From Sleeping on a Dirt Floor to Making $80K/Month (in 2 Years!)


Happy holidays, BiggerPockets listeners. You’ve all been good this year, so instead of a lump of coal, you’re getting a special episode delivered on the most merry day of the year. We’ll be sharing Yamundow Camara’s unbelievable journey from dirt-poor poverty to INCREDIBLE passive income, even against all odds. If you’re unsatisfied with your holiday gifts this season, listen to this episode—it may change your ENTIRE outlook on life and give you something to be extra grateful for today! 

How do you go from absolute poverty to passive income in a short amount of time? What if you were raised on the other side of the world, where even a basic education had to be fought for, and every opportunity was a constant struggle? This is the real story of Yamundow Camara, who went from sleeping on a dirt floor in a small village of Gambia to making a million dollars per year thanks to real estate.

Yamundow grew up in an environment foreign to many of us. When her parents passed away in her youth, she was forced to live with relatives that treated her as a nuisance, not someone worth nurturing. She slept on the floor of her family’s home and was sometimes lucky enough to have a cardboard box as a mattress. She was set to be wed in her early teenage years, but thanks to her drive, determination, and pleading of her aunts, Yamundow was given a chance to go to high school and college and later immigrate to the US.

From there, Yamundow put success as her sole focus. She not only academically overachieved, but was able to do an INCREDIBLE amount of investing with almost no money, no credit score, and no experience in the industry. She now sits on over thirty rental units, with a monthly income that rivals most Americans’ yearly salaries. Yamundow has one of the most incredible stories we’ve ever shared on the podcast, and you’ll have to tune in to hear her unimaginable path to success.

David:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Podcast, holiday edition. I am your host, the Grinch of Real Estate, and I’m being joined today by my favorite elf. He’s an angry elf. Rob Abasolo.

Rob:
Call me angry one more time.

David:
If you’re listening to this when it’s airing, then we’re wrapping up 2023, and a lot of us are spending time with loved ones. So today we’re bringing you one of the most beloved episodes of this past year, our interview with Yamu Camara.

Rob:
Yeah, we’ve heard a lot of inspiring stories over the years on this show, but Yamu’s story really struck a chord with people and with myself personally. I remember choking up during the interview and you guys were like, “What’s the question?” And I was like, “yes, that’s right. What happened next in your story?” And it was a really just inspirational story. It’s one of my favorite that we’ve ever heard on the show specifically because it just shows you what’s possible in the world of real estate, no matter what’s holding you down.

David:
But it’s not just her story that’s impressive. It’s also her results. Yamu is making over $80,000 a month from her real estate portfolio, and she breaks down exactly how she did it in just two years. All with strategies that are still relevant today, like house hacking and medium-term rentals.

Rob:
And by the way, to everyone listening, we so appreciate you being a part of the BiggerPockets community. We love you. We thank you. We’re grateful for everything you do for us. So please, from the bottom of our hearts, enjoy this episode.

David:
Welcome, Yamu to the BiggerPockets podcast. How are you this morning?

Yamundow:
I’m doing great. Thank you for having me.

David:
Yes. Let’s jump right into this thing. I want to hear about your story. So tell me where are you originally from and can you give us an idea how you grew up?

Yamundow:
Sure. So my name is Yamundow Camara, but I go by Yamu for short. I’m from West Africa, a small country called The Gambia, West Coast. It’s by Senegal, it’s little country inside Senegal, literally. So it’s about two point something million. I’m the seven child of my family, and yeah, I grew up in that small village. I lost my mom when I was two, and I lost my dad when I was 11. So I was raised by my elder sister. And yeah, that’s a little background about me.

David:
So what was it like growing up there? Most of us have not traveled to the continent of Africa, much less where you’re from. Tell us a little bit about what daily life was like.

Yamundow:
Yeah, so it’s more of we live in extended family. So when my mom passed, I was two, when my dad passed, before my dad passed, he was really sick, so my sister was forced to get married. So she took me with her and my brother, my elder brother was like four or five years older than me, so I grew up as an orphan in her in-laws house.
It was hard growing up in an extended family that you don’t belong in because usually we live in family. So let’s say a family member, like a husband has maybe four wives or five wives, and they have kids. So that household is all, let’s say the last name is Greene. It’s like Greene Kundamini. Everybody in the house is called is Greene. So you coming in with a different last name, it’ like you don’t belong. There’s some activities that you will not participate in because you’re not a child of that household.

David:
So it was clear growing up from an emotional standpoint, you were a stranger in a sense, in the house. I mean, they knew who you were, but you were not welcome with open arms as if you were one of the kids. There was preferential treatment. At a very young age, you had to experience a lack of control in the pain that comes from not really having control over the outcome of your own life.

Yamundow:
Yes, basically.

David:
So I mean, you were thrown into a situation, you had very little control. Sounds like there was a lot of pain. Did you have your own room? Were you sharing a room with other people? What was that like?

Yamundow:
No. So sometimes I would come and as a child just playing with other kids outside and I just run in to go drink water and there’s a meeting about us, about me and my brother being returned. So I always thought, “Oh, so we don’t belong here.” And it really hurts as a child. I saw this meme on saying on TikTok the other day, and it clicked to me. I was like, “This is how it feels like. You don’t know what pain is until you live in somebody’s house who doesn’t really want you there.” And I was like, “That was me. That clearly explains my life.”
So I wasn’t allowed to sleep on the bed, so I would lay on the floor. When I say floor, I mean like sand floor, not cement, not like carpet or anything. So me sleeping on the floor, an eight-year-old, nine-year-old girl, I’ll have bed bugs. Sometimes worms will come and they will touch me and I’ll just wake up. So my brother made me this torch light. Flashlight, you guys call here, and I’ll just use batteries there. And that night I would just wake up and I’ll kill the bed bugs on the wall.
So I guess from there I was always obsessed with houses because I never really have. My father’s house sometimes when I visit for holidays, we would not eat sometimes. Sometimes we eat once a day. And sometimes when I go one time it was the rainy season, the summer holidays, and we would have to get up because the water was coming inside the house. That’s how poor we were.
So me laying down there as a girl, I always say I’m obsessed with houses. So when I see friends whose houses after school, I like to go to their houses and I always wondered one day, I’m going to get this house, one day I’m going to buy a house. But I didn’t think buying multiple houses, I would just say just the idea of having a house.

