Real estate business

Meet the entrepreneur who built a 7-figure real estate business in just four years

Kyara Gray has always been fascinated by transformations. Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, she saw farmland regularly sold and turned into housing estates. “As we were driving around town, I would point out the window telling my parents to buy this land or this house,” says Gray, who now runs a seven-figure real estate company, Charm City Buyers, with her husband, Khalil Ouqdah. .

After graduating from college in 2011, the plan was to climb the corporate ladder, have a dog, and invest in real estate at the same time. In just one year, she had a well-paying job in insurance, a Lhasa Apso named Duchess and her first rental property. Less than a decade later, she went out on her own. She and Khalil expanded their real estate empire to include the development of multiple residential housing blocks in Baltimore in addition to over 20 rental units and a construction company.

“Our projects are houses that have been dismantled, torn up, to be completely renovated. We turn them from vacant horrors into beautiful homes that create community, ”says Gray. Additionally, she and Khalil are not only creating generational wealth for their family – they have a seven-year-old daughter – but they’ve also transformed their community and shown others how to accumulate wealth for themselves.

I caught up with Kyara after she and Khalil won a bid for a $ 15 million new construction community in Baltimore that will include 20% affordable housing. Here are some of Gray’s top tips if you want to follow in his footsteps.

Stephanie Burns: How did you save money to buy your first property so soon after graduating from college?

Kyara Gray: Work hard, save on rent, and don’t worry about low interest student loans. I had a well-paying job and a roommate to share the costs. Khalil had graduated a year before me and was living at home so that he could do the same. Once we decided we were going to be together for the long haul, we thought about what our financial future would look like.

From vending machines to DVD rental units, we have considered many different investment options. But we opted for real estate because of the impact it can have and the income it can generate. We looked at the offers, found a 3 unit typo of a property, and knew the numbers worked. Because the neighborhood had a difficult reputation, most people weren’t interested. We bought the property for $ 26,000 in cash, but it was in need of a six figure renovation. So we found a local organization focused on community development in this neighborhood. They funded the renovation which we completed in seven months.

Burns: How did you get so quick to educate yourself on real estate?

Grey: Once we made the decision to take the plunge, we took consistent action every day to get closer to our goals. We Google searched for properties, attended real estate investing networking events, researched terms and strategies, and started meeting people in the industry. Every day we took small steps towards our dream.

One of the reasons we’re so passionate about mentoring other people is that when we first started we didn’t have mentors to answer our investment questions. We made a lot of mistakes and lost money in different situations. But we persevered. The difference between us and others who fail is that we persevere and they give up. We took the challenges as valuable lessons and turned them into fuel to make better decisions.

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Burns: What’s one of the hardest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

Grey: If you cut corners financially, you’ll waste time, quality, price, or all three. A project we did with a friend who had just started a construction business ended in disaster. We thought we would save money, but the job cost us $ 30,000 more than expected and required extra time. We had walls that had to fall down so we could redo the framing and more. Now we know – and tell our mentees – to spend the time making your money grow. This means spending more time selecting and choosing tenants, interviewing workers, and researching properties.

Right now in Baltimore everyone is talking about getting homes for as little as a dollar – yes, literally a house for $ 1. But like everything in business, you need to think beyond the financial cost of the purchase and focus on the total cost and value. We encourage people to stay rational. Don’t be so enthusiastic about making a deal that you lose sight of the guarantee of its success. Focus on the development strategy and the total benefit, including the impact on the community.

Burns: How did you get your business to six figures in just two years?

Grey: One of the things we teach our mentees is how to leverage OPM or other people’s money, like we did with the neighborhood organization that funded the renovation of our first property. . This property brought in almost $ 3,000 per month, so we were able to snowball a lot of that money into our next property and so on. In just three years, we have had over six figures in rental income from purchases. Neither of us quit our jobs until five years ago, so we were able to use some extra income for our real estate efforts. We sacrificed a vacation and didn’t even buy our personal home until we owned several properties.

We also didn’t tell people about the projects we were buying until we had a dozen rentals in our portfolio, which was difficult. It’s tempting to want to post on social media or tell your friends and family what you’re doing, but we’ve focused on the job so we don’t have to deal with naysayers. Khalil used to go to Home Depot before work to pick up supplies, I tiled the floors at night, he painted. We were disjointed until we grew up and could outsource these tasks.

Burns: What drove you to go out there and invest in properties on your own, teaching others how to do it and transforming communities?

Grey: A few years ago, we could have managed the portfolio and lived off rental income. But I wanted us to push the boundaries and bring life back to the communities of Baltimore that had been forgotten and neglected. We started by buying several properties on a city block and remodeling it. We wanted to make an impact, but knew we couldn’t buy every house and do every block. We also knew that one of the biggest barriers to entry was information. So we started a mentoring group called The NEXTGen Accelerator to teach others how to invest in real estate. It is a development without displacement. And that’s the legacy I want to leave behind.

Burns: How do you know if investing in real estate is right for you?

Grey: It’s about determining whether your goals are long term or short term. If they are short term, yes you can get rich by turning houses. Yes, you can build wealth by investing in rental properties. Cash means flexibility and freedom. Long-term goals mean building generational wealth and legacy. So honestly define your goals. For us, having an impact on our family and the community is important. There are very basic human needs, and according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, shelter is a basic physiological need that provides security and more. We want to help people with one of their basic needs.

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Burns: What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who want to try their hand at real estate?

Grey: Build an effective team. One of my team members is my husband and we share the tasks so that we have 48 hours a day instead of 24. But the majority of people in our programs are single women who do it on their own. Fortunately, they have a great team: reliable lenders, strong entrepreneurs, and a network of experienced people to help them get things done.

After the pandemic, we are experiencing a renaissance. I encourage women to think about this moment in time and the future. In Baltimore, people often look around and see a divestment. For a child, this can have extremely negative effects. It teaches you how to feel about yourself. If nobody cares about your neighborhood, maybe nobody cares about you. It’s tempting to hope that someone else will revitalize a community, but if you’re waiting for someone else to create a change, it can be difficult to have a say in how that change looks. . Instead of sitting down, lead the way. It’s not about numbers, it’s about neighborhoods. It’s not just a question of income, it’s a question of impact.

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