Joe Mendoza is an investor with 30 years of real estate experience. He’s been involved in multifamily, office, development, and redevelopment projects. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal and is a mentor and business coach who has taught thousands.
In this episode, Joe sits down with Mark to discuss coaching, boom/bust markets, and overcoming paralysis by analysis.
What You’ll Learn In Today’s Episode:
- When the wind is at your back and the markets are starting to recover and boom, that’s when the most money in real estate is made. Joe realized this, and when the tides started to turn he was able to pivot and return his investor’s capital, leaving only his own at risk. Instead of being greedy, or burying his head in the sand, he saw the writing on the wall, yet he still got caught in the 2007-2008 crash. He took the fundamentals he learned from that time and has successfully applied them to his investment decisions going forward.
- If it’s driven by one economy, one category of business, when that business goes south, it goes really, really south. When searching for a market to invest in, look for diversity in employers and business categories. Cities that are highly specialized in one industry can cause values to rise and crash dramatically. Be wary of chasing cash flow into a market that’s a “one-trick pony.”
Even at this stage of his investment career, Joe can still get analysis paralysis, reflecting on the pain from 2007-2009. But, he surrounds himself with coaches, mentors, and other investors who push him to the next level. Coaches and mentors have been instrumental to his success, as well as maintaining a positive mindset. In his own words, it’s about learning and taking action, not just one or the other.
Ideas Worth Sharing:
“When there’s adversity, there’s opportunity.” – Joe Mendoza
“I did two things that we’re really good. I had a mentor that was selling over 100 homes a year, and I hired a coach that taught me how to build my business.” – Joe Mendoza
“Building teams is something that I’m very good at.” – Joe Mendoza
Resources In Today’s Episode:
Books Mentioned In Today’s Podcast
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Mark: Today’s guest is an investor with 30 years of real estate experience. He’s been involved in multifamily office and development and redevelopment projects, including a 60-unit condo conversion in Las Vegas and a 10-unit condo conversion in California. He’s been featured in the wall street journal and is a mentor and business coach who has taught thousands. I’d like to welcome Joe Mendoza.
Joe: Hey, thanks so much for having me on the show.
Mark: Hey, thanks for being here, Joe. I am excited to dive in and hear your story. You’re a journeyman.
Joe: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Long bumpy road, but I’ve got to keep moving forward like everybody else, Mark.
Mark: That’s great. So, I say you’re a journeyman because I think you’ve been at this for 30 years now.
Joe: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. So, I started Mark right around high school. One of my uncles shared the idea about getting into real estate and it was this Robert Allen seminar in San Diego. Now Robert Allen was the author of Nothing Down in the 90’s, one of the, I guess of creative financing. What have you? I got really intrigued. And so that was the start of my journey. I started to taking college level courses thinking like, Hey, you know what, make me credible by taking these courses, maybe I could get my real estate license. So, I took three college level courses while going to high school.
Mark: Oh, you did. Okay. Did you get your license?
Joe: Actually, that time of the market was late 80’s, early 90’s. And what I thought was a scary time might’ve been one of the best times to invest in real estate. So no, I didn’t get my license at that time.
Mark: Oh yeah. I remember there was a recession in like ’90, ’91.
Joe: Correct. And so, I saw the writing on the wall and me being a novice at the time. It freaked me out. And so, I decided to go to San Diego State, as you mentioned, journeyman, I was almost about to join the army as well. And that’s another story in itself. But then I went through San Diego State, got a couple of jobs afterwards and they weren’t jobs that I was super excited about.
And I went back to my first love, which was real estate, as I was doing one of my day jobs, I was doing real estate at night and that’s when I started pursuing getting my broker license. And so, in 1998, I pass the broker license test. I was an agent at Prudential here in Southern California, San Diego, and I just made a run for it. And I got really, really lucky in some fashion where I caught it right as an agent and I just killed it.
Mark: Nice. You had started back in the early 90’s and then you got a little bit spooked by the market and the recession and then you were in San Diego. I was nowhere near California back then I was in Ohio, but I know a lot of real estate investors and I’m envious of everyone who started in the mid 90’s because LA was a mess and LA had a massive earthquake and then the riots and prices were beaten down. And everybody I know that started there has killed it.
