Luminita Ispas is originally from Romania and her initial real estate goal was to construct the tallest building in Europe. While that’s still a future goal, for now she’s become one of Chicago’s most successful brokers! She believes educating her clients in achieving financial freedom through real estate investing. She has been teaching these seminars for 15 years and still does to this day! Lumi is also finishing up a book about this very topic coming out next year!
To attend one of Lumi’s seminars…
Date: Last Saturday of every month
Location: 1161 W Madison, Chicago, IL 60607
D.J. Paris 0:14
Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keeping it real, the only podcast made by real estate brokers in Chicago for real estate brokers in Chicago. My name is DJ Paris, I am your host through the show. What we do here is interview the top brokers real estate producers in the Chicagoland area and ask them to reveal what they do and how they built their business and how they have treated, how they treat their clients what they offer, and maybe what separates them from the rest of the pack. And today is no exception. We have Luminita Espace coming up in just a couple of minutes. And she is a wonderful, and I think you’ll really enjoy this because the way she built her business, I think, is is very different from how a lot of brokers have. And we’re nearing the end of 2017. We’re 30 some episodes in and we’re very grateful for everyone that has continued to support our show by telling another broker in their office that they should listen. In particular, I find that new brokers seem to really appreciate these interviews to learn from what the top heavy hitters are doing. Also, we have sponsors now. So if you’re someone that would like to sponsor the podcast, you can sponsor an episode, you just reach out to us, let us know. And of course, if you’re not already a subscriber to this podcast, you can do that on iTunes or on Google Play, or stream episodes live at keeping it real pod.com. Also, drop us a line, let us know if there’s anyone that you think we should be interviewing for the podcast in a future episode, or just to let us know what you like and maybe what you don’t like. Now, one thing I did want to make sure before we start this great interview with Lumi is one thing that we forgot to do is plug her she does these investor seminars every month, you’ll hear about how she did that to actually grow her business from the very beginning. She does it to this day. And we just simply forgot to explain and brokers are invited to come and learn as well not just buyers and sellers. So she wanted to make sure that that we gave information to the listeners about how they can learn about these and maybe even attend one, the name of the seminar that she does is how to become financially free in five years or less with little down by the way, she is writing a book too, that talks about this very subject but the seminars are they are available last Saturday of every month, and they are located at 1161 West Madison, Chicago, Illinois 60607 And they are from 10 to 12 o’clock, so last Saturday of every month 1161 West Madison or just reach out to Lumi and her team and they’ll give you that information. So thanks again we’re finishing up the year here with just a few final interviews. We’re going to go strong in 2018 with Carrie McCormack, which we do a monthly episode with and now we’re adding in ERIC workman to do a monthly episode around investments. So we’re really going to do some big things here and thanks again for supporting the show.
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Okay today on this show, we’re really excited because we have Luminita, otherwise known as Lumi. Looney is spus from Century 21 SG R. And normally we read this big long bio bio of our guests and Lumi certainly has one of those BIOS because she’s accomplished so much, but just a couple of the key highlights she is a top 1% producer. She’s also a top century one producer with a Gosh, dozens of awards. She’s won over the last 15 years. She’s been in the business including the Centurion award last year, which I’m assuming is about the highest award she can get as of century 21 broker. She’s also a mentor. She’s an investor, she works with investors, she teaches classes on investments and she’s also an author or almost author about to be an author. So We are so excited to have you on the show. So welcome looming.
Luminita Ispas 5:03
Thank you, TJ. Excited to be here. Well,
D.J. Paris 5:07
thank you. So you know, you do have this storied and impressive history and a series of experiences over the last 15 years. Can you tell us how you had to get involved in real estate?
Luminita Ispas 5:18
That’s a great question. I’ve always dreamed to become a realtor. Yeah, right. So, my life, I always wanted to be actually a developer to build. I wanted to build the tallest building in Europe. And when I came United States, in March 2000, I came actually with about 200 bucks in my pocket. So you’ll probably notice that not was not getting me closer to build but the tallest building in Europe. Right?
