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Kassandra Skoulikides | Building Seven Figure Wealth

Kassandra Skoulikides is a real estate investor and agent with Londono Group. She has transformed herself into a real estate expert in just a few 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 since I started. It’s a very difficult industry to break into—nobody told me! When I started, I had no connections whatsoever, so it was especially challenging, but I have no regrets. 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 and I make my own schedule and I have a sense of freedom that I never felt in my life and a sense of pride in my work. There is an amazing feeling that comes with knowing that you’re good at what you do and having like a pride in that.

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 in our family on both sides go to University. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, so I studied film because I love movies, I love documentaries. I said, “I have a passion for that, so maybe that can turn into something.” I studied film for a year and a half and then I got offered a job in Europe—a film crew, they were shooting in Montreal, I got a job on the set, I made friends with the producer, and I ended up spending two years after that making documentaries with them. When we were in Germany, we spent like four months in Bosnia, 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 I have a passion for watching movies and acting documentaries, I will always have that passion. But, 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 going to go back to school to study, what?” So, 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 like my ‘end.’ I couldn’t imagine working a 9-to-5 office job, but I said, you know, “it will be temporary. You’ll figure it out.” So, I got an office job for a property management company and 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 I was good at basically selling people over the phone for some of 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 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 and I’ve always liked a challenge, so because it wasn’t what I was paid to do on a day to day there, it was something new, something fun. It wasn’t really my job description, but if I could conquer it and impress my boss… I was like, “you know what? This is fun.” It gave me something to do so they ended up hiring me to rent their apartment, and I did really well. I rented a lot of their vacant apartments. I was going all over the place, and I liked getting out of the office. I liked going to show apartments and 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 it. I was like, “OK, I’m good at this. I’m good at this job. I’m good at what I do.” It didn’t make sense for them to pay me more than what they were paying me. OK, because they could pay young people a small salary plus little bonuses and there’s some people who are very happy with that. You know, they just want to punch in, punch out and not think too much, pay their rent and enjoy their life. But for me, I wanted a little bit more and I didn’t want any stress. 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. In my head, I’m like, “I can make myself money instead of making someone else rich.” Someone had told me, “Do you know what real estate brokers make when they rent an apartment? The commission is the first month rent.” I calculated how many apartments I rented that year for them—it blew my mind. I was like “Oh my God, I could be making so much money. I should go get my real estate license.” So, I sold my nice car that I’m so proud of. I sold it. I bought a scooter from some guy who was mad at his teenage son for driving it and drinking. 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 know myself and I wouldn’t be able to focus, I needed to go in person, so I wanted to go to Lasalle College. So, I sold the car, I got the scooter and I still rented apartments for my old boss here and there to kind of make ends meet to pay my rent.

I’ll never forget the first day in real estate school because I sat down, and they’re like, “Welcome to the first class of being 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 started Googling the difference between broker and agent, having a mini panic attack, but then it was fine. It was just Quebec of course, labelling things differently. 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 to $20k savings and I’m like, “Oh ****, I’m $10,000 in debt.”

It really pushed me. I think I do well under pressure, which is part of why I do well in this job. It’s such a high-pressure job sometimes. So, it 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 could only afford to pay to take it one time, so I had to pass. I got a listing before I got my license! I got a letter saying I passed the exam, so I put ads on Kijiji looking for first time buyers, thinking “OK, you know like there’s like a one in 100 chance that someone going to message me. I can start like my pipeline before I 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. 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 Orin, who’s the agency director at Londono Group. He called me back and he’s like, “Don’t worry!” He pulled some strings and he got me my license the same day I signed the contract. It was a triplex in Park X, and I sold it in like, 5 days—the Commission was exactly my debt. It was crazy.

