Financial Freedom with Real Estate Investing

Mario Ortiz’s first multifamily deal wasn’t a homerun. Would he do things differently, knowing what he knows now? Maybe wait for a better deal to come along? Mario says no, arguing that ‘getting in the game’ is more important than the size or quality of the first deal. In fact, he lives by the adage that the ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ comes about once a month. The thing is, you have to be looking for it.

Mario is a mechanical engineer from El Paso, Texas. He has managed to build a thriving real estate business while working full-time in the oil industry—without employing syndication. A self-made, resourceful entrepreneur, Mario finds a creative way to finance each new multifamily property, and he made a cool $4M on the refi of his most recent investment!

Mario sits down with me to explain how the unpredictable nature of the oil and gas industry inspired him to pursue real estate. He shares his initial plan to invest in single-family properties and the overwhelm he experienced self-managing 10 homes on top of his full-time job. Mario walks us through his first multifamily deal, describing his luck in establishing rapport with a local bank and what he learned by self-managing the 17-unit property. He discusses the creative ways he financed his second and third multifamily deals, a 90-unit in Houston and a 180-unit in Fort Worth. Listen in for Mario’s insight around ‘getting in the game’ and learn how the refinance of his 180-unit is allowing him to quit his engineering job and travel with his family 

Key Takeaways

Mario’s background

  • Mechanical engineer in oil industry
  • Concerns about stability of job
  • Started with single-family homes
  • ‘Graduated’ to multifamily

Mario’s initial real estate plan

  • 25-30 single-family rentals
  • Replace income in case of layoff

Why Mario’s plan changed

  • Overwhelmed by management of 10
  • Comfortable in full-time job

Mario’s first multifamily deal

  • Found 17-unit in La Marque on Loopnet
  • Established relationship with local bank
  • Hired part-time onsite office manager

Why Mario chose to self-manage

  • ‘Hands-on guy’
  • Cognizant of bottom line
  • Learned leases, eviction processes
  • Gained understanding of multifamily law

Mario’s second multifamily deal

  • 90-unit deal in receivership in Texas City for $1.2M
  • Put 17-unit on Loopnet as owner finance
  • Borrowed from 401(k)
  • Hired manager to help get rid of bad element
  • Sold 18 months later for $2.4M

Mario’s third multifamily deal

  • 180-unit deal in Fort Worth for $3.65
  • Enamored by deal, ignored warning signs
  • Lost $20K/month for first eight months
  • Economic occupancy 65%, physical occupancy 85%

How Mario made the 180-unit profitable

  • $400K in cash reserves
  • Got rid of tenants not paying (65%)
  • Rehab took three years

The refinance of Mario’s 180-unit property

  • Valuation at $10.9M (75% LTV)

Mario’s plan moving forward

  • Actively looking for properties in $10-15M range
  • Invest proceeds from refi in another property

Mario’s plans to leave his full-time job

  • Challenge to give up perceived benefits
  • Looking forward to running real estate business
  • Opportunity to travel with family

Mario’s parting advice

  • Starting more important than size/quality of deal
  • ‘Get in the game’

Connect with Mario




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What’s differentiates a successful multifamily real estate investor from someone who dreams of financial freedom but doesn’t take action? Todd Fox contends that a willingness to fail is what sets him apart and that his failures have helped him learn, grow and gain the confidence to go out and create the next big opportunity.

Todd is the CEO of Visum Development Group. In the last 15 years, Todd has developed $35M in projects in the Ithaca metro area, and he oversees all aspects of the firm’s projects from concept formation to long-term stabilization. Visum specializes in new construction and the redevelopment of residential properties, working to maximize returns while mitigating risk for investors. The company offers a range of luxury student housing, residential and commercial investments, and they are currently working on a 207-bedroom student housing project for Cornell University worth $37M.

Todd joins me share his journey from bankruptcy to successful developer, discussing how that dark time inspired him to pursue real estate full-time. He explains how he got his start with duplexes, purchasing his first property at auction and doing an incredible amount of legwork to find the second property—three years later. Todd describes his original intention to scale up to ten duplexes and how his dreams got bigger as he gained confidence and secured a network of investors. Listen in for Todd’s insight on following your heart, learning from failure, and setting small goals to build momentum.

Key Takeaways

Todd’s path to real estate development

  • Quiznos franchise for three years
  • Bought property at auction, redevelop as duplex
  • Internet startup in NYC
  • Eight years of full-time real estate

What inspired Todd to pursue real estate full-time

  • Making $20K/year on duplex
  • ‘What if I owned 10?’

