How This 26-Year-Old Built A $3.2 Million Real Estate Portfolio

From supermarket cashier to real estate investor, Jamisa McIvor-Bennett clearly has the keys.


This is what financial freedom looks like. It looks like being completely debt-free, student loans and all. It's doing work that you love and not just settling for a steady paycheck at a job you hate, or maybe packing up the kids and taking them on trips to St.Thomas, Ocho Rios or to the Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas. And in the case of 26-year-old Jamisa McIvor-Bennett, it also looks like a $3.2 million real estate portfolio with 21 properties— all paid for in cash with the exception of one home.

It all started with an unexpected question that would lead to a life-changing opportunity when a 19-year-old McIvor-Bennett, then a cashier at ShopRite Supermarket in Philadelphia, was approached by her grandmother. "She said, 'I just wanted to know what would happen to the house if something was to happen to me?' I said, 'Grandma I'm not really sure, I can find out.' She was like, 'No, I was just asking because, if something was to happen, I want you to take full responsibility for it. You're the most responsible one.'"

At the insistence of her grandmother, the pair did a quitclaim deed transfer, allowing her grandmother to transfer the property to McIvor-Bennett for $400 total once the dust settled. Over a year later, her grandmother passed away unexpectedly, and all hell broke loose as the family clamored to make claim to the home, unaware of the agreement between McIvor-Bennett and her grandmother. "We made a video because this is during the era of record everything, so I had what I needed in terms of a paper trail."

Courtesy of Jamisa McIvor-Bennett

With no knowledge about financial literacy or real estate, McIvor-Bennett got to work on researching her best options for turning a lemon into lemonade. She didn't have the funds to make the necessary repairs to the home, so she decided to sell the paid-off abode for $152,000 at the encouragement of a real estate agent. And thanks to advice from a real estate investor turned mentor, she used the profit to purchase her first home in cash for $400— a house that she still owns today and that's worth $330,000.

Gaining more knowledge and experience through mentorship and mistakes, McIvor-Bennett has since bought 21 properties worth $3.2 million in the Philadelphia area, affording her a lifestyle that at one point never seemed imaginable for the now-married mother of two. Seems impossible? Well, don't just take our word for it. The real estate mogul is spreading knowledge on the power of investing through her company Rosebud's Investments to those looking to get in the game. "I have so many people who are interested in real estate investment just by seeing my lifestyle change gradually," McIvor-Bennett says.

xoNecole chatted with the self-made millionaire for tips on tapping into lucrative deals and how to build generational wealth through real estate investing.

1. Learn From Others’ Mistakes

Courtesy of Jamisa McIvor-Bennett

"I learned so much from my mentor just through his mistakes. He gave me a lot of information, but he showed me a lot of stuff just because I was paying attention. He was a really big dreamer. He would get really good deals and run out of money. That's why he ended up selling me the properties he did out of desperation because he was locked into a deal and ran out of money to finish it and needed to close. So he was selling off what he had just to get their money to get through that next deal.

"The second time he did it, it ended up helping me because I was down to my last $50,000. And he was like, 'I need money.' So I'm like, 'All right, I'm going to give you the money to finish your deal, and you give me back the money in interest.' And he did. He gave me 25% interest on my return. But I learned a few things— don't get into these high ticket deals without a contingency fund. I was taking notes, which is why it took me so long. I didn't get any mortgages until literally the 13th of December [2019]. So all of these houses later, I was kind of scared because of what I watched him go through."

2. Don’t Overlook Ugly Houses

"The second house sold to me was for $6,500. It looks like a scary movie. I call it the Treehouse, literally, there was a tree growing inside. But I bought it because it was $6,500, and my mentor had purchased it for $2,500. Even though it was ugly, it was structurally sound. So it wasn't one of those things where I had to do anything to it. We put a new roof on it, we boarded it up to winterize it and made sure it was safe. We had to buy a vacant property permit for it. I didn't know what equity was, I was just buying time until I conjured up enough to figure out what I wanted to do at home, but it was worth a lot. Year two [of investing], I started to really get into markets and stuff like that. By year three, the house directly up the street had sold for almost $200,000, and it was smaller than mine. I didn't know it was going to end up being a good deal, but now I knew that buying a house for $6,500 was OK."

