Kassandra Skoulikides | Building Seven Figure Wealth

Kassandra Skoulikides is a real estate investor and broker with Londono Group. She has transformed herself into a real estate expert over the last 6 years and has amassed a real estate portfolio of over seven figures to date. Despite having a challenging start, she did not let that stop her from doing the inner work and following her dreams. She is an advocate for empowering women; her story of grit and resilience but foremost of tenacity and hard work surpasses all odds. We loved interviewing her, and we know she is JUST getting started. Keep watching, and make sure to read her inspiring story below.

How long have you been with Londono?

I’ve been with them for six years now. It’s a very difficult industry to break into. When I started, I had no connections whatsoever, so it was especially challenging. I love what I do. Sometimes it feels almost surreal. You know, I’ll be on a beach somewhere and I’m able to manage my business from there, I get to make my own schedule, and I have a sense of freedom that I never felt in my life, not to mention an overwhelming sense of pride in my work. There’s an amazing feeling that comes with knowing that you’re good at what you do.

Take me back to before real estate. Were you in sales—or did you always know you would go into real estate?

God no, I never knew I was going to go into real estate. When I finished high school, I had no clue what to do. My family doesn’t have a big background in education—like I had one person at that point from each side of my family go to University. I didn’t know what I wanted to be.  I studied film because I love movies, especially documentaries. I said, “I have a passion for that, so maybe that can turn that in to something.” I studied film for a year and a half and then I got offered a job with a film crew from Germany who were shooting in Montreal. I became good friends with the producer, and I ended up spending two years after that making documentaries with them overseas. In Germany,  a few months in Bosnia and England. It was an amazing, crazy life experience and I learned a lot about myself, but I think that in doing that I also learned that while I have a passion for watching movies, I missed my home, I missed my friends. It was a ‘living out of a suitcase’ lifestyle and that wasn’t for me. 

Where did that path take you to when you came back to Montreal?

When I came back, I said, “I don’t want to do this but am I seriously going to go back to school to study, and if so…what?” So, until I figured it out, I started working. I got a whole bunch of jobs. None of them really did anything for me until I started working in what I thought was going to be my ‘end of the road’ office job.  I couldn’t imagine working a 9-to-5 desk job, but I said, you know, “it will be temporary. You’ll figure it out.” So, I got a job working for a property management company. The girl that they had renting their apartments ended up quitting to go back to school, so I started taking some of the rental phone calls, and discovered I was good at selling people over the phone and renting the apartments. They would call for one and ask If it’s available, I’d say “no, but we have this—you know what’s great about this building is that it has this and this.” I guess you know, one thing led to another, and I started renting apartments full time for them.

When you say that, did it come naturally, like a people skill? How do you develop that?

I guess part of it came naturally, but I’ve always liked a challenge. Every day was something new, something fun. I did really well. I rented a lot of their vacant apartments. I was going all over the place, and it worked for me because I really liked getting out of the office. I liked going to show apartments, but my commissions with them were $50 an apartment—not big money.

I had a little bit of an epiphany moment when I blew a tire on my car, and I didn’t know how I was going to pay for a new one. I thought to myself, “OK, I’m good at this. I’m good at this job. I’m good at what I do.” It honestly didn’t make sense my boss to pay me more than what they were paying me mind you, because they could pay someone else a small salary plus little bonuses and there are a ton of people who would be very happy with that. You know those people, they just want to punch in, punch out, pay their rent and enjoy their life. But for me, I wanted a little bit more. For example, I had bought myself a nice little car and you know, if I couldn’t afford a new tire on that car, then there’s a problem. I told myself “Why not make myself some serious money, instead of making another person rich.” Someone had recently  told me, “Do you know what real estate brokers make when they rent an apartment? The commission is the first month rent.” So naturally, calculated how many apartments I rented that year for them—and it blew my mind. I was like “Oh my God, I could be making so much more. I should go get my real estate license.” So, I sold my nice car that I was so proud of. I sold it. I bought a scooter from some guy who was mad at his teenage son for drinking and driving. Instead of having caps over where the screws were, there were Budweiser beer caps hot glued onto it. It was so embarrassing. But I knew that, while virtual real estate classes were less expensive, I knew myself and knew I needed to go in person. I signed up for Lasalle College. So, I sold the car, I got the scooter and I still rented apartments on the side for my old boss here and there to kind of make ends meet and pay my rent.