Todd’s painful experience with bankruptcy

  • Personal guarantee on Quiznos lease
  • Next owner stopped paying rent
  • Sued for $482K
  • Questioned path of entrepreneurship

How Todd overcame the inability to secure a bank loan

  • Confident in ability to build product, find deals
  • Promised partner double usual return in exchange for financing

How Todd found his next deal

  • Looked through tax maps for parcels
  • Letters, door-knocking
  • Found house and double-lot worth $500K for under $300K
  • Rented house, built two new duplexes on lots

Todd’s decision to scale beyond ten duplexes

  • Mastered renovations, duplexes
  • Opportunity to build six-unit
  • Raised $750K, on-time and on-budget
  • Now working on $37M building

The organic way Todd built a network of investors

  • Father of tenant in first duplex in student housing business
  • Reached out with interest in investing, hit it off
  • Brought in friends as deals grew

Todd’s approach to raising money

  • Properties under contract before money raised
  • Ability to flip contract in worst-case scenario
  • Trust investors to support (calculated risk)

Todd’s advice for aspiring real estate investors

  • Learn from failure, gain confidence
  • Follow your heart, do what you love
  • Don’t be afraid to fail

Todd’s insight on what sets successful entrepreneurs apart

  • Understanding that it’s okay to fail
  • Willingness to do things that are uncomfortable
  • Set small goals and build momentum
  • Don’t wait for big opportunity, go out and create

Connect with Todd

Visum Development

Visum on Facebook

Visum on Instagram


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The two biggest issues multifamily owners face are turnover and resident satisfaction. If a property is not at full occupancy, your bottom line takes a significant hit. How can you address both of these issues and create a community in your apartments that makes residents want to stay, even if the rents go up?

Pete Kelly is the CEO of Apartment Life, a faith-based nonprofit motivated by a commitment to building relationships and community. Apartment Life serves the multifamily industry, redefining the resident experience in order to increase retention, improve tenant satisfaction, and enhance the community’s online reputation.

Pete sits down with me to share his background in the nonprofit world, explaining the basics of Apartment Life as an organization. He discusses the research around loneliness and public health, customer engagement and brand loyalty, and the economic impact of the CARES Program. Pete offers the specifics of what the CARES and Workforce Housing teams do to engage residents and how the faith-based roots of the organization impact their mission. Listen in for Pete’s insight on building a community that is good for the human soul AND the bottom line.

Key Takeaways

Pete’s background in the nonprofit world

  • 24 years with organization serving young people
  • Two years as CEO of Apartment Life

The fundamentals of Apartment Life

  • Relationships good for soul AND bottom line
  • Friendships increase chances of staying
  • Team hosts events, creates ‘sticky community’

The research around loneliness and public health

  • 26% more likely to die if feel lonely
  • As bad as smoking, obesity

The business research around connection and engagement

  • Emotionally connected customer 52% more valuable
  • Spend more money more often, loyal to brand

How friendships affect a resident’s willingness to stay

  • Seven friends in complex = twice as likely to renew
  • Neighbors themselves are amenity

The financial benefits of the CARES Program

  • $138K annual value to owner
  • 3 renewals/month

What the Apartment Life teams do

  • Usually husband/wife team that lives on-site
  • Events to connect residents
  • Opportunities to care (e.g.: baby gift, ride to airport)
  • Visit tenants 90 days before lease renewal
  • Build positive online presence for community

The cost of the CARES Program for owners

  • Provide 2BR/2BA unit for CARES Team
  • Management fee of $650 to Apartment Life
  • Budget for events ($2/door)
  • Best for A/B Class properties, at least 250-units

The alternative Workforce Housing Program

  • Class C properties in lower income communities
  • Team lives off-site, paid hourly
  • Manages requirements for LIHTC

The faith-based element of Apartment Life

  • ‘Love thy neighbor’
  • Recruit teams from local churches
  • Follow Fair Housing Act guidelines

The mission of Apartment Life

  • Dramatic impact on residents’ lives

Connect with Pete

Apartment Life



‘Why Loneliness May Be the Next Big Public-Health Issue’ in Time

‘Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality’ in Perspectives on Psychological Science

‘The New Science of Customer Emotions’ in Harvard Business Review

CARES Program Financial Impact Analysis

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Guidelines

Fair Housing Act

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When Mike Hambright first got into real estate investing ten years ago, he was hesitant to meet his competition. But Mike is an extrovert by nature, and after having coffee with a fellow investor, his perspective shifted. Now he advocates an abundance mentality, and Mike firmly believes that meaningful conversations with high-level players can take your game to the next level. So how do you build a network of investors you respect who can help you learn and grow?

Mike is the Chief Nerd at FlipNerd, a leading resource and social platform for real estate investors with more than 100K subscribers and 1500-plus video shows published to date. He is also the Owner and President of Evolution Properties, a multimillion-dollar firm focused on residential real estate in the Dallas market. Mike has an abundance mentality and a knack for networking, serving as a mentor to aspiring investors and founding the Investor Fuel mastermind.

