James Walker was born into a family of entrepreneurs. Growing up in Connecticut, he would accompany his parents who were into real estate and other businesses to paint, change locks and collect rent from their 100-plus apartment units.
His parents also flipped homes. They would purchase a house, renovate it and sell it for massive profit. Not only did Walker learn from his parents the rudiments of entrepreneurship, but he was also able to build his own network.
“It was cool. You got to know the people, but you also got to know the work that it took,” Walker told the Business Insider.
Walker started his first business when he was 12 years old. It was a snow blowing company. Later at Howard University, he cut hair and founded both a moving business and a ride-sharing business for extra cash.
“So you see that genesis of both real estate and entrepreneurship coming in my formative years through seeing my parents really go big in real estate,” he said.
At the age of 22, Walker used an $18,000 loan he got from his parents as his graduation gift to purchase his first house. Business Insider reports that he put down 3.5% on a $350,000 Maryland property through a loan from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) which roughly totaled the $18,000 when closing costs were factored in.
Walker, a Howard University law student, lived in one room of the house and rented the others out to tenants.
He chose to buy the Maryland property a mile outside the DC area where the Howard University students lived. Four years since he acquired the property, Walker has seen a positive cash flow and he has been able to cover the mortgage payments.
Last month, he reportedly purchased a condo in Brooklyn for $549,000 as his second investment property. And according to Business Insider, the price of the Brooklyn property combined with the Maryland home estimate, add up to just over $1 million in investment properties for Walker’s portfolio.
Walker believes the relative success in real estate is no fluke. In addition to his prior experience in real estate, he attributes his success to thorough market research, such as identifying the crime rate, transportation options, and city accessibility in a specific area.
Before buying the Maryland property, Walker did demographic research and found what students were paying on average for rent, allowing him to adjust his prices accordingly. And Walker wants investors to pay attention to the areas where developers have bought abandoned buildings for house flips.
“You want to find areas where you’re bottom of the market or mid-market,” he explained. “You don’t want to find an area where the whole street is developed and it’s the last plot on that street.”