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 Real Estate Investing 

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Michael Santos

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With help from Brandon, we have a new course to help people in federal prison learn strategies to succeed. His course is becoming a part of our series on Preparing for Success after Prison.

Title: Teaching People in Prison How to Invest in Real Estate (2023)

Blurb:

  • Now an affluent real estate investor, Brandon overcame numerous challenges, including poverty, limited education, and incarceration. He attained success through hard work and a growth-oriented mindset, setting an example of how disadvantaged members of society can triumph despite adversity. Brandon shares investment advice based on his real estate ventures and encourages listeners to pursue their goals relentlessly.

Objective:

  • Students should identify the success principles that led Brandon to prevail over his challenges, including his work ethic, dedication to learning, and goal-oriented attitude. Our audience should also determine how skills in math, critical thinking, and communication were vital to Brandon’s accomplishments. Lastly, our students should learn from investment strategies and apply these lessons in their daily routines.

Lesson Requirements:

  • Watch the video that accompanies the lesson
  • Write a definition of each word highlighted in bold and written in italics
  • Use ten of the vocabulary words in a sentence
  • Respond to a minimum of three open-ended questions by following instructions at the end of the lesson.

Lesson Outcome:

  • Participants will increase their vocabulary by at least ten words.
  • Participants will improve writing skills and their ability to contemplate how their responses to open-ended questions relate to their prospects for success upon release.
  • Participants will add to their journal, demonstrating a self-directed, self-improvement pathway to prepare for success upon release.

Introduction:

Our team at Prison Professors thanks Brandon for imparting invaluable lessons to our audience as he discusses his life trajectory and business success. Though he faced hardships, including poverty, dropping out of school, and incarceration as a young man, Brandon has achieved a lucrative career through his rigid work ethic and ambitious mindset. His story demonstrates how we can overcome obstacles by setting goals and working relentlessly toward fulfilling our desired outcomes.

Now a multimillionaire, Brandon imparts sound investment advice to our listeners as he describes his ventures in real estate. We detail how perseverance, skill attainment, and a continuous pursuit of knowledge led Brandon to prosper. We encourage all our students to follow the life lessons from our interview as they seek to rebuild their lives.

Background:

Like many people in our audience, Brandon experienced a difficult childhood, growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Oklahoma City and leaving school without a degree. None of his family members had completed college, and Brandon seemingly lacked good role models among his peer group.

As a young man, he grew accustomed to criminality. People in his community often considered incarceration a rite of passage. Unfortunately, Brandon succumbed to peer pressure and began committing crimes as an adolescent. At only 16 years old, he started going to jail for various offenses, including driving under the influence, burglary, and an unspecified violent crime. At 22 years old, Brandon went to prison for six months for a drug-related offense. His struggles in school compounded his legal troubles; he dropped out two weeks after starting ninth grade.

Dissatisfied with the trajectory of his life, Brandon began transforming his situation by improving his mindset and behavior. Though he says no single defining moment led him to make changes, he shares an impactful story from one of his prison stints. At a correctional boot camp, a drill instructor counseled Brandon about the harmful effects of his misdeeds on his family. The instructor pointed out that if any of his loved ones were to pass away, Brandon would be unable to support his family while incarcerated. This stark reminder was pivotal for Brandon, driving him to avoid reoffending and adopt a purpose-driven outlook.

Brandon’s aspirations and tireless work ethic were the crux of his evolution. He enrolled in community college and eventually found an entry-level position at an IT help desk. Aspiring to achieve more, he set a long-term goal of becoming a chief technology officer, a company executive who manages an organization’s technology strategy and operations, in 10 years.

His goal-setting strategy mirrors our modules centered around defining success: Brandon wrote down his long-term objectives on a whiteboard and mapped out the professional experiences and certifications he would need to attain in pursuit of his dream. His strategy bore fruit: he became a chief technology officer only nine and a half years later.

Manifestation and Writing Down Goals

As Brandon describes his journey, we learn about the power of writing down and manifesting our goals. Manifestation is envisioning our desired outcomes with the belief that these outcomes will come to fruition. All our students can benefit from manifestation since it:

  • Provides focus and clarity, helping to prioritize important things and foster a greater sense of purpose and direction.
  • Requires accountability by making goals tangible and trackable, which can help to stay on track and avoid distractions or setbacks.
  • Encourages positive thinking through visualization and focusing on opportunities and solutions rather than limitations and obstacles.
  • Serves as a motivator, as having a clear sense of purpose and direction can help us stay motivated and work toward our goal.


