"Think Realty’s 2018 Industry Influencers list recognizes seven individuals who are making very distinct, measurable differences in the way that the real estate industry invests and in how the industry as a whole is perceived by the general public."
In every business sector, there are individuals and groups who affect the conversation about their industry in meaningful ways. Some, like Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire who is credited with “removing the mob” from the Las Vegas casino sector, create legacies and legends that far exceed any truth, however grand. Others move beyond their industry and into the broader consciousness, such as fictional financier Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film Wall Street. The often-villainized character was based on junk-bond salesmen from the 1980s.
Real estate investors, by virtue of our position in the broader housing market, working with distressed homeowners, motivated sellers, and foreclosure properties, often find ourselves likened more to Gekko than to positive role models. As a result, it is vitally important to our industry that we constantly expand and refine our investing strategies for the betterment of our communities and remain cognizant of the dialogue about real estate investing outside the confines of our sector.
If we succeed in influencing a more positive dialogue, every member of the investing community and our wider communities stands to benefit:
- Creating more effective ways of generating returns in real estate leads to more investors successfully leveraging this investment vehicle to support their families.
- Better methods of communicating about our goals improves the volume of deals we do and the number of properties taken from nonperforming, vacant, possibly blighted assets to solid residences in which homeowners and renters can take pride.
- Making the legacy-building, life-changing opportunities that come with successful investing more understandable to everyone through education and access allows those individuals a chance at financial security and the time to pursue their passions. Furthermore, better real estate discussions and education routinely lead to countless retirees solidifying their retirement on the firm foundation of physical property.
Think Realty’s 2018 Industry Influencers list recognizes seven individuals who are making very distinct, measurable differences in the way that the real estate industry invests and in how the industry as a whole is perceived by the general public. These are our 2018 Industry Influencers, and we are proud to consider them part of our real estate family. Do you know an Industry Influencer? Submit their name to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sonia Booker has been investing in real estate for more than two decades and describes herself as a wealth-builder as well as a real estate investor. She started her first business, an Allstate Insurance agency, at 24, but quickly moved into real estate and worked with Atlanta-based builder and real estate mogul, the late Herman J. Russell, for more than 12 years. Along the way, Booker developed a passion for helping “everyday people” build wealth using real estate. She began educating others on investing in her own living room, eventually wrote several books on the topic and became a bestselling author in the process, and began managing private equity, including a fund that invests specifically in rebuilding communities. “Real estate is just one vehicle that allows you to build your wealth, but in my experience, it is one of the better vehicles,” Booker observed. “Ultimately, real estate should be a foundation and cornerstone for building wealth and legacy.”
Booker has been featured by Oprah’s O Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, NBC, and Black Enterprise. She is a Think Realty Resident Expert, a radio host, and will release a new television show in spring 2018.
Books & Media:
- Real Estate & Wealth: Investing in the American Dream
- Self Wealth for Women: An Inspirational Book & Journal
- The Sonia Booker Show (radio and podcast) every Saturday on 1190 AM in Atlanta
- Sister Circle Live (TV One)
Real Health Real Wealth
AdaPia d’Errico’s passion for empowering entrepreneurs led her straight to the intersection of financial technology and real estate when the industry needed her insight most: during the dawn of real estate crowdfunding. She joined online capital platform Patch of Land as “employee #1,” as she describes it, and positioned the company as a leader in the space while pioneering its crowdfunding platform. In just three years, the company originated $200 million in loans. She moved from there to take a position as COO of AlphaFlow, one of the first and fastest-growing automated real estate investment services in the industry, before transitioning into a special advisory position. She has also worked with ubiquitous names like Disney and Mattel to build their brands and public images. Today, she is focused on working with entrepreneurs and organizations on leadership and personal development as well as developing her personal platform, blog, and book, Real Wealth Real Health.
“I decided to dedicate myself to empowering women, specifically, to develop their inherent leadership traits and overcome the barriers holding them back for the benefit of everyone, especially organizations,” d’Errico said.
Media & Publications:
- Real Wealth Real Health Blog
- Featured speaker at industry events including Think Realty National Conferences, LendIt Industry Awards 2017, and IMN
- Contributor at Crowdfund Insider, Huffington Post, Bankless Times, Opploans
Joe Fairless is a natural learner and a natural sharer, which makes it far less surprising than it might be otherwise that his podcast, “The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show,” is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. With more than 1,200 episodes, the podcast goes live every single day of the week, including weekends. Fairless started the podcast “because I need to learn on an ongoing basis [and] it’s like having a focus group at my fingertips.” Fairless does not have a formal background in real estate, having spent his early professional years as the youngest vice president at a New York City ad agency and, prior to that, teaching preschool children while in college.
Today, Fairless controls more than $265 million in real estate, is a top syndicator for multifamily deals, and devotes his time to educating other investors, mentoring youth in underserved communities, and giving back financially. “We offer scholarships to students, offer shadowing opportunities and internships in New York City, and are dedicated to helping underserved kids and communities learn entrepreneurial and financial skills,” he said. “It’s important as entrepreneurs to have a value-first, giveback-first mentality. The more we give, the more we grow and the more successful in business we become.”
