Joe LaFleur, a multifamily investment advisor with 100Units.com, specializes in the representation of multifamily buyers and sellers throughout the Central Florida Market. Using his transaction expertise, he has helped clients successfully close over 150 transactions totaling over $200,000,000 in volume. Joe provides value to his clients with superior knowledge of the multifamily asset class. He views himself as an educator and advisor working with many established investors as well as investors new to commercial real estate.
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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 Joe LaFleur. Joe is a multifamily investment advisor with 100units.com representing multifamily buyers and sellers throughout the central Florida market and has helped clients successfully close over 150 transactions, totaling over $200 million in volume in 2018, 25% of his business was from international investors alone. So how are you doing today, Joe?
Joe: I’m doing awesome, man. Thanks for having me on.
Charles: Yeah, no problem. Thanks for coming on. It’s always great to have get brokers on and because this is usually where an investor, US or internationally base will start when they start talking to you first before they start probably doing any other part of their team. I would imagine so.
Joe: Everyone’s different. So I learned a long time ago, I don’t know.
Charles: So Joe gives a little background on yourself before launching your current company, 100 units.
Joe: My background, so I’ve been doing this business for about a decade. I got my start at Marcus and Millichap, learned all the training wheels, you know, got started, got things going, did that for about six years. Went off on our own at 100units.com in 2015 and we’ve been doing that ever since. Just to give a little idea, we’ve closed just over $200 million worth of real estate. We’ve done over, you know, 150 plus transactions are our wheelhouse is mom and pop apartment owners. So 1 million to $10 million deal, private clients, private owners, and it’s all, all multifamily all the time. That’s the only stuff we do. Okay. So that’s our entire focus and mode and all of that is within central Florida. So plus or minus from, you know, from coast to coast. And probably from, you know, it’s really Fort Lauderdale up through Flagler. It’s kind of our, our space.
Charles: What was your reasoning for, just wondering for getting into multifamily? Obviously you’re probably doing that in Marcus.
Joe: Oh multifamily. That’s an awesome question. Okay. So I got started in this business in 2007 it was perfect timing. I was going to be the best office broker of all time. I was going to sell office buildings and I tried very hard to sell them and I found out very quickly it was extremely difficult in 2008 2009 because they were worth about half what the debt was typically. And some wise genius said Joe, you know, it’s easier to sell apartment buildings cause you might actually one to them and they were right and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Charles: Yeah, that’s that definitely. I mean I, I definitely could see how that could be an asset class that wasn’t performing at all in 2007 so.
Joe: Yeah, fortunately apartment buildings are way easier to understand, a way easier to get financed. I don’t know everything about them. I’m a big fan of on top of that, I think the trajectory for multifamily assets is significantly better than any other asset class. Maybe with the exception of industrial, you can make some arguments there. But other than that, I see the growth in multifamily assets significantly outpacing every other asset class.
Charles: So for listeners not familiar with the whole central Florida and area markets, explain like some of the, what kind of growth are you guys experienced there over the last couple of years? Few years since the great recession?
Joe: It’s been tremendous growth since the great recession. That was the bottoming of our universe in 2000, late 2009, early 2010 to get some statistic on central Florida, what everyone was going to first think of in Orlando is Disney. We got a tip of the hat to wall this and he put this city on the map in like early 70s, late 70s. And that timeframe, he took this city from being basically a lot of orange groves and cow pasture and turned it into a booming metropolis. And if you go through that, that segment from as far as central hoard is concerned. That is the major driver is Walt Disney world and what has become a theme parks. And this has become a massive tourist Mecca. Just to give you an idea. So here in Florida we’ve had over 126 million visitors. Of those 75 million came into Orlando. Of the, and of those 75 million, well over six and a half were international investors. So our tourists, the tourist business drive central Florida and it has for the last 40 years. As far as growth and as far as what we’re talking about with growth, we’ve got job growth. Let’s see what we got on our statistics for job growth. We’ve got Orlando for the fourth straight year has led the nation with job growth, rent growth. This year we all started leading. We’re also in, I’m beating the national average. We’re going over two and a half percent rent growth now. That is for all all ABC across all classes of multifamily deals. And what you’ll find, the space that we play in, which is typically C and B class properties just because of the advantage. We’re well out pacing that with North of 5% rent growth in the BNC space. And what the reason for that is on the A-class space, there’s a tremendous amount of supply being added to that market right now. We’ve got over 10,000 units coming into delivery in the next year just to get an idea. D and C you build old buildings. It’s like trying to build an old car. So in that space we’re able to see very strong rent growth and it’s been very good for all of our investors. Just they give some kind of metrics as far as central Florida. Yeah.
