JF2482: 6 Steps to Get Started Faster with Antonio Cucciniello

After buying his first triplex in 2019, Antonio Cucciniello was hooked in the real estate world. In this episode, Antonio and Theo Hicks discuss why it took him so long to jump in and invest, how he grew his business with TikTok through the pandemic, and the 6-step process he teaches to get started faster. 

Antonio Cucciniello  Real Estate Background:


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Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners and welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Theo Hicks and today we’ll be speaking with Antonio Cucciniello. Tony, how are you doing today? How did I pronounce the last name?

Antonio Cucciniello: You got it. You got it.

Theo Hicks: I thought I did.

Antonio Cucciniello: You nailed it. You actually did pretty good. I’m impressed.

Theo Hicks: Well, thank you so much for joining us today. Looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Antonio. He is a senior software engineer in an innovation team at Kinesso and he has one year of real estate experience. During that time, he has purchased three rentals, two duplexes and a triplex, for a total of seven units. He is based in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about him at his YouTube channel called InveStarters. We’ll have a link in the show notes as well, so make sure you check that out. Antonio, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Antonio Cucciniello: Yeah. So I was always interested in real estate investing for my entire life. My dad’s a contractor, so growing up, he was always fixing things up and he always wanted me to fix things up and help him. But he doesn’t understand the math side of things, the investing side of things, so I go to school, and then day one of my first job and I can’t do this forever. That’s when I started going down BiggerPockets, I started reading all these books, trying to learn how to invest… But I was really stuck for four years trying to figure out how to get started. It was very scary, taking all of my money… I’m 27, so taking all my money and putting it into an investment property, for me it was my life savings, and just hoping it worked out was the thing that kept me up at night. I was scared all the time. It wasn’t really until I started taking all the knowledge I had and trying to break it down into a step-by-step process that made me feel a little bit more comfortable about doing it and becoming really good at my numbers.

Finally, after four years of doing that while living in New York City, I bought my first property in Ewing. I got a triplex; that was back at the end of 2019. Now, a few months later, I was hooked. I was like, “I’ve got to get this going again. I can’t wait another four years to save up money for a new property.” So I went to go look for properties. I found a few and I was like, “Where can I get the money for them?” This is right before the pandemic hit. I started learning about home equity loans… And no one in my family comes from money or anything. My dad would always say like, “Oh I never have enough money, I never have enough money.” But I realized, he owned his house. I was like, “Can we use that?” My dad doesn’t have a full-time job. He has his own business, but is self-employed, so he didn’t make enough income, so I co-signed a mortgage with him to use that money to get cash to buy two more duplexes. Now what we’re doing is we’re going to be working on the rehab for some of these to try to increase the home value, then take that money out, and pay back the home loan that we took out on his home.

What I’m focused on today is I’m currently trying to find a new market. I have a huge spreadsheet with different cities around the US. I just moved to Austin last week actually, so… Still new. I set up a new office here and everything. I’ve been focused on as well helping beginners based off of my experience. I teach a four-week class and I have a six-month mentoring program where I help beginners get started. I used to do a lot more YouTube videos. Now, the past month or so, I’ve been really focused on TikTok. I’ve seen significant growth on there and it’s been a lot of fun. There’s a lot of other real estate investors on there as well. I’ve been focused on back and forth between growing my real estate investing business and also while helping different beginners start out.

Break: [00:04:32][00:06:34]

Theo Hicks: I definitely want to get back to the TikTok thing. But first, let’s talk about your other focus, which is teaching. As you mentioned, it took you four years from becoming aware of real estate investing to do your first deal. Let’s say I’m one of your clients and I say, “Antonio, I want to get started in real estate, but I don’t want to do what you did and wait four years. How can I do this faster?” What would you say back to that person?

Antonio Cucciniello: I teach a six-step process. First, and this is pretty basic with everything. This part may not be new, but when we get further down it may be interesting to you. First is getting clear goals. Without having a goal of what you want to do… Because some people want to generate a lot of money quickly, and some people want to make passive income and quit their job. We need to really get clear on what our goals are first before we can then do what is step two, which is to have a clear strategy. Now, one of the big things that I got stuck on as a beginner was not having a lot of money, I kept saying, “Oh, maybe I should fix and flip first.” But I knew that I always really wanted to do rentals because I wanted passive income. So for me, I was bouncing back and forth between the two. There are completely different formulas. There’s ARV and then there’s cash flow, trying to figure out which one is the best for you.

I think, as a beginner, what we want to do is limit the scope of all the information that’s out there on real estate investing – because there’s a ton – and narrowing it down to what you need to know, mastering it and moving on to the next step. First is starting with a strategy after you’ve aligned your goals. For example, if you want to do passive income Theo, if that’s what you want to do, then I would recommend one of the ways you can get a buy and hold situation, which would be something like a house hack, or a turnkey, or just a traditional 25% down buy and hold. Once we pick a strategy, then it’s “Okay, what location can I do this strategy in?” Because another area that I see a lot of beginners – and I struggled with this too living in Manhattan – I was “How the heck am I going to buy anything here? Everything’s too expensive.” But also, I needed to find a location that was actually going to be good for investing, because obviously there’s a bunch that isn’t.

