Want to have a secure exit strategy before you retire? Real estate investing is the answer! Carrie Vigliotti is a school teacher turned full-time REALTOR® and has been in the industry for more than 20 years now. After the recession, she and her husband decided to start flipping houses and have not turned back since. In this episode, Carrie joins host Renee Williams to talk about why real estate investing is the way to secure your finances before exiting. Tune in as she shares valuable insights and helpful tips to get you on the right track!
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Securing Your Exit Strategy Through Real Estate Investing With Carrie Vigliotti
Welcome to the show. With me is Carrie Vigliotti. Carrie is a real estate agent and a real estate investor. She has been an agent for many years and she started investing several years ago. Carrie does flips and Airbnb. We are going to get into a conversation about some of the great opportunities out there for real estate agents to do real estate investing. Hang on tight for the conversation. Here we go with Carrie Vigliotti.
With me is Carrie Vigliotti. Carrie is a long-time real estate agent and a real estate investor. She is going to tell us all about her career and the great things that she is doing. We can all identify with Carrie and her career as she's moving towards exiting production and her financial freedom, too. Welcome to the show, Carrie.
Thank you so much.
Thanks for coming on. I appreciate it. We had to jump some hurdles to get here but we are here.
Can you tell us about your career? How long have you been in the industry and how did you get started?
I have been a realtor for several years. I have done the majority of my career up in the Fort Hood area, catering to veterans. I’ve got started because my grandfather owned one of the largest real estate agencies in Boise, Idaho, my entire life. I fought it and said, "I'm not going to become a realtor." I decided to teach for ten years. I went to grandpa and said, "You are right. I'm ready." I started in 1996 and I have been going strong since. I love what I do.
You have had a couple of different instances in your career. You are solo now but you have been a team leader as well. Is that right?
I had a team back in 2006 and 2007 when real estate was about this crazy. Back then, we only had maybe 4 or 5 houses to show. Also, I have had a team and it was wonderful but I have been solo since about 2008.
Tell me about the other side of your career. We were talking about real estate investing.
My husband and I started investing back in 2000. We bought our first fourplex. We bought a couple of duplexes. We had our own home that we owned. We bought a house that we completely renovated in 2005. That was a mess but that was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. The first home that you renovate, the lessons learned, we have done it all. We have renovated eight homes in total. We picked up a tiny home in Thousand Trails here and we have put it into Airbnb. We are onto a new side of investing.
You've got to be really good at time management when you're flipping and investing.
How is that? Have you gotten people in yet?
It hasn't stayed empty. In fact, we've got some long-term people. They are long-term because they are building a home and they needed someplace to stay. I was excited. I wrote her, "You can stay for two months. Come on down." We are loving it and because it's by the lake, everybody wants to be by the lake. We are excited. It's our first one. We are going to see how it goes. The truth is we were on the hunt for a second.
Eventually, we all want to have our day in the sun, sit on the beach, sipping Mai Tais, do nothing, and have some passive income coming in. Is it part of your exit strategy using this Airbnb or your real estate investing?
The Airbnbs are going to be part. They are the latest and greatest craze. I understand that. I can see them being long-term. If you look back, Airbnbs have been around for a long time. Now, they are very hot. We are going to use that. We have a five-year exit strategy plan, oddly enough, as well. We hope to be debt-free and have those to live off for our passive income.
I and you have that in common. We were talking about being financially free in five years, which means that the passive income that we don't work for surpasses our expenses. For us to get there, then we've got work to do. Personally, it's cleaning up some debt and then increasing the number of rental properties that my husband and I own. Does it sound similar?
Why is it that more real estate agents don't get into real estate investing?
Unknown, fear, the work, the time. It takes a lot of time. You've got to be good at time management when you are doing flipping and investing. You’ve got to have insurance. You’ve got to hire people. There are a lot to it and there's something we haven't touched on but you've got to make sure that you LLC yourself. You don't want to do it as Carrie Vigliotti, The Licensed Real Estate Agent.
We have our own LLC and we do everything under the LLC because it's a scary time that we live in and people want to sue you for everything. You've got worker bees on the job and they can get hurt. You have to have an entirely different entity over here to the side when you are flipping. It is a lot of work of the unknown. If you don't have somebody coaching you, then you are not going to do it.
