(CNN)Timothy Webb, Rashae Bey and Kayla Rogers hail from different parts of South Carolina, but their shared interest in helping people find homes led them to form a business together. The aim is to expand the market for affordable, safe housing for young Black professionals, college students and housing voucher recipients, who are among the least represented in real estate.
This all-Black real estate team is on a mission to #BuyBackTheBlock
Webb and Bey, who are University of South Carolina graduates, recently purchased four duplexes and one single-family home in downtown Columbia, making them owners of 26 total units of rental property. They and Rogers, a Charleston, South Carolina-based real estate agent who has worked with the duo in the past, hope to provide potential tenants with the resources to make informed home-buying decisions.
Their business ethos is rooted in viewing real estate as one of the first tools required to build generational wealth.
"We started seeing other people our age doing it and wanted to learn more," Webb said.
While in college, Webb said, he noticed recent graduates purchasing their first homes and began to explore how he could do the same. He and Bey, his fraternity brother at Kappa Alpha Psi, delved into podcasts and online interviews to learn the steps of real estate investment and marketing.
This experience as self-taught student-investors motivated Bey and Webb to be inclusive for their own future tenants. Reflecting on their time needing off-campus housing while in college, the team said they wanted their properties to be open to college students and groups of varying circumstances. They describe their tenants as "racially and financially diverse."
According to the Urban Institute, millennials and Gen Zers have lower homeownership rates than the two previous generations in the same age group. Compared with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers at ages 25 to 34, the millennial home ownership rate is 8 to 9 percentage points lower. Minority households have home ownership rates almost 15 percentage points lower than White households.
Bey, who hails from Greeleyville, "a very small town," as he describes it, with fewer than 1,000 residents, learned about home remodeling from his father. After he and Webb bought and renovated their first properties individually, they teamed up for their larger and latest acquisitions.
They credit their shared experiences for their business compatibility.
"Me and Tim have the same personal and professional goals. We want the same things in terms of the properties we're looking for," Bey said. "We were doing pretty much the same things on different properties and we get to add value in the same ways -- putting in new appliances, new paint, brand-new floors, new appliances, new roofing."
Rogers completes Bey and Webb's trio of real estate entrepreneurs. An experienced agent who works at a South Carolina firm, Rogers said she bought her first home at 25 after growing up watching her father invest in rental properties. Navigating the Columbia market has been a smooth transition for her, she said, after years of experience in the Charleston area.
"The Columbia market is one of the most affordable markets, especially for investors trying to get started. And even with Covid-19, many buyers are able to save their time and money to find multiple properties at a good rate," Rogers said. "A lot more buyers are out there -- Columbia is very hot right now because you can get a lot for your money here."
Deliberate inclusivity as a business practice is also a way to right the wrongs of historical housing discrimination, particularly for African Americans.
"We were not handed down the tools of financial literacy or generational wealth," said Webb. "In the early '60s, '70s, even '80s, when redlining occurred, we weren't ultimately given the opportunities financially to have our homes financed at a cheaper rate."
Redlining is the practice by which some mortgage lenders refused to lend money or extend credit to hopeful homeowners in certain neighborhoods. For generations, this was a legal way to exclude Black people from predominantly White suburbs.
"This is how we never got a chance to build equity that other people were able to hand down through their bloodline," Webb said.
Webb also wrote a book, "Buy Back the Block: A Guide to Building Your Real Estate Portfolio," which teaches millennials to buy investment property as a means of financial security.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Rogers' position with the real estate firm. She is an employee of the firm.