Michael Ealy started real estate investing in 1999. He made crucial mistakes which led him to losing everything in the early 2000s. Learning from this, Mike has since acquired over 1,000 apartment units, and due to his success, he has recently attracted the attention of some Chinese investors.
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Announcer: Welcome to the Global Investors Podcast, a show that focuses on helping foreign investors enter the lucrative US real estate market, host Charles Carrillo combined decades of real estate investing experience with a professional background in international banking to interview experts in all areas of US real estate investing. Now here’s your host, Charles Carrillo.
Charles: Welcome to another episode of the Global Investors Podcast. I’m your host, Charles Carrillo. Today we have Michael Ealy. Mike started in real estate investing in 1999. He made crucial mistakes, which led him to losing everything in the early 2000s. Learning from this, Mike has since acquired over a thousand apartment units and due to a success, he has recently attracted the attention of some Chinese investors. So how are you doing Mike?
Mike: Everything’s great. Charles, how you been brother?
Charles: I’m doing well. I’m doing well. And you have a very interesting story and you’re involved in a lot of projects. So I think that the listeners are going to get great value out of our chat this morning and people don’t know. Give us a little background, professional background on yourself prior to starting in real estate investing.
Mike: So I grew up in Cincinnati, tended to Tuskegee university, finished up in a ledge, coil engineering. I started off doing concerts and parties and that’s kinda how a paid for school. And then I started buying houses after graduation with no money down deal, Carleton Sheets techniques, right.
Charles: That’s the name. You don’t hear much off.
Mike: Yeah, he won’t hear it put much. And I lost everything. You know, I was making 3-400,000 a year and you know, I had to start all over again.
Charles: So what happened in the, in the early 2000s?
Mike: Well, so I started buying real estate while I was working for a job in electrical construction. I was a property manager, a buying agent. And then I started buying these houses with no money down, but I really didn’t have any plans. You know, I would just buying these houses. It was great, cause you know, I bought my first two familyput like $2,000 down and then I fixed the upstairs and then rented the upstairs and part of my unit and I was living rent free. Life was great. And then I did it again. So that paid my car payment and then I kept doing that. Next thing you know, I got about, you know, 15 to 20 units and then I lose my job or I might’ve got fired. I’m not really sure to this day, I don’t know. But then I started depending on that. And then I had a car wash and then it all fell apart. And cause I didn’t have any financial discipline. I didn’t put any escrows, I didn’t set money aside, you know, didn’t have the business plan and then next thing you know, I lose everything.
Charles: So it was, it was really not having the reserves that kind of, that did it. It was, how was your financing on it? Was it fixed financing or was it
Mike: I did everything well, far as the houses, I did that. But as far as the car washes, I’d had a land contract, rental home deal, and I got in with minimum money down. And what really did it would really set me back. I didn’t know if you knew, but nobody ever told me that it rains April and May and maybe a little bit June every day. And so naturally I wasn’t generating enough revenue. And then it’s kind of that, Oh Hey, we’ll take funds here from middle Peter DePaul and you just started falling apart. But if I would’ve had some escrow in reserves we probably could have made it through, but I’m happy it didn’t, cause I never wanted to do a car wash again.
Charles: What did you, how did you start to rebuild your portfolio? So when you, when you changed your mindset and you actually had a business plan, well, what did you, what did you do differently and how did you structure the rebuilding to where you are now?
Mike: Well, that was interesting. I had some motivation. You know, the only was are broke. I moved back home with my mom and dad and I was 30 or 30 years old, so, you know and they painted my room lavender and pink and they still have Mo twin bed, Viola. You know, like on the ships where they had a steering rudder that will show, that was my headboard. And so, you know, it was pretty sexy at 30 to delivered at home. And so that was my motivation to get up everyday. But what really happened, I went back and got my real estate license that kept me kind of attached to the market and in the game to see what was going on. And then from there I learned what people wanted to buy and didn’t buy it, but I wasn’t a great realtor at all. Probably had like 30 deals that year and only closed on about seven or eight.
Charles: What, what year was this?