D.J. Paris 5:44
And where did you where and where were you living prior to moving to United States,
Luminita Ispas 5:48
Romania. So I was living human. Yeah.
D.J. Paris 5:51
And that’s where you were born and raised? Correct. Right,
Luminita Ispas 5:53
Eastern Europe. And I was looking, you know, for capital, their time trying to see how I can learn more about building and to build a capital and get find by partners. And of course, talking to a lot of investors, I discovered that most of the people became wealthy through real estate investing. So it was interesting how, you know, wanting to build, I realized that investing in SEO to get me there. And at that time, late night, there are these advertising for no money down real estate, creative real estate. So I started buying those type. And I became very well versed in how to finance creatively, or we cash on developments and buying properties. And I starting helping all my friends to buy real estate, as a friend, right?
D.J. Paris 6:42
So this was like, this was early 2000s, I’m guessing 2002 1002.
Luminita Ispas 6:45
And at one point in 2000, some of my friends asked me why I’m not getting paid for this, you know, why am I doing all this work and not getting paid for it? And, you know, it was a big opening, I said, Well, real estate selling real estate. That’s interesting. I don’t know if I can do that. And my friends were like, well, you’re already doing it, you are going with us at approaching properties. You are telling us how to finance them. A lot of times you know more about LLC is that our attorneys, so why don’t you start selling, and it was so interesting, because as soon as I started selling, I discovered it, it was kind of like my life calling right, you find something that you fell into it and you discover that’s exactly what you should be. Because I love people, I love real estate, I realized that as an investor on that side. I mean, as a real estate broker, you should have a book of business, you should know people, just knowing the business, it doesn’t make you successful, right, you have to have buyers and sellers. So yeah, so as soon as I got my license and start working with clients, and real, I realized that this was my dream business, actually, helping people change their life was was a big deal, especially as the beginning I was working mostly with, with immigrants, because I felt a connection with them being an immigrant, of course, and or, and, you know, they didn’t know didn’t understand credit, they didn’t understand on payments, or how buying a home will help them and being almost a little bit a mentor for them and working with some of them a half a year or more to build their credit, file tax returns and being able to buy credit A B connection. So when at the beginning, it took me a lot of open houses and networking events and talking to a lot of people to find clients. After a while my business has become mostly referrals and repeat clients. Because those people realize that I spend a lot more time with them than that other agents. And you know, I was there for them. I was not dropping them if they were not ready to buy or sell at that at the moment I met them.
D.J. Paris 8:54
Yeah, I think that’s really interesting and puts you in a very special niche where there’s a lot of brokers who maybe wouldn’t work with somebody unless they were ready to purchase, right, unless they were already pre approved. And you sort of took a different approach where you work with people that maybe didn’t even know that they could be buying or didn’t know the path to ownership. And you became their educator, their teacher, their mentor, and then not only helping them purchase, but also explaining investment opportunities as well. Would you say that that was that’s accurate as far as how you found a lot of your business?
Luminita Ispas 9:30
Oh, yes. And I have a lot of stories of people that completely change their life because of their first property or, you know, the investing couple properties.
D.J. Paris 9:40
Yeah, so so for those brokers who are thinking, Oh, you don’t work with somebody until they’re pre approved till they’re ready to buy. That’s, you would probably disagree with that. I imagine.
