Be OPEN to opportunities
16 May 2014

Be OPEN to opportunities

Declared legally blind at age 10 and going totally blind by the time she was 20, Angela Winfield bought her first property at age 25. In just over 3 years, grew her investment portfolio to 12 residential units. As a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, Angela enjoys helping others create success in their personal and professional lives.

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Name: Angela Winfield
Location: Auburn, NY
Started investing in: 2009
Years spent investing in real estate: 5
Estimated portfolio size: $500K, 12 residential rental units

When did you start investing and how did you get started?
I started investing in 2009 by purchasing a triplex. I was hooked and started closing deals every 6 months.

As a woman in the real estate industry, what inspired you to get started?
I was inspired to start investing in real estate because of my deep desire for personal independence and financial freedom. The spark fully ignited right after I started working for my law firm when a life insurance representative saw I was a new associate and asked to meet with me.

Since I was very eager and interested to start investing, I accepted and began discussing and researching how the policies worked. Many “traditional” investment vehicles such as 401Ks, generate money that is tied up and cannot be touched without penalty until age 55 1/2. Those vehicles are fine and have their places, but I kept thinking there has to be a better way.

Real estate was the better way.

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Was there anyone who encouraged you to get started?
No one really encouraged me to get into it, quite the opposite actually. Most people advised me against investing in real estate and warned me about the potential pitfalls of it. Even though my parents had made small endeavors in real estate with some success, I didn’t even share my investment plans with them until I was established and had my footing, which didn’t take long.

“Real estate is risky” was the general message I got from non-real estate investors as well as unsuccessful ones. I had to look for the information to get a well-rounded perspective and evaluate the pros and cons for myself. That way, I could determine whether real estate was a good fit for my personality, risk tolerance and financial goals. So far, it has been an excellent fit.

Do you recommend women get into property investing?
Definitely, if they understand the vehicle and think it aligns with their goals and values. I would also tell other women that you don’t have to be in the real estate profession or industry to be a real estate investor. Don’t let your profession dictate your investment options.

That being said, you do need to understand real estate and how you’re using it as an investment tool.

Real estate is tangible, accessible and relatable.

Most of us have lived in multiple homes, have rented at some point in our lives and have some basic experience of how real estate works. All you’re doing is shifting your perspective by learning to look at real estate with a bit of business savvy.

Have you encountered any challenges that you think are unique to being a woman in real estate?
Yes, one example was at a very contentious closing. In fact, the only contentious closing I’ve had. The seller’s attorney actually remarked, “Don’t you have enough properties?” I suspect this was due in part because I’m a woman and was the only woman involved in the deal.

Other than that and an occasional snide remark or underestimation of my knowledge, I haven’t endured many gender specific challenges.

What do you love most about investing in real estate?
I love the multiple avenues for financial gain—cashflow, tax benefits, appreciation and building equity. I particularly love the cashflow and flexibility that comes with generating recurring monthly income that I can use as I choose. I typically reinvest it, but I like having the option of using it to fund a vacation or other pleasure purchases.

What is your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment has been putting together a dynamic team. I maintain good relationships with real estate agents, bankers, real estate attorneys and other advisors. I also have an incredible property manager, who has been absolutely critical to my success.

I know where my strengths lie—in setting goals, developing strategic plans, finding the properties, putting deals together and overseeing the properties from a budgetary/performance perspective. However, tenant relations, repairs and maintenance and other daily management activities aren’t my most valuable use.

To think you can do it all yourself may be feasible to a point, but it makes things much more difficult and ultimately sets you up for failure so it’s important to have a good team.

Have you made any poor investment decisions?
No, I’ve haven’t made any poor investment decisions. To the contrary, I’ve been extremely pleased with my method and how it’s all working out. It’s hard not to get excited about consistent double digit cash-on-cash returns and in my best year, over 50% return.

I credit this to the preparation and foundation put in place by using my 4 keys to success.

What are your 4 keys to success?
Here is what I think every real estate investor should know and follow. Invest with your eyes wide O.P.E.N. This means have the appropriate:

  1. Outlook; develop a strategic and workable

  2. Plan; invest in the necessary

  3. Education; and establish a strong and highly functional

  4. Network.

In particular, your outlook needs to be that of an investor, not a home owner. I’ve seen beautiful properties that give me romantic ideas of fixing it up and making it my dream home, but that is not my goal and doesn’t fit in with my investment plan.

Properties, especially residential properties, have a way at tugging at our heartstrings; which is good in the sense of knowing what potential tenants would like about the property, but it’s essential that the emotional response is filtered through an investor lens.

In terms of a plan, you should know your strategy, end goal and basic money rules. What are the characteristics of a good deal for you? Are you fixing and flippingInvesting for cashflow? What’s your time frame?