Actually, I’ll never forget the first day in real estate school because I sat down, and the teacher says, “Welcome to the course for becoming a real estate broker.” In my head, I was like, “What the hell is a real estate broker? I thought I was going to be an agent!” I took out my phone and started Googling the difference between broker and agent, having a mini panic attack, but then it was fine, I realized they were the same thing here. Then, they go, “As you know, it’s an expensive business to break into, so most people in general are going to have between $10-20k in savings and I’m thinking, “Oh ****, I’m $10,000 in debt!”
That really pushed me though. I think I do well under pressure, which is maybe part of why Im good at my job. It’s such a high-pressure job sometimes. So, the debt pushed me to show up every single day for school, study hard, make sure I passed that exam because if you don’t pass the exam, you have to pay to take it again. I knew I could only afford to pay to take it one time, so I had to pass. So I passed. I got a listing before I got my license actually. I had put ads on Kijiji looking for first time buyers, thinking “OK, you know like there’s like a 1 in 100 chance that someone is going to message me, but I guess I can start like my network before I officially get my license.” Then some guy sent me a message and he’s like, “Will you take a listing in Park X and I was like, “Yes!” It was crazy. I interviewed at a whole bunch of agencies, and I sent a few of the messages like “Hey, I have this guy who wants to come to sign a contract with me, but I don’t have my license. Please help me, how do I get a rush on my license?!” The only one who responded fast was Oren, who’s the agency director at Londono Group. He called me back and he goes, “Don’t worry!”, pulled some strings and got me my license the same day I signed that contract. It was a triplex in Park Ex, and I sold it in like, 5 days— funny thing is the commission was exactly my debt. 
I was so happy, but I had a dilemma, because at the time, that was equivalent to a down payment on a property! So, I was like, “OK, so I could pay off my debt and be comfortable and debt free for a while, or I can bite the bullet, put a down payment on something and continue to pinch pennies for another six months or so.” So that’s what I did. I’ve basically been terrifying my friends and family since 2015 with my seemingly wild decisions, but so far it’s paid off well! My first place was a loft in Lachine—I mean, that place has brought me like $100k in equity so far, without having to lift a finger. I have no regrets. I’m happy I pushed myself to do whatever it took to buy my properties because now I can share those experiences with my clients and say, “Listen, I was in the exact position you are in. You can choose between taking a risk and investing or being comfortable. I’ve done it multiple times and it’s paid off for me. Trust me.”

How did you know that? Because you were studying it and learning about the industry?

I remember at the time the interest rates were a little high— and there were a lot of people saying, you know, “Is it better to rent now and buy later when the rates go down?” Obviously so many brokers were saying, “100% it’s better to buy” but they themselves were renting, and people knew they were renting! So, I was like, “How are you going to do one thing and tell your clients another? If you believe in something, and you’re capable of seeing it through, then put your money where your mouth is”. I always wanted to stand by what I was telling my clients. I still tell my clients now, if you don’t know where you want to go, or let’s say you’re in a relationship and you don’t know how that’s going to turn out or if there’s other factors other than just, you know, the money, then they take a take a moment and reflect on what’s best for you, but overall, I’m always going to say, “I invested in the stock market. I’ve invested in other people’s businesses, and so far the only one that has really paid off for me is real estate.”

I’m sure you can speak to clients now with such a different tone of confidence, giving advice, right?

