Elayne Francis-Bruns on Revitalizing Realty

20 under 40: Inspiring Leaders to Watch


Urban Property Firm

Elayne Francis-Brunson BS, Dr.h.c. is the founder of Urban Property Firm LLC based in Sumter SC. She has recently casted to appear on the entrepreneurial show called THE BLOX. The real estate firm has ramped up since Elayne founded it four years ago. Urban Property Firm specializes in property acquisition in disadvantaged communities within inner cities of South Carolina & teaches others to do so in smaller urban areas throughout the country.

Elayne is committed to working with unwanted, abandoned, and distressed properties. Her goal is to revitalize ignored properties to uplift urban areas. While rehabilitating urban clusters, she creates affordable living and business commercial options in the redevelopment atmosphere. Simultaneously, she preserves the area’s historical context to improve the overall quality of life one opportunity zone at a time.

About Urban Properties Firm

The firm fully comprehends neighborhood dynamics and has demonstrated its expertise from Downtown/ Sumter SCl. True to its motto of: “We go where your realtor won’t” the staff at Urban Property Firm maintains a concord with their clients and tenants to create a community that offers customer-tailored results to their clients. The operations teams focus on their areas of expertise and unique neighborhoods.

Urban Property Firm also maintains a dedicated analyst and support system specific to urban commercial assets from retail to office and multifamily. The real estate firm offers multiple services, including short-term rentals, wholesaling, members-only investment club, workshops & training, and e-book sales. Consumers and those who desire to learn how to acquire real estate for income-producing purposes can visit our website to utilize most of our services.

We are virtual, but we offer a few services in person such as our annual tour of a renovation project. What makes our company unique is we use nontraditional methods of acquiring real estate which opens the door for newbie investors who may not have access to large startup capital,” shares Elayne “My biggest passion is in reaching folks who live in a main street district community or an opportunity zone where there is a demand for development. If we can teach 1000 inner city & or urban rural immigrant residents how to tap into resources right outside of their backyards, we will not only help clean up communities, but we will enable opportunities through education for those residents to create generational wealth. Many times, long-term residents become displaced & areas become gentrified during redevelopment. We teach residents how to grow with their community.”

Investing in real estate as a woman in a male-dominated field you quickly learn to become flexible and learn how to adjust or you will not make it. Investing in real estate as a Black woman entering the Main St. districts you will learn how to build your character, or you won’t survive.

Elayne Francis-Bruns on Revitalizing Realty
Elayne Francis-Bruns

Elayne, the Serial Entrepreneur

Elayne has owned and operated several businesses from the food industry to residential/ commercial cleaning, and most recently real estate. She was introduced to real estate as an investment during the recession in 2008. “Wanting more opportunities out of life, a single parent of 2 at the age of 24, I packed up all my belongings and decided to fit what I could in my Chevrolet impala and go for broke. I moved to South Florida with my tax refund check in 2008 and some jewelry worth more than 3K. Just as my money began to dwindle, I pawned my jewelry to register a cleaning business called Angel Maid Cleaning Company.”

Here, she worked with real estate investors who were capitalizing on off-market real estate due to the housing market crisis. “Working with investors to clean the flip homes they renovated I learned more about the importance and the benefits and profitability of leveraging real estate,” she shares. The business includes property preservation and rehabilitation, as investments for personal or family purposes. “Initially Urban Property Firm was a limited liability company to protect me and my family but eventually it grew to offer services to improve the lives of others as well,” she says.

Over the years the real estate portfolio of the company has increased. When Urban Property Firm exhausted its initial capital, Elayne used creative capital creation & leveraged debt to continue to acquire real estate. “After the pandemic, we changed our company model to focus on short-term rentals vs. single family & were able to increase our cash flow per unit.” Although the market is getting competitive (Columbia SC, only 30 miles away, was named the top city in America to flip a house 2022) the company has retained its strategies for property acquisition. Switching to short-term rental has been its biggest change. 

"I believe America has become a renter nation. The current economy, which includes inflation, corporate layoffs, & the FDIC taking over banks, will only increase the affordable housing & rental market demand."

In the Beginning 

Elayne’s mother died when she was six years old. Just two months before her graduation from Palm Beach State College, her father had a heart attack and died at his government office desk. His death changed her life.

At age 28 she had a little over 125 thousand dollars. Elayne knew that she had to make this money last. She left her beloved Palm Beach and moved to South Carolina, where the economy was growing, and the prices were more affordable compared to South Florida. Elayne negotiated her first real estate deal in South Carolina with 16 thousand dollars. The repairs cost approximately 7 thousand dollars. (The current value of the property is roughly $79K.)

I currently have held over 15 properties for more than 5 years and my first investment happened in 2012, most of the real estate has appreciated due to strategic locations. After allocating all the money I received from my father in real estate, I used capital from my cleaning company to get my properties running and produce passive income for me and generations to come.”

To this day I actively invest in real estate and have created several portfolios some for me and some for my children and their children. What I love most now about real estate is teaching others how to get started in real estate investing,” she shares.

Social responsibility

As the president & CEO of UPF I take giving back seriously,” states Elayne. While working in real estate, she realized that a lot of LMI residents are losing out economically as their businesses are closing or may not be scaling over time. She co-founded the Sumter Black Chamber of Commerce, a local nonprofit whose mission is connecting Black and African American owned businesses to a network of opportunities in their local, state, and global economy.

Giving back to the community is my fun fact,” says Elayne. As a community activist, she served on the Sumter County Cultural Commission as secretary and vice chair. She loves art and has major plans to expand art in her community. Elayne is also a member of the Board of Directors for Liberty Steam Charter School and Serves on the City of Sumter Community Housing Development Board.

Honors & Awards

Elayne’s work is being noticed and recognized by the leaders in the industry. She was named an honoree in the top 20 professionals under 40 in Sumter, this award is given to the top 20 young professionals in three counties collectively including Lee, Sumter, and Clarendon. Elayne also received the award for recognition of real estate investing and service on the Sumter City Community Development Housing Board. She was also awarded Business Elite’s “40 Under 40”, a prestigious awards program that identifies outstanding young executives and entrepreneurs in the world’s business, visionaries, and innovators changing the way things are done.

The Future

I believe America has become a renter nation. The current economy, which includes inflation, corporate layoffs, & the FDIC taking over banks, will only increase the affordable housing & rental market demand. Currently, I’m embarking on a few commercial mixed-use projects to meet some of the demand.” Elayne shares that Urban Property Firm will continue to invest in opportunity zones and multifamily units to develop a community within a community.