Rob:
You mentioned in that TikTok… Well, first of all, thank you so much Yamu for sharing.

Yamundow:
I’m sorry.

Rob:
No, no, no. You mentioned in that TikTok that when you’re not wanted in the home, I think that’s when you experienced the pain, right?

Yamundow:
Yeah, yeah.

Rob:
And so I’m wanting to know, was that really the moment, that inspiration where you’re like, I am going to find my own place one day, I’m going to have my own bed. Was that the beginning of your real estate dreams or did it come later on in life?

Yamundow:
Yes, that’s where it started. I always knew one day I’m going to make it and one day I’m going to buy a home. That was my dream to say one day I also have a home and a bed, so I’m like a house of my own.

Rob:
Is that your why? Is that today your why is the reason you do all this is basically to fulfill that dream?

Yamundow:
I have multiple whys, but that’s one of them.

Rob:
What else you got? I want to know.

Yamundow:
Poverty. I don’t want my child to go through any of those things that I went through ever.

David:
That’s something as you were talking Yammu that I thought of for you growing up in a house, I’m sure the genesis of why people felt like they didn’t want you guys there, they talked about you leaving was there was not enough money to go around. If you were not eating maybe one time a day they were incredibly financially stressed, and so you’re a burden in a financial sense you and your brother on this other family and they’re thinking from their flesh is what’s the easiest way to lighten my own load? And the emotional pain that has on someone else as you experienced was intense.
Now, fast forwarding to where you are now, you have 90 units that you own and more under contract, you’re making $80,000 a month. You’ve come a long way from sleeping on a floor, having to wake up to kill bed bugs that were looking to crawl into where you were. I know I just give a spoiler alert to everybody listening to this, but it is a fantastic story. This is something right out of a comic book. Do you know that you’re a superhero?

Yamundow:
I wish I was. Thank you.

David:
Okay. Well, we’re going to find out how you did this, right? What happened where you went from just wanting a bed to owning multiple, multiple, almost 100 units at this point? So let’s go back a little bit again. We understand that life was challenging in other ways other than just financial, especially as a woman in a male-dominated society. Can you list some of the things that you were not supposed to accomplish?

Yamundow:
Yes. So this is not how the life of a girl from my village supposed to be. I’m the only one that went to college in my village where growing up a girl is supposed to just go to all the way to maybe middle school and then you’re supposed to get married. For me, it was hard for my aunties to push and my sister to push, for my uncles because the male have more say in the woman’s life, especially when you’re getting married, your uncles take care of it.
So by the time I’m like 16, 17, they already thinking of arranged marriage. They’re already thinking of who are you going to get married to, it’s already arranged for you. So for me, for them to even let me to go to high school, to college was a big deal. Talk less of coming to America by myself, I had not been married. So by the time I was in high school, most of my friends that I grew up, they already had two kids already married and everything.

Rob:
Yamu. Did you have to fight to go to high school? Was that a really big battle with I guess your family or your extended family in the household? I mean, I got to imagine that probably didn’t come easy.

Yamundow:
Oh no. I didn’t have to fight. My aunties had to fight. I had to go through my aunties. I don’t have the audacity to stand up to my uncles. So my aunties would say, “At least she’s smart at school. The principal says she’s really good. She has a scholarship, we’re not spending any money, just let her go.” The same thing with college. It was like, “She has a scholarship, let her go.” They begged.
Okay. After this, they already had the person I’m going to get married to. I already knew who I was going to get a married since I was a young girl. So it’s pre-arranged marriage. So I already knew. They were like, okay, she knew she’s going to marry this guy when she’s done. So it was like I’d go to my auntie, my mother’s sister. My mother’s elder sister, who’s passed now, rest in peace, but she was fighting for me a lot and my sister.

Rob:
Wow. So you mentioned that obviously your why was the ability to eventually go on and have your own bed and own your home, and you said you don’t want to go back to poverty, and that was a big motivation for you. Was that the same with school? Because you mentioned you’re very good at school. This was something that you worked hard at. Did you work hard? Was school in your mind, your ticket out at that moment? Did you know, okay, if I really crush it in school, if I study and I get good grades, this could be my ticket out of this life?

Yamundow:
So for me, I was like, “Okay, if I do so great and every exam on top of my school, I’ll always have scholarships.” So where I’m from is nepotism. For you to get scholarship, you have to have connection to the government or something. I have none of those connections. So the only way to get through is be to the best from my school, the best outstanding one. So I was hoping if I can get to that top, they will not say, “Oh, we don’t have money for her to go, or we don’t have this.” It would just be, “Oh, she has a scholarship. What are you losing? It’s nothing. She’s just going to go.” And that’s how it happened.

Rob:
Wow. Okay. This is an amazing story, Yamu. Again, I thank you for the vulnerability here. Tell us a little bit about your first entry point into real estate. Was that here in the States? Was that back in Africa?

Yamundow:
No. So it started in the States here. With Africa, I just knew that one day I’m going to make it and buy a house, but at some point I just wanted to get out because the more I go on my education, the more I know this is now what I want more. So from high school, I know I want to go to college. I was like, “This is going to be a big deal for me to beg them to go to. So I have to do really good for me to get a scholarship to get it.”
So I made it to college because they eventually allowed me go to college. It was more like, “Okay, you have to be a doctor.” African families, they dictate your life, especially you’re a woman. So it was like, “You’re going to be a doctor.” I have good grades in chemistry, but I don’t like biology and chemistry at all, and I don’t like blood. So I was like, I have to figure a way. So there was this program, computer science that was introduced. Because I was good at math, it kind of clicked for me and I said, “This is what I want to do.” So I did a bachelor’s in computer science and a minor in mathematics.
So during my final semester at this point, there was just few girls or maybe two of us, I think two or one of us in computer science class. So I’ll go to some class, it’s all boys, right? So I was like, “You know what? Let me start a nonprofit organization that’s going to teach girls how to program, how to code, just basic IT skills.”
So I started this nonprofit organization. At that time I already to have an internship at a software company in the country there. So I would use their computers and we would travel with my colleagues in the organization and teach girls basic IT skills, like how to create a calculator, how to create folders and stuff like that. So it took off and then different regions were doing it.
So at that time there was this program called Mandela Washington Fellowship, and it’s for Young African Leaders that are doing amazing things in their communities, like fighting wars, helping women, violence, crime, all that stuff. So a lot of people would send me these link and say, “You need to apply because you’re doing amazing things.” I’m like, “I can’t compare to what these people are doing, but okay, I’ll just apply.”
And I applied and I keep going. First interview at the U.S. Embassy, I was selected. Second one, I moved on to the third one, and then they email me from D.C. and say, “You got it. You come to the U.S. You’re going to come to the U.S. and we’re going to place you at Northwestern, and after your fellowship you meet President Obama in D.C. So that’s how I came to the U.S.

