Someone looking to get started as a real estate investor should find a mentor. This person can shorten the learning curve dramatically, provide tips, and answer questions. They can greatly minimize the risk that is involved. Networking with other real estate investors and attending events is helpful too.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders of the Real Estate industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Cuccuini.
Cynthia has been a real estate investor for over a decade. She specializes in flipping properties, rental properties, lease options, and land contracts. Collectively as a real estate agent, she has bought and sold hundreds of properties in multiple states. Cynthia is also the CEO of Hey Rich Girl, an educational community for women to learn how to invest in real estate. Her online courses have taught over 500 women how to become successful real estate entrepreneurs.
Cynthia was named Best Home Improvement Influencers 2018 by People Maven. As a graduate of La Roche University, she double majored and has a Bachelor’s degree in both Business Management and Business Marketing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Real Estate industry?
Igrew up in an inner-city neighborhood in Pittsburgh and did not have rich parents. My mom was a single mother and raised me on her own. At the age of 24, I got laid off from my corporate America job when the company downsized and it was devastating. At the time, I had read some real estate investing books and was interested in getting started. I was already down on my luck and knew there was nowhere to go but up. I also knew that if I was going to get started in real estate, then this was the time to do it. My goal was to just make it that first year. I told myself that I was always employable and could go back to work for corporate America at any time.
So I did it. I bought my first house to rehab and I was ecstatic! That same year I acquired another house to flip and a small apartment building. This was before I was even a real estate agent. Everyone thinks that you have to be a real estate agent to invest in properties, but that is not true. About two years later, I got my real estate license to have access to the MLS. Eventually I picked up the business, moved to a different state, and replicated the exact system that I was using and it worked in the new market too.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
There are so many interesting stories. That’s what I love about real estate! It’s so glamorous. Pennsylvania offers tax credits to the movie industry to produce movies there. I once got a call on one of my buildings that was for sale from a major Hollywood production company. They signed an exclusive with me to locate properties for their upcoming movies. I got to meet with Hollywood directors, producers, and actors. They would describe the scenes that they needed to film. We would go look at properties and they would pay the sellers for short term rentals to be able to film on location there.
Last year, I got selected to attend New York Fashion Week as a representative of the home design industry. It was a lot of fun to network with other celebrity home designers. We attended workshops where we learned about the upcoming color trends for home décor, paint, wallpaper, etc.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are lots of exciting new projects in the works! Hey Rich Girl just launched this past year. It is an online community for women to learn about personal finance, how to invest in real estate, and build wealth. There aren’t many real estate investing clubs for women so I decided to create one.
My first online course, called Rags to Riches was just released. It teaches women how to buy properties using creative financing (without using their own cash or credit). Currently, I am working on the next course that will teach women how to flip houses.
Also, I am in the middle of renovating a large, multi-family Victorian home. It is located in a historical area, which makes it a bit challenging. In addition to getting city permits for this restoration project; all major repairs must be approved by the Historical Society. I’ve had to meet with the board several times to prove that this project will make the community better and still preserve the history of the neighborhood.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Hey Rich Girl is a really unique learning platform that teaches women how to invest in real estate. We offer a fun, highly curated learning experience that is targeted to women.
The e-book is called Champagne Wishes and Real Estate Dreams and it packs a ton of value into a small price. It costs less than a cup of coffee. I wanted to make it super affordable to get it into the hands of every woman that could use it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have an awesome mentor who has given me the best advice when it comes to business. She is a strong woman, who is a top real estate agent and owns multiple companies. One of the things that she once told me is that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I had already been investing in real estate for about three years before I met her. But, I’m incredibly grateful because she taught me how to take my business to the next level.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. The Real Estate industry, like the Veterinarian, Nursing and Public Relations fields, is a women dominated industry. Yet despite this, less than 20 percent of senior positions in Real Estate companies are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what do you think is the cause of this imbalance?
Business, in general can be intimidating for women. With that being said, I believe in equal rights for both men and women. It should be the best “person” for the job (regardless of gender).
Women should seek out a mentor or coach (someone that has their back and can answer their questions). This gives women more confidence because they have a support system. As a real estate agent, it is really important to have a great broker that will stand up for them and believe in them.
What 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender balance going forward?
As a society, it’s really important that we give young girls the opportunity to learn about money and investing. I am a girl mom and believe that we (as individuals) should teach our kids how to invest. Girls are raised to believe that money is dirty and it should not be talked about. Our school system is so outdated when it comes to financial topics. Most schools don’t even teach kids how to write a check. Girls graduate from college not knowing the difference between debt and debit. A better education system that promotes financial literacy for women would definitely help with the gender gap.
Companies should also have continuing education and systems that empower women to be stronger leaders.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
Women tend to take on many roles and responsibilities and often get pulled in different directions. They often juggle a career, home, kids, cooking, etc. Society puts a lot of pressure on women to look and act a certain way. Ambitious women often have to choose between their career and family. I’m a successful Millennial entrepreneur, wife, and mom to a toddler. People often ask how I manage motherhood and my own real estate business. The fancy answer is outsourcing to contractors, late nights working, and playground meetings. But, the real secret is a lot of coffee.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry?
- The opportunities are endless. There are so many different ways to invest in real estate. It’s fun to keep it fresh. One month I might be flipping a single-family house. The next month, I am rehabbing a condo as a rental property to hold. I’ve dabbled in so many parts of real estate, such as selling bars with the liquor license to renting office space to wedding planners.
- The income potential is unlimited. You really get out of it what you put into it.
- I honestly love being my own boss, wearing what I want to work everyday, and the flexibility to make my own schedule. But, the best part is creating jobs for contractors.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- iBuyers and companies that are trying to cut out the buyer’s agent from the transaction are a concern. One way to reform this can be seen by the exemplary measures that RE/MAX took. According to Realtor Magazine, RE/MAX ended their referral partnership with Redfin over issues with Redfin Direct. The company felt that the iBuyer program could be detrimental to North American buyer agents in both the US and Canada.
- Zillow is not just an online website with a Zestimate. They are now flipping houses in multiple markets nationwide. They buy the houses in bulk, fix them up, and re-sell them. According to Buzzfeed, Zillow now makes half their money from flipping houses. This could make it more difficult for investors to find inventory. It is also going to affect the value of houses if sellers are not getting fair market value.
- The safety of real estate professionals is a big concern.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?
Managing dozens of independent contractors could be a challenge for anyone in business. It’s really important to keep the team motivated so that everyone can work toward the common goal. Allow the team members to do their responsibilities without micro-managing them. Most of all, be sure to reward the team members when they do an outstanding job.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the Real Estate industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
- Someone looking to get started as a real estate investor should find a mentor. This person can shorten the learning curve dramatically, provide tips, and answer questions. They can greatly minimize the risk that is involved. Networking with other real estate investors and attending events is helpful too.
- There is never a wrong time to invest in property. People often think that they are too young or too old. But, these are just excuses that people make out of fear of the unknown.
- If you are going to be a landlady, then it’s best to manage your properties yourself (at least for the first year) before you decide to get a property manager. This way you will understand the concept of how it works from the personal experience.
- Don’t be afraid to do a little sweat equity when you’re getting started. My first year in real estate was spent painting houses on most weekends.
- Never stop learning. Laws, housing trends, and technology change everyday. It is important to stay ahead of the curve.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We need to empower women to be more financially independent. It starts with financial education. There are a lot of girls that want to learn how to invest in real estate, but don’t know where to start. I get messages almost every week on Instagram from people asking how I got started. The problem is that our schools don’t teach financial literacy and most investing gurus are boring. They are often intimidating and don’t appeal to women.
There are not many business communities for women entrepreneurs to collaborate, teach, and inspire one another. That’s why I created Hey Rich Girl as a fun, safe learning environment for women to learn about real estate investing together. Remember that you’re never too young or old to get started in real estate investing. Just don’t ever let anyone talk you out of your dream. Women can do anything!
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights!