October 13, 2020

JF2233: 4th Generation Real Estate Investor Corina Eufingere


Corina is the owner of Brio Properties rental management and Chairman of Wisconsin Apartment Association. She is a 4th generation real estate investor who started at a young age helping her parents and grandparents on their properties, cleaning, fixing, working on the lawns and with tenants. One of the problems she saw her family deal with was with property management companies. With this in mind she decided to focus on her own property management with the goal of making it easier for people to work with.

Corina Eufingere (u-finger)  Real Estate Background:

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Best Ever Tweet:

“We need to bring the human being factor back into real estate” – Corina Eufingere

Theo Hicks: Hello best ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’re speaking with Corina Eufingere.

Corina, how you doing today?

Corina Eufingere: I’m good. How are you?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing good. Thanks for asking and thanks for joining us. A little bit about Corina, she’s the owner of Brio Properties Rental Management and chairman of the Wisconsin Apartment Association. She’s a fourth-generation real estate investor. Her personal portfolio consists of 12 units and then she manages 135 other units. She’s based out of Wisconsin, and you can say hi to her at http://briopropertieswi.com/.

Corina, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Corina Eufingere: Sure. I’ve been around real estate my entire life. My grandparents, parents were all real estate investors. Interestingly enough, I traded [unintelligible [00:04:02] chores for working on all of their properties growing up; so I didn’t have to do the dishes, I didn’t have to mow the lawn, I didn’t have to do my own laundry, because I was spending my nights, my weekends and my summers working on my parent’s properties. But I learned a lot of practical experience doing that. Of course, when you’re that age, you’re doing the gruntwork, you’re doing the landscaping, you’re doing the turnovers and cleaning out the trash. But that’s really where I got my passion for real estate and I kind of saw what it did for my parents as they aged. It gave them some great passive income that they utilized until the day they died.

It was something that I think I knew deep down I was always going to be involved in. It took me a little bit, because I did a little bit of a detour, but I did end up purchasing my own property. So right now I do have 12, and I made those purchases about six years ago. I also do have my property management company that I started because I’ve heard the horror stories that exist out there in the forums, places like that, about how bad some property management companies are.

I’ve really sort of honed in on balancing between knowing what investors want, knowing some of the horror stories that come along that I’ve heard, and creating a management company that really does feel like they are on your side versus just on their own side and filling their own pockets.

Right now, honestly, I have been so focused on keeping not only my investments but my management company on the forefront of COVID and everything we’ve had in response in this industry in regards to that. That’s taken up all of my mental space for the past four months. And it’s going to continue to, because we’re not quite done with this yet.

Theo Hicks: Sure. You said that you bought your units six years ago, so you haven’t bought a property in six years; your focus is the management company.

Corina Eufingere: The first deal I did was six years ago, and then the second one that I did to finish off the 12 that I had was about two years after that, so about four years ago. So, yes.

Theo Hicks: Okay. Did you start the management company before you started buying these properties or was this something that you realized after you’ve had a bad experience with a management company?

Corina Eufingere: No, I started the management company about a year before I made the first deal. I always knew first that I knew I was going to get into property management, because I had had relatives that had horror stories with property managers, and I actually kind of lived through some of that. Once I got that under my belt, I got through to my team, it just made more sense then at that point to start building my portfolio.

Theo Hicks: Okay. How many units did you have under management before you bought your first deal? I guess during that first year, how many clients did you get?

Corina Eufingere: Clients, I had three, but that was about 73 units.

Theo Hicks: Okay, 73 units. So about half of the units you manage now or before. Walk us through how you’re able to get 73 units under management in one year.

Corina Eufingere: Well, the way I was able to do that was there was some connections that I’ve had. Growing up in real estate, I have connections. There was a couple that owned a property management company, they were retiring, moving on to a better life in Florida. I had worked with them way back when I was a teenager. They called me up and they said, “Hey, we want to step away from this. We’ve got this company right now, we’ve got employees. We don’t want to just close it up and say, ‘Hey, guys, good luck, go find other jobs.’ We want to be able to continue to have them have jobs and have them be provided for. So would you be interested in moving things over from our company to yours?”

That’s what I did. I basically went through negotiations with them, and I met the owners that they currently had, I made sure we were going to gel, we were going to match… Because property management is definitely one of those things where you’ve got to have a good rapport between yourself and your client, or between you and the property manager. Because if you don’t get along, everything’s going to be so much worse. So I did all of that. And when all that was said and done, I ended up with a company where I had one part-time leasing agent, I had two maintenance personnel and out of that 73 units with three clients.

Theo Hicks: So one leasing agent, and then the two maintenance people – they came from the other company. Did you just assume them on and actually qualify them again, or did you make sure that you wanted to keep them before keeping them on? Do they still work for you today?

Corina Eufingere: Oh, I definitely made sure I want to keep them on. Because one thing I’ve learned from just business in general is you don’t want to have people on your ship per se—let’s think of a business as a ship; you don’t have people on your ship that don’t want to be on your ship or they can’t function in the role that you need them to.