Rob:
Wow.

Yamundow:
Yeah.

Rob:
That is amazing. I mean, was that a dream come true or was that so far out? Because for me, I have imagine your dream was to go to college, but maybe I’m sure you never imagined this, right? So what did that feel like?

Yamundow:
I was like a celebrity. My auntie was so happy. So that was also a ticket. At that time, I was like, “I’m not coming back to marry this guy.” I mean, there’s so many other things for me. There’s more for me to accomplish than just come back and get married and that’s it. And that’s what happened. But then I was already applying for other scholarship at that time.
So by the time the U.S. Embassy was processing and doing the orientation of how it’s going to be when I meet the president, all that stuff, I was already applying for schools here in the U.S., and I got a full scholarship to study at the University of Illinois, and I was like, “When I come back, I’m not going back.”

Rob:
That’s amazing. So you were studying, I guess computer science in Africa, and then you come to Northwestern and what are you studying At this point?

Yamundow:
It was business. Business and entrepreneurship. Yep.

Rob:
Okay. And so obviously you crush it, you make it, you finish the program and you go into these respective careers, or is this when your real estate journey begins?

Yamundow:
Yes. So I had to find roommates. So what happened was my whole class, mostly what their parents will do is get them a place and then they will rent out the rooms, more like rent out the spaces in the room. So in one room you can have, so let’s say the rent is $800 or $1000, they will rent out each room. They’ll rent up to 80 residential students to sleep on there.
So the whole concept of renting a room is more like renting a space. So you get your mattress and you share one room with three other girls. So we were paying rent to them while they take the money, make profit and take them money and pay their American chief.

David:
We call that arbitrage.

Rob:
I was going to say it’s the ultimate house hack. House hack arbitrage.

Yamundow:
Yeah.

David:
Okay. So it sounds like you saw that happening and instead of thinking, well, I’m being ripped off, or that’s not fair, they’re charging more than they have to. You thought, oh, I want to be in that person’s position. I want to own the asset, and I want to be renting out to people, right?

Yamundow:
Oh yeah. I was like, “This is amazing idea.” I was like, “I’m going to do this one day.” So I always had even when I was starting searching for my first property, I was looking for a property that has more than one unit, so that way I could do more rooms to rent.

David:
I love that. See your data scientists brain was like, okay, the pattern that I need to catch on is a property with more than one unit, more than one bedroom. A lot of spaces that can be rented as opposed to a pretty kitchen or a nice backyard or the things that everybody else is, “Oh, I love the oak tree in the front yard.” You’re like, “No, no, no. There’s no space in an Excel spreadsheet for an oak tree. I need to see the place that I could get the most beds into this unit. I love that.” When did you start trying to invest in real estate yourself?

Yamundow:
Yes. So after I graduated, of course I don’t have any savings, but I don’t have student debt, right? And of course coming as an international student, you get a social security, but I never knew anything about credit. Because I lived in a school setting. I worked for the school. I go home study, come back, work for school, go home study, come back, go to class. That’s all I knew. So there was no introduction to credit or anything, credit score.
So I have a debit card that the bank gave me that I get my thousand dollars from. That’s it. So I don’t have any credit. But again, when I graduated, I had a job to work for the CDC in Atlanta. So I moved from Illinois to Atlanta, Georgia to work for the CDC as a data scientist. First couple of months I started September 2019, just few months later, COVID happened. But before COVID happened, I’ve already started doing my research. Because I was like, “I’ve ever made that much money that I had.”
At that time, I have saved up 8,000. I’m like, “I’m ready.” By then because I love reading. So I went and said, “Okay, my first paycheck, of course, I have to send money back home.” And as an immigrant, you can ask any immigrant, especially from Africa, if you travel to the U.S. or travel abroad, you’re like the ticket. So everybody depends on you. Every morning you have a ticket of your family and stuff.
I’m like, “This is not going to work out where I just work and send money and that’s it, but when does it stop and when do I save?” So I said, “This is what I’m here to do, and I’m going to take all what I save and then start investing in real estate.” And of course, before thinking of, I already knew I would do real estate, but I don’t have the knowledge. So what I did was I Googled, went on YouTube and I see BiggerPockets coming up a lot. So this is me, of course.
And David and Brandon, every Wednesday you guys have this event that you do. That’s me in there every day listening. At work, I’m listening to the podcast. I’m cooking, I’m listening to the podcast. I’m in the train going to work, I’m listening to the podcast. So by the time I was already had so much information, I said, “Okay, they said the best way to get funding, of course funding number one is to go and work with local banks.”
I was like, “Okay, I cannot afford Georgia. Of course at the time, it’s like, let me start with where I saw what I wanted to do, which is Illinois.” So I looked at properties in that area, the same city that I went to college in Springfield, and I wasn’t finding properties. So I called different cities, different banks in the city, made a list, and I call each of them every day. I’ll make different calls and I get a lot of no’s, but I’m used to getting no’s. I didn’t let that stop me.
So I finally got one bank to listen to me and I said, “I just started working at CDC. This is how much I make. This is just my base salary, but I’m going to get more as I go. And this is how much 8,000 is what I saved up. I’m ready. I’m buying, looking for properties in this private area.” So I already have my document and my speech ready for when I call what I saved.

Rob:
And how many banks did you call, Yamu?

Yamundow:
It’s a lot of banks. I think I listed all of that. I just went on Google and I listed all the banks.

Rob:
And then finally you got one that would hear your story.

