BiggerPockets Money Podcast 205: From $50k in Debt to Financially Free in 2 Years w/ Lots of Ups & Downs

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 205: From $50k in Debt to Financially Free in 2 Years w/ Lots of Ups & Downs

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There are lots of twists and turns throughout every investor’s journey, but maybe not as many as Zeona McIntyre’s. Growing up with the words of Suze Orman in her ear, Zeona knew that there were a few things she had to do, like max out her Roth IRA every year. It wasn’t until Zeona was talking to a friend who told her about Airbnb arbitrage that she realized a future in real estate investing may be the most successful.

Before there were many short-term rental laws, people would Airbnb out of their own rented apartment, often without the landlord’s permission. Before you go off on Zeona in the comments, know that she does not do this anymore, and a few of her landlords were surprisingly okay with the plan. Since then, she has purchased 11 doors that she rents out, both to short and long-term tenants.

You’ll hear how Zeona used private funding, an unfortunately-fortune life insurance payment, and many other creative methods to get her to financial independence in just 2 years!

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 205, where we interviewed Zeona McIntyre and talked about reaching financial independence at an early age by taking advantage of the lemons that life throws at you.

Zeona:
And realizing this is all fun and good, but so many of the people around me even, though they have really rich, beautiful lives with travel and experiences, they don’t have much money. They don’t have much security. And do I want that going forward?

Mindy:
Hello, hello. Hello. My name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always, is my staying out of trouble co-host Scott Trench.

Scott:
That’s right, we always ask forgiveness, not permission here at BiggerPockets money.

Mindy:
Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else, to introduce you to every money story, because we truly believe that financial freedom is attainable no matter when or where you’re starting.

Scott:
That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world and go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate and start your own business or approach FI from a woo woo perspective, rather than a scientific formulaic approach. We’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so you can launch yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Okay, today we are talking to Zeona McIntyre, who has a really, really interesting story of creatively solving problems. And she says in the episode, “Doing whatever I needed to do to get creative about that.” And this is absolutely a story of figuring out your own path, and operating within default rules, but also kind of exploring a little bit of the gray areas that sometimes life has.

Scott:
Oh, yeah, she created a world in which she could thrive and to a large extent, and I think you’re going to find it very different from a lot of money stories we’ve heard, but no less valid of an approach towards really building the life of your dreams.

Mindy:
Yeah, and I hope it’s inspiring for people to think outside the box. Zeona McIntyre, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. How are you today?

Zeona:
Thank you guys for having me. I’m doing so great. I’m super excited to be back. And I just like, I’m really fond of both of you. Mindy is just a real close, sweet friend of mine already. And Scott, I met through Mindy and Mindy’s famous potlucks. I’ve met a lot of great people there. So I’m just excited to see you both. Thanks for having me.

Mindy:
Thank you for joining us. Friendsgiving is my favorite, favorite holiday. And I am really, really excited that I might be able to host one this year again. So yeah, I actually interviewed Zeona McIntyre for the BiggerPockets real estate podcast, way back in Episode 229, which I thought was an amazing episode. So as soon as it released, I announced it in the forums, and people started responding with kind of ugly comments, like I can’t believe that BiggerPockets would support this suggestion of illegal activity. And I’m like, “Wait, what? What episode did you listen to? Because I was on that recording, and I didn’t hear anything like that.” It turns out in the beginning, the very beginning of the episode, Zeona discusses how, because she wasn’t aware of the laws or the rules, she had been renting a property from a landlord and then started Airbnb in the property without telling it to the landlord.
And people were saying, “Well, I can’t believe BiggerPockets is supporting this.”, and I just turned it off. Well, wait. You should have listened like five minutes more because then she talks about how she realized the error of her ways and changed her method of investing in Airbnb. So with all of that to say, Zeona McIntyre, if you hear anything that she’s saying today, best wait because it gets better.

Scott:
Mindy had some choice words describing that earlier. So thank you, Mindy, for the much more turned down way of describing the haters.

Mindy:
It was such a good episode is Episode 229 of the BiggerPockets real estate podcast talking about Airbnb and Airbnb arbitrage and managing Airbnbs. It was a really great episode and Airbnb is a really great way to generate some extra income. However, if you’re going to do it and you’re renting a property, you should talk to your landlord. And if he says no, then don’t do it. If I recall correctly, Zeona, you just didn’t ask for permission.

Zeona:
Well, it was one of those things where you ask for forgiveness, and not permission, right? Well, I also was doing it within the legality of my lease. So I asked to be able to sublet and I was just subletting but at that time, a lot of people didn’t know about Airbnb. And so it wasn’t even really something that I could say, “Hey, I’m doing this Airbnb thing.” He might not even have known what I was talking about. So I don’t think it’s that bad. And nowadays, people do arbitrage all the time. So they are renting and re-renting, but you can do it with full permission now, so I think that’s a better way to go for sure.

Mindy:
Yes, yes, always absolutely operate within the lease. And I came up in the show that your lease shared that. I don’t think that that [inaudible 00:05:20].

Zeona:
It might have been later. And they didn’t listen all the way. Right?

Mindy:
They could have very, but yes, so I did encourage people to go back and listen to the episode. It’s a great episode. If you are at all interested in Airbnb, you should listen to that episode. There’s tons of tips and tricks in there. This episode is not so much focused on Airbnb as just the general money story of Zeona McIntyre, who apparently did not start off in the lap of luxury and was not born into wealth, if I can give a little spoiler alert to your story. Is that true?

Zeona:
Yeah, it is true. Where do you want me to start? I mean-

Mindy:
Where do you consider your journey with money begins?

Zeona:
Yeah, I would say that I grew up with parents that really didn’t know much about money. My mother had this thing where she was really generous, and she wants to give a lot, but she would give kind of in spite of herself. And so anytime she had a little extra, she was giving it away, but not keeping enough to be in a safe place. And so she had a lot of scarcity. And we always kind of struggled. And then my father, he could make money in kind of big lump sums. He was a real MLM guy and did a lot of that kind of stuff. He was businessy and entrepreneurial, but he loved toys and flash. And so the moment we had any extra, he would be buying the next Mercedes or renting out a really fancy home or doing something, and then we would be without money again.
And so it was this really unstable environment that made me think, gosh, there’s got to be a different way. I don’t think that everybody else is suffering like this. And I just want to figure it out. If there’s some other way to do it, I want to know what that is. And so I think that’s what catapulted me to this place of saying I need to learn something else, because the examples I have are not great.

Mindy:
How old were you when you came to this realization?

Zeona:
I think I started just acknowledging money and kind of understanding pretty young, I would say like it’s one of those things where you go to the store with your parents, and they say, “Oh, well, we can’t afford to get you a toy.”, kind of thing, going to just Target or Kmart or something like that. So I think I learned pretty early like okay, we don’t have enough. And then there were times where we had food stamps and my mother was mostly working. She was a cleaning lady for a lot of the time growing up. And my dad was only around supporting when he’s hitting it big and had his money, but otherwise, he was kind of just bumming around. So yeah, I think I realized that pretty young.
So what does high school and college look like for you?

Mindy:
Yeah, high school was when I started to want something different. And I got into money a little bit with my mom, which was a really fun bonding experience. We started watching Suze Orman. And even though I don’t really resonate with a lot of her advice now, I think just having access to her books, and how her books were really focused on women especially and she had a book for young people too. I think that that was a great starting point. And I was always an avid reader. So that got me a little bit like geeky excited about it.

