Kito J. Johnson, broker and CEO of Buy n Sell Inc., is a serial entrepreneur, seasoned investor, and accomplished real estate broker. Johnson has over 1,000 transactions under his belt and has established himself as an educator and mentor to both new and seasoned investors. With a passion for generational wealth, Johnson is also founder and host of The Generational Wealth Summit, which brings entrepreneurs and real estate professionals together from the local market and around the country for an all-day event.
Johnson sat down with Black Enterprise to discuss how he got started, his failed businesses, recovering from the 2008 economic crisis, and becoming a single dad.
Black Enterprise: How did you get started in entrepreneurship?
“My dad is an entrepreneur and risk taker. He was always involved in some business endeavor. He had a general contracting company, concrete business, and even did residential construction. He was always involved in entrepreneurial pursuits, and from that, I guess I got the gene.
We were always on a roller coaster in my household. He would do well in business, and then he would go downhill and make some bad decisions. When I was 13, my dad was on another great streak in business and doing well. He had a new business partner, and he came home one day nearly in tears because he found out that his business partner had stolen $140,000 and disappeared.”
Black Enterprise: How did your family recover from that loss?
“My dad had struggled to recover from that $140,000 loss. We decided to fold his company, went bankrupt, and started another company. When I was 20, the company was doing great. We had 22 people on staff and I managed a $20,000 weekly payroll. I ended up making some not-so-great decisions, and so we found ourselves heading downhill and ended up folding the company. I started a church and pastored for a while, but in the back of my mind, I was always very interested in real estate and came across Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad Poor Dad.
At 20-years-old, I got married and moved from my parents’ house into a fixer-upper. I didn’t know anything about investing in real estate. I just had an eye for an opportunity. So, I bought the house. I put the house under contract and hoped to buy it before getting married. When I went to get the loan on the house, I found out I couldn’t get a loan, traditional mortgage, because it was in such disrepair that it didn’t qualify for a conventional mortgage. I ended up negotiating a lease purchase. I leased it from the owner for six months. During that six months, I renovated the house, got a mortgage, bought the house, and my wife and I lived there. Every two years we were moving and using the lease purchase strategy—we were buying something, selling something, and leasing something.”
Black Enterprise: Were you affected by the 2008 economic crisis?
“Just before the economic crisis, my wife and I had 17 properties. We were doing pretty well in real estate, and I continued to pastor the ministry my wife and I had started together. In 2008, I lost everything. I lost not only my houses, but I also lost my wife. And so I’m a single dad. My wife passed away in 2008. So, I had all of that hit me at one time.
I suddenly found myself pastoring a struggling church, houses gone, broke, and my wife had just passed away. My son was 5-years-old and my daughter was just one at the time. I had to gather myself. For the next two years, I didn’t do anything. And then I decided, “Now, I’m not sure if I want the real estate thing anymore.” I decided to go back to school. I went to Kennesaw State to finish a degree that I never finished, I was 33 at the time; a full-time college student, on campus every day, and a single dad in the afternoon.”
Black Enterprise What helped you reignite your passion for real estate?
“I met a guy by the name of Mark Spain; he came across my résumé. Mark Spain is a well-known broker in Atlanta and wanted me to work on his team, with investors. Mark knew that I worked with investors in the past. When May rolled around, I graduated from Kennesaw State and joined his team, and all of my passion for real estate came back. Working with him for about a year, I sold 98 houses, about $14 million worth of real estate. I found my place again.”
Black Enterprise: Do you have any advice for those interested in real estate investing?
“It is possible to start wherever you are. Real estate investing starts very much so with one’s mind set and the first thing any individual has to know is that there’s opportunity available to them. And then you begin to build or discover a strategy around where you are. A lot of people fail with real estate investing because they don’t know where they stand. They hear that somebody is wholesaling and they say, “OK, that’s what I need to do.” Or they turn on HGTV, and they think that investing is buying a house and putting money in it and flipping it. Those are just one or two or three of many, many, many strategies. And the way you determine which strategy is best for you is, you first have to sit down and evaluate where you are time, money, and credit-wise.”
You can learn more about Johnson by visiting his website at kitojjohnson.com and following him on social media @kitojjohnson.