Real Estate

‘Bring Your Big Damn Purse’: How Women Can Build Wealth Through Real Estate

Women have a lot of catching up to do in the investment space, speakers at Inman Connect said during a panel on Tuesday.

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The notion of a woman as a forceful investor is, unfortunately, a relatively new one. And as a consequence, women have a lot of catching up to do in the investment space, speakers at an Inman Connect panel called “Building Wealth: How to Invest in Real Estate” said.

Gretchen Pearson

“We’ve got to catch up,” Gretchen Pearson, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, said. “I don’t know the exact year … but in the ’70s is when women could actually get a credit card on their own.”

“So we have catching up to do on how we see ourselves with money,” Pearson added. “If you want a seat at the table, you bring your big damn purse.”

Courtney Poulos, broker/owner of ACME Real Estate, lamented that thinking about money or wealth just wasn’t a part of the curriculum of how to become a woman when she was growing up.

Courtney Poulos

“Where I come from, I wasn’t taught about money at all,” Poulos said. “We were taught to really make ourselves pretty and likable.”

But Poulos said that today, because people are choosing to delay getting married and having children until they’re a bit older, there’s great opportunity for women to become a practiced investor at a younger age.

“What I see with our clients is, there’s an extraordinary potential for professional women who are getting married later and later in life to build some financial support in their own portfolio so that when they enter into partnerships, there’s not this co-dependence financially,” Poulos said.

“It just diminishes the desperation of relying solely on real estate as a thing you do when you get married and have kids,” she added.

Sara Sutachan

“It is the one nest egg that can build that intergenerational wealth,” said Sara Sutachan, senior vice president of the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and co-creator of CAR’s WomanUp! program, who moderated the panel.

Pearson noted that real estate professionals don’t become wealthy just by transacting real estate, but by using their skill set in order to invest in it themselves.

“You are not going to get wealthy selling real estate,” Pearson said. “You’re going to get wealthy through your own investments.”

The three women added that, for an aspiring investor, it’s just important to get out there and start investing as soon as possible, but not worry so much about the type of property because there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of what you do with it, whether you live in the property, use it as a short-term rental, or buy and hold it.

“As real estate professionals, it is in our best interest to have gone through this process and be able to advise our clients on it,” Poulson said. “Getting creative and investigating all those creative things is like adding to your portfolio of things you can offer your clients.”

For women who do their household’s budgeting, it’s helpful to set a goal to save to and crunch the numbers for how you’ll save it, Pearson said.

“If you’re doing budgeting, then tuck away!” she said.

Overall, both Pearson and Poulos noted that it’s advisable for any investor to do their own research about local regulations to learn what options are available for an investment property, as well as to ask other real estate connections across the country to get opinions on local market conditions if you plan to invest outside of your own market.

For first-time investors, Pearson and Poulos both recommended FHA loans. Poulos said she’d purchase a “multifamily, and live in one of the units for a couple of years while I build equity.” Pearson recommended much the same, adding that she’d probably go with a duplex or a four-plex where she could also live. But she also added that there are a lot of perks to renting out to individuals who participate in rental assistance programs.

“To be honest … I like the fact that I could get guaranteed rent through Section 8 or housing authority subsidies,” Pearson said. “And there’s a lot of those programs … I’m of age now, where you look at [what] our whole mission is … [and it’s] to get people in housing. And for the most part, all of my Section 8 tenants … are single women, and they need a group [for] help.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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