Through manifestation, we can empower ourselves by developing a sense of self-efficacy and confidence. Brandon’s lesson on manifestation reminds us of a quote from the famous Renaissance painter, Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

Other improvements Brandon made were environmental. He changed his circle of friends, realizing he needed to surround himself with positive and supportive people who would inspire him to achieve his goals. Conversely, negative or unsupportive people, including those still involved in crime or addiction, would undermine Brandon’s ability to thrive.

Brandon also became an avid self-learner. Around 2010, he read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a seminal work on personal financial literacy. After improving his understanding of money, Brandon began investing in real estate. Initially, he funded his projects by aggressively saving from his income to accumulate enough capital to buy properties. He upheld an austere lifestyle even after his salary exponentially increased once he became a chief technology officer. Even though he could afford luxuries, Brandon avoided spending money on frivolous purchases, recognizing the money would better serve him if invested properly. His experience exemplifies the importance of delayed gratification.

By 2020, Brandon began investing in real estate after determining that the market was ripe for his success. He purchased his first three turnkey properties and added another house to his portfolio a month later. Over the years, Brandon continued gaining the knowledge and confidence to navigate the industry. Now, he purchases distressed properties and renovates them to sell them for a profit later. By the time of our interview in April 2023, he owned 14 properties and planned to buy three more.

Takeaway:

As I served over a quarter century in prison, I sought to learn from role models like Brandon. I strove to understand the success principles that drove leaders like him to prosper in their personal lives and vocations. Anyone can adhere to the lessons from our interview to begin earning their freedom and transforming their lives as they seek to re-enter society.

Like many of our audience members, Brandon experienced a challenging upbringing, facing poverty, incarceration, and limited educational advancement. Now a multimillionaire, he shows us a possible route to overcome barriersand thrive. Brandon became a highly accomplished member of society through diligence, an achievement-oriented attitude, an insatiable drive to learn, and a robust work ethic. As a prominent investor, he generates tax dollars that support our community while providing homes to deserving families.

Reflecting a common mantra in much of our coursework, Brandon encourages us to be the “CEOs of our own lives.” In this regard, he draws an analogy between managing a business with various components of life, including family, health, and finances, emphasizing that setting clear targets and goals is crucial to achieving our desires. Likewise, our team urges students to define success; we must identify our desired outcomes and work continuously to make incremental progress toward fulfilling our dreams.

To become effective stewards of our personal lives, we must take control of our social circles. Brandon changed his friendship circles several times as he knew associating with people with destructive mindsets or habits would lead him astray. Similarly, our listeners can forge a brighter future by surrounding themselves with people dedicated to growth and goal realization. Our students should seek supportive peer groups and professional networks to increase their chances of successful reentry. Appendix A: Network and Support Groups gives examples of such organizations.

We further explore the importance of healthy relationships as Brandon describes his membership in GoBundance, which he refers to “as a tribe of millionaires.” This network gives Brandon readily available access to other wealthy, high-achieving members of society, many of whom are real estate investors or business owners. In fact, Brandon and I met through an introduction from a group member. Brandon attends two GoBundance conferences annually and spends around $20,000 yearly on self-development. He believes investing in oneself becomes even more critical as one achieves more.

Even though few people can join GoBundance due to its exclusivity, the association’s success principles can inspire all our listeners. Brandon highlighted five GoBundance pillars that are relevant to our students:

  • Contribution: All our listeners can contribute by sharing their knowledge and skills, participating in rehabilitation programs, or offering emotional support and encouragement to others.
  • Passive income: Our students can learn about investment and business strategies through books and online resources, including tips on how to invest in stocks or real estate, sell digital products, or start a remote business.
  • Adventures: Our listeners can explore new hobbies, learn new skills, and set goals for themselves. Exploring new career options or learning about an unfamiliar subject are all practical ways to foster this success principle.
  • Growth: Our students should use educational and vocational programs and read educational materials. Our team consistently encourages our listeners to sharpen their critical thinking, communication, and math skills, the three key areas needed for personal and professional success.
  • Age-defying health: Common ways to promote health include exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. Our class enrollees can participate in exercise programs, eat a healthy diet, and avoid drugs, alcohol, and other intoxicants. With a healthier lifestyle, all our students stand a better chance of leading gratifying and fulfilling lives upon release. 

