After graduating from Bentley University in 2011, he worked as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers for nearly four years. He left PwC to help a family member turn their restaurant business around and re-entered corporate America in 2017 when he got a job at a major insurance company.
“I knew that I wanted to leave my W-2 job at some point,” the 34-year-old told Insider. “In order to do that, you need to generate cash flow on a monthly basis.”
He decided to try real estate investing on the side. Specifically, he wanted to set up short-term vacation rentals.
Based on his research, He was convinced that setting up Airbnb properties, although considered higher-risk than long-term rentals, could produce the most cash flow.
He was right: The San Diego-based investor purchased two investment properties in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2021 and 2022 and turned them both into bachelorette-themed Airbnbs. By mid-2022, the cash flow from his two short-term rental units was enough to cover his family’s expenses, allowing him to quit his day job.
His ‘recession proof’ strategy: continuing to invest in short-term rentals and diversifying with affordable housing units
He prefers short-term rentals because, “you can get super-high cash flow,” he explained. But, at the same time, “I never like putting all my eggs in one basket. Who’s to say another pandemic can’t hit again and everything goes empty?”
Early in the pandemic, when travel was halted and some state and local governments even banned short-term rentals to stop the spread of Covid-19, Airbnb hosts saw their calendars wiped clean.
“For peace of mind, I want to know that there’s always other cash flow coming in from another asset class,” said He.
In May 2023, he expanded his portfolio and purchased his first affordable housing unit. It’s a single-family home in Fairfield, Alabama that he’ll rent on a long-term basis to a Section 8 tenant.
His plan is to continue growing his Airbnb business, which he still believes is the most effective way to produce cash flow, and use the profits to fund affordable housing units specifically for social workers and EMTs.
He is passionate about providing affordable housing, having seen first-hand how it can change a family’s outcome.
“My parents came over from China with about $1,000,” said He, who was raised in Boston. “My mom tells me the story about how one night when they were living in Chinatown in Boston, they were burglarized and lost about $5,000, over a year’s worth of wages in one night. That could be pretty devastating for most families but she told me she was on a waitlist for affordable housing and that gave her the hope and drive to keep going. Long story short, she finally got her affordable housing unit and she was in tears.”
He expects his affordable housing unit, which he’s currently renovating, to profit $200 a month minimum.
That’s less than what his Airbnb properties bring in, but it allows him to diversify his portfolio. Plus, he knows this rental income will be consistent, whereas short-term rental income can fluctuate.
As a Section 8 landlord, you can collect rent reliably, he explained: “Even if the Section 8 tenant loses their job, the government will come in and pay the rest of the rent. That is what I’m calling a recession-proof investment because the government will always pay their rent on time for your voucher holders.”
Section 8 landlords can also request approval for a rent increase once per year.
“I think it’s the perfect diversification strategy,” said He, whose long-term goal is to acquire 1,000 affordable housing units. “You can supercharge your capital with short term rentals, but you get to keep a diversified portfolio with affordable housing.”