Why did Tammy Phelps, founder of Capital City REIA, leave her fulfilling, “dream” career as a highly-sought-after master hair colorist (one of only three in the country at the time) for full-time real estate investing? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the money or the lifestyle; it was all about faith. “I lost everything in my life but my children, my faith in God, and my belief in myself,” Phelps told Think Realty Magazine in an exclusive interview. “In an instant, I went from being at a lake in Virginia with my children at Boy Scout camp to learning that I had been hit by a drunk driver, was paralyzed, and would never be ‘on the platform behind the chair’ as a hairdresser or an artist ever again.” She added that when one of her former clients, “probably the top-producing manager in real estate with Weichart at that time,” suggested she transition into real estate following dozens of surgeries, a spinal cord staph infection, and financial ruin and foreclosure, she responded, “Who in the world would do that? It’s crazy!”

Phelps, who will be presenting at the Think Realty National Conference & Expo in Baltimore, Maryland, June 24, 2017, sat down with Think Realty Magazine to share her story and break down the process that took her from an “angry, single mom in a wheelchair, unable to walk, with two children and no income” to a truly miraculous recovery, owning more than 400 multifamily “doors” and changing other investors’ lives through partnership, education, and mentoring in groundbreaking ways.

Think Realty: This is a really big story, so please take us back to the beginning.

Tammy Phelps: Well, first I was a hair dresser. The third certified master hair colorist in the country. At 27, I was a single mom, top of my game, making six figures. I bought my first home when I was 22, and then on June 27, 1997, (almost exactly 20 years ago on the date of the Think Realty Expo) my whole life ceased to exist as I knew it. I went from being at a lake in Virginia with my children at Boy Scout camp to learning I had been hit by a drunk driver and was paralyzed.

For the next four years, I underwent massive surgeries, fought for my life, learned to walk all over again, and was even told I’d never walk normally again, much less go back to what hairstylists call “the platform behind the chair” where you work as a stylist and artist. When one of my clients initially suggested I go into real estate instead, I told her she was crazy. After a few more weeks and a few more surgeries and losing everything, including my home, though, I thought, “What do I have to lose?” and so I became a Realtor.

TR: So was it “love” with real estate at first sight?

TP: Well, I definitely played hard from the start! I was determined to be rookie of the year, which I was at the end of my first year in the business. I was nicknamed the FSBO (for sale by owner) Queen because I knew that if I could get motivated sellers, who often try to sell their own homes, to list with me I would be working with people who were likely to land me sales. I went to the million-dollar mark, made it to the executive level, was really defying the odds.

But there was something missing, and I didn’t know what it was. One of the appointments that I went on was a gentleman that was an investor. When I got there, he was out there swinging a hammer and I was able to convince him to let me list his house, but I didn’t know what he really meant by being an investor. To me, an investor was somebody that invested in the stock market, or somebody that had a beach house as an investment property. My investor told me that he’d bought his property as a HUD property. I didn’t know what a HUD property was, so I started asking him about it and I started thinking, “Wait a minute. I’m a realtor. I can list and sell, and find these types of properties. Jim [now my husband] is a carpenter. He can do this kind of work, if not better, and maybe we’d make a really great team.”

I didn’t know what rehabbing was. I knew nothing. I was so green. It was probably about 18 years ago when I started dabbling in this. I started doing some research, and found a five day boot camp up in Connecticut for rehabbing and investing, and I went to it. Sat there with probably 300 people, and was clueless, but I became addicted, and was so excited about what I was hearing and what I was seeing. I was like this is it. This is it. I can do this. And I was right.

Now we own about 400 multifamily “doors” that enable my husband and I to make profound differences in our tenants’ lives by creating and offering safe communities. We’re multimillionaires (although I still struggle to think of myself in those terms). We create staggering equity; we don’t go into debt, and our communities are thriving.

TR: So when did your association, Capital City REIA, come onto the scene?

TP: About 15 years ago, I had a dream of creating a real estate investment association. I sat in these association meetings as an investor and I quickly got tired of “the pitch,” as they called it. I got tired of going to every event and the speaker getting up to pitch a product (that I would buy) and they weren’t even local coaches, so I got email support but a lot of those purchases I never even used.

As I thought about this, I realized that if I had a REIA, I wouldn’t care where my members came from, or who they were, or what they did because if they weren’t good on the inside, it wouldn’t matter what they did on the outside. It was an “Ah-ha” moment because I realized that at my local REIA, they were so focused on how much money was being spent or collected that they were overlooking the personal growth of their individual members.

From that moment, I dreamed of creating a REIA that focused first and foremost on the personal growth of the individual, the real estate entrepreneur, and secondarily on the business development of that entrepreneur. That was how Capital City REIA was created, and I was and still am the only female REIA owner and founder in our whole region.

TR: So how does Capital City REIA work?

TP: I approach real estate from a very different mindset and we focus on the success of our community, our members, and our attendees. We don’t pitch, and we really watch and know the local market. I believe in hands-on learning and “forced networking,” which helps people understand their skills, talents, and strengths and then network effectively based on that understanding.

You can learn more about Tammy Phelp’s amazing story, her wildly successful commercial real estate career, and directly access the resources available at Capital City REIA by attending her instructional session at the Think Realty National Conference & Expo in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 24, 2017.

Click HERE to reserve your spot now.  

  • Carole VanSickle Ellis

    Carole VanSickle Ellis serves as the news editor and COO of Self-Directed Investor (SDI) Society, a membership organization dedicated to the needs of self-directed investors interested in alternative investment vehicles, including real estate. Learn more at SelfDirected.org or reach Carole directly by emailing Carole@selfdirected.org.

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