JF2309: Beginning Their Investing Journey With Ambrose & Chidi Ozieh

Ambrose and Chidi Ozieh are both young real estate investors who have been investing for the past 6 years. Ambrose left her education job to focus on real estate investing and being an active agent. During these few years, they have acquired 5 rental properties and currently work together to continue to grow their portfolio.

Ambrose and Chidi Ozieh Real Estate Background:

  • Ambrose recently left her education job and is now focusing full-time on real estate as an active agent and investor
  • Chidi, her husband, is an artist and investor part-time
  • 6 years of real estate experience
  • Portfolio consists of 5 rental properties
  • Based in Brooklyn, NY
  • Say hi to them at amaproperties09@gmail.com 
  • Best Ever Book: Richest Man in Babylon

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“Just get started” – Ambrose & Chidi Ozieh


Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today we have two guests – we have Ambrose and Chidi Ozieh. How are you both doing today?

Chidi Ozieh: We’re doing great. You know, we’re in Covid, but we’re good.

Ambrose Ozieh: Thank you for having us, Theo. We are doing well.

Theo Hicks: That’s good to hear, and thank you for joining me as well. A little bit about their background – Ambrose recently left her education job, and is now focusing full-time on real estate as an agent and as an investor. Chidi, her husband, is an artist and an investor part-time. They have six years of real estate experience with five rental properties. They are based in Brooklyn, New York, and their website is AMAprops.com.

Starting with Ambrose – do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Ambrose Ozieh: Yes, so I was born in Ghana, but my family moved to the U.S. when I was very young, to Philadelphia, so that’s where I grew up. I followed the advice that most parents teach their children – go to school, get good grades, become an employee. So I went to Penn State, [unintelligible [00:04:20].26] and after that I worked in the non-profit world. Then I eventually moved to New York for me to go to grad school at NYU.

In Philly, that’s where I met Chidi, my husband, who had just recently moved to the U.S. from London. I always knew that I didn’t want to work 30 or 40 years forever as an employee, but really didn’t know what I wanted to get into until we decided we didn’t want to pay the high rents of New York anymore… So we started saving as much as we could to have a down payment to buy a house. But this was even before we learned what real estate investment was. We just wanted to buy a house to live in.

Chidi Ozieh: Yeah. And mine is a similar story, just in the opposite side of the pond, in England. I was born and raised in London, and I grew up with a similar thing – go to school, get good grades, get a 9-to-5 job, work, retire, and then die, that kind of a thing. But I saw my parents – they were entrepreneurs, they had their own business, so I always knew there was a difference between having a business and having a regular job.

Eventually, I knew I want to start a business, didn’t know what that was gonna be… So I got the opportunity to emigrate to the United States in 2008 during the height of the credit crunch and the recession – which is a great time to emigrate anyway – and I met Ambrose in Philadelphia the year after I emigrated. We decided to move to New York two years later, and we kind of fell into real estate accidentally, for the want of not wanting to pay high Brooklyn rents anymore. So that’s our background.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So was the first piece of real estate you bought your personal house in New York?

Ambrose Ozieh: Yes. Our first property was also an investment.

Theo Hicks: Okay. Maybe walks us through that then.

Ambrose Ozieh: Yes. So around 2013 we decided that we had saved enough where we could buy a property, but we actually didn’t really know the different ways we could go about it… And again, this is New York, so the price point is quite high… So we talked to different mortgage brokers and we decided that we were gonna be able to buy a property with FHA. It took us about nine months from when we decided to actually go and find the first property.

We were coming from work every night, going to see properties, every weekend going to open houses.

Chidi Ozieh: Getting outbid a lot.

Ambrose Ozieh: Yeah. We were newbies, we didn’t even know how things worked. We would emotionally invest in a property, and then we would get outbid with a cash buyer. So it took us a while… But because it took us so long, we learned exactly what we needed to buy. Our main goal was to buy a property that had a lot of rooms and square-footage, because we knew we wanted to rent some of the units.

So once we found our first property, we knew that that was the property, because it was large, it was three floors, two units, and a lower-level floor. We found it off-market actually, through an agent that we had come to; he told us he was the wholesaler, but also an agent… So he told us he had just sold this property to a flipper; so if we wanted to meet the flipper before he fixed the house.