When I was interviewing owners, I, of course  was interviewing the maintenance staff, and then the leasing agent that came with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of them left with me anymore. Most of them stuck around for about six and a half years. I was really fortunate that they did stick with me a long time. Some of the circumstances were sort of out of control and it’s just sort of the way things turn out, because sometimes you got to make hard decisions in business. Some of these were hard decisions, to not necessarily move forward beyond that point with some of them.

Theo Hicks: Who’s on your team right now? Not like people-wise, but I guess position wise. How many leasing agents, maintenance people, anything else that you have on your team from the starting point of one part-time leasing agent and then two maintenance people? Where are you at today?

Corina Eufingere: Right now today, I’m at having three maintenance personnel. I also have a resident manager that manages a certain region of Wisconsin for us; then I have a property manager, I have a director of operations and then I do have one leasing agent, but we do sort of hybrid out; the property manager does a little bit of leasing and then that regional manager also does some leasing as well. That’s where my team’s at right now with seven, eight people.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. In what order did you hire them?

Corina Eufingere: The property manager was the first addition I made once I had kept the leasing agent and the maintenance staff. I brought on that property manager to take care of the admin to get it off of me, because it’s hard to grow your company when you’re in the throes of the day to day operation. In order for me to really step away and continue to make this grow and get it to grow, I had to bring that person on to handle the day to day property management. Of course, I’d make sure they were qualified, because me being an investor, I wanted to be sure they knew what they were doing. Because this means a lot to me, what I do, because I see the other side of it. I’m not just somebody who does the property management side of it.

I went to my clients, I made sure my property manager was very qualified. Once I got the property manager, then I actually went on to having that third maintenance guy, because at some point, that’s going to happen. We got the maintenance guy, and then we went on to getting the regional manager and then lastly, the director of operations.

Theo Hicks: It sounds like the property manager was the one that was the most important. You mentioned that you made sure that this person was qualified, and they knew what they were doing.

Corina Eufingere: Yes.

Theo Hicks: Can you give me specifics on the types of things you wanted to see out of this person background-wise? Any type of specific interview question? Maybe you kind of walk us through what this process looked like, where do you find them, things like that.

Corina Eufingere: Oddly enough, when I hired this person, the original intent of the ad was actually more of a social media manager. And then she came to me she had all this property management experience. She’d worked with a lady out of Kenosha who was really well-known in the community as being a great real estate agent for investors. So she already came with this knowledge of understanding things like in regards to return on investment and understanding capital investments, capital expenditures. She also understood how so much of our jobs as property manager is negating the risk involved. She really hones in on risk liability, and that’s one of the things that I love about her is, she will just be at times very blunt with the owners and say, “Hey, this is a risk liability for you. This is what can happen if we don’t fix this, if this isn’t addressed, or if we don’t do it this way.” She came to me as this sort of pre-programmed package with so much real estate experience, because she was honestly trained by one of the best people that existed in that area.

Theo Hicks: And then the ad, you said you created an ad for your social media person. Where did you post this ad?

Corina Eufingere: That was Craigslist, I believe. That was still back when you didn’t have to charge on Craigslist for a job post.

Theo Hicks: Nice. I know what maintenance people do… I’m kind of confused about the regional managers. So is the regional manager in charge of your one property manager, or do you have multiple regional managers?

Corina Eufingere: The regional manager, because the majority my team is based in an area of the state which is about 80 miles away from this other location that we’ve branched out into, we needed some of the boots on the ground. This regional manager – we call him our regional manager… Yeah, it’s not quite the greatest title, because sometimes you hear regional manager, you think they supervise other people, property managers… This regional manager is in charge of being boots on the ground in that area of the state that is a further distance away from where the majority of my maintenance is based or my property managers based. She’s our boots on the ground there.

Theo Hicks: Got it. What about the director of operations? Why did you decide to bring that person on? I saw that that was your most recent hire. What is that person’s responsibilities?

Corina Eufingere: That person’s responsibility is keeping all of our documents and our policies up to date. Because in real estate, especially as being a licensed real estate entity here in Wisconsin, there is a fair amount of pressure on us to not only be ethical, but also to make sure all of our I’s are dotted and our T’s are crossed, all of our ducks are in a row.

Whenever we have any sort of law change or anything that goes on, she is responsible for making sure all of our paperwork is still up to snuff, getting our staff retrained on whatever may have changed, and making sure our policies are still good for how we need to remain ethical.

She does a lot of continuing training. One thing we do is we do quarterly training with our staff. Sometimes it’s just maintenance, sometimes it’s just office staff. And their refresher is on things like fair housing or maybe their refresher is on how evictions are run, or how we need to handle confidentiality. She’s really in charge of making sure that our employees are trained to not only be ethical, but also be able to uphold any laws that we are subject to ourselves.

Theo Hicks: And then what are your responsibilities? Maybe to be more specific, if it helps, what does your typical week look like, or your responsibilities? Either one.

