Often, the path to success starts with asking questions.
Kaylee McMahon, known as The Apartment Queen, started her journey in multifamily real estate investing by asking the right questions. And although she relied on curiosity in the beginning, she soon realized the person giving the answers is just as important as the questions she was asking.
McMahon knew her curiosity would serve her well and she wasn’t afraid to ask and learn. But what she wishes she had access to when she began her real estate investing journey was a female mentor.
“All the men who helped me in the beginning were great. I have nothing against them, but women deal with life experiences from a different lens and know how to navigate certain challenges that only females go through. Having someone understand your viewpoint really helps,” she said.
She now sets out to be a lens for other women in the industry. And what she has seen through that lens in her four-year REI career has been eye-opening. For McMahon, working with mentors, finding partners, and helping other budding investors comes down to not only trust, but verification.
McMahon began actively investing in flipping a rental and passively investing in a house note.
“I didn’t have enough money to invest in large apartment deals, but I had a small IRA and invested with a group on a house note before getting into multifamily.”
Now, four short years later, her businesses are thriving. What other industries can take you so far so fast? “Maybe tech,” she said. “But that depends on if you have a unicorn idea and stick to it. Unicorns are not born every day. Real estate is amazing that way.”
But anything amazing almost always comes with tough lessons.
Learning the Hard Way
McMahon, like some real estate investors starting their businesses, found herself in a bushel of bad apples. People in the industry talk about bad actors and the non-trustworthy individuals. Sadly, every industry has them. McMahon learned this lesson the hard way—twice.
Being the type of person who knows how to ask the right questions but also having trusted the wrong people, McMahon’s number-one question became: “Whom do I trust?”
“Someone’s past behavior is always indicative of their future behavior. You must trust but verify,” she said.
She admits that she naïvely assumed that other people operated like she does—with honesty and integrity and living by the golden rule. “I just trusted. I did not verify,” she said.
Had she verified the first bad apple, she would have learned that person had no one to verify their business deals. That person had no track record.
“When you’re getting started in the industry, you might not have a track record, but I didn’t spend enough time with that person to learn if they were aligned with where I wanted to go. I left myself wide open by partnering with someone who had different objectives.”
“I wish I’d known you can do a deep search and find active intel to figure out if a character is someone you want in your life. Because their behavior will end up affecting your physical and emotional health.”
“This is how life works: you get a tap on the shoulder to help you learn a lesson. Eventually that tap becomes a punch. Until you learn a lesson, it will keep coming back to test you. In each lesson, I was desperate and rushed to make decisions and landed in a place where I needed rescued. I allowed a scary situation to drive my behavior.”
Now, she waits to respond, thinks about it, and does not decide based on fear.
“At the end of any scary experience: extorsion, threats, or whatever, I remind myself that my legs are still attached! When things are completely out of hand, go to your backyard and feel your feet in the grass. It truly helps. Feeling physically connected to the earth has been a huge healing process for me and keeps me present,” McMahon said.
The Dating Game of Partnerships
Whether you’re in a syndication or a founder/co-founder relationship, McMahon said any type of partnership in the beginning is akin to dating. She advises to find a trustworthy partner and spend a year with them. Travel with them. Get referrals.
“When you exhaust doing things on your own, it’s time to ask for help. It’s not how do I do it, it’s who can help me do it,” she said.
First, she said it’s imperative to find someone who is active in the real estate niche that you are in. Vet that person by spending time with them to learn if they are trustworthy. But going the extra step— verifying an individual—is crucial.
Then, it’s important to evaluate a potential partner’s skills and motivation.
“In a limited partner or LPGP structure, you need to find someone to trust long term to take the reins. In joint ventures/Tenants in Common, and co-founder relationships it’s different—everyone has a seat at the table, but you need to figure out each other’s strengths and ensure everyone stays in their lanes and respects each other by not getting in their way,” she said.
McMahon’s unfortunate experiences with bad business partners spawned her start-up company, Big Sister Security, which is in its infancy phase. The focus is to learn substantive information about someone before doing business with them—find out how someone is motivated, their business history, their personality traits, their past business relationships and transactions, services not delivered, links with crime, bad deals, etc. Being able to find that information is where her search started because she needed data to have leverage and protect herself.
“When you’re in a situation when it’s your word against theirs, you need that empirical data,” she said. “I believe in justice and doing the right thing. Keeping people accountable is very important.”
Branding Based on a Cause
One in three women are abused in some way whether it be physically, emotionally, or financially. McMahon was one of them and cash-flowing real estate was her way out. Now, she and her company are on a mission to do something about it by empowering women to earn life-changing passive income through apartment investments.
“When women are empowered and secured, they are no longer a victim,” she said.
McMahon’s company name is Apartment Queen Investments, which owns around 1,000 units in Texas and Arizona, but she quickly trademarked “apartment queen” because she learned there was demand for the name, so she jumped on making it hers.
Two criteria topped McMahon’s list when figuring out her brand. And the list was devised by asking herself another question: “What is important to me?”
1. Get people’s attention
2. Be feminine-focused
McMahon’s passion for working with women in real estate has permeated her brand, and it’s a cause near to her heart, rooted in past personal experiences. She wanted “to create independence and space for those experiencing codependency and toxic relationships that hamper their ability to visualize and manifest what their amazing reality truly could be.”
The mission of Apartment Queen Investments is “to stop abuse and codependent relationships by providing women with investment opportunities and convenient education about creating wealth through real estate investing.”
The notion is to help create financial freedom and a powerful mindset that ultimately leads individuals to find and live their purpose without fear.
“Women are more collaborative and more emotionally intelligent. With my abusive past, I need the freedom of choice and I’ve noticed women are more democratic and open to different perspectives. I’m not the end all, be all to every decision. There are different lenses and in partnerships you need that. I don’t know exactly what the perfect partnership looks like, but our effective leadership has stemmed from empowering women to be leaders,” McMahon said.