Do you see yourself working on the same corporate routine ten years from now? How about in the next forty? In this episode, we get to meet a former software engineer who had to pack his things and let go of everything to strive for his dream of financial freedom.
Craig and Zeona are joined by such a passionate realtor who once found himself intimidated by the real estate industry. Antonio Cucciniello went to establish his mastermind group—venturing entrepreneurship—up to working his way to real estate investments from ground up. With Antonio’s excellent mathematical reasoning, we get to crunch numbers as we delve deeper on his real estate know-hows!
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De-FI-ing Gravity: How Family Partnerships Can Get You Off The Ground
We’ve got a great guest today. His name is Antonio Cucciniello, which is really fun to say in Italian and we’ve got a really good question that I want to leave with you guys all as well, we also asked Antonio this at the end of the show and you can hear his answer if you listen all the way to the end, but why do you think all Italian names and maybe even all Italian words end in a vowel? If you’ve got a good answer for that, please DM me on Instagram at @thefiguy. I knew the answers to this. I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep until I know. Z, what do you say? Should we bring him on the show?
Okay, let’s do it.
Antonio Cucciniello, welcome back to the show, I should say, because we totally screwed up your first recording a few months ago and so we have the pleasure to talk to you again. I can’t wait to hear all about your story for a second time. All right, Antonio, why don’t we just kick it off from the beginning, when did you first hear about financial independence? Give us that time of day and all that good stuff.
It was after the first day at my first full-time job as a software engineer. I was thinking that I had to live my life as a software engineer and show up nine to five, nine to five, nine to five, nine to five, like that was what life was because that’s what my parents told me and then, at my first job, day 1, I go home, I’m like, “Well, I can’t do this for forever,” and my friend is like, “Oh, have you heard of entrepreneurship?” and I started looking it up and I’m like, well, there’s all these things, like real estate investing and this and that, and I was like, oh, I could make money and not be at a place. And that was it for me. It was just like day 1.
Plus you’re too cute to be a software engineer. Just doesn’t make sense.
If you guys are watching this, you need to go watch this on YouTube, like just stop what you’re doing and go look at this man. He’s a little beefcake.
So, yeah, you’re at this software job. Where is it? Tell us where we’re at here. Facebook, Instagram?
We’re in Princeton, New Jersey, right near where I went to college.
Yeah, it was not the nice part of Princeton. Princeton is not bad but it wasn’t a nice part of Princeton, it was right next to the train station. And I was at a job where it was mostly older people, people who have been there for 30, 40, 50 years. A few weeks in, actually, my idea of not wanting to do this got solidified when I came into the office one day and everyone’s doors were closed and I was really weirded out because we had an open door policy in the office and it turns out that there were layoffs that day and I walked by other people’s offices and there were literally like 40-, 50-year-old men crying because they got laid off from their job, they had no money, they spent all their savings on their daughter’s tuition for college, and I’m like, “Whoa, I spent my entire life going to school to do this thing and 40 years from now, I’m gonna end up like that?” No offense to that guy or any of the guys that got laid off that day, but that’s not the position that I saw myself being in. I saw myself being rich and well-off and not having to worry about money every day. So I was scared seeing that as my future.
There’s a cute saying out there and it’s called a job, you know what a job stands for? Antonio, I know you know.
Oh, my God.
A job? What does a job stand for?
It stands for just over broke.
Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that, yeah.
Because if you lose the job, you become broke and people always say, “Real estate investing is so risky. Doing this entrepreneurial venture is so risky,” but really, there’s nothing more risky than having a job because your future is only in the company’s — it’s like if the company starts to suck, you’re going to get laid off. If you don’t do a good job, you’re going to get laid off. So like your boss has so much power over your life and your family’s life that it’s just no one should be in that position. So. what do you do next, Antonio? You see this guy crying, you don’t want to be like him, you kind of hear about entrepreneurship, what’s your next move?
I read every goddamn book about real estate investing I could get my hands on and I watched every Grant Cardone, Gary V, you name it, YouTube video, Robert Kiyosaki, because I was obsessed. If you asked my parents at the time, I’d come home and like all that would be on from morning to night is some form of entrepreneur-type YouTube channel and walking around reading a book. I didn’t leave any space for any other thought because I had no one around me that was believing in this ideology so I had to build this like environment of people that believed in the thing without me being there, or without them being there.
Did that feel lonely at all for you, for like going against what your parents were saying and not having anybody around you kind of doing the same thing and just reading books yourself? Were you kind of like…
Unbelievably lonely. I actually made a YouTube video, like maybe now four and a half years ago about how I lived in New York City and I felt like the most alone person in the world because no one my age wanted to do the things that I wanted to do and it felt like all they wanted to do was go out and party. Now, that was fun and all, but every time I go out and party, I’d be thinking about like, “Oh, man, I’m spending money on this drink that I could be saving towards my first rental property,” or, “I am not hustling right now and I’m not doing this other thing that could get me 0.0001 percent closer to my goal.”
