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Rocket Your Dollar Ep. 24: Real Estate Investing for Social Good

Rocket Your Dollar Ep. 24: Real Estate Investing for Social Good

What does social good mean? For Elizabeth Quintanilla, it means asking herself how she can lift generations and especially aspiring business people. That is the responsibility she takes on as a self-directed real estate investor.



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Thomas Young: Thanks for joining us and let's jump in. Welcome back everyone to the Rocket Your Dollar podcast. Today I'm stoked to have

Elizabeth Quintanilla with us. Elizabeth and I met socially a few months ago, maybe about six months ago and since then we've started working professionally together. I know that myself and the rest of our marketing team is excited to have her with us in the office and we're learning a ton from her.

Thomas: A little bit about Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a positive creative people-oriented, performance-driven marketing gunslinger. As a consultant and speaker. She focuses on understanding the customer perspective and consults on a variety of topics, be it online technologies and strategies, social business marketing, both traditional online social content, go to market strategies. She is also a product marketer and a demand generation, we'll say it again, gunslinger. She has a broad base of experience in multiple industries including aerospace, franchise, IT, software and real estate. As an expert communicator, she explains complex concepts such as what we do at Rocket Dollar and understandable terms and delivers high-quality creative solutions to ensure product and customer success.

We'll make sure that everybody knows how to get in touch with her after the show if anybody has any questions, but today I am excited to have her on the show to talk about a couple of things. One of them is her experience in the real estate world. She's done I think over 90 transactions it is. She is familiar with hard money lending, self-directed investing, all of these things that we talk about and she's also a marketer and I want to dig into that and how customer-focused marketing and people-focused marketing can make a company successful. And we are benefiting from that at Rocket Dollars. So Elizabeth, thank you for being here.

Elizabeth: It's my pleasure to be here. So yeah, I am very excited to talk about and share my experiences because anyone can be a real estate investor, but you have to know what your strength is in this. And there are certain things that I wish I knew ahead of time, especially about self-directed investing that would have been more fun in my real estate career.

Thomas: Right. And you said something good. It's you have to know what you're good at and take stock of what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are and either focus on your strengths or shore up weaknesses or hire for your weaknesses, whatever it may be.

Elizabeth: Better yet, partner.

Thomas: Right, right.

Elizabeth: Partner with others. Because in real estate investing, it's a partnership world. For example, I pulled my hair out if I have to choose between one metallic coated fridge between another metallic coated fridge and another metallic coated fridge. I'm just thinking they all look the same to me. But if your partner with the right design, interior decorator, slash person who wants to manage the contractors, you have a winner.

Thomas: Right. Well, let's take it back even a little bit more. How did you get into real estate and what, what was your background before you decided to step into the world of real estate investing?

Elizabeth: Way back when I had a cool mentor and I looked at it the way he was retired and he's awesome. He was a navigator in the military and basically, that means the backseat pilot for high-performance aircraft and well, how he retired off of his military is he became a realtor after post-military career. Once he was retired, all he had his 20 properties in Austin and that's how he retired. And I mean he uses a little bit of his military pension, but we all know that military veterans if you don't go all the way through officer and career professional, their pensions are so small.\

He acquired 20 properties and rented and then he gets to do whatever. He wants and he has an Elise and so it was fun to go to the British car shows and going, it was like, "Wait a minute, how did you do this? I want to be like you at retirement? I think one of the things that people forget in real estate has patience.

Thomas: Yeah, I think that's a really important part is going out and buying a house might be easy, especially if you have the money sitting there, but there's so much more that goes into a real estate transaction. It's not like buying a piece of stock or going on Robinhood buys, E-Trade or whatever. It's, there are some formulas that you have to take the time to learn and see what makes sense in terms of cost rental income if it's going to appreciate. Maybe you're just an equity play, but there's a lot into it and mentorship I think for real estate is really important.

Elizabeth: Right. Having surrounding yourself by the right people and having multiple different points of view. So for example, that some of his properties haven't appreciated here in Austin because he was actually ... Some of his early properties were section eight housing cause that's what he could afford when he first was getting started and he realized they were nice cash flowing properties that he was able to build other stockpiles of cash to do more acquisition with. And then eventually he moved to a little bit nicer housing.