I agree with you wholeheartedly about all of it. This is what I'm thinking, anything that we want to have or that's worth having is worth working for. If we hope to have some passive income or retirement in the future, we've got to put in the work now while we have the energy to do it. At some point in our lives, we get to, “I don't want all of that. I don't want to do all of that.” For people who feel that way, there are other options. You don't have to do real estate investing. For me, it's a natural segue because I see so many properties already. It makes sense that if I see one that's a great deal, why not pick it up and use it? Is that what you are finding as well?
All the time. I'm always taking something home to my husband and he goes, "What you’ve got now?" I took one home. There's a great piece of property at 3.4 acres. The land is gold. When the stock market is bad, scary or shaky, everybody goes after land. The land is constant. I'm always looking at something and we are going to pick this one up that I brought home.
How does that work with your broker? I know some people have brokerages that they are with that allow them to purchase a personal property. Other people have brokerages that have rules around that. For your broker, how does that work for you?
They are very good at that. It's selling one a year. That's different. Picking up is not a problem. Gather as many as you would like. Maybe I better go check with my broker one more time but I believe that I'm correct.
I know some brokers will allow a certain number of personal transactions per year. Ladies, if you are reading and you are thinking about doing real estate investing, then make sure you check in with your broker to see how many personal transactions you can do per year and what the commission or the splits are around doing that. Be sure to do your due diligence and homework before you started investing.
Carrie, if you will go back to the beginning and talk about, in 2005, you picked up a property that was a headache. Can you tell us about some of the problems? The problems are not changed with real estate, whether it's 2005 or 2025. The problems tend to be the same when we are working in flipping, fix and flip or fixing up to lease it out. What issues were you running into?
We picked up one where it had been vandalized quite badly and they had taken the time to strip all of the copper wirings out of the home. We had to completely rewire this wonderful little ranch at home. They took the air conditioner, that's the number one thing. Everybody wants that but that HPAC because of the freon. We had to put this little house back together but we didn't realize how much we needed to be put back together until we’ve got to dig in.
That's when you find there are termites behind the wall. There were these carpenter ants that made a nest in the batting. Until you get to pull them apart, you don't know what you've got and sometimes you can get into something. "There's one more thing." This little house in 2005, she was one of those, "One more thing." She did very well in the end.
That's my next question, I was going to say, "Did you make any money on it?" Sometimes it's a nightmare during the whole process then you get to the end and you still make money. Was this a flip or a buy and hold for you?
We did hold her for about six months and we sold it to our tenants and did very well. One of the things that are important to learn is to make sure that you have a good CPA. We have a real estate CPA and I have had him for several years and I wouldn't change him for anything. You save every receipt because it's a loss on the property and learning that side as well. Saving your receipts and making sure that you claim your workers, all of your materials, and your own sweat equity because that's tax-deductible as well. Part of it was everything we put into her that we claimed, and then it's what we have made in the end.
Over time, do you feel like, in the long run, you have made more money than you have lost?
Every single one
Have you won on every single one?
Every single one but I have a huge advantage. My sweetheart is a licensed plumber and he's also incredibly handy. There's nothing he can't do. He grew up in the construction industry with his father in California. I'm very blessed that way. We have our own construction remodeling company on the side. We went ahead and opened that up, too, which made it another great tax write-off. There are a lot of other aspects to buying and flipping that people don't know, don't think about, and are not taught tax write-offs and building up your tools. There’s so much to it.
There are a lot that you can do with your husband having that skillset. I'm different. My husband is corporate. He's in education but he's not with me. He's not in the real estate industry. Since he's not, then we hired a general contractor or we develop those relationships that we need so that we can hire those things. I'm saying that to encourage the readers because some people feel like, "I don't have anybody that I can trust to do the construction. I don't have a handy husband,” or anything like that.
That's not a requirement. We don't want to make this sound harder than it is. You can pick up properties that are well-priced in your market that do not need a whole lot of work. Maybe they just need carpet and paint. You are going to buy those properties and hold them so that they appreciate over time. Let the tenants pay down your mortgage. We are not trying to start what flip or flop type of business here.