I’m curious how the mindset shift happened for you, because if you have nobody around you doing it, it’s I feel like so much harder to believe just the like talking heads on the internet, especially these people that are older. Grant Cardone is no spring chicken. So just like how did that happen for you where you said like, “I don’t care, everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I’m still gonna do this”?
So I actually started a few masterminds with — there’s like a small group of my friends, and when I say small group, I say like less than 5 percent of them probably, were interested in some form of business, hustle, something along those lines. So it wasn’t even about real estate, it was just about, “I want to do something other than a job, okay?” And I was like, “Yes, I also wanted to do something other than a job. Let’s meet on a weekly basis and talk about how we want to do something else other than a job.”So I had those people in my life that were closer to me because we had similar ambitions. Click To Tweet
Turning back now, a lot of them have not kept up with their ambitions, unfortunately, and like I basically brainwashed myself with all of these other people online. They felt like that they were real life to me.
I love creating a mastermind group. If you are feeling lonely or you’re new to this journey and you don’t know where to go, try to find one or two people around you just to help you out there. My question is, what timeframe are we in here? Like when were you in your job? When did you decide to start this mastermind group? Just so we get an idea of when this was all happening.
Yeah, I think I started the first mastermind group three months after my first job started, so I was 22. I started working, I think I had two weeks off after college and I just went straight into work so we’re thinking like September if I went for a fifth year at college, that’s when it would have started.
Okay, so what year? What year is that? Like 2000…
2015? Yeah, 2015.
Okay, so it’s like the fall of 2015 and this is kind of when you’re getting started with everything, you’re learning about financial independence, you’re getting going. And so you got this accountability group, I suspect they’re keeping you accountable. Are you jumping right into real estate or did you have some other ventures before you landed on real estate?
Yeah, I was at this crossroads about like nine months later where I had some savings and I had been working on an Amazon FBA business and I really wanted to leave my job. And so, with some savings, I had actually reached out to my landlord at the time and I was like, “Hey, are you interested in selling your property?” because I heard that was the right thing to do and then my landlord told me that he doesn’t make any money on it himself. He’s like, “I’m barely breaking even with the rents that you guys have.” So I took that as a bad sign so that kind of discouraged me. I was already scared to do anything and that discouraged me to go forward. So I went for all in on the Amazon FBA thing and I had a partner for that and so we both quit our jobs in June of 2016 with a strong 11 months of experience and it didn’t end up well.
What is the FBA?
FBA, Fulfillment by Amazon.
Okay, and so that’s — and tell us a little bit about that business. What do you do?
So you basically give Amazon your stuff and they fulfill it to ship it out, like with Prime shipping and stuff. So I was selling bamboo cutting boards.
So random. Okay, so I’m assuming you went through all your savings and now you’re back at square zero so what do you do now to get — did you just go back and get a job?
Funny. Yeah, I went through all of my savings in the first three months of being outside of a job. One, because we ran our business into the ground. We spent too much money, we didn’t have any cash flow so we lost like $21,000, $22,000 about, and at that point in time, that was more money than I had ever seen in my life so that was a lot. And so then I basically picked up odd jobs. I started working at a pizza delivery place, I did Uber driving, I went to work with my dad who’s a tile installer, and so with those three things, I basically just paid my student loans, I paid my phone bill, and I moved back into my parents’ house in the basement so I had nothing. And at the same time, my girlfriend left me so I was really in the dumps at that point. I had no money to go out to eat with my friends. I can’t do anything. I feel like a failure in life. And so, basically, I said, all right, real estate, I can’t do now because I don’t have money so my game plan was just go all in and trying to get a new job and learn a new skill that will make me more money. This way, I can go back to saving and then going back to the real estate thing. So I was still reading throughout this entire time but it took me 14 months from the day I left my job ’til I got another job so I basically was doing those odd jobs for the next 11 months or so just to stay afloat applying for jobs.
All right, so fast forward us to your transition point, what was the tipping point that got you into your first property?
