February 11, 2019

JF1623: From Living In His Car To Building Million Dollar Businesses with Angelo Christian


This episode takes a little bit of a dive into the mindset and habits that are needed to take one’s self from a place you’re not happy with, to thriving both personally and professionally. We also hear about how to build large businesses and even open our own banks. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!


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Angelo Christian Real Estate Background:

  • CEO of Christian Financial
  • 15 years of experience in the real estate industry
  • Went from poor and living in his car to a self made millionaire
  • Nationwide lender, one of the top leaders in Houston
  • Based in Houston, TX
  • Say hi to him at www.officialangelochristian.com
  • Best Ever Book: Dream Big


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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast. We only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Angelo Christian. How are you doing, Angelo?

Angelo Christian: Hey, I’m doing awesome. Fantastic. Thank you so much for having on, I’m very grateful.

Joe Fairless: My pleasure, looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Angelo – he is the CEO of Christian Financial. He’s got 15 years of experience in the real estate industry. He went from living in this car to being a self-made millionaire, and he is based in Houston, Texas. Christian Financial does multiple things, one of them being asset management, mortgage banking and also investment management. With that being said, Angelo, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Angelo Christian: Yeah. Like you said, I started off literally when I was 17 years old, I was morbidly obese, I had a heart attack and nearly died; I grew up in a very poor family, broken spiritually, financially and mentally, and had nothing… And I always had a big dream in the back of my mind that I could do something with my life. We literally hit rock bottom; like you said, my car got repossessed and we were actually living in our car prior to that. I was walking, I was having to take care of my mother and my four brothers and my sister, and living in hotels, rent hotels, and working three jobs. We really hit rock bottom, man.

Joe Fairless: How long ago was that?

Angelo Christian: That was when I was 17, so that was 18 years ago. Life was horrible, I literally had nothing. I dropped out of school when I was in the sixth grade, and I hated to read, I hated to study, I hated to exercise, I hated to work, I blamed everyone, I hated my life, and I had a heart attack when I was 17 years old and almost died because of my obesity. So I basically hit rock bottom; I had no other choices, no other alternatives.

When I was walking home one night, one of my favorite movies, the thing that really was the catalyst to help spur the change – obviously, my rock bottom, I had no choice, and then the movie Rocky was one of my favorite movies growing up… And the song that came on was Robert Tepper’s “No Easy Way Out.” That’s my favorite song of all time. Then I had my little walk and it was playing that night, it came on… Anyway, I was walking home, it was midnight, I was getting off from work from the restaurant, and all of a sudden a bolt of lightning came out of nowhere, the adrenaline flew through my body and it took over and I started to run.

Mind you, I had 400 pounds, and I’m running to the song, I’m having visions of me being successful, and being an entrepreneur and being a multi-millionaire and having a great life, and this thin, lean, sexy athlete body, and helping millions of people… So I start running to the music and I make it all the way back to the hotel – it’s a seven-mile hike – and from there on out, that was the impetus for me to change my life. I started exercising, I changed my diet, I went back to school, I got my education in finance and accounting… That was really the thing that helped blow me up and change my life, and that was the beginning to building an 8-figure business today.

Joe Fairless: How much did the exercising and diet tie into your financial success?

Angelo Christian: It’s everything for me. For me it’s all about getting into a peak mental state every single day, and I am a firm believer that the mind and body are connected, Joe, and that you have to take care of your body if you wanna have a healthy mind. If you’re eating bad foods and you’re not exercising, it can affect your decision-making.

If your insulin is always spiking and you’re eating big, fatty meals or big, sugary meals, it can affect your state, and then therefore affect your results. I do ten miles a day on the treadmill, I monitor my diet extremely carefully with carbohydrates and sugar and protein, so… It’s everything.

Joe Fairless: What personal development people do you follow in order to help hone your personal development skills?

Angelo Christian: The biggest person for me was Tony Robbins.

Joe Fairless: I can tell by the way you’re talking. [laughs]

Angelo Christian: Tony Robbins was one of the biggest. I read Unlimited Power when I was 18 years old, after I had the heart attack, and that book literally changed my life. That man right there, and what he has done for me and my life and my family… I’ve been to all his main events, and he’s just a phenomenal inspiration to me.

Joe Fairless: With your business, what are the different ways you make money?

Angelo Christian: The mortgage banking – we’re commercial and residential lender nation-wide, so we originate the mortgages, we make loans to people that are trying to buy apartment complexes, refinance their business; single-family homes, reverse mortgage, all over the country. That’s the origination, the primary market. That’s the main, core business.

The other core business is investment management. I’m a professional investor, so I manage clients’ assets with private and public equity. That’s one thing I really admire about you, is the passive income with the real estate investments. We have a few REITs that we invest in.