Charles: Yeah. With the new, with new inventory that comes on, obviously they’re going to build it at the B plus or a minus level, a, a class level around. Cause that’s what, that’s what’s really driving that whole, that whole level of it. And you have a lot of institutional players that are getting in there. But what do you see for the future over the next 10 years,
Joe: Over the next 10 years? And it looks like we should continue going in this same direction? If you look, Florida has been a volatile market. It has its ups and downs, but if you look at any trajectory, it is outpacing most markets. And you also have a massive population shift in the United States toward the Sunbelt. So overall when you look at any kind of demographic or population moving, if you look at the maps, you’re going to see significant more influx into Florida than most other States. You’ve got Arizona and Texas or would be the other ones. But across the board you’re going to be leading the way in Florida. By investing here, you’re going to have significant population coming out of the Southeast because in the rust belt there’s significant growth coming here.
Charles: Yeah, that’s great. And I saw that you guys are also doing some mobile home parks now too that are coming up.
Joe: Yeah, we’re crossing over, you know, taking full advantage of being in the multifamily space. So that is also workforce housing. And that’s a area that has done very well. I also, just because we’re happy to be in Florida, there is a significant supply of mobile homes. In fact, Polk County, which is one County over from orange County heading toward Tampa, has the largest mobile home population in any County in the Southeast United States. Oh. Oh. We happen to have it. Just a tremendous supply, you know, right here in our hometown.
Charles: Wow. How does that differ when you’re, do you have investors that purchase that, that are pretty experienced in that? I mean, that’s a much different not, you know, it’s a much different animal than just buying an apartment building. I would imagine when it comes to management and when it comes to, you know, doing your expenses and everything like that,
Joe: There’s two major operational differences. One is the concept of a mobile home. The fact that the tenants own the home typically, and you’re responsible for the land and making sure that the tenant maintains their home. That’s one of the big differences. The other one is financing. The financing for an apartment building is significantly easier than for a mobile home park. A mobile home park you’re going to be typically using with, you know, small local banks, interstate bank VyStar pilot. But if you go to Wells Fargo, bank of America chase, they’re just gonna laugh at you, whereas any lender anywhere is going to lend on an apartment building and be delighted to do so.
Charles: Yeah, it’s definitely the you can definitely get gold standard loans when it comes to multifamily, especially over that million dollar loan Mark. So for investors that you work with normally, what do you see? I mean, we always, I like to always know a, what do you see for investors that, that actually, that you see that fails when people consistently, when people come to you, they’ve done something or what are the common reasons you see that people fail with multifamily?
Joe: A failure would to me, would be losing money on a deal. And typically when you see in that space, in the multifamily space over the last 10 years, it’s been so good. It took, it would take tremendous amount of effort to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory because you have so many headwinds that are so many tail winds that are pushing you in the right direction that unless you go into an asset and just significantly over improve it, just overspend on capital improvement is pretty hard not to have a return on investment. There has been a few times when I have seen people fail and I would put this number one, not understanding what they’re purchasing, so it’s easy to look at a property and look at it on an XL spreadsheet and think, Oh, it has numbers and look, I put the interest, here are the rent, here are the expenses.
Joe: There a property is a living, breathing animal on its own. It is a business, it is an operating business and it needs to be operated that way. Just because you see some numbers on a spreadsheet is not the same as the actual property itself. So the ones that I have seen fail has been operationally because they didn’t pay attention to get good management in place. They tried to manage it themselves from a distance and they didn’t really know how to do it and instead of hiring professional managers to run the property, they tried to save a little bit of money and they ended up watching their asset go downhill. Their collections went through the roof and then they’re trying to salvage the property afterwards. So I would definitely say the number one gotcha. Or number one area where people fail is to forget that a multifamily property isn’t living, breathing organism. It is a business unto itself and needs to be operated like a business.
