Scottie Smith II, is CEO of Scottie Smith & Associates (SSA), and a licensed broker, developer, author and entrepreneur based in Dallas, Texas. He is a veteran in the real estate industry, with 15 years of experience, and has helped thousands of people nationwide through his sales and real estate development activities. Scottie has been featured on Black Enterprise, Fox News, Forbes and more as a real estate subject-matter expert. His recently released book, “From Decision to Close“, provides a practical, no-nonsense guide to homeownership. Scottie’s journey in real estate began when he purchased his first home and rented spare rooms to friends during his freshman year of college. This sparked his interest. At 19 he got his real estate license. By the time he was 21, he had invested in multiple properties and had numerous tenants.
In 2011, Scottie founded SSA, a real estate brokerage, with just one other agent. The company has grown more than 200% yearly with new agents continuing to join the team making SSA one of the fastest growing independent real estate brokerages in Texas. He and his team of experts have brokered millions of dollars in sales helping people across the country experience the dream of homeownership.
Scottie also served as a Board Trustee for the Atlantic Housing Foundation for ten years, where he was a member of the Investment Committee helping to underwrite, review and approve more than $500 million in affordable housing projects in several states. This includes the acquisition and renovation of 300 affordable units in Fort Worth, the redevelopment of 250 affordable housing units in Lewisville, and a 32-unit townhome development in South Dallas.
In addition to his thriving brokerage firm, Scottie provides training courses through Lone Star Real Estate Academy, a real estate school he founded in 2015. He also works with underserved entrepreneurs by creating the HUB Space, a non-profit formed to support minority-owned startups. Because of his commitment to the area, Mr. Smith has been appointed by City Councilman Adam Bazaldua to the South Dallas Area Planning Task force, where he has been tasked with creating a 20 year area development plan for South Dallas/Fair Park.
Scottie has been recognized by the National Association of Realtors Magazine as one of the Top 30 brokers under 30, and by the mayor of Denton, Texas as a leader in providing public housing. He was also presented with the Quest for Success Award, Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2015 by the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, recognized and inducted into the Forbes Real Estate in 2018. Scottie has made a lifelong commitment to use his passion for real estate to provide an avenue that helps people in his community and will continue to keep his goal in the forefront. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, a father of two and brother of twelve.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:11] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo, in order to build better for everyone. If you haven’t already, check out all of my podcasts at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co, or you can find them at your favorite podcast station. You’ll find lots worth listening to, I’m sure.
Eve: [00:01:03] Scotty Smith is a very energetic guy. He fell in love with real estate at just 19. By the time he was 21, he had invested in multiple properties and had numerous tenants. It makes sense that in 2011, Scotty founded SSA, a real estate brokerage with just one other agent. The company has doubled in size year upon year, making SSA one of the fastest growing independent real estate brokerages in Texas. He and his team of experts have brokered millions of dollars in sales, helping people across the country experience the dream of home ownership. And if that’s not enough, Scotty started a real estate training program and wrote a book ‘From Decision to Close’. It provides a practical, no-nonsense guide to home ownership. Listen in to learn more about Scottie Smith and his passion for real estate.
Eve: [00:02:18] Hi, Scotty, it’s it’s really lovely to have you with me today.
Scottie Smith: [00:02:22] Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Eve: [00:02:25] So I have to ask what drew you to real estate as a career?
Scottie: [00:02:30] Well, so, I’ve been in real estate for my entire adult life. Really started as a child when I was helping my stepfather and my mother, they were running a small contracting business and I used to do a lot of work with him. I was doing roof work, H-back work. I was under houses and at the end of the project we’d be handing somebody the key to a finished project that they will ultimately go out and make, you know, a bunch of money on it. So, I wanted to figure out how, one, I wanted to figure out how to stop from being on the roof in hot Houston weather. But two, I wanted to figure out how could I be the key holder at the end of that transaction? And so, my senior year in high school, I read ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, then went off to college and my professor, my first real estate professor, actualized what I read in that book. And it made me say, OK, this is something that is real, it’s not just something that’s on paper. And that professor really challenged all of the students to purchase a property by the end of that semester. And for me, it was weird because when I went back home during the college break, you know, winter and stuff like that, I still had a curfew. And so putting in my mind that I could actually own a property at such a young age, blew me away. Didn’t reach the goal that he set to own a property by the end of that semester, but by the time the end of the next semester rolled around, I’d taken some scholarship money that I won and refund from financial aid. And I took that and bought my first property, I was 19 years old, and I took what I learned in those classes and in that book and put it to work.
