Real estate investing attracts a wide variety of people. Because there are so many different avenues and directions to go, people with different backgrounds, cultures, and goals can find real estate investing success. We are lucky to have some of the most interesting people in the industry here on The Executive REI Show. And this episode’s guest is no exception!
TJ Lokboj does a bit of everything. He is the founder of SyndicationPro and a managing partner at Holdfolio. His work has been highlighted in publications like Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, and Morningstar. But, more importantly, TJ is someone who knows who he is and where he’s come from, and has allowed those experiences to shape and build a life he wants. After moving to the USA from the Marshall Islands at the age of five, TJ experienced real challenges and hardships. Through personal growth and development, he was able to develop a strong sense of self, knowing his values and channeling that towards his business ventures.
With such an interesting guest on this episode, you know that we covered a lot of ground! TJ shared his wisdom about how technology is improving the real estate industry, the power of diverse markets, and lessons on personal development and entrepreneurship.
Leverage technology for real estate investing
As mentioned, TJ is involved with two technology companies. He is the founder of SyndicationPro, a software company designed to streamline the process of raising capital for real estate fund managers and syndicators. He is also a managing partner of Holdfolio, which is a real estate crowdfunding platform that allows investors to invest in real estate.
A lot of people move from technology—or finance, marketing, and other corporate positions—towards real estate, drawn by the flexibility and freedom of the industry. TJ went the other way! His interest in real estate is what drove him towards technology, after seeing that there was a real opportunity in the market to add value through the power of technology.
TJ pointed out that the real estate industry lags behind others in terms of leveraging technology. A lot of things are still done with paper and pen, such as mailing checks, that can be streamlined. TJ’s companies, SyndicationPro and Holdfolio, are part of a new wave of disrupting technology, essentially democratizing real estate for the average investor to be a part of. Here are some benefits of leveraging technology in real estate investing:
- Streamline processes: As mentioned, the real estate industry still does a lot of things by hand, and so there is an opportunity to streamline things through software. Wiring money and signing documents, for example, can be done quicker and more effectively through software programs.
- Democratization of opportunity: Through technology, you can reach more people. Technology makes things cheaper, more effective, and quicker, so more people can access the same opportunities.
- Broaden opportunities and markets: Technology has a wide reach, which opens up markets and opportunities outside of your immediate physical area. Through networking and the reach of technology, it is easier to diversify into markets that may not have been accessible to you before.
Invest in diverse real estate markets
We talked about TJ’s investment portfolio, which is fairly broad—they’re in 11 markets and 19 submarkets, holding multiple asset classes like multifamily units, new construction, storage, and others. Through the “power of the crowd,” as TJ described syndication, you can partner widely and open up so many different opportunities.
One of TJ’s golden rules for investing is to find “good deals” instead of rushing into a quick or easy one. When doing this, you can find yourself looking at a wide variety of markets and asset classes. Focusing on diversity can be both interesting and engaging, but also create more opportunity for building wealth.
While the opportunities are broad, it’s important to look out for good markets. TJ shared a few thoughts on how to identify good areas for investment:
- Look for markets with job diversity and great population growth. This is the sign that there is growth and demand in the area, particularly if you are in the multifamily space. Good markets to look at are growing technology hubs like Texas and North Carolina.
- Consider current trends and where people are moving. Hot markets right now include the Midwest, like Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, and the Southeast, like Florida. A lot of people are moving out of large states like California and into other regions of the country.
- Broaden your networks to seek out opportunities. Just as we can hear from unique people like TJ on our favorite podcast (… like The Executive REI Show!), there is so much power in networking and expanding your circle of people. More and more opportunities present themselves when you network and connect outside of your immediate area.
Be flexible as an entrepreneur
TJ is an entrepreneur, which means he’s had his fair share of ups and downs trying to get things off the ground. Particularly being in the technology start-up space, there were a number of pivots that his businesses had to take in order to find the right product-market fit.
Anyone in real estate investing is also an entrepreneur in the sense that you need to get out there and make things happen for yourself. Some of TJ’s top tips include:
- Expect there to be a constant iterative process. Things will always change, so pivot as needed and find a way to make it work. Don’t throw your hands up at the first sign of change and give up—keep going.
- Focus on quality. Quality deals, quality partnerships, quality communication—it is all important. When you focus on doing things well, you will always find more opportunities waiting for you, and you will save some of the headaches from rushing things.
- Be people-focused. TJ calls himself “sponsor-obsessed,” because as a sponsor himself, he wants to help others navigate the challenges and roadblocks he has experienced. So, no matter who you are working with, focus on their needs and work to add value to others around you.
Stay true to yourself: lessons from faith
Our conversation pivoted towards TJ’s story and how he grew up. He immigrated to the USA with his family at the age of fiver from the Marshall Islands. He didn’t speak English and his family struggled to make ends meet. He faced other challenges, too, like his father leaving the family and on-going poverty. He even left school and started working at 17 to provide for the family.
It was during this rough season in life that he met two missionaries who taught him about faith. He joined the church and was able to really turn his life around—something he attributes directly to his faith. But, TJ shares, no matter if you have a faith or religion, every person has values that shape and impact their lives. Holding true to your principles and surrounding yourself with like-minded people is fundamental to a strong mindset.
Because of his life experiences and his faith, TJ is strong in his principles and values. He maintains boundaries with the people he works with to honor those personal values, too. One example is that he doesn’t work on Sundays. This is a personal value he has and shares it with colleagues that he works with. In this way, his character and principles are evident to everyone. TJ encourages all entrepreneurs to hone in on what is truly important to them and stand firm in that. In his words, “Your future is as bright as your faith”—faith in yourself, your team, and what your values and goals are.
Ultimately, character is the fundamental piece that makes a positive difference when doing business. This is important to keep in mind when finding partners to work with, too. Whether you are an active investor or a passive one, you are partnering with other people and need to work together. Integrity is foundational, because it means that you are able to work together through challenges and find a solution that serves both parties.
TJ’s story is fascinating. He came through challenges and adversity, found his sense of self, and channeled it all into innovative projects and companies that are making real impacts on the real estate industry. He cares about people and he cares about doing things right. In fact, the best advice he has for new real estate investors is to “do things right”—focus on quality deals and act with integrity.
If you want to follow along with what TJ is up to, connect with him on Instagram and LinkedIn (name TJ Lokboj on both). Or, you can keep up with his companies, SyndicationPro and Holdfolio. These are both exciting tech-focused responses to real needs in the real estate industry, so stay up to date on what is happening in that space.