Charles: Yeah. The management can definitely make or break any type of, especially multifamily investments. What do you see now on the other foot as a, as a common theme with people that make money all the time. Your, your investors that come back to you maybe multiple times and consistently make money. The other side of that coin, they know exactly what they’re doing. So basis. Exactly.
Joe: Yeah. You compare multifamily assets to other ones, you know, office buildings, retail, industrial, single tenant, net lease deal. The management spectrum. Multifamily is far on the management intensive spectrum. It is required that you manage that asset. The tenant leases are turning over. You’re going to be collecting rent every month. You don’t have, you know, Starbucks guaranteeing your reds. You don’t have a T and T guaranteeing your rent. You have to deal with a tenant. And it’s an ongoing process. And the ones who do well control that management, and it’s not that they manage the properties, it’s that they do a good job of managing the manager. So every month they’re going over all the collection reports, they’re going over all the expense reports, they’re looking at the manager and making sure the manager who’s managing the property is doing what they’re supposed to be doing. They don’t come in six months later and just say, Oh, what happened to my property? They’re there every month checking to make sure the manager is doing what they’re supposed to be doing as delivering on there the plan that they put in place together.
Charles: And what about when someone’s looking at pinpointing a market County, Eva city, a neighborhood of where they want to invest, what, what should be one of the main things or some of the main things they should look for when they’re figuring out exactly where they’re going to target looking for properties? Multifamily,
Joe: That is like asking is MonaLisa the most beautiful painting? Everybody’s got their own opinion and is 100% subjective. Yeah. These all depends on their, what they’re looking to accomplish. One of the keys I would say is to make sure you’re clear on what you want to accomplish. Because if you’re going into a, if you only want to buy properties in A-class locations and you’re perfectly acceptable with a very low and very conservative return, but your risk is also very low, well that may suit your objectives very well. On the other end of the spectrum, you may want someone who wants to go into a, you know, a D or C class area, renovate the property, do a ton of work, but they are going into a higher crime area. They’re going into a lower income area where they’re going to have to put more effort and more management into the property and the operations is going to reflect that, and on the other side, their return is going to reflect that. Right. It really depends on the objective of the, of the owner and what that investor wants to do. I would say being cognizant of where you are on that spectrum is very important. The last thing you want to do is go in with a mindset that you’re going to get a high return, like what you’ve seen in C class areas and buy an a class property. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time and as a total, it has complete just waste of everyone’s time because your expectations are just outside of reality,
Charles: Right? Yeah, of course. What are going from that of a waste of everybody’s time? What do you see as sometimes a a regret or dislike you have from dealing with buyers or sellers? Something that they do consistently that you’re just like, I don’t want to deal with this guy again. I’m not returning his emails. I’m not taking this guy’s property, I’m not going to list it.
Joe: I have two examples. Those number one, I’ll say you have one of the most precious resource. The only thing you have is your time. And when people waste your time, that is the worst thing they can do. I mean, they can steal money. I can go make more money, I can’t go make more time. So there’s nothing I can do to replace time that I’ve wasted on something. So absolutely wasting time is number one on my list of things too that I can’t stand when people do. Now, barring that, I would say there’s always another deal and when something comes along I’m not, it just makes sense to work together and it’s just important to know who you’re going to work with. Yeah.
Charles: Interesting. So the theme of our of the podcast is, as you know, international investors, and you’ve worked with a one out of four roughly of the investors you’ve worked with currently are are international. Now what do you, what do they see? I mean, obviously everybody has their own investment criteria when they come into a deal of what they’re looking for. But what does, what a commonly are they looking to do a per se and like what countries are they usually coming from that you’re, you’re working with? Mainly
Joe: Canada is number one. Israel, number two, South America, you know, between Brazil, Columbia, South America will be the second one. It’s interesting because I really thought we would have, do a lot more business with the UK, but that has been a lower percentage of our business. Then between Canada and Israel. Those have been the strongest op country that we’ve dealt with. We did, I w if you would’ve asked me this question, 2013, 2014, the Brazil, that Brazil and a Suela Argentina would have been significant investors that I dealt with from those countries. Those have actually tapered off. And is that routinely been more from Canada and from Israel? Okay.