I was so happy, but I had a conflict because at the time, that was a reasonable down payment on a property. So, I was like, “OK, so I can pay off my debt and be comfortable or I can bite the bullet, put a down payment on something and continue to live the poor lifestyle for like another potential six months and maybe make it happen.” So that’s what I did. I’ve basically been terrifying my friends and family since 2015 with my decisions, but it’s paid off well! My first place is a loft in Lachine—I mean, that place has brought me like $100-150k equity so far, without having to lift a finger. I didn’t think about it, so I have no regrets like that $10k debt was paid off in time. I’m happy I had these moments because I can share it with my clients now and say, “Listen, I was in the exact position you are in. You can choose between taking a risk and making an investment or being comfortable and everyone has to make those choices every single day. I’ve done it multiple times and it’s only paid off for me. Give it a try.”

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—I’m sure people wish they were the ones who didn’t buy because the interest rates are really kicking themselves— but the interest rates were a little high, and there are a lot of people saying, you know, “Is it better to rent now or buy?” And there were so many brokers who are saying, “100% it’s better to buy, better to buy,” but they 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 something, if you’re capable of seeing it through, then see it through. 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 companies, and the only one that has always 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, exactly because I’ve lived it. A big misconception is that if you buy an income property, an investment property, it has to be a ‘plex. It has to be a duplex or triplex. I see so many people who work hard in their jobs, they’re very busy, you know, they’re starting new families or they’re getting married; they have a lot going on their life and they’ll buy a duplex or triplex. First of all, they’ll put a huge down payment, so they put all of their money into this one property, and then they realize what it takes to maintain it. You know, leaks that happen in the middle of the night. The roof needs to be changed. There’s a high tenant turnover rate because they rented out low. It turns into a big headache for them. They don’t invest their money wisely in that property because they don’t have experience yet and then they burn themselves, and they say, “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 CMA says we have to do, and then I rented it out. I let it build in equity and what I tell people is that there’s so many different ways to make money without breaking. With condos, what I love about them is you pay your condo fees and for the most part, it’s taken care of. As long as you buy in a stable building, with a good management, with a good reserve fund, it’s a pretty safe investment. I always buy in up-and-coming areas. While you’re living in it, make it as nice as you can, put nice furniture and decorate it, paint it—little things that are going to make it like, “wow.” Then, you’re going to get pictures taken of it and when your time is up there, you’re going to rent it out for top dollar. Once you rent it out for top dollar, that’s going to cover all of your capital, your interest, your taxes, your condo fees. If you can break even, amazing. If it costs you a little out of pocket every month, it honestly doesn’t matter—it’s the interest portion that you’re throwing away, but the capital is going to come back in your pocket. I always say if everything can be covered, you’re golden. Your job is to sit on that property and let it build in value. So then, you go to your next one. If you have your down payment already for your next one, amazing, cool, buy your next one. On average, real estate will go up about 5% in equity every year, so sit on it, take a variable rate so you don’t have a big penalty, and then—say you bought the condo for $200k and 2 1/2 years later, it’s worth 275—you can refinance that and pull 90% of the equity from it. We can easily go get a $50k for a down payment on another place, pull it out, buy your next one.

How do you manage your portfolio and growing assets?

First of all, all of my properties, I have my original tenants that I found when I moved out. They’re all there because I keep them all super happy. 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 no stress associated with them and out of pocket, in total for all my down payments, I’ve used maybe $70,000. So, $70,000 generated $1,000,000, so that’s why I try and explain to people.

Am I going to take that money and invest it elsewhere? Of course—you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket! But for people who just want to make a safe investment… you don’t even have to do this over and over. Look at people who bought houses on South Shore, Montreal, two years ago for $300,000 and now today, they’re worth $700,000—and all you’ve done is live. You’re fine, you’re golden. You’re safe. I think people focus too much on getting everything off their checklist. I have a few buyers who had such crazy checklists, like of a million things that they required in a property, and I had to break the news to them recently and say, “You know what? When we started looking for something and let’s say you had let go of this, this, and this and you bought that property, you would have made $200,000 in the last year. You could have sold that for $200,000.”

