Badass Lady Homeowners | Kristina Modares, Realtor & Investor
I know an incredible number of genuinely badass women who own property. Some bought on their own, some with partners, some with best friends. Some bought complete fixers and some bought "turnkey," but the sheer number of property owning ladies begs their stories to get out. So, here begins: Badass Lady Homeowners; a series
I'm so happy to know Kristina! She is a career inspiration, a kindred spirit and a solid friend. I've known her for a little over a year, but she was such a fast friend, that it feels like much longer. She is also a realtor and investor, and this year, we've vowed to do a project together. I asked her some questions and photographed her amazing home in East Austin. Below are her thoughtful and inspirational answers.
Q: Describe your Austin living situations. How long have you lived here? How did your living situation progression happen and why did you finally decide on the east side? Describe your current portfolio and your goals for this year.
A: I moved to Austin in 2012 a few months after graduating college. I had never been to Texas before, but one of my best friends told me she could see me thriving here. I packed up my little car and it’s been my best home yet. My living situation has always been a little unconventional and thrifty. I moved to Austin to live in the city, and had odd jobs that didn’t pay for a lavish lifestyle in the city. When I first moved to Austin I was in the hospitality industry, I worked at Circuit of the Americas and had not yet considered a career in real estate. I found a rundown and critter invested, five-bedroom home in Tarrytown that was affordable to rent. I saw the potential in it and lived there for two years with rotating roommates. We took care of the home and got rid of the pests (mostly), and at one point we even started “Airbnb’ing” the couches in our den to pay for our very expensive, $500 a month, energy bill. At some point, I was sick of playing landlord to a property I was renting. I downsized and rented a basement apartment in a beautiful Victorian home in Clarksville I called it “The Shire” because of the low ceilings and the vines on the outside of the home. I lived across the street from the Whole Foods downtown, only had one roommate and paid $700 a month, all bills paid. During my two years at “The Shire,” I discovered what my big picture goals were and knew I could achieve them through real estate. I got my real estate license and started learning as much as I could and meeting anyone I could in the industry. The first home I bought was with my dad in Atlanta. I was 25 years old and was obsessing over a new real estate website I found called BiggerPockets.com. My dad was also looking into buying a place and was excited that I was interested in investing, so we partnered on a deal. The story about how we purchased it was pretty funny/risky, I wrote about it if you’re interested in what happened. A couple of years later I bought a triplex with one of my friends in San Antonio. Another great story and I’m still learning a lot from that property. The last house I purchased was the most emotional purchase thus far. It’s the home I currently live in. I bought it with my sister this summer, and it reminds me how much I’ve grown and learned since moving to Austin. It was one of my goals when first moving to Austin and it took some time, but I found a way to make it happen. My goals for this year are to sell my house in Atlanta to my dad and to buy three properties with my two new business partners. We have a lot of ideas but could use some help with financing our deals, if you have cash and want to invest--hit me up!
Q: You became a real estate investor before you purchased your primary residence. What made you decide to pursue real estate in so many different ways? Who was your biggest mentor or guide?
A: Honestly, I didn’t have many options. I went down a particular path because I knew I wanted to get into real estate but I didn’t have a great job or a lot of money. I was looking for opportunities to buy property anywhere that I could. I was reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of podcasts, but until you are an active real estate investor, you know nothing. That’s what I was scared of most, starting too late or never starting at all. I didn’t have a salary job and wasn’t able to get a loan for a home. I did have some cash saved from a college account and a little bit from what I had saved at my hospitality job. I also have a father who always encouraged me to invest and save money. I told him that I wanted to buy a house and we both started researching auction homes. We found a home in the Atlanta auction (where my dad lives) for $50K, and we partnered on it 50/50. That’s how I pursued real estate, in the beginning, I just wanted to get started, and I knew I needed to jump in, and I would figure it out as I went. It’s my version of grad school, and so far I’ve learned a lot and am not drowning in bad debt. When the second property I bought was a commercially zoned triplex with my friend, Brent. We both wanted to learn through experience and had very similar interests and motivations. We found a fantastic deal in San Antonio and made an offer and had it accepted before we had secured financing...not something I recommend but wow, did I learn a lot from that experience. I’m typically a very cautious person, and that’s why I think I’ve always gravitated towards risk takers. I know I need to be pushed into that now and then. Brent has also been one of my biggest mentors through my real estate journey. He helped jump-start my career as a realtor. He taught me how to be an excellent marketer and put out content that matters, which in turn has helped me fund my real estate investing deals.
Q: Your house was a little rough around the edges when you bought it. What made you confident that you could tackle such a big project? How did you approach the process of renovating a house?