And then the third business is Real Estate University. It’s an online platform, a school that’s accredited in the United States to teach young people how to become top producers, multi-million-dollar producers in the real estate business.

Joe Fairless: What niche of the real estate business do you teach them?

Angelo Christian: Primarily mortgage banking. In fact, I’ve just published a book called “King of Real Estate: How To Instantly Make Millions”, and I teach the students and people that want to get into real estate how to become an entrepreneur and successful with the real estate business… Because that’s one of the biggest issues that I see, Joe, with real estate – there’s a high turnover, and very low income earned, in a business where just a few, small percentage are actually very successful. The book (it’s free, and everyone out there just has to pay for the shipping) basically breaks down, distills all of my experience – how to become an entrepreneur and be successful with real estate. The way that we do it is we teach someone, we bring them in brand new into the industry, they can be fresh out of school, or someone that wants to learn about real estate entrepreneurship – we teach them the business, how to become a top producers, and we actually give them equity and stock in the bank, we teach them how to open up their own branch, their own location, the bank that they actually own and have stock in the bank. We’ve done this for several hundred people, that actually have their own locations all over the country, and they actually have an equity position in their branch, and they end up becoming multi-millionaires. That’s the goal, the vision of King of Real Estate, the book that we just published, and a big, core part of our revenue.

Joe Fairless: So in that model, if someone does open up a bank, do you all have some sort of ownership in each of the banks that are opened up?

Angelo Christian: We do, we’re the primary — I’ll give you an example… One of our locations we’ve just opened up in Miami, in Brickell. He was with me for seven years in the Houston office; we were teaching him how to become a branch manager, teaching him how to run a P&L center… He was a top-producing loan officer. There’s a gradual growth process here, from apprentice to branch manager. We taught him the whole business, and then he decided he wanted to move to Miami, so we gave him 30% of the bank location in Miami. He runs that as a profit center, that he literally owns the stock in.

Joe Fairless: How do you open up a bank?

Angelo Christian: [laughs] You have to have a lot of money. Basically, there’s many different types of banks. There’s FDIC depositories, there’s mortgage banks… We’re in the mortgage banking sector, so the first thing is you usually have to have a net worth of about ten million dollars or greater to open up a mortgage bank, you have to have good credit, and you also have to secure funding lines through investors, either investment banks or through Wall-Street hedge funds. Those funding lines can be anywhere from 200 million to a billion dollars that you need to fund your loans on a warehouse line. It takes many years to be able to do this, unless you have the sufficient capital.

The idea for us is that  a lot of entrepreneurs, they get discouraged because they don’t have the money or the resources to be able to do it… So with our model what we’ve done is given to somebody that’s extremely hungry, ambitious, that wants to grow and contribute, the opportunity here to actually own their own bank and have equity in it, for someone that’s hardworking, that’s diligent, that doesn’t have to front-load all the capital and all the resources. We provide all the resources, the marketing, the human resource, HR, legal, compliance and all, to our branch managers.

Joe Fairless: With the three revenue streams that you mentioned – one is commercial and residential lender, two is investment management, and three is real estate university, which a subset of that is helping others open up mortgage banks, which then you have ownership in… Which one earns you the most profit?

Angelo Christian: Without a doubt the mortgage bank, right now. It’s our longest-running revenue stream. We’ve been in that over the 15 years. So mortgage banking, basically bringing in people, teaching them how to become branch owners, and then grooming them for entrepreneurship – that’s our main, core holding.

All these different branch locations that we have – they have their own teams there, they have their own process and their own fulfillment, their own underwriting, so each one produces a seven-figure opportunity.

Joe Fairless: And what would be the reason why someone would want to start a mortgage bank, versus fix and flip homes?

Angelo Christian: Here’s the thing, Joe – credit is a trillion dollar industry. Everyone always wants credit. Your people that need funding for apartment complexes, or someone needs to refinance their business to take out cash, or a cash-grab family wants to refinance to pay off debt, or a veteran wants to buy a home, or a millennial wants to buy a house – everyone’s always gonna need money to buy a house or something with real estate collateralized. It has massive profit margins, it’s doubly beneficial to the economy, you’re helping people, and it’s a sustainable business model. Regardless of what’s going on in the economy, people are gonna refinance or purchase a home, so it’s something that’s built to last, that’s enduring… Whereas fix and flip is a very good business, but it’s not a scalable — some of these branch managers have a 10-figure mortgage branch. It’s a massive, scalable industry that has gigantic profit margins, and it can be anywhere up to 60%. You have no heavy cost upfront for capital… The biggest cost on the P&L for a mortgage banking entity is just the commissions that you pay to your loan officers; there’s no ten million dollar property plant and equipment, there’s nothing like that… Or building out a restaurant, or a casino.

