Tim is a 16 year veteran of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and currently serves as a lieutenant in the borough of Queens. Until recently, he also worked part-time as an emergency room RN at a level 1 trauma center. He brings years of real-world management and leadership experience to his real estate investment career.
Tim’s initial goal with real estate was to create passive income and in turn, be able to spend more time with his wife and three little girls. After partnering on a multifamily property he saw first-hand the power of real estate investing as an opportunity to create passive income and build wealth for his family.
He started Cityside Capital with the goal of not only growing his own portfolio but also to help others realize the power that real estate investing can have on creating passive income and building wealth.
Cityside Capital has $79 million of assets under management including 561 multifamily units. Tim has also invested as a limited partner in 256 multifamily units in Texas and in a large retail supercenter in Tennessee.
Tim attributes his early success in real estate investing to education, investing in coaches and mentors, and surrounding himself with like-minded people.
In April 2021, Tim became an Amazon #1 bestselling author in a book he co-authored with other authorities such as The Real Estate Radio Guys’ Robert Helms, Jim Rohn’s 18-year business partner and master marketer, Kyle Wilson and many more, called “Bringing Value, Solving Problems and Leaving a Legacy”.
Key Points From The Episode:
- Working as an ER nurse, firefighter, then becoming an investor.
- How 9/11 impacted Timothy’s life and family.
- Educating himself on real estate… Reading Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Closing his first multifamily deal.
- Overcoming limiting beliefs.
- Understanding that you can’t save your way to wealth.
- The power of equity, using other people’s money.
- Learning about taxes.
- Scaling past small multifamily deals.
- Realizing that real estate is a team sport.
- becoming a general partner/syndicator.
- How to overcome limiting beliefs.
- Real estate investing being the best way to build wealth.
- The Story Brand by Donald Miller
And I don’t know who was on a podcast, but they said, you know what, you can’t save your way to wealth and they kind of hit me like a ton of bricks and even like the Millionaire Next Door, that book. You know, they talked about the Millionaire Next Door, but it’s over like decades of saving and being diligent and I just wanted to see what was out there that I could do today to improve my tomorrow.
[00:00:21] KR: Intro
Welcome to Ritter on Real Estate, the show about how to passively invest like a pro. On each episode, I interview real estate experts who give their top investing advice, strategies, and tools that break down the insights into practical steps to avoid the pitfalls and make better investments. I want to help you passively invest like a pro. This is Ritter on Real Estate, and I’m your host, Kent Ritter.
Hello fellow investors. Welcome to another episode of Ritter on real estate where we teach you how to passively invest like a pro and I am Kent Ritter as usual, and I am here today with Tim Lyons and Tim is a managing partner of city side capital. He’s a real estate syndicator and focuses on bringing strong returns to his investors. Through his investments. He’s also a tenant in New York City Fire Department and until recently, he was working in the in the ER, as a level one trauma center nurse. So sure, say some good stories through that. But Tim, excited to have you here today excited to hear your story and this evolution into multifamily and before we dig in right there, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
Yeah, Kent, thanks for having me on the show. Much, much appreciation for that and yeah, I mean, it’s a quite a quite an interesting combination, your nurse, firefighter and now real estate syndicator thought every day you kind of meet one of those. But yeah, so listen, I, I was one of those kids as a grown up in a neighborhood right outside of New York City. I was obsessed with fire trucks from a young age. I said, Chase them around the neighborhood, you know, and, you know, make my mom’s kind of drive me all over town, if there was a fire, I want to go watch it and I could never shake it. So, I get to college, and I’m in college 9/11 happens and my uncle al was a captain of the New York City Fire Department and he was crushed under tower too and he ended up having a special radio that he could kind of talk directly with the dispatchers and they were able to get them out and I really think like right after that, you know, I’m up, you know, Providence College up in Rhode Island them, you know, 180 miles away from New York City and I just knew that there was you know, people that I knew and people that were gonna be close to our family that would have been involved in impacted by this and obviously, it came true. So, I think right after that, like that day, I said to myself, I’m going to be a New York City firefighter. I said, I just watched those guys on the new season. You know, I was sold, you know, I finished college and two weeks after graduation, I got called to be a New York City firefighter and it was like a dream come true. I mean, the timing couldn’t have been any better and, and I loved it, you know, I was 22 I was at this great job was exciting. I mean, it was it was thrilling and a lot of firefighters work on the side, you know, we work 24-hour shifts, then we have a couple of days off in between our 24 hours shifts, and a lot of guys are handy and they do you know roofing, construction, contracting, H- FAC and I don’t have any of those skills. So, I kind of I was a role player with some of those guys, you know, but I just knew I didn’t want to do kind of manual labor. So, I went back to nursing school, I had worked with a bunch of nurses, guys who you know, on the side work at a hospital or home care and they talked me into it and it wasn’t a hard sell. Because I always joke that I was pre-med for about 15 minutes back in college, you know, before, before the wheel sells off, kind of and so yeah, so I mean, that’s kind of what I did and you know, for a while, you know, and in the meantime, I got married, I had my first kid and you know, when my kids were little, they’re ten, seven and two now.