So he set up a time, we met in the office and we negotiated the price… So by the time we went into contract, to closing  it took about eight months, because that’s how long it took him to renovate the house. It was a large house.

So yeah, we learned from that, and because we knew the seller before he renovated, we had a lot of input in terms of what we wanted inside the unit. So we were able to pick our cabinets, our countertops, the type of floors we wanted…

Chidi Ozieh: And just to add to that – it’s a three-family house, and there’s two larger units and one smaller unit. We decided to live in the smaller unit, because Ambrose said “We’ve been saving since we met to purchase the property”, and that frugality carried us through to want to live in the smaller unit and rent the other two out.

And by doing that, we kind of fell into what’s called house-hacking, without knowing what it meant to be house-hacking… And getting our first two renters, we were like “Wow, this is like magic. You basically just sit and get rent checks.” [unintelligible [00:08:33].02] any maintenance. We didn’t have any roof leaks or any things for maintenance to get, so we were just getting rent checks and we were able to save our W-2 income, all of it, in the bank. That feeling of being able to save 100% of your money is an amazing feeling when you have a W-2 job.

That kind of changed the game for us, and that made us understand that real estate is something that we wanted to pursue full-on.

Theo Hicks: Sure. So you had this deal, the house-hack deal… What was your next deal?

Ambrose Ozieh: So our next deal, again, we were constantly saving… After we bought the first one, in about a year the house had appreciated enough where we could take out the equity. So again, we talked to a mortgage person who did the math and he told us how much we could pull out. It had appreciated about 30%-40%…

Chidi Ozieh: Actually, about 50% or 60%, because what happened was — again, Ambrose said we were looking for nine months… We actually got word that a certain part of Brooklyn was being rezoned, and it hadn’t been announced yet. So we bought in that area before the mayor rezoned the area for more development… So that made the prices of all the properties go up the year after we bought it a lot. So we were able to capitalize on that.

Theo Hicks: How did you come across this information?

Ambrose Ozieh: A lot of research, and just by talking to a lot of people. So going to the open houses, reading, constantly every morning reading the news about the real estate market and the different areas of Brooklyn… So we knew about the rezoning before — the seller didn’t know that it was going to be rezoned, and he found out after we were already in contract, and he tried to get out of the contract, but he couldn’t.

Chidi Ozieh: Yeah. And also, the area that we were in is an area called East New York, and it’s the last transit hub left in the city, where all the trains meet… So it was kind of inevitable that eventually it was gonna get rezoned for higher-scale development… Because in New York – I don’t think many people know, but it takes them two lifetimes to build a subway line here… So it’s very transit-rich. It’s like 20 minutes from LaGuardia and JFK. It was a no-brainer that it was gonna get rezoned eventually. It was an outlying area in New York City.

Theo Hicks: Sure. Do you mind telling me exactly how you found  this out? Did an article get released one morning and you’re like “Oh, this is amazing”? Or did someone talk about it at an open house? How did you come across the information specifically?

Ambrose Ozieh: So while we were looking, we were able to connect with our local council member. And we weren’t friends, but we became acquaintances with him. So he also told us that they were considering rezoning the area. So we got that info from him. But the local media – they were also covering it, but it was not like a sure thing, because the city still had to vote on it. So it was something that the city was considering. There was some media coverage, but it wasn’t as known until much later.

Chidi Ozieh: Like Ambrose said, having that information really made us look more aggressively at that area, and [unintelligible [00:11:33].10] that was undervalued in there… Because we kind of knew that within 12-18 months the appreciation would be enough that we could pull money out and purchase the next one. So that’s what we did.

Theo Hicks: Alright. So you pulled the money out of that property to buy your second deal. So what was your second deal? Same thing – how did you find it, what was the business plan, things like that.

Ambrose Ozieh: The second deal was listed on the MLS, so it was listed on all the different websites – Realtor, Zillow. So we found it, we contacted the agent, we went to see it… It was a two-family. There was one tenant, and they tried to sell it to us with a tenant, and we insisted no. We needed it vacant. So we were in contract about 3-4 months before the tenant moved out. Then after the tenant moved out, the contract price included the whole building being renovated. So we waited for the seller to renovate it, similar to what we did with our first house. So they renovated it, and we closed. When we closed, it was rent-ready. We were able to rent it right away.