Joe Fairless: Right… So most of these don’t have brick and mortar locations.

Angelo Christian: No, they are brick and mortar, but the lease hold is — you pay for your rent, but… It’s usually not retail, it’s usually in an office setting, and the rent can be fairly negotiated, it could be a good price on the rent.

Joe Fairless: Sure.

Angelo Christian: The rent on our average buildings – they go for $12/foot, so the rent is very nominal.

Joe Fairless: With the up to 60% profit margins, what would be a product that would have a 60% profit margin?

Angelo Christian: The reverse mortgage, government loans like FHA, VA, USDA, government-backed loans, some of the commercial products, we bank those loans…

Joe Fairless: Educate me a little bit – why do FHA and VA government-backed loans like that have such a high profit margin to you?

Angelo Christian: That’s a great question. The thing is that they are insured and backed by the Federal government, so with that, the lender that makes the loan, they have less risk in the event of default that they’re gonna be indemnified. Let’s say that we make an FHA loan and the borrower goes into default – FHA will pay us off and indemnify us in the event of that default, so we have less risk, so it makes it more valuable on the marketplace when we go to securitize that mortgage on Wall-Street with whoever our investor is… Versus a conventional loan – the only person or entity that’s backing that conventional loan is [unintelligible [00:13:52].11] less credit-worthy, less strength, so the yield on those mortgages is about half of a government loan. So the government loan makes it more enticing to make that mortgage, so that’s why the investors bid up the yield on that type of product.

Joe Fairless: And what’s a product that has the slimmest profit margin?

Angelo Christian: The jumbo mortgage, so a large mortgage, like a jumbo loan, those have the slimmest yield. We offer them, but that’s not really our bread and butter customer.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] Of course it’s not, why would it be…?

Angelo Christian: Well, some banks specialize in those. We don’t have really a huge appetite for that.

Joe Fairless: And why do those have the slimmest?

Angelo Christian: Because usually the people that are able to get a jumbo mortgage, they’ll go directly to their bank to get the loan, and they’re not really out to the market place to get a loan… Because a jumbo mortgage – those are people that are buying one million to ten million dollar mortgages, and they’ll normally pay cash for a huge down payment, and they’re extremely aware and acute to fees and interest rates… And they’re normally gonna go to their bank to get the loan, they don’t need a third-party or another type of lender to work with. If they do decide to talk to another lender, there’s normally a bidding war, a rate war, a fee war, to compete for the business. It’s extremely competitive, so when that happens, obviously that erodes any type of margin; there’s margin compression, and then the profit is gonna go down.

Joe Fairless: When someone starts up a mortgage bank, what are some ways that you have found to be effective in getting new clients and customers?

Angelo Christian: That’s one of the things that we help with. We’ve built a pretty good social media following, and that’s really the main focus with our branch  locations, it’s [unintelligible [00:15:44].18] branding and social media. You’ve gotta get attention, you’ve gotta get the eyeballs on you… Using Facebook, using Instagram, using YouTube, using branding, becoming a local celebrity, dominating your market, become the premiere, the eminent provider of real estate in your area. Going out to the realtor office, going to the builders, doing a podcast, starting a show. You have to become the voice, the local presence, the domination. That’s why I’m so big about dominating; don’t even focus on competing, dominate your local market. You wanna become the kind of what you do.

Joe Fairless: And when you look back on your career over the last 3-5 years – what have been some challenges with growing your business over the last 3-5 years?

Angelo Christian: The biggest thing I would say is bringing in the right people. To scale this business or any great company you have to attract like-minded, passionate people, that are gonna be in it for the long-term. I would tell anyone that’s looking to build a company or that’s growing a company – you have to attract the right people to your organization, that are passionate, die-hard, have founder spirit. It’s so important that they have that spirit, that they’re gonna be willing to do whatever it takes and embody our core values. With my company, we make sure that everybody is embodying the core values every single day when they operate. So I would say that’s a huge thing.

The other thing that I think is really important is the training. You have to train your people constantly. We do trainings every single day – virtual trainings, live trainings. I can’t stress that enough. Real Estate University – if you check out that platform, you can do it from your phone, your computer, your tablet. It’s state of the art technology in how to teach people with video learning, backed with testing, with a diploma, to learn how to become a top producer.

So I would say the biggest thing is attracting the right people, and then product offering. You have to have irresistible products to offer to your customers. Irresistible products, then getting the message right, and then the training. Those are the three biggest challenges for us.

Joe Fairless: When it comes to attracting the right people – let’s say you’ve attracted a bunch of people to apply for a position… What are some ways that you qualify them during the interview process?