But when they were little, and they didn’t really notice if I was working 70, 80,90 hours a week and you know, the bills paid, we had some savings, it was going on vacations twice a year or something and you know, it was all good. But then they got a little bigger and started talking and they were like missing me and guilt tripping the heck out of me like Daddy, you just got home last night from the firehouse and now you’re gonna go to the hospital and I can tell my wife was feeling it. I was feeling it. My kids were feeling it and I just knew that had to be a better way and you know, real estate kind of was always in the back of my mind and someday I’ll get into real estate, someday I’ll do this and someday I’ll do that and, you know, I think I was stuck with that narrative in my head. You know, I can’t I can’t do it. I don’t have enough money. How am I going to get into it? You know? and, you know, I just started to slowly educate myself. You know, I was always interested in finance and reading the Wall Street Journal since college and so, reading books and then I got into podcasts and then I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad write the book that kind of changes everybody’s mindset around real estate investing and that was a summer of 19 and Kent, by November of 19, I was closing on my first three family property with a friend of mine had gone into it with me and, you know, very, very shortly thereafter, we had our proof of concept, my wife and I, we did better on our taxes, we had some cash flow coming in and, you know, I had enough capital to make one more similar type purchase, but I just didn’t feel like the three family was moving the needle for me in a way that I wanted to jump into another one.
So, you know, I continued down the education piece, and I kept on hearing about multifamily real estate, and, again, the limiting beliefs kind of creeped in, you know, I don’t understand the spreadsheets and the underwriting and how do you value it and, you know, net operating income and cap rates, and I was kind of lost and, you know, I kept on hearing about people getting educated with a mentorship or a coaching program and, you know, I always joke that, you know, I have a healthy dose of skepticism baked into my DNA, and I just didn’t know that there was an ROI to pay for coaching or the pay for a mentor. I wasn’t there yet. But I started to reach out for some students of different programs and getting their feedback and it kind of crystallized to me that if I wanted to maintain the W two job as a New York City firefighter, and do this real estate, but I really kind of needed, you know, that extra push and that accountability and the certainty and the clarity that a network of like-minded individuals would kind of bring to me. So, march of 2020, you know, right before COVID kind of ramps up, I joined a mentorship program and, you know, I kind of got around my limiting beliefs, and I came out of pocket and, and, and pay for it and as you know, you know, right around that time, is when COVID kind of hit so wasn’t the best time to get into multifamily real estate, but, you know, for me, if you know, there never is going to be a perfect time and, you know, I can talk a little bit more about that onboarding process, because it was a little unique with COVID. But I’ll throw it back to you to see to unpack any of that.