Mike: To the, see the market? I’ll say 2003, 2005 and only made $13,000/year that year as a realtor. But like I said, the great thing about, I found out what people like, what they don’t like, and I took those ideas with my previous experience and it have some college buddies invest with me, but I just took, I found a deal. I marketed, I renovated, I leased it and I resewed it. I took management fees and commissions and gave them all the profits. I succeeded twice in a row where they net it like $30,000 plus a deal. I said, I got it. I went on my own and then I ended up filing an investor that gave me a line of credit for all those 200 grand.
New Speaker: Wow. Nice. That’s awesome. Then you started, what kind of properties did you start with?
Mike: Start off with some simple ones. You know, I bought some we got the West side in here. I bought like, you know, multiple houses for like $8000 to $20,000 range, putting 5 to 10 in it, a quick turnovers, getting a tenant in there, renting it for 650, 750 ,800 a month. They became turnkey and then an investor would come and buy from me, you know, at a $15, $20,000 markup. I would then take those proceeds, take a little bit out to pay my bills for two or three months, which was minimal. And I took that cash and bought another house and paid my investor off. And so man, that was the beginning of me owning houses. Free and clear, you know, just very smallest.
Charles: Yeah. It makes it much easier with a single family house where you don’t have a mortgage and you’re not renting to any person that comes off the street cause you, you want someone to cover that mortgage even though, you know, they’re probably not the best tenant that to put in there.
Mike: It was a challenge.
Charles: So I’m one of the deals I was, I was looking over that you had done and we were speaking previously about, and you, it’s very interesting because when people ask me about getting involved with real estate, the first thing, and they talk to me about the areas and the first thing I’ll say is avoid D class properties, right? Because, you know, and you actually made a value add play of one, which was, I mean, so this is a very interest, tell me, tell me this about what, what and why you got involved with this property, how bad the area was. Was it true like war zone and how you were able to, you know, work your business plan, what was your plan through the whole thing?
Mike: So the one reason I started in DNS, that’s all I knew. I only knew those markets. You know, I had other friends that were doing real estate and they would be an easy to B and A market and I didn’t know what you could tell me whatever you want. And I didn’t understand the pricing in these areas. I knew what people were paying, I knew what we could get for rent. And I knew kind of what we could do to get it rented. And we were providing a quality housing. And when we say quality, you know, we do, we were putting Tao in these low income houses, which they didn’t do that. We put nice tile floors, nice countertops. You know, it just didn’t look like your old section eight low-income house. If it was in another,uanother area, people would love to live there. But one of the war zones I bought was a 28 unit. Literally they were, I could come out and literally they were shooting. And but I use multiple strategies, really didn’t know how to lease it. Ubut I use what they call the guerrilla marketing at that time. You know, you know, putting your flyers out, putting it in stores,ugoing in different areas and just posting up your thing. Cause most of those people, they weren’t using the internet at that time. Ualso I met some people that were experienced in real estate that least in this type of area. And they worked with a lot of different agencies because all these agencies help people,uwhether it’s for elderly first, some type of disease or mental abuse. All those people need places. And they had subsidies that helped pay for that. And so I went in and fixed them up, call these agencies and they love me and they just started throwing me people and they were paying rent. Next thing you know, I got 85, 90% occupancy in these D plus areas. Cause I knew if I, if there wasn’t no type of subsidy, there was no way I could be successful. You know, I did the things people did not want to do.
Charles: And that’s a lot of work.
Mike: Yes, of course.