Also, we must fostera habit of self-directed learning. Our students may lack access to conventional educational opportunities, but they can access books, online resources, and other materials to gain new skills and knowledge. Though Brandon lacks a degree, he became proficient in investment strategies by becoming an autodidact. Today, he remains a voracious reader who dedicates at least 30 minutes daily to reading. By devoting time to self-improvement daily, we can broaden our horizons, gain new perspectives, acquire new skill sets, and prepare ourselves for a career.

  • How can manifestation and writing down goals help you succeed in fulfilling your dreams?
  • How do you interpret the idea of “being the CEO of your life,” and how can you adopt this philosophy?
  • How can you relate to Brandon’s struggles as a young man, and how can his story inspire you to succeed?
  • How can you develop strong support networks and build rapport with achievement-oriented individuals?
  • How can you relate to the five pillars of the GoBundance community?

Business Strategy:

As Brandon describes his experience investing in real estate, he imparts sound business strategies to our audience. Though he resides in Dallas, he purchases properties in more affordable markets, such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. In those locations, he pays less in property taxes and stands to make a better return on investment than in a more expensive locale like Dallas.

We first learn about after-repair value, the estimation of a property’s value after it has been renovated or repaired. So far, Brandon has bought homes for an average of $50,000 to $60,000. He has invested approximately $30,000 for repairs, leaving the houses typically worth $120,000 after renovations. He funded these purchases with his own money and then found a lender who would loan him 75 percent of the total value of the property.

Using basic arithmetic, we can deduce how Brandon generates a profit:

  • If a house is worth $120,000 and Brandon purchased it for $60,000 and put in $30,000 for repairs, he has a total investment of $90,000.
  • To calculate how much the lender would loan him, we multiply the total value of the property ($120,000) by 75 percent (0.75). In this example, $120,000 x 0.75 = $90,000
  • The lender would loan Brandon $90,000, the same amount as his total investment.

We determine Brandon can use the bank loan to pay off their initial investment and generate $30,000 in equity without using any additional funds. He can then make monthly payments on the loan, which spread out over 30 years are around $650.

Brandon’s properties generate monthly revenue of around $500 through rental payments, which pay off the debt over time. Since Brandon now owns 17 properties, he earns $8,500 monthly with none of his money invested. This figure accounts for $102,000 per annum in passive income, significantly greater than the U.S. median salary of around $56,000 for full-time workers. In other words, Brandon earns nearly twice as much from his investments as typical earners, even without factoring in other sources of his income.

Moving forward, Brandon has ambitious plans, including expanding his property portfolio and increasing his profit margins. To achieve this, he aims to acquire 40 to 45 properties, which may include smaller multifamily buildings and short-term rentals. Additionally, he is exploring the possibility of developing land in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, potentially creating a small community that includes an RV park. Brandon aims to exit the real estate business within three years and focus on charitable endeavors, such as starting a no-kill animal shelter. He plans to create a limited liability company using some existing properties to fund this venture. With these plans in motion, Brandon is on his way to achieving his goals and giving back to society.

As he describes his real estate ventures, he reminds us that overcoming a self-limiting mindset was one of the most significant factors in his success. Brandon felt held back due to his impoverished background, but hard work and a productive outlook drove him to prevail over these barriers. As a volunteer mentor, Brandon promotes a goal-oriented mindset in his mission to help incarcerated and inner-city youth. By following leaders like Brandon, his mentees can break the cycle of intergeneration poverty and imprisonment that plagues communities across our nation.

Potential Careers

Though a criminal conviction may make it more difficult for a returning citizen to pursue some real estate careers, such individuals can still succeed in the industry through determination, hard work, and the right approach. In some states, a felony conviction can be a barrier to obtaining a real estate license, while in others, it may not be.

Options may include:

  • Real Estate Agent: Help people buy, sell, or rent properties with a real estate license and excellent communication and negotiation skills.
  • Property Manager: Manage properties by handling rent collection, maintenance, and tenant screening.
  • Real Estate Investor: Invest in real estate by buying properties in affordable markets, renovating them, and selling them for a profit.
  • Real Estate Developer: Specialize in rehabilitating and redeveloping distressed properties or creating new ones.
  • Real Estate Appraiser: Determine the value of properties for sale, purchase, or refinancing by obtaining a license and having strong analytical skills and attention to detail.