Thomas: Right. Yeah and I think that I'm looking maybe in the next three years to like buy my first property and I haven't decided ... Well, the one thing I know is that I don't want it to be a single-family home that I live in. I want to continue renting the apartment that I love, but I love the idea of having that cash flowing property and I don't know where it'll be. But there's so much that I need to learn. But for now and making that transaction. There's a lot.

Elizabeth: Yeah, there's a lot and there's a lot ... a lot of great websites. So I'm a very active subscriber in the bigger pockets and I do more reading than commenting, so you can call me as like one of those lurkers on their network. But I love reading their emails and seeing what people other people do. But you figure out what your strengths are. And ironically, even though I have a background in engineering, since I have a master's in engineering as well as an MBA, I should be very strong in spreadsheets and analysis and looking at really the cost accounting. And that's just a piece of it. What the other people don't realize. There's a large human component. And, in my case and also in the case of my mentor, there's a social good component because there needs to be adequate housing for people

Thomas: Right, right. And when people think of real estate investors, when they think of real estate, you might even think of like someone like Trump or somebody that's not ... Greed comes up a lot with real estate investing, but it's not always that way. And we've heard stories of, of our customers at Rocket Dollar where people are buying a house, a home and renting it to a family and need in their community. I mean we have a customer that owns a home in his Rocket Dollar account that he rents to a family that's in the same church. And that is a social good.

Elizabeth: That is a social good and it is a social impact. Being a real estate investor, so the AKA property manager. Yes, it's section eight so you can call him a slum lord, but he makes sure that it's more than just the section eight standards in his home. So that has safe, adequate housing for a family because to move into a house, a section eight, you have ... You're providing to a family. So you think about it and it's like we have a large homeless problem here in Austin where people are being out priced by rent. So finding people to provide housing at adequate prices.

Thomas: It's starting to have it in Austin. It's a big problem that we face and you look at other tech hubs in the country, you look at San Francisco is the big one right now.

Elizabeth: Well, the thing is, it's one of those things where it's a bigger issue that we have to solve generally in society. But one of the things is not everybody's ready for homeownership at 25 just right after college and two years of marriage. Sometimes it's better. And also for us, because we're both at a point where we're not raising kids, actually better for us to provide housing to others. And so I'm actually from Corpus Christi, Texas, so I prefer to invest in my hometown. And in my hometown, it's a more blue-collar rather than a tech hub, but it's also a military town. So I believe that almost every single Apache helicopter from around the world gets repaired in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Thomas: Oh really? I didn't know that. That's cool.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it is cool. So when you start to think about it, it's like most of the military people, and it's also a flight school there. They're only there for two to three years. Some of those people need housing for just two or three years before they get their next rotation. And you feel good about providing an adequate home.

Thomas: Yeah and I think that that makes a lot of sense. And it's the side that a lot of people maybe don't think about when they think about real estate. I have a friend here in town that owns a fourplex and he's got a refugee family living there and in one of his units. I go over to his house cause I hang out, he's my buddy. I know that the family living next door and they're wonderful people that came from a really bad situation. I know that my friend feels good about it. I know that it's good business for him and-

Elizabeth: Then there's a strong social network here in Austin with Caritas and other people to help people coming in as refugees and get integrated into society both with jobs legally working here and starting. The thing about it is, so when you start to look at real estate as providing adequate housing to get to lift people, that's the part that gets me excited. But it's also the other part. So one of the reasons why we talk about in real estate, it's a very common term, your network equals your net worth. A lot of my transactions weren't all acquisitions. Sometimes I just flipped the paper to my network because I'm very good at connecting people emotionally to where they are. And you realize that a lot of these people are in troubled situations. What I mean troubled is like we were hit hard in the economies, especially in 2013, 14 here in the central Texas area, even earlier in 2009.

That's where when I decided to go independent because I used to be an IBM or, and then they had the large layoffs. Luckily I landed on my feet and I'm very creative as a consultant. However, not everybody was. And you realized that we protect people from totally being demolished by the credit system. So once your house goes into foreclosure, the impact of there is probably, I would say worse than bankruptcy.

Thomas: Really?

