like two months.
Jamila Souffrant 9:52
Right? But, at the moment you said, "I couldn't do it anymore." You couldn't balance everything that you were doing?
Right. Not with integrity, no.
Okay. I love you said that. You know, some people are in this situation, and everyone has to make this unique decision, because, the rule of thumb, sure, it's great to quit your job and have the six months of expenses saved up. In my case, when I quit my job, Luckily, it was two years of expenses that will bridge the gap that my husband's income could not cover for our expenses. But, there are some people come to me, and they're just like, "I cannot do this. Like, I just want to take the leap." And, you know, yes, ideally, you should have money saved, but sometimes you don't have all the money that you need to save. So, I'd love to hear how you were able then, to sustain yourself. How you got that loan? So, it seems like you would have to take out loans to buy this property. So, what was that first investment property like?
Erika Brown 10:39
It was in my husband's name, because he was the only one with a job. And, so, it worked out great. And so, we used my, the money, some of the money that I had in a 401k. We use that to buy, the, as a downpayment to buy the first investment property. So, we had to put 20% down. And we used that, basically, to do that.
Jamila Souffrant 11:03
With a 401k-- was a loan from your 401k?
Erika Brown 11:06
No. We we cashed out the 401k. And then used that as a downpayment,
Jamila Souffrant 11:11
knowing what you know now, would you have done that again?
Erika Brown 11:14
I say yes. Because, the first year we made 35k. So, the 401k distribution was like $23,000, and we made 35k our first year investing. So, to me, I feel like it was absolutely worth it.
Jamila Souffrant 11:31
And $23k was after you paid the penalty?
Erika Brown 11:35
Jamila Souffrant 11:35
Okay, okay. So, that's the other thing, right? Like, everyone is unique, like, there's rule of thumb: That's last resort to touch your 401k the money just sitting and invest.
Erika Brown 11:43
Jamila Souffrant 11:43
But you're not the only person who has come on this podcast and said, "I had no other resources, I did take from my 401k." And they made, you know, you may do something from that. It was a building block to get you to where you are. So, you know, I can't just write that off and say, "Don't do it." I think if it works in some scenarios,
Erika Brown 12:01
Yeah. I mean, It would have took significantly longer. And that was like, an amazing deal. You know, like, man, I'll never sell that property because of the location that it's at, and the price we got it at. So, it was 10 times worth it. So you just, have, sometimes have to make a decision, like, "Okay, like, okay, yes, I understand the risk. But is this worth it?"
Jamila Souffrant 12:22
I love you said that. Like the discernment. I swear, like getting ahead in life with your money, with just asscending through it all. It's literally about knowing when to take these risks. Like, you don't do this on something that it's like a run-of-the-mill, kind of like, oh, like a pipe dream, kind of someone comes to you and says, oh, invest in this is that may not be around. But sometimes there's one in lifetime opportunities that you can't pass up. But you have to be able to know what those are, and be able to take the risk on.
Erika Brown 12:50
For sure. Which is, I had a lot of people who I call, like, so, like I always have, like, someone that's like one step ahead of me, that I can, like, I learned that information, I read, but then I say, "What do you think about this?" Because, I don't want to go in, like, blindly. And so, I have someone who's just kind of like, "Okay, you know, this is a good deal. Like, I would consider it." And so, I always have that at my fingertips every step of the way.
Jamila Souffrant 13:17
You know, and the other thing that strikes me about you and I always just like to bring this out and hopefully bring this awareness for people, Journeyers listening, is that you were working in a job, you saw a pattern of people who had a lot of money, and you started to ask questions, and not just ask questions, but then, you investigated more, and found your way, found out how they were doing it. And I just know that like, to me, that's following the breadcrumbs of life that lead you to the next step. And that's something I do. A lot of the opportunities that I've had, where, you know, I couldn't necessarily trace it to a straight line back to something, but it's like, this, like, really, these small clues, that I feel like I was given. I overheard a conversation, or someone said this catchword and I was like, "You know what, let me ask more about that." And then led me to a website, or a person that led me to another person and an opportunity. And I just want people to know that if you're in a situation right now, and it's not where you want to, maybe it is, and you want to go to next level. Literally there are clues all around you. And if you follow through, you become an investigator and excited about your life, you will see more opportunities in front of you. You will.
Erika Brown 14:17
Absolutely. 100%. That has been my whole story. For sure.
Jamila Souffrant 14:24
So this person got some properties that he made, how much from it?
Erika Brown 14:27
So our first year we rented, so we we bought it for really low. It was $60,000 in Atlanta at the time. So this was five years ago. We put $17,000 into it as a renovation. It had previously been a section eight home, before the previous seller sold it. So in order for it to be section eight, it has to be somewhat, you know, in good condition. So we put $17,000 in it to, like, spruce up the cosmetic of it. And then we put it on Airbnb and we made 35k our first year
Jamila Souffrant 15:01
Right. In rental income after the expenses?
Erika Brown 15:03
Jamila Souffrant 15:04
Awesome. And this time you have your real estate license, or are you working?
Erika Brown 15:08
I have my real estate license, yes. So I am helping people buy and sell homes at the same time as well. And it's just me. So it's just myself.
