Barbara Grassey

Drinking Coffee Cropped
Landlordette: Let’s start from the beginning…give us a brief recap of who you are, where you came from, your business etc.!

Barbara: I grew up in a real estate family — both my parents were brokers and my dad invested in real estate. As a kid, I’d go with him to “help” him fix up houses. I got into investing in 2001, just in time for the run up and the crash. I ran a subgroup for Tampa Bay REIA which launched me into speaking and teaching. I moved south of Sarasota in 2009 and I started West Florida REIA around 5 or 6 years ago.

Landlordette: What inspired you to get where you are at today?

Barbara: My dad had the typical investor woes — nonpaying tenants, trashed houses–all the fun that comes with landlording. But, he was slowly working his way up to better and better houses. One of his last deals was a house on 7 acres that we moved into. He set it up so that after he passed away, my mom could subdivide the land, sell it off and have a retirement. That last deal took care of my mom.

Landlordette: Throughout your career what have been your biggest struggles?

Barbara: When I started out, I was working with little to no capital. You need back up money to be a landlord, to take care of your tenants, to fix things when they break. You can do no money down deals, I can do them all day long, but everything is a lot easier with money.

The crash, of course, was stressful. I had sold my properties and had gone to cash but I stepped back in and got a 4 plex under contract. My intention was to just flip the deal, but there were no takers. I used hard money, rehabbed the entire place and financed out of the hard money – all my numbers were right. But the loan came in 4 points higher than I was told and the title agent basically said take it or leave it. (The lender was shut down by the SEC that same weekend for predatory lending – go figure.) The change in the interest rate created a negative cash flow, then the market values took a dive. I tried to keep it going for over a year, but it was good money chasing after bad. I did a short sale out of it and kissed landlording goodbye.

Landlordette: How did you overcome these ups and downs? What advice would you give to people in that position?

Barbara: You leverage yourself up. I like the strategy of buying three properties, flipping two and keeping one. If you don’t have money to work with, birddog or wholesale to build up your cash. After that, if you want to be a buy and hold investor, learn how to manage well.

I’d also advise new people to hold onto their money — don’t spend $20,000 on a TV guru. Go to your local REIA, see if you even like investing before you spend that kind of money. I have people in my REIA who spent anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 on mentors and boot camps and still don’t know how to learn the market or do a deal. And now they have no money to work with even if they could find a deal.

Jenna and Me SF 1-31-13
Landlordette: If you could, would you change anything about your journey?

Barbara: Of course! I’d start life over with a trust fund that gave me all the money I needed and wanted.. I’m not one of those people who would still work after winning the lottery. I’d be all, “Bye, Felicia!” Seriously.  And I’d be naturally thin.

That being said, I’d invest in larger projects – small apartment complexes and have management in place. I would not be in the trenches, putting down tile. Been there, done that.

Landlordette: Has luck played a meaningful role getting you where you are today?

Barbara: Yes. I was lucky to be born in the US. Lucky to attend good public schools. Lucky to have two parents who cared. Lucky to live in an area that had so many real estate gurus that you could just sit with at a meeting and learn from. I started investing in Pinellas County, Florida and the Tampa Bay area was ground zero for the “Old Guard” real estate gurus:  Jack Miller, John Schaub, Pete Fortunato, Jay Turner…  these are the guys who invented creative real estate back before there were books and courses and dog and pony shows.

Landlordette: Let’s talk real estate…what do you think will be the biggest changes in the industry over the next few years?

Barbara: Technology is changing a lot of the ways we do real estate. From finding properties online, being able to look at the neighborhood through Google earth, finding out as much info as you can about the property and the owner with a few clicks. You also have foreclosure auctions and tax deed certificate sales taking place online. Real estate is still a people business, but a lot of the preliminary work is getting easier due to technology. I can check the property appraiser’s records, find out that someone just picked up the property two weeks ago and has slammed some ridiculous upcharge on it without doing any work. If I know what someone paid for a property, when they bought it and how it was financed (pretty much all public record) I have a stronger negotiating position. I can also take a look and see how many other properties they have (unless they are smart enough to use separate property trusts). If someone has 20 properties, it’s going to be a different negotiation than with someone who has three.

Landlordette: Any mentors? Who has played a meaningful role in getting you where you are today?

Barbara: I can’t say that I had any formal mentors but I get to hang out with some heavy hitters. I did read just about every real estate book that was available before I started investing — stuff from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Old school stuff that you can still use today, though some of it needs a little tweaking.Election Day (1)

 A couple fun questions…If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?

Barbara: Instantaneous travel — is that a superpower? I am a time optimist and I always think that it’s going to take less time to get somewhere than it actually does. Which is why I try to leave early. If I could learn to crack the time/space continuum, my life would be complete.

Landlordette: Would you rather have an all expense paid wardrobe or vacation?

Barbara: Vacation for sure. I’m happy in my jeans.