3. Check The Comps

"When you're in real estate, you do what's called comps, or comparable property. So if you ever want to know what your house is worth, you have to find something that's comparable to it. Then we look at the work that was done to it. Obviously, if I put a waterfall and elevator in my house, and you got a little patio and vinyl sliding, mine is going to be worth a little more. But this is how you compare the numbers and you look at what [the] dollar consistency [is] in that area. You look at the last three things that sold and you get the average."

4. Buy Cheap Properties At Auctions

"When you buy a house in an auction, you get the equity, but you don't get the debt. There are actually nice houses sometimes, especially foreclosures. Somebody went through the whole mortgage process and out of the 30 years they might've had a good 125 months and they can no longer pay the mortgage. You are getting all of that equity per penny on a dollar because somebody else fell on hard times, which is bad for them, it's very sad. But if they're losing it anyway, you just happen to be the one to purchase it.

"I had purchased my own property for $1,700, and what was really interesting about it was that when I purchased it, I didn't even have to buy it. I had the money. But when you are at an auction, you can't pay for it there. You have to actually finalize your paperwork elsewhere on another day. I had to put down a deposit. The deposit is either 10% or $600, whichever is highest. After that you have 30 days to do one or two things, the first thing you can do is obviously pay the remaining balance. But the second thing that you can do is sell the property, which I thought was really cool. I ended up returning like two or three days later and then I decided to go back every single month because they had them every month. I still have the $1,700 property. Right now the comp in the area is like $175,000. It's a bad area, but it's coming up. So I will just wait."

5. Buy Properties With Positive Cash Flow

"For myself, I'm looking for positive cash flow. I'm an urban investor so I like to stay true to my roots. I think people spend a lot of time focusing on gentrification, and they are pushing us out. I got a home that's in the city right now that's worth $600,000, you can't tell me that I'm being pushed anywhere. I typically stick to urban properties and the overhead is way less. We usually have about 1,200 to 1,600 square feet, depending on if it's a corner house or not. So with that being said, it's only but so much work that needs to be done to a house of that size."

6. Decide If You Want To Flip Or Rent

"As an investor, I never went in with the intention to flip. I sold one or two during the course of time just because I needed some fast cash and because I'm living off of the rental income, so I was like, 'All right, let me free up something.' Then I would sell one and replace it with two more, but I wasn't really interested in the flipping aspect. Some people need a quick flip. I have children and I like freedom. To me, flipping is too much of a job. You do all this to make money to then do what? You have to do it again because once you get the money, you've got to spend it on something. I like the idea of buying a house and renting it out.

"Right now my portfolio total is $3.2 million, cash flow is a little under $50,000 a month.

7. Look For Hard Money Lenders

Courtesy of Jamisa McIvor-Bennett

"Hard money lending is a go-to for investors because it doesn't require tax returns and you don't need anything except a good deal because they're funding you based on how much the property is worth. You do need 10% of the money because they'll give you money to purchase and rehab it, but they don't give you the money to fix it up outright. So you have to actually put money into it and then they reimburse you. And when they reimburse you, you use the reimbursement money to keep going. When you are getting a regular loan from a bank, they need at least two years of consistent tax returns. With hard money lending, you decide how much the house is worth. So it's easier to get funding, but you have to pay more upfront and altogether because it's interest-only payments too.

"The benefit of it is [money] is accessible fairly quickly. But you got to do it right because the first couple of payments are interest-only payments, and then you still owe whatever you borrowed. So let's say you did $100,000— $50,000 to purchase and $50,000 to rehab, times it by 10% interest. You owe $10,000 additional on a loan, where a normal loan is usually around 3.5% percent or so. So now you divide that $10,000 by 12 months because usually the loan is between 12 to 13 months. You have to pay them $830 every single month. Then at the end of the loan, you still give them back their whole $100,000."