Jamila Souffrant 15:16
How did you find that process? Because, by the way, I also went to get my license. So my little backstory really quickly. I, I worked in real estate investments, but I've always had a love for real estate, and I thought that was gonna be my way out of corporate America. I was gonna, like, sell houses and apartments and rent them out. And then I went on, like one or two listings, like to show people stuff. And I was like, "Oh, this is not for me," because people end their questions. It's work!
Erika Brown 15:41
It is hard. People, they watch House Hunters, and they're like, "Oh, so all I gotta do is show them a house!?" That's like, 10% of the job, right? Like 90% of the job is getting them to the closing table. Like it's significantly way more to it than showing a house.
Jamila Souffrant 15:56
Erika Brown 15:58
So, the person was extremely hard, because I was leaving something that I could do in my sleep, to doing something that, yeah, I had experienced, like I said, showing my friends homes, but everything else was just so different. Like, banking is very black and white. Real estate is very gray. So, that was like a big learning curve for me, is like, okay, like, how do I manage all of this? Like, I worked a whole lot my first year, like a ton, a lot of hours a day, a day, whatever. But I loved it. I really enjoy naturally helping people. I enjoy helping people grow. So, I think that that was why it worked out really well for me. I've seen the benefit greater than, like ,the cons. And I made a lot of money, because you know, it was a really good time. Was it 2011? Like we're recovering from the recession. It was also good. I'm very motivated by money. So, the money made it like very easy to keep going.
Jamila Souffrant 16:57
And what's important here too, is like, because you can have just been an agent, like I know, they're real estate agents and agents, and they make good money, but they're not investors in real estate themselves. And you're doing both, which is different. And so how did you, so you're working on your own as a broker or seller? And how are you now then investing in real estate at this point? How did you start to build up your portfolio?
Erika Brown 17:19
Well, one, after my first year of being an agent, because I had a background, background, of having a team, I quickly hired admin, and another agent and I was very, I was advised against that, because they were like, "You don't even know what you're doing. Why would you bring someone else on?" It's like, but I'm two steps ahead. And I can figure it out. And I knew the value of scale. So, I think because I know the value of scale. That's why real estate investing comes natural to me, is because I'm a risk taker on paper, but I'm very conservative in my mind. And I knew that having passive income, at the end of the day, with whatever the market fluctuates with real estate sales, having that passive income is gonna, like, provide security for my family. So real estate investing was birthed out of just a desire to have that security as an entrepreneur.
Jamila Souffrant 18:15
So you started to invest in more property. How did you get the capital to do that? Were you taking out loans against one, or saving up cash?
Erika Brown 18:24
So our first few years, our first few properties, we would actually save 20% down. So I would use the money I was making in real estate sales to then save up for the 20% down payment, and then we would purchase a new property and we would do 20%. And I did that for about four or five. And I was like, "Man..." Because, I at the time, I wasn't investing in the stock market, anything like that. And I started counting up like how much equity I have. And I'm like, "Man, I got to figure out a way to not... One-- I have to have to figure out a way to buy more property, faster. And I have to figure out a way to not always use our cash." Because we we were equity heavy, but cash, like, not cash poor, we had our reserves, but we were still like, not where I wanted us to be, you know, with cash.
Jamila Souffrant 19:09
So you decided to start leveraging?
Erika Brown 19:11
Yes, yes, that was very important. So probably our next financial strategy after that was to refinance one of the properties, the first one, and then take out equity to buy a few more. We also sold our first home, and then we ended up building a house. So we used some of the equity to then pour into more properties. And then I learned the brrrr method, which is buy, rehab, refinance, rent, repeat. And so, we started taking advantage of that through hard money loans. And then last year, I got a business partner. So it's been an evolving journey over the years, as I learn, get comfortable, invest, experience, and then I constantly push myself to the next level.
Jamila Souffrant 20:00
Yeah, and I mean, looking at where you are now, it's like, wow, like you've done so much. But literally it started by one step at a time, learning one thing at a time. How would you then explain or give advice to someone who has no property, but they know they want to get into it, the best things that they can do to get to the point that you are like, what should they start doing?
Erika Brown 20:20
I think they should, one, find the education. Whether it is finding a mentor that can, you could that you can begin asking questions, specific questions, to apply that to your financial journey. And or find a coach who can hold you accountable, who can share information, and that can move you along the process.
Jamila Souffrant 20:42
And are you are like a native of, like, Atlanta?
Erika Brown 20:45
No, I'm actually from Dallas, originally. Texas.
Jamila Souffrant 20:48
Okay, I asked that, because you know, the like, even when you said the $60,000 for your first house, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh!" You know, even though it was years ago. I'm, I'm in Brooklyn, I'm in New York. And I know people who grew up here, and it's like, they can't even afford anything, let's just say the affordable housing, and even that is sometimes out of their range. So for someone who is in a high cost of living area, do you recommend going to places like Atlanta and outside areas to invest in and how does one get started in that?
Erika Brown 21:14
Absolutely. So I'm talking to a couple of people that live in New York, who live there, but who are like, "I can't even buy my own house here, but I want to begin investing." There are a couple programs they can take advantage of. They can take advantage of, like, The Vacation Home Loan Program, where they can purchase a home at least 60 miles away from where they live, whether it be Atlanta, Phoenix, somewhere in Texas, put down only 10%, versus the 15%. And then, you know, stay in it a few, you know, a few weeks out the year, and that qualifies for a vacation home. And then they can still do either short term or long term investing as well. They can also, especially now, with COVID, and people having the flexibility to be able to work from anywhere, they can say, "Okay, I want to commit to living somewhere else for a year, at least half the time." And they can actually take advantage of a 3% down, or in some cases, 100% down financing for a primary home buyer live there for a little bit of time, and then relocate back to their whatever, to New York, or wherever their high cost market is. And to be able to begin investing that way. That is the cheapest way to get in the game. Because you have the lowest interest rates and you have the lower downpayment.