Yamundow:
Yeah. Well, she’s the vice president of the bank now, but before she wasn’t. So she was like, “Well, I know you got all these great things and you know how to analyze properties and you know what you want, what expert you want to go to. However, you don’t have any credit score. What you can do is go get a discover credit card, Capital One Credit Card and build your credit score, and then you can come back in six months or in one year.”
So I was like, “Okay, at least she get to listen to me.” And then I was like, “You know what?” Because every day I’m analyzing this. I was doing a project analyzing this every day. I was like, “I got this. This took my chest.” So what I did was I was like, “This is what I would do.”
I found a property that was listed for 52,000. The owners were going through a divorce and they were desperate to sell. They wanted to get rid of it. They wanted to separate and do all of that stuff. So I was like, “Okay.” Found this property. I went under contract even before approaching the lady. So I approach her back and say, “I found this property, it’s 52,000, it’s three units, two bedrooms at least are rented for 750, one bedrooms, are rented for this much.”
Even if only one unit is rented, I have still cash flow. So I wrote the numbers down because I run it and the calculator and everything makes sense. So I submitted to her, and then I called her. I submitted via email first, and then I called her. She was like, “You know what” we’ll give you a chance.” And they were like, “We’ll finance it.” And that’s how it happened.

Rob:
Okay. So you go down a list of basically every bank in the city, you keep hearing, no, no, no, but not a big deal because you’re used to hearing. So you just keep going. Finally, someone is willing to hear you out, and before you actually get the pre-approval or the approval from them, you find this house and you say, “I’m just going to make an offer. I’m going to get it under contract and I’ll figure out the financing later.”
And so you get it under contract and then you go to your banker, you’re like, “Hey, I got it. Hello, can you approve me?” And they’re like, “All right, we’re going to make an exception for you.” And then they basically fund the loan?

Yamundow:
Yeah, they funded it. They were like, “Well, the reason why we did, it’s because it’s not like your credit score is bad. You just don’t have history.”

Rob:
Right.

Yamundow:
So because my credit is fresh so it doesn’t have history, but it’s not bad. And I don’t have any other debt. I don’t have any other expenses. I don’t own a car at that time. I’m not paying anything except those two credit cards she told me. And I was already paying those off for two months before. She was like, “Okay, we’ll do it.”

Rob:
Wow, that’s amazing. So you buy this property and you said, “All right, even if I just rent one, I’m going to cash flow.” What ended up happening? Did that property end up filling up more than that? How many units was it?

Yamundow:
It’s three units and it’s a two bedroom. It’s a mix of two bedroom, one bedroom. Everything that could go wrong in a deal went wrong in the property. Turned out the property manager, the numbers that the agents sent me were wrong. The tenants were not actually paid because it’s a COVID at this time. I closed on that property April 17th. It was already shut down already. This is COVID time.
The one tenant that was about to leave, and there’s another tenant that hasn’t paid for like one year, and then there was one unit that was vacant. So them telling me they fully occupied and was bringing this much was all a lot. So what I did was the unit the tenant was about to leave was in a better shape. So I just painted that, just basic cleaning and painting and then rented that out.
So while all that was rented, the rent was coming in. After there was an announcement that the city were giving out to people that were behind on rent. So remember that the landlord and everyone has lied to me already at that point. So the tenant that was supposed to get that amount of money, about eight months worth of rent was sent to me directly because it was supposed to be an application between the landlord and the tenant. So we applied together and she got 8,000. So I took that 8,000 and I put it to renovate the other units, and now it’s cash flow for 2,000 a month and my mortgage’s only $300.

Rob:
Wow, that’s amazing. Okay. So a bit of a rocky start, but then you’re able to work it out. And out of curiosity, because you said at this time you were working for the CDC, right?

Yamundow:
Yeah.

Rob:
Okay. So was this particularly a difficult time? Because obviously you’re working for the CDC, COVID is happening. I’m sure you’re busy doing your actual job and then you’re also getting into real estate. Everything is going wrong. So obviously you have to balance everything. Was that overwhelming or was it like no big deal?

Yamundow:
It was overwhelming, but it taught me so much. So at that time in my team, well, everyone in my team is a lab scientist. So we work in the lab. I’m the data scientist. So every time a lab scientist go into the lab, let’s say they go at 2:00 AM, I have to be up by 4:00 AM to run the data so they can get the report to send it to a particular state. So imagine all the data that’s coming on all 50 states about COVID.

Rob:
A lot.

Yamundow:
Yeah, it was a lot. So I will be up at 4:00 AM. I’ll have my laptop waiting to analyze data while I’m also checking my real estate and trying to figure out what the numbers and everything. So it was not easy at all, but I was still listening to podcasts as I never get, I was already in. I had to figure it out, but it was not an easy time. Yep, it wasn’t.

Rob:
Right. And so you go on to buy more properties, but you said that you were struggling, you were saving and maybe you had to send a little money to your family back home and then you had to renovate this property. So how did you keep saving money or how did you save money to keep buying more property? Was there a specific skill or strategy that you developed?

Yamundow:
Yeah, so when I got that first property stabilized, I was like, “Okay, what next thing I need to know is move on because I’m not having any much cash flow coming in at that time.” So the property was actually cash flowing a lot, like 2,000 a month, but however, I’m not getting the money like it’s going back to the property manager. So the property manager was stealing from me.
Every time I talked to him, he said he uses his card to pay his contractor because most property managers come with their own team. So he said he paid his contractor. For example, let’s say he said, “I paid a contractor 5,000 to do the flooring and paid for this unit.” And I would just do my calculation. The numbers are not making sense, but I know that it’s cash flowing, right? Because the tenants are paying at this point, and my property manager always say, “Oh, Chester this or Chester that.”
So I know the contractor’s name is Chester. Of course I’m a data scientist if I want to find data anyway, I would find it. So I went and researched on him. It’s a small town. I researched on him, I found him, and I was like, “Hey, my name is Yamu. I know that you don’t have to answer these questions, but I have this property in this place and this is the address and I know you worked on it.” So he responded back and said, “Yes.” I was like, “Can we jump on a call?” And he was like, “Yeah, sure.”
So I asked him, I was like, “Does this receipt make sense? Did you charge me this much?” He said, Well, I don’t know.” He’s an honest guy, older guy. He was like, “I don’t know how much you guys talked about, about your contract, but I will never charge this price and this other receipt is not even for your property, this is for another property.”
So it turns out that he was charging me, sending me receipts because I’m out of state investor, right? He was sending me receipts of all the properties that he was working on, and I was just paying for that. So I fired him, and of course I stayed with the contractor and he’s a full-time contractor for me now. We have an amazing relationship. So even though everything went wrong, I got my team from there and he’s made me millions.

