Real Estate

Leaving Pro Sports & Violent Past to Forge Financial Freedom


To invest in real estate, you need to have a strong why. Without it, you won’t get far, and the first fumble that comes your way may be your last. That’s why having a solid reason behind your real estate investing can keep you going while the rest give up. And this is precisely what Suni Rao’s success is built on as a former pro tennis player turned financial analyst and now ten-unit real estate investor. You may think you know her story already since she was a former pro, but you’d probably be wrong.

Suni was raised in a household of domestic violence. As a child, she knew that if she only had enough money, she could escape and finally be free of the abuse. So when the opportunity came for her to play pro tennis at a young age, she took the chance without ever looking back. This dream continued until her early twenties, when she was physically forced to give up her goal of winning the world’s biggest tournaments.

She took a hard pivot, eventually leading her to climb the corporate ladder, only to have some crushing feedback knock her off. However, none of this stopped Suni from building the life she wanted in the background. After one property came another, and another, and another. Now, with ten units to her name, she’s making massive strides toward financial freedom and is here to tell you exactly how you can do the same.

David:
This is the BiggerPockets podcast show, 725.

Suni:
It was definitely a different life that I had planned for myself and having, being, feeling like I had to leave it in order to uphold my own personal value system, which is to not settle for mediocrity because I could point where my body would not, it was breaking down and I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have any family, I didn’t have any support, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.

David:
What’s going on everyone? This is David Greene, your host of the BiggerPockets podcast here today with my co-host, Rob Abasolo, with a hilarious, entertaining, and valuable podcast where we get into a really cool story and some really cool information that will help you grow your own portfolio. Today, Rob and I interview Suni Rao, a former Olympian turn real estate investor who has an amazing story you’re going to love. Rob, what were some of your favorite parts of today’s show?

Rob:
This is a very, very, very good story in the world of resilience. Like see, hearing Suni’s story, basically of her upbringing to becoming an Olympian, which was really crazy because I’ve never met anyone that was as good at tennis as me. So this was very inspiring just in that alone. But also she took control of her life after she went into her professional world where she got feedback from one of her bosses and the boss didn’t give her great feedback. And from that moment, she said, all right, I’m taking control of my financial situation. And she went all in into real estate and has developed a really, really amazing portfolio, and you just hear about resilience over and over and over again because she’s really gone through some stuff. You know what I mean? I’m excited to dive into that because a lot of, one of a kind scenarios that came up today, I think.

David:
Yeah. In today’s episode, tennis meets beer pong as Rob tries to relate with his own athletic career with our guest, and you’re not going to want to miss it. Before we bring in Suni, today’s quick tip is brought to you by Rob Abasolo.

Speaker 7:
Quick, quick, quick tip.

Rob:
Listen, when you get into real estate, a lot of moments in your journey are going to be very hard and very difficult to deal with, and you may feel like you’re alone. And when you don’t have someone else to relate to or someone else to talk with or someone else to vent with, it’s going to be a very, very lonely place. So find a friend that’s going through what you’re going through. Suni talks about in this episode how she actually met one of her real estate best friends on the BiggerPockets forums. So find someone in your local area that you can actually meet up with, but at the very least, go to biggerpockets.com and connect with somebody, put a post out there asking for help. I think you’ll be surprised at the amount of people in the community that are willing to pour into you and help you out through whatever situation that you’re in. How did I do, Dave?

David:
That was awesome. Friendships make life rich and so does real estate and BP can help you get both. All right, let’s bring in Suni. Today’s guest is Suni Rao. Suni is a former tennis player in her early teens who went from excelling at tennis and becoming a former Olympian to starting from scratch at 24 years old. She’s had quite the real estate journey with 10 units, both in short and long-term asset classes all in the Indianapolis area. And we are happy to have you on today Suni, welcome to the BiggerPockets podcast.

Suni:
Thanks for having me on. I’m so excited to be here.

David:
Now I believe you were on the BiggerPocket’s Money podcast previously, right?

Suni:
Yeah. Episode 101 with Mindy and Scott.

David:
Yeah, that’s a cool number to have. 101, that’s when you’re never going to forget. So if you like today’s show, make sure you go check out Suni on the BiggerPocket’s Money podcast where you can get a little bit more of the information and details on the financial aspect of the journey. Today we’re going to be focusing more on your actual real estate. So tell me a little bit, what’s your portfolio looking like right now?

Suni:
Yeah, so I have 10 units, two duplexes, one triplex, and three single families. Five of those doors? No, actually three of those doors were purchased as a long distance investor. I used to be living in Boston. I actually initially purchased five doors when I was living out in the East Coast, and I sold three of those in the last year when the market was turning to kind of capitalize on the equity and to pay off a few of my properties. Of those 10 doors, two are going to be short-term rentals slash our short-term rentals, one’s being onboarded right now. One is a long-term corporate rental, which I absolutely love. I kind of lucked into that. I live in one unit and then the rest are all garden variety long-term rentals.

David:
All right, so you’ve got some long-term, some short-term, even a little bit of house hacking that’s kind of moved in here. So you’ve kind of run the gamut of real estate investing, which I like too. I’m a fan of diversifying the type of actual properties you’re holding in your portfolio. But before we dive in on the portfolio, take me back to the moment when you decided you wanted to go all in on real estate.