Mike joins me to discuss his shift from the corporate world to full-time real estate investing, explaining how his wife inspired him to quit dabbling and go all-in in the summer of 2008. He shares his pursuits beyond investing, including his talent for connecting people through the FlipNerd platform. Mike gets granular on the value of a thriving network, describing the opportunities to do deals together and how connections can take your game to the next level. Listen in for Mike’s advice around expanding your real estate network and building meaningful relationships to accelerate your success. 

Key Takeaways

Mike’s shift from corporate to real estate

  • Entire team fired from large retail company
  • Moved to DC, company filed for bankruptcy
  • All-in on real estate summer of 2008

Mike’s ‘go big or go home’ mentality

  • Burning through capital, COBRA insurance
  • Wife said ‘you need to fix this’
  • Treat like business, laser focus
  • Bought 65 homes in first year

How Mike has expanded beyond investing

  • Still active, maintains rental portfolio
  • Ran HomeVestors franchise
  • Added coaching, FlipNerd

The benefits of the FlipNerd platform

  • Created to learn, provide resource
  • Added benefit of establishing network

The value of a thriving network

  • Opportunity to do deals together
  • Relationships accelerate progress
  • Meaningful conversations at events

Mike’s insight on masterminds

  • High-level people take to next level
  • Apply tips, tricks to your business
  • Expand limits of what’s possible

How to expand your network

  • Real estate clubs, podcasts
  • Local Facebook groups
  • Find people and ask questions

What Mike is looking forward to

  • Continued success of Investor Fuel
  • Freedom of virtual team
  • Building relationships

Connect with Mike


FlipNerd on Facebook

Mike on Facebook


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Ben Risser had a bad case of entrepreneurial ADD. He knew that the corporate environment was not a good fit for his personality, and he knew that real estate was the route he wanted to take. But Ben couldn’t get focused on a single strategy. He looked into several different single-family alternatives and even pursued lease options for awhile, but he couldn’t seem to stick with one strategy long enough to see it through… And then he landed on multifamily.

Ben enrolled in the Ultimate Guide to Buying Apartment Buildings with Private Money course and started networking at local REIA meetings. Through a random series of events, he ran into his partner, Matt Faircloth, and started underwriting deals. Matt’s broker connections led the team to a 198-unit deal in Fayetteville, NC—a D property in a B neighborhood with big value-add potential. It took six months and lot of legwork, but Ben and Matt closed in January of 2018, and they are actively pursuing other multifamily opportunities in the southeast US.

Ben sits down with me to explain how he came to realize that he is an entrepreneur at heart, despite his background as an aerospace engineer. He discusses his lack of focus early on and how he finally made the commitment to multifamily. Ben shares the story of his unintentional leap into full-time investing and the value of his wife’s support in pursuing the real estate business. Listen in for Ben’s insight around perseverance, focus, and finding a partner with a complementary skill set.

Key Takeaways

Ben’s introduction to real estate

  • Worked at Boeing as aerospace engineer
  • Creativity not valued, stumbled into Kiyosaki
  • Real estate to build pipeline vs. carry buckets

Ben’s initial real estate strategy

  • Liked idea of rentals, passive income
  • Zoomed in on single-family (analysis paralysis)
  • Pursued lease options, burned by partner

Ben’s shift to multifamily

How Ben found his partner

  • Matt presented at credit/investor meeting
  • Follow up, persistence led to partnership

Ben and Matt’s partnership

  • Matt raises equity, focus on big picture
  • Ben does underwriting, loan process
  • Complementary personalities

Ben’s first multifamily deal

  • 192-unit in Fayetteville, NC
  • D property in B neighborhood
  • $6.65M purchase, $1.7M CapEx
  • 24% rent increase

Why it took 12 months to close on the property

  • Offered $6.59M in July
  • Seller initially accepted higher offer
  • Renegotiated for $6.65M
  • Runway to raise equity, get financing

The complications Ben encountered in his first deal

  • Laundromat next door necessitated Phase II ESA
  • Changed lenders twice

How Ben and Matt raised money for the deal

  • Established network in Trenton, NJ
  • $3.2M equity raise

Ben’s transition to full-time syndicator

  • Laid off from small engineering company
  • ‘At peace’ about pursuing real estate

What’s next for Ben and his partner

  • Value-add on property, 20 units available
  • Actively seeking opportunities in southeast
  • Property manager instrumental in due diligence

Ben’s advice for aspiring real estate investors

  • Perseverance is key
  • Focus on one strategy

Connect with Ben



Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki


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