Rob:
Wow.

Yamundow:
I learned and I have been with him ever since, worked on all my properties.

Rob:
It must’ve been actually great though, that he ended up being a lot cheaper than you thought, right? So whenever you used him again, it was actually more affordable. So how was it working with him? I mean, because you said you worked with him to this day. Was he a large part of a lot of the projects that you went on to go and work on?

Yamundow:
Oh, yeah. He worked on all my properties in Illinois. So I invested in Midwest, Illinois, Cleveland, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia here. So all my properties, majority of my properties are in Illinois. He worked on all of them.

Rob:
Wow.

Yamundow:
But that’s how I scaled. And then, yeah, so scaling from that property after finding him, I was like, “Okay, I’m not going to find a deal that’s as amazing as the 52 units. $52,000 property, that’s three units that I placed for almost 90,000 after few months of fixing it.” So I was like, “Okay, where else could I invest in?”
Of course, I went back to BiggerPockets, and this time I was so active. So I was like, “What do I do next?” So a lot of investors were talking about, but especially California investors those who are buying Cleveland. So I reached out to them, “Hey, my name is Yamu, I’m a new investor. I’m looking to invest in Cleveland.” So I get a lot of responses. Some will say, “Don’t invest here. This is the A area, this is B, this is C area.” But the areas that they’re recommending for me to invest in, I can’t afford that. So I said, “I’ll stick with the C, D area and then grow up from there. And that’s what I did.
So I found this new place in Cleveland that’s listed for 68,000. So the owner has listed two of them actually. So I wanted both of them because at this time my cash flow and my property is Section 8, all three units cash flows come in. The bank is impressed with that. So again, I bid the documentation, put all the numbers together, and I sent it to them. They were like, “Yep, we’ll finance it.”

Rob:
And this was your second deal, right? Your second and third deal-

Yamundow:
Second deal, yeah.

Rob:
… with two duplex. Okay, cool.

Yamundow:
Yep, yep, yep. So the bank was like, “Yeah, we’ll finance it even if it’s out of state. The numbers look great.” 68,000, mortgage was 250 something, it’s two units, one was seven something so the other one was six something, so I was getting 1,345 or 1,350 or something like that. And the tenant pay all the utilities, I only pay water and sewer.

Rob:
Okay, so walk us through this really fast. Your first property, you said you bought it for like 55,000, you fixed it up, it appraises for 90,000. So you’ve built in $40,000 of equity. You’re like, “Okay, I think I experienced probably the worst part of it. I’m going to do it again.” And then you go and buy two duplexes and the bank finances those. And then just for reference, how many units did you actually end up adding to your whole portfolio in year one?

Yamundow:
In year one, I think about maybe at least seven.

Rob:
Wow.

Yamundow:
I think seven or eight. Yeah.

Rob:
First year of real estate investing with no foundation other than listening to BiggerPockets and doing research and everything like that, listening to the great David Greene and Brandon Turner and you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” And then you go out and you buy seven properties. So you get that first one, two duplexes. Tell us about the next four really fast.

Yamundow:
So the next one I was like, “Okay, at this point I’m getting cashflow, I’m getting a lot of cashflow, and I just got promoted my job.” So I was like, “Okay, from this I want to scale more. What can I do?” So at this point I’m looking at, I was like, “How about I take the cashflow with few months and buy a really cheap house?” So I’ve already built a relationship with that contractor.
So what I did was I found this property for 15,000. It was also a foreclosed property, so I got it for cheap. They probably got it for less than that, but I got it for cheap and it was a five bedroom, two bath. My contractor charged me 9,000 to fix it up.
Even at that point, I don’t have 9,000. I think I have like 3,000 at that point that I have in my savings and the rest, I was expecting it to come from the cashflow because I’m getting 2,000 here and 1,300 over there, so I was going to pay him in installment. So that’s how I got that. Once I fixed it up, I rented it on Section 8 as well, and then I had equity in that property. So the bank was like, “You can pull out equity from your property if you want to scale.” That’s how I did that.

Rob:
David, there’s a term for doing that, right? When you fix up a property and then you take the money out.

David:
Yeah. And there’s also a method to scaling, both of which can be found at biggerpockets.com/store by checking for the BRRRR book or the SCALE book. Yamu, I wanted to ask, did you get these ideas because you’re tinkering with different real estate investing strategies, you’ve got the arbitrage thing. You talked about rent by the room, Section 8, a little bit of long distance investing as well. You’ve been working into this, right? Did all of this come from BiggerPockets?

Yamundow:
Yes, it did. And I know you’re going to ask me in the end what’s my favorite book and I have it here. So this made sense to me because I live in Atlanta, at the time, there’s no way I can afford property at Atlanta at that time especially with a credit score, so I could only afford outside. It does have to be your background.
And me learning that from BiggerPockets, I was like, “Whoa, a light bulb went.” I was like, “of course I can do it at State.” But a lot of people that I talked to, even at work, my colleagues, they were like, “There’s no way you can, being a landlord is hard. You cannot fix a toilet while you out of State.” And I’m like, “There is the method. I’ve already read and then I’ve listened to multiple people do it. Why can’t I do it?”

David:
Well, when you mentioned that you found the better property manager that allowed you to scale. That’s what I thought of was sometimes we just kick around trying to figure out, this is going wrong, that’s going wrong, and it affects your emotions. You’re not excited about buying more real estate because it feels like just nothing but problems.
You got ripped off by the first contractor that would make anybody want to quit, right? Once you get your heart broke, you don’t want to love again. You don’t want to put yourself out there and find somebody else, so you just quit. But when you found the right person, it changed your process to be emotionally excited instead of emotionally discouraged. And so the Labcorp for I’m sure really helped. Can you remind me where were you at with passive income at the end of year two?

Yamundow:
By year two by 80,000 because I’m list April. This last April is my third year of investing. So by 2022, I was making like 80,000.

David:
That’s gross rents, correct? That’s not your profit?

Yamundow:
No, no, that’s profit.