A: Again, I didn’t have many options! I had to make it work. Ever since moving to Austin in 2012 it was a goal of mine to buy a house in East Austin. Specifically, zip code 78702 because it was affordable and close to downtown. When I applied for a loan I was just starting my second year as a realtor and the lender told me my budget would be very low--I wouldn’t be able to buy a house in the zip code I wanted. So, I talked to my wonderful sister who has a salary job, and we agreed to apply for a loan together. Together our budget was around $275K. There isn’t much on the market for under $300K in central Austin these days. Every house I was interested in would get bought by cash buyers. After a couple of months on the search, I got lucky! The older house had bugs, no central AC and was very dark inside. I knew immediately that I could handle this work. The minute we got past the option period, I started getting bids for repairs. Because I’m a realtor, I was able to let myself into the home when I needed to show contractors around. I wanted all of the work done within a two-week timeline. I didn’t want to pay rent and a full mortgage payment. I checked in with the contractors weekly to make sure they would be able to make the timeline. Surprisingly, everything went according to plan, and I moved in August 1st as intended. I have two spare bedrooms and have had short-term roommates pass through. During the busy seasons, I use Airbnb. This helps me cut down my mortgage payment. I have no intention of paying more than $800 a month in “rent.” There’s still a lot of work I want to do in my house, but I’m happy with it for now. I have a functioning home I live in and love. I’ve checked that off and am now ready to move on to other projects!
Click here to see before and after pics of my Austin home :)
Q: Let's talk logistics - what exactly did you do to your house from when you purchased it to its current glory? Do you have any current projects?
A: I wrote about my whole experience and documented the costs and repairs. The chart below shows the work I did in July within two weeks. We spent about $31k on our down payment and closing costs. Since then I have done a little bit more work--I fenced off my backyard and built a fire pit. Nothing major. I am currently looking with my two friends, Richelle and Stephanie for properties in San Antonio. All 3 of us have very similar mindsets, different strengths and the same end goal in mind. Another project I’m always working on is perfecting my skills as a realtor. My big picture goal is a life where I can invest in others and my community. I want to be able to invest in people who are passionate, kind and need the capital to make their visions come to life. I know that to get there I need to kick ass at my job. This way I can meet as many people as I can, earn the money I need to be an ultimate investor and learn this city inside out.
Q: As a realtor, what is the biggest mistake you see buyers making in their pursuit of homeownership? What do you think is holding most people back from buying property?
A: I’ve had the most wonderful buyers! They are always curious, ready to learn and listen to their lender and me. I’ve worked for another realtor before, and some of the clients that came through his door made me rethink being a realtor altogether. I feel fortunate. That being said, the most significant mistake I’ve seen coming from people I’ve met with who never turn into buyers is that they give up too soon. One lender tells them, no, and they let that be the final answer.
Q: Talk a little bit about being a woman owning property. Do you think there is a stigma or preconceived notion that you need to buy property as a couple? What steps do you think society imposes on us and how did you decide to create your own steps?
A: I used to think being a female in a “male dominated-real estate investing world” was frustrating. I wanted to meet people in real estate anyway that I could, and I reached out to many people over the years. They were mostly men, and they all thought I was hitting on them. I’m less naive now, and I know how to vet people, and I handle myself much better in those situations. I also love being a young female in this industry; it gives me an edge that most real estate investors don’t have. Let’s face it, most real estate investors are older white dudes. Boring. I also used to think it was hard to find females interested in real estate investing but you know what? It took me two years of networking to find two amazing women who are just as interested in it as me. That wasn’t hard. That’s only part of the process and the journey. Seek and you will find!
I don’t think current society is pushing us towards buying property as couples. I just think it’s easier to get loan approval if there are two people involved! I do live in a somewhat progressive bubble in Austin, though. Most of my clients are single and buying property for themselves. My realtor friend in Atlanta probably sells most houses to couples. I’m not sure if it’s society or the culture there! Probably both. I chose the path I did because I wanted to live a certain lifestyle, I was sick of paying rent, and I wanted to work for myself. It was difficult at times, but the alternative seems much worse.
Q: What is your interior design philosophy? How did you decide the aesthetic of your home? What is your strategy for buying furniture and decor?
A: Design is not my strength. I tend to overthink it, and most of my inspiration for my house came from my sister and the fact that I don’t like clutter or “stuff”. My house is small and very minimalistic. I painted the whole house white because I thought it would make it appear bigger. My sister picked out the floors (they are beautiful!). I did all the work to my house so fast that I didn’t have the time to nitpick over every little detail. Now I see the pros and cons of that decision when I look at a spot on the wall in my room, and it’s still a little pink. I’m glad my budget ran out, and I wasn’t able to redo my kitchen. I don’t think you should rush things like that, and I see that now. I purchased all of my furniture and decor on craigslist and used some things I already had. I’m not somebody who enjoys spending money, and it was a little stressful to pick everything out. If it didn’t look right, I couldn’t just return it. My strategy in life, wardrobe and decor choices is...ask my very talented sister.
Q: What would you say to someone just starting off on their real estate journey? Maybe they want to buy their first house. What is your best piece of advice?
A: Start learning, meeting people and making moves! If you have a salary job, start considering house hacking and buying a home you can live in and rent out rooms. If you are like me and work for yourself and can’t get approved for a loan, start meeting people to partner with. Ask your family and friends. Get on BiggerPockets.com and listen to all the podcast, connect with local investors, go to events and read the blogs. Seriously, it’s such a fantastic source. I also have a guide on buying a house in Austin; it’s been a helpful source for my first-time buyers who want to start getting familiar with the process.
Thank you so much, Kristina! You're killing the game. I feel lucky to know you and everyone is lucky to read your wise word. xx