ABOUT TODAY’S EPISODE | JENNIE LOK
Jennie Lok is a successful real estate professional and investment coach. She bought her first home at age 23, and has since built a portfolio of 70 rentals across 4 states. After graduating from the University of Southern California, she got a sales position with Oracle. But her passion for real estate has led her to a career role with Keller-Williams, and her success with investment rentals has opened the door for her to coach others through Zen Coast University. Jennie’s aspiration is to help others to unLOK their potential for financial freedom and fulfillment in life.
Q&A WITH JENNIE LOK
Q: I’d like everybody to get to know you a little bit. I think it’s really cool that your time in sales dates back to when you were 12 years old. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and how you took part in different sales roles before becoming a professional.
- I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.
- My first sales gig was when I started to pick up sneakers from eBay and different websites, clean them up and resell them to make a profit. I was only 12 years old at the time.
- In high school, I would put on a lot of events for friends like going to the Bahamas. I’d collect extra funds and go to the trip for free.
- I applied to go to the University of Southern California. I got in and I sold football tickets.
- I did other things in the Summers as well. So, sales has been in my blood throughout my life.
Q: What were your first steps on your post-college career path?
- I actually wanted to be a teacher. My dad was a teacher back in China. However, I got a job at Oracle and became a technology sales rep in the San Francisco Bay Area. I really appreciate my experience there.
- I didn’t know a lot about what I was selling. They kept on buying new companies and the products changed. I also had a territory in Denver. It was hard to meet people face to face.
- I decided to go into real estate because it’s more face to face, more personalized and I could actually see what I’m selling.
Q: Tell us about your experiences starting out in a real estate sales role.
- While still at Oracle, I made a goal to purchase a house by the age of 28. I ended up buying my first house at 23 in South San Francisco. I rented rooms in the house and I ended up paying for all the mortgage. I also didn’t have to pay rent myself.
- I borrowed through an equity line on my parents’ house to purchase the house at $870,000 and was able to re-finance it last year for $1.24 million.
- I wanted to get into real estate and teach others, hey! if you set a goal for yourself, you can actually do it quicker. I built over $100,000 equity per year.
- I ended up buying an out-of-state investment property in Alabama and got some cashflow from that. I then started looking for ways to buy more property.
- There were some limitations on buying out-of-state property on a W-2 income. So, I decided to move to a full-time real estate role.
Q: Tell us some of your experiences during that time (as a real estate professional)
- I made the transition in March 2017. I started knocking on doors, reaching out, cold-calling and also met you which was priceless.
- I put in a proposal for you and shared how we were slightly different from other agents because I was so hungry.
- I remember giving a Disney storybook to your daughter Kiamna, and from there you said, okay Jennie I’m willing to meet you. The rest is history.
Q: So, from there you continued hustling and built more and more success. Tell us more about some of your experiences during that period of time.
- The beginning was a lot of hustle. Going from door to door, reaching out to neighbors around the house I first bought. Eventually, I built some rapport and just worked and grinded.
- I really focused on sharing my story within sales, what was unique about our approach. Sharing my vision. my why. My why was I was working so hard to help my immigrant parents who got it here in the 1980s and don’t speak English. They are my big why. I shared it with my clients and they could see that personal touch and approach.
Q: So, you’re doing this, you’re working on a real estate team and gradually there are opportunities that are showing up in your life that ultimately led you to branch off on your own and do what you’re doing now. Tell us a little bit about what were the key moments along the way for you during those years.
- There was a lot of transitions. I actually want to thank you for some introduction to amazing former Cutco leaders like Ben Schemper.
- Really realizing how to unlock my potential and be able to build a life for others and my own team.
- Being able to share my knowledge of real estate and passive income to others was my main goal.
- I also got connected to Michael Chu who’s an old Cutco guy too. We got connected and I became his real estate coach for his community and coaching program. That was my initial role.
Q: I want to hear more about your experience investing in rentals. So, we understand the 1st one was the house you bought, lived in and rented rooms. That led to a much less expensive, easier-to-get-into single family home in Alabama. Where did you go from there?
- I went to Texas, San Antonio which is an hour away from Austin. We bought a house in San Antonio for $130,000, renting out for $1,300 a month and getting good cashflow.