Suni:
So I don’t know that there was one singular moment where I was, okay, this is what I’m doing. It was more of a progression. So the path that led me towards real estate, it started when I was in my first job out of undergrad, and I’d already had a separate career in which I was very successful. I worked very, very hard through college to land this prestigious job. And I’ve worked so hard during that role itself. I was volunteering for initiatives, doing things that others in my cohort weren’t doing, and I was out at lunch one day with my boss, and for those who know me in real life, I’m not one to be like, “Yeah, you know what? I’m doing great.” Usually I’m like, “Oh my God, how is one person so bad at so many different things?”
But I walked into that lunch going, “You know what? I’m in a good position. I’m pretty happy. I’m ready for that promotion. I’m ready for that raise.” And his actual feedback to me was, we know that you’re good at things. And by “we”, he meant management. He said, “We know that you are good at things, but we don’t know what they are.” And to know that I had been working so hard to get a certain income so that I could live the life that I wanted and that I had continued to work hard to get those promotions and those raises and you know what, what those promotions and raises may not have been coming based upon this one person’s feedback, that kind of really hit me in the face and that’s when I realized I can’t really rely a hundred percent on my job to provide the economic means that I want. I can’t allow that to influence so many of the decisions that I will make in life.
So that’s when I really decided to influence my own financial picture. And honestly, initially I didn’t even think about real estate. No one in my family had done real estate. I was not exposed to it. I grew up pretty underprivileged. I had struggled a lot in the last several years leading up to that. I did not see myself as a property owner. So I started diving into different podcasts, came across couponing, came across travel hacking, but there’s only so many 30 cent coupons you can clip, and there’s only so many miles that you can accumulate when you have two weeks off a year to travel. What is even the point? And then eventually I found BiggerPockets, and that’s really when it changed for me. But it still took a minute because I didn’t realize what was possible. I kind of needed to have it spelled out for me.
And so my first step was thinking, maybe I can get a duplex here in Boston and then have a roommate and have a tenant, and maybe I don’t have to be paying such a high dollar amount for my housing expenses, because that was just really, really prohibitive. And then after listening to BiggerPockets for a while, it might have been another four or five months. I learned about turnkey rentals. I learned about long distance investing, I learned about all these different mechanisms of investing, and I realized that there’s a lot more out there than I initially thought. And that’s when I was like, okay, this is what I need to do and this is what I need to figure out. I have no idea how I’m going to find the money for this or how I’m actually going to figure out where to invest in another part of the country was also daunting. But that was, I think it was about six months after all of that happened where I was like, okay, it’s time to do something with real estate.

Rob:
And what was the actual profession?

Suni:
So I was in corporate finance. At the time, I worked for a defense contractor so there were a large global defense contractor working on building planes and stuff for different armies, navies, what have you, all over the world. And I was actually in their leadership training program, so I was being groomed for management. So it was kind of like a double blow when your whole path is groomed for management and then management’s like, ah, we don’t really like you.

Rob:
Yeah, that’s really interesting feedback. So you feel like you’re doing super well and you are actually succeeding in moving up the ladder. You get some pretty, I guess not ideal feedback from management. And you say, all right, I got to take control of my financial situation. You start getting into everything. Fast forward six months, you finally decide, okay, I’m going to buy a home. How did that first deal even pop up on your radar?

Suni:
It was actually, I will say it was actually probably another year and a half before I made that purchase. I was in grad school at the time, and I am very, very fiscally conservative. So even though at the time I was doing a lot of reading, I knew about creative financing and all of that, I was not going to over lever myself. So I was paying for grad school, saving up, and then about a year and a half in after I decided on Indianapolis as my chosen market, the first deal actually popped up on the MLS. The thing was, at that time, it was out in the suburbs, and it was at a time when there was still kind of an echo chamber of what a good investment in a city was. And everyone just kept saying the same thing. Everyone was congregating around these urban and rural areas.
And I have a background in business, background in finance, and the very definition of an asset is something that others don’t understand, or not the definition of asset, but the definition of a good investment is an asset that others don’t understand the value of. An asset that others mispriced because they don’t fully understand what’s going on with it. And so that’s what I saw with this property. A lot of people were focusing on the other areas. But I was, if you look at the fundamentals of what would make a good real estate investment, this is perfect. And so I kind of went against what I knew to be the trend from the information that I was hearing and purchased it through an agent with conventional investor financing, I had to put 25% down, it was I call it a duplex. It was two separate houses on the same parcel, and I still own it to this day.

Rob:
Oh, that’s awesome. So you still have the OG home that really started it.

Suni:
The OG home. Yeah, it’s almost doubled in value in three and a half years, and the cash flow is great. And so yeah, I’m not letting go of that thing soon.

Rob:
Yeah. Awesome. Well, I know that you’ve built quite the portfolio here and you obviously have the skills to do it, but can you back up and share a little bit more about what in your past gave you the skills to really take real estate on, I guess, at full force?

Suni:
Yeah. So prior to my career in corporate finance, I was actually a professional tennis player for almost 10 years. And that gave me a lot of intangible skills throughout my journey. So things that I am really grateful for, include the ability to be resilient. When you’re an athlete, you lose all the time in tennis, you lose most of the weeks that you are competing. It is very rare that you end up on the winner’s podium at the end of the week, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad week. And that doesn’t mean that you’re a loser. You can still be very successful and never actually won a tournament. For any of my OG tennis fans like Anna Kournikova, phenomenal example, top 10 tennis player, never won a Singles event. And she was absolutely incredible. So that’s the same thing that relates over to real estate.
There are so many bad days, so many bad days where you have so many repairs that come in. You have tenants who just are not very kind. There’s just, if it can go wrong, it will. But at the same time, if you purchase properly and you do your due diligence in the long run, none of that matters because you’ll have an asset that someone else basically paid off. You’ll have a little bit of cash in your pocket. And over the long run purchase correctly, home equity values increase, home property prices increase. So it’s like that resilience, that long-term gratification, learning how to be strategic.
So when you step on a tennis court, or honestly any sport, I would think, on the field, on the pitch, what have you. You have an idea of what’s going to happen. You think, okay, I’m going to go in and do A and B, their reaction is going to be C and D to that, I will do E and F. Honestly, when does that happen in sports, in life? That is just not a thing. And I would say real estate’s very similar, there is no acquisition. In the acquisition period or in the execution period that has gone according to plan. My entire investment journey hasn’t gone according to plan in both phenomenal and terrible ways.

Rob:
I feel like you’re being very humble with how you tell your story about being a professional tennis player, but you were an Olympian, right?

Suni:
Yes. Well, I was talking about the skills, so.

Rob:
Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. But being an Olympian is, that’s kind of a big deal.

Suni:
Yeah. See if I have a bourbon in hand right now, and we weren’t on camera, I would probably be like, you know what, I’m kind of a big deal. But I don’t want people to take me the wrong way and think that that is not a joke. So sure, sure. Hence, the silence. I’m censoring myself.

Rob:
Absolutely. Actually, let’s back up. Because I have a very important question. So you said the pitch, which is obviously soccer, and then there’s the hardwoods, which is basketball. Is there a phrase for tennis? This is just for my own personal edification.

Suni:
The court.