Joe: That’s right. That’s one thing that I hope that the audience gets is like, hey, when there’s adversity there’s opportunity. And at the time when my first experience with real estate, I got nervous and freaked out.
Mark: Sure. So, you pressed pause, it sounded like and rode out the 90’s. And then you got your license as a broker that was around 2000?
Joe: In 1998, officially in 1998 had a day job as a bill collector, believe it or not, but it was a blessing in disguise because here I was trying to get money or collect from people that owed money. It was actually great training for a realtor because when I got on the phone as a realtor, it was a walk in the park to be quite honest.
Mark: You started as a broker and reselling single family?
Joe: I started selling single family doing a lot of the regular sales, traditional, friends, family expired for sale by owners. And I did that run for about three years or so. ‘Cause I started making a lot of money. I did two things that were very good. I had a mentor who was selling over a hundred homes a year and I hired a coach and they taught me to build my business and not just a real estate agent, but as a business.
And then when I started making a lot of money, like we’re talking mid six figures too, in 2005, I made a million dollars as an agent. And I started investing, and at the time was more a dabbler. So, I didn’t really have the fundamentals down as an investor. Knowing CAP rates, IRR, cash on cash. It was a lot of pure speculation where I just bought a property. It went up on appreciation. I got lucky and I sold it.
Mark: Okay. The properties that you were buying were those single family or multifamily?
Joe: I did a combination. So, in 2001, one of my properties, I pulled out 113,000 cash on like a line of credit or equity line. I parlayed it into multiple properties, a couple of downtown properties when they weren’t even constructed yet, fourplex.
Joe: Yes, I did some syndication. I did a lot. I did several fix and flips. I just went bananas.
Mark: And did that work out? I mean, you were obviously catching the market with the wind at your back, did all those turn out successfully?
Joe: Very Successfully. So, it helped because when I was at San Diego State, I did pay attention a little and I was studying public administration. And so, there was people from the CDC, basically the downtown development committee.
Joe: Hey, downtown is going to boom, you should check it out. And so, I would that background of knowledge. I said, Hey, you know what? These properties, these skyscrapers are going to go, let’s drop some money into some of these potential high rises. And so, I put some down payments two years prior to several of these complexes going up. One of the properties that I bought was right there by the Bayfront. And it was on the 31st floor Mark. I bought it for 450,000. Right when I got the keys two years later, I threw it on the MLS, I sold it for $650,000, not even living in it.
Mark: Wow. So that’s a 200,000 profit.
Joe: That’s correct. And that’s one of many, like the fourplex that I bought. I bought it with creative financing. I bought it for somewhere around 400,000 as well, and then caught the market a little bit. And I sold it also for 600,000. I did several properties like that, where that 113,000 I turned into over a million dollars.
Mark: Amazing. And that was during a time that was a great for Southern California and mostly the whole nationally, the real estate market was booming. And obviously in some areas it was hitting bubble territory, maybe Florida. And then just out of curiosity, what happened when we started hitting rough waters in 2007,8?
Joe: Oh, absolutely. I don’t mind talking about that at all because it’s one of these lessons that was a very, very good lesson. At the time, I didn’t think so.
Mark: Exactly. It’s your college course.
Joe: That’s right. So, what happened was, instead of making a million dollars a year, Mark, I started getting more ambitious or some folks might even say greedy, whatever it was, it was right. And instead of making a million, I wanted to make 10 million to a hundred million a year. And so, I started getting into syndication, really started putting groups together and raising capital.
And then, I did that 10-unit condo conversion. I was involved in that 60-unit condo conversion. And on some note, I started to see the writing on the wall and I was like, you know what? I started giving people’s monies back. I said, you know what?
I don’t want to move forward. This doesn’t feel right. Tastes right. Sound right. And luckily, I did Mark because I probably would have been in some serious trouble if I were to move forward with their monies and, thank God I was the only one that got in trouble with my personal property, but not with them.
Mark: That’s pretty remarkable. You had these people give you their investment dollars and then you were just looking at the economy, the housing market and the various economic indicators and you gave it back. Had you removed contingencies at this point or, where were you?