Scottie: [00:04:18] And so from there, things just kind of spun out of control. I bought a property, and I did a deal with the international buyer. And then I did my first big flip. All of this happened so quickly before I was even the age of twenty-one. And, you know, I couldn’t even go celebrate at the bar like I wanted to because I wasn’t allowed in the bar. But it was such an experience, all before the Great Recession hit that taught me a lot about real estate and taught me a lot about me being able to educate a lot of my friends and family about purchasing real estate and helping them understand the investor’s mindset and applying that to the home buying process. And so, yeah, it just kind of grew from there and I’ve been, you know, going crazy ever since.
Eve: [00:05:12] So it sounds like you love it. So, this interest has blossomed into a number of things like a brokerage, a training academy, a book and a bunch of leadership positions. I wanted to talk to you about each of those. Tell me about the brokerage. When did you start that and why?
Scottie: [00:05:28] Yeah. So, I started my brokerage in 2011, and let me take a step back. Before that, I was in public accounting. When the when the Great Recession hit, I felt like I needed to do something safe. And so, I became, you know, I got my master’s in accounting from the University of Notre Dame, and I’m really just trying to find a safe route, right? But even in that career, I realized I wasn’t walking in my purpose. And so ultimately, I ended up leaving that and starting the brokerage with the expectation to help people understand how to build wealth using home ownership as that vehicle. And that’s the whole purpose of my entire career, right? My goal is to help people using real estate as the vehicle to do so. And so everything that I do, every purpose movement, has to lead with helping people achieve and accomplish something. And so, I started the brokerage. We came out the gate really swinging. It was great. I just started just helping folks and by that time, you know, we got picked up by the NAR at 30 under 30. They saw the work that we were doing here down in Dallas with helping families find affordable housing. And that was really the start of the brokerage really just figuring out how to help the people who, you know, don’t necessarily always have the help.
Eve: [00:06:55] So how big is your brokerage now?
Scottie: [00:06:57] So we have scaled back. At our largest we were about 30 agents strong. We scaled back to 10. And really solid agents who take the principle that I that I’ve taught and that I’ve built this company on, specifically about education, educating our clients, right? Everything isn’t just transactional; it’s about how can we equip our buyers and our sellers with the necessary information to help them make the right financial decision? And so that’s kind of what our mission has been, and it continues to be, educating folks. And from that we’ve gotten a number of people who have asked and approach us about becoming licensed real estate advisors or licensed real estate agents. And so that’s where the academy came in is, OK, let’s go into the community, the underserved community, and help people understand how to become licensed in the real estate industry. And so that’s what we, you know, that’s what I’ve been able to really accomplish is understanding where the need is and bridging the gap between what folks want and what they have access to. And so, a lot of people that we serve and a lot of communities that we serve, they don’t really understand how to get into real estate, how to become licensed agent or appraiser or an inspector. And so, we provide the resources for very, very low cost so that people can realize and actualize this whole idea of real estate as a career.
Eve: [00:08:29] So how many people have you trained in your academy?
Scottie: [00:08:33] Oh, at this point since launching, we’ve had almost 500 students and folks who’ve come through. Through the investing academy, through the licensing academy and through our brokerage, you know, the number of continuing education classes that we offer agents. It’s a very rewarding position to be in, and I’m really happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish over these last 11 years.
Eve: [00:09:03] And who are the teachers who help you? Is that your brokerage team?
Scottie: [00:09:08] It is our brokerage team. So, we have a few trainers. Part of what we do, we have some online stuff that we offer. I’ve authored a textbook that allows for folks to understand the investing and development side of things. And it’s really been, you know, just a working process. We’re consistently and constantly changing and evolving what the curriculum looks like, and it’s fun. And so, we also have a partnership with Dearborn Education. And Dearborn has provided us a lot of access to learning materials as well, so we’ve done some great things with them over the years.
Eve: [00:09:52] And so I think I heard there that you also wrote a book.
[00:09:57] And I think it’s called ‘From Decision to Close’. So, what’s that about?
Scottie: [00:10:00] So ‘From Decision to Close’, that book is ultimately just a guide. It’s the simplest form, the simplest way to help people understand what the process is for purchasing and owning a home. And so, I broke it down to its simplest form, simply because so many people view the home buying process and that process surrounding that, as antiquated, as difficult to understand, scary, it made them anxious. And the demographic that we served, I wanted to make it as easy and plain as possible. And so, when somebody read this book, we want to make certain that by the end of the book, they had a breath of fresh air and they were like, oh, that’s it?