Jamila Souffrant 22:30
Now, when you, you said, do you need 0% down?
Erika Brown 22:34
Yeah, so we have, we have programs here in Atlanta, for example, and I know they have them in Texas, because my dad was able to take advantage of it where it's like 100% financing, because they're living in a low to moderate income neighborhood.
Jamila Souffrant 22:48
Got it? Got it. Now, what is your stance, because people will talk about real estate investing, and buying property to rehab them. I know the goal is to increase equity and also to improve the neighborhood. But it does come at a cost for the residents, you know, that are there. And sometimes the underpinning of what, especially when you go to certain groups of people that are talking about investing, like, they're, they don't care about the community, they just want to like, get in there, get to, you know, find the next thing, the next fringe neighborhood, get it gentrified so they can earn more money, but then those people get pushed out. So how do you approach this in a responsible way? Like your community, right, talking about, you know, you loving Atlanta, and the area that you went in at first wasn't that great. But, do you find that for you, it's more important, still to make money, but also to do it in a way where you are serving the community?
Erika Brown 23:40
Yeah, I mean, the neighborhood that we sold our house and moved to was even worse than our first neighborhood on purpose, right? So, I have the philosophy where, when you have, like, a good heart, and you have a good motivation, and you're looking to help, you can invest, and also still be rewarded long term by your investment. So it's like checking your heart, right? So like I said, we actually built a home, in an even more rough neighborhood than before, right on purpose. And it's important to be aware of what gentrification is, like, it's rooted in capitalism, right? So whether we move here, or Susie, or whoever moves here, that machine is gonna keep going. But the beautiful thing is, when we decided to move and we built this amazing house, and folks found out that we were black, and we moved to our neighborhood, the game changed. Because I don't think people talk about like the cultural aspect of gentrification as well. So we're here, we have businesses, we're providing jobs to the community, we've been able to provide through our housing and rental portfolio, we've been able to actually hire people who were homeless, give them a job and then provide housing for them as well. So if you go in with the mindset though of helping and wanting to like serve, then a lot of times, you're still taking care of. So I just think we just need to kind of check our heart.
Jamila Souffrant 25:10
I just wanted to bring that up, because I do feel like sometimes that's missing from some of these conversations from other people are talking about real estate investing, they're not considering the neighborhood. They're just thinking about how much money they can make. So I'm glad that there are people like you who are conscious, and are still making sure that the residents that grew up there can rent there or buy there, and they're helping them do that.
Erika Brown 25:30
Yes. That's definitely a priority for sure for us.
Jamila Souffrant 25:35
And now that you are at this point, you a portfolio, you have now agents that work for you, right? So you're scaling in a way where it's not just you, like you're responsible now to kind of keep your business going for others. How did you get to that point? Like, how is it now being like this business owner who's not just focused on yourself and your income, but these other people that you're employing?
Yeah, I mean, I just think about, like, the feeling of being drained, and being, you know, tired. And just having all of those feelings, where it's like your, your family is impacted, your marriage is impacted, because you just don't have anything else to give, because you're trying to build this dream. And so, I'm just not greedy, right? So it's like, I could save all, I can save all this money, and not hire operations manager, and try to do marketing by myself, and all those types of things. But, I reckon, I recognize the value of a team. And although it is, it is a big investment on the front end, generally, the first one or two years, you might lose money from having a team. When I think about, like now, I mean, we probably have, like 15 people, between all of our companies working for, working for us, whatever, whenever I'm on vacation, or whether I'm, like, Wednesday's are our field trip days, and we're going on field trips, I have the peace of mind knowing that we have a team that's taking care of things. And they are also empowered, because they have a purpose. They are growing individually. So, I just see the value in like spreading, sharing the wealth. And at the end of the day, I think COVID taught us like, you know, money is, is great, but our family, our loved ones, are what most, what's most important. So.
Yes, yes. And as you were just talking about, what you're doing, right? And running a business, and employing people for you personally now with your investments, right? Like, some people, like I know, it's gotten you further probably to your financial independence goals. But for some people, they might be listening and saying, "You know what, I don't know if they'll say investing is for me, because I don't want to with tenants, I don't want to deal with that hassle." So is it for everyone? And then I would love to after that, if you can give us a story. I know that it went well for you, this business so far, but like if you have a actually not great experience with an investment property, and if you can share that.
Erika Brown 28:01
So, yes. I mean, I think that everyone should at least own one real estate asset that they don't live in, just because of the beautiful tax benefits that come with it. I mean, it's just amazing, right? Like depreciation, and all of these ways that you could actually like, reduce your taxable income to them, use that income to pour back into your community, or fund your debt, whatever it is, your motivation is, I just feel like real estate has that. So, at least have one property, hire a property manager if you don't have the capacity, but have one, one. Have something to pass on to your kids, right? Something tangible. So I will say that.
