With too much competition around, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of going too fast before we ultimately spin out of control. Then again, it helps to be reminded that slow and steady always wins the race. In this episode, Scott Carson brings over someone who has championed this approach to real estate. He interviews real estate investor and host of the Real Estate Investing for Women podcast, Moneeka Sawyer, about how she built a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio from $10,000 against all tides. She talks about remaining blissful even when her properties went completely upside down and how she managed by building a long-term wealth strategy and not the get-rich-quick. Tune into this conversation as Moneeka shares her focus, niche, and best practices that she has instilled in executive housing and overcoming market swings.
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A Blissful Investor’s Slow And Steady Approach To Real Estate Wealth With Moneeka Sawyer
I’m Moneeka Sawyer, the Blissful Millionaire. I am excited to be with Scott on the Note Closers Show. I’m going to be sharing how did I stay blissful even when all my properties went completely upside down.
It’s always great to spend time when you’re with somebody who also has a big passion for helping people succeed. A big, huge heart for helping other people overcome obstacles to find the real estate deal or the system or the money that will help make all their dreams come true in a variety of ways. Let’s face it, real estate is not always the easiest game out there. When you start putting systems in place, it gets a whole lot easier to not make it a get rich quick, but also to build wealth long-term. Our special guest is a friend of mine who has done that.
She’s known as the Blissful Millionaire. She’s reached her financial freedom by turning $10,000 to over $2 million working only 5 to 10 hours per month with very little stress. She’s now on a mission to help many other women do the same thing. She’s the host of top-rated podcast and radio show, Real Estate Investing for Women, and has interviewed so many prestigious guests including Leeza Gibbons, Dr. Joe Vitale, Hal Elrod, and a whole bunch of others. You’ve also probably seen her on all the major networks reaching over 150 million people. I’m honored to have my friend, Moneeka Sawyer, join us on the show. What is going on, Moneeka?
Thank you so much for having me on. This is going to be so much fun.
We run in a lot of different circles in real estate and podcasting and marketing. It’s like meeting an old friend, somebody you know like, “I feel like I’ve known you forever.” We’ve got a lot of things in common. You’ve done an amazing job building your systems in place and building wealth on that. Let’s talk a little bit back to that. Let’s take a back page back in time here and talk about what happened at the very beginning and what made you want to get into real estate investing from what you’re doing beforehand. Let’s talk about some of those earlier stepping stones to success.
I’m going to tell you the story about what brought me to where I am now. My story started before I was even born. My parents had an arranged marriage. They’re from India. They came to the country as immigrants with $200 in their pockets. They had heard that the golden ticket to wealth in the United States was to buy real estate. When I was born, you know how you are when you’re a new parent. They were filled with hope, joy, and excitement. They wanted to create something amazing so that they could give me the life that they wanted for me. They started to save all their nickels and dimes. Within three years, they were able to buy their first rental property. Fast forward many years from there, they had had two more children and they were able to then pay for my college education through real estate. They did the same for my two sisters. They paid for all of our weddings and now fast forward even more, they’re living an incredible retirement where they’ve traveled to 80 countries. They’re having an amazing life.
I saw what real estate could do. However, I also saw how much stress it caused my dad. We hear all about this, the toilets, rodents, tenants, and mortgages. When I graduated from college, it was a recession. I was completely freaked out, but I did not want to do real estate. I was determined. I did not want to have that stress in my life. I remember one night I was sitting at the table trying to find a job. I was sitting at the dinner table with my dad and he said to me something that completely changed my whole life. He said, “Moneeka, everybody has stress. Everybody has fear and everybody has money problems. Do you want poor people money problems or do you want rich people money problems?”
I’m like, “First of all, rich people have money problems? What?” At that moment, I decided. I did also decide that I did not want the problems piece of it. Every business has challenges, but I was committed to keep what I now call blissful. Real estate is a long-term thing. My dad has been in it for many years. I knew it was going to be in my life for a long time. I did not want something in my life for a long time that sucks the life out of me. I wanted to make sure that it was blissful, that I enjoyed the journey as well as the results. That’s when I began investing in real estate. That’s how I started the journey. How did I start with $10,000 and turned it into $2 million? I’ll give you the 10,000-foot view on that.