Rob:
The court, of course, the court. It was in front of me the whole time. So you’re an Olympian, so the highest of professional tennis players. And was that what you saw for your life while it was happening? Was this your thing or was there ever a point where you’re like, I may not do this forever because obviously eventually you go on to college and live a very different life from what I imagine is the rigorous routine of an Olympian?

Suni:
That is a really great question. I never saw life outside of it until my last few years on tour. It was everything to me from the time I was six years old. Every day I would envision myself winning Wimbledon, winning the US open. That’s what you need in order to be able to stick through that life, to train day in, day out until you’re cramping and throwing up and then get back up and do it again the next day. I never saw myself as ever needing a job or needing to earn an income after I was done with the sport. If all it went according to plan and according to, honestly the trajectory I was on as a junior in my early teen years, I would be in Monica right now chilling or in France or not working. I’d be living a very different life.
Hopefully I would still have real estate holdings because real estate’s dope. But yeah, it was definitely a different life that I had planned for myself and having, being, feeling like I had to leave it in order to uphold my own personal value system, which is to not settle for mediocrity because I hit a point where my body would not, it was breaking down and I didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any family, I didn’t have any support to be able to invest back into myself. And that time, that was like 2008, 2009, we all know what happened with the economy then. I wasn’t going to get any sponsors, no company was going to invest in an athlete with their discretionary income. So I felt like I had to leave and that was a very tough choice and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life.

Rob:
Sure. So you mentioned you kind of had a tough upbringing, you’re underprivileged. When you say the struggle on that, was the struggle during the actual tennis years of your life? Or was it before that?

Suni:
That’s a good question. So there have been a lot of challenges. There have been a lot of obstacles to overcome, both in terms of tennis and before tennis. So I would say before I turned pro. So I turned pro at the age of 14, 15, my relationship with money that would then later influence my decision to invest in real estate, my decision to not allow my employer to be the one source that I relied on for my income, a lot of that was influenced by my younger years. So in my younger years, I actually grew up in a home that was ruled by domestic violence. And so the thing with domestic violence, it’s about two things. It is about power and it is about control. And so the way that works typically is that the perpetrator influences control over their target by exerting different kinds of abuse.
So it’s physical, it’s emotional, but it’s also economic. There’s a power and control wheel where it will list all the different aspects of that control and that abuse. But economic and financial abuse is a huge, huge, huge part of that. Because if you think about it, being able to leave is a lot easier when you have the funds to do so. That doesn’t mean that that is the only reason that people stay. Because historically statistics show that when a survivor leaves the situation, that is the most dangerous time for them and they know it and many don’t survive. However, when you have funds, it does get a little bit easier. And so being in that situation and recognizing at a very young age that I was in this situation because there was not the ability to fund an escape, money and safety and security became very, very kind of closely linked.
And so much later I knew I had to do something to invest and grow my financial situation. I think honestly, that’s a big thing that I like about real estate because my need to diversify real estate inherently is about diversification. Especially with the residential, you can diversify within a city, you can diversify into different cities, you can diversify into different asset classes, which all have different tendencies, use different strategies. So if one of those kind of bases falls through or gets a little shaky, you have the others to hold up the life and the portfolio that you’re building.

David:
So it sounds like at a very impressionable part of your life, you saw some of the danger of not having control and how there is a power struggle at many situations in life. And unfortunately, it sounds like in this case, the person that had the control was also using that to abuse people. And that’s terrifying. Absolutely. Right. And that’s going to make a very big imprint on you. And then you got into tennis and I’m sure there was a, I actually, I shouldn’t say I’m sure, I would imagine there was a bit of empowerment where you made this connection that if I do really good at something, I can take back some control and power over where I go. I’m not going to be in a position where I will be the vulnerable person. And it almost, I know that feeling, it creates this insatiable drive.

Suni:
Yes.

David:
That I’m sure would’ve helped you become the Olympian. When everyone else was like, I like tennis, it’s kind of fun, but I don’t want to wake up at six in the morning to go whatever. You’re like, oh no, I’m not going back to where I was. If this is the way I make sure that I don’t get hurt like that I’m going to do it. And then you went into the career field that you were in, and you were on a fast track because you have all these skills and these very amazing character traits that you had developed over the time that you had been playing tennis. And I’m sure just your mother in general, I get the impression, took a significant amount of time pouring into the person that you are, and you can just tell, you’re very articulate, you’re very intelligent. So I can see why the employers would love you.
But then you ran into the same problem. Gosh dang it. I don’t have control here. If someone decides they don’t like me, if I remind them of someone else that they don’t like, if their nephew wants a job, whatever it is, they can take this thing from me that I’ve committed to this much time. And like you said, you’re on a fast track to management. Now management doesn’t like, that’s a terrible feeling. It’s going to bring up that same, I can now be hurt.
And so real estate is ultimately where you landed on, this is the thing that no one can take from me. And if I get good at this, I control my own destiny. And unlike a sport like tennis, I had a similar moment in my life where I realized my athletic journey was limited by actual, natural ability as well as father time. You’re not going to beat time. You can’t play tennis until you’re 60, but nothing stops real estate. So now you have this light bulb go off where you’re like, I’m throwing everything into this because this is what’s going to empower me, prevent me from going back to a point where I’m vulnerable and I can be abused and I don’t have to worry about not being able to do this when I’m 50, 60, 70 years old. Is there anything that I missed in that sort of summary of what we’ve got so far?

Suni:
No, that’s a pretty solid summary I feel seen. Thank you.

David:
Well, I’m really glad to hear that because I think so many people listen to your story and they think, well, I’m not her. I’m not an Olympian, I can’t do it. But they have the same source of pain. They can relate to it somewhere in their life, but they haven’t made the connection that you made where you don’t have to stay in pain. There is a way out of it. Your actions can dictate a better life for you when you get in the right direction, which is kind of why we all ended up falling in love with real estate. It’s the outlet for our creativity, for our passion, for our drive. It is very empowering. You’re owning something. We typically talk about the tactical reasons where real estate is good for taxes and it’s cash flow, but really that doesn’t make you fall in love with something.
You fall in love with it because it’s an area where a lot of you, your personality can be expressed and you don’t have to sort of follow a path that someone else laid out for you that you don’t necessarily want. And I think a lot of people listening, they can relate to that. There’s a thing in their life that worries them. There’s a thing that scares them. There’s some areas where they don’t have control and they don’t like that, and they can absolutely tap into those same sources of pain and power that you did. Is there anything you can share just about what maybe you’ve gotten a headstart on some other people when it comes to seeing, I don’t like this part of life, I’m going to do something to change it?