Yeah. A big misconception is that if you buy an income property, an investment property, it has to be a ‘plex. A lot of first time investors think they have to start with a duplex or a triplex. I see so many people who work long hours at their jobs, they’re very busy, you know, or maybe they’re starting their families or they’re getting married etc etc; they have a lot going on their life and they go ahead and buy a duplex or triplex, and then they realize what it takes to maintain it. You know, pipes burst  in the middle of the night,  the roof needs to be changed, or there’s a high tenant turnover rate that demands a lot of attention and work. It turns into a big headache for these already busy people. They don’t have experience yet, and they burn themselves out, and then tell anyone who will listen, “You know what, I made a mistake. Real estate is not a good investment.”

I can explain the difference though—my first investment was a condo. I put 5% down. I lived in it for one year because that’s the CMHC says we have to do, and then I rented it out. I let it grow in equity. What I tell people is that there are so many different ways to make money in real estate without the headaches. With condos, what I love about them is you pay your condo fees and for the most part, things are taken care of. As long as you buy in a stable building, with good management, with a good reserve fund, it’s usually a pretty safe investment. While you’re living in it, make it as nice as you can, get nice furniture, decorate it, paint it—little things that are going to make it, “wow.” Then, you’re going to get professional pictures taken of it and when your time is up there, I guarantee you’re going to rent it out for top dollar. That’s going to cover all of your mortgage payment, your interest, your taxes, your condo fees. If you can break even, amazing, if everything can be covered, you’re golden. Your job is to sit on that property and let it build in value. So then, when you’re ready, you go buy your next one. If you have your down payment already for your next purchase, amazing, cool, do it! Say you bought that condo for $200k and 2 1/2 years later, it’s worth 275—you can refinance that and pull up to 90% of the equity from it, which could also be your down payment on another place.

How do you manage your portfolio and growing assets?

First of all, in all of my properties I have my original tenants! They’re all there because I do my best to keep them all super happy. I’d like to hope they love having me as a landlord—they all respect my properties, they all maintain my properties for me. I’m so happy with all my tenants. So yeah, I will have made $1,000,000 off those properties by my 30th birthday. Easily. I have little to no stress associated with managing them and out of pocket, in total for all my down payments, I’ve spent maybe $70,000. So, $70,000 generated $1,000,000, that’s why I try to explain to people.
Am I going to take that money and invest it elsewhere? Of course! Look at people who bought houses on South Shore two years ago for $300,000 and now today, they’re worth close to $700,000—and all they’ve done is live in them. I think when people are buying these days, they focus too much on checking everything off their list of requirements. I have a few buyers who had such crazy checklists, a million features that they absolutely must have in a property, and I have to break the news to them recently and say, “You know what? When we started looking for something and you had bought that one property that’s yard was too small, you would have made $200,000 in equity by now.”

Where do you think, right now, is the best place to be investing in Montreal?

It’s still tough out there for buyers. There is a little bit of hope—I see that the bidding wars are starting to slow down. Six or seven months ago, if I would have listed a home or a condo, we would have had at least 15 offers. Now we’re getting like maybe 4-5 offers on condos, and a bit more for houses. So yeah, my opinion is that they’re slowing down a little bit, but even then, all it takes is one buyer who to say, “you know what? I’m paying $150k over asking price” and most of the other buyers won’t stand a chance. Most will lose that property. But at the end of the day, you should want to make a good investment. We’re not here to pay stupid prices.  Let’s say you’re missing out on your dream properties because it’s just too competitive—you could always get creative. Maybe partner up with some friends or some colleagues and buy a big building, with management, outside of Montreal? I think right now that that can bring a great return. That’s actually what I’m doing. My goal is to invest in something every single year and even I’ve lost a few properties in bidding wars this year. So instead, what I’ve done is  purchased apartment buildings out of town with some other friends/investors that will bring me an amazing return in a few years. Anything is  better than having your money sit stagnant in a bank account. If it brings me a 10% return, I can tell you right now, that’s way more than the stock market brought me this year.

So you’re saying to go a bit further out in the outskirts?