Joe: No, no. Thankfully the money was raised in some cases, but the properties weren’t identified. So, I didn’t deploy the capital. So, it was one of these bittersweet moments where I’d like, “Hey, here’s your money back. I’m not going to move forward.” And I started canceling a lot of transactions. There was another transaction, it was a small one. It was just a single family.
I don’t know if you know the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, but I did a small JV2 with one of those high rises. And I was starting to see the writing on the wall. And I was like, “Hey, here’s your money back. Let’s go ahead and cancel and get out.” And I just started like just backing out lots and lots of transactions.
I was trying to buy a property in Maui million-dollar property, overlooking the water. And luckily, I got my money back there. I canceled escrow. I was buying a property in Philippines. I canceled my transaction there. They penalize me for early withdrawal, but I got my money back there too.
Mark: Wow. Okay. That’s fascinating. Yes. Las Vegas was a crazy market back then. It’s spiked so high in a year and a half or a very short period of time. And then the 2008 came and it just got pummeled.
Joe: Very, very badly, I would say, talking to anybody I’m very transparent about this. 2007 and 2009, were my toughest years, my most humbling years, but I look back on it like, hey, those fundamentals that I did not learn, I must learn. And so, I’ve learned them so well in this next cycle that I’m ready. When I start looking at deals, I’m really diving deep into like proformas and looking at these different OMs, offering memorandums. And if I’m looking at a deal I’m studying and stress testing and asking some tough, tough questions.
Mark: Yes. It completely reconfigures your understanding of risk.
Mark: And for the rest of your career, you’ve got that knowledge and experience to know. Alright, there could be things coming down the pike, maybe not now, but eventually, and they could impact you and blindside you if you’re not ready for them.
Joe: Absolutely. Mark, I totally agree. It’s one of those things that you learn it the hard way. Like I did 2007, 2009, but as long as you don’t give up, you keep moving forward. You will be a much better investor, a much better person than ever.
Mark: Absolutely. You spoke about Las Vegas and it seems like that happens over and over again. And it’s a function of it being a hospitality city. It doesn’t have that diverse economy that investors should be looking for in any market. And it’s seems obvious, but it’s worth pointing out is that there are markets that their economy is dependent on one thing. And those will do very, when that one sector is doing well and then they can plummet. So, they go on a wild ride and I’m sure there’s a lot of people that understand that and can invest in those markets, but you got to know how to ride them.
Joe: I love how your strategy is Mark. Like, investing here in California, LA or San Diego, we do have a diversified economy. And when you look at like, not to knock Las Vegas, but I love Vegas. It’s driven by what they call a one trick pony, where it’s entertainment. And if it’s driven by one economy, one category of business, when that business goes South, it goes really, really South in San Diego, Los Angeles is diversified.
Mark: Yes. In another market, fast forward to the present day, a market that I got into not too long ago, not in a big way, but just participated in a couple of investments is Orlando, Orlando, Florida. I really like Orlando. Its very much entertainment driven, amusement park driven, and cruise ships and all that stuff. Everything that’s getting pummeled by coronavirus,
Joe: And some of these other cities, when you look at our marketplaces and it’s just military, that’s it? What happens when that base shuts down? It’s not just about corporate America, it’s all about the whole economy. Even like college towns or military towns or stuff like that, where investors, should be more cognizant when they’re looking at different marketplaces.
Mark: I host a meet-up. And there was a guy that came to a meet-up and he told the story that was kind of sad, but educational is he said his father was a big real estate investor. And he had invested in Los Angeles for a long time and done very well. And he saw the pricing he could get going into the inland empire and I don’t want to bash the inland empire it’s growing and expanding and doing phenomenal. But at the time I think this was probably 25 years ago that he was talking about his dad was very successful and bought like a 200 unit, in the inland empire kind of close to the mountains.
I think it was Victorville. Most of his tenants were a military base. And within like five or six months of taking ownership, the military base shutdown, and it was going into a recession at the same time. And he said within four months of owning this property, he was negative cash flow, $200,000 a month. And it wiped out his entire portfolio that he had spent 20 years building and he never bought another property again.