Corina Eufingere: My typical week, there’s still a little bit of the company stuff that I’m involved in. I still do some of the end of month processing for our owners. I still do that. I still do oversee payroll in regards to our portfolio, because one of the easiest ways that people embezzle money is actually through payroll. I decided to hold on to that, keep that process within myself.

Outside of those stuff, I’m really focused on the bigger picture and growing this company, because now I’m responsible for these seven or eight people that rely on me for having a job, for having income. I took that very seriously in the past couple months, because we had to adapt a lot of how we operated, because we weren’t doing things in person. I had to come up with, okay, we can’t do things in person. How are we going to communicate with our tenants, if we have somebody that wants to move in, how’s the showing going to look like?

Really, I’m focused on keeping us on the forefront of not only what’s been going on, but also making sure we are taking advantage of the technology and some of the trends that are existing out there and making sure we are being the most efficient that we possibly can for our clients. That’s honestly the great thing about my role right now – I’ve stepped more out into the brainstormer role, the creative role of being able to look at the company, figure out how we can make things better, how we can make things different, but efficient. That’s what I really enjoy about where I’ve been in my company recently.

Theo Hicks: Alright. What is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Corina Eufingere: My best real estate investing advice ever is once you buy your property, always remember there is a tenant relations aspect to this. There is this need to have human interaction, to remember that we are renting out homes to people and this is a place that they live. This is a huge chunk of their lives. This isn’t just a business for us. There’s little aspects of it that are human interactions, customer service. It’s such a big part of how we operate and it’s one of the biggest complaints that so many people have about their landlord, is that the landlord doesn’t treat them like they’re an actual human being, and we need to bring that human being factor back into real estate and make sure we are treating our tenants like human beings.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Corina. Are you ready for the best ever lightning round?

Corina Eufingere: Yes.

Theo Hicks: All right.

Break: [00:17:35] to [00:18:23]

Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Corina Eufingere: Right now, I’m just finishing up, I’m 97% of the way through it. It’s What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow by Frank Gallinelli. This is a book that there’s a lot of math in here, a lot of equations in here, a lot of useful terminologies. What I love about it is he breaks it down into “These are terms that you’ll hear people say, but they’re really not that important anymore, these are old terms, and then these are the metrics that you really should be looking at when you’re purchasing your properties.” That’s what I love about his book.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Corina Eufingere: You know, I’d probably do the same thing I think Robert Kiyosaki says in his Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Even if this business collapsed today and mine does, I still have all the knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years, I still have all my experience, so I’d just start over again.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Corina Eufingere: I am an 11-year cancer survivor. So one of the ways that I love to give back is I love to communicate with people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer or are going through it. I had it at a point in my life where I thought I was invincible. I was in my mid-20s and everyone thinks they’re invincible then.

One of the things I really enjoy doing nowadays is giving hope and direction to those young people who have been faced with that same awful diagnosis that honestly, no 20 somethings should have to deal with, but when you do, if you go into it with the right mentality, you can come out on the other side with such a positive, awesome view of life that you’re going to look back at the old person and then be like, “Wow, this might be the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Theo Hicks: Lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?

Corina Eufingere: I do have an Instagram account, it’s Landlord Chick, and you can reach me over there. You can, of course, reach me at http://briopropertieswi.com/. I’m usually lurking around on Instagram a couple times a day. Also on BiggerPockets as well.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Corina, thanks for joining us today and essentially walking us through how you were able to create your property management company. First, you talked about why you created your own property management company is due to all of the various horror stories you’ve heard about third party management. I’m sure a lot of people listening can relate.

You mentioned you started your management company before you bought your properties, and we focused on the management company in this conversation. You actually started off with a pretty quick start. You mentioned that you ended up inheriting employees, as well as clients from a previous private management company, someone who had worked with you growing up, who were retiring and didn’t want to close everything down and tell their clients ‘good luck’. So you took over those 73 units.

You mentioned that after you had your leasing agent and your two maintenance people, your next hired your property manager, who took away a lot of the admin work away from you. And you mentioned that you made sure that she knew what she was doing, she was qualified. You posted an ad in Craigslist for a social media manager, and actually this person replied, and you realized how experienced they were, that they were an investor-friendly agent in the past. They were trained by one of the best. And they focus a lot on risk liability, which you really liked.

After that, you hired a third maintenance person and then a regional manager who was someone who’s the boots on the ground in an area that was a little further away from where you managed most of your properties, and where the rest of your team is. And then you mentioned your last hire was the Director of Operations, who’s responsible for keeping the documents and policies up to date.

And then you mentioned what you did, which was still focusing on some of the admin work end of month processing for owners overseeing payroll, but then also focusing on the bigger picture and how to grow your company.

And then your best ever advice, which I think is really good, is that make sure that you always remember that you have a tenant who’s a human being. The biggest complaint you’re going to get from tenants is that they’re not treated like a human being, so making sure you’re focusing on the tenant relations aspects of the business and not just looking at them as just a number on a spreadsheet.

Thanks again for joining us, lots of solid property management advice. Best ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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