We are not suggesting that at all. Over the years, we bought single-family homes, and then we ended up selling them all so that we can move into multifamily syndication, which is a whole other conversation. What I want to start doing now is small multifamily, which are duplexes, triplexes, and quads because those are small enough that we can self-manage if we choose to.
If they are all in the same area, then perhaps we can get one property manager who can manage all of those units for us if they are close together. If we have more than let's say, 10 or 12, you may want to get somebody to help you with that because you've got a real estate business to run. You are not in the land-lording or property management business necessarily, nor do you want to be. People have choices and I want the ladies to know that.
Land is constant.
I'm going to touch base on self-management. I never do self-manage. The legal aspect of that, not accounting for your tenant's security deposit within 30 days. Unconditionally, no matter what damage they have done to your home, they are going to earn three times the amount of that security deposit. You are going to lose.
There is no way as a real estate agent unless you are a broker and you have your property management license, would I ever personally self-manage. I never have. I have always turned it over to a management company that I know and trust. Again, they are a full tax write-off. I know I preached the tax write-off a lot but that's important as a realtor. We make too much money sometimes but I have never had self-managed.
I like that you said that. I have self-managed in the past. I was self-managing the single-family properties that we owned. I never felt like it was overwhelming because we did all the repairs on the front. I was handing them a property that was fully renovated and there wasn't a whole lot to the management of it. I do know for sure that if I felt like it was too much or I was overwhelmed, I certainly would have made room in my profits to hire a property manager that I could pay monthly to manage all of those.
We do have options, ladies. You have a choice. You can do what works for you. That's what I love about real estate investing because if you have a handy husband, then you have someone who can handle construction. If you don't, then you can get a GC. If you have 1 or 2 properties, you want to self-manage, and they are easy to manage, then you can.
If they are not, you can give it over to a property manager. You have so many choices. In my mind, there are very few reasons why we cannot invest in real estate. I'm sure that somebody can tell me horrible stories about broken toilets in the middle of the night, getting those phone calls that you don't want to get. Is that right, Carrie?
Yes. Let's touch on GC. I'm always my own GC. I'm always that person, personally. Maybe I have control issues. I'm a Leo, I don't know. I like to go out and see what's going on at all times. I always do all the ordering at Home Depot or Lowe's as well. They will give you that once-a-year printout. I encourage you to become your own GC as well.
For me, I always hire a general contractor. I'm on the job site. I just felt more comfortable because I have a corporate background. I didn't feel like I would know what was missing. I'm sure as we get to a certain stage in our real estate investing career, we feel more confident and knowing, "These are the same tiles that we buy every time. This is the same paint."
By the way, I'm a big believer in using the same items every time. This is not like a home and garden television type of thing, where you are going to go over the top decorating. I don't do all of that. Everything is nice. It's upgraded, it's renovated but I put the same thing in every property. Do you do the same?
I have when I'm doing my duplexes or my fourplexes. With homes, it will always depend on the area and where I'm at. There are times when I do some upgrading and some pretty decorating, and I will vary what I pick out. On my regular homes, no.
That makes sense because you want to make sure that you have a property that particular buyer or in that market that they are going to buy.
The tiny house we did, we made it look all beachy and lake-like. We went in and redid that. Is that our norm? No, but it sure was fun.
If you give people something nice, they tend to take care of it. We don't have those properties anymore. We sold them. We took those funds and we started doing apartment syndications. Now, we invest with a group of people. Is that something that later you may consider or are you happy with the niche that you have?
I'm extremely happy with the niche that I have and I don't like to do things as a group again. I prefer to do it myself. I have my own way of doing things. It could be Gen X versus Baby Boomer there easily. I don’t wish to but now I have several investors that I work with and I am their agent and they work in groups as well. Some of these guys do not agree on everything together and it can be a tad bit of a headache and what should have been an easy 60-unit complex down there in Conroe turned into an absolute nightmare. I would never join a group personally.