Books, Companies & Media:
- Best Real Estate Investing Advice Show Ever vol. I & II
- Best Real Estate Investing Advice Show Ever (podcast)
- Co-Founder, Ashcroft Capital LLC
Gene Guarino is the founder and president of the Residential Assisted Living (RAL) Academy. Today, he focuses his time, effort, and investment capital on investing in senior-assisted living and helping other investors to do the same, but before founding RAL Academy he spent 30 years in more diversified areas of real estate and education. Guarino has been a featured presenter at the Harvard Business School of Entrepreneurship, featured on television, radio, and podcasts talking about assisted-living investing, and is the author of the book Do’s & Don’ts of Assisted Living.
“The fact of the matter is that 10,000 people a day are turning 65 and, perhaps more importantly, another 4,000 turning 85 each day. That means 120,000 new 85-year-olds each month, which amounts to more beds (occupied and not) than are available in all of the assisted living facilities in the United States,” Guarino said. This dearth of attractive senior housing makes the sector an ideal entry point for real estate investors at any stage in their investing because the results can be staggering and fast. Monthly rents range from $3,000 to $10,000 per person a month with six to 16 people in a home, which, if the initial investment is handled correctly, can clearly revolutionize a portfolio’s performance in short order. “That is why I have dedicated myself to helping others take advantage of this opportunity,” Guarino said.
Books & Media:
- Do’s and Don’ts of Assisted Living
- Founder & President of RAL National Association & Host of Annual RAL National Convention (RALNATCON)
- Featured presenter at the Harvard Business School of Entrepreneurship
- A Second-Wind Success: Helping Baby Boomers Discover Their Second Wind in Business and in Life
- RAL Academy Blog: www.residentialassistedlivingacademy.com
Ross Hamilton honestly admits he founded his real estate investing network, Connected Investors, in 2005 for a self-serving purpose. “I was investing in real estate at 19, and I really couldn’t find anyone my own age,” he said bluntly. “I decided to start a social networking site for real estate investors and sort them by age, then take over the world. It started as a whim, but the core benefit remains being able to connect with other like-minded real estate investors.”
12 years later, Hamilton is well on his way to taking over the world of real estate. Connected Investors has evolved with digital and financial technology. “Not only does every city essentially have its own mini-social-networking site, but the second you sign up you become part of a group of people who share your stated investing interests,” he said. On the fintech side, Connected Investors offers software solutions to help investors locate private money to fund their deals. Hamilton worked closely with Lending Tree CEO Doug Lebda to create Connected Investors Exchange (CiX), which features “push-button questions” that investors answer to be connected with verified, local, private and hard-money lenders.
“Right now, the economy needs real estate investors to succeed more than ever before,” Hamilton concluded. “When we succeed, the world becomes a better place.”
Books & Media:
- The Inside Guide to Funding Real Estate Investments
- Real Estate Investing in Your 20’s: Your Rise to Real Estate Royalty
- Contributor to MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance, and Entrepreneur Magazine
Kimberly Smith believes the key to financial success is simplicity, and that suits her real estate investing model perfectly. “When you think about creativity, it is often defined by complex solutions that are new and innovative,” she said. “That’s great in a lot of sectors, but for us, we believe that our investors and franchisees create better solutions and get better results by merely blending simple ideas instead of making things too complicated.”
AvenueWest provides managed corporate housing and the associated property management services via a franchise model. “Historically, real estate has been just connecting consumers to consumers. By connecting residential real estate to corporate lodging demands, we create consistently high returns in a traditionally somewhat unpredictable (although always high-end) sector,” Smith explained.
AvenueWest currently offers turnkey investment opportunities in nine major U.S. markets, and works closely with investors to help them manage their properties in a way that keeps them in accord with IRS regulations that may govern their direct interaction with self-directed retirement accounts, when relevant. By offering franchise opportunities to qualified owners, Smith has created a new, sustainable venue for real estate professionals that has carried many of her franchisees through the swings of multiple real estate cycles.
Books, Programs & Media:
- The Idiot’s Guide to Making Money with Rental Properties
- 3-Time Member of Inc 5000’s “Fastest Growing Businesses” list
- Multi-year board member for the Corporate Housing Providers Association (CHPA)
- PIPS (Peer Innovation & Problem Solving) Mentor
When Kevin Ortner thinks about real estate, he thinks about gratitude. The president and CEO of Renters Warehouse cannot overstate the impact owning real estate investments has had on his own peace of mind. “Every day, I feel the financial peace of mind it has brought me and my family,” he wrote in his book, Rent Estate Revolution. Ortner penned the book to make the case to the general public that buying and renting out single-family homes (Rent Estate) offers everyday Americans “their best path to retirement security, financial freedom, and the New American Dream.”
Ortner believes it is vitally important to make real estate investing accessible – and, furthermore, make it feel accessible – to everyday Americans working jobs outside of the industry and pursuing passions that have nothing to do with property investing. “We wanted to make it clear that you can find investments using other people’s knowledge, buy and hold them using other people’s money, and manage them using other people’s time,” he said. Ortner himself acquired his first property while he was a college freshman, then used his own Rent Estate to build retirement savings and build educational investments for his family.
Books, Recognitions & Media:
- Rent Estate Revolution
- American and International Stevie® Business Award