So I have a nine-step process that I would take them through where I’ve tried to make it as specific, while also available for a beginner to do. Because beginners don’t have access to a lot of these paid software like PropStream or NeighborhoodScout. They’re afraid to invest the money.

What I’ve done was I tried to create a process that they can go out and pull the information on publicly available sites to get actual data, and then compare the cities based on the data and how well they know them. Right now, when I was saying I was picking a new location, I have this list of 31 new cities that I’m taking a look at. This morning, I narrowed it down from 31 to five, based off of price-to-rent ratio, crime, unemployment rate, population growth, and a few other things. Once you’ve then picked a location, then we need to say “Okay, it’s time to get your financing in order. We’ve got to work on your credit, we’ve got to work on your debt-to-income ratio, we need to work on making sure you have income. Maybe this means you need to get a partner.” This is where I would teach them different ways to invest, different strategies that they can pull out. For example, the cash-out refi that we deal with my dad’s property in a partnership. That was a way of combining multiple types of financing strategies in one in order to buy a property creatively. Sometimes it takes that for some of these people.

At the end of that step, I would take them through and make sure they get a preapproval letter if they’re going to use a traditional lender, which most times they do for a first property. After that, it’s about mastering how to analyze deals. I had to analyze 200 deals before I started, and even then, I was still a little bit iffy. But once I knew the numbers as well as they were today, then I knew that when I bought it, it was going to give me money the day after. Once we’ve taken them through and they’ve analyzed enough deals, then it’s time to just make offers. At that point, it’s just a matter of time. That’s the six steps. Once you make an offer, you’re good to go, you get your first property. Which then opens up a whole nother bottle of worms; to get into that stage, that’s the six steps that I outlined is what needs to be done.

Theo Hicks: Thank you for sharing that. Let’s transition to TikTok now. I’ve talked to people who’ve used Instagram, I’ve talked to people who obviously use Facebook, Twitter, and then the more unique one until now would be Snapchat. Real estate people are using Snapchat to grow their business, but TikTok – maybe walk us through why you chose Tik Tok in the first place, what you’re doing on there, and then some of the benefits you’ve gotten from using that platform.

Antonio Cucciniello: A bit of background before TikTok was that I’ve made YouTube videos for the last four years. I had a YouTube channel called Project Action, I’ve been guest hosting on a YouTube channel called Simple Programmer that has –I don’t know– about 20,000 subscribers or something. So I’ve been making YouTube videos for a while and videos for a while, but I haven’t seen too much success on, being completely honest. I posted over 550 videos. It’s not a matter of me being consistent; consistency is my thing. My girlfriend actually — this is the start of the pandemic. I downloaded TikTok, I looked at it and I was like, “I don’t need another addicting social media app. I need to get this out of my life” and deleted it. My girlfriend downloaded it and then she spent about an hour, two hours every morning just watching these videos and talking about how she learned so much. I kept listening and I was like “Really? Learning on TikTok? I thought this was just girls dancing. What is this?”

I downloaded it a few days before Christmas and I had two weeks off from work. I was like, “You know what, I’m just going to post a few videos and try it out.” I posted one, and my first video got 52 views, but for having no followers, that was pretty solid compared to what I would get on a YouTube video. Then for a week, I posted about three or four videos. My fourth or fifth video, –I forget which one it was– I was in bed that night and when I woke up, all of a sudden, I had 150 followers. I was like, “Whoa, this is cool. This platform gives me a lot more organic reach than Facebook or Instagram for sure. YouTube, more than 100%.” Today marks my fifth week in and I’m at 8060 followers or something. I had one video Sunday night go viral that that took me 15 minutes to make; it has 130,000 views. I got my first mentoring program sale, which is 1,000 bucks for me, is on Saturday. I got a few more calls lined up.

I also have two people that have reached out and want to partner and fund real estate investing for me. This is all within five weeks of me starting the program; now, I have four years of video experience in the background that obviously helped me. But the platform is so much more fun and allows for so much more creativity. What I’m doing on there, is I’m doing a lot of how-to’s and I’m able to add my humor. I like dancing a little bit too so I can play along with some of the dancing videos. I go live and I teach people live. I’ll post the 30-second tutorial about, maybe for example how to find affordable areas to invest in if you’re living in a high-cost living area… Then I’ll go live and go deeper and answer people’s questions live. That’s been my journey on TikTok so far. I highly recommend anyone who’s thinking about it, because the organic reach on there is going to disappear like it did on Instagram. In its early days, you could reach a lot more people and now they don’t even give you your entire audience.

Theo Hicks: Interesting. You said 120,000 views on a video?

Antonio Cucciniello: It’s over a 130,000 now, yeah.

Theo Hicks: Wow. What was the title of that one?

Antonio Cucciniello: It’s Trend. Do you know, the song Halo by Beyonce?

Theo Hicks: Yeah.

