Written by Ben Carter
Damon Lawrence is a 27-year-old Southern California native who is chasing dreams of hotel, real-estate and boutique hotel management. Damon purchased a home nearby his college town of Baltimore, Maryland at the youthful age of 22. At 26, Damon moved back home to California and began renting out his home, becoming a manager of what became his first investment property.
Having worked in the hotel management business for over five years, Damon is turning his knowledge about over-night stays, thread counts and check-out times into a new business called Homage Hotel Group.
We spoke to Damon about what he's learned about homeownership at a young age and how he's looking to innovate the boutique hotel industry. Here's what he said:
In 2010, you purchased a home in Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 22. What were the two most important things you learned through the process?
The most important thing I learned is the value of making business decisions vs. emotional decisions. My home buy was more of an emotional decision than a business one. Initially, I wanted to buy a spot that had at least two units so that I could live in one and rent out the other and potentially live rent free or close to it. However, when I saw my house I fell in love with it and the rest was history. In hindsight I wish I would've stuck with the original plan.
The second thing I learned is it's much easier to be a rental property owner than a homeowner. The world would have you believe it the other way around but that's not the case. People would scare me about the responsibility involved which is accurate, however, if something catastrophic were to happen it would happen regardless. Plus having a property manager manage the property while I'm in California is great because they are able to assume much of the responsibility for you. But the way I see it, the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to renting property.
What’s one key piece of advice would you give to another young person interested in buying a home?
If buying a home is what you want to do then you can do it. There's so many programs available for young people to get into real-estate and you really have to do your research and due diligence to figure it out. I was able to buy my home on very meager means one month out of college. Anything is possible!
How were you able to afford paying for a home all by yourself?
I was able to save money my senior year which was the result of having a reduced workload my final semester and holding on to my final refund check from financial aid. Between the two I was able to get pretty much all of the expenses covered. I say pretty much because at closing there were some fees that popped up that I didn't anticipate and I was able to receive a loan from a family member. That loan was very helpful because it allowed me to not deplete my savings and I was able to buy a car the next day.
You made the decision to rent out your home in Baltimore, MD while moving back to your home state of California. What about the intersection of real-estate ownership and your background in hotel hospitality inspired your vision of owning a boutique hotel?
Buying my first house opened me up to the world of real-estate. I knew it from the other side; that of a homeowner. That experience allowed me to learn a lot about home improvement as well. Because of that I felt like it helped me for my next business venture which was a business called Hausotel. Hausotel was a vacation rental management company in which I was managing AirBnB style vacation homes. Since I had experience as a homeowner I was able to relate to homeowners with a level of understanding and I was able to meet their expressed and unexpressed needs through my service.
That ability to connect with homeowners and understand the things they think about allowed me to tailor my pitch to them with more empathy. That business was the perfect stepping stone for me to now have Homage Hotel Group. My current business is very similar to Hausotel as I am the management company and brand however, I don't own the property. I'm more of a facilitator. Homage Hotel Group gets paid through a management fee which will equate to a percentage of the total profit of the hotel property.
What should people know about Homage Hotel Group and its goal to become the first Black-owned boutique hotel and hotel management company?
My hotel will by no means be the first black owned boutique hotel however we Homage is the first black-owned management company and brand. Many Black Americans own amazing hotels however their hotels are managed by large brands like Marriott and Hyatt. Homage hotels will aim to become the black version of Marriott. Although Marriott has thousands of properties worldwide they don't own any of them. They only manage and collect a fee from each. That has allowed for rapid expansion without the risk of losing momentum in a down market with a bunch of real estate assets.
What is the vision for Homage Hotel Group?
The vision for Homage Hotels is to create a world renowned and respected brand that can transcend race and culture while paying homage to the history of African-American culture.
Where can people go to learn more about your efforts or contribute to Homage Hotel Group's goals?
To find out more you can visit www.homagehotelgroup.com.