Yeah. So fast forward, it’s now July 2019, I have been working again for two and a half years and so I feel I’m making some money, I’m making pretty good money for my age. I was spending a lot of it because I was in New York City, single, having a good life, but I knew I want to do this real estate thing. So the biggest point was, this is about a year of me living in the city and my landlord wanted to renew my lease so he sends me an email in July and he was like, “Yeah, we’re gonna raise your rent 15 percent. Let us know if you wanna sign,” and that moment where I got the email, I’d just never been so frustrated and never felt like I got pushed around by someone that much because I’m sitting here, like I don’t throw parties, I never complain about anything, I never need to fix anything up, 15 percent is an outrageous increase for someone who hasn’t done anything wrong and paid on time.So that moment, I was like I need to figure out how to be on the owner side of things, not on the renter side of things. Click To Tweet
So I pulled all the books out of my closet and I was like, “Time to get serious. I’m gonna figure this stuff out.”
Yeah, and 15 percent in New York City is probably no joke either, 15 percent of —
It was up 250 bucks, yeah.
Yeah, that’s nuts, especially when you’re still on that entry level, maybe secondary level-type job. And so you read these books, you’re breaking out, you’re rubbing the dust off the books you maybe read a few years ago, and are you in New York City house hacking? What’s your what’s your move?
That was my initial first thought, so that was part of the problem with me being stuck is I’m sitting here thinking like, “All right, I have to buy something nearby,” that’s what people do is real estate so I started looking in New York and I was living in Lower East Side of Manhattan and I found one coop that was a one bedroom that was in like terrible shape for 550, so I call up the bank and they were like, “Yeah, you can get preapproved up to 900.” I was like, “Oh, wow, that’s a lot of money. I didn’t know I could do that.” So I got preapproved but I started running the numbers on the property and I was like, “I might be really inexperienced but this doesn’t make any sense, like if I got a mortgage, I would not make any money at all.” And so then I kept looking and I was like, “None of these makes sense. How does anyone make money here?” So then I kept looking a little farther out of New York. I looked at Newark and I think it’s Harrison. Harrison is like a newer town near Newark. So I just looked on the train lines. I was like, “All right, let’s go further out. Where can I live that can still take me to New York and I could house hack?” and even then, the properties were like $300,000, $400,000 and would only really rent for like $2,000 and every time I did the math, it seemed like that they wouldn’t make any sense, I’d have to finance a large portion of it, I only had 30K in savings, so what I did instead was I just said, “All right —” At that point, I had almost given up. I was like, “I gotta find a place to invest.” I started looking all across the country and I got overwhelmed. So then I started taking out all the cities I had in my head and I started putting them on paper and I started listing out, “All right, what’s the crime rate of the cities? What’s the population growth of these cities? What’s the —” because I’m an engineer, I’m a math person, so I like numbers so I said instead of just thinking about this in my head, let me use numbers to make my decision. And it turned out that Ewing, New Jersey, where I went to college had decent numbers behind it for an area that would cash flow, not amazing in terms of appreciation, but an area that would cash flow that was close enough that I can at least take a train, bike to the train station, take it a two-hour train to get to if I needed to, to make me feel comfortable to start. And so that’s what I did. I chose that and then I kept going there until I found a property that I liked.
Wow, I am really impressed because I think so many people get stuck in this analysis paralysis thing, they get overwhelmed, they maybe look at way too many cities. I see that a lot where people were looking at like nine different cities at once. So I’m amazed that you were able to come back from that and then settle into a place that you actually knew, because I feel like that is probably a great place to start. It’s like you had just a little familiarity with the area, what were the good streets, who was living there, what’s attracting people, so, yeah, I’m excited, that sounds like a great first stop.
Yeah, it was because, like you said, I had some experience to rely on. Even though I wasn’t there at that moment, I knew, okay, this part of town is a little bit worse than this part of town and I can look at that side of town and not be afraid of something bad happening there.
So we’re in July of 2019. Is this when you’re doing your first deal?
So that’s when I first started going to properties and making offers. I went probably every other weekend for the next two to three months where I went to go look at properties in Ewing, that was my entire Saturday and Sunday, and I would take the train back in.And so I made offers on nine out of like 200 that I analyzed. I got two accepted, one fell out of contract and then I eventually got the triplex that I got first. Click To Tweet
Great. So we’re going to pause you here, yeah.
You know what time it is?
It’s the For Real Deal. So, Antonio, this is your first deal, whether intentional or not intentional, sounds like this one was very, very intentional for you, so run us through this first house hack is what it sounds like in Ewing, New Jersey. Tell us what you bought it for, what your strategy was, what you ended up doing, and how it turned out.
Yeah, so the initial strategy was the house hack but I was able to switch out of it later on. So started off, it’s a $195,000 triplex, it was on the market for 185, I had to offer with an escalator up to 195 to beat everyone out but I knew that, based off of my numbers, that it still worked at 195 so I made sure of that ahead of time. Triplex, it has two two-beds, one baths and one one-bed, one bath, and its current rents were at $2,600 when I bought the property. Today, I think we’re at 33 something so we’re trying to increase it.
