How Ayesha Selden went from the projects to becoming a real estate millionaire

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 22, 2024 11:01 PM EDT

“It was a rough neighborhood to grow up in, but I knew that it wouldn’t last forever,” Aisha Selden described growing up in the South Philadelphia projects. When she was 18, her family moved to a more comfortable area. Selden believed that the area they left would turn around and the property would eventually become valuable and told her mother not to sell the house and rent it instead. However, her mother was nervous about being able to find a tenant and sold the house for $35,000 in 1997. Its value increased more than tenfold within 10 years of sale and is worth around $500,000 to $600,000 today.

This was Selden’s first major real estate lesson. By starting small and staying persistent, she has amassed a real estate portfolio of over 30 properties and 41 units.

“I remember saying, ‘Mom, don’t sell the house.’ The wealth that just slipped through our fingers because we didn’t know. We didn’t know what we had,” Selden said. “I look at our neighborhoods, and we’re often told no one is gonna wanna live there, it’s the hood, it’s ghetto. I want us to realize and recognize that what we have and what we do own is valuable and to know it’s valuable before someone else comes in and tells us it’s valuable,” Selden said about her first appreciate of of real estate economics.

Selden has always had a knack for managing money and was able to hold onto a $10 allowance for six weeks as a child. Drug dealers ran the streets and she admits to being tempted to sell marijuana and make extra cash. With her mother’s intervention, she was able to set her sights higher. Her mother would drive Selden and her sister from the projects to the Main Line to admire all of the large houses. This helped them realize that wealth was attainable.

She attended Temple University, where she earned degrees in marketing and economics. Selden particularly chose Temple because she could commute from home and attend for free as her mother worked in their Hospital. This decision saved both her and her mother from the burden of skyrocketing costs of college, room, and board. After graduation, she started her journey into the world of finance, eventually becoming a licensed Financial Planner and a Stock Broker.

The work and training in finance exposed Selden to analyzing investments and helping high-net-worth clients achieve their financial goals. Her view of money also expanded as she started to see real money. At age 24, Selden purchased her first house, a foreclosure in Philadelphia for $67,000 using her savings. She did a cosmetic rehab on the place, moved in, and got a roommate who helped with paying the mortgage.

Two years later, Selden invested in equities and bought a rental property. She started buying and rehabbing dilapidated properties in South Philadelphia, Allegheny West, and other areas of the city during and after the 2008 financial crisis. Selden particularly looked out for blocks that single mothers would want to live on, as they were her main clients. After rehabbing over 30 houses and working with some shoddy General Contractors, she got her General Contractors license in 2019.

Selden has amassed a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio, consisting of over 30 properties and 41 units. She works as a Private Wealth Advisor, helping others manage their money –  something that has always come easily to her.

“Most would-be real estate investors miss the crucial first step that’s required to be successful over time. A disciplined mindset. Discipline is what will prevent you from making mistakes like yanking out all the equity from your properties and balling instead of reinvesting,” Selden advises prospective real estate investors.