Mark: Wow. That is tragic. And It’s just like, “Oh my gosh, that’s devastating.” And he’s like, I’m the second generation and I am impacted by this by this. And he’s like I don’t want to invest. And the takeaway on our topic is be careful be wary of chasing cash flow into a remote market that may be propped up by one singular sector of the economy. And if that goes away, everything goes away.
Joe: That’s correct.
Mark: So, what are you doing now? What’s your sense of the market?
Joe: I love it. Actually, this is what I’ve been training for. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Me becoming a real legit investor. This is the time where I’m actually looking at properties, starting to send the mailers, getting my kids involved, to send the mailers, looking on MLS, looking on LoopNet, looking were ever. Talking to lots and lots of people I’m starting to see some of these numbers look very, very enticing. And so, what I’m doing right now is I’m getting my team together. I built a pretty good staff in the Philippines. I’ve got several VA’s there. I’m getting my marketing. I think I mentioned earlier that I’m launching a book.
Mark: Yes. What’s the name of your book?
Joe: Lex with a Plex is a title of the book and it should be coming out very, very soon. And it’s an introduction to real estate investing. And basically, I want to share, share some of the trials and tribulations I went through and share what it is like to be an investor. What is it like to be an agent? It’s pretty, I would say basic in some levels, but I did go kind of advanced in some levels also in the book.
Mark: Yes. What is flex with a plex? Is plex, like a multiplex?
Joe: That’s correct. But I gave a couple examples of, you could start very, very small on your plex and do a house hack where like, if you’re, probably the younger folks in the crowd where like, they haven’t established their careers or they don’t have a lot of money start with a house and rent out the rooms.
You could turn that into your mini-plex and then start to graduate into a duplex, a triplex, a fourplex, then a five plex on up. And the flex part is kind of like, Hey, what kind of lifestyle do you want to have? Well, you’ll have the flexibility Mark, when you start investing to work or not to work, you’ll have the flexibility to fly first class or not fly first class, once you start site visiting your property.
Mark: Right. Okay. That makes sense. I love house hacks. That’s what I did. I didn’t know it was what a house hack was when I did it, but I got a duplex when I started. And that was my intro to real estate investing and just was a daunting awakening of like, wow, this is really powerful. And it just changes my emotional state, my financial state as well.
Mark: Now if you’re enjoying the show, please do us an easy favor and hit the subscribe button. As a listener I always wondered why podcast hosts are always begging me to subscribe and rate them. Well, now that I’m on the other side, I see why it allows other listeners to find you in an era of unprecedented hype over real estate investing. My goal is to be a truth teller. Real estate is not as easy as it’s made out to be, but you can do it. If you can get past the hype and get to the truth. My aim is for this show to help with that.
And if you’d Like to learn more about who we are and what we do at Quantum Capital, please visit our website at quantumcapitalinc.com, where you can find podcast episodes, multifamily resources, and learn about opportunities to invest with us. Anyway, let’s get back to the show.
Mark: You’re obviously in Southern California, San Diego, an expensive market, a daunting market for a lot of people. Have you always done a lot in San Diego? Where do you invest? Do you stick with San Diego? I know you mentioned Las Vegas.
Joe: Great question. So, when I did that run, when I pulled out the 113,000 cash on a line of credit, I went everywhere. I had several properties in Florida. I had several properties in Texas. I had Colorado, Las Vegas. I went everywhere and that was my out of state first trial run this time. I still am open to investing out of state. However, I’d prefer it to be an hour or two hours max flight, or I could drive it, but I definitely want to stay close to home. Where I could have plenty of boots on the ground and I could really closely monitor the value- adds and what have you.
Mark: Yes, management is such a huge part of real estate investing. So, what’s your asset? Do you have a preferred asset class?
Joe: Right now. My partner and I are looking primarily at hotels motels, to convert them potentially.
Mark: Convert to multifamily?
Joe: Yes. We’re looking at that. I am starting to look at some mobile home parks.
Mark: Okay. Sure.
Joe: And then obviously multifamily is always going to be there.
Mark: Okay. And what do you look for? Are you a value-add investor?
Joe: Absolutely. So basically, we are looking for ways to improve the outside, whether it be landscaping, parking cosmetics, the monumental sign and then management, of course, we’re hoping to maybe replace them, especially if it’s like a mom and pop, small kind of operation.