Charles: And I imagine because as I understand that their markets are, there’s no return really on a lot of commercial properties. Yeah,
Joe: Yeah. They look at ours and they’re look, and you know, they’re looking at three cap three and a half tab is like a norm in their marketplace. So when they come here to Florida, it’s a tremendous opportunity for them.
Charles: What do you when, when someone comes to you and they’re looking to invest, what kind of what, how do you, where would you, if they’re, they’re coming in, they don’t have their entity or anything set up, they’re just looking to invest or internationally, what would be the first thing that you would point them in? Direction of doing the first few things, steps to take.
Joe: So the first few things you’re going to get to know the area. You’re buying a piece of property and it’s easy to look at a property on an Excel spreadsheet or an offering memorandum and look at the income expenses. They all look, I, you know, this property makes [inaudible] it’s another thing to actually get in the car and go drive the property, go sit in the parking lot, take a look at it. What kind of people are coming in and out? What kind of tenants are you going to be dealing with? What, what is the location, how does it feel? And, and I think that’s one of the steps that sometimes investors skip and it can be to their detriment because they didn’t really pay attention as the property. The property is a living, breathing organism. It’s its own business entity. It’s not, it doesn’t live on an Excel spreadsheet.
Joe: It runs based on the property itself. And you really need to know not only what the property you’re purchasing is, but when you purchase that property, you can’t do anything to change the properties around it. And those other properties around it dictate or highly influence the value of yours. You can go in, do a complete beautiful renovation job on yours, but if all the properties around it are dumpy, they look horrible, they’re all good, you got crime, you have tenants that are, you know, vandalizing their properties and yours is next to that. There’s nothing you can do about the other properties that are there. If you can prove your property as much as you want, but you can’t move it. Yeah. And I think that’s one of the biggest things and makes sure the first thing I do, it should drive the market. They’ll look at all the deals, go drive next to them, go see what the properties look like.
Joe: They’ll see what the rent conflict like go see what the sales council look like and get a feel for what kind of properties they like, what kind of areas they like, what are the sub markets that they’re interested in. I think that’s one of the most important things they can do as far as a first step after that. As far as getting entities set up, go into it, that’s all. You can have an attorney run through all that and that just basically check boxes. I mean they’ve done it a thousand times before here, fill out these 18 form, you, boom. There you go. And then as far as lenders, we can set that up. We’ve run it. I couldn’t count the number of times, but it’s really important that, especially if they are using either their money or they’re using friends and family where they’re actually raising their money in their own country, they need to know what they’re putting it into and make sure they feel comfortable with that.
Charles: Yeah. Not just the markets. They have to get down and see like even street by street because so many different neighborhoods and markets and cities. There’s a, there’s a place you don’t want to live and there’s a place you can’t afford to live kind of a thing. You know what I mean?
Joe: Very close to each other.
Charles: Yeah. Yes. Especially in parts of Florida, that’s, that’s for sure. So that’s day I definitely driving the markets and doing it, but so what would you, what do you suggest for any websites or books and investors? I’ll put all these links in the bottom of it, but what do you, do you suggest any websites or books to any new investors or anybody that’s interested in getting into multifamily?
Joe: I would say the first place to go as we start looking at deals on LoopNet, but loopnet.com I would say start looking at deals that make sense for you and you can check our website out. We’ve got tons of resources actually. Interviews with property managers, attorneys, insurance brokers, lenders, every, you know, so you can get opinion on those. A lot of the podcasts I listen to, so cashflow and cashflow real estate by Kevin Buck is really good. Listen to wheel barrel podcast, the wheelbarrow with Jake and Gino. They do a great job. Hunter Thompson if you’re into a syndicated deals, I think that’s a really good
Charles: Self storage. He’s a self storage guy too with me. Yeah.
Joe: And I’m trying to think as far as, as far as books, one of my personal failures is the real estate game, which was written by a PhD. I can remember his name at this moment. There really talks about the concept of real estate. After that I would look at several books by Craig hall, who’s been, he’s in the real estate game doing apartment buildings, let’s say like the late sixties. Are you seeing it for decades? And he wrote timing the real estate market, which we’re really good at. The R the turnaround, which was really good. Both those books were excellent and they, they’re one of the books that it’s not just something flashy today is he’s wrote those books 40 years ago. Right. And when you look at some that stood the test of time is still works the same formula. When you look at it, it’s like people are still executing on this formula and being successful at it. Yeah.