Charles: Yeah. Anything we have to deal with, any of the agencies. I mean it’s just,
Mike: It was, it was a grind. There was a lot, there was a way, there was a much easier way to do it. But it’s where I got started. I appreciate it cause I know how to control my costs. I understood people understood their situation so I could relate and become successful. So when I did finally make it to C or B property, I was in heaven. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Charles: So what happened with the with that D class property that you ended up netting $1 million off of, how did that, what was the major turning factor there that allowed you to, to make that profit? Was it the gentrification in the area? Was it something, I mean, keeping them run
Mike: Now, quite frankly, the reason we made a million it was strictly to market when we first found that property, we found it for about 200-220,000. I was about 4,000 a door. We knew that if we put about another 4,000 a door, we can be all in for about almost 400. And let’s say flip it for 600. You know, that was just my feeling. This was before I was really taken any CCIM courses and understanding cashflow and depreciation, you know, internal rate of return. And so when we did that, we really looked at it as like, man, you know what, let’s just flip it. The one on part. I said, no man, let’s go for it. Go after the property. So we fixed it up. We rented, I called the agency this actual app. Matter of fact, I had, let’s see, I only had eight tenants. It was a 48 unit building. I only had eight tenets. I had another eight units, got it down to the [inaudible] and the rest remaining was vacant. I went to one agency and we’re less than 30 days after I,uI acquired a property. They took my entire building. And they guaranteed my rent for a year. So I was off in the run and it was as my first home run. That was not so much an easy run, you know? And we had a lot of issues going into management, but I had a great team and because of that were successful. But one of the things I noticed when we were buying it, I noticed the transfer history I was looking at, I saw what people were paying a million and 1,000,003 in 1,000,005 and I just, I couldn’t found like who is going to pay that and do you understand this area you in? And, but the market was down in 2008 that’s when, you know, we had the great cried, the great recession,ueverything was down, pennies to the dollar and we just attacked it and we were aggressive and then we understood cashflow and cap rates. And typically in area, at least in Ohio, Cincinnati are properties like that will sell at a 10 cap. At the time of the market it went down to an eight cap and there you have it. We sold it for, you know, 1, 1.5, 1.6. We all in for Hunter, we had a concession and net and a million
Charles: After six years of holding it.
Mike: Six years of holdin, yes.
Charles: Wow. Nice. So speaking about cap rates and how everything changes, obviously in that situation how is your company handling the current low cap environment and two listeners, just so they understand if low cap meaning lower capitalization rate, in other words, just high prices where we are now?
Mike: No, honestly I think some people will be upset, but I love it. And this is great. This is awesome. Time for one with the lower cap rates, that means it’s a sellers market and sellers are getting big money for what they sell. So number one, when we sell in I, there’s selling projects, we’re getting top dollar, but one of the great things about this sudden increased because of inflation, because of utilities cost. So therefore the rents have jumped up as well. But what, what the real thing is people, the sellers, you know, they’ve held on so long for two properties, they just wanting to get realized, but they didn’t realize they did not maximize the true rent. For example in Cincinnati for years we were stagnating in a rich, you know, our one bedrooms were written from 400 to 500, but in this last year and a half receive properties, but this last year and a half, it’s jumped from four to hundred to 650 to 750 for a one bedroom. And for two bedrooms, we were in that 600, 650. That has now jumped up to almost 923 for C property. So these people are selling, they don’t maximize the rent. They say, well, I can sell at a seven cap or six cap. I’m saying, great, sell it. They did all the heavy lifting, they renovated it and then I come in and buy it at their so-called seven cat. But because they didn’t realize the rent, I really bought it at a nine or a 10 cap and all I do is push the rent and then resell it at a six cap and you made anywhere from 300 to a million dollar difference.
Charles: So really you’re completing the value add process to getting it to its full potential where they’ve left some money on the table and you’re picking that up.
Mike: There you go. And we don’t believe in leaving any money on the thing.
Charles: I mean that’s what you have to do now to do a deal. I mean you can search for deals, but just like when we’re looking for deals, I mean the, the, everything is just gone crazy. I mean, it’s just, I mean, just when we look through on broker sending us stuff and you’re like, that is completely, completely nuts and it’s a, you have to really look through hundreds of properties to find something that has something that you can, you can work with. So that’s interesting. So another thing that you guys are in, you guys are involved with who’s doing a lot of hotels as well in addition to apartments. Now you just closed on a hotel in Columbus, 347 apartment units as well. How did you find that deal and what are your plans for it?