Mark: Sure. I think I’ve said maybe recently this thought was in my mind is that, when you’re a real estate investor, you’re a business person, you’re buying a business and you’re like a venture capitalist. And you want to find businesses that have inefficiencies that you could improve.
With most businesses on wall street or around the country and around the world, you’re usually buying businesses off of professional business people. But in real estate, you’re often buying off of, dentists, retired doctors or mom and pop owners. And I think there’s such a greater opportunity in real estate to find significant inefficiencies and mismanagement. And so, it seems like there’s a greater opportunity in the space of value-add in the real estate space.
Joe: Massive opportunity, Mark, as an agent, I was representing a seller that we found on Craigslist. It was a mom and pop kind of operator. It was a 17-unit office building. And when I asked them for like, “Hey, give me your financials.” Mark, no joke. It was all handwritten in a shoe box. He was self-managing. There were lots of vacancies and those at the time thinking of being an agent, I should have been thinking more like an investor because that was a massive opportunity.
Mark: Sure. You spoke about your team; you had a mentor. I think you said one of the best things you did was hire a mentor and a coach and they helped you build your business. Who’s on your team, now? You mentioned also a lot of VA’s by the way, who do you use for VA’s?
Joe: Oh, I go independent. So, I went straight to Onlinejobs.pH.
Joe: I started shopping around and interviewing. I’ve had several experiences with VA’s because I started back 10 years ago. When I originally started, I tried a couple of different companies out and decided like on this run, I really wanted to build a big staff.
And so, we’re looking at long-term and cost-wise, I decided, hey, let’s cut out the middleman. And instead of going through a company, let me figure this out. Because building teams is actually what I’m very, very good at. And I coach on building teams and building companies. And so that’s one of the things that I’m very strong at. So, I just go independent, straight to Onlinejobs. pH.
Mark: Excellent. And what does your team look like now?
Joe: So primarily They’re focused on marketing. And so right now I have somebody who does my editing of videos for the YouTube. I have another gal that does a lot of my social media. Then this other gal that I have is a blend. I wanted somebody strong at accounting. And so, what I did was thinking fast forward, like I’m going to be looking at a lot of proformas. I’m going to be looking at a lot of offering memorandums and what have you.
And so, she has over a decade of accounting experience and has that SC personality. And I tested her on different spreadsheets and also a P and L’s prior to me hiring her. And so, I have her, she’s kind of a blend where she’s my personal assistant. She could do a lot. She’s very, very talented. So, right now I have three in the Philippines.
Mark: That’s great. I’m glad you brought up the accountant. ‘Cause I’m in the same situation. I have a team and I think as you grow as a real estate investor, you have dozens and dozens of LLCs. You have so many returns, it gets so complicated so fast that having someone on your team in house, or, just a close team member, just watching all your books, doing all your bookkeeping and keeping clean books, can help keep you sane. If nothing else.
Joe: No doubt, no doubt. It’s one of those things that like, I know I could do some of these, but it would probably drive me nuts.
Mark: Yes. Focus on what you’re good at and bring someone in to do your books and keep your books clean and accurate because when they’re not accurate, you got to go back in and figure everything out.
Joe: Been there, done that too Mark.
Mark: Not a fun road to go down. You’ve dabbled in a lot. It seems like. What were your most challenging? Do you have like a challenging deal that you encountered?
Joe: It’s usually when I’m dealing with somebody who probably doesn’t have the experience formal education, what have you, whether being a realtor or being an investor. So, I’ll take both of them. So, when I have a first-time home buyer and usually it’s in the starter price ranges, that’s their first-time home. Well, they don’t understand a lot of the different definitions or different people involved in buying a home. Escrow, title, title insurance, etc.
Same thing goes when I’m raising capital. If I’m raising capital on a syndication and one of the syndications I did, I raised about $2 million and my starting point was 25,000 per unit. And I had people at the 25,000 per unit all the way up to like 150,000, multiple units. And, units for the listeners is like shares. So, the people that bought in at 25,000, my God, they were calling me every day and bugging me and just like, this was their last few dollars. So that was a challenge.
