Cynthia Qondani “Qondi” Ntini is a homeschooling mom, wife, real estate investor, recovering consultant and writer based in Washington DC. Her childhood in post-independence Zimbabwe and post-apartheid South Africa inspired her to study International Development, Political Science and African studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Although Real Estate Investing is how she builds her legacy, she’s always been a writer at heart.
Her Twitter account @QondiNtini delves into how politics specifically impacts/affects Black women and reflects the pragmatic optimism of many of them in the Democratic Party base. Her views are featured in the Washington Post, various podcasts and publications.
Her hilarious, sexy and thrilling Twitternovela “The Affair” follows the adventures of a complicated 40-something year old stick figure and her entanglement with Hollywood star Jason Momoa and US Senator Jon Ossoff. Set in Washington DC and across South Africa, congressional staffer Stick Qondi deals with thirsty, famous exes and international intrigue. Get immersed in her world with evocative images, video and a pulsating soundtrack. Less than a month ago @StickQondi recently launched a multi-platform social media presence that has almost a thousand followers and hundreds of thousands of views. Stick Qondi may be a badly drawn in 2D but she’s a 3D, fully realized Black woman with a rich history and complex emotions and motivations. She is the emotional anchor that tethers the absurd soapy storytelling.
Cynthia spent years helping run her parents’ real estate firm, experience she credits for her own investment in multiple rental properties. This interview is her sharing her investment in Real Estate experiences, to uplift and encourage the next Real Estate Investor.
What made you wanted to get started in real estate?
“My mother has always been very entrepreneurial. Her grandparents owned a shop in the village in Zimbabwe and after teaching for two decades she started a real estate agency and investing heavily in real estate. My dad’s father also owned a mill and shop.”
“For my 21st birthday my parents bought me a studio apartment as an investment property. They got me that instead of a car, which is what other kids parent would have got them. My mom always said that as soon as you drive a car out of the dealership the value decreases but real estate increases in value. In college I worked for her company doing admin and maintaining the website doing graphic design. This was in addition to my double major and on campus job! I even took the exam and got a real estate license. I am a licensed realtor in South Africa. I used the equity from that apartment in South Africa as a down payment for my first apartment when I was in my mid 20s. I still own it and it’s been a rental property for a decade. The rent covers all the expenses and it’s in a great location so it’s never been vacant. When I moved back to Johannesburg after almost a decade in the US, I worked for her and my dad in the agency full time.”
“A lot of my rental listings are still their clients. When I moved back to the US within a year I bought another rental property and now own four total. I no longer work in a traditional job and manage the properties full time. It gives me the flexibility to homeschool my kids. Ready to keep buying more property!”
Where do you start when you have no experience?
“I was fortunate to have great mentors in my parents. When they’d buy me books it was Rich Dad, Poor Dad. With their business and investing I was always immersed in real estate. I even helped my mom build our house in Zimbabwe. We were living on a literal construction site. That experience helped me with construction, renovation and project managing multiple contractions on my personal residences and rental properties. “
“If you have no experience try and find a mentor and offer your time to them to learn. Whether it’s an investor, contractor, realtor or building management company. You will have to start from the bottom but every interaction is a useful contact and learning experience because as an investor you will have to deal with all those people. Get to know someone at your local bank. An ally who understands your vision and who will guide and advise you with funding is invaluable.”
When just starting out as an investor, is it important to have cash and/or credit?
“Absolutely. When I bought my first property everything is scrutinized by the bank. Because I was very, young, Black and an immigrant doubly so. Keep your finances tight. Maintain a credit card to build a credit history but budget and pay it off every month. A great option is the cards that have high cash back rates. You can use that for monthly expenses and pay it back every month.
“Cash is vital for real estate investing. 1) Because you need to be able to move fast when you find a good property especially in hot markets and 2) banks charge higher interest rates on investment properties and rarely give 100% loans so you need a deposit. If you can, have an extremely aggressive savings plan or invest in the stock market. Buy blue chip stocks during major dips. If possible pool investment to start out with people you trust. The trick is getting your foot in the door. After some time people will start approaching you with properties before they hit the market. “
What is your ultimate blueprint for success in real estate?
“Mentorship. Find family members, friends, colleagues or community members in real estate. They do not have to be investors. Property investment is multifaceted and experience in multiple areas is required so don’t be too choosy about who because in their orbit are other people who have skills you will require. Most local governments have great resources and programs on property and home ownership. Seek them out. They are free. They also sell real estate through tax liens and will have free seminars on this. Go to property auctions even if you are not buying. You will learn a lot and it’s full of property investors! It’s great networking and you could find mentors.”
“Understand the market. The most successful investors have impeccable knowledge of their local market. This helps you know when to buy at the right price, at the right time to maximize your return. “
“Trust your gut. You have to be willing to take calculated risks and move quickly on opportunities. Have a clear strategy. Are you flipping? Buying a portfolio of rental properties? Your goals will determine what skills and resources you will need to acquire. “
“It’s tough and sometimes very disheartening work. It’s not sexy like on HGTV. It’s hard work and there’s no time out. Weekdays, weekends, holidays, all hours. Be prepared to work. The rewards are worth it. The opportunity to be entrepreneurial and decide how you organize your life is worth it. “
What have been some of your biggest challenges in real estate investing as a Black woman?
“Funding. No doubt about it. Traditional banks are a nightmare. They focus on income from a job and almost ignore rental income when calculating eligibility for loans. I am almost completely self funded which is very limiting and slows down the rate at which I can acquire property. Even refinancing the first property I bought ten years ago was a nightmare. “
Similarly, what has been your greatest reward during this journey?
“Not having to endure microaggressions on a daily basis in a corporate environment and having ownership of my time to pursue my passions and have time for my family. “
Please share any final thoughts with the Pretty Women Hustlers out there.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I can’t stress this enough but local and federal government are doing the MOST to increase black home ownership. We have a Black woman, Secretary Fudge, in charge of HUD for the first time. She is launching a slew of initiatives to address racism in the real estate industry. She’s created a new role of racial equity czar and appointed a Black woman, Adjoa Asamoah. “
“A good starting point is HUD then look at resources at your local government level including classes, programs for funding and home ownership education and tax incentives like in DC with the Homestead Deduction which lowers your tax liability. The government wants to see us succeed. Tap into it. Go ahead and even contact your congressperson or senator’s constituent services if you need help navigating the federal resources. “
“One more unexpected resource is banks. Some banks run seminars on how to get funding. This is particularly true for credit unions that run regular seminars. “