So it looks like you’re — like when you bought that property, we’re way over the 1 percent rule and so that’s possible in New Jersey. I always thought New Jersey was this really expensive market.
Yeah, well, that’s what I get all the time. It’s like, “No way we can do that in New Jersey,” I’m like, “You can, you just have to look in certain markets.” This is not near New York City, you have to look far away from New York City. Anywhere within an hour of New York City is going to be tough because everyone wants to be close to New York City so the appreciation just out rose the rent growth which kills all the cash flow in those markets.
Totally. So you’re in this college town of Ewing, New Jersey, is what it sounds like. And so you bought it for 195, yeah, you got $2,600 for rent, and so when you bought it, was it already leased out or did you have to lease it out at $2,600?
Yeah, it was already leased out at $2,600. So, as I was hinting at, so I was going in with a 10 percent down, I think it was technically a 10 percent down FHA to start, and I tell my brother and my dad about all the hard work about me looking at all these deals and I’m like, “Yeah, I finally got one and this is how much it’s gonna make me,” and they were so skeptical about everything leading up into this moment. And as soon as I’m like 10 days away from closing, they’re like, “We want in on this deal,” and I was like, “Okay,” because I was living in New York City and I was going to have to move to Ewing and make my commute two and a half hours every single day so I was like, “Yeah, I’ll take your 15K to turn this from a house hack into just a regular rental property loan.” So they both put in 15K and our agreement was that I basically manage the asset and they are off and my dad is a contractor so he gives advice on that stuff and my brother is a CPA so he gives advice on and he does the taxes for the property.
How did you structure this whole thing with your family? Did you have like an operating agreement with all of this spelled out or was it kind of just like back of the napkin handshake, love you kind of thing?
It started off like that and then as we wanted to do things together, we had to make things more and more legal, so we created an LLP together. For some reason, my brother thought an LLP was the better thing to do than an LLC. I still don’t know the difference why. And then we created an operating agreement and we had originally bought, it’s still under my name so even though it was technically owned by all of us, it was still under my name and so then my plan was, “All right, we’re gonna fix things up and then we’re gonna refinance it and put it under the LLP,” and we did that in 2021 to capitalize on, obviously, the appreciation growth as well.
Got it. Okay. And so how has it been working with your family? Has there been any fights, any weird Thanksgiving dinner talks because you hear these horror stories all the time?
Yeah, and that’s what I was worried about initially, especially because I come from a hardheaded Italian family. My brother is probably the more pain in the ass, I’d say, out of the two. My dad is, at this point, he’s all in on me. He’s like, “I trust you to make the right decision. You can run with it.” My brother is very, very, very conservative when it comes to financial. So for him, any dollar spent, he’s like, “Why are we spending a dollar on this? Why are we spending a dollar on that?” But I have to say that comparatively, it’s not really a nightmare, it’s more of just like I expect that that’s how my brother’s going to react so I will come with reasons why on, “Hey, this is why we’re spending this money to fix up this unit so this way we can get more rental income and we’ll get it back over the next three years.”
So what was your mortgage on this property? And what kind of cash flow were you seeing?
My initial mortgage was, I want to say — well, it was a 4.85 percent so I guess we can use a calculator for this. I don’t remember the number off the top of my head. I think it was 700 and something. I put 25 percent down —
So that’s pretty good. If you got it rented for $2,600.
Yeah, I think with PITI total was like $1,200 and then I always budget like 20 percent for vacancy repairs and capex and then management. I had actually asked my real estate agent to manage it because there were no other really good property managers in the area that I found and he was like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do it,” and he was only charging me 6 percent to start. That’s now increased but I was able to keep management low too for the beginning, which was nice.
So it sounds like you’re cash flowing about $1,000 or so a month on this property and you kind of lucked out because you didn’t have to live there and you kept your 30 grand, right? You didn’t actually put any of your own dollars into this first one?
No, I put my own 30 grand into it as well.
Oh, you did? Okay, so you put your own 30 grand.
Yeah, so I put 30, my brother put 15, my dad put 15, so the down payment was about $58,500 so we had like $1,500 leftover total.
Okay, awesome. And so what did you do once you purchased this property? It sounds like there was tenants in there, they’re paying $2,600 a month, did you kick them out, raise the rents? Did you just raise the rents?