Scott:
So what do things look like kind of as you move into high school with your financial position? Are you working? How do you kind of move on from there to college?

Zeona:
Yeah, I did. I was working a lot. I was kind of just working in the service industry. Living in Hawaii, where I grew up, it’s mostly hotels and restaurants is kind of like what you have access to. And so yeah, I had just those kind of hourly or tip based jobs and realized there’s really not much left. After you’ve got taxes taken out, there’s really not much happening. So how can people have a job like that? And in Hawaii, people are maybe 40 and 50 working in the same restaurant as you, and how do they get to this place where they can ever have stability in their life? So I just didn’t see how that connected, how that would ever be possible through that means.

Scott:
So what did you do about it? What happened?

Zeona:
Yeah, so I mean, I traveled and that was really what I did. I saved up a lot of money and traveled and I think that that really exposed me to more. But in the same time, found Suze Orman, got some really good ideas about debt pay down. So when I was in college, I accumulated about $50,000 of debt, which nowadays is small potatoes. But it was a lot of money for me. And also seeing that that was not really going away if you just pay the minimum, which is kind of like, I guess I don’t know, if you don’t know about money, that’s sort of what you think that you all you have to pay is like that minimum price. And it just doesn’t go away. So I remember paying down my debt for maybe 10 years and never actually having it move the needle much at all. So that can be a very scary experience for somebody.

Scott:
So where did you go to college? And what kind of happens in the immediate aftermath of that?

Zeona:
Yeah, so college for me, I went to LA. I didn’t really know much about kind of accumulating debt. So I was the first one in my family to really go to college. I think maybe my mother did like a year. And so when I went, I went to a private school that was very expensive and it was an art school. So not necessarily a great means to getting a great job. But I was following a passion and I was getting out of small town Hawaii, which I think I needed at that time. So just giving myself exposure to something more and something bigger. Yeah, that’s kind of what I did there.

Scott:
Where would you say like the turning point in your money story kind of hits?

Zeona:
Yeah, I mean I think Mr. Money Mustache was the thing that really catapulted me into something else. So up until that point, I had this thing where I was mostly working up enough to have free time to do something big. And so it was traveling in Europe or working travel jobs, where you get kind of unemployment in between the season and get to go on these big trips. And so I did a lot of seasonal work like that for a while. And when I found Mr. Money Mustache, I was kind of ending a season like that and realizing like, this is all fun and good. But so many of the people around me, even though they have really rich, beautiful lives with travel and experiences, they don’t have much money, they don’t have much security. And do I want that going forward? So Mr. Money Mustache really showed me like, holy crap, you can’t retire at 30, which I wasn’t that far away from at that point. And I had no idea how I would do it but I wanted it. And I think believing it makes it possible.

Mindy:
Okay, so you weren’t that far away from 30. But had you been saving any money?

Zeona:
Not a lot. Yeah, so for me, I was, how old was I when I found out about Mr. Money Mustache? I want to say I was 26. And so up until that point, I probably had 50,000 in debt. I was changing my life. I was kind of going off of the road to moving to Boulder, Colorado. I was going to start massage school. And I was going to take this whole new track. And then I found Mr. Money Mustache and said, like, “Hey, I’m already living really, really frugal, so that’s fine. How can I put these tips that seem to make sense because they knew a little bit about Suze Orman? How can I put some of these tips together and actually create freedom in my life, which is what I wanted more than anything?”

Scott:
So what immediately happens then? So you’re already living frugally, what do you do on the income or investing side following this at 26?

Zeona:
Yeah. So I’m kind of a big believer in manifestations. And so for me, I think first just knowing it was possible really opened my mind to something bigger. So seeing Mr. Money Mustache, seeing what he did, and having his blog to follow which at that time, he had just gotten it started and there was lots of meat on the bone. He was posting all the time. That was very encouraging. And then I had this vision that I was going to be a massage therapist, and I was going to have this whole, I don’t know, clinic and hustle with that. So I was working towards that. And in that time is when I learned about Airbnb. And that actually just took a huge tangent down a different line for me. But that’s what was my catalyst that allowed me to create so much more wealth, and not the original path I was on but I think that it was because I learned that there was something else, that there were bigger possibilities.

Scott:
Love it. So what year is this that you’re discovering?

Zeona:
I think it was 2011. It was kind of right when he got going.

Scott:
Okay, so in 2011, you kind of figure, you discover the whole fire concept through Mr. Mustache and you have $50,000 in debt. You’re on a track to become a massage therapist, but you pivot right away, it sounds like to Airbnb. What’s the kind of arc of your debt pay down? And what were a couple of breakthrough moments on that journey for you?

Zeona:
Yeah, so I got to the place of realizing like, I need to throw all my money at this debt, where it’s kind of this experience of the snowball effects or yeah, I mean, I think he has an episode or not an episode, but a blog post where he’s talking about treat debt like your hair is on fire. So every little extra penny that you can scrape up from under the couch, that should go towards your debt all the time. And so the beauty of Airbnb is that I was able to live for free. So if you can take out that huge expense of transportation or house or both, if you’re really lucky, then you can get rid of a lot of debt that way. And so when I started doing Airbnb, I was working just minimum wage at a marijuana dispensary. And then I started doing Airbnb, and it allowed me to have first, no payment for rent. And then shortly thereafter, a little bit of money coming in that was extra so that I could get groceries and do basic stuff and pay down debt.

Scott:
That’s awesome. So you’re working minimum wage in Boulder, Colorado, which is one of the most expensive places in the country to live at 2011 at stores and you’re working minimum wage. And this is where you discover Mustache and begin chasing financial freedom. I love it. How much are you able to begin putting towards debt per month? Is it sporadic, your journey? Or is it kind of consistent and formulaic? Or how does that work?

Zeona:
Well, I mean, so the big thing that happened for me is my mother got cancer. And actually, I was able to write off a lot of that debt because of that. And so I don’t know that that’s the path I’d recommend for anyone. And it’s not-

Scott:
What is that? I don’t want to, we don’t have to go too far down there. But I don’t understand that. How do you write off debt in relation to-

Zeona:
It was a parent loan. And so if you have cancer, there’s actually the ability to get rid of a parent loan. Usually student loans are, they follow you to the grave, especially when you’re a young student, but if it’s attached to your parent, there’s a loophole there that I didn’t know about. But it was something we found out along the way.

Scott:
So your parents guaranteed the student loan debt.

Zeona:
Yeah.

Scott:
Then when she became ill, there was a forgiveness situation there.

Zeona:
Yeah.

Scott:
Okay.

Zeona:
So I did start paying a lot down and my rent had been like 750 a month. And so I was starting to pay that. And then she got sick and I was able to get that written off. And it was a beautiful gift. I mean, I’m really, really grateful for that. It was at the time, kind of like winning the lottery. I remember telling a friend like that, like I couldn’t believe that this debt that I’ve been paying for 10 years already was going away, just like that. But of course, with that came a lot of other things.