Rob:
Wow.

David:
You’re making 80,000 profit after your second year?

Yamundow:
Yeah, that’s profit.

Rob:
Wow. After your second year. What was your first year? Do you know off the top of your head?

Yamundow:
I think the first year I was close to like six, 7,000. But then what happened was I got a package deal, so it escalated fast. With the package deal some of the units turnover was like two weeks, three weeks. So my contractors will actually go into the unit and to the property and live there. So they would stay there for that two weeks while they’re fixing it. So I was renovating houses faster.
So what happened was the reason why it scale faster, so I took that second job as a statistical programmer for Labcorp. It’s a six-figure job. I did the interview. I didn’t think I was going to get it. The next day they called me, they were like, “You’re amazing, you can start on one day.” I was like, “Okay.” So I got that six-figure job so I was dumping all that money into buying more real estate. So I was buying packages at this point and just turning them on Section 8.

Rob:
You’re working a full-time job for the CDC. You have a mastermind with people from the BiggerPockets community. They’re like, “We all have two jobs. You should have one too.” And you’re like, “All right, sure.” You go, you apply, you get a six-figure job. And then they’re like, “Yeah.” So now you’re making really good W-2 income, and instead of spending it going out and just having fun, you’re like, “I’m just going to put it all into houses.”

Yamundow:
Everything, everything into houses. So I’ll buy package deals, five units package deals, six unit here, five single properties. So I was just doing and sleeping with them.

Rob:
Okay. All right. So you said your first year of passive income six, 7,000 or something like that, year two, it goes from six, $7,000 of passive income a year, and then year two it’s $80,000 of passive income. are those numbers right?

Yamundow:
Yes.

Rob:
Okay.

Yamundow:
The reason why it got to 80,000 is because at this time COVID had happened, 2021/2022 everybody’s talking about Airbnb short-term rentals. So in Atlanta everybody was talking about especially social media. So my social media page, what I did was I created a new page and I followed just real estate, everything that has to do with real estate. So I get a lot of people advertising about you can get a property, you can do Airbnb without owning a property. I was like, “Okay.”
So I looked into buy a few courses here and $100 here, 150 here, and I joined this masterminds. I was like, “I’m just going to jump in and do it.” I credit an LLC just like the courses would say, and I approached apartment complex here. So I was like, “How about I get these in my LLC name and I can arbitrage it?”
So I got one unit, I arbitraged it. And two weeks, three weeks into it or three months into it, I got a booking for $40,000. So the company booked for this guy.

Rob:
Nice.

Yamundow:
Yeah, the company booked for him from New York. He’s going to be working in Atlanta a whole year. So it was like $44,000. I was like, “This is a double brainer.” So I got multiple. Now I have eight units in Atlanta.

Rob:
That’s really cool. Let me just clarify something. When you said year two, your passive income was 80,000, was that 80,000 per month or per year?

Yamundow:
It’s per month.

Rob:
Oh my gosh.

Yamundow:
Yeah. So my Section 8s were bringing in about 15, 16,000 and then I was making about 40 something thousand on Airbnb with the multiple properties.

Rob:
Wow, okay. So year two is 80,000 per month I thought was per year, and I was like, “Oh, 80,000 bucks a month. I mean, most people work for 10 years to get to that level, just $8,000 a month.” So you’re getting $80,000 per month. And so you get into the Section 8 game, you get into medium term rentals and you do arbitrage. Were any of those your favorite or were they all just like fun because it’s all just new?

Yamundow:
Section 8 was more of a dream to give a family a home. The midterm rentals were more of me buying and scaling. In 2021 when I was doing the arbitrage, I was like, “okay, I already have bad run real estate where I had my own properties. How about I take this money instead of renting from apartment complex here, how about I buy my own apartment complex?” That’s how the 80,000 came about for month.
So what I did was I was like, “Okay, I’m going to take this method in Atlanta the arbitrage, but use the money to buy my own apartment complex.” There’s a single family and rented on Section 8. So I found this property that’s listed for the same city that I invest in Section 8. I found this property that was listed for 145. It was abandoned for two years and the landlord just wanted to sell and get rid of it.
So there was a fire incident that happened and he was going through a lot of violations. So he had the city removed most of the violations, but it was almost the aim. So when I came in, I offered 10 and 120 and he accepted at closing, I got about 5,000. Again, I approached the bank and I told them the method that I’m doing. So I always had this relationship with the bank already. I always make sure they know what I’m doing.
So I told them about the short term rental, big term rental, and they were like, “That’s not going to work in a small city like this.” What they don’t know is that property works for me because at this point I have experience with travel nurses. So that property was between two hospital, 1.6 miles from another one hospital and 1.2 miles from another house. So it’s perfect for me. I did the analysis, the market research, and most of the people that were renting to travel nurses there were like a month’s have passed.
So let’s say a family has a basement and they would rent it to travelers a shared room or something. I would say, well, if I have this property which is eight units and multiple mixture of single one bedrooms and studios, I could do that too. So that’s how I ended. The bank was like, “We thought you were crazy, but this is amazing number.”
So with that property that helped me scale to 20,000 because when I had my contractor going there and he leaves one hour from that city, he came in there and he gave me a code for 85,000. I gave it to the bank. They were like, “Okay, we’ll finance it.” Of course I put 20% down. And my contractors, they gave me, they were like, “It’s a lot of work that he needs. What we can do is give you a grace period of three months, so you only pay interest.” That was amazing.
So my contractor was like, “We will move it. I’ll fix it from up and move our way down.” So while they were fixing, but let’s say they fix two units, I’ll furnish it and have nurses on it. I’ll list it to have nurses already coming in. So by the time it was almost complete, I was only paid interest, no mortgage. That property alone brings me 22,000. That’s how I scale to the 80.

Rob:
Wow. 22,000 a month?

Yamundow:
A month, 22, 23, 24 here.

Rob:
Yeah, just 22 to 24,000. Like no real big deal.

David:
Be conservative.

Yamundow:
Yeah. So my mortgage was just 1,200 and then each unit, I pay my utilities for 1,200 worth my mortgage, and each unit utilities is like $100, $110, 120, something like that.

David:
Okay. I got two questions I want to ask. The first is, do you have one person managing all these assets in different locations or are you doing that yourself?