What is great about that property is it was really — even more than the second one, the stepping stone, we got a tenant right away who paid two years upfront of a New York City rent. So we had a large sum right away to be able to invest again into another property. So that property really helped us to get to the next level.

Chidi Ozieh: Yeah, that property really helped us start off our investment fund that we now use to BRRR (buy, renovate, rinse, repeat). And as Ambrose said, that tenant paying all that rent upfront really galvanized that. Not only that, we were still riding the waves of the appreciation, so even that property has greatly appreciated… Because it’s actually bigger than our primary residence, so it’s really appreciated a lot even since we bought it, and everything else; so it’s really been a great deal that one.

Theo Hicks: How did the renovations being included in the contract – how did that work? I think I’ve heard of that before. That’s amazing, but let us know how that transpired.

Chidi Ozieh: What happened was the person that sold us the second property – he disclosed to us that he needed the money to buy a building. I think  he had a portfolio; he was selling off two or three other buildings, and he was stuck between a rock and a hard place because he had renovated the top unit [unintelligible [00:13:52].13] selling the building, and then the first floor tenant didn’t wanna move; so he then tried to sell it with her in it. So he was kind of stuck and needed to sell it. He [unintelligible [00:14:00].01] to us. I don’t know why he did that, but he did… And we used that as leverage, and said “Okay, we’ll meet you at your price, but you have to renovate that unit too, and get the tenant out within a certain timeframe.” So he did all that, and we kind of leveraged him to do what we wanted, which is very rare in New York.

Theo Hicks: So you kind of just said that “I want you to renovate the bottom unit the exact same as the top unit…” How did you come up with the purchase price then? Because obviously, since he’s investing more money into that unit. Was it just the original purchase price plus whatever he told you the costs were? Did you get receipts for this, or did you just kind of say “Hey, we’ll give you 10k extra”? How did that work when it came to the contract price?

Ambrose Ozieh: First we made the offer. It was lower than what he wanted. So we went back and forth between him and his agent, and we decided that “Okay, we can go up close to the number that  you want, but then it needs to be delivered vacant, and it needs to be renovated.” So he agreed to it, and we had a great lawyer and she put it in the contract – that it was gonna be delivered vacant, it was gonna be renovated to the standard of the top floor…

So we agreed to it that way… And to be honest, even with him, he tried to get out of it, too. It seemed there was some miscommunication between him and his attorney when he tried to get out of it and realized that he couldn’t. So it was all in the contract, he agreed to it… But like Chidi had stated, he also needed us to close as soon as possible, because he needed the money to buy a larger property.

And if you have someone who’s ready to go with 25% in New York City, and even if you’re good to get out of the contract, it may take you a few more month before you can sell it, to get maybe a few thousand dollars more. So for him – it was also worth it  for him to stay with us and close, so that he can move on to the bigger thing that he was looking to do.

Chidi Ozieh: And with that too, I believe also even at closing – because we had an inspection report a week before the closing… [unintelligible [00:16:07].28] we had a very good real estate attorney; she put in there “Subject to inspection a week before.” So we got all of our guys to come in there and inspect it, and then we found a hole in the roof, we found debris… So we got about 8k at closing off the contract price, which was great.

So it was a sweet deal, that one.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, those are two very interesting, unique deals, especially for your first two. Alright, starting with Ambrose again, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Ambrose Ozieh: I will say just get started… Because even with us, you can read all the books, listen to all the podcasts, go on YouTube… You can learn, you can study as much as you want, but it’s the first step. Just get started. Because once you start, that’s part of the education. You cannot know everything before you start. Starting is part of the education process.

Chidi Ozieh: Yeah, I would echo that, but I would also say actually have a date that you’re gonna start. Put things down on paper; don’t just say “I wanna  start, I wanna do it.” Actually have a date and set goals. And also, don’t get emotional when it comes to property. Our first house – we wanted new cabinets, we wanted granite this, we wanted this color, this kind of paint on the front of the house… If you’re gonna house-hack, it doesn’t really matter as long as on paper your tenant is paying your mortgage and  you make a little bit of money on top. It doesn’t matter if the house is bright green, and it has pink strips around it. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that the house is cash-flowing, and at the end of the month you walk away with some money in your pocket, and you haven’t got to pay your mortgage out of your own W-2 income. That’s all that matters.

