View of Riverside, California
Khari Washington

Fourteen years ago, Khari Washington sold his car dealerships to invest in real estate. And he has never looked back. 

As a broker and founder of 1st United Realty & Mortgage Inc. in Riverside, California, Washington has built an impressive portfolio in rental real estate spread across Southern California. He’s also an experienced home flipper, buying and selling a couple of properties each year. At the time of writing, he was in the process of flipping $1.8 million in property. 

Success runs in Washington’s family: He’s the third generation involved in real estate. He spoke with Story by J.P. Morgan about his family’s influence on his career and his approach to real estate investing.

Q: How did your journey in real estate begin?

A: I come from a real estate family. My grandfather Herbert Boulin was a real estate broker. He was active in trying to help Black families get more money when the government decided to eminent domain households for the Pasadena Freeway in the 1960s. He also helped many people in the Altadena and Pasadena areas buy homes. 

My mother became a real estate agent, and my dad was a real estate broker. They would buy houses, fix them up and sell them. When I was young, we would look at beautiful homes just for fun. 

Fourteen years ago, I owned two small used car dealerships and decided to pivot into real estate. This was during the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Our sales began to suffer, and it seemed like the industry was feast or famine. I liked how real estate sales were asset-light for the brokerage company, and more of the revenue turned into profit than in the car business. I got my real estate license in 2007, sold my dealerships and haven’t looked back.   

Q: How did you get into flipping properties?

A: After doing a few large real estate transactions for clients, I decided to venture into flipping around 2010. I think my parents’ previous flipping ventures inspired me. Being a broker is extremely helpful with our flipping business, and it gives me a massive advantage over other flippers. I have better access to comparables and more experience valuing properties, so my estimated buy-and-sell valuations for homes are better than other flippers’. I also get to keep the buyer's agent commission and the listing commission since we are our client. 

Q: When you flip properties, you’re often making big improvements to them. Where does your home design inspiration come from?

A: I design my flips to appeal to a vast number of people. I try to keep up with new home design trends and bring those elements to my homes. I get a lot of inspiration from model homes and home design apps. I also see what our brokerage clients like and see design trends change in real time. We can then take those insights into our projects. 

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Q: What lessons and tips would you share with prospective flippers?

A: The most challenging part of flipping is working with our rehab teams. Finding good workers who stay within budget and the time frame is challenging. Anyone who wants to flip needs to learn how to price different repairs and a little bit of how to do them. You don't necessarily have to do them, but you need a general sense of what needs to occur. 

Q: What are some of your favorite real estate tools or resources?

A: The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is an essential tool. Next, we also use online and court auction websites, then go back to MLS to find the properties. Home improvement and décor apps are an excellent resource for design, and we also live on the websites of home improvement retailers. 

Q: How do you recommend investors choose the location of their next property?

A: I think any market with a decent margin between underdeveloped or underutilized properties or properties in disrepair and properties in their best condition is a good area to consider investing in. I think it helps if the area you pick is an area you are familiar with or can get familiar with quickly. 

Q: What advice would you give to people looking to break into the real estate world, especially in the current market?

A: Fully utilize free resources out there. You don't have to go to expensive seminars, and you can learn all of the critical information you need to start investing from videos online, internet searches, books and networking with other investors. Study first, and then jump in; that's where real learning takes place. 


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