Yeah, Tim! I think there’s So, a lot there right. I think that you know, starting out you know, you called to serve become a firefighter right you’re then you start working two jobs. Man, I really resonate with the So, idea of like, your kids and family, you know, missing you guilt tripping you, I mean, really, this, I mean, just such a similar situation, to what I was in, and we both been able to find freedom in this and so that’s fantastic. That’s really the name of the game, right; Is that that time freedom to do what you want and be the So, husband and father that you want to be right. So that that’s awesome. Congratulations there. But, let’s go back so you’re you know, you’re working at the fire you are working the two jobs you are kind of live in a W two lifestyle, right; He said a couple vacations a year you doing this doing that, but you know, and it even sounds like the work was pretty satisfying. But he just didn’t have that balance. Right. He didn’t he didn’t have any work life balance at that point. So, you get into and you’re just thinking one lifestyle, day real estate, what was it that that really made you land on real estate? Why real estate as the next place you go from So, being a nurse?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve been down the rabbit hole of these podcasts and when you know, I’ve always got to be conditioned to you know, go to school, get good grades, you’ll get a good job, max out your 401k get a job at a pension if you can, and I was checking all those boxes and I you know; I understand the stock market. I don’t I’m not I’m not an expert at it, but I understand it, you know, there’s ups and downs and, you know, and I just felt like I had no control and I just felt like, you know, I had excess cash and I put it into a Vanguard ETF or fidelity, you know, you know, mutual fund like that wasn’t going to move the needle for me either and I don’t know who was in a podcast that said, you know what, you can’t save your way to wealth and that kind of hit me like a ton of bricks and even like the Millionaire Next Door, that book, you know, they talk about the Millionaire Next Door, but it’s over like decades of saving and being diligent, and I just wanted to see what was out there that I could do today to improve my tomorrow and in that same podcast when he said he can’t save your way to wealth. You know, he talks about equity, whether it was real estate or a small business or, you know, getting in on the ground floor of an IPO or something like that and You know, that really kind of hit me like, I need to find out about equity and he didn’t know how equity you work and real estate to me at the time was just like that natural next step, because I wasn’t gonna be doing any startup companies and, you know, I already had no time really so and I just really had that interest in real estate. So, it just seemed so normal to me to kind of start educating myself on a topic that I was already, you know, pretty interested in. So that’s kind of how, you know, I made that pivot towards real estate and, you know, the more education you get, and the power of leverage and the power of, you know, equity, and, you know, using other people’s money to pay down, like, you know, for the tenants to pay down your debt, and to pay your expenses.
I mean, it was pretty powerful and then all of a sudden, he starts talking about tax benefits to landlords and to investors and I found myself reading text, tax textbooks and tax, you know, books and signing up for tax webinars, I mean, stuff that I would never think that I would be absolutely highly engaged in. I was I couldn’t get enough; you know. So, one thing led to another, and it just crystallized for me that this is right where I need to be.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, you’re taking accountability for your future, right. I think most people put it on autopilot and just say, well, yeah, I’m gonna sock it away in this 401k and kind of hope that that one day I have enough to retire, right and kind of put it put it in somebody else’s hand, put at the back of your mind, when in reality, I mean, that’s the that is, to me, the most important thing you can do is just take the reins of your financial future and, and make sure that you’re being proactive with that, right and so, you start educating yourself, which, which, right, as we all know, I mean, there’s no better return, right. Nobody can ever take that away from you. If you lose everything, you can start over if you know what to do, right. So that that’s fantastic and then real estate. Sure. I mean, checks all the boxes, right. I mean, that’s what you do. That’s why I do it and as you get into it, and I love the story about you know, you didn’t start big, you started with that that three Plex, but that that’s absolutely perfect, because you got into the game and when you get into the game, you realize the so, more hidden benefits, right; tax savings and things like that, that, that you start to see flow through, and it really hits you, right. So that’s, that’s awesome. I love that story and so, so you’re, you’re in real estate, and you said, Okay, well, I got this three Plex, but like, you start doing the math, and you’re saying, Okay, well, how many of these Do I have to own to really get to where I want to be? Right; and it was probably a lot of three plex’s? So, you said, Okay, I got to start scaling up. So how did you go about that process to go from, you know, to go from that point, to scale up and go into larger multifamily?