Mindy:
Yeah, I want to point out really quickly before Scott said, you said a few minutes ago, “I paid down my debt for 10 years, and it never moved the needle.” That isn’t how debt should work. And if you’re paying on the debt, it should drop a little bit. So I can hear people saying, “Oh, well, this story doesn’t count because she got her debt wiped out.” Well, it wasn’t like you’ve got your debt wiped out because you won the lottery, you had a really horrible thing happen too, so let’s not lose track of that.

Zeona:
And there’s another way that I got something that wasn’t fair for people either, is that when my mother passed away, I did get a life insurance check. And so that was a big catalyst for me being able to buy property and start, but what I did with that is I doubled it in a year. And so lots of people would take that money and either squirrel it away in a bank account and not know what to do with their grief, or spend it frivolously and then be kind of screwed over. But I was able to take that money and double it and then over years make that a whole empire for myself, so it’s something now that is supporting my family and my nephews and everything like that. So I’m super grateful for it. But yeah, it is maybe a cheat in some people’s eyes.

Scott:
Well, I don’t think it’s a cheat. This is life, right? This is your money story and lots of people have, everyone has a cheat code that happens in their story. It’s very rare to find the person who starts in a position where they have no help whatsoever, tons of debt, bad health, all that kind of stuff and moves to financial freedom. It’s just hard from that situation. Lots of people have some advantage like this, either a starting job or no debt or low debt or ability to pay it off, or some sort of circumstance with that. And I think that this is just your story. So we don’t need to apologize for the circumstances that you’ve had and the pain that was associated with the financial boosts that you got with that.

Mindy:
Yeah, the pain. Point that out, she lost her mom. And I’m not trying to rub salt in the wound, but I’m sure you’d rather have your mom than a check.

Zeona:
Oh, my God. Totally, yeah.

Mindy:
Oh, no, I’m a terrible person.

Zeona:
I was already on the verge. It’s fine.

Scott:
Thank you for sharing this with us. This is tough stuff.

Zeona:
Sure, and it’s real. It’s real life for so many people. Yeah, so I think that that was like a wonderful catalyst, I mean all of it coming out the way that it did. I was 26 when I started this journey. When I was 28, I lost my mom. And that’s really young for a lot of people. I didn’t know anybody else who had lost their parents. But by then, because of Mr. Money Mustache, because of the things I had been putting together, I was able to be financially independent already at 28, and so I’m so grateful that I had figured out kind of this path and had started implementing Airbnb because when my life kind of fell apart around me and it took maybe two years to get to a place where I felt like I could build again and try to like, I don’t know, be a normal person and not be kind of buried by grief all the time, yeah, I was taken care of. I was completely taken care of by the cash flow that I was able to create. So if I didn’t have that, I don’t know what I would have done.

Scott:
So it sounds like the real financial journey is almost like, it’s almost like a two year period where you go from basically, $50,000 in debt to financially free in two years, a culmination of, and there’s multiple moving parts here. You go from minimum wage, $50,000 in debt to loans paid off. You discover the concept, loans paid off, big check and Airbnb strategy implemented in the span of two years from 26 to 28, or two and a half, however that math works out, is that right?

Zeona:
Yeah, totally.

Mindy:
Do you want to break into that a little bit?

Scott:
Yep, I would love to break into the specifics behind that and kind of that journey, starting from I’m at the marijuana dispensary making minimum wage and paying rent, discovering Mustache and then sounds like the first move in the two year game here is Airbnb-ing your place.

Zeona:
Yeah, so I was probably in massage school, maybe six months and massage school is probably a year and a half. And I was working at the marijuana dispensary. I think I was partially living off of student loans, so that was probably helping me cover my rent a bit. And I heard about Airbnb from a friend of mine. So a friend of mine who was living in New York City, he was really burnt out from his job. He ended up getting laid off and he said, “Man, I’ve got this $3,000 a month apartment and I don’t know how I’m going to pay for it. But I’m stuck in a lease and I just need to go travel.” So he’s like, “I heard about this Airbnb thing. I’m going to try it.”
And to me, Airbnb sounded like couchsurfing. I don’t know if either of you guys knew about couchsurfing. But I had done a lot of it in 2006, traveled all over Europe and stayed in people’s houses where they just opened their doors for free and let you sleep in a guest room, on a couch, on a floor. So for me, allowing some stranger into my home wasn’t that strange. I had done it a lot. And so when he told me about it, at the time, I was too busy. I was in school and I was like you’re bothering me. I don’t know if I want to hear about this. But after a while, he started making so much money that he could continue traveling the world, pay for the apartment and he ended up taking an entire year off.
At the end of that year, he told me he made $50,000 off of his apartment he didn’t own that he was subletting on Airbnb. And that blew my mind because nowadays, you have people are trying to make $100,000 a year but back then, $50,000 was like a solid salary. That was like a tech salary. And so I just thought, “Wow, I’ve never even seen that much money in my life.” I don’t even know what that would be like. And that’s something you could have from something you don’t even own. And so it made me go, “Okay, I have to try this.” It’s not even like a choice at this point. Let me see if I can do something about it. But I always thought it was just a little side hustle.

Mindy:
So I heard about Airbnb probably the same time you did. But the difference between you and me is that you did something about it, and I did not. I was like, “Oh, that sounds weird to let people just come into my house and sleep. I have small kids, I’m not going to do this.” And I would not even, like why would I use Airbnb? That’s so strange. And now I use it all the time, almost as much as I use hotels. The only reason I use hotels more is because I get the free stays with the travel hacking.

Zeona:
Yeah, with children, I understand that being a weird concept at first. You’ve got to protect them. But yeah, for me, the Airbnb journey started really small. I had a two bedroom apartment I was renting. And then I had a roommate move away. And I thought, “Okay, well, I’ve got this furnished room already, had my furniture in it, I can just get another roommate or now this is this perfect opportunity. I can try this Airbnb thing I’ve been hearing about.”
And so it was so successful for me that I was renting out her room. And then sometimes I was renting out my room. And going and staying with friends and doing massage trades, buying them breakfast, doing whatever I had to do to be super creative about that, and over time, it ended up being, so there was so much demand that I knew that I needed another place because I was very often out of my home and I needed to figure something out. So one place turned into two and for probably the first two years, I just struggled two places.

Scott:
How did you get the second place?

Zeona:
That second place changed a little bit. Yeah, my father, actually. So I asked my dad for a loan, I told him this whole concept. He was like, “It sounds really weird, but I trust you. Okay.” So I asked him for $4,000, which at the time it seemed like a lot to me. And that was enough for first month’s rent, deposit and a little bit of furniture. I just kind of scraped this together at garage sales and Craigslist and all that and made it enough to work. So it was pretty bare bones.

Scott:
And you had no money at this point? You had no savings. You’re just cash flowing a little bit and a loan of $4,000 is enough to rent a place, the second place for you?

Zeona:
Yeah. And so yeah, I think anytime I had anything extra, I was putting it towards my debt. At that time, I didn’t know, I don’t think my mom was sick yet. So I didn’t know that I had that opportunity. So that debt just seemed like it’s never going away unless you get really aggressive about it.

Scott:
And all this time you’re working full time minimum wage?

Zeona:
I was probably working part time. And I think as soon as I was able to cover my basic living expenses, I left that job, because what would happen is that with Airbnb, you could charge a cleaning fee. And so even a $40 or $50 cleaning fee was more than I made in a day. So I thought, “Well screw that. I want to work one hour and clean a place in the middle of my day and have all the flexibility and keep that.” But of course you pay taxes on things, but I wasn’t thinking about it at that point.