Luminita Ispas 9:50
Exactly. I mean, I will not take someone out to look at property if they are not ready. Right? By working with them. You know, I put him in touch with somebody who We’ll help them build credit with the lender to share with them, you know, what they have to do? If they are 1099, you know, self employed, you know, they have to explain them a little bit more about how to file taxes. Sure, accountant and, you know, it’s a lot of people that they that they need to be put in touch with. And you know, some of them, they had to learn how to save money. You know, it’s interesting, it’s one of the books that I give away the most, it’s the richest man in Babylon, because it shows you the 10%, right? Pay yourself first. And yes, it’s so it starts with small things like that, you know, teaching them to save 10%, helping them with gifts and putting them in touch with nonprofits, if that’s not an option, if they’re already otherwise. So it’s a lot of little things that people need advice on. And in time, I realized that it was not just the immigrants that didn’t know, you know, how to set the financials. But a lot of the people born in the States, they don’t understand the system. And,
D.J. Paris 11:02
you know, I apologize, I don’t mean to interrupt you. But I was I was one of those people where I did not know, really, I was, I didn’t understand what it would take to purchase a property. And this goes back about about 12 years, and I was 29 years old. And all pretty much all of my friends had already bought a place by then. But I, I was I really just didn’t understand how it worked. And quite frankly, the only reason I know is I had a friend who was a realtor who said, You shouldn’t be renting anymore, you can afford to buy a place. And I said, Oh, really, I was too embarrassed to have asked on my own. So he was nice enough to explain it to me. And quite honestly, I probably would have rented another few years before figuring it out myself. So you are so right, when you say you know that in I was somebody who you know, I was I was actually in a position at a different firm, totally unrelated to real estate, but had to do with finance, and I still didn’t understand it myself. And I was too embarrassed to reach out to people. So I think your your sort of strategy of being that educators, it would have helped somebody like me even maybe a few years before I ever did purchase. So right? I’m a perfect example. Well, congratulations
Luminita Ispas 12:10
on buying your home. It did help you right move in life. Absolutely. I mean, one thing that I mentioned to people that do not think that they can buy or they don’t see the value of buying, I share with them that at this point, the net worth between the tenant and the homeowner, it’s about 45 times larger. So you can imagine if you buy real estate, if you buy a property, your network can be for every 1000 that that a tenant has saved. A homeowner has 45,000 and net worth and equity. Yes, which is an unbelievable number. And 2013, the network was 36 times over, the net worth of a homeowner was 36 times larger. And by 2016. Hence, the number increased to 45 times based on real estate going up in value. So when you look at those number, even if you don’t understand financing, you know which side you want to be on, right? Which side of the fence sure want to be a tenant or do you want to be an owner? And if it takes you a year or two to get there? I mean, isn’t that worth it? You know, a year from now, you’ll be there no matter what, right? But what if you save some money, if you fix a little bit your credit, you pay off your debt, and you’re able to buy I mean, how far forward in your life you’ll be and how your life will change in the future. Right? If you purchase? Absolutely.
D.J. Paris 13:32
Yeah. And I think what you’re talking about to is so important, because, again, going back to me as an example, I was an educated smart person who didn’t understand homeownership, and was too embarrassed to ask anyone. And so as a result, I just I stayed a renter for probably a few years longer than I should have. And when I when I finally went when my friend finally explained to me how lending works, and all the other like the tax benefits, for example, in the interest of deduction for taxes, and everything else. I was like it was life changing for me. And quite quite frankly, there has to be a ton of people just like me, who are probably being ignored by a lot by real by a lot of realtors who just don’t think well he’s renting now. He’s when he was ready to buy he’ll call me. It’s like no, I didn’t know I was ready to buy. Well, someone told me Yeah, so I think that is it. I mean, it is life changing exactly what you said it was. It was a life changing experience. And as a result, of course, I used my friend he was the one that gave me all the information and he became my realtor.
Luminita Ispas 14:38
Exactly. And another time it taketh I wanted to share with you was after I bought my first building, I started seeing other benefits. I start seeing the extra tax deductions I was getting right the depreciation into cash flow and things that you know, when I had a single family home I wouldn’t have right plus US property was getting paid off faster, because now you know, the property was larger, right? Price wise and I was paying a bigger portion of principal every every month, plus the three, four flat buildings tend to go up in value much quicker than single families and condos. And again, this is at least in the last 10 years, that’s what has been happening, but we’ll see from that one. And when you buy a building again, you get a lot more benefits. So learning that and sharing that information with my clients, has also changed my business a lot. And the most of the buyers understood how their life will change how their family life will change. And I’ll give you a very quick example. About 10 years ago, this, this gentleman came to me and he had $100,000. I mean, 10 years ago, you know, choice actually happened? Sure, it actually was in 2010. So I’m sorry, about seven, eight years ago, because the market was down. And you know, people didn’t have a lot of money or didn’t want to spend it right if they had the money.
