John C. Lettera had a knack for learning and how to take in as much information as possible when he got into the real estate business. He wanted to make sure that he was the best and knew about more than just the basics of the industry.
“I began investing in real estate early on and wanted to learn and absorb as much as I could. I developed a true appreciation for how the capital stack, or the financial structure, of a real estate deal works. I was intrigued at all the different types of capital invested into a real estate asset and the relationship between each category. The more I learned about the relationship between equity and debt, the more I liked being involved on the debt side. I appreciate how every real estate deal is unique, and the factors that contribute to the potential risks and returns vary. The structure of the capital stack will therefore also vary from deal to deal. It’s a constant intellectual challenge,” John remarks.
From this knack to learn and interest in the real estate world came John’s success. In his words, he saw an opportunity at the right time and took it. He is now the CEO and founder of a business that uses technology to help others in the market.
“I capitalized on the opportunity as a lot of real estate sat below that top tier, falling either into the value-add category or in secondary or tertiary markets, currently off the radar screen of the most risk-averse lenders. I quickly realized that this is a legal intensive industry and decided to attend law school. Fast forward 30 years, and RealFi is now recognized as one of the nation’s leading mortgage companies, employing hundreds of professionals and continuing to grow exponentially. I am the founder and CEO of RealFi Financial LLC, a leading, technology-driven, alternative investment management firm with expertise in real estate credit strategies. Through its subsidiaries, RealFi is an originator of qualified and non-qualified residential home mortgages. And through the RealFi REIT, a leading real estate finance company, the firm is a direct lender focused on originating commercial real estate bridge loans in major markets throughout the United States. I have over two decades of legal experience and over 30 years of experience in real estate debt originations and acquisitions as well as equity investing,” John states.
After having so much experience in the business, he is sharing some of his knowledge with aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to do what he did. His advice is to focus on you and your story and how you can write that into success.
“While many factors come into play when building a business, I believe that the most important ones have nothing to do with innovation, balance sheets, finance, or marketing. The most important variable to your success in business is you. You are the author of your own life, and it’s never too late to replace the stories you tell yourself. Experience has taught me that if we go to work every day on the internal, the external success we crave will undoubtedly show up along the way. The remarkable thing about working on ideas like inner passion and purpose is that your progress comes out so authentically in all manner of external interaction. When people can genuinely feel that you care about what you are engaged in, you are a persuasive salesperson, without actually trying to sell anything. It takes a lot of courage to work on the internal, but as Anais Nin so eloquently put it, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” John advises.
For the next year, John is focusing on building and expanding his business even further as he continues to innovate and make himself better for the future of the market.
“To continually grow organically and through strategic acquisitions. We are also constantly upgrading our technology to ensure we employ the latest financial technologies to streamline the traditionally out-of-date and non-transparent lending process and flow with the cacophony of invention, new technologies and methodologies of working. I have learned that for this organization to continue to thrive, we need to listen to the people on the front lines and adopt an adaptable, engaging and fluid management style,” John says.