Scott:
Okay, so you now have two places. How are things going from here? How was your work and your savings rate and all that kind of good stuff?

Zeona:
Yeah, so I wish I was tracking my savings rate more. Basically, I was just kind of in this place of living between two places trying to pay all my debt, live as frugally as possible. And I think I was investing, I was at least maxing out my Roth IRA, which I had been doing since 18. That’s something that I got from Suze Orman and I was really grateful to have. But other than that, it was all just going down to debt, tried to move that needle as much as possible.

Scott:
And you’re operating the two Airbnbs and you’re working and you’re going to massage school at the same time with all of this?

Zeona:
I was just operating the two Airbnbs. Yeah, I was not working. I was going to massage school. That was something I wanted to finish and then when I did finish, I did have massage clients and that’s pretty good income. So you can make $30 to $50 an hour and then towards the end, when I had been doing massage for a while, then I was making like $75 but you can only do a couple hours a day so it was still not a lot.
What really changed for me is right towards the end when my mother was kind of going to be passing away. I wanted her to have a place to pass away in. And so I felt like I couldn’t have her pass away in a rental. I don’t know why. That was weird. But I thought like, now’s the time, I really have to buy something. And so that was the thing that helped me kind of make the big push through the fear of buying my first place, because I think, I don’t know if a lot of people own or whatever, listening to this podcast, but what you find is that first one is so hard. And once you’ve gotten over that hump, it becomes so much easier. And then you go, “Oh, I could do this every year. Buying real estate is no big deal.”
But I needed something. I needed a big catalyst to get me out of my fear space. And that was the thing. And so I think that’s really what changed things for me is that when I could actually own, which back then you could own for cheaper than renting. Now that’s not true in Boulder. Then it was really helping me save even more.

Mindy:
But you bought a place in Boulder, Colorado?

Zeona:
Yeah, I had a one bedroom, though. It was 162,000.

Scott:
She bought a condo.

Zeona:
Yes.

Mindy:
Okay.

Zeona:
Yeah, so I had been going between two places. And that was sort of my life, it was I would have both calendars open and whatever place wasn’t rented was where I stayed. And then if they both rented, I would go stay with a friend and try to make that work. So yeah, that was a hustle for two years. I’m first to say that it wasn’t convenient and it wasn’t comfortable. But it was a way for me to pay as much debt as possible, and save up so that I could buy something. And so I was taking care of my mom in the last three months of her life. And at that point, I had to be much more stable. We were renting another place and I had the two rentals going. And then I was able to buy a place at that point. And that really kind of helped me expand. What happened with that, yeah, go ahead.

Scott:
How much are you renting these two places for? And what’s your arbitrage in the Airbnb income, between the Airbnb income and the rents?

Zeona:
Yeah, so towards that part, when I was going to buy the next one, or when I was going to buy my first place, I was in this one rental that was a one bedroom, and I was renting it for $1,100 a month. And I could rent it out on Airbnb from between $1,700 in the low season to $4,000 a month in the high season. And so I always could cover that $1,00.

Scott:
Is that inclusive of the cleaning fees?

Zeona:
Yeah, because you just get payments, yeah. And so I don’t know exactly how much of that was cleaning fees, but I was at the time cleaning. So it was kind of like, it was coming to me anyway. But yeah, what was great about that, and I like to call Airbnb real estate training wheels is that I had had that place going for maybe a year, year and a half. And so I knew the numbers in and out. I knew the seasonality. I knew exactly that I would never go below 1,100. That was no big deal. And when I bought my first place, it was five minutes away, it was a one bedroom, it was the same thing. But it was only going to cost me like 950 a month instead of the 1,100. So it was super easy for me to say, I can cover this. I can do this, because I have been doing it.

Scott:
This is awesome. So we now have three places and you’re arbitraging them, it looks like between $1,000 and $3,000 a month in profit spread between the fixed cost, either the rent you’re paying to the landlords or the mortgage you’re paying. So you’re starting to really rake in some serious cash at this point, I imagine. How do things proceed?

Zeona:
Yeah. So I have the two places. I had the one bedroom and then the one bedroom I just bought and between those two, I was able to cash flow enough that I realized that this idea that I had originally started out with from Mr. Money Mustache that I had to have 600,000 in index funds, because that’s what he did to retire. And now people say, “Oh, you need a million.” But he was just trying to make 25,000 a year because that’s what he was living off of. So that’s 600,000 in index funds. And I had been pushing towards that. I was saving as much as I could. I was paying all my debt until the debt got wiped. And I was just thinking like, “Dang, I am nowhere close to that and I don’t know how the heck I’m going to get there.” Well, what didn’t occur to me is that oh, if you’re using real estate, which Airbnb ended up being like real estate, you can live off of cash flow. And what I was spending a month was only 2,000 to 2,500 a month. And so very quickly, I realized, “Oh my God, these places have made me financially independent already.” And I’m working three hours a week answering Airbnb emails and doing a little bit of cleaning. So it was kind of one of those things that I woke up to and I’m like, “Shoot, I’m already there.”

Scott:
There’s a giant got you in the story here, which is that you’re doing this not necessarily with landlord permission. And we know that the law evolves to make this much more difficult over the next couple of years with that. Is that going through your head at this point? Or are you kind of like, “Oh, those aren’t really problems that I’m really dealing with right now.”

Zeona:
Yeah, I was really stressed actually, that a landlord problem could come up. And I had a couple, but they never ended poorly. I had a place that I had been renting, that it was a building where the landlord owned the whole building. And so one of my neighbors ratted me out, because we all have the same landlord. And I was like, “Darn, I didn’t think that one through.” But the guy gave me a pat on the back and said, “This is super clever. Just don’t do it here.” And he gave me my deposit back. And he’s like, “Go, be free.” So that was fine. That worked out well. And the next one that I had a little issue with, I just kind of told him “Oh, sorry, it was a misunderstanding. I thought I could sublet.” And he was like, “That’s cool, whatever.” And I filled the place with somebody else. And I found her on Airbnb very shortly after with the same place up and him.
I found him on Airbnb renting out his own place. So I was like, “Look at this, you can’t stop the system.” I got everybody started. So I didn’t feel too badly about that. And I think that was another catalyst that got me towards buying my own place because I thought, “Okay, I’m going to be the most legitimate if I buy.” And this was 2014. The laws in Boulder didn’t change until 2019, I want to say. Maybe it was 2017, I don’t know. But it was way before then. And so there was nothing wrong about it as long as the HOA was fine with it.

Scott:
Okay, so we’re in 2014. And so this is three years past your discovery of Mustache. And since 2011, several things have happened. You’ve gotten two places, you’ve bought a place. You’ve never really had more than two places at a time with this journey. There’s around two places at a time. Is that right?

Zeona:
Yeah. So I started renting around 2012, then yeah, got to the place of buying the place and being financially independent in 2014, yeah.

Scott:
And then in 2014, it sounds like that’s when your mom passes. Is that right?

Zeona:
Yeah, she passed away, like a week or two before closing, so she never actually got to go to the place.

Scott:
Well, what happens? So what happens in 2014, and then on? We know that there’s your mom’s passing, and then there’s a big check as well from the life insurance with that. Is that a catalyst for acquisitions and growing the business?