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

It is tough out there for buyers still. There is a little bit of hope—I see that the bidding wars are starting to slow down. But the rule of thumb… 6 or 7 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, 6-7 offers, so they’re slowing down a little bit, but all it takes is one person and a bunch of buyers who have been burnt so many times who say, “you know what? I’m paying $150k over what it’s asking.” So, you will lose that property. We’re here to invest. We’re not here to make bad investments. You’re going to make fairly reasonable investments. Let’s say you’re missing out on your dream properties because it’s just too competitive—if you’re able to partner up with some friends or some colleagues and buy a bigger ‘plex, with management, outside of Montreal? I think right now that that can bring the best return. That’s actually what I’m doing. My goal is to invest in something every single year and even with me, you know, I’ve lost a few properties in bidding wars this year. So, what I’ve done is I’m looking to purchase a big ‘plex with some investors so that will bring me a return on my money. Is it going to be the best return? No, but it’s much better than having my money sit stagnant in a bank account. Even 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, keep making offers. That’s what I would say to people. I’m still a big believer that condos are a great investment. There, you need to do your homework. On the South Shore of Montreal, so many people were focused on investing because of the train station that’s coming there. People were completely oblivious to the fact that there’s two RAM stations on South Shore Montreal that are coming. There’s also one at Terminus Panama, which is next to the Champlain Mall. So there, you can still get like a 3-bedroom condo for like $275k if you look hard. Say your total out of pocket costs every month for everything is like $1100. Once that train is running and it’s within a 10- minute walk of something that’s going to take you downtown in six minutes and passes every four minutes, you’re going to be able to rent that place for $1500 bucks a month—so not only are you buying something that’s going to gain in value, but you’re actually going to have a profit every month, which is insane.

People should be ready to jump on those things. What’s nice too about this market is that, because it’s still competitive, sometimes people accept offers and they fall through—maybe financing or they fall through an inspection or something goes wrong 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 it.” Not necessarily. Not necessarily. Or people assume that they already have an offer or assume they’re sold because there’s some brokers just don’t take down their listings. But if you hunt down, if you’re able to put in the time and the effort, and then hunt down some work.

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 cannot wait. It’s fun for me. Honestly, it’s fun for me and it sounds really corny and tacky and not true, but I love making my clients rich. It’s my favorite thing. I’ll go sometimes in my old transactions, and I pull up the comparables and I’ll send them a text and be like, “Hey, you know your property went up to under $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 try and double it, let me know, I’ll hook you up with the mortgage broker—refinance it and we can buy another one, yeah? We can make a plan.” 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 how to afford a new kitchen!” I’m like, “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—I 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 meetings with you and discuss. That’s when you need to host visits for your listings. I had to learn how to allow myself a weekday to kind of decompress and get what I need to do, done or do nothing at all because of it.

Do you have an actual day that you do that?

No, I used to try and plan it in, 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, if I have the rest of the day, it brings you so much mental 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 is the best way to be successful. I have so much respect for people who can do that. It took me a long time to accept but I like my morning, so as much as I can, up until 9:45-10:00 AM is for me. I still very often wake up early, but I have my coffee. I’ll look at my emails. I won’t waste time on social media during the daytime, but if I’m going to browse and whatever, I do it in the morning. I need my peaceful time. I work well late at night, I work really well sending emails at midnight, 1 o’clock in the morning. So that’s what works for me. 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, you know? Obviously, you know when you make money, you’re in partnership with the government. The more money you make, the more money you pay, so you need to invest your money. My commissions and what I make in real estate aside, my properties, by my 30th birthday, they will have made me $1,000,000. Honestly, it could have made me a lot more—there were some opportunities that came up that I let slide. I am grateful to be in this industry and to keep growing!

What is success to you?

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

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

Visit KassandraSkoulikides.com

Photo Credits – Peter Mac Photography

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