Yeah, you’re exactly right. I just want to stack on top of that three Plex, I, you know, when I first closed, and that three plex, I remember coming home to my wife and saying, Dave, I’m going to buy 30 of these things and it’s going to be awesome, you know, and you very quickly, you realize you don’t have enough money and for that, and then you know, am I really going to raise capital from our people to go buy 1920s built three plex’s, you know, that are just waiting to kind of have this capex tsunami kind of hits you? and the answer is no. So, you know, that’s when multifamily I kept on here and on the podcast, kept on reading about it in the in the books, but I don’t understand it, but I started to investigate it just a little bit more and go a little bit deeper and, you know, all of a sudden, I was like, wow, like you can, you know, you can have a 10 unit and it’s really all the units are under one roof. So, it’s like you have a scalability and so it’s investing with scalability men, and, you know, little by little, it’s like, man, I there’s no other way to I have to do this, I don’t want to be the guy to have 10 single family houses and there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want to do and that’s how you want to operate. But then, like, you just hear so many stories of people who have 1020 single families who they built up over a number of years, and then they see the light after 10,20 years, and then they sell them all and get into multifamily, you know, you know, so I just kind of wanted to, I was trying to find out where I fit in, in this whole space. So, you know, I ended up saying to myself, alright, I want to do multifamily. What’s that? How can I do it successfully and because at the end of the day, like I didn’t have a ton of time to be making tons of mistakes and doing it by myself, even though my mindset at the time was me, me, me, I want to have control I want to do by myself. I want to make the money. I want to make decisions. You know, I wasn’t at that point where I am today realizing that commercial real estate and actually real estate in general is a team sport. So, I think once I kind of had that paradigm shift of a team sport mentality, I was I was way more open to being mentored and coached and you know, that’s So, what I did and, you know, to be honest with you, the program that I was that I aligned myself with, if I lost everything today, I would go absolutely back to them on day one, and I’d find a way to get back in, because that has absolutely been the key to my success so far.
Gotcha. Very good. You know, again, going out and finding the mentor, you know, making it happen, get getting things done, and kind of just again, taking ownership of your future here. So, so what was the next deal that you did after the three Plex?
Yeah, so next one was a 43-unit syndication with actually it was the guy who was mentoring and coaching me was his deal and he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to gonna get a behind the scenes look and a peek behind the curtain, if you will, on, you know, how a syndication works and when I got into the multifamily mentorship, I thought I was going to do a 10 or 20 unit building with my brother and my other brother and my dad, maybe a friend or two, like, I didn’t have any concept about the syndication model. I mean, I’ve heard of it, but I, that wasn’t for me, I guess, you know, and then all of a sudden, I had a chance to see exactly how it worked and I had a chance to be, you know, at the table, and then raise some money and I, you know, at the time, I was like, I don’t know, if I can raise 200 bucks, you know, and I ended up raising 150,000 for that first deal and, you know, I was like, wow, like, that’s really powerful that you cannot only, you know, be a general partner in a syndication, but that you can actually have an opportunity for your inner circle for your friends and family to, you know, deploy their capital into real estate, and in a passive nature. All of a sudden, the light bulb went on, and I was hooked on the syndication model. So that was the first deal and then, you know, everybody hears about the wall, the first deal, right, Kent, and very quickly thereafter, deals 2,3,4 and 5 games, so.
Wow, very good. Very good. So, see, you grew a lot in a short time, right, let’s say let’s say from that that mentality of that three Plex up to how many units Did you say now? 720? something you’ve been a part of?
726? I think, yep.
Very good. So, talk to me about talk to you about how your mindset changed from see, you going back to those three plex’s; up to what you’re doing now and talk to me, how about you? How did you overcome these those limiting beliefs? You talked about? Maybe what were the beliefs? and then how did you get past them? Because I think that can help other people who may be thinking the same thing?
