March 19, 2022

JF2755: How She Used Instagram To Raise $1,000,000 In Private Money ft. Soli Cayetano


Investor Soli Cayetano was able to retire at the age of 23 thanks to her popular Instagram account, Lattes and Leases. In this episode, Soli reveals the social media strategy that helped her connect with private money lenders to fund her deals and how she plans to grow in the future.

Soli Cayetano | Real Estate Background

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Slocomb Reed: Best Ever listeners, welcome to Cincinnati's Best Ever Real Estate Investor Mastermind. We meet on the last Tuesday of every month in the Deer Park Community Center and we hope that you listeners have the opportunity to join us. Here with us today we have Soli Cayetano.

Soli is in the process of moving to Cincinnati from the Bay Area in California. She is a 24-year-old real estate investor who in her first 15 months as an investor has bought 25 doors, consisting of a few flips and buy-and-hold properties ranging from one to 10 units. She's used a combination of conventional financing, commercial private money partnerships, and hard money to finance these projects. She has met some of her private money through social media, which is something I hope we get to talk about. Soli, why don't you give us a little bit more about your background and what you're currently focused on?

Soli Cayetano: Sure. Thanks for having me. I'm excited today. I'm originally from California and my background is in commercial real estate. I was a broker for quite a few years and then transitioned into residential investing. I decided to come to Cincinnati to invest because of my background in commercial real estate. We were doing a big deal here in Cincinnati; I saw the market, eat some really good food, met some great people, and was sold. I bought my first house mid-pandemic, it was June of 2020, and was hooked on real estate investing after that; I bought a bunch. Over the last 15 months, I flipped, bought, and held, I'm launching Airbnb next month, which I'm really excited about... And that brings us here today.

Slocomb Reed: That first one that you bought, was that in Cincinnati?

Soli Cayetano: It was, it was in Norwood.

Slocomb Reed: While you were living in the Bay Area.

Soli Cayetano: Off of Zillow, 2500 miles away. I bought it sight unseen, put an offer in sight unseen. I guess it sounds a little bit crazy now, but it wasn't so bad when I did it.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. Well, if I can ask briefly what has come of that single-family bought off of Zillow sight unseen since then?

Soli Cayetano: I put about 15 grand into the renovation. It appraised for $155,000.

Slocomb Reed: What did you buy it for?

Soli Cayetano: $100,000. Yeah, I wish I could still find a $100,000 house in Norwood. It appraised for $155,000, six months later, I refinanced all but $7,000 out. It rents for 1,500 bucks a month which makes me about 600 bucks a month. I still self-manage that one.

Slocomb Reed: Yeah, so your return on investment is about 100%.

Soli Cayetano: 80% to be exact.

Slocomb Reed: 80%. So only an 80% cash-on-cash return after the refi, nice. I know a couple of things about you - this isn't our first time having a conversation, and one of the reasons that I wanted to make sure I got you in front of these people and in front of our Best Ever listeners is because I know that there are things that you're doing that I need to learn from when it comes to real estate investing. There are a couple of them in particular that I want to ask you about. The first is, your social media presence I know is a big deal for your investing. I was a freshman in college when Facebook was allowed for any university email address. Ever since then, I've gotten further and further away from the cutting edge of social media. Tell me what it is that you do with regards to real estate investing and social media.

Soli Cayetano: So it started as just a way to guess vlog my first property. After I bought the first one, I flew out to Cincinnati. I learned how to use a drill, I slept on the floor, I got food poisoning, I had my car broken into, and I vlogged the whole thing. I guess people grabbed on to the authenticity of sharing on social media, some of the really tough things about your first property. So it started to snowball; I didn't think anyone would follow me but my mom. But I kind of grew an audience and now I raise a lot of private money off of social media.

I've had my Instagram for probably, I don't know, a year and a half maybe by now, and have raised, I don't know, half a million to a million from people that I met off the internet. It's surprisingly easy, because I feel like they know me and they follow me every day, because I blog every day. So when we have conversations, the first thing that usually comes out of their mouth is "I feel like I know you." It's a lot easier to build credibility that way.

Slocomb Reed: Nice. So you come to Cincinnati because you bought a house in Norwood, you get food poisoning, and now you're raising capital through Instagram.

Soli Cayetano: It's easy. [laughs]

Slocomb Reed: Yeah, right? Well, I want to ask, is Instagram the only social media platform that you're sharing real estate investing on?

Soli Cayetano: Right now, yes. But I hear Twitter's the next big thing, which is funny, because it's coming back around. I hear all the biggest real estate investors and crypto traders and all sorts of things are sitting on Twitter right now, so it's something to consider.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. Instagram has been good for you, just an opportunity to share your experience with the world that has turned into garnering interest from people who have capital and are looking for a return. Can you tell us how that progressed? How long you were posting, how frequently you were posting, and when you started to gain traction?