My husband and I were getting married. We put 5% down on our first primary residence. We let it appreciate for a few years. We took the equity out of that and bought another piece of property. We waited for that to appreciate, took some equity out of that and we bought three properties and so it went. We invested very little capital after that $10,000 to get this thing to grow. It took many years. I will say this, for me, it was all about bliss. I didn’t want to have to worry about it. I was okay with the long path. If I had wanted it to happen faster, I focus a little more. The second I could take money out, I would do it, which didn’t happen that way. It was a twenty-year path for me. It could be a lot quicker for others.
The biggest thing people take from there is yes, you want to have rich people problems, not poor people money problems. You set a realistic timeframe for yourself. This is maybe something that irritates me. People want instant gratification. “I’ve got to have it now. Give it to me now. I’ve got to mail out letters or postcards or call banks.” If you don’t want to do that, you’ve got to understand it’s a bit of a process.
This is the thing that I tell people all the time, you either have time or money, some combination in some different levels. If you want it to be blissful, give yourself time to be right. I’ve been through some serious cycles in 25 years. Give yourself the time to recover and to be right. However, if you want instant gratification, you’re going to buy yourself another job. However many hours a week, you’re doing all of those things to get the instant gratification. You choose what are your priority based on your values, your lifestyle and your goals?
The last thing you want to do is turn passion or hobby into a bad situation and you’re a nightmare. I’ve walked in the houses that I ran out of before like that too. You and I got an audience, men and women, both that are working the 40-hour a week timeframe. They’re doing the job. They want to dabble with this on the sidelines. What are some of the best activities? If they’ve got that 5 to 10 hours a week, what were some of the things that you did that were paid off in the long run for you and maybe a couple of other things that you recommend to people doing now?
I do exactly the opposite of what most of the gurus tell you to do. I’ve had a realtor that I’ve had a relationship for many years. I can be in Thailand, sipping piña coladas on the beach and he’ll send me a property and I can say, “Go get that.” I trust him that much. He goes and looks for good deals. I don’t shop all the time. I shop once a year. We go out, start looking at properties, have some great lunches. I probably make 20 to 30 offers because you make your money when you buy. I don’t get attached to any of the offers. I buy a property a year. I go through that transition cycle getting it filled and all of that stuff. I have my shopping periods usually in the fall. I go shopping in October before Christmas.
I have a shopping season. I make plenty of offers, but I do it all off the MLS. I’m not spending a lot of time doing the letters, the phone calls and all of that stuff. If I want to do REOs, I have him pull up all the REOs. He’s got access to stuff that I don’t have access to. I pay commissions. He keeps me out of trouble. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done. It keeps my life easy. It keeps the process taking much less of my time. If you’re working full-time, especially if you’re an executive, this was my side hustle. I was an executive in tech. I was easily working 60 hours a week already. I did not have a lot of time to put into this, but I wanted the multimillion-dollar payoff. Someone else does all of those pieces for me. The other thing that I do that most other people don’t do is I do executive homes.
Here’s my tip, always buy a property for the tenant that you want to be doing business with. You don’t pick the property first and then find the tenant. You have an avatar for your tenant and you build your business around that tenant. What I wanted was a tenant that was going to have pride in their home. They were going to be entertaining other executives. They need to have that house looking good. They do not want the landlord breathing down their back. They maintain the properties. They send me the bill. We’re done. I do so little. I get emails or texts from them for Christmas to say, “Merry Christmas,” and for my birthday. I don’t know why they remember that, but it rocks. I don’t hear from them. Sometimes they’ll say, “The water heater went out. I hired a guy to fix it. Here’s the receipt. I’m taking it out of rent.”
There’s a training process that goes through that. That’s my system is that training process on exactly how I get those kinds of tenants and set expectations. Not every tenant’s going to want to do that. They’re renting because they don’t want the responsibility of a house. If you’ve got somebody of that higher level, they don’t want you in their face. They want to be able to do everything on their own schedule. They’re used to being in control. They don’t want to be turning control over to you. It works. That’s how I do the 5 to 10 hours a month.