Yeah. I was time. Yeah, this is a loaded question. Right. But, you know, in short, you know, when I when I decided to do this multifamily mentorship, I actually retired from the hospital because I just couldn’t swing two jobs, and then, you know, really kind of dive in into real estate. So, you know, I let go of a side job that I was making, like, 30, you know, $35,000 a year, you know and at the time, I’m paying for this mentorship and you know, I was taking a big risk, and, you know, COVID is about to hit.
So, you know, I that first deal, I was still in the mindset that I’m Tim the fireman, and Tim, the ER, nurse, and Tim, the dad of three, the married father of three girls, like, I didn’t have that mindset that I was Tim to real estate investors. So, when that first deal came, like, I didn’t even know how to raise capital, I didn’t know how to even approach somebody with a deal and that was a big learning experience. Because what I found was you can’t just start attacking your inner circle with like, IRR and cash on cash returns and equity multiples. I mean, they look at you, like, you know, like you’re making the dizzy, you know. So that was a huge learning experience for me and I think that was the impetus for me to say, Okay, this thing has legs for me, and I enjoyed this and I liked this model. Now I got to go figure out how to really kind of make it work. So, it was the paradigm shift of Tim to Farmington, the ER nurse to Tim, the real estate investor that’s kind of taken me to where I am today, through So, the last you know, 12,15 months and really just kind of, you know, embodying the fact that I know what syndication is, I know how it works and now I need to basically tell people in a authentic, connected way. We’re, here’s what I’m doing. Here’s how I did it. I’m a regular guy, just like you. You know, and this is how maybe you can be involved. Do you want to hear more about it? Yes/ No and in by and large, like, just by doing that, and that instead of going right to your people with like, you know, you know, returns and deals and, you know, whatever that has been, you know, just instrumental for me and for my investors and for the success that I’ve had up until today.
Yeah, no, I think that that’s exactly that’s exactly right and I can see why you’ve had the success that you’ve had and so that that’s a fantastic story of really changing, you really change your, your perception of yourself, right and you, you were able to kind of see yourself in a new way and therefore allow others to see yourself in a new way and I think I think that’s really powerful. I mean, that’s some powerful mindset stuff right there. Right, I think really important, but important for people to know that that’s possible and it’s possible at any time in your life and it’s possible, coming from any career, right; I mean, I think that’s what you’re trying to talk about, right; coming as, you know, firefighter and a nurse. I mean, you didn’t he didn’t have a finance background, you didn’t have real estate background. But you an took charge, you educated yourself, and look at the position you’re in now, right.
Well, I mean, people, you know, for me, at least, like when people see what we’re doing, people are always watching what you’re doing, right. Just think it’s in our nature, whether it’s social media, or your neighbors or your community, people know kind of what you’re doing and I find myself now I’m in a supermarket, and people are like, yo, Tim, like, what is that real estate thing you’re doing? You know, let’s go get coffee next week, let’s go get lunch, you know, let’s go get drinks, whatever, you know, and they’re seeing what I’m doing. But also, I’m kind of living it too, right. I’ve invested now as a limited partner in a couple of deals. So, I kind of know what it feels like to have good communications from the sponsor, and maybe not so good communication from a sponsor. You know, I’ve been a part of five syndications, working on my six and I’ve kind of taken that experience, and I’m trying to bring it forward with me. So, I can serve the investors the way that I want to be treated basically and I think that there’s been some So, early success with that with that model. You know, as far as you know, syndications and real estate in general, and being and being a firefighter and being a nurse, and having that mindset shift, you know, up in the northeast, but you really can’t cash flow really that well, in like the near City area, per se, you know, it’s more of an appreciation place. So, growing up and being a young adult and, you know, when you heard of real estate investing in New York City, it was really kind of buying holds, like for a really long time and then all of a sudden, like, after a couple of decades, you look like a hero, because it’s appreciated, you know, so much. But investing for cash flow isn’t really like the main driver sometimes and again, it’s market specific, you know, in the sub market as well. But, you know, so real estate investing isn’t really something that guys do, in me at least in my own little ecosystem, you know, so but then at the same time, they don’t want to hear about a deal in you know, Austin, Texas, or Phoenix, Arizona, because they can’t go drive past it, touch it, see it, you know, fix it, if needed being so really getting people comfortable with like, the passive side of investing and that, you know, now that when they you know, when the investors got the K one, and they get those distributions, like it all starts to click, and now it’s like, well, let me know, we have another deal, because that first one worked out pretty well so far. You know, and that’s kind of how the how the model proceeds that capital has kind of, you know, gotten started, but we got started in a big way.
Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, it’s it. It is, I’m convinced the best way to build wealth, and you don’t really understand it and tell you how you get on the inside, right; You do that first deal, and you see it happen and the same thing happened for me when I started as an investor. So very good. Tim, thank you for being here and sharing your story. That’s, it’s me inspiring, right, the success you’ve been able to have. Before I let you go, I want to take you through our keys to success. I got four questions I want to ask you and the first one is, you think about think about these deals that you’ve done, the people you’ve partnered with, and me if you could, as an investor, ask a deal sponsor just one question. What’s that most important question?
It would be, you know, you know, how do you communicate with your investors? How often? What kind of information do you put forward? During the good times, and maybe not the good times the good and the bad? You know, I think it’s really easy to report to your investors, when things are just hitting being hit out of the park, and everyone has this like little high of a dopamine hit, but then, you know, COVID hits, maybe collections aren’t as strong or maybe there’s, you know, whatever, a chiller that needs to be replaced, you know, or something like that, you know, you really got to kind of just let people know what’s going on. I mean, they are investing in real estate right alongside you and, you know, so I would just, I would just really kind of focus on that communication space.
Yeah, great advice. I mean, communication is key to so much in life, right. What are you most proud of in your career?
Yeah, so in the multifamily space, I’m just proud that I me am where I am today and I’ve been able to bring people kind of on this journey, you know, with me, you know, I think for so much of my life, it was kind of like me, me, me, I how am I going to do this and, you know, this kind of gives me an opportunity to not only, you know, work from home and have a great business, and, you know, build wealth and cash flow and, but it really kind of gives me an opportunity to kind of reconnect with a lot of people that I maybe haven’t connected with in a long time and, you know, tell them what I’m doing and a lot of them have jumped in, you know, right alongside me. So, it’s really having that impact and helping people with, you know, what I what I consider to be the greatest, the greatest wealth building tool available, is multifamily real estate.
Right on, what is a book that everybody should read?
The Story Brand by Donald Miller is a must read, if you are an entrepreneur, real estate entrepreneur, small business owner, just starting out a website if you’re trying to get in the marketing space. I mean, he is just a masterful storyteller and that book is super powerful.
Awesome, everybody, make sure you check that out and last but not least, what is your number one key to success?
Getting up early, I used to kind of just wake up with the kids or, you know, wake up when the sun was beating on my face through So, the window, you know, and start my day and since I have been doing this real estate journey, I’ve been getting up at like five o’clock in the morning and it hurts from the beginning. You know, it certainly hurts in the beginning. But once you get into the routine, and you can get well I get you know, to two hours of peace and quiet and I got time to think I got time to respond to emails, I got time to get a little workout in, you know, time to write down my goals, you know, without you know, because all of a sudden, the gunshot goes off and the kids are awake and then you know, you’re off to the races. Right. So, for me, it’s sudden, certainly just having that. That morning that morning routine.
Yeah, I think that’s great advice. I mean, if you’ve got smaller kids like you and I both do is the only peace and quiet you get right. You got you got to get up in the morning. You gotta beat everybody up. Awesome. Well, Tim, thank you so much for coming on the show today, sharing your journey, crushing those limiting beliefs and congratulations on your success.
Thank you, sir. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here and I hope your listeners get something out of it. Absolutely.
Thanks for listening to another great episode of Ritter on Real Estate. Hit the subscribe button to make sure you don’t miss out on the content that will make you a better investor. Also visit kentritter.com for articles, videos and tools curated just for passive investors from next time. This is Kent Ritter with Ritter on Real Estate and go out and invest like a pro.