This is a quick sidebar, the way that it works is that there is a deal sponsor or a primary person who is responsible for making the decisions. What we are doing is passive investors. Literally, we are passive. We don't make any active decisions on the property. We are just kept informed of everything that's happening. The deal sponsor or the primary person along with the property manager that he selects is responsible for running the property, selecting everything, and doing all the stuff.
For that privilege of us not having to do anything, we also don't get to be in any of the decision-making. We just get to make money. I liked that part of it of being hands-off. I will ask you this, as far as other agents who are on the fence about investing in real estate, what's good about it for you? Why do you do it? What do you like about it?
I love everything about it. I love taking something destroyed and turning it back into its glory. I named them. They are all girls. I call them all girls, "She's feeling so much better now.” I love it. I always have. I love watching something grow and become bright and happy again. Truthfully, a lot of these homes help out the neighborhood.
As a realtor, you have that sad little home and you make it pop. The next thing you know, you've got people trying to keep up with you, “They are setting a new precedence for the area.” That's incredibly important in some of these areas. You pick up a cute little home that’s had weeds for years and the roof is caving in. You make it pop and stand up, be tall, and pretty again. I love that.
Do you get people to come over like the neighbors come over and talk, and say hello?
“Who's doing that? What product did you use? What paint are you using?” People sit and watch. Video. We have had it all. I was such a people person, "Come on down. Do you want a bottle of water out of the back of the truck? Come, sit and talk to me." Truthfully, I don't know how many different sales and listings I have gotten because I let them come, sit and talk with me.
I was going with that. You would be amazed when you treat people well and they get to know you. They see your work ethic and what you are doing on this property that you will get listings out of that.
They are grateful too for the help and the time that you give them. It doesn't have to be a seriously oppressed area. It can be a medium area. A sweet little middle-class area and people still want to know, "What are you doing? She moved out or what happened?" We all have a little bit of gossip so you share a little bit of gossip. “What are your plans for her? Are you going to sell her? Are you going to rent her?” They want to talk and know what's going on in their area. That's why I do it.
In my mind, I'm seeing all of these great farming and retargeting strategies that you can use. I'm thinking of marketing now. Some people who are reading may be thinking, "Real estate investing, I'm not necessarily interested." If you can benefit yourself by either flipping a property or buying and holding property for rental, and then getting some listings and targeting that neighborhood, either with some social media targeted ads, with some postcards or something, in several different ways, you are winning with that.
It takes very little effort. Take the time. It's just your time.
Plans for the future. You were saying that you've got one that you were looking at that's 3 acres or so?
There's a lot of other aspects to buying and flipping that people don't know, and don't think about and aren’t taught.
It's 3.4 acres and it's out in New Waverly. That is an up-and-coming little area, by the way. It's fairly rural but highly recommended. Cleveland and all of those areas are out there. It's going to be a lot of work. She's got weeds all the way up to her roof.
Is it vacant? I hope.
It's semi-vacant. It's an odd situation. He's living in the RV that's on the property. We are supposed to go out and look. I'm looking outside and I'm like, "I don't think we are going."
When you get a chance to go back over there, I'm sure your husband is going to enjoy the walkthrough on that one with all the weeds and everything.
He loves it.
We go to these. My husband and I have gone to walk properties before and you go in and it smells. Our favorite thing is it smells like money. These houses are closed up or they have had animals or pets or whatever but those are the ones that nobody else wants. If you are fixing somebody else's problem and nobody else wants it, you can get a better deal on it.
Nobody is going to buy a stinky cat house unless it's another investor who may consider doing that as well. There aren't a whole lot of regular people who are going to buy that house. Not only are you doing something that helps you, your future and your finances, but you are also doing something that benefits the whole neighborhood because everybody wants to see the house fixed up.
The first open house, it's such a great trail of people. I love it. Another thing that's coming up and I'm sure that you are aware of but foreclosures are going to be coming soon, sadly. We are going to go through another foreclosure market as we did in 2007 to 2009. That's going to be another great time for first-timers, especially to pick up a good piece of property and be able to make some money off of it as well. Find good realtors. Find a realtor that you trust that knows REO properties and foreclosure properties. I'm one of them. Let them guide you through that because that's coming soon.