You talked about a couple of things, training. A lot of the gurus say, “Forget the realtors.” I’m like, “No.” Especially within the space, we need realtors to help us in writing things, help us identify opportunities to make sure we’re not making a mistake. I don’t understand that on the guru anti-realtor aspect of things. Why wouldn’t you want to have access to MLS and those numbers versus trying to, “The appraised value of their county says this,” but we all know that’s not accurate in a lot of places out there. You’ve got a busy schedule with what you’re doing. We’re going to do this once a year. We’re going to pick up one property. Are you financing that with conventional financing, use other people’s money, subject to deals? What’s the thing that you’re doing to finance that?
I do everything conventionally. Here’s the deal. I love leverage. I put in 20% and the bank takes 80%. I get 100% of the appreciation. I love it. It’s easy. Not everybody can qualify for loans so then you look at some different things. I like the banks to take all the risk. I’m also not dealing with private investors. I asked you on my show some questions about private investors. There’s a lot of other mastery that’s required to make that work beautifully. For me, I get the properties through the lender and then I let them appreciate. I might 1031. Lenders will only loan so much in so many loans and there’s all that stuff too. I take that all into consideration on how I turn my properties of that thing but it’s all conventional lending.
The beautiful thing is interest rates right now is like giving money away. It’s cheaper than any right now and then leveraging it to make a decent return on investment. If you understand the power of leverage, that’s such a valuable tool and resource to have. Are all your properties roughly around where you’re located? Are they out of state anywhere? What’s the geographic makeup?
I’m in San Jose, California and all of my properties are within 20 miles of my home. I don’t dabble in cheap properties. I am looking at some opportunities out of state because I’ve got a bunch of cash sitting on the sidelines that I want to get into the market and the California market isn’t going to work for a variety of reasons. I’m looking out of state and I’m learning a lot more about that. I’m excited about the opportunities, but everything I’ve got right now is in California. I’m looking at taking some equity lines of my properties or some cash-outs and buying out of state.
That makes sense for a lot of reasons, especially as we cover here what happens and what shakes loose with opportunities on either residential, commercial stuff. There are a lot of opportunities for people out there. Especially up in where you’re located, I don’t think it’s going to take too big a hit.
It’s not taking a hit at all.
San Francisco, San Jose, LA and San Diego, those major markets are going to be fine in staying, if not, in continuing to grow like crazy because of the lack of supply and the increased demand in those neck of the woods for people. I always like imagining young Moneeka, seeing your dad going over, dealing with tenants and wanting to pull his hair out. Our fathers and parents all have a huge impact on who we become later on in life. Your parents instilled that learning, dedication, strive and hard work ethic for a variety of reasons but we all take what our parents didn’t like. We sure as heck aren’t going to do that. What would you say in the conversations with your father, we’re not comparing things, but talking about real estate, what’s the thing that maybe you don’t agree on in real estate? There are a few things you probably don’t agree on and see eye to eye when it comes to it. What are some of that stuff?
My dad is funny. My dad is 89 and he’s turning 90. He’s still got property. He can’t let it go. It’s like an addiction. He’s got a property at El Dorado Hills and it’s completely paid off. It’s the rent that he gets, which is amazing. He loses his tenants. He’ll sign a one-year lease and they leave in 18 or 12 months or whatever. The new ones that come in and have all these demands. He’s in El Dorado Hills in a gated community. I like executive homes because my dad always bought executive homes. Why is it that my guys never call? They all stay 5 to 10 years and his leave every year, trash the house and the new people come in with a bunch of demands. What’s that all about? Some of it is location. Most of it is system and conversation. What are my systems? What are my expectations and how do I talk to possible tenants? We’ll have conversations and he’ll look at me and say, “What are you talking about? I couldn’t say that to somebody.” I’m like, “I do.” It’s interesting that he’s been in the business for many years. The way that he’s done is different. There’s an expectation on his side of how people are going to respond. When I tell him what I tell my tenants, he thinks I’m a whack job.