Charles: Yeah. It’s very, those are the, those are the people you want to learn from that have a track record that have been through many ups and many downs. Cause there’s a lot of people buying right now and even using other people’s money to buy now that weren’t investing in multifamily in Oh seven Oh eight and don’t know what, what a recession is and how rents are, you know what I mean? And it’s kind of, it’s very risky dealing with someone that hasn’t been through the whole market cycle. So
Joe: I think that’s one of the things, if you look Warren buffet and Charlie monger, if you read any of their, they always talk about a margin of safety. And I, I think that typically, or at least the deals that I’ve seen here, when you look at multifamily assets, you have the margin of safety because people always need a place to live. They can always drop down and go down from the 3000 a month a unit, they can drop down to that 2,500 a month units, but they’re not going to go to zero and live under a bridge. They always need a place to live. You can downsize, but you always going to need a place to live. And the multifamily assets that we sell are the B and C class apartments. They’re on the lower rum of that scale. So when people are starting to downsize, our assets actually do better because they are the lower income and people are going to live somewhere under all circumstances.
Charles: It’s the workforce housing. And those jobs, really, I was talking to someone earlier today in a, you know, you might, during a recession, you might lose, somebody might get clipped on a job, get laid off on $80,000 a year, but you’re not, somebody might, is not going to get laid off probably with a $38,000 a year that’s in workforce housing for a company that’s, you know, you’re not gonna get rid of your January to get rid of this or you know what I mean? So and also you’re always, you can always go down. I think the, one of the big things is building the value into the property and not overbuilding obviously, or we were just in a whole different problem altogether. But if you can limit your downside by adding value, kinda getting those rents up and then there’s, there’ll be some more flexibility if you know. But if you have the fixed, if you have the reserves and you have longterm fixed debt, I think you can really eliminate most issues that are happening with any property.
Joe: The debt issue just talked about is incredibly important in this space. I was in the face to watch a lot of buildings get foreclosed on 2010 2011 2012 those buildings without exception would have survived. The owners wouldn’t made any money. They would have lived incredibly lean, but they could have survived if they didn’t have a balloon on their mortgage. Come do if that mortgage, if the balloon didn’t come to every single one of them without exception would have survived the downturn in the market. It was only when their balloon pain, it came due and they couldn’t refinance. That’s when they got caught as far as multifamily, cause you could always drop the rent, you can offer some incentives. They weren’t making trouble. They were making no money running those properties. But every single one of them would have survived if their balloon hadn’t come to. So what you were just talking about having longterm debt, which is readily available now, people who are taking advantage to me are taking a tremendous risk if they’re taking three five-year debt when 10 years, 15 years is readily available.
Charles: Yeah. Especially if they’re buying with a loan amount a million or over, whether they can get Fannie or Freddie and then they can really do, I mean they can go as much to 30 you know what I mean? 30 years fully amortizing. So, but well Joe, give us a little information and how people can learn more about a hundred units.com and a yourself.
Joe: There you go. Why? What do you think the website is?
Speaker 4: I had a G a really smart individual,
Joe: Mark Thompson, they were on checking [email protected] he said, Joe, make sure your company name is that.com. That way is very easy for everyone to remember it. The thing is I want to make sure it’s so easy to be able to say an email address because you’re talking on the phone and someone tells you their email address and they got 87 characters. You’re trying to spell it. You’re like, I don’t know how to spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious too complicated. Whereas 100 units.com one zero zero you N its everyone knows that. And especially with Joe, that makes my life super easy. So that’s where you can find all our info right there.
Charles: Okay, perfect. Yeah. So Joe at a hundred units dot com and then do you have any other information?
Speaker 4: Exactly. Don’t bring it back on.
Charles: I have a, yeah, I screwed up your whole marketing. Yeah,
Joe: That guy that met you don’t want to talk to him.
Charles: And I mean I’ve been on there before. They can just sign up for your newsletter. They obviously can email you. Everything’s on there. So there’s no, I mean, that’s great.
