How a former Google and Facebook recruiter built a $3 million real estate portfolio investing in properties in California and Arizona

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  • KC DeMaree was a recruiter for Google and Facebook before she got into real estate investing full time. 
  • Since then, she and her business partner have amassed over $3 million in real estate investments.
  • She looks for space, privacy, and many bathrooms in both her long-term investments and “fix and flips.”  
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KC DeMaree got her real estate license in 2007, but then landed her dream job at Google the same year. She decided to take the job as a talent acquisition consultant — but rather than stop working as a realtor completely, she kept a hand in it by investing in real estate on the side. 

“I heard so much about Google, I made it my goal to work there,” DeMaree said. “When I told them I was also a real estate agent and had been asked to be a featured real estate agent on HGTV, they thought that was really cool,” she added.

After switching over to a senior-level recruitment role at Facebook in 2009, DeMaree continued to simultaneously build her real estate portfolio. She left Facebook in 2012 and now focuses on real estate full time, having made over $100,000 in commissions on her last two deals alone. Today, she and her business partner have amassed over $3 million in real estate investments.

DeMaree has relied primarily on a long-term investment strategy that involves holding onto an investment property for an extended amount of time combined with investing in short-term and long-term rentals and “fix and flips” — purchasing a property and then remodeling it before listing it again. She said she typically handles single-family homes.

Getting started with her first properties

DeMaree bought her primary residence in San Jose, California, in 2008 while in her early 20s. At over 2,500 square feet, it was much more than the average starter home.

“I was secretly scared it was more than I could handle,” she said. “I had barely lived by myself before, much less been in charge of paying a massive mortgage and property taxes, but I was determined to do it.” 

Two years after she bought her first home, she bought her first investment property — an 800-square-foot condo on Bartlett Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, with her mother chipping in for the down payment. Both properties doubled in value within a decade, and in 2017, DeMaree moved to Arizona and started prioritizing investing in Arizona over California.

“I expanded my real estate portfolio by investing in multifamily and commercial real estate funds,” she said. “Unlike before when I was hands-on, these investments I was strictly an investor in,” she said, noting that she got a 12% return in 2020.

In 2019, the investor sold her San Francisco condo for over double what she paid for it, and used the proceeds to buy a 4,200-square-foot estate on one acre in Paradise Valley, Arizona, which she intended for use as a luxury vacation rental.

But in 2020, she sold the Paradise Valley estate as well as her San Jose house, the total sales price for both being $2.91 million.

She explained that while she usually buys and holds for years to build up equity — longer than is necessary for long-term capital gains — she decided to part with her Paradise Valley property because it went up $400,000 in value. 

“It wasn’t my intention to sell after only one year, but I didn’t want to deal with short-term rentals during the pandemic, and the sale of that estate happened to coincide with the sale of another house I sold, so I could combine them into one big 1031 exchange,” DeMaree said. 

With the chunk of change from her pair of sales, DeMaree bought a historic mansion at 106 E. Country Club Drive in Phoenix, Arizona, for over $2 million cash, over $600,000 less than the previous appraised value. Her plan is to renovate and remodel the estate.  

“Since it’s on the National Registry of Historic Homes, there’s a huge property tax reduction and other incentives that make this a sound investment,” she said. 

What she looks for in investments

DeMaree shared that she strongly prefers to buy non-Home Owners Association (HOA) properties and those without a lot of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) because she wants as much freedom as possible to expand or repurpose. 

“My San Francisco condo was the exception because it would have been prohibitively expensive to buy an entire house, and I justified it because the HOA fees were a tax-deductible expense when it was a rental,” she said. “In Arizona, often HOAs often require earth tones and don’t even allow owners to have their houses painted white despite Mediterranean architectural elements,” she added. 

She also prefers detached homes with large lots because of the flexibility they offer over attached units, the ease in selling them, and the returns. 

“If I want to remodel or expand, I don’t have to worry about it affecting the other units,” DeMaree said.

In terms of location, the investor looks for areas that are “relatively inexpensive” but have indicators that they will significantly increase in value. She considers proximity to new development, upscale stores and restaurants, and transportation, and noted that her SF condo was near BART and tech shuttle bus lines. In selecting the condo, she also opted to buy in an outer area of the city’s Mission District because it was close enough to the core area but still much less expensive. 

“Many people told me it wasn’t in the best part of the Mission, and I was okay with that because I thought those prices that were really desirable at the time weren’t worth it,” DeMaree said.

Some locations also allow her to have more flexibility than others, which has become even more important during the pandemic.

“If I am going to put my livelihood into a home, I want to be able to use it in various ways should I ever need to,” DeMaree said. “Along with the market changing, living conditions do, too.” She noted that in Scottsdale, Arizona, even the centrally located parts of town still have some horse properties available, and there are yards that have the option to use flood irrigation from canal water for the lawn, instead of using more expensive city water. 

“I don’t have a horse nor will I ever, but along with that come certain rights, like the ability to have an urban/backyard farm, to park an RV,” she said. 

She additionally noted that before the pandemic began, smaller, low-maintenance yards were perfect for people in Silicon Valley who worked 80-hour weeks, but that today’s buyers are prioritizing pools. 

“The property profile is changing, so it’s great to have options with the property,” DeMaree said.

While some of the higher-end properties that she selects aren’t necessarily intended to become rentals, having marketability for either a long-term or luxury vacation rental increases her options. When looking for luxury rentals to buy, DeMaree seeks properties that offer a resort-like backyard (heated pool, ability to put in a putting green, or room for plenty of seating), and many bedrooms and bathrooms. 

Plenty of privacy is also a priority. 

“The homes should be far enough apart so that it won’t disturb the neighbors — ideally the lots should be around an acre or more,” she said. 

Finally, DeMaree said she looks for homes that won’t become outdated anytime soon.

“As much as I love modern design, I prefer a Mediterranean elevation and interior that isn’t so trendy and won’t be unappealing in a decade,” she said.