Suni:
That’s a good question. This is something that was hard for me that I didn’t really have a choice. In a lot of areas of life, we can have limiting beliefs because what is the consequence of having limiting beliefs? Oh, I guess I won’t get that promotion. Oh, I guess I won’t go on that date. Oh, I guess I won’t get X, Y, and Z. I have so many limiting beliefs, but if I let that stop me, where would I be right now? I don’t even want to think about it. I basically had to run away from home. If I allowed my limiting beliefs to stop me, I would still be in that situation. I would not have gotten the education that I had. I would not have done all these things. I didn’t know what I was doing half the time.
It’s just you step up to the plate and you are like survey your environment and you’re like, okay, I have these options. What is the next best step? And then you kind of take that step and then you’re like, still no idea how I’m going to get up to that mountain, but what’s the next step? And then you take that step and then you look around. So that’s how I’ve gotten past my limiting beliefs in the professional sense, because I think we all have things that hold us back in life that we’re always working through, it’s a journey. But I think a part of what has made me successful is the fact that I could not give it into my limiting beliefs. For me, it was life or death in some scenarios, especially when I was much younger. And so when I started investing in real estate, and I told a few of my coworkers in Boston, and they were like, oh, I could never do this.
I don’t know how to fix a toilet. And I was like, what? I don’t know how to fix a toilet, but that’s also, you’re asking the wrong questions. And also that’s such a small problem. I literally didn’t know how to support myself. I didn’t know how I was going to feed myself, but I still stepped away from the sport. And that’s not to applaud my actions, but it’s like to show how lost I was. I didn’t know how to open a bank account. I didn’t know how to do anything. And I think if I could figure out those things with the sixth grade education, a lot of people can figure out harder problems with the backgrounds and the support systems that they have.

Rob:
Yeah, that’s kind of funny to me when so many people say that. But what’s even funnier now is that you probably have a lot of those bosses and coworkers and peers that are probably, they may have hit you up by now, or they may just think to themselves, that’s pretty cool that she’s doing that. Once you actually build something right, then they’re like, oh yeah, sorry. Yeah, it wasn’t crazy. Tell me more about it. Tell me a little bit more. It’s funny, this trajectory where you’re crazy and then all of a sudden you’re smart, but it’s just a weird thing because it always gets in your head when you’re getting started, but it’s the reason that you become who you are, right?

Suni:
Yeah. If I had a dime for every person who thought I was crazy or questioned the path that I thought was logical, I’d have more houses.

Rob:
Sure, sure. Well, and now I actually think it’s a little bit more comforting to just be yeah, I’m crazy. That’s cool. Because you rarely have a interesting conversation with someone that’s not crazy, but you get in a room…

Suni:
Oh, that’s so true.

Rob:
Yeah. You get in a room with hundreds of other real estate investors at BP Con and we’re all crazy, and now we’re all like, oh my gosh, how did you do that? How did you that, now everyone’s helping each other become millionaires through real estate and it’s fun. It’s a really crazy journey.

Suni:
And doing crazier things because our first version of crazy was just kind of to build that base level business. It’s not even, we’ve let our dreams run wild. Would you agree with that?

Rob:
Oh my gosh, yes.

Suni:
That’s where I feel like I am now. I’ve built the base level business, and we were talking about this a little bit before we started recording. Now I’m at the point where I could do stuff that’s a little bit more creative, that I’m excited about and do things that are a little bit more fun and build a life more off of that now that I have the support system. So it’s a pretty cool place to be.

Rob:
I think building the base is so important because you sort of build your portfolio with a lot of base hits. I think a lot of these very foundational types of properties, and that gives you the slack you need to start taking bigger and bigger and bigger risks. I think that’s very true. So I’m curious, how does it compare to your other two facets of life in terms of you’ve got tennis, you’re an Olympian, which is ridiculously hard. You’re in corporate finance, which is very different from tennis, one would argue, and also probably very, very difficult. You go into real estate now, are you like, oh, this is easy, or do you still have a lot of crazy days where you’re like, okay, wow, I wish I was a tennis player again because this was really hard.

Suni:
I don’t wish I was a tennis player again. There are assets I’d love about this sport, but there’s no day where I’m like, you know what I’d like to go hit a backhand again instead of do this. No, absolutely not. That being said, if anyone ever tells me real estate is easy, I will go jump in the nearest river. It is not, it is worth it, it is amazing. I have had some really hard days that I would not trade for the world. And by hard, to be totally candid, I have moments where I struggle with my own mental health. I have my own trauma that extends to financial trauma, which means that I have a hard time spending money. So when big repairs come in and I have to write those checks, that creates a physical visceral reaction in me that brings me back to time when I was eight years old, when I was scared of the fact that I didn’t have money or that I would never have money.
So there are definitely days where I’ve had total emotional breakdowns, like some PTSD spirals, severe anxiety, but at the same time, and that has been due to really difficult tenants, people who trashed my properties, people who threatened to trash my properties through my Airbnb, who I think are while they’re in there and I can do absolutely nothing about it, or everybody has those seasons in their investment journey where everything goes wrong and there’s a flood and then there’s sewage pumping into your house going the wrong way, and then there’s a hole in your roof and then there’s hail and there’s this tenant who can’t pay. And so all of that, there are times when all that hits at once. So all of that has happened, but at the same time, so my background is corporate finance. However, about a year ago I was able to step off that corporate finance career path, which was lucrative and which helped me buy these doors on my own single discretionary income.
I was able to step off of that and to join a digital media company that I was a big fan of because they disseminate personal finance content. I am obviously very passionate about people doing the most that they can to enhance their financial journeys. And I was able to step off the lucrative route to do something that I felt more strongly in line with my values because of the time I spent in real estate and I have more time freedom. I have geographic freedom now, there’s a lot that real estate has afforded me that was worth every one of those low moments.

David:
So I’m really glad you shared that part of the story when you talk about how your anxiety can get triggered and PTSD can come back because real estate is often sold as this magic pill that will get you out of your problems, but it creates just as many problems as it gets you out.

Suni:
Ding, ding, ding.