Yamundow:
No, so Cleveland I have a property manager. Cleveland Properties, remember when they came in with tenant occupied already. So I was managing for a while, but when I was scaling with mid-term rentals here, I have to find somebody to manage it. So I have a property manager in Cleveland, and of course in each of the cities, the closest cities will have one property manager.

David:
Yeah, you really are following the long distance real estate and then you manage those individual property managers, right?

Yamundow:
Oh, yes.

David:
Okay. Next question. How are you running your numbers? You’ve got a different approach to this, and I’m curious if your data scientist background led to you looking at things differently, but can you share what your system looks like when a property comes your way and a bank thinks, well, this is all the income in would generate, you’re able to generate more than that. What are you doing differently?

Yamundow:
Yes, so this is how I run my numbers, right? If the numbers not make sense, I’m not going to push it just to say I have this unit. For Section 8, I want to get at least 800 to a 1,000 profit because it comes with more work, more attention and everything. With short term rentals, I was just looking to scale. So it depends on how much I furnish it. If I’m going to put 2,000, $3,000 or up to $5,000 per unit, I want to get at least $1,000.
So with Atlanta, I could get all the way profit to 2,000, especially at the peak season, per profit, per door. So that’s how I run it. Depending on how the property. With Section 8, I’m looking at at least $1,000 because it needs more work and I have to have pay the property manager maintenance of course. So I include all of that. So that’s how I run the numbers.

David:
And I’m going to assume you’re also factoring in they need the cashflow more because in some of these areas you’re buying in, you mentioned C to D areas, they’re not going to appreciate as much and the headache factor is higher. So you have to make up for that by getting more cashflow to make the juice worth the squeeze, so to speak. And that’s where you came up with these numbers, right?

Yamundow:
Yes.

David:
For people who hear this and they think, I want to do what she’s doing, which I’m sure everybody’s going to be thinking, what are some of the challenges that people need to be aware of if you want to grow a portfolio, the way you grew yours?

Yamundow:
There’s so many challenges. You’re going to go through property contractors. There’s no investor that’s going to tell you, oh yeah, Mike, I have one contractor from day one never stole from me, nothing. I went through crappy contractors to get there.
Property managers, even though you have a property manager, doesn’t mean you don’t manage. You still have to run the numbers to make sure this makes sense because if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t know that a property manager was stealing from me or even sending me receipts of all the properties. It’s not an easy day, easy way out. You have to figure it out. You have to run the numbers, and of course you have to always analyze deals for it to make sense. If it doesn’t make sense, you can’t force it.

David:
There’s also, I’m hearing you mention there’s a lot of management that goes into the properties once you have them, you have to look very close, which I think you learned at a relatively early stage because in one of your first deals or the first deal you were taken advantage of.

Yamundow:
Yes.

David:
That separated you from this idea of passive income that you just bought it, forgot it, and there’s nothing more to it that rhyme. Maybe we need to start saying that, but you have to pay attention to your investments that it’s not a thing that runs itself. It’s often described that you buy a property, it’s turnkey, it makes money, and you just go have fun on the beach or vacation everywhere, and your real estate pays for all of it. You don’t have to still work. Has that been your experience or has it been more like it’s a second job?

Rob:
Or a third job for Yamu.

David:
Yeah, yeah.

Yamundow:
Yeah. Well, now that I’ve, well not mastered it, but now that I’ve learned, I’ve gone through so much mistakes and I’ve learned, I could say I could go chill at the beach now. So I’ve got everything in place. I have a property managers in place. I have systems in place, I’ve automated things. But the beginning, no, you have to actually work the business to actually make it work. You can’t just buy and just forget it.
There’s so many things that is involved with it. Yeah. So now I do day-to-day stuff, like I have a VA that go through my funds, find the messages. I have property managers that do. All I do now is sign leases and analyze this.

Rob:
So Yamu, obviously you came from Africa. I got to imagine that the tax code is very different there than it is here. So you can come here, you’re crushing it, you’re making $80,000 a month. You have two full-time jobs. You’re making six figures on the W-2 side of things. Tell me a little bit about your tax situation once you actually started really making money. Was this a big shakeup for you where you’re like, oh my gosh, I have to pay the government money? What was that whole situation?

Yamundow:
That’s a really good question. It’s so shock coming from Africa where we don’t pay taxes like that. So the beginning, I already had my salary and because I wasn’t making a much, I actually get to get a tax reform and I was like, “This is amazing. America is nice. At the end of the tax, you get money.” Then I started invest real estate, and then when CPA tells me you’re going to be paying the IRS $30,000, I was like, “What?” I was like, “No, but in real estate, when you invest, you get to save.” It was like, “No, but not when you make millions.” And I was like, “What?” That’s when I realized what my tax bracket worse.
And then he said, “And also your W-2 is not helping because you have two W-2s that are paying you six figure now.” And I was like, “Oh my God.” He’s like, “If it wasn’t for real estate, you would be paying way more to IRS than what you’re, so the real estate is actually saving you.” And then I was like, “Yeah, this is going to continue. I can’t pay the IRS this much.”
So of course, four months ago, I let the Labcorp job go and I just stick with the CDC one because now it doesn’t really make sense having that kind of cash flow. It’s just that when I added my Savannah Properties here that are bringing me about 15, 16,000 a month in just Savannah, Georgia, I was like, it doesn’t make sense for me to get two jobs now. So I let it go.

Rob:
Well, it’s also probably really hard to achieve real estate professional status with two full-time jobs and being the real estate thing. I know that there’s always conflicting stuff on that. So this always reminds me of that. There’s a meme out there that’s like, “It’s the U.S. government.” They’re like, “All right, you have to pay us taxes.” And then you’re like, “How much?” And they’re like, “We don’t know.”
And it’s like, “Okay, what happens if I pay you too little?” And they’re like, “Oh, you owe us a lot of money, if you do, we’ll, fine you.” And it’s like, “What if I pay too much?” And it’s like, “We won’t tell you. You have to figure that out for yourself.” And that really is exactly what the tax system is. It’s like you don’t know until your CPA is like, “Here you go. You owe 30, $40,000.”
So you quit your job. And did you figure out tax strategies or anything that was saving you money in the long run? Were you doing any kind of cost segregation or any depreciation to knock down your tax bill?