Eve: [00:10:49] And I get it. Yeah,
Scottie: [00:10:51] Yeah. And so, you know, I’ve gotten a lot of, oh, OK, I didn’t realize how simple it was. Yeah, it requires you to do a little bit of work on the front end. But if you follow these….
Eve: [00:11:00] It’s really amazing how simple things are clouded in complicated language, aren’t they?
Scottie: [00:11:05] Right, exactly.
Eve: [00:11:06] So you talked about the demographic you served. Can you tell us about that?
Scottie: [00:11:10] Yeah. So, we typically serve the minority community in low-income, middle-income neighborhoods in the urban community, really.
Eve: [00:11:20] This is Dallas, right?
Scottie: [00:11:22] This is Dallas, correct. And so we were initially in downtown Dallas, and about two years ago, we moved our office to South Dallas, specifically on Martin Luther King Boulevard. And so with our academy and with our brokerage and the Career Institute, we’re hoping to impact this community, create jobs, create understanding of the industry. Because that’s where we serve, right? And so we wanted to not just sell things to the community, but now offer career training, career placement in real estate.
Eve: [00:11:58] Yes, I think you have had some pretty high level volunteer leadership positions, too, if I remember correctly.
Scottie: [00:12:07] Yeah. So, through the work that I’ve done, I’ve been tasked with helping the South Dallas and southern Dallas area create an area development plan. And, you know, South Dallas specifically is an area that had been, you know, before we came into the community and started really developing on a mass scale, it was a community that was systemically disinvested in, strategically ignored. Schools were closing down, homes were getting torn down, the historical elements of the community were essentially getting wiped away. And so, I specifically chose this area because it was, for the most part, completely vacant. And so, I wanted to build homes. With it being six minutes from the central business district of the city, I knew that it was a way to make an impact I could. I could build affordable housing but also help to redevelop and breathe life back into a specific area. And so, through that work, the city councilman has appointed me as a chair of that task force. That is, I guess, our marching orders are to create a long-term development plan specifically for the area. How do we bring economic development, new commercial and residential development, you know, create jobs and things like that? So, we’re putting together a really comprehensive plan around that. That’s been fun. With some board stuff with the Association of Realtors, I’ve been placed there. Really just taking my talent and my knowledge to help people understand the community that we serve, right? And so, I’m kind of the advocate and the representative for the forgotten folks.
Eve: [00:13:50] And I think then, last but not least, you’re also a real estate developer. That’s correct, right? So, you started fixing and flipping houses pretty young. What’s that look like? What has that morphed into?
Scottie: [00:14:01] That has been a journey. So, seven years ago or so I literally took a wrong turn, and that’s how I found the South Dallas area, which is near Fair Park. I was supposed to turn left on the street and actually turned right on the street and ended up in this neighborhood. And I just I kind of just got lost in the neighborhood just to see what’s going on. Around the time when the market was rebounding here in Dallas we had a ton of outside investors from California, New York, Florida, come into the North Texas area, buying properties, all cash. And so a lot of my buyers that our brokerage was working with, we’re financing. They had some type of down payment assistance grants that they were working with. Took a little longer to close those deals so we were getting looked over on properties left and right. When I made that turn, which I say was the wrong time, but you know,
Eve: [00:14:54] It was really the right turn, right? Yeah.
Scottie: [00:14:57] It ended up being the right turn. I saw a vision for this area. We could build these homes and give our buyers first crack at them. And it just opened this, you know, mountain of possibilities for us and what started as, hey, I just want to get a few of my clients into a home because they’re, you know, they’re frustrated, stressed out, all of those things, evolved into, OK, now I’m a community developer, I’m helping to rebuild the community. And so between my partners and I, we’ve built about 60 homes in this area, with another 40 or so slated for the next 18 to 24 months. And so, we’re really working to change the outlook on how people view the South Dallas community.
Eve: [00:15:43] So those are tough projects to do because there’s no market. When you go to a bank, you’re not going to be able to raise as much money. How do you make them happen?
Scottie: [00:15:54] So yes, before I actually started my first build here in South Dallas, I think I got 14 or so no’s. And then finally, I had to reach out to a private lender down in Austin who saw the potential. And because of their confidence and because of how they saw us, I still, to this day continue to use them. Because they were there, and they have been rocking with this since the very beginning.
Eve: [00:16:24] You had to go to a lender in Austin?
Scottie: [00:16:27] A lender almost three and a half hours away,
Eve: [00:16:30] 14 noes
Scottie: [00:16:31] 14 noes.
Eve: [00:16:33] Why do you think that is? I’m going to push you a little on this.
