Real Estate Investing Basics

Investor Spotlight: From Accidental House Hack to Financial Freedom Featuring Whitney Hutten

Expertise: Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate News & Commentary
25 Articles Written
young woman sanding planks of wood with an orbital sander in an unfinished room during DIY renovations

Whitney Hutten’s first investment property—a live-in flip—unexpectedly turned into a house hack soon after closing. While some new investors might have given up, she persevered and ended up pocketing a $52,000 profit. Since then, she has done around 60 deals and attained true financial freedom. 

Name: Whitney Hutten

Location: Boulder, Colorado

What were you doing prior to real estate?

When I got into house hacking and live-in flipping, I was a CDC contractor as a head facilitator and trainer for Wyoming Bioterrorism Program. When I transitioned to buy and hold strategies, I was working as head of training and operations for a retail chain pharmacy, as well as being a wife, mom, and caretaker of two grandparents.

What got you interested in real estate investing, and how did you get started?

I fell into real estate investing by accident. I purchased my first house (a rehab) with a significant other. It was the Wild West of lending in 2002. Since I had the income from my job and could get a family member to loan me the down payment, I put the loan under my name. One month later, the relationship dissolved and I had a home… along with all of the finances.

Related: 1 Year’s Salary From 1 Flip? What Sold Me on Real Estate Featuring Chiagozie Fawole

I packed it full of roommates who didn’t mind living in a construction zone (and even helped out!). When I sold the property 11 months later—which might have been a mistake in hindsight—I pocketed $52K and was making money each month on rents coming in. My question was how many more of these deals could I do?

What is your preferred investing strategy?

Buy and hold, multifamily, single family, and note investing.

What is your current real estate investment plan?

I like creating value in both single-family rentals (SFRs) and multifamily (MF), harvesting that value creation, and scaling it into more passive investments like syndications or notes.

How much did you have to invest when you first started?

-$7,000 (I don’t recommend it!)

Related: How I Landed a Large Multifamily as My First Investment (& Why I’ve Never Looked Back) Featuring Evan Holladay

What was your first deal?

A house hack I was also live-in flipping.

How many deals have you done to date?

60

What is the most important part of a deal for you?

This has changed for me over time as my goals have changed. First, I needed to build buckets of cash quickly (so equity was key). Then, I needed cash flow to replace my income. Now, I look for a conservative balance of both to continue to grow.

How do you know if a property fits your goals?

I look for a balance of cash flow and equity for my buy and hold investments.

  • Cash-on-Cash Return: 8+%
  • Property Underwritten Cash Flow: $200+ per door
  • Return on Equity: 10+%
  • Internal Rate of Return: 16+%
  • Equity Multiple: 2X in 5 years

Moreover, I look to invest in growth markets.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Analyzing Rental Properties (+ Free PDF!)

What red flags do you look out for when purchasing property?

For my SFRs, I’m OK with deferred maintenance such as roofs, water heaters, HVACs—even tenant issues to deal with. Other than simple foundation fixes, I stay away from structural issues. For MF deals, I stay away from development deals since I’m looking for cash flow now. I also stay away from low-occupancy deals (unless it’s a poor operator), and C-class markets. Mainly, I look for cosmetic rehabs to push deals to market rents, ways to capture operational efficiencies, and additional income (washer/dryer rentals, storage lockers, etc.).

How has real estate investing changed your life?

My husband and I aren't rich, and we haven't had high-paying jobs. Real estate and the associated tax benefits have been a very powerful way for me to build my net worth and cash flow with little to none of my own money invested. It's all about creating value! I now am financially independent and location independent. I also have control of my time to invest in things that I'm passionate about, spend time with family, and travel.

Related: Investor Spotlight: How I Built a $1M Portfolio Using Other People’s Money Featuring Cody Campbell

What’s your “why”—the reason you pursued real estate investing and your drive to keep going when things get tough?

My “why” for investing in real estate is to have control of my time so I can invest it in myself, my family, and creating a positive impact in the world.

What should people consider before getting involved in real estate investing?

I think new investors have to think about their mindset, because getting started in real estate is simple but not necessarily easy. It's not a matter of if you will have issues but when.

Also, new investors should approach investing from the standpoint of setting up a business. I don't mean rush to set up LLCs and booking systems and do all of the operational "things" to feel like you are making progress. But how can you create a proper roadmap for your business (aligned vision and strategy), implement systems to execute your strategy, and learn how to scale through other people. These are the three critical components to building a business and creating true freedom—when you have financial freedom and time freedom!

Related: Investor Spotlight: From USMC to FIRE With Just 5 Properties Featuring Dion McNeeley

How did you find out about BiggerPockets? How has it helped you?

When I was trying to buy my first rental, a friend turned me on to BiggerPockets. Ever since, BiggerPockets has been invaluable to my investing career. You can find answers, ask questions, share success stories, network, find deals, and give back to others all under one roof!

Is your real estate investing journey similarly inspiring? Share here for a chance to be featured in the next Investor Spotlight!

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    Gabriel Perez Casado New to Real Estate from Boston, MA
    Replied 11 days ago
    Love your story Whitney!!! Thanks for sharing it!
    Mariano Medrano Rental Property Investor from Okeechobee, FL
    Replied 10 days ago
    Awesome! Love these kinds of stories.
    Ryan Corbeil from Denver, CO
    Replied 5 days ago
    Great insights, appreciate you sharing!