No, we actually — we still have one of the tenants in there and as of two weeks ago, I still had all three of those tenants. One has just moved to another one of my properties because they needed a different space, one just moved out because they were able to get some like Section 8 voucher and then one is still in the property. So, I kept it as was and then I basically like to approach them every year and say, “Hey, we want to increase the rent and we want you to have a better place. What would you like done in the property?” and so they’ll come and tell us like, “Oh, we want this done, we want this done,” and I’ll look at it and I’ll be like, “All right, well, that’s like a $25,000 thing, that’s not worth it. But this, they want and if I do this, I can increase the rent 50 to 100 bucks,” and so I try to make it more like a negotiation so they feel like the rent increase isn’t something that is placed onto them.Instead, it’s more of a choice, like, “Hey, you got the rent increase but you also got these new things with your place to live.” Click To Tweet
That is super smart.
Dude, that’s a nugget, man. I have never heard of that before and I think — when your tenants also have, I have to imagine there’s some psychology that goes into this as well, it’s like when your tenants have a say as to how the place is decorated or what renovation gets done, there’s got to be an increase in occupancy because they’re probably not going to want to leave. They’re like, “Okay, yeah, rent might increase 100 bucks a month but I’m gonna paint this wall the color I want it to be,” or whatever it is.
Yeah, exactly. And so not only do they feel like they have a choice but they feel like they chose the higher rents so it’s not like a complaint of, “Oh, this is just another greedy landlord that increased the rent on me,” it’s like, “Oh, he’s willing to work and he cares about what my outcome is,” and without the help of my property management company, I don’t know if I would have gotten that far but they were integral in that process.
Does anyone ever say, “I don’t want anything done, just don’t raise the rents”?
I actually haven’t had that scenario. Now, next week will be three years I’ve been investing so I guess we could say that it’s not like time tested over decades but from the properties that I have and the time I’ve been doing it, most people seem to want things done to their property. And it could also be that because I’m investing in C-class areas that I’m not at the top notch already where people can’t complain about their granite beautiful countertops already because they don’t have those.
So what happened for you to go to the next property? It sounds like you weren’t making that much cash flow if you’re splitting it between three people so how long did it take for you to get to the next place?
Oh, man, I was hooked. I was like, “This is like real life Monopoly. This is so much fun.” So I didn’t stop looking at properties. I just kept analyzing them and, at that point, I picked up a — you guys know who Matt Faircloth is, obviously, right?
Matt Faircloth actually invests where I invested in Ewing so he was at my meetup that I went to a couple times and so this is like late in 2019, early 2020, I’m reading his book and I didn’t know that he was that guy so I’m reading the book about raising private capital and I was like, “I don’t know anyone who has money. This is not gonna work out,” and then I connected the two things about like my dad has a house that he has fully paid off and he lives in a nice area, I was like, “This is a goldmine. All I have to do is figure out a way to convince him to give me a loan on the property and then I can use that to buy a property and I could pay off the loan,” so, again, being traditional Italian parents, my parents were not about taking debt on anything. They’re like, “We don’t want debt, we wanna be free clear of debt,” and I said, “Look, all I’m asking for is a loan for a year, you give me the loan, I will get the loan with you,” my dad couldn’t qualify for it because he’s self-employed so he needed my W-2 income to qualify for it, so I said, “Look, I’ll cosign on the loan with you. We’ll take the money out. We’ll buy two properties cash, we’ll fix them up, and then I’ll refinance those properties, you’ll have your debt paid off and we’ll have extra cash and two cash flowing properties on top of it.” And he was like, “All right.” My mom was against this still but he was like, “I’m not happy about it but I’ll do it because this one thing that we have is working.” So I took it and I made offers on properties, this is March of 2020, and then the world shut down and I was scared more than anyone and all my offers had gotten rejected because I was offering a little bit lower than what people wanted and I get a few calls back a week into lock down and my agent is like, “Hey, they’re willing to accept your offer. Do you wanna take it?” and I was sitting with this struggle in my head. I was like do I take these deals when the world is falling apart and the only saying that I kept hearing in my head was when there’s blood in the streets, you buy and when everyone’s buying, you don’t buy, I forget the exact thing, but that’s what kept going in my head. I was like, “All right, if I listened to all the advice that I’ve learned, it would be to buy right now because you’re getting a discount on them,” and what’s the worst that happened? They cash flow, right? So I accepted both of the offers. I got them like 20K, 30K below ask, which was great because had I waited like four more months, they would have went 20K, 30K over ask.
So I’ve got two of them, one I got for 135 which last year I refinanced at 210, and then another one I got for 141 that refinanced for 225. But they were both duplexes that were fully rented and cash flowing.
And so then —
Can you go into the numbers on this?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So 135, that property was renting for $1,500 total but I had made it as a contingency in my offer that the rents had to be increased to $950 per unit so it’d bring it up to $1,900 because the property had higher taxes and higher insurance so it wouldn’t have cash flowed even though it was a one percenter.
So did these guys have like month to month leases in place or how did that work? Because I thought you couldn’t.