D.J. Paris 16:07
Or it was it was hard to get financing. So
Luminita Ispas 16:09
he said a team and his brother wanted to buy two flat two each for each to live in one unit, and rent the third, the basement, maybe and get some cash flow. So I sit down with him and ask him I said, Well, what’s your goal? So what’s your financial situation home? And what’s your goal? And he says, Well, I have my home, my wife that works as a cleaning lady. And, you know, we have a nanny that takes care of our two kids. So you know, after my wife’s income covering the nanny, you know, where she’s left with four bucks an hour, right? And no insurance? Well, I’m self employed to self employed, we have no insurance would really, really like and a little bit of extra income. And ask him what he does. And he working constructions, both him and actually and his brother worked in construction. So I said, Why don’t we take a little bit of a different approach. And we bought investment properties, we bought multiple, they fix them up? Well, long story short today, which is, let’s say eight years later, they own about 12 homes, so probably about 20, a little bit over 20 units, he the wife went back to school quit because you know, the cash flow was allowing her to do that went back to school, she became a registered nurse making over 60,000 a year with insurance and everything else, right. And then they have about, I don’t know, 25,000 a month in cash flow, because a lot of the properties that keep buying, refinancing them after they fix them up or rent them, and they pull up the cash and bought more. So they not just change their life, they change, they have a completely different lifestyle. And they were talking about the fact that they won’t need to give their money to their kids. Because now they learn how to teach their own kids do the same thing that they did. So the way I saw this thing was when you teach someone how to reach financial freedom, and how to build wealth, you teach a generation of people, because the kids will see and the kids will do the same thing. And again, you change the life of a person because they can live the life of their dreams. Like this lady that had to was able to quit being a cleaning lady staying home with the kids for a few years and just going to school. And now, you know, having a third kid and again working in the nursing industry.
D.J. Paris 18:20
That’s an incredible story. And I you know, you’re right, you’re teaching that family who teach who sees in the children to see the residual income month after month, indefinitely, you know, and wow. Yeah, that that is truly truly amazing. And I imagine they must think very highly of you for having been the educator and helping them get on that path. So let’s talk a little bit about that. Because you do teach this talk about sort of how you teach it, where you teach it, that sort of thing.
Luminita Ispas 18:51
Sure. So I teach monthly investment seminars, sometimes do the restaurant together with with a mortgage lender that’s helping financing the restaurant, sometimes in my office in the west loop. It usually does last Saturday of the month. However, I’ve been also invited to speak in front of investment groups nonprofits. So different groups now are starting inviting me more and more out to teach what I actually personally do and you know what my other clients have done, they see this financial freedom through my method. And it’s a great way to also meet more people because if you but the thing that I always tell them bring, you know, few friends that are interested in this business, bring your brothers, your sisters, and I’m starting having kids that are 14 year old in the seminars, and you know, their eyes get get so bright. You know, by the end of the seminar, they’re like, Okay, this is it. As soon as I get my first job, this what I’m doing. I mean, my 16 year old daughter that’s been sitting in the seminars to help me as strong. She’s been telling me that too as soon as she goes to college, you will buy a single family home with multiple bedrooms. Oh my god roommates Perfect, that’s right. And, you know, these kids are so bright and so quick to learn it, you know, they see therefore the parents and they learn for themselves. So it’s amazing. I mean, I get a lot of people from, you know, different backgrounds, I recently had a client that told me that he grew up, you know, in the project in the section or section eight housing, and he bought at three flat where he’s going to live for free and make 500 bucks a month in cash flow, that is a
D.J. Paris 20:26