Yamundow:
Yeah, so my CPA that I hire does all of that for me. And then we have meetings every quarter. So he tells me and project how much I’m going to be having. I remember one time it was like, “You have about 40, $60,000 that you need to spend before November.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” So I just dumped it on a property. I bought a property for 40,000 more house. I fixed it up. It pays for 200,000.

David:
It sounds like Rob’s tax strategy. He’s just like that. I owe how much? I’m going to go buy something right now.

Rob:
Yeah, exactly. I’m like, all right, let’s write it off baby. It’s a write-off. You guys ever seen that Schitt’s Creek? Where he’s like buying everything and they’re like, “You can’t just keep buying it and saying it’s a write-off.” I’m like, “It’s a write-off.”

Yamundow:
It’s a write-off. Who pays for it? The government.

Rob:
The government.

Yamundow:
They write-off people.

Rob:
The write-off people. I don’t know.

David:
So let me get a recap of your overall portfolio Yamu, you have Cleveland properties and those are mostly Section 8, correct?

Rob:
Mm-hmm.

David:
Okay. You have Savannah, Georgia properties. How are those being operated?

Yamundow:
So those are mid-term rentals.

David:
And then where else other than Savannah and Cleveland?

Yamundow:
So I have Illinois, I have Springfield, I have Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, all that sub-areas in Illinois. So I have eight units here and there, five units. So since I got the eight unit, it makes sense. Since I was getting so many inquiries for travel nurses and I’m not able to get them a place because it’s all booked out. I was like, “I need another one.” So I got another apartment complex. I got another one that, I got another one, I kept going.

David:
That’s so cool. So I have a mix of mid-term Rentals and Section 8.

Rob:
Okay. And how many units total are we at now?

Yamundow:
So I have 33 doors, including the one that I just bought here, so that’s 34.

Rob:
Wow. So you have about 34 doors now I think is what you said. When you were a kid sleeping on the floor, all you wanted was a bed of your own in a house.

Yamundow:
Yes.

Rob:
How does it feel to achieve what you’ve achieved?

Yamundow:
It’s unreal. Sometimes like this is me? And this is why I give a lot, especially when it comes to my team, so I know where I started, right? It’s just so real for me. But I always knew that I wanted just one house. I wanted a nice bed. I wanted to experience what other kids experience that I didn’t, but I never knew beyond my imagination, this is all God’s work.
God put me in this place to actually buy houses, fix them up and give it to families. That’s why I said earlier mentioned with Section 8 is more of me housing kids like me or someone who could not buy their own home. And then the short term rentals just came into play, but it’s so fulfilling for me.

Rob:
That’s really cool. As eight-year-old are you proud of Yamu?

Yamundow:
Yes. I’m very proud of myself. I’m so grateful to God.

Rob:
Well, you mentioned the tips with keeping your contractor happy. I’d love to end with that. If you have anything you can share with the audience about strengthening that relationship with your contractor and keeping them happy, I’d love to hear it.

Yamundow:
Just to say this, my husband says, “When my contractor calls, my phone rings, I’m so eager to take the call than anyone else, including him.” I was like, “Well, he made me millions, you didn’t.” When they’re working, I buy lunch. When they send me pictures and I’m so happy with the work and I’m like, “Dinner’s on me. So they’re staying there.” And also I stock their fridges, buy groceries and send it because they stay there when they’re fixing the properties with his guys. So those are nice things. And I upgrade his phone. He’s an older guy, doesn’t like technology and just little things like that.

Rob:
That’s really cool. Yeah, you got to take care of your contractors. I mean, finding a contractor that you click with is hard already, but finding a contractor that you can click with for five years is even harder. And I think, yeah, got to keep them happy so that you can keep a lifelong of home building and home renovation going.

David:
Well, Yamu, I think that we’re all flawed after listening to what you’ve done. I mean, you talk about it so nonchalant that you’re doing this well. I mean the collective jaws of the BiggerPocket sphere have dropped as they were listening to this. We will definitely need to have you back to dive deeper into some of this because there’s so many elements from the power of your story to the way that you’ve scaled to the passive income you’re making, to the systems that you’ve set up, to how BiggerPockets helped you learn all this.
I think so many of us listened to this and we only see the reasons that it can’t work. And you came in and said, wait, you’re going to give me all this information for free, and you went and put it to play. And what do you know? You’re one of the most successful investors that we have ever interviewed. And how many years has it been?

Rob:
It’s going to be three years April 17.

David:
Yeah, there’s people that take three years and can’t finish one of the books. I don’t even know how to put into words what this has been like. It’s just fantastic and I really appreciate you sharing your story. Are there any last tips that you’d like to leave with our audience who are struggling to get started?

Yamundow:
It’s just to start, and like BiggerPockets said, analysis by analysis. If you stay there, you don’t actually jump and do execution, it’s not going to work out. You can listen to all the podcasts, you can read all the books, you can go to all the networking events, you can do all of that, but if you aren’t actually execute, it’s not going to happen. And I know it’s scary, but you have to do it. Yeah.

David:
Well, when you grow up without a bed, I don’t think you’re as scared of failure as somebody who has never faced that level of adversity. And the littlest amount of rejection seems overwhelming. So I mean, who would’ve thought that those bed bugs would someday be a blessing? But maybe that could be the title of your book, how Bed Bugs Become Blessings when you write it because you definitely need to. Rob any last minute thoughts from you?

Rob:
No, just wanted to thank, Yamu. I appreciate the vulnerability and the openness that you had with us. I know it’s like probably hard to talk about sometimes, especially coming out to BiggerPockets, but I think there will be hundreds of thousands of people that listen to this podcast and their life will change because of your story. So I just want to thank you.

Yamundow:
Thank you so much.

David:
And thank you again to Yamu for sharing her story and her success with us. One other happy note to add here, Yamu welcomed a new baby girl to her family shortly after this interview. She and her family are growing and are all doing well.

Rob:
Well, I can tell you firsthand that this angry elf is now a warm and cheery elf. And thanks to all of you for listening and for making the BiggerPockets community what it is. We’re excited to bring you more new shows coming up and throughout 2024. And for everyone listening, have a wonderful rest of the year.

David:
This is David Greene. For Rob the no longer angry elf Abasolo signing off.

 

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