Antonio Cucciniello: It’s going to be hard to explain, but basically, there’s a caption on the screen that says “When you finally buy your first property, but your tenant stops paying rent and blocks your number.” What you’re supposed to do, the trend is that there’s a camera behind you walking and you’re falling down in slow motion. It shows like a situation where you got screwed over or something. It’s like nine seconds long, but it sparked a big controversy, because apparently there’s a lot of people that want landlords to die. That was actually one of the comments I got, was “Landlords deserve death.” So then it ended up being a lot of people backing me up in the comments, about how I talked about landlords provide housing… That’s what kind of made it go viral. I just got almost 2000 comments now.

Theo Hicks: Wow, that’s really super fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing that. At this pace, you might be famous in a couple of months and you won’t have to do real estate anymore. What’s your TikTok name? So people can look you up and see your falling-over video.

Antonio Cucciniello: My TikTok handle is @investarters. Same as my YouTube channel name is. But my name on there is Real Estate Investing Mentor, because you can have only a certain amount of characters for your name there.

Theo Hicks: Okay Antonio, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Antonio Cucciniello: Since most of my advice is about beginners, I’m going to have to say the most important thing is to narrow your focus. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed and you’re not sure where to start, narrow your focus. If you’re trying to learn how to analyze deals, only learn how to analyze deals with cash flow. Don’t try to make it difficult and do multiple formulas at once. When you’re trying to learn about what strategy to pick, pick one that aligns with your goals. Don’t say you’re going to do three different strategies. Maybe down the line you can, but at the start, you need to pick one. When you’re picking a location, pick one. It’s very hard to learn the streets and what areas are best to invest in Austin versus Dallas versus San Antonio versus OKC. You need to understand your market. Everything comes down to narrowing your focus in the beginning. That’s got to be the best advice I can give right now.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Antonio, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Antonio Cucciniello: Oh, yeah.

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

Break: [00:16:46][00:17:20]

Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the Best Ever book you’ve recently read?

Antonio Cucciniello: The Best Ever book I recently read. I read Raising Private Capital by Matt Faircloth. That one I liked a lot.

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

Antonio Cucciniello: Well, first, I think I’d be pretty pissed, but in the third day or two, I would take the knowledge that I’ve had and combine that with finding a partner, if I had no money to get the next property; the knowledge didn’t disappear of how to get deals.

Theo Hicks: Out of the three deals you’ve done so far, which has been the best?

Antonio Cucciniello: The best cash-flow wise has been my triplex, my first one. But the one that took the most courage has to be the second one, because I placed my offer right when lockdown started in March, and all other buyers backed out. I was scared, really scared because I was, “What is going to happen?” But then I kept remembering that five years from now this likely won’t be a thing. If you asked me then, I would have said one year from now this won’t be a thing, but it still is a little bit, so… I’ve got to say that one took the most courage, but the best deal has been the triplex.

Theo Hicks: What is the Best Ever way you like to give back?

Antonio Cucciniello: Well, right now my focus has been helping beginners. I have a community phone number where people can text me their questions and I’ll answer whatever question they’ve got. I don’t really hold back, especially because there’s a lot of younger people who don’t have any money at all, so I’m not getting anything out of them. It’s just mainly helping, because know what it was like to want to have a mentor, asking multiple people to be my mentor, and got shut down. That hurts. So being able to help like that right now is what I’m looking forward to doing. Later down the line, I actually want to build a fund for beginners who don’t have money to be able to help them to start.

Theo Hicks: Lastly, what is the Best Ever place to reach you?

Antonio Cucciniello: Well, that’s a perfect segue. You can text me at 732-402-6988. I can’t receive phone calls on that line, but you can text me any questions you want and then I’ll answer them as soon as I get a chance.

Theo Hicks: Great, Antonio. Thank you so much for joining us today and providing us with your story and your Best Ever advice. We talked about your six-step process that you give to beginners to get started. Number one, clear on goals, two, clear strategy, three, the location you can do the strategy in, four, get your financing in order, five, master the analysis process, and then six, make some offers.

The we talked about TikTok and how you are basically TikTok famous now. You kind of gave us some tips on how to get started on TikTok and how it’s a goldmine, in a sense, right now, because relative to the other platforms where it’s very hard to find success to get that organic traffic – you mentioned you made over 500 videos on YouTube that you used for four years, and Instagram too doesn’t even show you their whole audience… Whereas your first video got 52 views and you had 150 followers by the end of the week. Five weeks later, you’ve got over 8000 followers, you’ve got a video with 130,000 views on it. You’ve got a new mentee, two potential investors… You find really clients, investors, anything on there.

You said you do how-to videos, making sure you add some humor. For you, that’s dancing. Then the strategies, do 30-second tutorials, and then go deeper into whatever topic you’re talking about live, as well as answering questions. For you, that @investstarters so people can take a look at that and attempt to mimic your success. Your Best Ever advice was to narrow the focus. Kind of going back to your six-step strategy – one goal, one strategy, one location, and then get it done. Antonio, thank you so much for joining us today. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a Best Ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Antonio Cucciniello: Thanks.

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