Zeona:
It was. I didn’t know what to do with it. And I felt super worried that I would do something wrong. And so I had a loan, I had a private loan for that first place that I had gotten from a previous landlord, actually. And because I was just doing Airbnb-

Scott:
[inaudible 00:38:40] Did the landlord kick you out because you’re illegally Airbnb-ing his place, and then give you a loan to buy a place because he realized how good the strategy was? Is that generally what happened here?

Zeona:
It was not that guy. No, no, it was a landlord, maybe three before, something like that. But yeah, he was just a friend of my mom’s and I, and I told him kind of the vision I had, and he was excited about it, and he gave me a private loan. So I will also tell people ask for what you want, you might just get it, because there was no way I was qualified for a loan that way.

Scott:
So you got a private loan in 2014 at some point from a landlord?

Zeona:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott:
Friend or family member, friend or family landlord, prior landlord, can you walk us through this acquisition? Is this the place that we discussed, the condo for 165?

Zeona:
Yeah, 162. I told him that I was paying more already. And so I just kind of, it was one of those things that I discovered in the shower. It’s like I had a light bulb moment and I was like, “Shoot, I should just ask this guy.” He is an investor in town. He was renting us a place in this complex where he owns 17 units, and he just has such a cool life. He was like in his 70s, but he played volleyball with everyone and ride his bike everywhere. And he’s just like a cool young, old person. And I was like, “I want to live like that.” And I think I had heard that he had given someone a loan once, but I think it was probably to buy one of his places. I’m not exactly sure. But I just thought, “You know what? I’m going to put on my big girl pants, I’m going to go ask. And if he says no, then I have figured something else out.” So he ended up saying yes, and now that I know so much more about loans, it could have been so much more complicated. But it was literally that we sat on his porch, had some tea and talked over a couple of things. He never looked at any documents, he never asked for any proof. And as long as I paid the loan, he was happy. So that was a really-

Scott:
So you raise $162,000 in capital after two years of asking for forgiveness, not permission on the Airbnb side. That’s how you financed this first property that you own, which you then Airbnb using a private debt, because you’re not even attempting to get conventional financing, it sounds like with a loan, and is it 100% financed with this loan from the private investor?

Zeona:
I was able to give him like 10%. And so he was okay with that. And I think he looked at the HOA docs. He was more interested in the property, because I guess he thought that if anything happened, he would get the property. So he just wanted to make sure that that was real safe. But yeah, after that-

Scott:
So in 2014, we got some money. We’ve got a property with a private loan. Yeah, what happens from here?

Mindy:
Hold on. I’m getting something here really quick, because we’re sitting here in 2021 talking about this, where private loans are, at least in my life, private loans are like a thing that I know about. I’ve been the lender on private loans. I’ve been, Airbnb is now a thing. I’m hearing all these stories. But these are seven years ago, six years ago, seven. How does math work? Seven years ago, when private loans weren’t a thing. You didn’t ask people for money because why would you? You’re above if you ask people for money. You certainly don’t ask them to buy you a house. You did Airbnb, that wasn’t a thing. That was some random weird thing that people that I’m hearing over and over again, Zeona is being faced with these things. And instead of, I can see somebody listening to this saying, “Oh, well, she was so lucky.”
No, she wasn’t. There is nothing lucky about her situation at all. She is savvy, and she is taking advantage of situations that are coming up. She is being creative. She is looking into, “Oh, here’s a new thing. Let me go test that out.” How did Airbnb grow? because of people like Zeona, who furthered it by helping it. And yes, there are gray areas with regards to the leases, and in some cases, they weren’t so gray as black and white. And she asked for forgiveness. And this again, is not now where everybody knows that you can’t Airbnb a property unless you get landlord permission. This is back then when this was some brand new thing. And this is just such an amazing story of creativity and go you.

Zeona:
Oh, thanks, Mindy.

Scott:
I agree with that in principle there, in like this is not saying go break the law and you shall become financially free if you’re listening. But it is saying if it is unclear in a certain area, then sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness. I’ll give you a perfect example. Like in Denver, we have these scooters that are all around the city. And they were definitely not allowed when it first got started. And so six companies just dumped scooters all around the city and didn’t ask for permission from the city. There is no law permitting there. And people started using them and liked them. And then they had to adapt the law and the companies had to adapt. And so I’m not saying again, you should do that or do this or break the law or anything like that. I’m just saying when it’s gray, sometimes these companies that just go for it and begin generating revenue and servicing customers who want it, the law adapts and changes to meet that style. And it sounds like that’s kind of to some degree, what happened with you on a much, much smaller scale on an individual basis.

Zeona:
Yeah, I think you’ll get rewarded for stepping out first and just trying some things and yeah, you might stumble around and make some mistakes but I think that it was the Wild West and you just kind of had to get out there and do it but around 2012, the people booking and the pricing was so slim, but around 2014, it was like every single year, there was a huge bump in what you could charge and demand and year after year, it just got better and better. So I do really think that there was some reward for starting early before things kind of leveled out, which they have been for the last few years.

Scott:
Okay, so we have a private loan and property in 2014. We’ve got some money from life insurance. How do we proceed from here?

Zeona:
Yeah, so I got a $250,000 check from life insurance, which if you think about that’s supposed to support you for the rest of your life, which is what I was thinking about. My dad was still alive, but he was never a support. And my mother was my number one fallback. And even though I had been doing well for myself the last couple years, there was no going back to mom and asking for a loan or staying at her house. There was no moving back in with the parents. It was really like, this has to last you the rest of your life, no pressure.
So for me, that was a really scary thing. And one thing I had heard a friend do when he lost his dad is that he paid off his house, because he thought, worst case scenario, I’ll always have a place to live. And so that’s what I did right away is I took a big chunk of that, went back to my private lender guy and said, “I’m totally freaked out, I need to pay this off.” Just because I don’t know what to do with my life.
And so he was very gracious and allowed me to do that, which was not what his plan was, because he was hoping to have make some money off of that loan. But that’s what I did initially with a big chunk of that. After that, so I got that place in September, my mother passed in September 2014. Then I was kind of in a grief hole for a long time. And in 2015, an old friend of mine from high school was getting married. And she lived in St. Louis. And she said, “I know you could probably use a trip. Just come out. Let’s see each other. It’s going to be okay.” And that was just more luck and fortune for me. I really think that so much of my real estate journey was really guided. But that was the first opportunity for me to buy out of state in that trip. And I don’t know how far you want to go in my real estate journey. I mean, I own like 11 places, it’s going to be a while. But maybe that one’s just interesting.

Scott:
Yeah, I want to see the turning points that are in your journey, like the big inflection points that move your journey to Fi forward. And if it’s, “Hey, then I bought six more.”, that’s fine with that part. But it sounds like this is another big turning point. So in 2014, you’re arbitraging two properties, one that you have fully paid off, and one that you’re still renting from a landlord.

Zeona:
Yeah.

Scott:
And you make this trip to St. Louis, you have about 90,000, it sounds like left over from the life insurance check. And this is the next move. So I think this is important to kind of get high level details about this next move.