Mike: Well, Charles, just like you’re talking about deals are hard to come by because of the market. They’re crazy with it. Fortunately we have established relationships over a period of time and I wouldn’t necessarily call them my best friends, but these are friends we hang out and we actually did deals together. So when a deal comes, it’s kind of like they get me first rights they put in front of me, they let me analyze it before it hits the market. And so I’m able to get into that investor ahead of time before it becomes a competitive market or before they send it out to like cold tails. Now they do their market completely different. It’s kind of, they got their pocket investors and they go to, but then after that they go to a conference and they market it out there and they’ll sell them just like that. Because we have these relationships, they bring them to us, we get to analyze it, and then we decided to buy and we’ve got some great undervalued. For example, there was one in a little, Reno’s, one of the first deals I was looking at and they offered to me at 20 and at the time I was low on cash and low on investors and things. It was a $7 million call. And if I were to did that, I’ve been stuck to this deal for the year. So I passed and went to to the conference and they ended up selling it for 24 million. Wow. So that’s, that’s kind of the things, but what I plan to do with this hotel, I don’t know, we’re, we of it was in a depressed market that came back. Our initial goal is just to fix it up and renovate it. We’ll do what they call a PIP property enhancement program. Instead of calling it renovating, they call it pips. And they, they come up with a complete market plan on how you’re going to market it and how you gonna redesign it. And then, you know, we want to increase the ADR, which is the average daily rate, which you compare it to your monthly rent. And we want to push occupancy by doing a lot of sales in the local area. And hopefully we increased that. Maybe we sell in three years a whole these 346 units, they are great, desirable neighborhood. We will, I believe personally, but we have partners and investors. I would love to keep it because that’s something easy to manage forever. That’s, that’s something easy. But there was so much value there. I don’t know. I think I may have sell from my investors. I mean it was a deal. We’re going to be all in for 24 at minimum the values should be 32 million, but I think we can get to 40-42 to 45 million in value. I mean we’ve got one building, they rent it for 900 when we’re done, we’ll be leasing those out at 1500 a piece
Charles: And when was the last time they were when they were updated before you bought it? The units?
Mike: Probably early 2000. Let’s say. Every time they turn it over, right. If it’s bad, they update it. It’s just
Charles: Early 2000s isn’t that old though? You know what I mean? Yeah. That’s a lot of value just for adding.
Mike: It’s just not really up to par like you know, the white cabinets and the granite counter tops or the newer windows. So we’re going in and do those things and there’s a waiting list for that area. I mean these are just great areas that really the layout doesn’t match the area and the income.
Charles: Wow. Okay. Now we’re just one thing on the hotel, just for my own knowledge. How does that work? Where are you bringing in like a nationwide service provider that does, puts their name on it? Is that how that works? Or how do you brand that and market that when you’re going through your business plan? The PIP,
Mike: So for me right now I’m focused on existing hotels. So we’re already have a brand and our group, the hospitality group you know, subsidiary ended Nassau investments. We like to focus on the Marriott brands and the Hilton brands. Those are kind of your top brands and kind of not your full service brands. We like to do like the Hampton in the yards something equivalent to that. Now there are the IHG brands was Intercontinental like holiday and express. There’s Detroit’s brands like conference suites and those are all good brands. Quite frankly, Choice and IHG, their fees are much cheaper. So even though, let’s say we’re, let’s say the Marriott courtyard, right? An example has 4 million in revenue, but these choice and IHG brand has 30 to 3.2 million in revenue. So quite frankly though, when it comes to the annual, after debt, you’re both making the same amount of money. All right? They both make the same cause of the fees but the biggest difference, and they pretty much cost the same, the renovate and bill. But the biggest difference is when you go to sell it, one’s going to sell at one to one and a half cap rate better than the other. So, but the Hilton’s and the Merriot versus the Choice and IHG are gonna sell at a higher end price versus the other.
Charles: Interesting. So I wanted to talk about since you know, a podcast focuses on international investors and you’ve start to work with Chinese investors. And how did that start? I mean, how did it, how did you start working with them? And then I also want to speak about one of your EB 5 projects.
Mike: Okay. I think Harvard, the case that best book swim with the sharks, they asked him, do you believe in luck? And he said, yeah, the harder I work, the luckier I get. And I think that was kind of one of the things I got lucky. I had some God with me. One of these Chinese investors was looking for some single family houses and they ended up buying a small portfolio from one of my previous partners in a low income area and pay full retail price. I was like, Oh my gosh, you’ve got to introduce me to him. Like I got some. And so he introduced this to me and then, so we start selling off. Some of my properties to them are already cashflow stabilized, but they were in better neighborhoods. And then after a while, you know, it came to friends hanging out together you know, celebrating the Chinese new year’s together and everything. By the way, that threw me off. I don’t know if you’ve ever been, you know, Americas had me spoiled rotten. You know, I’m thinking we’re going to have this standard Chinese food, you know, the fried rice and shrimp would chicken and beef. And then I go to this dinner and I got chicken feet and cow tongue. The tongue.