The beautiful thing is you set those expectations early on. The same thing about, “I wouldn’t say that.” Why don’t you give it a try? What’s it going to hurt you? They still have the same tenant move out. You’ve got to rehab the property or you get somebody to sit in there a little bit longer. It’s a different location, but it’s important that way. I love that because we evolved. We’ve learned. My mom is like, “Why are you in the note business? When are you going to get a real job?” I’m like, “Come on, mom. You don’t understand what I’m doing.” “What are you doing these days? Are you a realtor?” “No, mom, never mind.” They love that. That’s the beautiful thing about real estate. We all expect to be in it for the long haul. Kudos to your dad. That’s phenomenal. He stuck in his lane. He’s learned his lane. He’s good at his lane. He’s probably not trying to do it a variety of other scenarios as well.
I’m a little bit more adventurous. I’m in construction. I’ve done some flips. I’ve done some other stuff because it’s fun and I get bored only working 5 to 10 hours a month. There are some fun things that come up, but dad has been all residential, very nice homes.
That’s one of the big downfalls these days. You mentioned other gurus out there. Many people are teaching a variety of different scenarios, systems and deal flow. I know you’re passionate about your audience out there. I get that from people all the time, “What’s your background? I took up this workshop and this workshop and this didn’t work.” I was like, “You’ve got to give whatever you’re doing some time to sit in.” What would you say to our audience? I hate to say this, the seminar cycle or the seminar circus, they’ve got dreams of buying a $500,000 house with their Airbnb or Uber income. Magical wand for $10,000 and it turns into $500,000 in equity. We all know that doesn’t exist and the shows are fictional. What advice would you give somebody who’s maybe got a little deer in the headlights look from attending too much and seeing too much on TV or listening?
There are a million ways to make $1 million in real estate. That’s the truth. What I say is do this, figure out what your resources are, how much time do you want to spend? How much money do you have? What are your goals? What is the timeframe that you want to reach your goal? Understand they all counterbalance each other. If you’ve already got a 60-hour job, you don’t want to add wholesaling in which is another 20, 30-hour job or flipping. It doesn’t happen in 30 minutes in your high heels like on HGTV. That’s all drama. I love that you say that. Do start by reading some books if there are some things that you’re like, “I’ve got these resources, which is time, money, timeframe, energy, risk aversion.” Your emotional wellbeing is a big part of bliss. How much stress you can take, how good you are with the numbers or whether you like people or you prefer numbers.
What is it that you want to do? Start reading some books on different strategies. “That sounded pretty cool.” Read a few more books on that. “I like that.” Now you hire a mentor and then stick with that mentor for at least a year to see if this is even going to work. Don’t get shiny object syndrome or you’re going to read three books. Sometimes I go, “That sucks.” That seems too good to be true. You’ve got to do some research and find out that it is. Take that time to do, first, figure out who you are in the business. Take the cheap route, go on to YouTube. It’s all free. Do a ton of research on YouTube on different strategies. What sounds good? What doesn’t? Do some reading and some research, then pick a mentor and give it 100% of your attention at least for a year, preferably three.
I could not say it better because that’s the point. Many people will not take action. They sign up. They think it will be easy. You’ve got to sit there and market. You’ve got to learn how to find the deals. You have different million ways to find deals that work for you. The most important thing you said is to look and be honest about what resources you do have, whether it is the money or time. We know it’s either a lot of times for most things. Figuring out what you can or cannot commit to and finding the mentors out there. We all need coaches. All the successful people out there have coaches, no matter what level they’re at. I’ve got a coach I talk to. I’m sure you do as well. Besides dear old dad, there will be a great coach there too for you. That’s the thing. Take the time and learn and hone that craft before you dive in. If it’s a technique that you’re getting excited about, it will be here if what you’re working on doesn’t. The spin that, “Let’s turn another activity and put it in your tool belt,” it’s a heavier tool belt that doesn’t help you with doing anything these days.
It gets heavy and it weighs you down. It’s not very joyful, let me tell you.