Zeona:
Totally, and I will say that it wasn’t until my eighth purchase, my eighth home that I got a mortgage. So I did every other type of way of getting a loan. So there’s so many ways to do it. And so just saying that kind of upfront that you don’t necessarily need to qualify for a loan, it’s not the way that you have to do it. But yeah, when I went to St. Louis, I went out for this wedding. We were in town for a day and then in the country, and it was maybe a three day trip, and I went home. But at the wedding, I was chatting around with her friends and just kind of saying, “What do you do?” And I was telling people about Airbnb. And at that point, people were starting to know about it. And so they were saying, “Oh, yeah, we have friends that do it and they’re really successful, and they love it. We’re thinking about doing it ourselves.”
And I had heard from this friend that her rent was really low in St. Louis. And so I kind of had that in my mind. I think she had said she was paying like $400 a month for an apartment while I’m paying $1,100 in Boulder, so just to give some perspective. And so at the wedding, these people start telling me, “Oh, yeah, our mortgages are super cheap. It’s like $300 a month.” And my head just exploded because I’ve been doing Airbnb now for a while and renting out a bunch of different places and talking to other people doing Airbnb. And I just said, “That’s three nights. If you can just rent it three nights, even if the demand is not the same as Boulder, you can make this work.” So it was like, I’m supposed to be here for this party, and I’m just thinking about myself. But I got that light bulb moment and I thought, “I’m going to buy a place here.” And so I kind of took that home with me and went home and did a bunch of research and I was back exactly a month later moving into my place. So yeah, I got very excited.

Scott:
Okay, logistically, how do we handle two operations in two different cities at this point?

Zeona:
Yeah, so I mean the beauty of Airbnb, and I will say this is another manifestation visualization that came up for me, is I remember always thinking, “Gosh, it would be so cool to have a tech job. It would be so cool if I was like a programmer, and I could just travel the world and be location independent.” And then one day, I was standing in my kitchen in the very first Airbnb place I had, and I realized, “I am already doing this, I have this app on my phone. Sometimes I’m on my laptop. I can be anywhere, as long as I have a cleaner.” So it gave me that ability to sit on a beach and have an $800 reservation come in, that is not tied to an hourly wage or anything like that.
And so it’s the same if you’re operating something in St. Louis as if you’re in Boulder. The only thing is that you have to have somebody there like a cleaner who could go over if somebody locks themselves out or any kind of in person emergency, but 99% of things can be handled through the app.

Scott:
All right, so you hired a cleaner. And that was a big breakthrough for you on the two places. And those were in Boulder and St. Louis, you had operations in both cities?

Zeona:
Yeah. So I had two places in Boulder, and then one place in St. Louis. And so what happened with that place is I went back to my same private lender guy. And I said, “I got that loan off like a little too soon. I know you wanted to make some money. What if we do another one?” And so this time, the house was only going to be 72,000. And that was a three bedroom house, front and backyard, two car garage. I mean, nothing like that existed in Boulder at that time. I think the cheaper homes you could find were in the 300,000s, which now they’re 800,000 to 1 million. But yeah, so I went to him. I got an $80,000 loan. The way he did it this time was like a HELOC on my property because he didn’t want to be kind of attached to anything in St. Louis. And so he just did it off the place that I had paid off in Boulder.
And so yeah, I moved in. And basically what I mean by moving in, is I showed up the day of closing, I got a truck, I bought furniture all over town, and then moved it in, set it up. And the day that I was done, I had it furnished with guests, and I was ready to go. So I flew home and it was c’est la vie after that.

Scott:
What was the income from this property?

Zeona:
Yeah, so my mortgage was $333.33. I remember that. It was like people talk about angel numbers, right? I don’t know, I feel like Scott’s a scientist. So he’s like, “This is all too woowoo for me.”

Scott:
That’s exactly how I’m feeling but keep going.

Zeona:
I know, I know you, but that was fine. I was like, “Okay, all of this is so blessed. It’s divine.” So I was making between 1,600 a month in kind of a slow season to 3,000 a month in the higher season.

Mindy:
On a $300 mortgage?

Zeona:
Yep.

Mindy:
Yeah. Okay. So I want to point out that you use the word mortgage. And I want to just make sure everybody listening understands that this is not a traditional mortgage, where she has the owner occupancy restrictions that a traditional mortgage would have. I also want to point out, you said a few minutes ago, you didn’t get an actual real bank loan mortgage until you bought your eighth property. This is, you’re not doing it right.

Zeona:
I’m not doing it right.

Mindy:
You’re supposed to get a mortgage, that’s how you buy.

Scott:
She’s not doing it scientifically, but it’s working.

Mindy:
Everybody else says it, and look at all the results. What is that comment? If you do what everybody else does, you’ll always, oh live like nobody else now. So you can live like nobody else later. All of the things that you’re saying I would never have done. And I have a very different set of life experiences that you do at the age that you are now. I am slightly older than you. I didn’t have all of these things. I was not financially independent, because I was getting bank loans and doing everything by the book. And I’m certainly not encouraging anybody to blatantly break laws. Like Scott said, if it’s gray, that’s different, there’s room for interpretation. If it says don’t do it, then don’t do it.
But I just want to point out that it’s not owner occupied loan that you are getting around because that is, I hear that question a lot and people will, “It’s no big deal. I’m just lying to a bank.” Well, it’s actually a felony to commit mortgage fraud, which is what it’s called when you say you’re going to live in the loan or in the property in order to get the owner occupied loans, and then you have no intention of living in that property, or you don’t live in that property, which does not apply to this story, because it wasn’t a traditional loan. I just want to get that out there so I don’t get questions later.

Scott:
And the rules, you just created a world where the rules don’t apply, because there was no, at least in some of your lease agreements, there was no rule saying you can’t Airbnb it. And with a private lender, there is no, it sounds like you communicated exactly what your intent was with the property to the private lender, and he was very, very fine with that. And the laws didn’t have a chance to react to Airbnb in either of these cities until later, until many years had passed with this. So you just created a world where that didn’t, you didn’t have to abide by the terms of a mortgage agreement or those types of things.

Zeona:
Yeah. And I’ve always been somebody who set out and done things on her own in a different way. I dance to the beat of my own drum. And so it’s no surprise to me that I would have just found another way. I had to be creative. And I didn’t think that the normal way would work for me. And maybe I was wrong. Maybe my more than two years of Airbnb income would have been okay at a bank. But again, back then, even now, it’s a little bit tricky to get them to accept Airbnb income. And so I just thought, “Okay, let me just try something else.” So yeah, the next few properties, I ended up buying with partners. And so I did the thing where we bought one in cash, I bought one with his money, I bought one with my money, I did another one where I had a person who could get a W-2, he had a W-2 job, he could get an easy mortgage. And so I just partnered with him, and then had him get the mortgages. And so I kind of just did so many different ways that you can do it. And I know some people don’t like partnerships, and I don’t know if it’s my favorite either. But it was a great way to get in. And yeah, it’s just those different ways to be creative before you can do it on your own.

Scott:
Okay, so this St. Louis property was really a big turning point for you, where you automated operations in at least one city. And then it was off to the races for the next 11 basically, over the next five years.

Zeona:
Yeah, I ended up getting four places in St. Louis. And then it just kind of told me that, wow, I can operate from anywhere. And that’s when I started managing all over the country. I’ve managed over 60 Airbnbs in four countries. Yeah, just all over. So I got to be in South Africa, I got to do Europe, and then mostly in the U.S. And so I have done a lot of that from afar. And I think once you’ve just learned the system, it’s very easy to make it work.