Yeah, it was month to month leases, they were friends with the landlord so the landlord was letting them stay in their house, basically. And part of the thing was also getting security deposits and getting them into a six-month lease before I got the property. The only reason why I was able to do that was because of how the landlord needed the money in order to get out of the house to move on.
Yeah, and that just goes to show you that really anything is negotiable when you’re buying and selling real estate and so people don’t think like, “Oh, that’s not something that you can negotiate.” Literally, anything’s negotiable.
Yeah, it really is. I asked if it was possible to my real estate agent because it felt like it was impossible, it felt like I was doing something wrong, but I was like, “I don’t know, I wanna buy this but the rent’s too low. Do you think they’ll raise the rent for me so I don’t have to do the work?” and they did so I was like, “Okay, cool. That’s not bad.” The other one was 141. I bought it for 141,500, duplex, studio up top and three-bed, one-bath down low. That one rented for $2,175 and now, that one, the person who was upstairs we had inherited and we had evicted literally a few months ago and we finally just got — she is a hoarder so we were able to get over rental assistance for her to cover half of the rent loss I had on that property. She didn’t pay for over $10,000 worth of rent since COVID because of the laws in New Jersey. So that one, cash flow wise, the downstairs has been covering all the bills for the most part and whenever the upstairs pays, that’s my profit but, otherwise, that one, the cash flow isn’t as amazing.
Yeah, those rental assistance programs are kind of — I’ve got one tenant that’s on that now and it’s like you don’t see rent for like six months, then all of a sudden you get like a $15,000 rent payment and it’s like, “Oh, okay,” not really high want this thing to work.
And it makes you question what the government’s doing.
Yeah, exactly. I’ve always questioned what the government’s doing but that’s a different subject. Anyway, so it’s kind of like mid COVID now, like let’s say May 2020, it sounds like you’ve now got three properties all with your dad and so what does your portfolio look like at this point? How much total cash flow do you have? Sounds like you’ve got some equity in it already and you’re not doing any rehab so it sounds like you’re buying them pretty turnkey, is that right?
I’m buying them with tenants in there and I’m fixing them up with the tenants in there so I’m not doing any major renovations, we’re doing some stuff to the outside, a little bit cosmetic work on the inside. We actually even paid for tenants to be in hotels for some of them to do some of the work in like the bathrooms and stuff like that because I was trying to minimize vacancy upfront. But, yeah, this is now — I closed on the second one in June 2020, or the second duplex in that row so I have seven units at this point and I think with my numbers, I had my cash flow at somewhere, after my 50 percent share, somewhere around $1,000, I think. Somewhere around 1,000 bucks.
So, yeah, I think that’s it. Yeah, every year, I’ve made a YouTube video about my exact numbers on the property so you could always go back and refer to that if you wanted to but I don’t remember it off the top of my head.
Yeah, no worries. I think the point I was just trying to get at here is that in less than a year, like a year prior to this point, June of 2019, I guess, you were still figuring shit out. A year is such a long time at this part of your journey and in that year, you discovered real estate, you bought your first house with your parents, you bought your second and third house, you got $1,000 in cash flow, you’ve probably got close to 100 grand in equity just for you and I think that’s like the beauty of real estate and that’s why it’s so powerful is that once you get going, it just starts going. And so like we’ve got a couple more years to cover here, so what happens kind of after these three?
So, yeah, the appreciation was making the home prices go up and because of that, a lot of properties that were deals are no longer being deals to me. They just weren’t cash flowing. So then I was like, okay, I want to invest in other markets around the US. I always had that idea before but I was too nervous to do so, I was like — so let me make a whole video series about what it’s like to go to these markets. I’ll first do the data analysis and then I’ll pick the markets and then I’ll go to them. So, in April 2021, I had researched about 30 cities. From the 30 cities, I picked eight and I drove from New Jersey to Texas with my Tesla and I stopped at all of them. I made meetings with agents and investors along the way and I looked at properties and it really opened up my eyes that I made an offer on a $22,000 property and now, granted it was in Gary, Indiana, but it was in a not bad street in Gary, Indiana, and so my mind was blown that the possibility of buying properties for that cheap coming from New York City was a shocker to me. So that timeframe was a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing in the sense that I got exposure to new markets and I made offers on properties and I ended up putting in three offers, I got two of them accepted. Well, I put more than three offers but I had three under contract and then two went through, and from the two that went through, I still have today, it’s a duplex and a triplex. I got a duplex in Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkansas, for $56,000 and it refinanced at 170K after 40K worth the work and it rents for $1,350. And I got a triplex in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which is a suburb of Akron, that rents for $1,750 and a purchase price of $102,500 and the comps for that were like around 200 then, so this was now June 2021, that’s where that puts us at.