David:
You act, even though it’s empowering financially, it is also maddening because you give up so much control. There’s an element of work in a W2 job where you’re going to get that same paycheck every two weeks. And if you’re not feeling it, if you come into work hungover, if you’re distracted, you do bad work, your supervisor’s probably not going to see it for that day and you’re going to get paid the same whether you did nothing. Then you get into this world and you have no control over what your tenant does to your house. And it’s normal to feel emotions, you take it personal. When someone comes to your Airbnb and they trash it, you get angry as if they came to your house and they trashed your home and you’ll have a similar emotional response to that. Or when something goes wrong that you just couldn’t have prevented.
This is one of my grandma’s house that I bought when she died. It was one of the first rentals that I owned. One of the trees that I would climb in her front yard as a little kid grew huge. And we had huge storms in California over the weekend and the tree fell over. It’s like a humongous tree onto the roof of the house. So that’s going to be a lot of money. It’s also really sad as I’m like, oh, that tree, every time I would drive by, I would remember playing with my brothers, climbing up and down on it. But there’s nothing that I could have done to have prevented other than just maybe cutting every tree down around every home to try to stop it. But there’s still a voice that pops in your head that’s like, you should have known better. You screwed that up.
You shouldn’t be doing this. You’re not going to get the cash flow. You’re a fraud. That never stops either. Many of these things that happen, they can make you feel like you’re schizophrenic when you’re investing in real estate. And I’m just glad you’re sharing the story because you’re not the only one that feels it. I’m not the only one that feels it, but the collective listeners that own a property are like, wait, so you’re telling me it’s not just me? I’m not doing it wrong? I saw Rob’s face when I said this, and I know he was like, oh God. Rob, how many stories do you think you have of crazy Airbnb guests that just did the dumbest stuff that didn’t just wasn’t a business problem. It actually affected you emotionally, it affected your family, it affected your life, right?

Rob:
Oh man. All the time. Every day. I just had one last week. Well, actually no, the one last week was fine, but I just had a guest, oh, I don’t know. Okay, I’ll just keep this short. I had a guess that canceled their reservation because they said my wi-fi levels were too high and it was affecting their sleep. And I was just having to explain it to Airbnb. Airbnb called me and then they were like, Hey, are you cool with refunding this guest? And I was like, no, I’m not, because that’s not a thing.

David:
Put some tinfoil on your head.

Suni:
Did you see me putting with the hat motion? I was like, you going to draft off some hats?

Rob:
And then Airbnb was like, yeah, that’s what we told them. Okay, we’ll take care of it from here. And then they canceled the reservation and then the guest told Airbnb that I said that they could have the refund. It was like this whole thing. So typically that kind of stuff is no big deal because it is kind of funny, but it did take away time. I was on vacation hanging out. I had to deal with that while my wife is making food for the kids and everything like that. So it’s just stuff like that where it just interrupts your day and because it interrupts a really good moment, it just can sour the day.

Suni:
Yeah, it’s like the W2 a lot of times. Not all the time. You can leave it behind at the end of the day. And so you’re earning time and geographic freedom and different freedoms with real estate. But also if you are managing and growing this business yourself, you are on the hook when someone calls at nine o’clock or you’re on vacation, and so you can leave it, but never, not truly until you develop, grow enough or develop strong enough systems. And that can also take a toll if you have friends or loved ones who really appreciate quality time and all of a sudden you have an Airbnb guest calling you that you need to answer right then. That not a good look. And it can make things hard.

David:
And it can kind of ruin your night with those loved ones when you’re ticked off from whatever that Airbnb guest wanted. And it’s important to note that real estate, even though it’s explained, we give the benefits of it in a financial element, and it is true. It’s not like that stuff isn’t there, it’s just not the only thing that’s there. There is also an emotional side of it, and you do need to listen to podcasts like this and you need to be in a community of other people doing it, and you need to bounce these ideas. So you don’t think it’s your fault you’re doing something wrong. Or worst of all, which is what I always say, is if you lose motivation and you’re like, this isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it, that’s where you lose millions of dollars. It’s sticking with this for the long haul that builds your wealth up big. And you have to be in a healthy emotional place in order to do that.

Rob:
Well. And you got to talk about it with other people too. I think that’s really the key. If you’re struggling with this alone, it’s like that story I just told you, it’s funny, right? Because I talked about it and we laughed about it, but alone I’m just like, oh, I’m so frustrated. But when you have someone else that is also like, oh my gosh, this just happened to me too. Then you have someone to relate to, then it becomes funny and then it becomes a memory that’s yeah, okay, I’m glad it happened.

Suni:
Yeah. One of the best things that I think has been a result of real estate is the friend group that I found, especially when I moved here to Indie, most of them are investors. And it’s the first time in my life I didn’t feel crazy anymore because I had close friends, but a lot of them were like in W2s. It’s fine, they don’t understand it. They don’t live this life, how would they understand it? But it was meeting this squad where I was like, I’m not crazy. I love you. That’s all it takes, by the way.

Rob:
Well, okay, so this house is appreciated and yeah, I mean at the end of the day, it’s like you earned it. You said this at the beginning of the podcast where you get into real estate if you’re strategic about it, if you work hard, it appreciates over time. And this is really quintessential real estate here where no one’s ever going to just hand you $300,000 or half a million dollars. That doesn’t just happen unless you get very, very lucky in some weird random scenario. But you have to make that happen for yourself. And the way you do that is by buying a house and going through the trouble of running that small business. Yeah, I mean, that to me, those are different stories to me that puts probably put some gray hairs on your head, but you earned a six figure payout from that, in the form of equity. So I think that’s a good one, that’s a good one for the book. So do you still house hack now? Or did that one sort of close the door for you?

Suni:
I moved on to different house hacks. No, I just don’t have roommates anymore. That, I refuse. I’m all about the hustle, but I won’t have anyone in my home anymore.

Rob:
Sure.

Suni:
Sure. So then my next duplex, this was emotionally, this was a really big step forward because that last house hack was in way out in the suburbs in an area that I did not want to live in. When I was in Boston for years, I was living out in the suburbs and driving an hour and a half into the city. So I was always making these decisions for housing based upon cost. And usually I didn’t have enough money to live like I wanted to. And so my next duplex was close to downtown. It was in a phenomenal area. I’m still in it now. And that was a duplex, I’m almost done turning it into a triplex and that I forced appreciation over 50% in about a year, maybe eight months, eight, nine months time. That was before I started the triplex journey, and I’ve had my mortgage paid for the last year. So that’s pretty cool.