Jamila Souffrant 28:39
Thank you for sharing that part. And being real with like your opinion on it. What is one example of where you went into an investment property, or you bought real estate, and it did not turn out the way you expected?
Erika Brown 28:50
So, the first time I partnered with someone on a real estate investment. So, I partner with two people, it one was a money lender, it was kind of like the money guy in the deal. And the other person was a builder. And you know, I did a lot of the legwork, legwork, finding the property, negotiating with the seller, choosing designs, all that kind of stuff. And when the deal was done, like a year later, because the builder didn't have any type of incentive to, like, get it done faster. But I am paying, you know, this hard money lender for 12 months before he got around to doing the job. And so when the house ended up selling, it so quickly, it's beautiful. It was a dilapidated house that is now, now has a homeowner in it, and so it was good for the community. But when I calculate the amount of time and work I put into it, I lost money. And so I think the lesson for that one was to be more picky whenever I decide to go into a deal with someone. Like making sure like, are we all on the same page? You know what, I do we all have skin in the game? What is your goal? What Is my goal? And just making sure we're on the same page before going into the deal together.
Jamila Souffrant 30:05
So and but with something like that you you find the partner, right, to help you? And it sounds like the builder wasn't... that you're saying the builder was the one that helped with the process?
Erika Brown 30:14
Yes, it was the builder. His bottom line-- the interest on the loan was not coming out of his bottom line. So he didn't have any type of, like, urgency to get the home renovated quicker. So, it took him a really long time to even start.
Jamila Souffrant 30:31
So it sounds like if you're choosing to partner with someone, make sure that the incentives are aligned. Like not one person is going to get dinged based on timeline or race, versus the other.
Erika Brown 30:41
Yes, yes. 100%.
Jamila Souffrant 30:49
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Now, you said you also own a landscaping business. I love how you created these tangential businesses to help serve the ecosystem of your empire? I'm surprised you don't have a management company.
Erika Brown 32:27
We do, we do. We have that too.
Jamila Souffrant 32:29
Oh, you do? Okay.
Erika Brown 32:31
But just for our profit. This for our property. So yeah, I have I actually have a property manager and a handyman. So we do.
Jamila Souffrant 32:39
But that's great. Like, it just shows you, like, you can create such different streams of income and or businesses based on one, because you'll see the needs and you can either hire someone to do it, or fulfill it, or fulfill it yourself.
Erika Brown 32:53
Right. The landscaping company started because as I was helping people buy and sell homes and helping them prepare to list, we had like landscaping companies that wouldn't come to our neighborhood. And if we use someone in our neighborhood, we just had to like, we just often were met with very poor service. And so when, when we partner, like with our level of just excellence, and just like what we expect, versus our business savviness and our desire to want to provide jobs, it was a natural progression for us to do that.
Jamila Souffrant 33:30
Yes, yes. Now, I know another question someone may have right now is, "Okay. How do I identify what is a great investment property, a potential property?" What are some things you look at and deem as indicators that it may be successful at this property that you're going to invest in?
Erika Brown 33:46
That's a great question. So, I look at, one, like, is it in my budget? How much can I get in rent, versus how much my mortgage would be? Even if I decided to do a short term rental, I still base it off of just, like, your regular rental rate. Because that's, at the end of the day, how much can I rent this for if the 'ish is the fan? I.e. March 2020, right? So,that is always, like, just making sure those numbers align. What type what location? Will people desire and want to live here? You know. How much work does the home need -- if it does need additional work? And then what is happening around it? Is there like an increase of people moving to the area? Is their upcoming development happening in the future that will help increase the equity over time? Those are all the factors that I'm looking at when analyzing a deal.
Jamila Souffrant 34:41
And what I add, that I think those are actually great indicators to look at when you buying your own actual primary residence, because I know we're talking about not everyone. So I, I, love that you have the stance that everyone should own at least one property.
Erika Brown 34:54
Jamila Souffrant 34:55
Real estate is one of the biggest ways people have wealth in this country. So it is a big factor, right, and, but, I also say that some people are in certain situations, like, it may be more costly to buy than rent, and they might just be better off renting for the rest of their lives and save a lot of money. But in the same regard, I also, just because I'm a home owner, like, I encourage ownership, because of the tax incentives, and the write offs that you can have. But when it comes to buying a property, because someone could be listening, and they just want to own their own property. And I think what you just said about figuring out if a investment property works is how they should look at their primary residence, because
Erika Brown 35:32
Jamila Souffrant 35:33
You don't, maybe, you do want to sell it or move out, maybe it's not your forever home, and you want to be in a position where you can do that. So, I think it's just important to note that that can be... those indicators can be done and looked at from the perspective of buying a primary home too.
Erika Brown 35:47
Yeah, I've been able to help a number of people who bought in the right area, and they were only, only in their home for, like, under 10 years, and they made 200k on average, right? And so, and that's because they factored in all of those things when deciding to purchase their their home. Their primary home. So those are really important things to consider.
Jamila Souffrant 36:11
Yes, and how did you fair out with the pandemic and your rental properties? And your renter's work? Did you experience a lot of just missed rent, because people's job situations? How was that?
Erika Brown 36:22
So I didn't, I didn't have any of my long term renters miss rent, thank God, like that's huge. The biggest pivot that I had to make was with my short term rentals. So, I had two properties that I converted from a short term rental to a more longer term rental. It still wasn't like... one of them did convert to, like, a one year lease at a time, but one of them we pivoted to, like, a three month type of rental situation. Still on Airbnb, but there was a pivot with two properties. But we've been grateful that we haven't had any of our tenants miss any rent.