I mean, just keep making offers and try to think outside the box if necessary. I’m still a big believer that condos are a great investment for a lot of people. Do your homework. On the South Shore of Montreal, so many people were focused on investing in Dix30 because of the REM station that’s being built there. People were completely oblivious to the fact that there’s two REM stations being constructed on South Shore, the second being Terminus Panama, which is next to the Champlain Mall. So there, you search, you can still sometimes get a 3-bedroom condo for like $275k! Say your total out of pocket cost every month  is like $1100. Once that train is running and your condo is within a 10 minute walk to a train that’s going to take you downtown in six minutes, you’re going to be able to rent that place for at least $1500 bucks a month—so not only are you buying something that’s going to grow in value, but you’re actually going to have a profit every month, which is insane.
People should be ready to jump on those deals. What’s nice too about this market is that, because it’s so competitive, sometimes people accept offers on their properties and the offers fall through—maybe in financing or they fall through following inspection and then all of a sudden, they’ve been on the market for three weeks and people look at it and think, “Oh, red flag. There must be something wrong with this place.” Not necessarily. 

I’m obsessed with the fact that you are under 30 and know this much about real estate investments—your portfolio at 40 is going to be wild, right?

I can’t wait. This is so fun for me. Honestly, it sounds really corny and fake, but I genuinely love making my clients rich. It’s my favourite thing. I’ll sometimes go in to my old transactions, and I’ll pull up the recent comparables and send my clients a text saying, “Hey, did you know your property went up $250k in value?” And they’re like, “what?!” And I’m like, “If you have any plans for investing that money, or you want to keep growing, let me know, I’ll hook you up with my mortgage broker—let’s refinance it and we can buy another one, yeah?” They’re always so mind blown. Like, “Oh my God, I was just figuring out how I was going fix my car” or “figuring out if we can afford a new kitchen!”. Yeah, you can. You can do it. You have money.

What’s the lifestyle for you? I mean, you can’t really turn your phone off or anything— real estate around the clock.

Yeah, it is. Realistically, my evenings and my weekends usually have to be available for my clients. That’s fine, you know, that’s when people are free to visit properties. That’s when people want to have sit down with you and discuss their plans, it’s also when you need to host visits for your listings. I had to learn how to allow myself at last a weekday during busy periods to kind of decompress and do what I need to do, or do nothing at all!

Do you have an actual day that you do that?

No, I used to try to plan it a specific day, but you know, my schedule changes so last minute sometimes. Usually by Sunday, I’ll have an idea of what my week is going to look like. I’ll look at what’s coming up, and I’ll say “You know what? Thursday looks pretty open. I’m gonna do my best not to schedule anything for Thursday.” So even if there’s one appointment on Thursday that comes up, if I know I still have the rest of the day off, it brings me so much peace.

Another thing is so many entrepreneurs push that getting up at 5:00 AM and going to the gym for 5:30 AM and getting all these things done before the sun’s up. So many preach that this is the best way to be successful. Honestly, I have a lot of respect for people who can do that, but it took me a long time to accept it’s not for me, it’s not how I am most productive.  I still sometimes wake up early, but I have my coffee. I’ll look at my emails, and take my time to myself.  I try not to waste time on social media during the day, so if I’m going to browse Instagram or whatever, I do it in the morning. I need that time to myself. I would rather work late at night, I’m honestly way more productive at 9PM than 9AM.  It took me a while not to have the guilt associated with not being up and out of the house at 7:00 AM.

How do you manage your personal life and work balance?

At the end of the day, I know that I have my properties to fall back on, no matter what. It takes a huge stress off my shoulders, this is why I invest my money. My work and my properties, by my 30th birthday, they will have made me well over $1,000,000. Honestly, I could have made me a lot more—there were some opportunities that came up that I let slide, but I learned from those mistakes. 

What is success to you?

I think that you should always be pushing yourself to do more, and do better, but as long as you’re happy with yourself, with who you are and what you’re doing and have confidence in you—that’s success. I will always push myself to do better, but I do feel successful right now and I’m excited to see how much that success will grow for me and for my clients.

Follow @MTL.realestate.girl on Instagram for more!

Visit KassandraSkoulikides.com

Photo Credits – Peter Mac Photography

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