DC’s Precocious Real Estate Investor Looks for the Next Big Thing

  • April 11, 2014

by Lark Turner

image
Paula Wu on campus at Yale.

Paula Wu, perhaps DC’s most precocious real estate investor, isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon. Wu, who is in her mid-twenties and now a first-year student at Yale Medical School, is working to renovate and sell two homes in Petworth and is already thinking about the next project for her development company, Dominic Properties.

UrbanTurf first spoke with Wu in late 2012, when she was living in Dupont Circle and working on a property in Anacostia. Her first project was a four-unit apartment building in that neighborhood, which she bought as-is, fixed up and rented out. Her second project was a Congress Heights building, which she planned to rent until she figured out she could get the equivalent of three years’ rent profit by immediately flipping the property.

For her latest project, she bought two properties in Petworth, which she is working with a couple colleagues to fix up and list this summer. Did we mention Wu is in her first year of med school? (She was also once crowned Miss Taiwan World.)

image
Luke Boschma and Daniel Lee, who are working with Wu to flip the Petworth properties.

“It’s been so much fun,” she says of pursuing her educational commitment while building up the development company. Meanwhile, Wu said, both the medical and real estate communities questioned why she’s interested in the other. People in the real estate community “see medicine as a field that’s sort of stereotypical, hierarchical, not as creative,” she explained, while the medical community questions the risk and entrepreneurial legwork needed to make real estate work. Wu sees it differently.

“I think they actually complement each other quite well,” she said. “I love the entrepreneurial side, being able to create something that is really going to be of service to someone and the satisfaction of seeing it come to completion (and) creating a system and an organization that works.”

Building an organization is at the forefront of Wu’s plans right now. She said she’s starting by slowly building what the company can do by doing two home flips at the same time, and hopes to use a similar structure as her the company grows. She’s looking to scale up the operation, she said. So far, Wu has been using her own money to finance her projects. Up next is pursuing financing for a multi-unit project.

“I think that we’ll be able to scale quite efficiently,” Wu said, adding that Dominic may take on building or renovating a small apartment building or a boutique condo building next.

“We’re confident and we want to continue to be a presence,” Wu said. “We’re dreaming of skyscrapers some day, even though I know that’s not technically possible in DC.”

Photos courtesy of Paula Wu.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/paula_wu_dcs_precocious_real_estate_investor_looks_for_the_next_big_thing/8350

15 Comments

  1. charlie said at 3:21 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    This is up there with the Candy Crush IPO as a sign of the apocalypse.

  1. vahoya said at 4:05 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    I’m sorry, I was looking for the Sponsored Post tag - this reads like a PR piece… Love the “photos courtesy of Paula Wu” note, which really confirms that this is hard-hitting journalism…

  1. Los said at 4:19 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    @vahoya I was going to make a similar comment, but decided to google and apparently it is not the first (or second, or third, or fourth) time Paula Wu has been featured in this site.

  1. Eric said at 4:39 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    Perhaps excessive coverage, but I don’t see anything wrong with what she is doing.  She is taking on alot of risk.  If she reaps rewards, then she deserves it.  Let’s not be bitter and envious of her success.

  1. Ben said at 5:03 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    Agree with Eric. Ambitious young lady. No need to hate.

  1. Rob said at 5:30 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    Lovely, why no mention of the problems I’m sure you have had with your section 8 tenants. Since your reading this, talk numbers, you bought your first multi family place for $328K, you put in…how much to fix it up? It’s filled with I’m sure the best tenants in the world who are taking perfect care of the place. How much is your average rent in one of your units? How much are you pulling in monthly? What are your expenses?: tax, property manager, upkeeping.

    What were your total expenses for the 479 Orange property? What were you expecting to make monthly renting it?

  1. rob said at 5:59 pm on Friday April 11, 2014:

    In the first PR piece it said “Wu’s total monthly income from the property? $5,200. By her calculation, she is earning a 19 percent capitalization rate.”  This is not correct you have to factor the expenses to renovate which where?? Your not factoring ongoing expenses like taxes, upkeeping, management fees…what are you’re average month expenses. When you factor these things your rate of return is false. Did you have 4 perfect angle section 8 tenants that never skipped a payment in the past year? What about all the personal expenses of Wu going back and forth to this place. This is bad journalism, you shouldn’t put incomplete, inaccurate stuff out there that doesn’t paint the whole picture, it just attracts more greedy and opportunistic people that will over speculate the market.