Elizabeth: Yeah. You don't want a foreclosure on your credit report. So a lot of the techniques that I applied with these people are... and other situations too. So also before the foreclosure, you realize that you can stop the foreclosures and acquire the house on paper. And then I'm now in charge of helping that family preserve their credit by making sure that with connecting him to another real estate investor who wants to have their home in their portfolio. And so instead of a foreclosure, it flips and it's now a home that you rent, but you can stay in your home. Well, some of them may stay depending on how they negotiate with the investor, but they avoid-

Thomas: They avoid the foreclosure more than anything.

Elizabeth: More than anything, and the negative impacts because it's just one of those things where they're having to pull themselves out. And they're in a bad situation that's combined worse. And so when you realize what I ended up doing for as an example ... and it was really funny because a lot of the investors at that time were sharks, but these were the people that you emotionally connect to these people in these bad situations. I got the home because I was the only one willing. It's like, "I don't know if I can help you or not, but I'm willing to try. But I can give you $200 in an HEB card so you can enjoy and feed yourself." Because if they're in that situation, they're in the food pantry situation.

Thomas: Right, right. Yeah and like you just said, I mean there are a lot of sharks and as we said earlier, I mean some of them give the rest of that name. But at the same time, I want to ask you more about other types of real estate investing that you've done. And actually, I want to ask you ... this is a cool one that I like when people are asked is, what was your first transaction? What was the first thing you ever did in the world of real estate?

Elizabeth: I met an old lady who could not sell her house because her house was basically, you could ... It would have been a fun skate park inside her house. Let's just put it that way. It was a pier and beam home and all the kids would love to take all the furniture out and go in a skate park.

Thomas: Really?

Elizabeth: Yeah. The foundation was that bad.

Thomas: And where was it?

Elizabeth: Here in Austin.

Thomas: It was here in town.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it was here in town. It was not too far from Crestview. So that's Northcentral Austin. And it was a nice area, but there is no way that a traditional home buyer or realtor could help this lady because it wouldn't have qualified for traditional lending. You might've been able to qualify with a construction loan and a repair loan. So what I ended up doing was acquiring the contract. So she signed a contract with me and then I found the right flipper who can understand that this is going to be possibly a one year flip to do everything that needs-

Thomas: Which is long in the world of flipping, right?

Elizabeth: It is very long in the world of flipping. Most of my flip transactions I was able to complete in three to six months. So when you realize the part of your network includes other flippers, but every flipper has a different ... I would say just like every marketer has a different strength. And so someone who can knows that ... but the person who ended up doing that ended up adding, I think, another thousand square feet to the home.

Thomas: Wow.

Elizabeth: So the reality is, in that neighborhood, you're able to get the value out of that house by adding the square footage and that's how he made he made his profit.

Thomas: Right. Interesting.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Thomas: Yeah and I'm personally interested in the world of flipping because there are so many improvements in the ways of doing it and adding square feet or sometimes slapping paint or foundation repair or roof repair. I mean, there's a lot of different things that-

Elizabeth: but sometimes the flipping is flipping the paper.

Thomas: Yeah. Right.

Elizabeth: And so most of my 90 transactions, we're flipping the paper before I ever stepped foot in the house with a hammer.

Thomas: Wow.

Elizabeth: It was only very ... I would say, as far as actual flip flips where I went in and was responsible for the Lowe's, Home Depot and Ikea budget ...

Thomas: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

Elizabeth: I'm just going ... That was just about 10 homes.

Thomas: Okay. So it's still not a small number.

Elizabeth: No, not a small number, but there was only one home that I stayed in a flip project for over a year and I'm glad I did. We added square footage and I did have a partner in that project by the way. So most of those 10 flips there was always a partner. Because I was always doing marketing consulting the entire time.

Thomas: Right, right. Well then, you were never flipping homes or flipping paper as a full-time job. I mean this was always your side gig.

Elizabeth: It was my side hustle. If I find the right situation where I feel like I can help a person, it's my side hustle.

Thomas: Right, right. So let's transition a little bit away from real estate and we can touch back as it comes up. But how did you get started in the world of marketing? Were you a marketer at IBM or-

Elizabeth: But I realized ... To go backward, I was very talkative. I was a very extroverted engineer in an introverted environment. You get tired after every six-month review saying you talk too much and spend too much time at the coffee pot. So I said-

Thomas: Yeah, that sounds familiar.