Scott:
And I imagine your income and your cash flow just explodes over the next couple of years as you’re doing this while you’re optimizing your lifestyle at the same time. Is that right?

Zeona:
Yeah, I think in the height of my Airbnb management, I was making maybe 15,000 to 18,000 a month managing Airbnbs. And at that point, I already considered myself financially independent. So there wasn’t much need for that. And so it was always just reinvesting back into properties, which is kind of how I’ve built things. I make a lot more as a real estate agent now. But that’s kind of a new development.

Scott:
Were you still trying to become a software engineer at that point?

Zeona:
No, I let that go. I’m really bad at math, so I was appreciating Mindy’s how does math work? I feel like that every day.

Scott:
My mortgage is 333. And I bring somewhere between like 1,600 and 3,000 a month per property. That math seems to work reasonably well.

Mindy:
Yeah, that math works.

Scott:
We’ll do with that.

Mindy:
So you said $15,000 to $18,000 a month, that was your income. That wasn’t how much the Airbnbs were making and then you had to pay the homeowners.

Zeona:
No, that was my income. But I don’t know how much is it actually net. I would have to like sit there and say okay, these expenses and those expenses, but it was not what I was reimbursing to people.

Mindy:
That’s a lot.

Scott:
So you have this empire, you’re financially free. It’s resulting in world travel and managing an empire across the world with that. And you’re reinvesting all your profits into more properties and those types of things. You’re debt free, and so you’ve won. And so where do you settle here in 2021? It sounds like you don’t have as many properties and that you’re an agent. So can you walk us through kind of that transition?

Zeona:
Well, I think for me, it was COVID. So when COVID happened, I was already maybe for the last couple years feeling like I needed something different, like I wasn’t being challenged anymore. I kind of figured out the formula and Airbnb is not rocket science. So I just kind of got to this place of like, “Okay, well, I could just keep adding more and more, but I’m not so fulfilled.” And at that point, even though I was only really working 10 hours a week making that kind of income, the only thing that was escalating to me after my receptionist and my assistant was all of the complaints. It just felt like people hated homes, and they were bad and they didn’t like me, and I just had to deal with crap all the time.
And so it’s not always like that when you do an Airbnb. It can be so lovely to create experiences. But if you get to a place where you have such high volume, then you deal with problems. And so that was kind of eating at my soul. And when COVID happened, we were gearing up for the busy season, which is summer, generally around the world. And so it was March and all of a sudden, three months of bookings literally dissolved. They just melted off the calendar in the span of like two days. And that made me go like, “Oh my gosh, so I had two or three months where it almost felt like this thing that I had built over eight years just completely disappeared.” And I didn’t have a choice, I had to do something else.

Scott:
But at this point, did you have a substantial net worth through these properties in terms of the equity to debt?

Zeona:
Yeah, I was at about 1 million, I would say. So I had more than enough, it was totally fine. And I pivoted a lot of the rentals, the ones that I owned at least to more month to month doing furnished rentals for nurses and things like that. And it’s still very lucrative, so that’s fine. I ended up learning ways to make it less expense heavy because Airbnbs are super expensive to run. You can say, “Oh, great, I make three times market rate, but you’re actually spending 50% of that on expenses.”, which people don’t realize.
And so getting to do something where there’s less turnover, like a three month rental or a six month rental, got to cut a lot of that back. So that was a great plus. And then I realized that my favorite thing that I did all day was consulting in Airbnbs. So I would do that here and there for a high hourly rate. And I got to get to know people and dig into their investments. And it was really fun to build those relationships. And so I remember watching Selling Sunset on Netflix, and I just like those ladies that I was like, I could wear cool outfits and sell real estate. And then I could be with these people’s lives longer than one hour session. I could say I’m working with this cool investor over the next five years and help them build out a portfolio. And so that’s what I wanted to do with real estate.

Scott:
Okay, so you got your license?

Zeona:
Yeah, I got my license in October last year.

Scott:
All right. And so now, what’s your portfolio look like now? And what’s your business look like now?

Zeona:
Yeah, so I sell a lot of real estate. My portfolio is 11 doors. I have still a lot of furnished rentals. But I picked up a quad and a single family unit that are actually long term. So I’m kind of testing that out and having a property manager because my sort of goal is to say, “Okay, can I sell properties and 1031 or move it into something else that’s going to be lower need for me to manage and just like more ease and maybe feeling even more passive?” Because Airbnb is not passive at all. So I think it’s really important for people to know that.

Scott:
Well, it sounds like it’s a good way to make $200,000 to $250,000 in profit per year at 10 hours a week. So it’s not passive, but it’s pretty good from an income generation standpoint, at least in your heyday a year and a half ago.

Zeona:
Yeah. And I mean, I think a lot of that is because I bought property and because I bought property when I did, so I started buying in 2014, which now looking back, we know was still very, very early, like my property in Boulder, just in one year, went up $100,000. And that was why the private lender was so open to investing in that is he said, “You know, I think single family homes just did a big bump, but condos didn’t. And they’re coming.” So he’s like, “Let’s get you this condo and see what happens.” And so it went from 160,000 to 260,000, essentially overnight, it felt like. So things like that you have to be invested to have that happen. You have to get in the game. You’re not going to get those gains as a renter.

Scott:
That’s so interesting because I wonder if this year is going to be a blowout year for Airbnb and short term rentals now that the pandemic, the CDC kind of abruptly ended COVID and I’m saying that tongue in cheek, but it certainly seems like things are about to open up pretty soon here in the next couple of months. And that we’re going to imagine that will lead to a blowout for Airbnbs and a huge shortage and all that kind of stuff. So it’s interesting that you’re getting out of the game there. I don’t know what I don’t know. But that’s kind of how I was thinking about things coming into 2021.

Zeona:
Yeah, I mean the CEO of Airbnb put a call out to people like, “Hey, if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, if you took your Airbnb off because of COVID, bring them back. We have more demand than we can fulfill. And it’s going to be huge.” So that’s already happening. And I’m definitely a big believer in that. I have recently, just two months ago, I purchased another unit that I’m doing month to month furnished rentals. And mostly, that’s because the laws don’t allow too many Airbnbs now. So here in Boulder, I’ve got three places and they have to be month to month. But with COVID, there’s so many people working from home now that they’ll pay New York prices here in Boulder. So a cute little one bedroom that might have been $1,200, $1,400 bucks is now going to be $3,000 and people are happy to pay it. So the numbers still work even though people like to say you can’t buy anything off the MLS and still make money. They’re wrong.

Mindy:
The MLS is not dead yet.

Scott:
Rent places, that’s Mindy’s acronym, MINDY, the MLS is not dead yet in case you’re listening and wondering about that inside joke. Great job, Mindy. On the cash flow thing, that’s a great point because rent prices are exploding in many parts of the country. They took a pause last year at least in relation to equity values and properties. But we’re seeing extraordinary rent growth in the last couple of months in many cities around the country. So that’s a good point. It’s not about rent to price ratio, it’s about the cash flow that you can assume and when interest rates fall and your payment declines, you can actually cash flow on a lower rent to price ratio in many parts of the country. So awesome. Well, we have gone way over our time here for the interview. This was awesome. A great story here and it sounds like you’re crushing it and on to the next leg of your journey here. Mindy, what’s a good way for us to transition not awkwardly to the famous four here,

Mindy:
Scott, there’s no way to not awkwardly transition. So we’re just going to awkwardly transition. Hey, Zeona, ready for the famous four?

