For many real estate investors, financial freedom is the dream towards which their careers are pointed. It can be tricky to achieve, requiring knowledge, instinct, persistence, and nerve, but with a lot of hard work and, sometimes, a little bit of luck, it can be achieved. Amy Pfaffman, a real estate investor based in Asheville, is proof of that – with only three years’ experience in the industry, she has already succeeded in becoming financially free. She joined us in the Asheville Real Estate News studio to discuss her experience, and to tell us about one way to achieve your personal financial goals.
Just three years ago, Pfaffman was living in the Bay Area of San Francisco, with money always at the back of her mind. The sky-high cost of living in the area proved difficult to keep up with, and held her back from achieving the goals that she had set for herself financially. When she came into a good amount of money, she began searching for a way to utilize those funds to help her live comfortably not just temporarily but moving forward as well.
After reconnecting with a friend from her childhood, Pfaffman invested in several properties in Atlanta, Georgia, moving to Asheville to be closer to her family and also her investment. The location in which she bought was priced low but appeared to be on the edge of growth, and she felt that it was the perfect time to act. Working with a property management company local to Atlanta, she began to rent the properties out. It was her first taste of financial freedom, and it served to reaffirm the path that she’d begun to take. “Seeing that income start to come in just totally ignited me,” Pfaffman says, and she hasn’t looked back.
For the past year and a half, Pfaffman has enjoyed essentially full financial freedom. She doesn’t have a day job and lives entirely off the real estate investments that she’s made. There is, of course, hands-on work involved from time to time – when she’s looking at a new property, for example, she needs to travel to the site and stay involved in any renovations or upgrades that might need to be made. But, because she works with a management company, she doesn’t have to handle the everyday tasks involved in finding, keeping, and communicating with tenants. “I love that I’m not ever going to get a call from a tenant,” Pfaffman says, describing the property management company as a “buffer” between herself and her tenants.
Of course, having that separation and living remotely presents its challenges as well. She has to work to stay in contact with her property management company, and pay close attention to what’s happening with her properties. This is a lesson that she’s sometimes had to learn the hard way. Take, for example, a vacancy that she is currently trying to fill. “This vacancy I have now, [the property manager] told me that [the tenant] had given notice, I thought that the vacancy was going to start in December.” Assuming that this would be the case, Pfaffman didn’t check her records closely until the beginning of the new year. At that point, she discovered that the rent had never been paid for November and that the tenant had actually vacated at the end of October. Because she hadn’t stayed on top of the issue as diligently as she might have, Pfaffman wasn’t able to turn the property over as quickly as she could have, missing out on multiple months’ rent. “Without paying attention,” she says, “thousands can slip through your fingers.”
Moments like this are difficult, and they happen from time to time. Pfaffman acknowledges that, despite being largely financially free, she does have hard days. However, after a long day’s work, she always comes back to how much she really loves what she does – and, ultimately, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.