Each week, we talk to agents across the country about what they’ve learned along the way (and what they wish they had known as new agents). This week, Denver-based Atlas Real Estate agent Jennifer Reinhardt shares how she turned lemons into lemonade.

In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.

The real estate industry is full of ups and downs, and nobody knows how to weather the highs and lows better than Atlas Real Estate’s Jennifer Reinhardt.

The Denver-area agent has created an enviable real estate investment portfolio through hard work and the ability to turn life’s setbacks into opportunities for growth. Now she is using her knowledge to help others do the same.

How long have you been in real estate?

I am an investor and also a real estate agent. My story first began in 2001 when my daughter, who has special needs, was born. She needed open heart surgery and was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a fatal lung disease.

At that time, I was in my early 20s working as a women’s counselor with my degree in social work. It didn’t make sense to keep working that job and pay for special daycare after I had my baby.

My sister suggested getting licensed as a Realtor like her friend. I needed to find a job where I could work part-time with a higher income and figured I could use the buyer’s agent commission for a down payment to buy my own house.

I got licensed and used the commission to help buy my family our own house.

I’ve been in real estate since then, and have learned commercial and residential investing on top of retail real estate. The problem is that I was trading my time for money and had to go out and work to get a paycheck. Normal, right?

I became an accidental real estate investor in 2010 during the recession. I needed to move and my house was not able to be sold because the value was worth less than I paid for it.

At [the] time, I was going through a divorce. I lost all of my money in the divorce and had to start over. My daughter needed extra medical care, and now I had my son too, who was 3.

I rented out my house for the price of the mortgage and bought a house in Denver to be closer to my support system to help me raise the kids. I put $4,000 down to buy the new Denver house, and that’s how I got my first rental.

I had to keep two houses because the first one was underwater. Not sexy. The good news was, over the years, both houses I owned went up in value, and the rent went up on my [rental].

I started to have passive income, another name for mailbox money. As I continued my profession in real estate, I gained a greater knowledge of investing and how to make money passively without having to trade my time.

I help clients buy rentals, mainly small apartment buildings. I continue to buy real estate and invest for myself as well. I now own four properties.

The income from my rentals allows me to have time and money for my family. Controlling my own time allowed me to focus on alternative medicine for my daughter, and with the help of international medicine, we were able to cure my daughter’s lung infections. My daughter is now 18 and has normal lung function, which is a miracle for cystic fibrosis.

For my career today, I get to do my own real estate classes and teach women investors how to get on their own feet and out of survival mode. Having passive income is having options and freedom.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In five years, I will have more properties and more passive income. Passive income gives you options and control of your time. This year, I basically took the summer off to spend with my family.

We got a beach house in Florida, and I went kayaking with manatees, saw Tony Robbins in Dallas, and then spent time with my cousins and family in Seattle.

My lifestyle is good, and I want to teach other people how to gain balance in their lives with investing. A goal of mine is to expand our real estate team into other states and give our clients more options of markets and price points to buy multifamily real estate.

I want investing knowledge to be accessible to the common person and not only to those who have the financial resources. Since my own daughter has special needs, I am working on setting up a trust for her to create passive income for her to live on her own.

There are so many families who care for loved ones and need resources.

I think that in my own generation, we will need solutions on how to care well for our aging parents, how to pay for our children’s college tuition, how to have time and money for a good quality of life now, and eventually how to retire ourselves.

If I can use my knowledge of real estate to solve these problems, with my team, for myself and others, there is a great sense of purpose there.

What is one big lesson that you’ve learned in real estate?

One big lesson I’ve learned in real estate is that knowledge is power. I specialize in investment real estate and own my own rentals.

Our Atlas team manages over 2,900 homes, and everyone on our team owns their own rentals. That makes me and my team different. I know how to buy the asset right for my client, and my team manages it well, and it is a turnkey process.

The key to success in real estate is to buy right and hold. Flipping is sexy and high risk. Apartments are sexy and need a large down payment and more experience.

Anyone can get into real estate investing by first purchasing the right home. That is what I did — I lived in a home, rented it out, lived in a home, rented it out, repeat. My family gave me a hard time at first, and now they have their own rentals!

How did you learn it?

I learned how to make money with buy-and-hold rentals by having rentals. I bought my first house, and it went down in value. That is the only reason why I kept it as a rental. I didn’t lose my money because I didn’t cash out. I held it, and the rent covered the bills.

You don’t have to time the market perfectly if you buy and hold. Someone asked me why I didn’t start investing in apartments.

The reason is because I was in survival mode and didn’t have much money. I wasn’t thinking of investing, I was thinking of how to take care of my kids and not go under. I bought my Denver house with $4,000.

There are loans for owner occupants that require little money down. My real estate provides the stability I need for my family that I was originally looking for from a husband.

Real estate investing is a good provider. If a full-time, single mom can do it, with little resources, why can’t you?  You can!

There is a system, and you just have to get around someone who has mastered it to teach you. It’s that simple. I got the first rental home on accident, got around the right team and bought the next investments with a plan and purpose.

What advice would you give to new agents?

Go all in for what you want. If you don’t go all in, what is the point? I’ve been hurt, and I get back up. It can be hard, but what is the alternative? To be hurt and allow that hurt to keep hurting you and keep you from opportunities?

For a new agent, I would say find a team you believe in, get a niche, and go out and help people. Really put in the work. You will be different if you actually do what you say. My team is successful because we solve problems. Our clients have better lives because they know us.

One client lost his business and didn’t go under because of his rental income. Another client was able to have his wife stay home with their baby because they had passive income from their duplex.

It is fulfilling, and it keeps me going. My life didn’t turn out the way I wanted, and it is beautiful. If it turned out how I wanted, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now.

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on  FacebookTwitterInstagram  and YouTube.

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