Zeona:
Yes. I love that Scott and Craig are like the twins. They’re the same. They’re both real awkward with their transitions and no wonder they’re close friends.

Mindy:
To be fair, we’re usually a little smoother, but this one was, it’s such a great story though. I really like this creativity. I have to put creativity in the title of this episode because it is just a story of pivoting and creativeness. And I’m not going to follow the societal norms. I’m not going to be Mindy, I’m going to be Zeona, and that’s exactly the way that you have to be Zeona to tell your story. But now we’re going to go, it so suits you. Okay, Zeona, what is your favorite finance book?

Zeona:
I love the Choose FI book. Have you guys read it?

Scott:
That’s a great book.

Zeona:
It’s so good.

Mindy:
I think they do a really good job because it’s like case studies. And that keeps you interested. That’s a great book, yeah.

Scott:
Yeah. I love that book. Definitely go check that out. That’s from the Choose FI podcast guys of course. What was your biggest money mistake?

Zeona:
I bought a house with someone and it didn’t work out very well. He kept telling me he was going to bring money to the table and then always had an excuse when he was supposed to. And that was really scary and just a bad learning experience, but a necessary one. And so we ended up having to have a little bit of a lawsuit. And I got him off the deed and ended up reclaiming the house fully as my own, but it only cost me $2,000 but it was scary. And so I’d say be careful with who your partners are. But it can be wonderful.

Mindy:
Absolutely. And get everything in writing. It can be, especially if they’re friends and family but even if they’re not, it can be so easy, “Oh, I want to buy a house. Scott wants to buy a house. Let’s buy a house together and then you start going down the road.” You’re like, “Well, I was going to use it on Christmas.”, and Scott’s like, “Well, I was going to use it at Christmas.” and get it all in writing.

Scott:
Get timeshares. That’s a big tip from the money show.

Mindy:
It was a form of timeshare, but I think it could be really cool to do a timeshare with a friend. But again, you got to get it all in writing.

Scott:
Yeah, that’s a big one, though, with the 50. The 50% of a good deal is better than 100% of no deal. Well, 100% of no deal is better than 50% of a bad deal. The inverse of that sounds like that’s where we’re getting where you’re coming from with this.

Zeona:
I know. But what I want to say is like, he got me in the door. It was my money all along. But I think having a partner sometimes is it just makes you feel braver, like oh, there’s somebody else there just in case, somebody else to split expenses with or who knows. But now that house is worth double what I paid for it, and it’s been a great cash flow cow the whole time. So blessings to him, wherever he is.

Mindy:
What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Zeona:
Oh, I would say you try Airbnb, because I do really believe in it being real estate training wheels that teaches you how to run numbers and just get an idea of what you can earn from renting and what expenses can be like and just how to run a business. So I love that because you don’t actually need much to start. You can just rent the room that you already live in.

Scott:
What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Zeona:
Oh, man, I don’t tell jokes. I’m not a funny person like that, like Scott. Scott, I didn’t hear but your beer episode of this show where you were telling jokes that I was like oh, I could appreciate that. But no, I’m not someone that just tells jokes. Sorry.

Mindy:
Okay, I just looked up some Airbnb jokes. And this first one’s actually kind of terrible. Where can you find the lowest priced rentals for your vacation? Bed Bugs and Beyond. Where can ghosts find vacation rentals? Scarebnb.

Scott:
These are great.

Zeona:
This is Scott’s style.

Mindy:
This is Scott’s style. Why do people in the south hate landlords? Because the devil rents down in Georgia.

Scott:
Fantastic. Zeona, where can people find out more about you?

Zeona:
Yeah, I’m mostly on Instagram, zeonamcintyrerealestate. And then I have a website and blog, zeonamcintyre.com. So reach out, I’d love to hear from you.

Scott:
Awesome. I will link to all of that in the show notes at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow205.

Zeona:
Thanks, guys.

Mindy:
Thank you for your time today. This was super fun. The story of creativity and resiliency and just figuring out a way I think will resonate with a lot of people. There’s so many rules that you have to, that you think you have to operate within, but they don’t always exist. And it never would occur to me to buy a house without a mortgage. And you’re like, “I didn’t get a mortgage until my eighth house.” It’s so great.

Zeona:
And I made you cry, Mindy. So that’s always worth it.

Mindy:
Yes. Thank you. Well, I made you cry. So we’re good.

Zeona:
All right.

Mindy:
Okay, Zeona. We will talk to you soon.

Zeona:
Bye.

Scott:
Bye.

Mindy:
Okay, that was Zeona McIntyre. Scott, give me your impressions of Zeona’s woo woo life.

Scott:
Yeah, I mean, it’s not how I’m wired to go about approaching things. She spent several years traveling the world to save enough money to travel, figure it out, work minimum wage, the marijuana dispensary, and the begin aggressively building an Airbnb empire over five years. It’s just not how I’m wired. And it’s kind of difficult for me to relate to honestly in a couple of different things. But I’m so glad we had her on the show, because she’s so successful. She’s so smart. She’s so creative. And I think a lot of people can benefit from hearing about somebody who can go down that path and just kind of figure it out and scale up with it. It’s her own and she charted her own course and made it work.

Mindy:
I like what she said. Everyone has a cheat card in their life. And I certainly would not say that Zeona’s story includes any luck or fortune because it absolutely is not lucky or fortunate to lose your mom at such a young age. But her mother was savvy enough to plan ahead and prepare for her passing and got a life insurance policy because she didn’t have the savings that she needed to have, that she felt she needed to have. Life insurance has a place in preparation for your life. And if Zeona hadn’t been savvy herself, she would not have been able to take advantage of this financial situation that she found herself in after her mother passed, and she would not have furthered herself down the path. She certainly could have just sat there and said, “Oh look now, I have a new car.”, and continue to have a loan from her friend instead of paying that off. She could have done a lot of things differently. And this is absolutely a story of adaptation and creativity and really going after something that you really want and I just really appreciate her taking the time to share it with us today.

Scott:
Yeah, I thought it was a fantastic story and a completely refreshingly different perspective on how to go about achieving financial independence. So kudos to Zeona.

Mindy:
So if you have a fun money story that you would like to share with us, we would love to talk to you. Please fill out the form at biggerpockets.com/guest to be a guest on the Monday Money Story episodes. Scott, we can end here. This episode did run a little bit long today. Let’s do it. From Episode 205 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, he is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen saying stay out of trouble.

 

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In This Episode We Cover

  • Airbnb arbitraging and why it was so popular in the early days of short-term rentals
  • Paying off student debt but feeling like you’re not “moving the needle”
  • Why it’s so important to consume financial information at the beginning of your career
  • Dealing with the death of a loved one, and finding ways to honor their memory
  • COVID’s impact on Airbnb and the short-term market in general
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Book Mentioned from the Show

  • ChooseFI by Chris Mamula, Brad Barrett, & Jonathan Mendosa

Connect with Zeona: