Think Realty shines a light on some of the many women who are making waves in the real estate investing industry.
Susan Naftulin has been in the mortgage/real estate investing world since 1998. This former Philadelphia-based attorney left law for the mortgage industry where she managed the foreclosure and bankruptcies of its borrowers. She became senior vice president, handling all legal aspects of default servicing. Then the “mortgage meltdown” came and she assisted with shutdowns and liquidations for multiple lenders.
“While working with a rehab lender in 2008, one of the partners approached me about starting a new rehab lending business together as we felt that markets had hit bottom and were beginning to recover. That is how Rehab Financial Group, LP was born. I saw an opportunity to control my destiny and took a leap of faith. I have not regretted that leap once since RFG opened its doors,” Naftulin said.
In November 2018, Naftulin was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. With no family history, no risk factors, and no abnormal scans, the discovery came out of the blue. She spent most of 2019 battling it. While she is on the road to recovery and doing well, working through chemo, surgery, and radiation is a big part of her story. She shares:
“My doctors were stunned that such a serious illness had been hiding for such a long time even though I got every test I was supposed to get. I was fortunate to get an appointment with a well-regarded oncologist but spent two torturous weeks researching my fate on the internet. Word of advice for anyone in this position — get off the internet! By the morning of my oncology appointment, I had convinced myself that I had about six months to live.
The oncologist quickly assured me that despite what I had read, I could be put into long-term remission and likely die from something else. He let me know that I would have a difficult year, but that I would come out the other side and live a much longer life. My mind immediately flipped — now that I had a plan, I had something positive to focus on.
I had eight chemo treatments. I couldn’t wait for each one as I knew each was a step toward my recovery. I got off the internet and did not speak to anyone who had been through chemo because I wanted my experience to be my own. I didn’t want to feel sick until I was actually sick. I was afraid that if I had it in my mind that something bad was going to happen, I would convince myself that it was happening. The truth is, I never got that sick from chemo. Was I tired? Yes. Did I lose my hair? Yes. Did I lie in bed all day? Hell no! I went to work every day (maybe shorter days but I was always there). I went out with my friends; I ate in restaurants; I traveled. I lived my life and did not give in. Some days were very rough, but I controlled my life, my disease did not. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and before I knew it, I was done!”
How did this life-threatening challenge affect your perspective, both personally and professionally?
I think about this part of my life in the context of how I handle work adversity, and realize it is much in the same way. While no one likes problems, I tend to run toward them as the faster they are dealt with, the faster they are behind you. Once I have a plan for resolution, the end goal is in sight. It is not that I love the process, I love the result of having dealt with something so it is in my rear-view mirror.
I have had to learn that I cannot always control what happens, but I can control how I let it affect me. I can wallow in my adversity, or I can move forward. My experience with both cancer survivors and business people is that the ones who make it through successfully are those that are able to move forward without dwelling in the past.
I have told friends that, other than my husband and my children, my cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me. Some find this shocking. The truth is, I received so much love, support, and kindness from my family, friends, and business associates that I am eternally grateful. Usually, after someone passes away people tell their families how much the person was loved and cared for. I have gotten to experience that while I am alive.
What do you do to alleviate stress?
Travel. Anyone who knows me knows that I am either planning a trip or away on a trip!
What is your goal-setting process?
I try to set conservative, realistic goals. If I cannot see a clear path for how to get to where I want to be, I do not set that goal. I try to never promise what cannot be achieved. It is much better to surprise everyone with over achievement of goals than to continually disappoint with under achievement.
Best advice for new investors?
Start small. Don’t start with a huge rehab project when you have little or no experience. You will make mistakes, but better that those mistakes are made on small projects where small amounts of money are at stake, rather than on big projects that can financially ruin you. Don’t take on too much at one time before you have a well-developed track record of success.
Best advice for seasoned investors?
Keep your eye on your business. Do not assume that things will work on their own without your oversight. Make sure you keep in touch with your employees, show up, and maintain the standards that led to your success.
What can more women do differently to achieve greater success in real estate?
As one of very few female lending company owners, I had to deal with the daily toll from some peers in the industry. I simply ignored it and let my credentials and success be my answer. Stay true to your goals, strive to be best in class, and never allow yourself to feel like a victim. We control our feelings. Just ignore the noise and move forward. Arguing with those who try to bait us with conscious or unconscious expressions only plays into the ignorance.
Connect with Susan:
LinkedIn: Rehab Financial Group