Angelo Christian: Great question, Joe. One of the things that we look for during the interview – we have a four-step process whenever we hire somebody. The first time when someone comes in – let’s say it’s a group orientation, it’s a meet-and-greet, they tell us their story, their goals; we meet with them, and then we have them do a shadowing at the office. After they’re done with their shadowing, we get a group consensus of what the team thinks of these people – is it a yay or nay?

From there, we distill down to the second interview; if we think that they’re good, then they’ll come back and they’ll do a focused one-on-one shadowing with the branch manager or the sales force or the processing, or whatever department that we’re looking for. We really want to almost like see their level of dedication; how many times can they come back, we ask open-ended questions to them, we wanna see how they respond to those open-ended questions, and we wanna watch their behavior, their mannerisms, how hungry they are… We call them PSDs, and PSD stands for Poor, Smart, with a Deep Desire for success, for wealth.

Joe Fairless: Poor? You want them to be poor when they come to your company?

Angelo Christian: Yeah. When I say poor, what I’m referring to is that they had some level of adversity or challenge… For example, we find that people that had to pay for their own education, they had to work two jobs to make ends meet… I’ve had several people that came in, “Daddy paid for everything; he pays for my bills, I don’t pay for my college. What are you gonna do for me?” People that have high levels of narcissism, they typically don’t work out with us. We’re looking for people that took care of themself, they’re very responsible, they take extreme ownership.

So I’m not saying poor like living on the street, I’m saying that they’ve had some type of adversity in their life. They served in the military, they played a professional sport, they took on three jobs to pay for school… So something happened in their life where they had to take extreme responsibility and take ownership for their life – those are people that do very well for us. They’re very smart people — and they don’t have to have a 4.0 GPA, but they’re smart people, and they have a huge desire for their life, they’re hungry for life.

Joe Fairless: So that’s P… What were the other letters in the acronym?

Angelo Christian: S, Smart, and then D, Deep Desire.

Joe Fairless: Got it, okay. Thanks for elaborating on that. I love the qualifying someone based on having some adversity and challenge, and how they’ve overcome it.

Angelo Christian: Yeah. And then how we finish that up is they do the personality test. There’s a Dark Triad test, a Myers-Briggs test, the Big Five, they do the psychological test… But really how they interact through behavior, the open-ended questions… And then from there we all have to agree to hire that person. I can’t supersede anybody; all the team has to agree to bring this person in. If all the team gives a thumbs up, then we bring the person in. That’s our process.

Joe Fairless: Taking a step back, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Angelo Christian: I would say if you’re gonna invest in real estate, you need to have a margin of safety. I would say focus on the value, not the price. Anytime that you’re gonna be investing in real estate, have a margin of safety, and focus on the intrinsic value of the underlying asset, not the price… And make sure you have a margin of safety in there.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Angelo Christian: Yes, sir.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:21:40].12] to [00:22:35].22]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?

Angelo Christian: I read about 4-5 books a month. The last one I read was Dream Big.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Angelo Christian: It was a 32 million dollar apartment complex.

Joe Fairless: Why was that the best ever?

Angelo Christian: Right now it’s giving us about a 16% return, so I like it. And we got it for about 20% off. It was a foreclosure.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made in real estate?

Angelo Christian: Paying too much.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back?

Angelo Christian: Through Angelo Christian Foundation. No Child Left Behind is our foundation. We’ve raised about 295k last year on that, and also Susan G. Komen, the cancer foundation, and the Wounded Warrior Project, to help disabled veterans.

Joe Fairless: And how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’ve got going on with your company?

Angelo Christian: Yes, absolutely. Check out OfficialAngeloChristian.com, and please join my podcast. We have the Real Estate Insider, but you go to OfficialAngeloChristian.com.

Joe Fairless: Got it. I will make sure that’s included in the show notes. Angelo, I really enjoyed our conversation, your story, and the personal development focus certainly shines through, and so does the Tony Robbins influence. When you said you like to get into peak mental state every day, I was like “Hm, Tony Robbins…”, but I asked the question anyway, and sure enough, we both have a strong affinity towards him and what he teaches.

The mortgage bank approach, and the business model, and essentially franchising that – that’s kind of what you’re doing – it’s really interesting. I don’t think I’ve come across it after 1,500-1,600 interviews. Maybe I have, but you position it differently, so it seems new to me. It seems really interesting.

Angelo Christian: I’m very grateful. I’ve wanted to be in your presence for a while, and like I said, I’m a firm believer in your message to your followers, and if any of this can add value to your followers, please, let’s get it out there.

Joe Fairless: Cool. Well, I enjoyed our conversation. I’m looking forward to staying in touch. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you soon.

Angelo Christian: Yes, sir. Take care, thank you so much.


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