Scottie: [00:16:37] Well, there was no real market for it. That’s first things first. It wasn’t a pretty area. People did not build in the area. It was falling down. It was dilapidated. At the face of it, it had everything that, you know, worked against it. And so it was difficult to set comps. It was difficult to justify the values. And it really was for homes that we were planning on selling for one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars. And so to get that kind of no so many times, it almost got discouraging. And…
Eve: [00:17:15] I’m sure it was very discouraging!
Scottie: [00:17:17] It was discouraging. But I continue to press forward because I saw the potential and I saw the purpose and I understood the mission. And really, ponce we ended up just saying, you know what? everything will happen just the way it should, that’s when things started coming in place. We’ve got introduced to the capital partners down in Austin, and from there it was swinging. And so, you know, we had a little bit more skin in the game than we expected to with the lender starting, but we had to show proof of concept first. And so proof of concept worked and what has happened is that, before it was my partner and I that were building in this area. Now we have no less than 50 other builders that are doing the same thing and really helping to speed along the process.
Eve: [00:18:09] Right. Fourteen noes. OK. That’s a lot.
Scottie: [00:18:13] Yep, that is.
Eve: [00:18:14] A lot of tenacity. So, you’re also doing a really funky little project called The Retreat @ Lake Noire, which I personally know because you’re listing it on Small Change trying to raise funds through crowdfunding. Tell us a little bit about this project. It’s a little different than the affordable housing you’ve been working on.
Scottie: [00:18:33] Yeah, it really is. And so, you know, because I’m in the affordable housing development and anyone that’s in that space understands the politics behind creating affordable housing and the stresses that come with that. And so for the past six years, we’ve been doing, six or seven years actually, we’ve been doing affordable housing. And that has been the focus. And when you’re dealing with a large city like the city of Dallas, it can really beat you up. It can beat you down.
Eve: [00:19:05] And also during the last year, the price increases must be really making it more difficult for you.
Scottie: [00:19:11] Supply chain issues, material issues…
Eve: [00:19:14] Yes. Yeah.
Scottie: [00:19:16] the pricing on that. And so, you know, it is difficult to work in that space. And so, this year, I said I wanted to do, I wanted to get back to developing, but also having fun. And so, this is really a fun project for me. I initially purchased this land to be my hunting getaway. And so, I wanted to hunt. You know, it’s Texas, everybody hunts. I do bird hunting and things like that. But I wanted it to be my hunting getaway. But then I kind of sat down and spoke with a few friends and advisors, and I realized that we could do something more. We can create a getaway, a retreat, so to speak, where folks could unplug, come off the grid and really just, you know, get away from the busyness that is life. And, you know, realizing that there’s a lot of people who suffer from, you know, just mental health issues, just, you know, a lot of stuff on their mind that they just need to pull away from. This is what I’m hoping that the Retreat @ Lake Noire is able to accomplish. Just, and it’s strategically located an hour and a half south of Dallas. And when you go out there, there’s no service, right? And so you literally have to stand in the middle of the land to get some service. And so, it’s ideal because we have so much screen time. We have so much computer time that as a society now, we don’t ever really get to sit with our thoughts. And so with the Retreat @ Lake Noire, I’m hoping that people can just be at peace in a serene environment where you know the luxury tiny cabins end up helping them just be.
Eve: [00:20:53] Well, describe the project to us a little bit because it has a little lake, but how big is the land and what are you building?
Scottie: [00:21:00] Yeah, so it’s a 15-acre site. We’re building a three-and-a-half-acre manmade lake and we’re, around that lake we’ll have 20 luxury tiny cabins that will be, you know, energy efficient, solar powered. We’re stocking the lake with fish. People will be able to fish and enjoy that type of stuff, boating activities. Ultimately just giving people that getaway, that peaceful nature. And so, it’ll be 20, like I said, 20 cabins on a 15-acre site in the middle of nowhere.
Eve: [00:21:37] And I’ve seen the cabins. They’re very, very cute. So, what sets it apart? Is there anything else like that around Dallas?
Scottie: [00:21:44] No, there’s nothing in that direction. There are some things in Oklahoma, just about four hours north of Dallas. They’re much larger cabins called Broken Bow. And then there is one in far east Texas that is a similar kind of getaway, a little further away. And there is something else in far west Texas where, you know, people can go, a little bit further away from the city of Dallas than most people like to travel. But for the Retreat @ Lake Noire, it’s the only one that I’ve seen that has the cabins surrounding the lake and allows for guests to fish and boat in the lake so…
Eve: [00:22:28] Close enough so that you could really take a weekend. Like an hour and a half is not a not a super long drive. Have you started construction yet?
Scottie: [00:22:37] We started site work the week of January 14th. And our guys, once they started clearing the land, we ultimately found that we had a creek coming down the left side of the property, which I’m really excited about because it allows for us to add another feature. And so we’re going to put a path down the side of the creek that allows for guests to walk along that.
Eve: [00:23:03] A little trail. Yeah, nice.
Scottie: [00:23:05] A little trail. So yeah.
Eve: [00:23:06] When do you think it’ll be finished? When are you going to start taking bookings?
Scottie: [00:23:09] So we’re going to take bookings after the first 10 are completed. I think the target for that is at the end of the year. Full construction on this should take about 18 months from start to finish on completion on that.
Eve: [00:23:24] And so why crowdfunding? What are you hoping you’ll accomplish crowdfunding the equity for this project?
Scottie: [00:23:30] Just being able to have more partners on a deal is exciting. I’ve been doing, you know, for the past few years I’ve been doing everything on my own with, you know, a handful of investors every now and again. But this year I want to ensure that I was opening up these developments for people to get involved in, for people to see a return and, you know, being able to take advantage of these types of investments when they normally wouldn’t. And so most of these types of things are slated for accredited investors, and I don’t think it’s fair that accredited investors can have all the fun, so….
Eve: [00:24:08] Me too. But I think I see another class calling you in the training academy about crowdfunding, investing through crowdfunding.
Scottie: [00:24:16] Right? Yeah, that is something that has been written down up here on my board. I think the first thing, first step is successfully complete a crowdfund, so…
Eve: [00:24:29] Yeah, yeah. But I think, yeah, it does require education for sure, teaching people how to invest. So, I’m just going ask some wrap up questions. What accomplishments are you proudest of? You’ve done a lot in a short time.
Scottie: [00:24:42] Oh. Oh, that is a lot. I want to say this. I’m a father, so I have to lead with them. These kids, they blow me away every day. They’re good and decent kids. So that accomplishment of being a good father is dynamic, you know. That’s first and foremost. But from a real estate perspective, I think when I made 30 under 30, that was a goal that I wrote down when I first became a broker, and it was because there was a gentleman on the front cover of the Realtor Magazine that was in Plano. And that’s just, you know, 30 minutes north of Dallas. And I went and talked to him, and I said my goal is to be able to get on the front page of Realtor Magazine as a 30 under 30 recipient. And we had a really long conversation. He told me what to do. I kind of forgot the conversation and then I picked it up and said, this is the year, and I hit that. I applied for five years straight.
Eve: [00:25:44] Oh, that’s sad!
Scottie: [00:25:46] Five years straight. And on the fifth year, they finally, was like, I guess this guy isn’t giving up.
Eve: [00:25:52] Isn’t giving up, yeah.
Scottie: [00:25:54] And so it was such an awesome experience for me.
Eve: [00:26:00] Oh good, That’s great. That’s really great. Congratulations. Final question. What’s next for you after The Retreat? Any other plans?
Scottie: [00:26:09] Yes. So, with this tiny cabin community, a lot of people reached out to me with concepts and ideas, and I’d never really thought about the idea of having a tiny home community for sale. Somebody shot me over, they passed me over a development that was going on in Atlanta that was a tiny cottage community that they were selling, you know, and I looked at it and I said, wow, everything under, you know, for the most part, under two hundred thousand. In Dallas, we have an affordable housing crisis and so I figured…
Eve: [00:26:44] All over the world we have an affordable housing crisis.
Scottie: [00:26:46] Right! So, it’s, you know, if this is a way that I can create more affordable housing and figure out how to do what I need to do there, I think I should explore it. And so, I’ve been exploring it, and I’ve identified a few sites here in the city of Dallas, pretty much already zoned for what I needed to do. And I think I’m going to do a tiny home community here in the city of Dallas, but a for-sale model. And so that’s going to be next step.
Eve: [00:27:14] I can’t wait to see it. Well, thank you very much for joining me. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your exploits, and you’ll be like 50 under 50 sometime, 40 under 40, I don’t know. There are more goals.
Scottie: [00:27:29] Thank you so much for having me.
Eve: [00:27:31] 30 under 30 is an amazing accomplishment. Congratulations.
Scottie: [00:27:34] Thank you. Thank you.
Eve: [00:27:44] You can find out more about this episode or others you might have missed on the show notes page at our website RethinkRealEstateForGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music. And thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon but for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Scottie Smith