Charles: Yeah. I just got valleys in Hong Kong for three weeks for my fiance’s work. And you’re walking down the street in Hong Kong and it’s just hanging like docks and like you can, you can like, there’s like, you can put your hand in and grab like a craft. Like it’s just, it’s, it’s not, it’s nothing like the United States Chinese food where you having like general, general, it’s stuff like this, but so that love been a pretty interesting event to what do you go there and you’re like, yeah, I’ll just have some more rice, you know?
Mike: Yeah. Oh. And they, and it gave me a lot of, I don’t know if you got a chance to taste it, the mold times that Chinese white liquor rights, white rice liquor. Okay. Oh, that’s awesome man. Don’t throw it too much. We had a lot of red face people at that dinner table. But, but yeah, so they, they so what happened? I establish a relationship. So now whenever a Chinese investor calls and wants to be in the Cincinnati market and they spent like over a million dollars, they call kind of a cause we got a small population of Chinese and then you got another small population that deals with real estate and they call about three or four people. And whenever they call one of my friends, they immediately call me and say, you got to sit down with Mike. He’s got multiple projects and we can put you together. And you mentioned EB 5. Now, although I wasn’t a part of this these people, my first Chinese group, they actually were in a failed EB 5 project.
Charles: It was construction?
New Speaker: It was construction and they were looking to build a, some apartments and renovate and actually knew, happened to know all the players involved and it was just a messy situation. They wanted to kind of move on from it. But they still had money left in the US they gave up on the idea of the green car, but they want it to still invest. So I introduced them to, you know, put some, a couple of deals in front of them. We tried a few small ones, you know, 300,000 here, 400,000 and within a seven month period I flipped their money twice and then they were comfortable. We like, you know, we are, we were comfortable with each other. Then ended up giving me the full 2 million and I went and bought a hotel and some apartments.
Charles: Okay, interesting. So what are, what were their goals and when for that specific initial investors that you worked with, what were their goals and then what was the goals that you’ve had for other investors? Say Chinese investors that have come to you, what are they trying to do? Are they just trying to, is it I mean obviously making money, but is it, there’s more of their goal on preserving capital? Is it just getting into safer assets than where they are in their home country or what, you know,
Mike: Everybody is a little different. First of all depends on what level of investor you have. Right? So naturally if you had the EB 5 person, they’re more concerned about getting a safe product, you know, safe project that they can obtain their dream car. Right? Then you have some wealthy investors who are like, Hey, I just want to be able to own some real estate in the US you know, that’s kind of like buying Gucci, you know, you know, instead of pull, they get, they got Gucci and Louis with time. Then there’s investors truly like, look, I want to grow substain well, anything would ever happen over here. We’ll all, let’s do the way the government is structured. I can always have my cash and, and come to the US and so because of that, some have different expectation EB 5 they’re expecting, you know, kind of that 3 to 5% return. Then you have other investors, they just look for the standard 8 to 10%. But for me, I do 8 to 10% in my asleep. My goal is to get my investor double digit returns, make sure we return their principle and give them a piece of equity as long as it’s in the bigger projects. And so we like to get them anywhere at minimum 10%, but typically we hit not 12 to 15%. And then at minimum we want to give them, you know, about an 18% internal rate return, but that gentleman surpasses 20% plus.
Charles: Okay. Wow. Before we shift to your company, what, just finishing up with international investors here, when they come to you, do you see that a lot of them already have their entities set up their, you know, everything all set ready to go? Or are you kind of coaching them through the process of getting started before we even start looking at properties?
Mike: Now, some of the entities, sometimes they do have, so fortunately I’m aware of how to set it up. So I will do that for them. Setting up an LLC is not a problem, but sometimes creating a bank account can so a lot of times, at least in my experience, the investor already had somebody in the U S and so they created the bank account for so that’s normally how it happens.
Charles: Yeah. If when investors come to you, if, say a Chinese investor comes to you and they’re just, they hear this and they want to start or they’re interested in reviewing and researching, what’s the first one? Are the first few steps in international investors, say from any country outside the United States comes to you and says, you know, what would you tell them to do to get started? Like, what’s the first couple of things you’re doing before they even start looking at properties?