huge victory, a huge victory to to live for free and earn income. On a property in particular, coming from a disadvantaged background is a amazing, and you know, it’s it’s so funny, because we have, there’s so often brokers and we have a GZ. But at our firm, we’ve got almost 600 brokers. And so few of them do these kinds of seminars, and I always tell them, it’s really, I mean, obviously, you have to learn enough information to be able to present this to to the public. But there, you can partner up with attorneys, with lenders with title companies, who will also share the cost of hosting these and talk about their portion of real estate transaction. So you can have these partners who will gladly help put these sorts of seminars together. And I think it’s a such a missed opportunity for so many people, so many brokers in particular. So I’m glad you’re talking about it. You’re also almost finished with your with, is it your first book? Can you talk about it, you might
Luminita Ispas 21:30
be sure. So my life dream was again to make a difference, right? One was through building Romania, the tallest building in Europe as this way attract, you know, tourism and bringing attention to my country, which I think is one of the most beautiful in the world, by the way. And that one thing that again, I’ve learned, especially when I got here was education, it’s actually the way that we can change the world. I think in capital generation, you know, if we change the way we think, and if we learn new things that will change our life and change others, you know, we can change the world. So one thing I learned was, you know, I don’t have to be someone talking to the whole globe, right, I don’t have to be a president or I have been, I have to do is change the life of one person at a time. So financial freedom, I discovered it is the first step, it’s hard to follow your dream, you know, let’s say if you’re an artist, and you can make money, it’s hard to follow that unless you put food on the table, right, and you have a roof above, above your head. So I thought if I can teach people how to become financially free by buying properties, and, and you know, they can buy from, even if they make 10 bucks an hour, right, they will be qualified for something for a little bit of a loan, and they build from there. So if I can start people, I’m sorry, if I can teach people to how to become financially free, then they will help others and they will help their own families to repeat what they did. And then go and and do what they were meant to do in life, be able to quit the job that they are not happy with, and follow the dreams, right? So in my book, I’m teaching financial freedom with using leverage using low down payments, and how to also become a millionaire. So by the time you retire, you don’t need to rely on Social Security, you don’t need to rely on anybody to help you. Right, you can support yourself from your investment properties from the cash flow. And especially if by that time the properties are paid off, you know, you’re going to be a multimillionaire and have maybe 10s of 1000s of dollars in cash flow.
D.J. Paris 23:40
Absolutely. It talk about if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about how you go about finding investment properties for your clients is there are are most of them on the MLS, are they off market properties?
Luminita Ispas 23:55
That’s a great question. Because that’s one of my biggest challenges right now. So when we say MLS, especially in the last several years have been was easier than today. With the pricing going up, of course is getting a little bit more, a little bit harder. But in general, I do maybe three quarters MLS and core off market. So I knock on doors, if I need to, I would if I see a property I think it will match one of my clients interest. I also developed a relationship with a lot of brokers through the years so because I sell a lot of three four unit buildings, you know, when I when I’m the I’m on the buyer side of the transaction, I always tell that listing agent if you get any other three four flat please make sure you call me first because I have ready willing buyer that will pay top dollar for this property and the transaction will be seamless. And you know I’m closing on every transaction because my clients are serious and, you know, we’re not atypical. We want to close we want these homes. So you know I got the report Usually they close on my deals. So even multiple offers, sometimes I get the property, because I’m known to to be involved in the deal, you know, I have an assistant and we make it easy for the listing side, and we close. And so between that and MLS and like I said other other people that are contacting me, that’s how I get my properties. Oh, and to mention that, again, I’m an investor myself, I buy property myself, so I’m on investor list also. So I receive emails from sellers, big investors that are selling their portfolios there other properties that they might have. So this way, I get to access to properties that only investors get.
D.J. Paris 25:45
What advice would you have to a broker? Who says, you know, I really don’t do this part of the business where I’m working with, with educating the public about investing, and I need to get educated myself, you know, as a broker, what would what resources would you recommend, where they could start to learn how to, you know, be able to share this knowledge with with with their clients?
