From Maternity Leave to Leaving a Legacy

Yulonda Paul

Yulonda Paul

Yulonda Paul never thought about real estate investing until tragedy struck. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a short two months later. The inheritance she received was more cash than she’d ever had access to at once. Knowing her mother worked a lifetime to save this money, Paul began to worry about how to invest it wisely.

“There was no way I was going to waste that money. I panicked and felt a sense of urgency to act.”

Paul doesn’t come across as the type of person to panic. In fact, our call could have easily been canceled; she had just received news about an emergency for a loved one. But she pushed through our conversation with a get-it-done grit, and a wicked sense of humor. And her passion for the topic at hand was contagious.

“I talk fast. I’m originally from New York. If I talk too fast, let me know. I’m excited about real estate. It makes my hair stand up.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Paul majored in criminal justice and landed a job with New York’s Administration for Children’s Services. She says the skills amassed over the course of her 23-year career have served her well in real estate. Her job required her to be a self-starter and a multitasking maven. Over the years, she managed the lives of hundreds of children in New York and Connecticut, juggling the oversight of their protection, medical, educational, and social needs. She became a hands-on problem solver. And learning to pivot skilfully when circumstances didn’t go her way was simply part of the job.

After starting a family of her own, Paul wanted more income and went after her real estate license. She also took a new position in a similar field in Connecticut. However, the stress of living in NYC, working full-time in Connecticut, and showing properties in New Jersey on nights and weekends took its toll. And battling traffic across 3 states was not the worst part of the job.

“I didn’t like the open houses! I would lock the door behind me every time, which you can’t do at an open house! I thought someone would be hiding in the closet waiting for me. New Yorkers are very suspicious of everything.”

By the time the housing market crash of 2008 hit, Paul decided she needed a change.

A fortuitous moment happened when she saw a social media post about a real estate investment workshop at Temple University. Wanting to find a meaningful home for the inheritance passed down from her mother, she purchased a ticket and surveyed the labyrinth of public transit schedules to get her from the Bronx to North Philadelphia.

There, she was thrilled to learn what she calls a blueprint for real estate investing. The instructor broke down topics that for Paul had previously felt insurmountable. She soaked up information on fundamentals like the construction process, funding, and working with contractors. She felt ready to invest.

She also met her future business partner whose name speaks for itself – Charisma Cash.

“We were both scared, and both had access to funds. Cash lived in Philadelphia and would be my boots on the ground. Or so I thought.”

Together, Paul and Cash started investing in properties in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, their first investment came with a few tough lessons.

New to real estate investing – or what they refer to as “the game,” – they hired a real estate agent to help them obtain financing. They thought they’d made a smart move – after all, the agent had written a book on investments. Paul and Cash signed a deal for a loan at a whopping 14% interest.

“I didn’t know a lot. In my head, you pay $50K for a property. You put $50K into fixing it up. Then you sell it for $150K. To me, that is a profit of $50K. That was my math. I didn’t know about any of the financing stuff. ”

They also paid the agent a consulting fee of nearly $4,000 to serve as their step-by-step guide on the rehab work – a gargantuan task Paul and Cash felt wary about tackling on their own. The agent created a makeshift schedule, providing an estimate for the associated costs. But the numbers weren’t adding up.

To make matters even more challenging, Cash soon needed to move out of the vicinity. Tapping into the skills she gained working in child protective services, Paul bounced back and decided to be a hands-on investor. She began networking and hiring her own contractors. She soon realized the rehab would cost far more than her agent anticipated.

“My contractors are saying, ‘Miss Yulonda, you can’t tap into the plumbing here.” Then, “Miss Yulonda, the electricity here is not up to code.’ The agent didn’t give me good advice. Abandoned property rehabs are rarely just cosmetic.”

Paul and her business partner reeled at the unanticipated costs of repairing major structural damage and mechanicals.

When Paul joined BTS in 2017, she gained access to a supportive community and learned invaluable information about the bones of financing and property rehabs. Jabbar Fairweather, a founding member of BTS and now part of her go-to network, visited the property to give Paul and Cash some direction.

“He’s like, ‘who sold ya’ll this property?’ I love having that community when we need help and are in trouble. Jabar did that for us on multiple occasions.”

Paul said that BTS taught her about “hard money,” and the way it all worked. She got an education on various financial topics, like the 70% rule, and the calculations for a 30% profit margin. She learned about loan-to-value ratios. Most importantly, she learned how to determine how much lending she really qualified for – and how much she actually needed to complete a successful rehab.

Paul, a self-described introvert, says founder Nicole Purvy pushed her to get dexterous at networking, never missing an opportunity to “put yourself out there.” This advice led Paul to identify a mentor who helped her find a new lender. The new lender got Paul and Cash out of their high-interest nightmare and into a much better deal.

Paul credits the community and education she received at BTS with the successful completion of her first rehab. She admits she didn’t make any money, but she also didn’t lose any…

Paul and Cash soon purchased a second property – this one with fire damage. Paul explained why, after the headache of the first deal, they chose to invest again.

“Because we LEARNED. With BTS, we know our numbers. Now, we have more people to help us.”

This time, they were prepared for the full gut job. The second property quickly sold, giving them a $98,000 profit.

No longer new to the game, Paul and Cash are partnering again to convert a single family home into a duplex in Philadelphia.

“I just taught my 18-year-old son how to run comps on properties for me. I love teaching my children and grandchildren that they can make their own economy.”

Her results – and checks – speak for themselves. Using the knowledge and experience she gained through BTS, Paul now mentors investors through her own firm, YJP and Associates.

While the money is good, for Paul, this is truly a labor of love.

“I love the transformation in taking something beat down and making it beautiful.”