Rob:
So you forced appreciation, just so we’re understanding it’s a duplex because you added a third unit or because you’re adding it now has made the property appreciation rise 50%.

Suni:
This was before the third unit. I’m pretty stoked to see what’s going to happen after I add the third unit. I haven’t because at that point there aren’t comps in terms of sales at that point. It would have to be assessed on an income approach and I would have to do the math to figure that out. I don’t know what it is yet, but I added value by adding, by finishing out a bathroom on each side by doing cosmetic renovations that it really needed because it was out of date. And just knowing that the area that I was buying in. So that is the big thing for me because while a property is under debt, great, 200 bucks a month, phenomenal. If you’re doing a long-term rental that helps your life, cool. If you pay it off, then what?
Maybe you net like 1,012 hundred a month. That’s also super cool. But nothing really compares to, and I know a lot of people will say it’s dead, but nothing really compares to the equity growth over time. And then being able to in one or two or three years, being able to tap into that equity to then grow your portfolio more. So I pay a lot of attention to where I can force appreciation on a property, whether that is through strategic renovations or I know that people are doing X, Y, and Z in the area that would increase the property value in a three-year time horizon.

David:
Okay. Suni, last question very briefly before we move on to the deal deep dive. You’re clearly structuring your real estate portfolio in a very specific way, likely because you feel it’s either safer, going to give you more freedom, going to help you meet some kind of goal. Can you give us a brief summary of how you are structuring the portfolio, why you did it that way and what you want to accomplish?

Suni:
Yeah, I think I always go back to the quote, begin with the end in mind. Everything I do, every investment I make, I am thinking long term, is this going to make my life easier? What do I want that life to look like? And so that means buying higher class properties for the most part, like B plus BB plus, making sure that I can have good tenants in there, tenants who are more or less like me because I manage it and not, I honestly don’t even buy that much. And that is also strategic because of my own financial trauma that I’ve been overcoming and working through these last few years.
I love real estate. I will be in real estate for a very long time, but it is a vehicle to be able to do cool things in my life, to have fun. I want to launch another business. I want to do other things and get different offerings out there that aren’t necessarily entirely just real estate based. But the time that real estate will buy me with the income it provides is going to be the base of that life. So everything I do, is what I buy going to help that or hinder that.

David:
Awesome. Okay. That is fantastic and I appreciate you sharing that. Please, everybody, keep that in mind. Don’t just say, I need to buy a house. Get out and buy a house. I mean, there’s an element where you do need to get out there and take action, but once action’s been taken, start thinking strategically. What is the end goal? What do you want? Which type of assets are going to help get you there? So it’s tempting and it’s easier to just see someone else’s path and say, oh, that’s what Suni did, that’s what Rob did. Let me just go do that. But you don’t know that you want Suni’s life and you don’t know that you want Rob’s life and you don’t know that you have their skillset, right? Not every tennis player plays the game the exact same way. Andy Roddick played different than Roger Federer because they had different skills. And real estate investing is the same thing. The better you know yourself, the better you know your goals, the more likely you are to set yourself up with a portfolio that doesn’t make you hate every single day.

Rob:
Yes, great, great tennis player references, David.

Suni:
I concur.

Rob:
I think tennis players, pretty sure.

David:
Don’t you love this. This was the way it was with Brandon too. He’s like, is that Michael Jordan? Is that a fashion designer? Who is that? See?

Rob:
Well, he is a baseball player. He’s a golfer technically.

David:
All right, Suni, we’re going to move on to the next time of our show. It is our deal deep dive. In this segment of the show, we are going to dive deep into a particular deal of yours, and we’re going to take turns firing questions back and forth. So question number one, what kind of property is this?

Suni:
Single family, four bedroom two and a half bath.

Rob:
Question number two, how did you find it?

Suni:
I found it because I was sad because I got dumped like all great stories and one of my best friends got really tired of me just lamenting on, and he was like, you want to go look at this house? And I was like, oh, a house? Yes, let’s go.

David:
Real talk. I’ve never said this to anyone. The biggest bursts of buying in my life have come after being dumped. It’s a hundred percent true. That’s my retail therapy. I’m like, duh, I’m just going to go buy seven houses right now. I’m going to get six figures in debt. That’s exactly how it happened. Every time I…

Suni:
I’m like, I’m going to be awesome. Screw them.

David:
Yes, I see you, Suni. All right. How much was this house?

Suni:
It was 75K to purchase and 25K to rehab, and the ARV was about 125.

Rob:
Okay. Question four, how did you negotiate it?

Suni:
So this was actually interesting because you know how you usually buy a house, then you have your team come in and rehab, et cetera. Well, the friend that was tired of me owned the house. He had bought it with his business partner. He and his business partner had a team in-house to rehab. And so basically I talked to them and I was like, listen, I’m probably not going to be the strongest buyer. This is why this is not going to be the strongest offer, but I will close. And so here are my constraints and here’s why I am negotiating a little bit more stringently. And so that opened up a dialogue sharing my constraints, not just being like, here’s my offer, take it or leave it. And so we ended up negotiating so that they essentially wouldn’t make a ton on the purchase, but I was about to spend 25K on the rehab anyway, and they could get the rehab done for a lot cheaper given that they already had the people.
And so they were like, let us handle your rehab. And so while that might not always be the best option, given that I had a close relationship with one half of said partnership, I was like A, okay. And then they were like, B, will you do some of the cosmetic work? And I was like, okay. And so I ended up doing some of the cosmetics and then they ended up getting a slightly larger take since they could do the rehab themselves. And I ended up fitting it all into my numbers. And that is where the good parts of the deal ended, because after that it goes downhill. And that’s when I hated every day of my life for quite a while.

David:
Oh yes, I know that feeling too. All right, so next question. How did you fund this deal?

Suni:
So that was through private lending with my very first private lender. He gave me the cash for the purchase, I funded the rehab, and then six months later I refinanced him out.

Rob:
Question number six, what did you do with it? Flip, BRRRR, rental, all of the above?