Okay, so you’re driving around the country. I mean, is it kind of like — and, Zeona, you’re kind of like this too where you kind of have houses in different markets —
Yeah, you’re like, “Ooh, Gary, Indiana. Ooh, Cuyahoga Falls. Ooh, Little Rock.” Zeona’s more like, “Ooh, Destin,” or “Ooh, Union City, Oregon,” or wherever the hell you’re at. But what does it like to go to all these places and you got to find a new agent, you got to find — a good agent is so important, and you got to find a new team, a contractor, all this stuff, does that get laborious?
That was the problem. So I had three properties in three markets under contract that I had never invested in before so I had never worked so much in my life trying to understand the streets in the area. I had been there for a day but a day and to like keep cross referencing what happens in Memphis and Little Rock and Akron all at the same time were really difficult. Finding contractors to fix everything up and getting the bids and being like, “All right, which bid was this even for at this point? I totally forgot.” And, yeah, communication with the agents, the property managers, also, the home buying process in each state is different so some have option periods, some use lawyers, some don’t, some you get the inspection done earlier, some you get it done later, it was all very confusing in trying to keep it all up. So I shot myself in the foot in that sense. I think I slowed myself down because of that.In one way, I opened myself up to new deals and, in another way, I closed myself off because I was so overwhelmed. Click To Tweet
And I’m still experiencing the cons of that situation. Also, at the same time, I’m also looking to house hack in Austin, so four markets and I just moved to Austin, Texas, so all four of those things were making it very overwhelming for me. So had I gone back in time, I would say stick to one of those markets. Even if the deal does look really good, don’t overwhelm yourself.
Yeah, I would second that. So, I own in four states and in some of the states, I own in multiple markets in that state, and so now that I’m doing medium-term rentals, I’ve really learned the value of going deep in one market because you want to be known as the housing provider in that area and so it’s more important to say, “I have five units in this area that I can offer to you.” And so even though you’re diversified, I think it complicates a lot of things with your team, with your taxes, so I don’t recommend it and I think as I start to sell properties and switch properties around, I will put them all in one little huddle. I have to figure out where that is, though.
I think that like diversification, there is something to that because if a market does totally go away or there’s a flood or there’s a fire or something, like you don’t want to be all concentrated in one market as you grow, but I think like two markets is probably good, maybe three, but having one here, one there and you should get like five in one market and then you can go, “Okay, I’ve got enough in this market,” now you go to the next market and get five there and systematically grow that way, that would be kind of my recommendation.
Yeah, one market at a time with your main focus and like the other ones on maintenance mode. And so that’s where I’m kind of at right now. I’m just like, all right, I got to put this stuff to the side because right now, I’m also taking on, I’m doing a series about buying an Airbnb in Italy. I shot myself in both feet at this point in time trying to buy a property in another country. And so knowing that, I said, “Okay, I can’t do any of these other markets now, I just need to focus on this one.”
So, Antonio, one thing you’re kind of alluding to is that you make a lot of YouTube videos, I know you’re a content creator, you’re an influencer, and so when did that kind of get started and how does your real estate investing relate to that? And are you investing sometimes in real estate for the content? Like how does that kind of go hand in hand with each other?
Yeah, I was having this discussion with a few other real estate investor content creators and I think I started as an investor first and a content creator second and it’s kind of flipped to a content creator first and investor second, like my investing in the last year and a half has taken a backseat to the content. And this specific scenario of me buying property in Akron and Little Rock was kind of a joint thing, like I wanted to do this series but I also wanted to invest in myself so it was a win-win, but in this scenario too, the Airbnb one in Italy, it feels like a win-win, I want a place in Italy, I’m getting my citizenship, so like I want a place there to go visit every now and then, but I also know that that would be a killer series because how many people want an Airbnb in Italy? Or at least that’s my thought process, we’ll find out. It might all be for nothing. But in my head, it feels like that they’re win-wins. Now, would I be as interested in dropping all of my investing efforts and putting it towards an Airbnb in Italy had I not had content? My answer would probably be no, I’d probably focus on the markets that I have right now and then build towards something in Italy, but this feels like a cool and exciting thing that allows me to kill two birds with one stone.
Great, so we need to transition into the second half of our show but before we do, do you have any final words of wisdom for the listeners?
Final words of wisdom? Yeah, I’d say don’t do what I did.Don’t split yourself too thin. Click To Tweet
Make yourself focused on one market, focused on one investing strategy, whether that be house hacking, rentals, Airbnb, short-term, fix and flip, wholesaling, and once you’ve done that not just once but multiple times, over and over and over again and you get to the point where you’re bored with it, then I would say switch to something else.
All right, Craig, it’s that time for the…
The Final Four.