Jamila Souffrant 36:56
Wow, that's really good. And I mean, the real estate market right now is really hot.
Erika Brown 37:00
Jamila Souffrant 37:01
And so, I'm assuming you've been able to, to see some, some gains off of people buying, right, and like the property increase.
Erika Brown 37:09
Yeah, big time. Big time. Yeah, my team, we're really busy this year. We've already, we've already done the amount of volume this year than we did, like, in July, than we did last year for the entire year.
Jamila Souffrant 37:22
So should people still buy now? Like what what's your stance on if someone wants to get in? Is it kind of like this is the bubble? And we should, they should, wait until it pops if it pops? Or... what do you think they should do if they're looking to get in?
Erika Brown 37:34
I mean, I don't necessarily believe in that bubble. Like, there was a legit bubble in 20, you know, 2007, but that's because we had fraud going on, right? Like, we had a lot of manipulation and people not moving in homes and things like that. But, right now is pure economics. It's supply and demand, and unless people decide to, like, not move and the demand decreases, which I don't anticipate having, I think it's going to continue to increase. And so, I actually more so side with the people who are like, "Oh we're going into the roaring 20s," you know? 2020 taugh people a lot, and so people are really evaluating where they are living. So, I think if you have the opportunity to buy, these rates are crazy.
Jamila Souffrant 38:18
Erika Brown 38:18
The rates alone! Like so I'm getting ready to, you talked about financial independence, I still have student loans... and that's because I've chosen not to pay them off, because I was so upset that I had, right? So I had this like mental thing for a year.
Jamila Souffrant 38:33
Revenge. Like, are you going to take this when you get it?
Erika Brown 38:36
Yes, revenge. But now it's affecting, it's been affecting my buying power, right? Because I still had that payment. So I am actually refinancing three properties, three of our rental properties. And I'm going to get a lower interest rate, get some cash out of all three to pay off the student loans. And I'm still going to have a lower payment than I do now. Because of the interest rates. So, that alone, buy a house now if you can, because I mean, you really are able to stretch your money.
Jamila Souffrant 39:13
First of all, I love that. You just dropped a couple of nuggets I want to pull out. You still invested even though you had student loans. So, I think that's important to note, because I am one that does.... even if you have debt, that you should still invest, because, the same way that your debt is accumulating interest is the same way you losing out on accumulating interest on the money that you could be putting into the market. Whether, you know index funds or stocks, and or real estate. So I love that you said that, because that comes up a lot. People are just like, "Should I, should I invest I still have debt?" And again, I want people to be responsible and not take on too much debt that they cannot afford to pay, but if you have an opportunity to do sob I think it's a smart thing to consider.
Erika Brown 39:53
Again, I'm an advocate to not have credit card debt, like, get rid of that you know, as soon as you can. But, if you are disciplined with your money, somewhat, and you, and you know, you have a good financial, you've learned enough and you have a good financial track record and you have discipline, then we have definitely used real estate investing to pay off debt, and to fund our fun things. So like, I generally I'm a very, I'm a minimalist. I'm a very, like, you know, not... I'm a very modest just, like, non-flashy person. My husband is different. And, um, you know, I normally my big thing I splurge on I buy houses, right? And so, my husband, like, you know, was like, talked me into buying a Tesla last year. So we bought a Tesla, but he was able to help it make business sense. That's why I was able to get on board. But that was like a big deal. Like, that was a big splurge for us. But the beautiful thing is, our passive income pays off the Tesla, like, literally, it doesn't even come out of our personal finances. It just comes out of the business account. And I love that.
Jamila Souffrant 41:03
I, personally, love that you share that. I was like, "Our husbands are similar." Although he's still waiting for his nice car. And he's like, "Okay, like, when are we? What are we gonna upgrade?"
Erika Brown 41:11
He was patient, you know. I'm like, "Okay, let's have fun a little bit." You know, my thing is vacations, but he, he wants to, you know, drive a nice car. Okay. Give and take, right?
Jamila Souffrant 41:22
Right - nothing wrong with that. So, now, we, we brought up, we talked about financial independence. Where are you on your journey? Like, so if you wanted to stop right now. Like, you're not doing any more, you're not working as the broker and agent side of things, and you're just focusing on your investments. Will you be able to stop? How close are you to your financial independence goal?
Erika Brown 41:42
So, we have enough passive income monthly to retire, but we would have to scale back our lifestyle. And I don't want to scale back my lifestyle. But I want to continue to invest in you know, everything.
Jamila Souffrant 41:57
Erika Brown 41:57
So, we are continuing to work so that we can invest, plus, build up our passive income while paying off, like, our mortgage, our primary mortgage, and, you know, student loans. So, yeah. So, if push comes to shove, and like, we have to stop working for whatever reason, we have enough passive income to live off of.
Jamila Souffrant 42:19
But I love that, because you love what you do anyway. And this is, this where I want everyone to get to. This kind of coast rate, where you are good if you chose not to do anything else, but you want to, as you, like your lifestyle, you want to have more things if you want, in reason, but you continue to work that's just part of like your calling or your mission or what you love to do. I think that is the goal for everyone.