Soli Cayetano: My first private money lender was my mother. I didn't ask her for private money, but she told me, "I've been watching your Instagram for the past three months. I really want to be part of this. Can I invest with you?" I didn't even know what private money was at that point, and didn't know how to structure it, how to raise it, anything like that. But because she asked me, I was like, “Mom, okay. Let's do this thing.” So I have her as a debt investor, and I guess we'll talk about the difference between debt and equity. That was my first foray into private money-raising, I guess, unintentionally.

After that, people just started to come to me through my DMs, because I talked about how I raised private money unintentionally. So then the question was, "Oh, what is private money? How do I get involved with private lending?" I think through that and sharing more and more and more about how I use private money to fund deals opens up the door to people who have a bunch of money stacked up and don't know what to do with it.

Slocomb Reed: What I'm hearing is you were just sharing your experience on Instagram; you were approached by your mother about helping you fund future deals. And as you continued to share your experience in real estate investing as it grew, it sounds like what that became was opportunities to educate people who were reaching out to you through Instagram. Some of those people actually looking for opportunities to get into real estate investing that you were educating them on.

Soli Cayetano: Yeah. I hosted a How to Raise Private Money seminar, which was actually great marketing for me, because I taught people how to raise private money. Some people who are on the call are like, “No, I don't actually want to go do it myself. But since I just heard your presentation, can I invest my money with you?” I think the more you can educate people on what private lending is and the benefits of private lending, the more interested they become in growing their wealth. Because there's so much money floating out there in the world, and everyone's looking for a way to get a return on their money. So where people think that raising money is begging people for money, it's actually providing an opportunity for people to grow their wealth in alternative assets.

Slocomb Reed: Soli, for the record, you put in your bio your age. I was just told that, so I felt like I had permission to say it. I know through my conversations with you that I can see some clear advantages in your investing to being a member of Gen Z, and how quickly -- you wanted to share your experience through social media. Not in an exclusively Gen Z way, but how your age and your generation have been a benefit to you - have you come across times when you feel like your age has been a detriment?

Soli Cayetano: I think I carry myself older than a 24-year-old, so I've been told. I don't usually broadcast my age to people who I meet on the street. Most people don't think I'm 24, so I don't think so. I think that people who do know and who know me from social media are pretty impressed with what I've accomplished and how well I carry myself, that it's not about age, it's about the experience, and I racked up a lot of experience pretty quickly.

Break: [00:11:51] - [00:13:47]

Slocomb Reed: Our analytics for the podcast show that Best Ever listeners are already fairly sophisticated, so I just give a quick summary when it comes to Capital Partners and debt partners. What a lot of people are familiar with is apartment syndication or a partnership in which partners who are engaged in a limited capacity or limited partners have some equity stake in the deal, that they're getting as a result of the capital investment. The performance of their capital in the deal ebbs and flows with the performance of the property involved. Debt investing, however, is where someone is effectively making you a loan, having some sort of interest or guaranteed return, if you can say. And the expectation is that their debt will perform whether or not the property performs as well as expected. You've decided that you want to focus on bringing on debt partners. Can you give us a couple of examples of how you structured that now and why you choose to raise debt instead of getting capital partners?

Soli Cayetano: So I can keep the equity. But I think a lot of people who want equity stakes want equity stakes when the property's doing well. They don't actually want to consider what happens in a worst-case scenario and people lose money. So if you tell them the extreme case, the roof caves, the building burns down, and someone has to come out with $50,000, do you? Usually, the answer is "No, I want a really passive investment and I want my return that's guaranteed." So it's out of security, I think, it's a lot simpler to go into debt; then the person's not as nervous about what you're doing day-to-day and whether or not they're going to get the return that they were promised. It's just whether the building burns down or it doesn't, you're going to get the return that I promised you, no matter what.

The flip side is I get to keep the equity, which is great, because I get the depreciation, which is very helpful for taxes.

On your question on how to structure it - right now, I'm doing anywhere between 8% to 12%, usually a nine-month term, and no points. It's either a personal guarantee if they want it, or it's a mortgage, like a deed to the property, the first position, if they can fund the entire project.

Slocomb Reed: You said 8% to 12%, it's nine months. Is that...

Soli Cayetano: APR, so it's annualized.

Slocomb Reed: Yeah, of course, 8% to 12% APR, and it's a nine-month balloon. That's a pretty quick turnaround. I know you do some house flipping with debt like this. Are you also structuring it that way when you buy multifamily?

Soli Cayetano: No, that's for flipping. I would say that people from the internet want to develop some type of trust. I guess they feel like they know me, but they also want to test the markets with their investment. They probably don't want to put money in for longer than nine months or 12 months; they want to get that return back and then decide whether they want to reinvest it. Friends and family are more willing to keep their money in longer, a lot more patient money. The longest term I have is three years; there's one at two years. It's all flexible. That's the great thing about private money, is you can negotiate literally anything you want, with whoever you want, any structure you want. That's for the commercial 5 to 10-unit BRRRs that I'm doing. It takes about a year to reposition them and refinance, so in order to get an extra buffer, it's two years, and I'll refinance and pay them back.