Z, kick us off.
All right. We’re going to ask you four questions that we ask everyone. Antonio, what are you reading right now?
I am reading The E-Myth. I just started it, E-Myth for real estate investors because I’m trying to figure out how to systematize my business.
Nice. For real estate investors, I might look that up.
I didn’t know it existed but, apparently, they’ve created it in like a lot of different businesses. My friend sent it to me.
I’m going to take a look at that one too. Antonio, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t worry about your like property cash flow if you can’t worry about your own personal cash flow.If you can’t focus on making enough income to cover your expenses, then how the hell are you going to make a property make money for you? Click To Tweet
A lot of people that I come in contact with at least seem to want to buy a property given their current scenario and I’m like, “You can but it’s probably best for you to focus on what you have and find a way to optimize that before you add this new thing in of buying properties and trying to figure out how that works.” It’s the same principles.
Yeah. Question number three, what is your why?
My why is two things. One, it’s my family. My parents came from Italy. My dad has arthritis in every joint in his body at this point and he’s still a contractor so my first why is retiring my dad and my mom for all the sacrifice they’ve done for me and my family. And then, second, it’s to help the investor who was like me, who felt alone, who didn’t have other friends and other people in their life that were investors and wanted to learn how to actually do this thing, how to actually get started, and so I’m hoping to help them and help people realize that real estate investing can take your family from not much wealth to a lot of wealth in 5-, 10-, 15-year timeframe.
That’s awesome. All right, I can do question number four. I’ll see. All right, well, I’d say if you had to do it all over again, what is one thing that you would do a little differently in your journey?
I would realize that the money is available if you’re really, really, really looking for it and don’t let the money be the reason why you don’t start.
Yeah, that’s powerful. So where can people find out more about you, if they’re interested in your YouTube videos and all the education that you’re putting out there?
Okay, I was going to ask you an awesome last question too. Why do you think all Italian names end in a vowel?
Maybe they looked around, it was like, “Huh, we got pizza, we got pasta. Everything we say has an A or an O at the end of it. I guess we just have to keep it that way.”
Yeah, fair enough. Fair enough. Fair enough. So you got two hard questions from me and Z.
All right, Antonio, where can people find out more about you?
Yeah, you could find me on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, all under investarters, and I help beginner real estate investors who don’t know where to start buy their first rental.
I love it. Thank you for your time today and we’ll see you again soon.
Yeah, see you.
See you, man.
And that was Antonio Cucciniello. I just love saying his last name. Z, what did you think of Antonio?
Antonio is great. We both met him at FinCon two years ago, which is a really fun conference if you guys haven’t been out there. And he is actually really big in the education space. He does a lot of content creation for TikTok and Instagram and YouTube so definitely go out and check out his stuff. Just lots of really good stuff to learn. But I thought it was a good story. I think it is really interesting when you can learn how to run numbers, you really can just kind of put that overlay on any market, like it is really interesting how you can just pull up numbers from the internet and then run numbers in your spreadsheet and you can find deals all over. And so I liked that he was showing people that, even though I don’t know if it’s the best strategy. It’s great for people to know like, “Hey, you don’t really have an excuse, you can go out there, there are deals and they are waiting to be bought.”
Yeah, I truly do believe that there are deals in every market, you just need to figure out how to make them work. And some of the more expensive ones, you’ve got to be a little bit more creative with the medium-term rental or the short-term rental and all that good stuff. And you can still get great cash flow and great appreciation, that’s what you get in those markets. Antonio’s strategy was to go for the lesser expensive markets, he still gets good cash flow, problem is he doesn’t get the same type of appreciation you might get in like a Denver or Seattle or something like that but he’s still getting some appreciation, which is still wonderful. And so, yeah, and Antonio, he produces some great content as well. If you haven’t already, check them out, it’s investarters. Anything else you want to say about Antonio before we head out?
I think the last thing I will say is that if you haven’t joined our Facebook group and it’s called Airbnb Investing, that’s a great place to have a community in real estate. I feel like that was a big theme for his journey is that he didn’t have a community. And so we created one. But, nowadays, there are so many ways that you can get out there, go to meetups in person, do meetups online, definitely do not let yourself be alone because it’s so much easier when you’ve got other people that are actually out there investing in real estate to talk to you.
Love that. Yep, definitely go join the Facebook groups, join the meetups, and find your tribe of real estate investors in your area, it will truly skyrocket your business. And if you haven’t already, please, please, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes, that helps the show get out to as many people as possible. And when you do leave that review, make sure you let us know on Instagram. We love to interact with everybody and if you’ve got any questions, always feel free to hit us up. I’m @thefiguy and Zeona is…
And we will see you next week.