Takeaway:

All our students can find inspiration in Brandon’s journey, regardless of their past hardships or educational limits. Brandon does not consider himself inherently gifted; his work ethic sets him apart. Mirroring the lessons in our coursework, he believes that anyone can succeed through diligence, regardless of their innate abilities. He calls hard work and determination the “great equalizers” in an individual’s success, emphasizing he attained his high status through his grit.

We can follow Brandon’s example by attaining skills in three fundamental areas needed to thrive in any vocation: math, critical thinking, and communication skills. His ability to perform basic arithmetic to calculate profits and expenses was crucial to his business success. By understanding the financial implications of his investments, he was able to make informed decisions that led him to achieve significant profits. Gaining a basic understanding of math is achievable for anyone willing to learn. Our listeners, for example, can strengthen their math skills by exploring correspondence programs and seeking volunteers, mentors, or nonprofit organizations that offer math instruction.

Critical thinking is also necessary for success. Brandon’s ability to identify affordable markets and estimate a property’s after-repair value depended on rational decision-making. By carefully analyzing the market and considering the potential value of his investments, Brandon made intelligent investment choices and generated significant profits. Our students can improve their logical thinking by accessing educational materials that challenge their assumptions and promote analytical reasoning. Another option is participating in discussion groups or debate teams, which help further sharpen participants’ appeciation of logic.

Brandon also relied on his aptitude for communication to convey his ideas and plans effectively. Whether negotiating with lenders or collaborating with contractors, Brandon needed to communicate clearly to achieve his goals. Accomplished individuals like Brandon hone their ability to articulate ideas to build relationships and persuade others. Our audience members can emulate his example by participating in public speaking or creative writing workshops or developing a self-directed reading routine to enhance their vocabulary.

Appendix B: Skill Development gives more examples of skill-building exercises in these three areas and how they relate to IT and real estate jobs discussed in this lesson plan.

  • How can you develop a work ethic that sets you apart and helps you achieve your goals?
  • In what ways can improving your math skills benefit your career, regardless of the industry you work in?
  • Following Brandon’s example, how can developing sound critical and logical thinking skills help you make better decisions in your career and personal life?
  • How can you improve your communication skills and effectively convey your ideas and plans to others?
  • According to Brandon, what are the “great equalizers” in achieving success, and how can you apply these concepts in your own life?

Our Collaboration:

We conclude our interview by discussing a collaborative project to document a property acquisition and renovation. Once complete, we will share the lesson through a workbook, videos, and photos with students of Prison Professors using the rental funds from tenants to finance the project. We aim to teach thousands of individuals how to thrive as they re-enter society.

The project likely will take 60-120 days to complete and $80,000 to fund. Depending on the project’s outcome, we may consider working with GoBundance members to launch future projects to help more people reintegrate into society.

Conclusion:

Brandon’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and self-improvement. He faced significant challenges as a young man, including poverty, incarceration, and a hostile environment, yet he refused to allow those situations to derail him. Reflecting on how his misconduct hurt his loved ones, Brandon became determined to transform his life. He triumphed despite his past through a relentless work ethic, a driven mindset, and fulfilling his goals.

We gained considerable financial insight as Brandon described his money-saving methods and approach to real estate investment. He practiced delayed gratification, forgoing for several years the purchase of expensive items to instead put his resources into real estate. Once he began investing, he rapidly expanded his portfolio, focusing on affordable distressed properties that could be renovated and rented out, generating substantial passive income.

Essential to Brandon’s prosperity was his commitment to improving his skill sets, remaining an active learner, and maintaining constructive social circles. Basic communication, math, and critical thinking skills were crucial to Brandon’s business success. In addition, he remains an avid reader and teaches us that investing in oneself becomes even more critical as one achieves more. He also surrounds himself with goal-oriented, productive people to maintain peak performance in all areas of his life. His membership in GoBundance, the “tribe of millionaires,” demonstrates how the highest achievers in society associate with like-minded individuals.

We urge our students to follow Brandon’s example to break the intergenerational incarceration and recidivism cycles afflicting many communities nationwide. Role models like Brandon offer essential life lessons that can help returning citizens thrive after their release. By adopting success principles from this lesson, we all stand a better chance of earning our freedom.

Critical Thinking Questions:

Choose any of three questions below. Write a response for each of the three questions you choose. In your response, please write at least three paragraphs, with a minimum of three sentences each.