8. Cash Is Still King

"You definitely get more of a return when you leverage, but the moment that you get a mortgage you owe somebody else. The market goes up and down, and what can end up happening is if the market crashes like it did last time, the value of your property decreases, which is why it's good to be an owner. Let's say for instance you bought a property worth $100,000. A bank will give you up to 80% of what the property is worth. So at $100,000, they will give you the $80,000 to play with. Then the market crashes, now the $100,000 property is only worth $60,000.

"You borrowed $80,000, so now you owe $20,000 more than what it's even worth. Not to mention most people who are investing don't even live in their investment property, so they still maybe have a mortgage. Now, you're struggling to even pay what you owe. If you are a more financially stable person, you can move money around, and then investors do things called diversification, so they have different streams of income other than [real estate] investments. But it depends on what your risk tolerance is."

9. If You Don’t Have The Cash, Consider Wholesaling

"Wholesaling isn't hard at all. You find a seller and you find a buyer. The most involved part is having time. That's what people underestimate. If you don't have credit or money, you have to have time, because the hardest part of wholesaling is finding a seller. But it's definitely not difficult depending on the numbers. Let's say a friend came to you like, 'Listen, I've got this house, I'm over it. I want to sell it for $80,000.' You sign a contract. You don't actually have to have the money when you sign a contract because the contract says that if the original buyer can't secure funding or can't close, they have the right to assign it to somebody who can. You sign a contract agreeing to purchase it for $80,000. You know I buy houses. You call me like, 'Hey, I have a house for sale for $100,000,' and if the numbers make sense and it's worth what you're asking for, I buy it and you give her $80,000 and take the other $20,000."

10.  Protect Your Primary Residence

"Every person's situation is different, but I'm not going to ever tell a person to outright start with debt unless they absolutely have to. Once you lock into a 30-year mortgage, you owe them, no matter what. If things go right, good. If things go bad— you lose your job or you break your foot — you owe [the bank], and this is your primary residence. You want to always make sure your home is safe. You should be in a situation where your assets protect your liabilities. Even if you live in a house and you're like, 'I love it, it's beautiful,' it's a liability. It doesn't do anything for you other than makes you happy when you see it. You live there so you're not getting any gains from it."

11.  Consider Investing In Multi-Family Units

"The idea is you get a mortgage and you get a multi-unit as opposed to a single-family. A multi-unit can be a duplex or a triplex, or it can even be a quad, which is four units. You live in one unit, you rent out the other units and what they pay covers what you owe. Now it's not so much of a hassle on you, and then at the end of the day, you are still building equity. So if you ever decide you want out, you can still pull the equity out of your house and then reinvest it into a single-family, or you can go on to a nicer house and a nicer place."

12.  Change Your Mindset Towards Money

"Believe it or not, people in urban communities have a whole lot of money. You still got people like, 'I'm not ready to buy,' and I think they're just afraid. When it comes to these properties, these tenants, they spend money consistently. I've met people who've rented for years straight, never missing a day.

"How do you have the discipline to know that you have to pay a landlord, but you don't have equal discipline to pay yourself? How do you invest in somebody else's equity and tell yourself you're not good enough to do the same thing for yourself? And they do it time and time again."

13.  Ignore The Naysayers

"I tell people, it's not what you do is how you do it. I see people posting like, 'It's not like she got it from the muscle.' I did. [My grandmother] didn't give me 20 houses at random, she gave me an opportunity and I made the best of it. I've read, 'Oh she sold her family's legacy for money.' No, I've created a legacy. There was none."

Jamisa McIvor-Bennett is the proud owner of Rosebud's Investments, which offers individualized services in investor processes, for both new and seasoned investors who are looking to enhance their knowledge and expertise, and helps provide a blueprint for purchasing property without using credit.

Featured image courtesy of Jamisa McIvor-Bennett

Originally published on March 2, 2020.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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