You spent all that money going to the workshop after workshop. It could be a down payment these days on a mortgage or a subject to deal or something else like that as well too. You’ve talked to so many people and been interviewed on many great stages. What’s the interview that stuck out for you? Somebody that maybe hit that lightning rod when you think about it. That was something that has become now a true value in your real estate investing career or in your entrepreneurial journey. Who’s a guest or a mentor of yours that you follow?
I was honored to have Leeza Gibbons on my show. There is a lot in our audience that may not even know who she is. She’s more my generation. She was a megastar in my time. She was on Entertainment Tonight as a guest host. She’s done very well for herself. One of the things that people remember most about her is that she was kind and part of being blissful is about being kind to the people around you, to yourself, and to everybody that you do business with. She created mega-stardom with that intention in mind. She does everything from a place of being kind. That in itself was something that was completely inspirational to me because you hear so much of the time that you need to be a shark in order to be successful.
The world, fortunately, is changing and we’ve seen even generations before us that you can be kind and still be successful. That is how I am determined to do things. Leeza was on my show. We’ve been fortunate now to become friends. I super appreciate that, but she said to me something on that show that came from her mom. She said, “Show up, do your best and let go of the rest.” That’s how I run everything now. I’m going to do everything I can to be the best that I can. I keep my commitments and my integrity. I’m with my values, which means I’m kind first. Everything else is going to fall into place and it has shown to be true.
The world needs more kindness in it right now more than anything else, doesn’t it? That’s be yourself. We’ve all heard the quote, “Fake it until you make it.” That comes into some aspect of things, especially in real estate these days. I tell people this all the time, if you’re calling banks, you’re talking to people. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m brand new at this or I’m learning as I go.” If anybody is mean to you because of that, you don’t want to deal with them anyway.
There are a million people out there you can deal with instead.
As I say, get rid of a-holes in your life. We all have people out there that aren’t going to like us no matter what we do with our age, our skin color, our sex, or what we wear. A buddy of mine, Gregory, taught me a couple of years ago the three roles as he likes to say. There are three groups. A third that is going to love you no matter what you do, a group that is going to hate you no matter what you do. What you focus on is the love side and the people in the middle that don’t know you and you’re a lot happier off. That’s hard too, though. A lot of people worry about our images, but we all worry if we do a marketing piece. It’s always like that 1 or 2 people, sometimes your mother or mother-in-law has something negative to say about that. What advice would you give your audience to put away the haters or the trolls out there in life?
If you don’t have enough haters, you’re not big enough. That’s what my husband always reminds me when I see somebody give me a bad review, “Moneeka, you need more of those.” If someone’s mean on the phone, you keep going. It’s not you. They’ve got something going on and allow it to be theirs.
Let them keep that negative energy. Don’t let it attach to you. Has there been a deal that you’ve struggled with? A property that you purchased or a deal that went south? What happened? How did you overcome that?
In September 2008, I bought my dream home. I spent $1 million. I was so excited until six months later, I lost 50% of my value. My husband lost his job and we had to move. You can imagine the terror. I was like with everybody else, but I made some different decisions instead of selling it, instead of freaking out, I evoked my bliss practices. I kept my head. We ended up renting out my dream home, which was heartbreaking. We moved into a place that we could afford near my husband’s new job. When we walked into that home, it smelled like dog pee and wet fur. The whole place was painted gray. You couldn’t even open the cabinets and the doors anymore. It had paint even on the appliances. We fixed it up, made it livable, got rid of the smell to the best of my capacity. We lived there because that’s what we could afford.
You fast forward five years, we were able to move back to my dream home. Within nine years, both of those properties had gone up an additional $500,000. Those numbers are California numbers. I get it but the point is simply you don’t use your brain. Stick with the rational when the emotional is trying to overwhelm you. Warren Buffett says, “If you can’t control your emotions, you can’t control your money.” Remember so much of your bliss is determined on what you can do to manage those emotions and make good financial decisions.
Thank you, first of all, for sharing. It’s never an easy thing when you’ve got to swallow your pride and move something to like, “I see this,” and then, “I’m moving into this.” I’ve been through that in the past as well. Moving from our favorite home into something. You swallow that pride. You get through it. You realize it’s a temporary situation. I’m sure you appreciate more so moving into the dream home and what you’ve overcome five years later and come out smelling like roses. A lot of people get emotional and they don’t make rational decisions. Everybody goes through stress. You get to sit down, sometimes bounce ideas off of other people, your peers.