Elizabeth: But what you realize is that you need a transition into a more interpersonal role, but still a lot of analysis. Going into an MBA and going into product marketing at IBM you realize how much analysis work there is. So your engineering mindset is a help, but I'm allowed to speak and interact with people and get ideas. So I'm a great synthesizer.

Thomas: I mean that's one of the things that attracted me to the world of marketing is that it's a cool mix of creativity and you still get to look at numbers. Because I liked the numbers. I think the numbers are-

Elizabeth: The numbers are important.

Thomas: Yeah, they're very important.

Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean if I was just a purely creative, I would have been on New York doing ads.

Thomas: Right, you'd be working at Ogilvy and coming up with cool campaigns for huge brands, which is like you said earlier if that's your strength and that's what you should do.

Elizabeth: Yeah, exactly. But everybody should find where their strengths and apply them too, I would say.

Thomas: Right. And so why ... After you left IBM, you mentioned early that there was around a layoff which-

Elizabeth: It was 2009. The economic crisis of 2009 impacted IBM.

Thomas: Right, it impacted everybody.

Elizabeth: It affected IBM, Austin for sure.

Thomas: Right, right. And then that's when you became a consultant. Then you've been ever since.

Elizabeth: I've been ever since. And now I go in and out like I am here at Rocket Dollar, but I am here half time, every day in the office.

Thomas: Yeah. Well, that's, and that's one of the things that I think makes you successful is that when you take on a new project, at least from what I've seen, you don't ... It's not a one hour call every week to talk about ... You're not skimming the top consultant. You're pretty deeply embedded into whatever organization you are-

Elizabeth: It depends on what the client needs are because some people are needed ... That's to be a one hour once a week call, I'm a coach. And if you need me to coach you through the plan so that you can execute, that's fine. But that's a different engagement.

Thomas: Right, right. I know that like my team, especially Nikki who you guys have heard on ... She's hosted a podcast before. It was great. Some of the tools that you've given us from your ... in your experience that, that allow us to prioritize work and to organize it and report it and talk about it and share it has been really helpful and will be helpful well into the future. But tell us about some other clients you've had. What are other cool things that you've seen or cool engagements that you've had? Anybody else that you, that you're excited about what they're doing or cool products that relate to us.

Elizabeth: For earlier, while I was starting to come in and become more active, I was peeling off, but I love Laura Bosworth and the work that she's doing right now. For those of you who don't know Laura, but TeVido BioDevices is now getting certified to provide prescription-grade skin grafts for people with vitiligo. So now 1% of the US population has a chance to reverse vitiligo. And one of our sailing buddies has it.

Thomas: Oh really?

Elizabeth: Yeah, the skipper on Amazing Grace.

Thomas: Oh yeah. Wow, I didn't know that. But yeah, I mean that's one of the things that I love about Austin is that like you hear about these companies popping up that might be in Capital Factory where you and I are sitting now that there might be a team of two or three and they're working on something cool. There's another startup here that I liked that it's the robot for hospitals that are aiding nurses. So it's not replacing nurses. That's not even what they're trying to get at, but they're trying to make a nurse's life easier.

Elizabeth: Exactly. And coming up with some creative ways. Because they stumbled upon this skin graft it a logo while they're doing this journey to address cancer.

Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. And sometimes the where you start is not where you end.

Elizabeth: Yeah. It's really exciting to see where they're going to go. And also there are always other interesting companies.

Thomas: Absolutely. I think one of my favorite things to do in the morning is I look at Crunchbase, I get their daily email and I see who's getting funding and I'm just looking at some of the things they're doing. And it's so interesting. It doesn't have to be ... One of my things, it doesn't have to be that complicated. I mean people are trying to solve for vitiligo and skin grafts and it's complicated and it's good to work.

Elizabeth: Most people don't like blood.

Thomas:  I know, I don't. That's why I like sitting behind a desk all day. My sister wants to be a doctor. She'll be the doctor, let her take care of the blood. I can't do it. But then there are other companies that you're just like, whenever I read about them or whenever I think about him or some of these things that people are doing with our accounts, I'm like, "Oh, it doesn't have to be that complicated. That's pretty simple. It's really smart."

Elizabeth: If you make life easier... So the thing is whatever company you start ... and I think that fundamentally comes down to how I approach marketing and real estate is how do I add value? And what is the creative solution to add value?

Thomas: It's the same. It's the same thought for real estate or business or for whatever is how do I add value?