Joe: Yeah. All our deals, we put full focus on getting deals done. The first thing you’re going to see is our active deals. So if you’ve got guys looking for property, boom, right there. Active deals. If they want to see sample offering memorandums, they wanna be able to access the information on each property is readily available right there on every single property. And they’ll have an every package. They’re going to see comparable sales. So you’ll be able to see a breakdown of the rent, the income, the expenses. You’ll be able to see a breakdown of other properties that sold in that market. That way when you start your research, that’s a huge, huge advantage you’re going to have over most investors.
Charles: Yeah. I really think that your website has more information than going on LoopNet for some of the deals. I mean, cause LoopNet, sometimes they have all the information then they nothing but yours. Your deals on your website are actually really spelled out and are actually pretty accurate numbers. When you look at and you’re like, cause LoopNet stuff you look at and you’re like, this is completely crazy. Excuse me. Then you know, I don’t know who drew up these expense ratios, but it’s like, you know what I mean?
Joe: Hey, everybody’s got their, it’s like a, everyone’s entitled, their opinion, man. Freedom of speech.
Charles: Yeah. I mean if you’re going to self manage a a hundred units yourself and you don’t have to worry about that whole pesky 4% management fee, then yeah, no, it’s, it’s accurate. But so Joe,
Joe: That’s crazy. Come on then show the tenants manage it for you.
Charles: Oh no. Yeah, no. It’s a triple net lease. A multifamily. So I know Johnny, your partner who I’ve met before he handles more of Bravard County and for people that don’t know what we’re talking about, that’s about an hour Southeast on the water of a Orlando, I guess we would say. And you’re handling more of central Florida?
Joe: Yeah. Doesn’t center around Orlando.
Charles: Exactly. So if someone’s,
Joe: Well man, we’ve been a partners for seven plus years now, so he’s an awesome guy. He does a great job. He’s actually a better salesman than I am. Don’t tell him I said that. But it is true. He is actually a much better sales person than I actually than I have.
Charles: He’s a very easy going guy, which makes it very, when you’re dealing, especially with big numbers and usually you’ll have deal with salespeople that are pushing into something. It’s very laid back. I had coffee with him and it was, Hey, if you want it, if you know what I mean, let me know. And you’re like, Hey, I gotta get back to this guy right away. Like, I can’t, you know, cause you don’t know what he has
Joe: Seven other offers behind them.
Charles: Yeah, of course. I mean at this part of the market. Yeah. It’s very, very easy if you have an email box full of people that are looking at the property that you’re talking about. So, but okay, perfect. So people are dealing with orange County, central Florida, obviously like Lakeland pole, anything like that, that’s all going to be dealing with you most likely. And anything else East is going to be dealing with Johnny. So perfect. Yeah,
Joe: The Bureau, that’s Johnny’s area and then anything in the center Florida, you know, inland is my side and that’s kinda how we is. It’s kind of weird that, that’s just the up over history just that’s just what ended up happening.
Charles: Okay. All right, perfect. We’ll just so people know who they’re or they’re contacting. So what I’ll do is I’ll put all this information into the notes section of both the podcasts and YouTube and then yeah, I really appreciate it. Thank you very much for being on the podcast today and have a good rest of your week.
Joe: Awesome. You too. Thanks for having us on. I really appreciate it.
Charles: Thank you.
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About Joe LaFleur
Joe LaFleur, a multifamily investment advisor with 100Units.com, specializes in the representation of multifamily buyers and sellers throughout the Central Florida Market. Using his transaction expertise, he has helped clients successfully close over 150 transactions totaling over $200,000,000 in volume. Joe provides value to his clients with superior knowledge of the multifamily asset class. He views himself as an educator and advisor working with many established investors as well as investors new to commercial real estate. He provides his clients with the highest probability of success using his thorough knowledge of all multifamily transaction aspects including access to buyers, lenders, appraisers, real estate attorneys, professional property managers and 1031 qualified intermediaries.
Joe graduated with honors from the Electrical Engineering bachelor’s degree program at the University of Houston. He holds a Florida Real Estate Broker’s license and is an active member of the Downtown Toastmasters Club. He has been happily married to Elaine for over 15 years.
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