Luminita Ispas 26:08
That again, that’s another great question. Well, number one, they can always come to my seminars. That’s true. That’s open to them. And actually, side note, I do help a lot of realtors buy their own properties, just,
D.J. Paris 26:20
I bet you do. Yeah. But
Luminita Ispas 26:23
I always tell even all the new agents in my office, buy a property yourself by yourself, you cannot teach what you don’t know, you know, paper knowledge is not the same at hands on knowledge. So no matter how much I share with you how to choose a tenant, how to run the numbers for a building, they’re not going to make sense until you own your own building, and you see around, you know, rents coming in and expenses, and you have to actually pay the gas bill every month and the water bill every month. You won’t understand that until you own it. So to the brokers that want to be to work with investors, I always tell them, you have to buy first. Plus, a lot of investors actually ask you, how many properties do you have? Imagine if you have nothing to say, well, sorry, I would mean how many I have none, right? It’s just as a work. Because those brokers are going to I mean, I’m sorry, those buyers are going to lose trust in you. And the Love Actually, of the buyers I’m working with and the investment side, they have worked with multiple brokers before me. Oh, I’m sure I’m sure. And you know, we meet who knows where we start talking about real estate, not even trying to convert anyone to work with me and see my knowledge, seeing what I do, you know, I’m ready to build right now a building and I just remodeled a couple of properties this year. So it’s kind of like when they see the amount of knowledge they they just said, Hey, by the way, I was looking to buy two, can you help me? And as we start working, I always cuz I always ask, I say what do you have a broker to work with? Because if you do, you know, you should work with that person. I mean, they put the time in. And they will say, you know, I’m sorry, but I can work with them. I mean, talking to you and talking to them, it’s a big deal. They don’t understand what to send me when they send me to fly, they send them to me, because they’re beautiful. They don’t get the numbers, or they say, oh, disagree theory of it, if the half a million dollar property $2,000 Rent a month, it just doesn’t work. So, so again, my advice is guys, put your money where your mouth is buy investment property, you know, fix it up a little bit, find tenants, and then when you know, all those sides of the business, you know how numbers work, how to fix a property and where to find contractors How to Choose tenants, you know, the tenant process gets in Chicago, it’s not easy, you know, to be a landlord. I mean, there are a lot of rules. So you have to understand all the paperwork and be able to and willing to give it to your tenant to your tenant and advise them on that. You know how to set up an LLC is right if they are investors, have the attorneys at ready to send them to mortgage broker, again, you when you work with a mortgage broker that owns property, it’s easier to invest to send to an investor. Because, you know, these investors, some of them have a lot of properties. So they want a mortgage broker that understands, you know, what they’re standing and how to find finesse, right, the financials to work to make them work and to advise them. So, again, this is the biggest investment, I mean, advice, read books, go to seminars, investment seminars, everybody that comes in town, and then buy yourself properties.
D.J. Paris 29:22
Well, you I think you said it all. And I think that was so well said and succinct. If there’s any, you know, clients out there that are interested in working with you and your team directly what’s the best way they can reach out to you?
Luminita Ispas 29:38
Thank you. Oh, number my cell phone it’s 773-392-2906 My email it’s my first name dot last email@example.com So Luminita that especially gmail.com and I’m at Century 21 is gr
D.J. Paris 29:57
well illuminate at Lumi this was Such a pleasure. And you said it all. And you said it? Well, you know, again, just this idea of investing and learning about investing to be a better broker to your clients. And again, you know, somebody had the conversation with me initially about buying, but they didn’t take it to the next level and say, actually, instead of buying a condo, you should probably buy a three flat, right? So as a result of that I didn’t buy a three flat because I didn’t know. So had I had, you know, had somebody who was able to have that conversation with me at that time. It may have changed everything as far as how I purchased the property going forward. So I think your advice is awesome. And thank you so much for your time.
Luminita Ispas 30:42
Oh, my pleasure. Thank you.