Elizabeth: How do you add value? So it's if you're thinking about how do you add value and how do you apply your strengths, then you can do anything. And if you have enough people in your network, because there are some great engineers out there with, you can build anything, but they may not know the problem or the industry, or more importantly, they don't know how to sell. Because I don't care what engineer is listening to this podcast or what real estate investor I'm going ... You cannot flip a home without a carpenter and electrician and a plumber. And you cannot sell a home traditionally to a traditional end buyer for the most amount of money without a realtor. And you realize that you go, I can't do a kick-ass, cool, disruptive startup without an engineer, but that engineer can't sell or probably talk to the customer.

Thomas: Right. Unless he's Ryan. I don't know if he listens to this, but Ryan is an engineer at Rocket Dollar. And I love taking him to parties because he gets into it and he starts talking and it's so fun to take him out because-

Elizabeth: But watch it, 20 years from now, Ryan will be an award-winning 40 under 40 CTO.

Thomas: Well, this is also very likely he's a rare bird.

Elizabeth: Yes. So when you think about it, it's like, who is your team how do you create the power team to address the problems? Whether it's a smart startup, small business or a services business because there's some great services business that is out there.

Thomas: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: And when you think about it is like some of those services businesses outperform the startups.

Thomas: Absolutely.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Thomas: I've got a friend Teresa Kuhn who was on this podcast earlier. Her son decided to forego college. It just wasn't for him, but he was his hellbent on the world of business. And they started with one truck doing HVAC in Austin. Before Rocket Dollar, I did their branding and I did there... I set up a basic marketing plan. And they're on pace to be like at seven or eight trucks next year and this is a 22, 23-year-old kid that is making money hand over fist and reinvesting it in his business and it will be done by ... He'll be able to retire if he wants to buy the time he's 30 and live whatever life he wants.

Elizabeth: Yeah. But the thing is, he's probably, we'll just do that to build this company and empower other people. And it's always wonderful to see these small business owners empower other people. And besides, nobody wants to be hot in 101 degrees summer in Austin.

Thomas: Oh, he's got a good market from April to almost April.

Elizabeth: And nobody likes to be cold in December either.

Thomas: No, it's true. And one of my thoughts is that not every business needs to scale to provide for its owners, for its employees, for its customers, for its stakeholders.

Elizabeth: But all of those people ... Your friend will be the perfect Rocket Dollar client.

Thomas: Oh.

Elizabeth: He can put away so much money into his 401k and then use this 401k to invest in others. And that's where the social good comes in. It's our responsibility, especially when we think about things. It's how do we lift generations and especially aspiring business people? That's where I say some of the responsibilities of the self-directed investor.

Thomas: Right. Well, it's something that we talk a lot about is instead of investing in things you don't know and earning a return, you have no control of. Even if you fund a coffee shop next to your office or save them from ... If they're in trouble and you give them a loan or something, I mean that's your community. You've now done something very positive with-

Elizabeth: Or you could do ... My cousin is loving ... Somebody decided to build childcare in a commercial building so that everybody can come to work and see their kid at lunch.

Thomas: Oh that's awesome.

Elizabeth: Exactly.

Thomas: I like that. That's what we were saying is it doesn't have to be groundbreaking tech to be really ... I mean it's so simple and it's really smart.

Elizabeth: It's really smart. So more people can come to work and see their kid.

Thomas: On the other side, I'm sure they're willing to pay for it.

Elizabeth: They are.

Thomas: Wow, that's awesome. I think that is a great place to wrap up. Elizabeth, anybody that's listening, how do they get in touch with you?

Elizabeth: Find me at Rocket Dollar. So I'm elizabeth@rocketdollar.com.

Thomas: Yup, that's pretty easy. And I'll put your social links in the show notes, so if anybody wants to fall on Twitter anywhere else. I know you're big on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Thomas: So add Elizabeth, she posts at the very minimum, something funny every day on Facebook.

Elizabeth: Or at least five days a week.

Thomas: Yeah, right. But thank you Elizabeth, for taking the time and I'll see you back at the office.

Elizabeth: See you soon.

Thomas: Thank you for listening to this episode of Rocket Your Dollar. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share the podcast with your friends. Learn more about self-directed investing or to get started with your account, please visit us@roccadollar.com. See you next week.

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