Mike: Okay, I’m about to do a shameless plug. I don’t have it read my book. No, I don’t. No, I do have a book coming out. It’s kind of for me, I kind of go through an education process for them. And on my team I have a, you know, other Asian Chinese friends or that actually partners. And we sit down and have kind of intimate conversations on their goals and what they’re looking for and making sure they understand what it is to be a part of that operating agreement and obtaining debt or getting a preferred return. And most of them do, cause they’re a little, at least the ones that I’ve been dealing with are a little more sophisticated. Now. I do have some small investors that aren’t up to capacity. And so those smaller ones, I suggest you just do a smaller single family house or two just to get a feel for everything before you jump into this larger syndication.
Charles: Okay. Yeah, that’s a great way of doing it. Again, an idea of how everything works. And so tell us about your company, Nassau investments and I mean, you guys are involved in apartments, hotels. Well what else do you guys do? What you know, we have a little about the services that you offer, but
Mike: Yeah, so we got to update that, but now, you know, I, I’ve started off with single family homes and then got into small multi-units and then I did offer property management services back at old settling when the recession was there. I was buying mortgage notes at pennies on the dollar. And really that’s where I became stable in the market. Like literally for once in my life, I didn’t have to worry about hustling to find a new deal to pay the bill. You know, we made enough money and we had enough cashflow coming in and now I can focus on bigger projects. And my goal was to get into multi-units and larger multimedia. And we’ve been successful through multi teams and partnerships. And now our, our focuses is strictly hotels and apartments. Just this year we’re already at 40 million in India and we just got another 500 units thrown at us and another 500 is coming.
Mike: So honestly, I think we’ll do 80 million just this year. It’s been an amazing ride. And I’m enjoying it. And then our hospitality group, I just, I put an amazing team. I find, I’ve studied the market for five years, over a period of time before I jumped in and I put this amazing team called hospitality group and incorporates the, the family whose, you know, I’ve worked with for some time, which developed every single wall in your hotels over, they have over 16 hotels. They got probably it’s about 200 million in assets. And then I bought some operators who are partners as well. Commonwealth, Paul and Brian. They have over 30 years in the business from international to, to, so the Hilton brands, matter of fact, one of them was responsible going out and developing over 400 coattails. Wow. Us and combined together the hotel group where we own and manage over 1.5 billion in assets.
Mike: And so we plan on expanding that, you know, a couple of hotels a year. Awesome. So tell us about your book and then also how people can get in touch with you. Okay. So got a book coming out shortly so we won’t keep you on. It’s called a, I went from broke to a thousand units and we talk about all the great things that happen and how I got to the fit, the failures, the successes and how it gave back. And the goal is to actually teach some other people to become wealthy, truly to be millionaires and to give back and give scholarships to, you know, my goal is to give scholarships to children that are been adopted or awards or the state. I want to give them a full ride. And by training and educating people this is one that goes, I want to accomplish.
Mike: But if you get in touch with me, you can find me at bigger pockets or LinkedIn. That’s Michael, Ealy E, a, L, Y or always keep in touch on all the deals. If you are interested in investing, be a part of the syndication or you want to be active investor or a passive investor, just go to nassauinvests.com best Nassau, N A S S A U invest I N V E S T S .com and you can reach me there and we can dialogue more, set up some meetings, international. We have interpreters speak fluent Mandarin and from Shanghai we’re often visit and play soccer by the way. So you can catch me there.
Charles: All right, sounds good. So what I’ll do, Michael, I appreciate you being on the call. And then what I’ll do is I will put everything together, all of the links in the emails and the URLs, everything that you’ve mentioned. We’ll put it into the to podcast notes, and YouTube notes, and it’ll be easy for anybody that wants to reach out and learn more about Nassau investments to do so.
Mike: Okay. Thank you so much, Charles. Man, I appreciate the opportunity, brother. I really appreciate you man.
Charles: Yeah, thank you very much. Have a great day.
Mike: All right, so you.
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About (guest name here)
Michael Ealy started real estate investing in 1999. He made crucial mistakes which led him to losing everything in the early 2000s. Learning from this, Mike has since acquired over 1,000 apartment units, and due to his success, he has recently attracted the attention of some Chinese investors.
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