Erika Brown 42:41
Yes. That is the goal. To do what you love.
Jamila Souffrant 42:44
Alright, so now we're gonna get into your homeschooling life, because as a mom... let me tell you something, I, when I get into something, I get into it. So at one point in my head, this is, I mean, I have three kids now. They're seven, five and three.
Erika Brown 42:58
Nice. I have 3 too.
Jamila Souffrant 43:00
I know your kids are a little older, right? How old are your kids?
Erika Brown 43:02
Mm. 13, 11, and nine. All boys.
Jamila Souffrant 43:06
Okay, so they're a little older. Now, but, when, before I had all three. I think when I was at one, like, I fell down this rabbit hole of homeschooling. And then, I went into, like, a deeper level: Unschooling. Which, like, homeschooling, there's a schedule, and like, they follow a curriculum. I found like podcasts and blogs about unschooling, and literally, it's like, you let the child lead, there's no curriculum, and I was like, "Huh, this interesting."
Erika Brown 43:30
You learn through life.
Jamila Souffrant 43:31
And, yes! And I was just like, wow, in theory, like, I love this, because I think of school and half the things they teach is like, just a waste of time, especially for, depending on how your kid is. If you know your child, and that they don't want to sit down in a desk, at a desk for hours at a time, like, you know, like that way of learning. It's not for them. So I was into that, or thinking about it, but then I thought to myself, "I don't have the patience. I am kind of scared, like, don't they need to like learn certain things, like does everything need to be self directed," like I just couldn't wrap my head around it. And then what really sealed the deal that I don't think I could do this was the pandemic. Because they were home, but I gotta say that they were home being forced lessons. And sitting in front of, yes, I'll be one of them. But still, my first one had to sit for like, five hours on and off all day. The second one, it was like, only, 30 minutes, so it wasn't so bad. But it's like I couldn't get anything done. And they're so young where they want you know, I don't expect them to be as independent yet. But long story short, I just couldn't see it. I was, like, "They need to go to school. I need my time." And so when I saw that you were homeschooling ,and I think unschooling, so you can correct me and tell your story. I was like, Oh my gosh! Like, how? How does this work? Tell us.
Erika Brown 44:43
Okay, so first, I was that mom too. Like, legit, like, "I could never do that. Like, I could never homeschool!" Like, that was me. But, as moms, we do, what we do when we have to do what's best for our kids, right? And so we willing to move a mountain if we can, if that's what our kid needs. So, that's kind of what we led to. Like my son, my, one of my sons, was, he was not the kid that could sit down and do exactly what they say and not get it, you know, that's just not him, right? So he became to be labeled as "that kid," right? And once you're labeled as just like a problem child, then even if you don't do anything, you're still accused of doing things, right? And even though our school was great. Like we were very active with our teachers and our principal, and it was just a lot, you know? We even had a situation where, like, we had a young teacher who cursed him out, it was a lot, it was a lot of trauma. Yeah. It was a lot of trauma. So, our whole thing was, "Okay, maybe he has some type of like learning difference, and we need to give him some support." So, we paid money and went and had him evaluated by psycho, a psychologist, and to just see like, does he have dyslexia? Like, are we missing something that we can help him? And the doctor was like, "Your kid is fine. He just has severe anxiety around school." And it was like, "Okay, well gotta figure something else out!" And then we made a list of, okay, so we say, "Okay, this son, this is what this son needs, let's make a list of schools that, that can check these things off." So we began visiting schools, charter schools, or private schools, and girl, we just didn't find it. So we were like, "We got to do it ourselves." Again, because that's kind of the people we are. So, so we started homeschooling. And I have a good friend, who had been unschooling. And, like, her son, her kids have been unschooling from the beginning. And her son is so amazing, like, he would do this the basic kind of like math, reading, you know, worksheets for like, an hour and a half. And then he really enjoyed robotics and coding. So then she would drop him off at coding camp from 10 to one. So he got a chance to do like, three and four hours of coding, and he ended up joining a team. And at 13, they were traveling to Ghana.
At 13. You know? Because he was able to accelerate his learning. And, she never actually, like, I never had problems with my children behavior problems, because they're doing what they love. And so I was like, "Okay, I gotta figure this out." Right? So, I just began YouTubing, and asking questions and all that. And throughout that process, my oldest one came to me and said, "Hey, Mom, I want to, I want to homeschool too." I was like, "Oh, okay."
Jamila Souffrant 47:42
Your older one?
Erika Brown 47:43
My older one. Yeah, he was, at the time, he was in seventh grade. And he's your, your typical older child that does what they're told. You don't really have to... if I get a call from him, like something is, right?
Jamila Souffrant 47:55
Not my older child. My older child is the one that's like, :I'm gonna tear this all up." Like, not listen to anybody.
Unknown Speaker 48:00
I was like that too. That's true, that's true. But, um, so I got a call from his teacher, right? And again, he doesn't get in trouble. Like, he's just like a quiet kid that does what it's supposed to do. I got a call from his school, because he has uniforms, and they said, you know, so and so he wouldn't, he wouldn't take his hoodie off. And I was like, "You're calling me because he wouldn't take his hoodie off? Okay, I'm done." So, I was done, he was done, everybody was done. So, we were like, we're gonna figure this out. So, I love it because, they are able to pursue their interests, learn, like, even discover things that they are interested in. So, we just do a lot of field trips, and just provide a lot of resources at home. So, we have sketchbooks, we have books, we have keyboards. I just provide a lot of stuff. And then they just try things out, and then figure out like, "Oh, I want to pursue this more." And then I try to bring in the math aspect of it. The reading aspect of it. Just to make sure like all bases are covered that way, versus like forcing them to, like, learn a certain curriculum.
