Q&A with Cara, Attorney & Real Estate Investor
I had been following Cara’s Instagram feed (@camcarinvestments) and appreciated her real life portrayal of real estate investing. I had the opportunity to talk with her and learn how she got started, her goals for the future, and what it’s like sharing it all on Instagram.
Q: How did you get into real estate investing and what was your first purchase?
Cara: My first investment was our first home my husband and I built after we got married. That was 10 years ago, right as the market was crashing. Looking back, we probably should have bought a foreclosure, but instead we decided on new construction. We didn't think we would be there forever and 5 years later my husband took a new job out of state and we needed to move. We decided to keep the home and rent it out rather than sell it. We still own the property today and have had the same tenant all those years.
Q: How do you manage the property from another state? Do you use a property manager?
Cara: I manage the property myself — from several states away! I found that with a quality tenant, managing a rental from a distance can be quite easy. My current renter is a good tenant and he communicates well. He is handy and willing to fix some things himself. He does call me when larger issues come up like with the AC or refrigerator. It has been a great experience and I feel fortunate that things have gone so well.
Q: What would you say has contributed to creating a long-term tenant relationship?
Cara: Communication is a big piece. I understand that life happens. For example, if rent is going to be late, there is good communication both ways to keep us on the same page. He knows I will treat him with decency, and he pays that back with how he treats the property. I have also found the condition of the property raises his expectations of what it means to live there. He takes care of the quality house I have provided.
Q: What is your "Why" for investing in real estate? What goals you are working toward?
Cara: I was a practicing attorney and am licensed in 3 states, but when my 2nd child was born it wasn't practical for our family for me to go back to work. I wanted to make investments for my family and kids’ future without being tied down to 9-5 job. My goal is to create a portfolio for my kids’ future. I also like being able to show the tangible aspect of investing with them.
Q: What has helped you gain confidence in investing?
Cara: I have a realtor friend who helped us purchase our current home. She also has a construction company and investment property. After getting settled into our new place, I contacted her asking to invest money for me. Instead, she encouraged me to do this for myself. I spent about seven months walking properties, connected with a wholesaler, and getting familiar with the process. I learned so much during that time and built the confidence to do it myself. I hope to repay to others the support I received when I was starting out.
Q: What mental blocks or challenges do you most commonly talk yourself through?
Cara: There is always a problem to solve! There is always something that doesn't go according to plan and I have to figure out a solution within my budget. Along the way, I have learned that there is also always a solution. It has taken me some time to get used to the number of things that are outside of my control, like the weather, appraisals, city permits, and contractors. With my background as an attorney, I used to have the control. Now many times it is the littlest detail that can upend your whole week — like running short on tile and then finding out it is out of stock! Now that I have been doing this awhile, I know it won't always be easy, so I have learned to take out the emotions and have faith that I can solve whatever problem put in front of me.
Q: You recently began sharing your real estate journey on Instagram. What are your first impressions?
Cara: The biggest thing I am now aware of is that no matter how much I plan to share on Instagram, it is easy to forget to document what happened when you are in the thick of it. Plus, there are so many tiny little details that are impossible to convey to others — all the phone calls, text messages, decisions, coordination — 90% of what I do doesn't even make it to Instagram. Unless you have a film crew and an editor, it’s impossible to craft everything into a story. So, my biggest take away is for newer investors to realize there is so much more to learn than just what you see others doing on Instagram.
I have also found that people don't talk enough about the challenges. I try to highlight providing quality rentals on a budget and how hard it can be to stick with the numbers on things like flooring, counters, and finishes. The budget is key and getting a high return is the ultimate goal, but you need to make it nice and have a long-term relationship with the tenant. It can be hard to bring that all together in one Instagram post!