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Using Real Estate to Build Personal Wealth and Financial Freedom

We asked Gate House’s owner and broker, Charlotte Guernsey, for some tips on how to go about accruing passive income from real estate investment, and how to get on a positive track to establishing personal wealth. Having made her first purchase on Main St in Beacon at a young age nearly twenty years ago, Charlotte has accrued an immense wealth of knowledge and wisdom concerning the ins and outs of real estate and asset management.


Charlotte Guernsey,
Owner of Gate House Realty and Lamb’s Hill Venue

Charlotte first shared with us her own path to financial freedom, which began when she was only five years old. After a year or so of collecting coins around the house, Charlotte’s parents opened a savings account for her, into which she set a personal goal of depositing $20/mo. From there, she devised money-making endeavors like re-selling bracelets and making cardboard shoes that she would sell to her classmates. Her entrepreneurial spirit was recognized by her first grade teacher, who nurtured this inclination by inventing a classroom-sized economy that Charlotte quickly rose to the top of… becoming both a prominent “landlord” and eventually the Mayor by her third year.

Into her teenage years, Charlotte maximized her personal income by offering services like babysitting and painting classes, as well as selling her art. She was able to build a small nest egg of her savings account, and instead of her first major purchase being the house she had originally imagined, she used her insight as a new real estate agent to find the best income-producing property in a prime location. It is important to note that Beacon was not the show-stopper it is now back in 1999 when Charlotte was investigating opportunities, but she saw the potential and has hugely benefited from that foresight. She made the investment in her first building, where her real estate office currently stands, at age 24.

Charlotte’s first purchase492 Main St circa 1999

Becoming a building owner at such a young age, and at the beginning of her career, Charlotte was quickly thrown into learning about property management and landlordship. She learned how to renovate old apartments and flip them to increase renatability and profit, how to evict tenants, and how to run her own construction crew. Living in a studio apartment , she opened her own office downstairs. Having the opportunity to live for free while her tenants paid down her mortgage set the precedent for her future investment success.


492 Main St today- Home to Gate House Realty and Charlotte’s husband Dennis R. Vetrano Jr’s law office.

Charlotte’s real estate portfolio has now grown to include a sprawling two-family home just off Main St, and a 10-acre plot of mountain property that hosts her primary residence, a wedding venue, and a horse barn complete with a high-end Airbnb suite.

It is important to remember that anyone is capable of this, with a vision and some determination.

The following are her tips to get started:

Start young: Save, save, save. Be thrifty and defer your gratifications. Build your credit. If you don’t have credit, get a credit card and start using it. Only charge what you can afford to pay off in full every month.

Your first purchase: Once you have a little bit of a nest egg, get pre qualified and start looking for a real estate opportunity. Try to find a multi unit in an up and coming area where the market would be on the upswing. Plan to live in one unit and rent out the rest to cover as much of the overhead as possible. You may not be able to live completely for free right off the bat but at least you will be on your way. If your goal is to live off passive income, DO NOT MAKE YOUR FIRST PURCHASE A SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE. Defer your gratification to settle down and play house. Think of this first purchase as a stepping stone. You want other people to pay for your living costs while you are gaining wealth in real estate. When you have maximized the rent roll and saved up again then you are ready for the next one. Repeat.

How to maximize rent roll: Use your keen sense of style to reinvent each apartment to look like an amazing “Instagrammable” must have living space. Lots of properties on the market leave opportunity for improvement. I love to troll Pinterest and Instagram to get real estate design ideas. Get down and dirty and use some elbow grease! You will learn a lot about construction and being a general contractor in the process could be invaluable knowledge in the future.
Reaching your goal: The longer you can sacrifice your gratification, the higher your rewards.

*If you are interested in this topic and would like to learn more, Charlotte recommends the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series.