Jamila Souffrant 49:05
Yeah, I guess we should also step back and can you just give a definition of homeschooling versus unschooling? I know I did it in the beginning, but I want to just make it clear.
Erika Brown 49:13
So homeschooling is the overall form of schooling, right? And then unschooling is a method of homeschooling, right? So it's like a, you have different kind of methods, and unschooling is the method, but it pretty much all falls under homeschooling, which is just the umbrella of: I don't send my kids to public school.
Jamila Souffrant 49:36
And the way that you do it, do they have certain, like, necessary subjects that they have to complete, like, to keep them on track with their peers, or no?
Erika Brown 49:44
It depends on your state. My state doesn't, and I wouldn't agree with that anyways, because, like, my interests determine what I need to know. So, it was almost like, like, think about, like, all of us, we got out of high school. Most I had no idea what we wanted to do. So it's like unfair to say, "Okay, you need to pick a major." I don't even know what I'm good at, because I'm constantly being forced to learn something. So we all do a form of unschooling as adults. Like, you have done it with, with your podcast, and you've done it with financial education, and no one has to tell you, "Hey, Jamila, listen to this podcast, read this book." It's something that you truly enjoy, so that's what you pursued. My kids are doing that at 10 and 13 years old. So, you know, the goal is that they are, they have like a wide variety of skills and strengths that they've been able to exercise. And then hopefully, they can press in to whatever they choose to do in the future.
Jamila Souffrant 50:47
So my fear... what someone may say, and I mean, you, all power to you. So, my thing is your family, you do what you ,your choice, right? Of what you do. And then like for me, though, the fear comes in, but will they be academically okay? Will they be able to be in the world where they need to know certain things? And then, again, it comes back to just like having, being a black person, having black children. You also have this stigma of, they can't just be average. Now, I don't prescribe to that. Like, like, the average is fine. And they don't have to overwork themselves and prove themselves to be something different, but it does feel like there's already so much against them potentially and actually, so then, not to have them be able to be in the world where no positioning them to academically be great. Is that actually setting them back? So what are your thoughts on that?
Erika Brown 51:35
So the goal is to teach your kids how to have a love of learningm, because if you develop a love of learning, whatever life throws at you, you know how to learn it, right? So, one, how many of us in your adult age, who asked you, like, who was a part of the American Revolution?
Jamila Souffrant 51:57
Erika Brown 51:58
Most of us really didn't, like, leave school with a lot of information. Like, I know, I didn't. You know, and my husband didn't either. So the goal is to develop a love of learning. And then as you grow, and you encounter various things in life, you have a love to, you have the tools to know how to learn whatever you need to learn. So that you're never really behind. You just, when you encounter things, then you begin learning it. And so I'll give you a great example. So my son is learning a program called SketchUp. And it's a 3D model architecture program, because he's really loves houses. He loves design. So we it like pairs both of those. And so he's been, the SketchUp has like a SketchUp University online. He's been learning. He came to me, he's like, "Mom, I'm trying to build this 3D model, and I realized, like, I think I need to learn how to, I think I need to learn Geometry." It's like, "Oh, okay, great. Let's go on KhanAcademy.com. It's free." And they have a whole Geometry section that teaches you Geometry. So he's able to, like, pull in those additional subjects, and he's developing a love to learn, so he can learn anything. So I, I feel like it actually does the opposite of what people are afraid of. People are afraid of not knowing something and I actually feel like you will know more, and you will have a wider range, because you're able to actually like be exposed to things that you may not be able to take advantage of in regular school.
Jamila Souffrant 53:28
Right. And it sounds like access is important, because in my head, I'm like, "Well, if I let them choose, they're gonna watch, especially my, my oldest. I feel like he's just gonna watch TV all day and YouTube." Which, I don't know. Would you... is that okay, if they're unschooling?
Erika Brown 53:39
So, you have radical unschoolers. That's not me. We still have our, we still have a routine. We have boundaries with screentime and things like that. They're going to a co op this fall. So they've been able to choose their classes. You can develop a routine and still not, like, let your kids just kind of like do whatever they want, because their kids. They don't know what they need. But it is our goal to present them with options and to ask questions and find them and recognize strengths in them and then build on those strengths.
Jamila Souffrant 54:13
Yes, I love that. And you do share a little bit about your unschooling/homeschooling on your personal Instagram. What is that if we wanted to check that out?
Erika Brown 54:21
Yes, please check it out. It's Erika, with a K, be on IG. So it's E R I K A B O N I G. Erika be on IG.
Jamila Souffrant 54:34
I'm gonna link it in the show notes. I just wanted people to if they want to check that out.
Erika Brown 54:37
I have a whole highlight that says homeschool, homeschool! I have a, like, whole highlight for homeschool.
Jamila Souffrant 54:42
Okay, we're definitely gonna link that in the show notes, so people can check that out. And, now, if you weren't in a position where you could be home with your kids or have this flexible work, and you wouldn't be able to do this, right, like with them? Okay, tell me how Oh yeah.