- A year later, I bought 2 properties in Kansas City, Missouri. We eventually got 12 units there which we bought for $180,000 and it’s renting for $2,600 a month for each 4-plex.
- We wanted to scale up and ended up purchasing in Huntsville, Alabama area, 16 units at $1.1million.
- We took advantage of a benefit based on accelerated depreciation.
Q: I’m trying to understand how it would be advantageous to take all that depreciation at once vs. meted out year over year. If you’re going to keep the property, does it make sense to take the depreciation year after year or if you’re going to sell the property quickly, does it make sense to take more depreciation sooner? How does that work?
- We still plan on keeping the property because it’s good cashflow.
- We’re banking on depreciation as well. if you’re able to depreciate the same amount at over 27 years, you might as well depreciate it now and save on taxes upfront today.
- The goal is to keep buying properties every year.
Q: How do you manage those properties in Alabama?
- Definitely hire a property manager.
- I learned from my mistakes through the 1st property I bought. I thought I want to save money and not use a manager because it’s going to be 10% of the rent. The tenant ended up paying late. He was also a smoker. I realized I had to hire a property manager.
Q: What are other considerations should somebody go through when thinking about getting involved in purchasing rental properties?
- With interest rates been so low (around 3%), you can borrow up to 5 to 6 times what you make. If you’re making $100,000, you can borrow $500,000 to $600,000.
- I like what I did with house hacking, being able to offset and not pay some else rent. You can live rent-free and be able to build that equity to scale and purchase more.
- There is also the 1% rule. For example, if you’re buying a $100,000 property, you want it to rent close to $1,000 a month to get that cashflow.
Q: What about pitfalls? You mentioned about making sure you have a good manager. What other pitfalls are there to avoid?
- What kind of neighborhood is the property located?
- We tend to avoid areas we don’t feel safe going there or the property manager might not feel safe collecting.
- Just make sure you manage your budget. There’s going to be a common expense for utilities for large units. Make sure you have funds to pay for that.
- That can offset a lot of your cashflow if you’re in hazardous zones. Definitely get instruction to run your property and have multiple eyes look on it.
Q: What got you excited about coaching others in this process.
- After coaching with Michael Chan’s program and seeing the successes of people from all over the country. These 21-year-olds can do it and buy properties, while my friends in their late 20s and 30s are not buying properties. They just don’t know what they don’t know.
- I wanted to share the successes and enjoy what they do. Lots of people in corporate America don’t love their jobs. They’re just going through the grind. If they were able to purchase properties, they might be more motivated at work.
- That’s why we created Zen Coast University. It’s providing that peace of mind living a life that you want. Teaching the A -Z of real estate investing.
Q: What are some of your current goals and aspirations?
- My goal by the end of this year is to have over 120 students in the beaches of the Philippines so I can visit my virtual assistants out there.
- Just really celebrate life, all their wins, all their successes.
- Be able to see countries all over the world with my parents and family.
- Being able to take a month off. That’s really hard for us salespeople to do especially in real estate.
- Lastly, to unlock the potential of our network to be able to live a dream they couldn’t have dreamed of.
Q: Have you got any last words you want to share with the audience?
- Definitely figure out what is your big reason.
- What is your big why.
- So cool to hear how sales was in Jennie’s blood from an early age. I’m not sure how she eluded Cutco recruiters back when she got out of high school.
- I loved the progression of her properties. The first one was a property for her to live in, a single family home in the San Francisco Bay Area, so it’s not cheap. $870,000 which equates to a $300,000 property in many other places in America or even less. So, it wasn’t a low-end property by any stretch of imagination. But also it wasn’t a high-end property by any stretch of imagination
- She lived in it and rented out the extra rooms so she could have those rentals pay her mortgage.
- She got her first rental a single family home in Alabama, purchased for $67,000, then a single family home in San Antonio, purchased for $130,000, three 4-plex units in Kansas City, purchased at $180,000 each.
- Then an Alabama apartment complex which led her to a 2nd apartment complex in Alabama worth a little more than $1 million.
- Around this time, Jennie got involved in selling real estate, built a successful team and that how we met.
- Recognizing how sharp and talented she was, I thought she’d fit in really well with some of Cutco/Vector alumni community in the Bay Area. Mike Ambrosino and Ben Schemper. That set her on a new path where she got excited about teaching and coaching others.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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