Suni:
I lost my mind. I cried a lot. I had an actual panic attack, multiple. So I bought it. I rented it out long term. I got a two-year lease on it. Things were great until Covid. I did end up selling it in the fall of 2021. After all of that, I only made about 10K because I had the absolute worst tenant. And this is my last time. So I’m sure plenty of people do really, I know plenty of people do really well on C, C minus properties, but it was just not for me more, mostly because of the person I ended up having to deal with. And I don’t have to deal with that with any of my other rentals. So when Covid came, there was an issue with income as with many. But the problem was two-fold. One, she was trashing my property. Two, she decided that instead of paying rent, she was going to call public health on me. Even though I had record of making all the fixes that she’d reported, she called going to call public health on me to show them the mess that she had made.

Rob:
Interesting.

Suni:
And blame it on me. And then to make matters worse. So this happened one time and then public health came back and I don’t know what it’s like in other cities. I just know in Indianapolis, then they will ding you for any little thing. The door gym is a little sticky, new door. This is our recommended fix. This is a little off fix the entire kitchen sink. You need a little [inaudible 00:48:13], you need a new sink. It was just like this absolute chaotic list of stuff. And then I was still using a property manager. Then property manager sends out like a contractor, contractor contacts me directly and tells me, wow, you have a couple options. All of the options involve tearing off the roof of the house. And I’m like, what’s wrong with the roof? What is wrong with the roof? And all of his options went from 30,000 to like $50,000. And then I had an emotional breakdown with the tenants still living there. Why are neither of you as amused as I am?

Rob:
No. I wanted you to get it all out first. And then I have several follow-up questions. First one being, did you change out the roof?

Suni:
No, I didn’t change out the roof. I changed out the contractor after my meltdown.

Rob:
That’s a lot cheaper sometimes. I changed out the contractor, I love it.

David:
Change out the tenant.

Suni:
Well, I couldn’t, there is a lease. She was in violation of the lease. She had animals, she had this, she had that. But to actually prove that and get them out like that, I couldn’t, my hands were tied. Sure, sure. So eventually I brought up cash for keys. Multiple times. She kept saying no. She kept saying no. And then finally the following summer, she said yes. So I got her out, fixed it up, sold it. That house was cursed. And you know what? I think it’s still kind of cursed because it’s been on the market and no one’s rented it for seven months. I keep going back on Zillow to see if anyone’s rented. And I was like, that house, there’s some bad juju there. Someone needs to sage it. I do not offer to sage it.

David:
Okay, so we got the outcome. Next question would be, what lessons did you learn from this deal?

Suni:
Okay, so before that I had stuck to my criteria. All my properties had appreciated by 40K a year for two years or whatever because of the areas I was buying in, what I knew would work, what I knew was a mispriced asset, but I kept hearing people talking about the cash flow, how great it is to be in the C class, et cetera, et cetera. And so this was a lower class area. And so this was my foray into kind of like, let me see what they’re talking about. Things are going well for me. I have a little bit of room to experiment. Let me just try and see if this can also work for me.
Yeah, I mean, I wish I could say I had misgivings at the time, but I was mostly just curious and not wanting to leave a stone unturned. If I could accelerate my financial journey. After that, I was like, no, we are not doing that again. In the four years I’ve done this, I’ve not had 25% of the problems from all of my other tenants combined compared to what I had from this one woman. So if there’s one thing I learned, it’s trust yourself. At the end no one else is going to pay the price if you make a bad decision.
I have a lot of investors come up to me going, “Hey Suni what should I do?” And I’m like, I can give you, all the feedback that you want. A, my feedback’s always going to be biased by my own risk tolerance. And B, what does my feedback truly matter? I can give you things to think about, but I don’t have to pay for the decisions that you make. You have to pay for the decisions that you make. So you better do your due diligence and think through your thought process and figure out what works for you and act accordingly.

Rob:
Love that. Okay, well great lessons there. Was there any particular hero on your team for this deal?

Suni:
I mean, the best part of this deal was doing it with one of my best friends. So I still think about those times where he came over and I’m like semi high off paint fumes because I’d been painting for four hours and my face four inches from the cabinets with no mask on. And this was someone I met through the BP forums initially and then later on a Facebook group for out-of-state investors and he’s become one of my best friends and a fellow investor the four years since. So go BP forums. Who would’ve thought

Rob:
That’s amazing. Well, if you want to connect with more people, be sure to go to the BiggerPockets forums over at biggerpockets.com. They’re ding this podcast brought to you by BiggerPockets, which we’re allowed to say. I can say that because it’s us, it’s our forum.

Suni:
Well, can you say that it’s brought to you by BiggerPockets because it is bigger pockets.

Rob:
It’s brought to you by me and David.

David:
Brought to you by Rob’s attempts to step out of his comfort zone for the third time since joining this podcast. That was him trying to wing that Suni. That was pretty good. Very nice, Rob. Very nice. Usually I’m the one who gets to question number nine, so it’s usually me saying that and he’s like, oh God, oh God, oh God, he passed me the ball at the fourth quarter. This isn’t usually what I do.

Speaker 5:
Famous Four.

David:
All right, Suni, we’re going to move on to the last segment of our show. This is our world famous, Famous Four. Question number one, what is your favorite real estate book?

Suni:
OG BP fan Girl. Come on guys. So I’m just going to rattle off a couple of my favorite BP books, Raising Private Capital, Matt Faircloth. That was the blueprint for getting my private lenders. Real talk, before I read that book, I had an idea, I’d done research about the documents needed, et cetera. Had someone reach out to me who was a VC out in San Fran, like a friend of a friend. And I never could get a deal funded by him until I read that book because I realized where I was falling short with some of the documentation and some of the language and some of his concerns and some of the things that I should be concerned about. So really love that book if anyone’s considering private lending. Number two, because I’m a big J. Scott fan, Recession Proof Real Estate Investing. Really good to have mental models and kind of frameworks to think through markets.
I think we have an idea of what’s going on in various markets, but I really love being able to have almost like a checklist. Is it A, B, C? Is it D, E, F? Where does it fit? That helps me make decisions. And then recent book, 30-Day Stay, the one written by Zeona. I really like that one as well. Medium term rentals are pretty cool, and I really like the blend of both anecdotal stories that are not just based on one person’s experience, but multiple folks experiences in midterm rentals and also the frameworks and actual data provided to help someone on their journey.

David:
All right, next question. Oh, actually the next question is by you.

Rob:
That’s mine. Hey. Hey. Sit down, sir.

Suni:
Look at you guys.

