The following conversation was conducted over email and edited for flow and clarity.
Kimike Clark is a licensed realtor in the Greater Los Angeles, California area, and Metro Detroit, Michigan. She’s spent over 15 years in the residential homes market and the last five years in commercial real estate and property management. In this interview, we talk about how Kimike invests in real estate and consults investors interested in acquiring single family investment properties and vacation rental homes.
Acquania of Wealth Noir (WN): Kimike thanks for your willingness to share your story with our readers. How did you get started in real estate?
Kimike Clark: My love for real estate started when I was able to be part of a new construction modular home build at the age of 18. This was when the industry was becoming more advanced with the mobile home process, making them feel more like a house and less like a structure that wasn’t permanent. Shortly after, I purchased my very first home, and I knew from then on I wanted to make the home buying process a fun experience for people like me.
WN: That’s great! Tell us more about your first investment property. Why did you become a real estate investor?
Kimike Clark: I knew early on that I wanted to own investment properties. It was a wealth-building tradition in my family and while land-lording wasn’t a particularly glamorous job, I just knew I could be good at it. It was important to me to find the best deal, so I set out specifically to get my real estate license so that I could have access to information quickly. This idea to become licensed paid off quickly because I was able to purchase my first investment home for a mere $12,000. I knew at the time if I didn’t have an inside scoop I wouldn’t have been so lucky.
WN: What a deal. Now that you have been investing awhile, what is in your real estate investment portfolio today?
Kimike Clark: I own one rental property located in Detroit, Michigan. I am looking to grow it to one more single family home by the end of 2020.
WN: What motivated you to go from a realtor and real estate investor to someone who also manages short term rentals like Airbnbs? Did you see it as an income-generating opportunity or were you solving a problem for an existing client?
Kimike Clark: Being a realtor was always the vehicle I planned to use to acquire the investment properties. Though I love my profession and I love helping others, the initial intent was to use it to put myself front and center of the market. I believe with technology, buyers have so much more access to information now, but when I started out many years ago, information was limited.
As an investor, I never wanted someone else to have control over my access to acquire properties, so by removing the middleman, it put me at an advantage and gave me a little bit of leverage. As a realtor with a niche in investment homes, I often worked with many clients that needed someone who could manage everything from closing to obtaining a tenant. The process came so naturally to me, so once I moved to California I continued down the path to manage portfolios for investors. In California, the investment market is much larger, so my clients eventually expanded to commercial real estate and then vacation rentals, because Los Angeles is a tourist hub and the vacation rental space is really big here.
WN: That’s very interesting. I understand you also help underwrite commercial deals and run and acquire multi-families units, strip malls, and airbnbs all remotely from Los Angeles. How do you find good deals for your clients and what types of information do review before suggesting a purchase?
Kimike Clark: Yes, many of the commercial deals are acquired through auction platforms. The owner usually hires outside commercial agents to gather the data for potential buyers to review. These documents usually include performance data over the course of ownership, vacancy rates, future developments in the area, expense reports, property improvements, and city population data.
WN: How do you manage properties from a distance? Who helps you and how do you find the right contractors or companies?
Kimike Clark: Managing properties out of state is a very delicate but fun process. I must say it requires a lot of time, patience and access to technology. However, it’s very rewarding when done correctly. When I manage out of state properties, I have a team on the ground. They are in place to visit city departments for permits and inspect and document the daily progress.
I typically schedule one or two on-site visits to layout plans, create a timeline and set expectations for my team. Communication is extremely important and is a key factor in meeting specific deadlines. When I am looking for contractors, I always look for those with good communication skills, a solid track record, and a process in place to get invoicing done quickly and efficiently.
WN: Previously you mentioned you are also a licensed realtor in Michigan, your home state. What unique investment opportunities have you found in Michigan that are not readily available in California?
Kimike Clark: Investment opportunities are plenty in the Greater Metro Detroit area. The city is currently working with communities and homeowners to fight the blight in particularly impoverished neighborhoods. I think Detroit is a great place to learn the industry without losing your hat, because the home prices are extremely low compared to places like California and New York. I am currently working on a project to help homeowners acquire vacant lots in their neighborhoods for as little as $100.00. If you are a homeowner, you can purchase land next to you and develop on it.
WN: Oh! Can you share more about the project you are working on? What has been your experience so far and what’s the bigger plan?
Kimike Clark: The current project I am working on is two fold. My team currently scouts neighborhoods that have little to no development. We go door to door to get owners to engage with us and to educate them about the cost of the lots near their home. The second part is building a team to rehab homes as volunteers. Collectively we work on projects until completion to help lower the rehab cost by volunteering our time to homeowners. The big picture will be to put as much land and single family homes back into the communities’ hands. It’s a rather large undertaking, but I am confident we are building momentum.
WN: How did you make the decision to go into business for yourself?
Kimike Clark: Prior to starting my own company, I worked in the government sector for 11 years. I worked with everything from business start ups to sales taxes and unemployment. That position allowed me to see various aspects of entrepreneurship and I was always excited to help business owners get their businesses off the ground. Usually speaking to someone in government was the first step for them, and I was usually the first point of contact. So, I spoke to a lot of entrepreneurs on a regular basis. Starting my own consulting firm wasn’t always something I wanted to do. It sort of just came with the territory and grew due to helping clients buy and sell real estate.
WN: As a realtor, what have been some challenges in your career? What advice would you give to someone also interested in your profession?
Kimike Clark: I think my biggest challenge is technology. Buyers have so much access to information now, but don’t realize they still need help when buying or selling. Lots of times, realtors end up fixing a problem after a client tried to do something on their own. The clean up process can be much more time consuming. My advice would be to get into the industry to help people versus make money. Of course money is important, but I always encourage people to do something because they love it. That way when the going gets tough it’s a lot easier to navigate.
WN: California is a pricey real estate market. What advice do you have for someone who wants to own real estate in a high-cost area but feels it’s too expensive?
Kimike Clark: There is a misconception that California is too expensive of a market to start out in and that is simply not true. There are plenty of first time home buyer programs and programs specifically for investing. Crowdfunding is also a new way of obtaining financing for a new home. Don’t give up, just reach out to a professional to help you navigate the process.
WN: Thanks, Kimike, for providing that insight into the Michigan and California real estate markets. I am rooting for your success in both states! Guys, if you liked what you read, follow Kimike on Instagram to watch her real estate ventures in action.
Acquania Escarne is the creator of The Purpose of Money, a community of women building generational wealth for their families one dollar at a time. As an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and licensed insurance agent, Acquania has always been passionate about financial literacy. On her website, Acquania blogs about ways to help you improve your money habits, create wealth, and invest in real estate. Follow Acquania on social media for daily tips.