This exercise in personal development will help you develop better critical-thinking skills, and better writing skills. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. We’re striving to learn how to think differently, and how to communicate more efficiently. Try to use some of the vocabulary words from this lesson in your responses.

  1. Following Brandon’s example, how can one apply the lesson of work ethic in their personal and professional life to achieve success?
  2. As Brandon’s story illustrates, what steps can individuals take to overcome obstacles and achieve their desired outcomes?
  3. What role does goal-setting play in attaining success, and how can you develop an effective goal-setting strategy?
  4. How can you improve your decision-making skills, as exemplified by Brandon’s success in real estate investments?
  5. How do you interpret the concept of delayed gratification, and how can practicing this concept help you thrive upon release?
  6. How can strengthening your skills in math, critical thinking, and communication skills lead you to excel in any vocation?
  7. Besides those listed, how do you believe Brandon’s communication, math, and critical thinking strengths drive him to succeed as an investor?
  8. Reflecting on Brandon’s story, how does perseverance contribute to success, and what strategies can you use to cultivate perseverance?
  9. How can you develop a growth-oriented mindset, and how can this mindset contribute to achieving your goals?
  10. In what ways do you think Brandon exemplifies the success principles outlined in our ten coursework modules?

Appendix A: Network and Support Groups

Returning citizens face unique challenges as they reintegrate into society after incarceration. Joining supportive peer groups and professional networks can be a great way to increase their chances of successful reentry. Here are some examples of such groups and networks:

  1. The National Reentry Resource Center: This organization offers resources and support to individuals, organizations, and communities working to improve reentry outcomes. They also have a directory of reentry programs and services across the United States.
  • The Council of State Governments Justice Center: This organization provides technical assistance and support to states and local governments to promote successful reentry.
  • The Safer Foundation: This organization provides services and support to individuals with criminal records, including job training and placement, education, and counseling.
  • The Fortune Society: This New York-based organization provides a range of services to formerly incarcerated individuals, including job training and placement, education, and housing assistance.
  • The Anti-Recidivism Coalition: This California-based organization provides support to formerly incarcerated individuals, including job training and placement, mentorship, and leadership development.
  • The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers: This organization provides resources and support to criminal defense attorneys, including those who work on behalf of individuals with criminal records.
  • The National Association of Social Workers: This organization provides resources and support to social workers who work with formerly incarcerated individuals and their families.
  • The National HIRE Network: This organization provides resources and support to individuals with criminal records who are seeking employment.
  • The Second Chance Alliance: This North Carolina-based organization advocates for policies and programs that support successful reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals.
  1. The Community Reentry Network: This organization provides resources and support to individuals, families, and communities impacted by incarceration, with a focus on reentry and community reintegration.

Appendix B: Skill Development

Improving math, communication, and critical thinking skills can be invaluable for those seeking jobs in a variety of industries. However, for individuals experiencing incarceration, access to educational opportunities can be limited. Despite this, there are practical ways that individuals can work on developing these skills while incarcerated.

Math:

  • Practice basic arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with peers.
  • Take advantage of math textbooks or other resources available in the library or education programs.
  • Participate in math-based games and puzzles like Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or chess.
  • Use calculators or computer programs to practice more advanced math skills like algebra or geometry.

Communication:

  • Join a writing club or take writing classes to improve writing skills.
  • Practice public speaking by participating in debate teams or giving speeches at events.
  • Join a book club or discussion group to practice analytical and critical reading skills.
  • Write letters to family and friends to practice writing and communication skills.

Critical Thinking:

  • Participate in logic or critical thinking classes offered in educational programs.
  • Read philosophy or other literature that challenges one’s worldview and encourages critical thinking.
  • Engage in debates or discussions with peers to practice critical thinking and argumentation skills.
  • Write essays or research papers that require critical analysis and evaluation of information.

Skills in math, communication, and critical thinking can be relevant to those seeking jobs in real estate or IT. In the real estate industry, having strong math skills is important for tasks such as calculating property values, mortgage rates, and loan amounts. Communication skills are also vital for working with clients, negotiating deals, and presenting information to stakeholders. Critical thinking skills are necessary for analyzing market trends, evaluating investment opportunities, and making informed decisions.

In the IT industry, math skills are important for tasks such as coding, data analysis, and working with algorithms. Communication skills are essential for collaborating with team members and presenting information to clients. Critical thinking skills are necessary for problem-solving, troubleshooting technical issues, and developing innovative solutions.

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