And when I started doing these syndications in the beginning, I didn’t understand that these people are more than likely less sophisticated so they didn’t understand. And so, I would say those were some of the biggest challenges in the beginning, not understanding who I was dealing with, whether they’re a first-time home buyer or a first-time investor.
Mark: Sure. And when you have a newer investor, it’s not their fault, but it just requires a lot more handholding and a lot more of your time.
Joe: That’s correct. It’s nothing bad. It’s just something like, I didn’t understand it. And I wasn’t very patient at the time when I was starting out. And so, I got frustrated because I just wasn’t patient.
Mark: Sure. Is there a trait that you possess that has served you best both in real estate and in life?
Joe: I would say being absolutely fearless is probably a really, really great trait.
Mark: It sounds like I could buy your story.
Joe: Thank you. It was one of these things that I guess my dad, my dad was a very, very fearless man and yeah, he wasn’t afraid of anything. He used to say, “As long as they don’t have a gun, Joe, I’m not afraid of no one or nothing.”
Mark: So, fearlessness. How about, is there a trait that holds you back that you feel like you need to work on?
Joe: Oh, great question. So, I think it was tarnished on my humbling experience of 2007, 2009. And so, when I get into the analytical side of Joe, sometimes I get overly cautious where like that could be a crutch. And I reflect back on 2007, 2009. I don’t want to get burnt. And so sometimes that is a killer where I get paralysis by analysis sometimes.
Mark: Somewhere in your brain, your fear center and your fearless center are battling each other.
Joe: Oh yeah. One, foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. But then, it helps as having great mentors, coaches and great people around me. Slap some sense into it when it’s like a no brainer or that obvious help me push. And so, it’s nice to align myself or anybody who’s listening with more credible people than you because sometimes when it’s that obvious, it’s not that obvious. And it’s helps when you have those people around you.
Mark: And you’ve mentioned this at the beginning, is it sounds like your experience with coaches and mentors has been instrumental in your success.
Joe: No doubt about it.
Mark: Interesting, great. How about mindset? How important is mindset to your success?
Joe: Hundred percent, no doubt. It’s one of these things that like garbage in garbage out.
Mark: Right. I had a feeling. You might say that just seeing your personality.
Joe: Yeah. I love reading books. I love, love reading books. It’s one of those things, Jim Rohn once said it like, “Your mind is like a garden. If you don’t tend to it, the weeds will take over the garden.” And so, you have to keep pulling out the weeds. And so, I’m constantly reading books and listening to audible to yank out the weeds in my brain.
Mark: Good. What advice would you give right now? You’re a veteran with journeymen at real estate and tried a lot of different things and had a lot of success, as well as you’ve encountered the challenges that have come with real estate over the last several decades. What advice would you give to anyone jumping into real estate investing now?
Joe: First study. Study enough to like, okay, I got it. And then run, but don’t study forever because learning is infinite. You will learn and learn and learn forever. And there’s so much more to learn, but learn enough and then jump in and then start figuring it out. You’re going to have to fail. Don’t be afraid of failing.
You want to fail forward fast, you got to make some mistakes, but you got to also mitigate your risk. And that’s why you want to have a coach or mentor because some of these could be a one and done. There was this one person here that I know in San Diego, he was boasting, “I’m a developer, I’m a developer.” And he never did his first deal. And then when he did his first deal, guess what, Mark.
Mark: It didn’t go, well.
Joe: It didn’t go well. And he was one and done. And so, it’s cool to fake it ’til you make it, but man, have a mentor coach or somebody on your side to help you mitigate risks.
Mark: Absolutely. And don’t underestimate the risks that are there because they’re there. And I think this point, it might be a moot point, but it may be a year ago when we had had eight years of nothing but value growth. I think there was maybe a mentality that real estate is invulnerable. Multifamily is invulnerable and will always grow. And it won’t, but it will long-term. You just got to be prepared for the risks.
Joe: And I would say in addition, Mark is like, when you’re looking at any deals, guys, ladies and gentlemen, invest for cash flow, rather than net worth. Net worth is nothing when you look at these properties net worth, really, you could have several million, but if the cashflow is not there. How are you going to use net worth to pay for groceries?
Mark: Right. Are you ready for our question round?
Joe: Let’s do it.
Mark: Alright, let’s do it. And now our question round.