There are women all over the country who would like to become real estate investors but many don't know how to start. Some lack knowledge; some, aware that they lack the necessary knowledge, in turn lack confidence. Where should women who want to get started investing in real estate begin?
The internet is a good place for them to turn.
Women who want to begin investing in real estate can learn some of the basics of investing in real estate by reading educational materials online, and they can develop a familiarity with the topic by reading about current events and trends in the real estate market.
Lack of knowledge is not the only thing that keeps some women from becoming real estate investors; fear is also a contributing factor, Charita Cadenhead, founder of Bham WIire (Birmingham Women Investing in Real Estate), a group for women interested in real estate investing, said. "They're afraid of losing money, they're afraid of not making the right decisions...and credit issues are also involved." In addition, Cadenhead said, "they don't know how to get started."
Real estate investment clubs
Providing women with industry contacts and education, real estate investment clubs are a good place to start. Dawn Jordan-Wells, a broker/associate for Hodge Homes, said she recommended that women interested in investing in real estate do a simple internet search for "real estate investing" to find local investment groups to start attending.
"Finding other women to network with was beneficial," Jordan-Wells said.
Real estate investment clubs exist in many incarnations; some are larger and more formal than others. The National Real Estate Investment Association (NREIA) has about 40,000 members in its 230 Real Estate Investment Association (REIA) chapters nationwide, according to its website.
Women interested in investing in real estate, and those who are already doing so, "should get into a REIA so they can get a pulse on the market," Lisa Moren-Bromma, author of Wise Women Invest in Real Estate and Real Estate Investing for the Utterly Confused and president of The Entrust Group, said. Additional benefits of joining a REIA, according to Moren-Bromma, include access to educational offerings and details about legislation that could impact real estate investors. By joining a REIA, real estate investors "are going to have up-to-date information, not just on the markets, but also on the law."
Cadenhead said women interested in investing in real estate should "join those clubs [and] sit in on some of the meetings. They have great guest speakers."
Those new to real estate investing should exercise caution, however, and carefully evaluate what guest speakers say rather than simply taking their words at face value. In some cases, speakers at local REIAs try to sell something to the audience, Moren-Bromma said; new members should "just be aware. Be there to learn, and to network with other people who have been doing this a while," she said.
"I would urge women to be extremely careful in [whom] they elect to give their money to," she said.
In addition to REIA chapters, there are also smaller and less formal investment groups. Jordan-Wells said the website MeetUp.com has allowed her to meet and interact with other investors and those who are interested in investing. She posted an event on the website last August, and now attendance at her monthly meetings about investing has increased from an average of five people to an average of 15 people, she said.
"I'm hoping to grow that," she said. The attendees are mostly women, Jordan-Wells said, and "we just share information and we're more comfortable because, you know, we have that common bond."
Cadenhead also used MeetUp.com to reach out to women in the real estate investment world, and Bham WIire has grown from that, she said.
In addition to investment clubs specifically pertaining to real estate, "I would strongly recommend also looking for support from a general business perspective at NAWBO, the National Association of Women Business Owners," Moren-Bromma said. "They'll get a lot of support from a business owner's perspective and from women in their own area."
No matter what type of real estate or general investment clubs women seeking to become real estate investors choose to join, such groups can provide them with crucial opportunities for networking, education and support.
"The greatest key is knowledge," Cadenhead said, and women new to real estate investing can benefit from "being around other people who do invest to learn the process from those people."
Learning from and working with other women who are experienced real estate investors can also be a good way to gain confidence. Moren-Bromma said she recommended that beginning investors "work with somebody with some experience in real estate investing—get your feet wet a little bit before you go out on your own."
At real estate investment clubs, "there are real estate agents and other investors there for them to network with, there are lenders, there are contractors," Cadenhead said.
"Everybody who's related to the real estate industry can be found right there...so they can form their own network there to get them ready for real estate investing," Moren-Bromma said. After joining a group, women should "put a business plan, or a marketing plan, or a road map together—their checklist of things that they need to do in order to become successful," she said.
Moren-Bromma also said she recommended that women put together a team of experts to work with when investing. "You have your financial team: your accountant, your attorney, a property manager if you're buying to hold property for the long term...people that can assist you and be part of your team so that when you go out to identify and find a deal, nothing is going to stand in the way if the deal makes sense. You've got your people, your money—all your ducks in a row."
"If a woman does that, she's going to be very successful in real estate."
Strategies for women
Considering the credit crunch underway across the country, combined with the potential recession, many women who are interested in becoming real estate investors hesitate because they are nervous about money. More precisely, they are worried about not having enough money to be able to invest in real estate.
"I think [women] think that they need to have a lot of capital up front," Jordan-Wells said. "Or their credit may be bad and they don't think they can get started because of that, either."
Cadenhead said that investors will need some money up front. "It's going to take a little money to get started," she said. "Six to eight months ago, an investor could buy a property with no money down and get it financed for 100 percent. With all the foreclosures going on across the country, that kind of put a thorn in that, and so now [real estate investors need] to come up with money," Cadenhead said. "Whether that's 10 percent or 20 percent, a lot of them just don't have it."
Fortunately, for women just starting out, "There's a lot of different creative strategies, like lease options, that they could do to get into a property," Moren-Bromma said.
Buying pre-foreclosures or foreclosures is another strategy that may suit women in particular well for a variety of reasons. While foreclosure properties tend to be more affordable, they typically must be purchased with cash up front. Pre-foreclosures would be a better option for people without a lot of cash on hand.
Another reason is that, because in many cases women are more nurturing than men, a woman "may be able to talk with homeowners who are in [pre-foreclosure] and get them to let [her] purchase a house below market [price] compared to a man approaching them to do that," Jordan-Wells said.
Cadenhead also said the foreclosure market is a place in which many women investing in real estate could find their niche. "I think women will play a major role in their commitment to revitalize areas hardest hit by foreclosures," she said. "Members of my group, Bham WIire, have made a commitment to buying and rehabbing houses in these areas and then sharing equity with properties that they sell. And by doing this, homes become more affordable....We take a little less profit for it, but something has got to stimulate home sales again, particularly in these areas."
Such a strategy allows the investors to profit not just from the revitalization of a particular property, but from the revitalization of a particular area. Such dedication to a community can improve an area's economic outlook. Cadenhead said this type of investment is well suited to women because "a great advantage that women hold over men is compassion, and empathy."
"[Women] are relationship people," Cadenhead said. "We're good at establishing a relationship, we're good at earning trust, and so people want to do business with us. It becomes a lot easier for us to develop a good reputation for delivering a quality product. This is a tremendous advantage [for] women, particularly when it comes to rehabbing property."
Jordan-Wells said she recommended that women who lack experience with do-it-yourself home projects attend classes, such as those offered by hardware and home improvement stores, to learn the basics. Then, if someday they are looking at investing in a property that may require some work, they can make the right decisions about the deal. Do-it-yourself skills could be particularly useful for women who want to rehab properties.
Negotiating can be another important skill for women to concentrate on learning. "[Women should] learn better negotiation skills," Cadenhead said. "Acquire that skill and take control."
Cadenhead said she doesn't think that women are at any inherent disadvantage when it comes to investing in real estate. "I think the major disadvantage is probably internal," she said. "Women only feel that they lack the power and authority. They feel like they can't do it because investing is a male-dominated field."
Moren-Bromma also said that women investing in real estate are not less likely to be successful solely because they are women. "It’s not that it's difficult, it's that women tend not to have the confidence," she said. "Somebody who's persistent and somebody who believes in themselves, whether male or female, will do just fine.".