Peers that are not freaked out. Part of what the problem was in those days is that everybody was freaked out. I’ve had people come on my show and say, “If you were in the market in 2008 and didn’t get killed, you’re lying.” I didn’t get killed. I lost $3 million in value in my properties, but I didn’t get killed. I kept getting my rents. I waited for it to recover. I gave myself the time to be right. There are a lot of people out there that were also in a lot of fear. They were my peers. You also need to be careful who you’re taking advice from. The people that are able to stay rational, those are the people you want to talk to when you’re not feeling rational.
You’ve got a special gift that you’re giving our audience out there.
If anybody would like to see what I did to turn $10,000 into $2 million, I’ve got a report that I put together that’s transparent. I bought at the top of the market in 2001 and I did it again in 2008. I made mistakes. I also became very rich. How did I do that? You can see that in that report. Go to BlissfulInvestor.com.
Blissful Investors, go there and download the report. It’s a phenomenal read. You’ll get some great nuggets from it and learn, especially with everything going on in the markets. It’s a great thing to share with others. If you deal with somebody who’s struggling and having a hard time right now because maybe they did pay the top of the market and their market is taking a hit in different areas. It’s very well worth sharing. I also highly encourage you to check out Moneeka’s podcast, Real Estate Investing for Women. You don’t have to wear a skirt to tune into the podcast.
We do have some women’s topics that men are like, “What?” You ignore those.
The reason I bring it up is real estate is such a male-driven niche. If your spouse is thinking about that or looking to maybe get your spouse in the business or maybe understand a little bit more, that’s a great resource for them to tune into. Especially right now, if you’re dealing with an issue, a foreclosure, a deal that’s not going as it is and you are a little stressed. Have him read the report, have him watch out, and realize that there is an opportunity. There’s an answer somewhere out there. They’ve just got to go looking for it and talk about it. Moneeka, what’s the best way for our audience to tap into you? Is it the BlissfulInvestor.com or another place that you prefer people to go to find more about you?
The website is the best place. I’m also on Facebook and Instagram, @MoneekaSawyer. It’s a little bit different and fun. There’s also the Blissful Real Estate Investor group on Facebook that you could join to have some conversations with other investors.
Thank you so much for coming out on the show, sharing your stories, and your experience out here for our audience in Note Nation. Meeting in person somewhere in an event and we’ve been to enough of them that we missed out on each other. I look forward to hanging with you in the near future, Moneeka.
I’m looking forward to it too. Thank you for having me on.
Go to the BlissfulInvestor.com. Check out Moneeka’s free report there for you on how she took the $10,000 and turned into $2 million and became successful in what she’s done. She’s shared so many great nuggets on how to stay centered and focused on what your long-term goals are. Don’t get too freaked out by the ups and downs of the markets and how you can prepare for long-term wealth and long-term bliss. As always, love it if you like and subscribe but otherwise, go out and take some action. We’ll see you all at the top.
- Real Estate Investing for Women
- Leeza Gibbons – previous episode on Real Estate Investing for Women podcast
- Facebook – Moneeka Sawyer
- @MoneekaSawyer – Instagram
- Blissful Real Estate Investor – Facebook group
About Moneeka Sawyer
Moneeka Sawyer is the blissful millionaire. She reached her financial freedom by turning $10,000 to over $2,000,000 working only 5-10 hours per MONTH with very little stress. She is now on a mission to help as many other women as she can to do the same. Moneeka hosts the top-rated podcast and radio show Real Estate Investing for Women and has interviewed prestigious guests such as Leeza Gibbons, Dr. Joe Vitale, and Hal Elrod. Moneeka has also been featured on stages with Suzanne Sommers, Martha Stewart, and Ice T & Coco at places like the Nasdaq Marketplace, Harvard, and Carnegie Hall, and on TV on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox reaching over 150 million people.
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