Rob:
Let me get the ball in the goal.

David:
Trying a ball hog.

Rob:
Favorite business book, Suni.

Suni:
Okay, so this is not one that I’ve heard before, but it’s one that I highly recommend, slightly untraditional. So I really think a lot of success in business, especially in real estate, it has to do with relationships. It’s easier to build strong relationships when you can present yourself well. And so there’s this book that I really love called Cues by Vanessa Van Edwards, where she talks about the importance of charisma and how charismatic people do well in life or in business. And she talks about how charisma is the perfect blend of warmth, which makes people like you and competence, which makes people trust you. And she gives actionable feedback in terms of vocal cues, body language, et cetera, to help you think about what you’re doing and where you’re landing on that scale.

Rob:
Awesome. All right. So when you’re not out there crushing everything, what are some of your hobbies?

Suni:
Legitimately? I hate this question. I really do because you’re talking to a group of real estate investors. Who has hobbies, who has time for hobbies? This is not just me who’s uncool. I know this.

Rob:
That’s true.

Suni:
Okay, rant’s over. I don’t know. I like to travel.

Rob:
I love that you give a real hobby after that.

Suni:
I mean, is it though? Everybody likes to travel.

David:
Is traveling a hobby? I know. It’s just the thing we do while we’re doing real estate. It’s funny you made me think of if you ask Mr. Olympian or some professional fitness person, what are your hobbies? They’re like, I don’t know. Sometimes I take this route to the gym instead of that route. Sometimes I shop at Trader Joe’s instead of Whole Foods. When you’re that committed to something, you rarely do other stuff. It is true. We get very insecure when people ask about our hobbies. We’re like, oh don’t.

Suni:
I get so insecure when people ask about my hobbies because then I’m like, I know I’m not uninteresting. I know I’m entertaining. I don’t have to learn how to flip cards in order to entertain you. Just sit there and listen to me for half an hour.

Rob:
That’s true. Because I mean, real estate is your hobby when you first get started, right? It’s your side hustle, it’s your hobby, and then you get really good at it and then it becomes your full-time thing. So it seems lame to be like, well, this is my hobby, the thing that I do full-time. But it actually was and it actually is, but it’s also your livelihood.

David:
In your opinion, what sets apart successful investors from those who give up fail or never get started?

Suni:
Education, resiliency, and vision. I think that those would be my three. One, you have to know what you’re doing. Two, you have to not ever give up. And three, you have to know where you’re going and build the education and the resiliency so that you can get to that vision. Know what you have to overcome and keep overcoming it while you’re keeping that vision in mind. Does that make sense?

Rob:
Yeah. Yeah. Amazing. Well, Suni, can you tell us where people can find out more about you. If they want to learn about you, if they want to connect with you, where can people find you on the internet?

Suni:
Sure. So I have a website, griffixpropertygroup.com. G-R-I-F-F-I-X property group. Also, I’m on Instagram, Suni, S-U-N-I underscore Rao R-A-O underscore. I guess you guys will put in the show notes.

David:
Was there that many Suni Raos that you needed an underscore on both ends of Rao

Suni:
Apparently, I was told that my handle looks like a scammers and I was like, I don’t know what else to do. I keep trying.

David:
It has that unnecessary.

Suni:
If anyone has a better idea for a handle, please DM me.

Rob:
I got it.

Suni:
You do? Okay. Let’s do this.

Rob:
Sunny underscore Rao 24. David, what can people learn more about you?

David:
That’s an inside joke.

Rob:
It’s about all will be revealed in five seconds.

David:
Yeah, you can find me on David Greene 24 on all of social media, including YouTube. Not because I was a professional athlete, not because I was Olympian, not because I worked 24 hours a day because that was my basketball number in high school. And I am so uncreative that when I was making one there was already a David Greene and that was what I came up with and I’m now stuck with it for the rest of my days.

Suni:
You could just have four underscores like me.

David:
Well see, my scammers have already taken all those. There’s a whole bunch of David Greeneys, David Grenz, David Greene 224, David Greene dot 24. Yeah, David Greeney. So now I can’t even switch it because it’s already been stolen. So as a public service announcement, please don’t send Rob, I, or Suni any money for anything. We will not be soliciting you via DM we probably won’t even be reaching out to follow you unless you followed us first or you said something cool in the DM. So be very careful. There’s a lot of strangers running around in white vans out there and the social media webs trying to pull you into their dark places, so don’t fall for it.

Rob:
The proverbial van.

David:
The proverbial white van. That’s right. Rob, how about you? Where can people find out about you?

Rob:
You can find me at Robuilt on YouTube. R-O-B-U-I-L-T. Robuilt on Instagram. And if you like this episode, which I know you did, and if you were inspired by it, which I know you were, would you consider leaving us a five-star review on Apple Podcast? I’m not going to stop asking that until I see 100 new reviews. It really does help us guys. It really, really, really does help us get served up to all the masses that we can help other people change your lives through real estate. It would mean the world to me and I know to David too.

David:
Absolutely. And if you’re inspired by Suni and her story, if you could please go to YouTube and leave us a comment and just say what you liked about her or how it made you feel, or if you could relate to any of the stuff that we shared, we would appreciate that also. Suni, this has been a fantastic episode. Thank you so much for being willing to sort of pull back the curtain and show us the good, the bad, the ugly, the crazy, the beautiful, all the parts that go into real estate and the story that you have shared and lived so far. Is there any last words you’d like to share with the audience before we let you get out of here?

Suni:
I should have prepared for this, but no.

Rob:
Yes,

Suni:
I know this. I knew this was coming, but this is the part I forgot.

Rob:
Same. He always asked me afterwards. And now David, you can ask me and then I won’t feel so scared to follow up a great statement.

David:
Because you’re in good company.

Rob:
Because I’m in good company. That’s right.

David:
All right, well with that being said, I will let you get out of here. Guys. Go listen to this show again. It was a really good one. And if you have done it twice, check out another BiggerPockets podcast. We got tons of them out there. This is David Greene for Rob Black Pocket T. Abasolo signing off.

 

 

Help us reach new listeners on iTunes by leaving us a rating and review! It takes just 30 seconds and instructions can be found here. Thanks! We really appreciate it!

Interested in learning more about today’s sponsors or becoming a BiggerPockets partner yourself? Check out our sponsor page!

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.



Source link

Related Posts