Theo Hicks: Alright, are you both ready for the best ever lightning round

Chidi Ozieh: Yes!

Theo Hicks: Alright. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:17:53].21] to [00:18:33].29]

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

Ambrose Ozieh: I would say for me not recently, but I go back to it time to time, is the classic “Richest Man in Babylon.” I like that book because a lot of the lessons and principles are now in some of the books, even Rich Dad, Poor Dad. A lot of the lessons such as paying yourself first – those are all lessons that are in that book. So I love that book. You can read it in one sitting, and there are a lot of lessons, and even a five-year-old can read and understand it.

Chidi Ozieh: And I would say Think and Grow Rich. Think and Grow Rich, even though it was written in the 1900s, I think that the lesson sit teaches are ubiquitous among everything, in terms of business, and how to really be training your mind to approach business and finances in a different way.

There’s also in that book a lot about having a   mastermind team, and how the mastermind really is important. I think that having a mastermind is something that people try and do or think about, supposedly, but don’t actually implement in their actual daily or weekly lives.

I think Think and Grow Rich is a great book in terms of changing your perspective when it comes to money in general.

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

Ambrose Ozieh: So like you mentioned in the intro, I am now a licensed agent in New York. I work with mostly investors who are looking — because I always find great ways of making deals work. Other than our first property, the next four were all listed on the market. It depends on your negotiation skills and the price point that you buy it at. Because a lot of people think all great deals have to come off-market, but it’s not true. We’ve found all of our properties, which were great deals, all listed on the market… So it depends on how you negotiate and the price point that you buy.

I work with a lot of investors to help them find properties, and we’ve also started to teach and coach people who want to get into the real estate game, especially for New York, because there’s a lot that you need to learn… So we’ve been doing that.

In addition, like I said, I was born in Ghana, so there’s a school in a town called Kumasi where Chidi and I – we help support, especially when it comes to girls’ education. It’s something that’s been very fulfilling, being able to contribute to that part of the world, and especially when it comes to education and girls.

Chidi Ozieh: Exactly what she said. [laughs] That’s the way we give back. We have started coaching, and also we love to support back home.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. And then the last question is what is the best ever place to reach you?

Ambrose Ozieh: You can reach out to us at AMAprops.com. People can also reach out to me directly, 347-471-1804. I’m always ready to chat and help other people who are interested in real estate, especially for the New York market. If they have any questions, they can always reach out to me.

Chidi Ozieh: And if you wanna email us directly, you can go to info@amaprops.com. That’s our email address on our website there. Or fill out the Contact form on the website.

Theo Hicks: Well, thank you both for joining us today and walking us through your first two deals. Very unique. The takeaways that I got was your first was patience, because you waited a long time to make sure you found the right property… And you waited long enough, since you had the information and the education to know what the right property even was.

Another lesson – a great way to get started is house-hacking, and if you’re gonna house-hack, consider living in the unit that will generate the least amount of rent, so that you make the most money. And then also, that you’re able to buy this deal from a flipper before he actually did the flipping aspect of it, so you had a lot of input into the renovations.

And then your second deal was also very interesting, and it teaches us a lesson on constantly staying up to date on the market we’re investing in, consistently networking with the big players, the decision-makers in that market, because you might come across a piece of information that can help make a deal work, or a lot better. I guess that was technically the first deal, but you said also the second deal as well, about the rezoning… And then also, leveraging information that the seller gives you, if they are motivated to make the deal even better for you.

For this example, the owner needed to sell, and you used that as leverage to get the property not only vacant, but also completely renovated and vacant. You also added in a contingency that the contract was subject to an inspection a week before, which allowed you to [unintelligible [00:23:20].18] because you got that 8k credit at closing…

So again, two super-unique deals. I really appreciate you guys sharing that with me and the Best Ever listeners… So thank you both for joining us again. 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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