Sweet Dreams

A few smart real estate deals have helped the Washingtons open a trio of ice cream parlors

Declaration of Financial Empowerment
From this day forward, I declare my vigilant and lifelong commitment
to financial empowerment and hereby pledge the following:

For Kerri and Darryl Washington, sweet dreams start at home. Homeownership has proven to be a blessing for family life, as well as a wealth creator–one that has enabled the couple to open their own business selling sweets at their three Maggie Moo’s Ice Cream and Treatery stores.

But owning a home did not come easily. The year was 1993 and as newlyweds in their mid-20s, Kerri and Darryl were both working two jobs. With a Veterans Affairs loan and help from their families, they cobbled together $6,000 to buy a $163,000, three-bedroom house in Arlington, Virginia.

It was only when their first daughter, KaiYanna, arrived in 1997 that they began entertaining the idea of a bigger house. It was Kerri who thought of a way to make it a reality: refinance their mortgage, take out some of the equity for a down payment on a new house, and then rent out their first home.

By the following year, the Washingtons had purchased a $198,000, four-bedroom house, also in Arlington. “When we did our tax return and I saw how the rental income we received was more than the mortgage payment, a light bulb went off,” says Kerri. “Real estate was the way to go.”

Although Kerri was busy working as a typesetter for Black Entertainment Television’s magazine department and running her own small business, and Darryl was toiling away as a deputy sheriff and a reservist in the Air Force Reserves, they weren’t too busy to notice a fixer-upper. It was a small three-bedroom house that they ultimately bought for $164,000. “Kerri had the vision. I didn’t like it because it required too much work,” says Darryl, now 39. “But it turned out to be a gold mine.” It was around this time that Kerri, 38, obtained her real estate license.

Within a year they refinanced the mortgage on the fixer-upper and bought a two-bedroom condo in Crystal City, Virginia. In 2000, the local real estate market was booming and, fearing that they would be priced out of the area, they decided to sell their home for $315,000. With the proceeds they purchased a second condo, in Arlington, for $93,000. The Washingtons chose to live in their Arlington fixer-upper while they looked for their ideal home.

Shortly thereafter, they learned that their daughter Cheyenne was on the way. The pregnancy came on the heels of a layoff for Kerri, prompting her to begin exploring franchise opportunities because of their branding and support system.

It wasn’t until 2001 that the couple found a house that tickled their fancy: a three-level, six-bedroom home with a two-bedroom basement apartment. The Washingtons didn’t have the income to support the $500,000 price tag, but they sold the bank on the fact that the basement rental would almost cover the mortgage. The family managed on Darryl’s salary (then $70,000 a year), Kerri’s $800 monthly unemployment benefits, and their rental income.

Kerri stepped

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