    The funny part, you used to live in Dupont but you did this in SE, why didn’t you actually live in SE if your such a strong believer of these neighborhoods your trying to plow.

  1. sewsewsoso said at 10:32 am on Monday April 14, 2014:

    Rob hit the nail on the head with all of his statements.  He is asking real journalistic questions unlike this piece.

  1. corey said at 12:20 pm on Monday April 14, 2014:

    “the next big thing” when will language stop being like this about real estate in DC. give me a freaking break. The next big thing means buying cheap selling high to yuppies. Thats the next big thing. Which is already happening so its a thing of the past

  1. kes said at 3:11 pm on Monday April 14, 2014:

    I echo the points raised by rob (altho not the tone). What are the carrying costs of these properties? How much of an initial investment did Ms. Wu use to secure her first property, and was it her own capital or a business loan? Were her profits from that venture enough to fund the next, or did she require more loans? What are the business expenses vs. cash flow from the properties? Is she managing the Anacostia property herself, or paying a management company?

    What about labor? Employees or contractors? Is she creating real jobs with benefits, or just employing a string of day-laborers under one or two part-time managers? In short, is this really a viable business, or a side-line hobby by a dilettante whose funding comes from “elsewhere” and who doesn’t need to be concerned with the long-term financial viability of the company?

  1. Ben S said at 10:05 pm on Monday April 14, 2014:

    This comment isn’t meant to reflect on Ms. Wu but I’d like to echo comments about the complete lack of substance in this article.  This is meant to be feedback to Urban Turf. Clearly your audience is interested in substance. So if you’re going to follow flipper/investors around then maybe provide some more details. How are the #s working? How do you possible find properties when you aren’t local, etc.  Expecting a bit more journalism and less fluff. Please.

  1. Chettworth said at 3:16 pm on Tuesday April 15, 2014:

    If you have Section 8 tenants, doesn’t the monthly rent come from the GOV or HUD??

  1. Nancy said at 3:18 am on Thursday April 17, 2014:

    when there is will there is a way and choosing this line is a awesome ideas if the young lady has strong determination and willpower no one will stop her to make her dream comes true .I like Paul wu idea and she must move ahead

  1. Rob said at 7:39 pm on Wednesday April 30, 2014:

    DO NOT TRUST THIS SITE, MY COMMENTS WERE EDITED OUT! IT SOUNDS LIKE THE WRITER OF THIS PIECE IS “IN BED” WITH THE PERSON HE IS WRITING ABOUT. ANYTHING YOU SAY NEGATIVELY OR CRITICAL ABOUT PAULA WU WILL BE DELETED IT APPEARS. I DON’T GET IT, THIS IS ALL PROPAGANDA. Why IS THERE SUCH FAVORITISM TO THIS PERSON. LOOK, SHE’S INEXPERIENCE, I SEE A HANDFUL OF ERRORS SHE’S DOING, EVENTUALLY IT WILL BUBBLE UP…DEAL WITH IT. THE PEOPLE HELPING HER ARE ALL SMILES! WATCH WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THINGS GO THE OTHER WAY.  IF SHE’S GETTING SEVERAL ARTICLES WRITTEN ABOUT DOING THIS, THEN I SHOULD BE ON THE COVER OF TIME MAGAZINE. BUT I’M TOO SMART TO PUBLICIZE MYSELF

  1. The Editors said at 7:55 pm on Wednesday April 30, 2014:

    Rob,

    Your comment was edited because it violated our comment section policy in that it spoke to Ms. Wu’s physical appearance. Call this a PR piece all day long, but please refrain from speaking about the individual’s appearance. UT will not tolerate that.  We attempted to email the address you provided in order to explain, but it bounced back.

    We are closing the comments section of this article. Thanks for understanding.

    The Editors


 

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