Slocomb Reed: When you're looking at a 12 to 18-month turnaround on a multi-unit, are you making interest-only payments? Is it all accruing and paid out when you refinance? How is that structured?

Soli Cayetano: It depends on the project and it depends on the investor. On all flips, I like to pay back on the back-end, because it helps with managing cash flow. For flips, I'll pay back on the back end. One of the longer-term, bigger loans for multifamily - they kind of that consistent cash flow if they're going to have it tied up for 18 to 24 months, so oftentimes we'll pay interest-only payments on the longer term.

Slocomb Reed: Plus, if you're talking about a 10-unit building - and I think you have a 10 unit right now that you're doing this on. If you're talking about a 10 unit, there should be some revenue generated by the property in the meantime as well.

Soli Cayetano: There should be. [laughs]

Slocomb Reed: Should be, yes. Of course, if you are emptying out a building, you've got no revenue until you can get tenants back in there. But that segment of the process is not 18 to 24 months, so it makes more sense. How much are you raising for your deals? For a flip or for a 10-unit BRRRR, are you raising 100% of the purchase and rehab?

Soli Cayetano: For the flips, yes. Someone will come in and fund the entire thing. Usually, it's somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000, something like that. The multifamily - no. So we've been raising the down payments and the construction funds. For the 10-unit, we raised $400,000-some for the down payment, had a commercial loan for 75% of it, and then the construction is about $350,000. It's a big one.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. That deal is still pretty early on, isn't it?

Soli Cayetano: Yes, the construction is starting next week. It's probably a four to a six-month turnaround time for those units, because they're pretty large renovations, and it'll be leased up and refinanced probably by the end of the year.

Slocomb Reed: Gotcha. I know you were brokering commercial real estate deals before you started investing here in Cincinnati; you've been here investing for 15 months... I know that you flip houses to build capital to invest in buy-and-hold deals. Have you been doing it long enough yet, or are you intending that the people who reach out to you through social media fund 100% of the cost of flipping a house and get all their money back in six to nine months? Is the plan to convert those private capital partners or lenders into lending on larger buy-and-hold deals in the future after you've garnered more trust?

Soli Cayetano: Absolutely. The thought is a smaller amount of private money lenders are better quality, so they're coming with more money, say half a million to a million dollars. They have more trust in the process, because we work together, we've proven that we'll pay them back their money in the time that we told them we would, and then they feel comfortable keeping their money in long-term.

Slocomb Reed: Awesome. Well, Soli, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Soli Cayetano: Sure.

Slocomb Reed: What is the Best Ever book you've recently read?

Soli Cayetano: I knew these were coming and I'm still stumped. I really liked The Comfort Crisis. It's a book on doing really hard things and some of the benefits of stretching your comfort zone.

Slocomb Reed: I'm going to have to read that, I haven't heard of that one yet. What is your Best Ever way to give back?

Soli Cayetano: Probably teaching people who want to get into investing, spending time teaching them how to get started. I think I'm pretty new, relatively; I still remember a lot of the feelings that I had and I still have a lot of feelings toward investing. So I think I can relate a lot better to people who are just starting out, because I was in their shoes not too long ago.

Slocomb Reed: What is the biggest challenge you've overcome in real estate investing?

Soli Cayetano: Managing hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations from California.

Slocomb Reed: In Cincinnati.

Soli Cayetano: In Cincinnati. [laughs] That's tough.

Slocomb Reed: Do you have any tips or lessons learned for people who are facing similar things, investing remotely with six-figure rehabs that they have to manage?

Soli Cayetano: I really think it comes down to having the right team in place. I did not the best job vetting my contractors prior to hiring them, and then I made the mistake of putting one contractor on four projects, and then having to fire that contractor and pick up the pieces on the back-end, which is why I'm here today. So I think it really comes down to vetting people, talking to multiple people, not giving someone too much too fast, and letting them earn your trust.

Slocomb Reed: Yeah, contractors have been tough the last couple of years. It's definitely felt like whoever has the labor makes the rules, the rest of us just have to play by them. Soli, what is your Best Ever advice?

Soli Cayetano: I'd say don't let not knowing stop you from doing it. I think a lot of people wait until they know and they feel comfortable. Even like starting investing, starting raising private money, hiring somebody, hiring VAs, training a team, everyone wants to get really comfy before they jump in. But if you just jump in and figure it out, sometimes you fail fast fail often and you get further faster.

Slocomb Reed: Absolutely. Now, aside from attending Cincinnati's Best Ever Real Estate Investor Mastermind, how can people get in touch with you?

Soli Cayetano: Probably my Instagram’s the best way. It's kind of funny, but it's @lattes.and.leases. I made the name when I thought no one would follow me, and now it's just stuck.

Slocomb Reed: Lattes and leases.

Soli Cayetano: That's where you find me.

Slocomb Reed: Nice. Awesome. Well, Best Ever listeners, thank you for listening in to our podcast. If you got some value from this conversation with Soli, please follow and subscribe to our podcast, leave us a five-star review and share this with a friend so that we can add value to them, too. Thank you and have a Best Ever day.

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