Erika Brown 54:59
Well, let me ask you question. Who says that you have to learn in the morning or during the day?
Jamila Souffrant 55:06
Right? But wait, this is for the kids, though. So who's gonna watch them? If you had to go into work, who would watch them?
Erika Brown 55:11
So, we could do, you know, you could do daycare. They can go to, there's all types of like programs. I could have someone watch them, whatever. But school is not defined to like a nine to five timeframe. There are single moms that homeschool. There are,... I follow moms that homeschool in the evenings, on the weekends, they allow their children to play and pursue other interests during the day. And then that's when they do like, like scheduled time with them. We just have to kind of like, reframe our mind where school does not have to be limited the way it is now. And the concept of school is like a new thing. It's if you think about it, prior to, you know, Reconstruction Period, school houses didn't exist. You just lived with your family and learned. And we have tons of geniuses who were, you know, born during that time, who still learned how to read, write, math, create. They just lived with their family and learned. So I think we have to like, sit back, and reevaluate the limits that we put on learning.
Jamila Souffrant 56:23
Well, I love that, because, I mean, the whole point... when I was when I was transitioning to, was talking about financial independence and freedom in general, right? And I was talking to a place of, I want you to experience that. And not without necessarily, you don't have to have all the money and be at your financial independence goal to reap the benefits. And I actually love that you just broke down something for me where, if you are interested in this, if the school system is not working for your child, there is, there's a possibility, even if you are still working, that you could make this work, but you have to think outside the box. Because once you think you can't, and then you can't. So I actually, you know, thank you for that. Because this whole, the whole point of Journey To Launch is to you choose your path. You know, a lot of times we are given a path, we are we are told what is to be done. And it's from my experience, and your experience, you know, it came from being inquisitive, asking questions, and it's the same things we're trying to instill in our kids. Because like, that's all I want my kids to be able to do. It's like, ask questions like, speak up for yourself, pursue what you enjoy. And so, that's the point, and I love that you're able to do that with your children and break that, that structure that we all believe is no has to be that thing.
Erika Brown 57:31
Oh yeah. We do things a lot, very different. Like, they work two days a week in a landscaping company. We all cook dinner for one another. Like, it's not like a gender role kind of thing. It's like who needs help today? Like, who's available? Who has the energy to do this today? Like, we just... who says we have to do it x way, you know? Like, Yeah, it's been fun.
Jamila Souffrant 57:53
Oh my gosh, I love this. I love that we got a chance to spend some time talking about homeschooling, unschooling, and about your real estate experience. Erika, please tell everyone where they can find more about you and everything that's going on?
Erika Brown 58:06
Yeah, so you can definitely find me on IG. I'm very active on IG. @Erikabonig .com, .co and then you can find me also erikab.co. And then if you are in in Atlanta, and you're looking to buy and sell homes, you can find us at Erikabrownandassociates.com
Jamila Souffrant 58:31
Amazing! And I will make sure to link that. And then even, I'll try to find, maybe you can send me some homeschooling information. So I can also make that to the show notes too for people.
Erika Brown 58:41
Awesome. That sounds great!
Jamila Souffrant 58:46
I really hope you enjoyed that conversation with Erika. I love bringing out nuggets, or just, things that guests say, that typically, maybe, you'll gloss over, you might not hear this. I love highlighting it, because it's the things that are not necessarily in the forefront that make people successful. So I just can tell already, when Erika started talking and said she saw people who she worked with in her corporate job making money and wanted to know more about them. She asked questions, and I just want to challenge you again, to ask questions. You may be in a situation where you want more, you want to do something else. And there are clues all around you that you just have to follow and be inquisitive about, where you can get the next key to open the next door to get you to the next place. So I love being an explorer in life. And I really think that's what has gotten me to where I am today. And I encourage all my Journeyers to do the same. No matter where you are on your journey. The other thing that I love that we highlighted and talked about was homeschooling. So this is a topic where you know, I gotta be honest, right now, I'm not about that life. I don't foresee it right now happening. But I love how Erika said, you know, that was her last resort. So she had to do it. And when you are a parent, you will do what you need to do for your kids. And so I am still thinking about it. It may not be something I do, but I love being able to bring that kind of conversation to the Journey To Launch Podcast and I'm curious, are you a homeschooler? Have you considered it? What about unschooling? Do you, do, have you taken it a step further and have more a self directed education plan for your kids? I'd love to hear about it. So, tag me @journeytolaucnh on Instagram. Take a screenshot that you were listening to this episode, and share it with me. Share it on your social media. I'm on a Journey To Launch on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And that way I can see if you guys are doing this thing, have done it, have tried it or thinking about it. And also I'll link any resources that Erika sent,or that I find about homeschooling in the episode show notes.
Don't forget, you can get the episode show notes for this episode by going to journeytolaunch.com, or click the description of wherever you're listening to this and you can still grab your Jumpstart Guide for free to help you on your journey to financial freedom by going to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart. If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show: One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple Podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you are not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this and Apple Podcasts, rate, review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review. Number two, follow me on my social media accounts. I'm @journeytolaunch on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And I love, love, love, interacting with Journeyers there. Three, support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you. Sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So, show them some love for supporting your girl. Four, and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker, so that we can spread the message of Journey to Launch. Alright, that's it until next week. Keep on journeying Journeyers.
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