Your journey to financial freedom begins when you take that first step, even if it’s a leap of faith across continents. For this episode, we have our guest Reed Goossens sharing how he pursued the American Dream through REI and personal branding. He takes us on a journey from his humble beginnings in Australia to becoming a successful real estate entrepreneur in the United States. Throughout the episode, Reed emphasizes the importance of taking action— to move beyond analysis paralysis and finally start your journey. Reed also covers the multifamily real estate landscape, how its interest rates, cap rates, and economic shifts have impacted the market. But most of all, Reed dives deep into the world of personal branding, emphasizing how authenticity and consistency are the keys to connecting with investors and building trust. Join us and start your own journey to financial freedom.
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Brand Yourself To Success: Achieving The American Dream Through Action And Real Estate With Reed Goossens
Joining me is Reed Goossens. I’m excited for this episode. A little bit about Reed. In 2012, he quit his job in Australia and moved halfway across the world to the US without any network or family, taking a huge leap of faith. With limited funds, he purchased his first property that same year. Since then, he has cofounded Wildhorn Capital and now controls over $700 million worth of commercial real estate and has achieved financial freedom in the process. I want to talk more about that. He’s the author of two bestselling books on Amazon, Investing In The US: The Ultimate Guide To US Real Estate and 10,000 Miles To The American Dream: Our Story Of Financial Freedom. I am excited to have you on the show. Welcome, Reed.
Thank you so much for having me. I forgot to update that bio. Wildhorn Capital was a former company that I founded. Now, I founded a couple of syndication companies in RSN Property Group. It’s good to be here. It’s incredible to talk about closing on deals. I’m looking forward to bringing some value to your audience. Hopefully, they get a little bit of value out of my story.
Where I want to start is what prompted you to move and how did you make that leap?
The two things that prompted me to move were the love of two different things and the love of a person. I chased a girl over here. She’s now my wife. That’s the first love. The second love was to live in New York City. I had backpacked through New York in my early twenties in 2009. I fell in love with the city. I want to live in New York or the Big Apple at some point in my life. I was mid-twenties. I was like, “Screw it. Let’s go. Let’s give it a crack and chase this girl. Hopefully, it works out. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll move back to Australia. No harm. No foul.”
That was the start of it. I didn’t have a job when I moved here. I was on a tourist visa. I was knocking on different doors of engineering companies to try and find a job. I finally got one. I then got a visa and the rest is history. There’s a lot that happened between now and then, but now I founded two companies, RSN Property Group and Wildhorn Capital. We are a syndication platform. We’ve done about $700 million of acquisitions in the multifamily commercial real estate space. We’re closed on a $19 million deal on Friday, September 29, 2023. It’s been a big day. I’m sure we can talk about what happened in today’s market, but a lot has happened since 2012. I sit here and don’t want to brag. Hopefully, people can be inspired by my story. If an Aussie can do it, so can you.
There is a misconception that success and growth happen overnight. I don’t think social media helps. I talk about this too many times in episodes, but 2012 was over a decade ago. Walk me through your first acquisition, what prompted you to look into real estate, and then the different benchmarks or milestones that got you to where you are now.
The real estate bug has always been with me prior to moving to the US since I got back from backpacking around the world in late 2009. I was in Australia in a cubicle. I read Rich Dad Poor Dad in my early twenties. I was a civil engineer and I need to do more with my life. That prompted me to start thinking about what I could do with my money. I could have invested in the stock market or businesses, but I chose real estate because I happened to be a civil engineer. I was building stuff.
I started educating myself in Australia. I fell in love with this girl. I was like, “I want to move to the US.” When I got here, two weeks fresh off the boat, I was in my first major networking event, the REIA Associations around the country, that you and the audience might be aware of. Kudos and a big shout-out to the REIA Group because that stuff doesn’t exist in other parts of the world. It’s a tapestry of people coming together and sharing education and knowledge about real estate investing.
That was like, “That’s exactly what I want.” I started there. Within six months of moving to the US, I bought my first real property in Upstate New York. That was more to do with the fact that I wanted to dive into deep. At that point, I had two and a half years of self-education. I was like, “I got to go and do this.” I had $30,000 or $40,000 saved up. I bought a triplex for $38,000. I was like, “If I stuffed it up, it’s my own money.” That’s how I got started. I’ll pause there and let you ask any questions because there’s a lot more that was unraveled over the years to get me to where I am now.
You went to a smaller multifamily from the start.
It is as much as I could afford.
Where in Upstate New York was that triplex for $38,000 in 2012?
Syracuse, New York. The only reason I chose Syracuse was because it was affordable and I could get the Greyhound bus there from Penn Station. Go up in the morning, quickly meet with the broker, and come back in the afternoon. I’m back in New York City by 7:00 at night. It’s more of the affordability factor.
It was in state because you were in New York at the time. You have been with this REIA for two years.
I discovered REIA when I moved to the US, beginning in 2012. I was two weeks fresh off the boat. I was at my first event. As an Australian, I was like, “This is networking on steroids.” The message there is don’t take that stuff lightly because it doesn’t exist in Australia or Europe. These are groups made for real estate investing. It was such an incredible network of knowledge. You can learn so much by attending. Paying $20 or $30 at the door and you can start rubbing shoulders with people who you aspire to be. That’s the message there.Don't take RIA events lightly. These are groups made for real estate investing and there's such an incredible network of knowledge that you can learn so much from by just attending. Click To Tweet
That’s important because I’m always telling people, “Find your local REIA event. Go to your local REIA group chapter or whatever that is because there are such good like-minded individuals and people to learn from.” Something you said that is hard for a lot of people is people get stuck in that analysis of, “I’m going to try to learn.” At some point, you have to do with what you have. That might not be $1 million. It might be $35,000 or $39,000. Making that choice, how did that pan out? How did you launch that into your next?
It panned out okay. The message there is you don’t get deal number 10 without doing deal number 1. It’s not always about hitting a home run. It was a big lesson in Section 8 Housing. It was Class D property. It wasn’t very ideal. We had a drive-by shooting at the house. By any stretch, it wasn’t ideal. I sold it for a $7,000 profit, but it got me going. It got me in the game. That’s the most important part. It also led me to my second property that I purchased, which was another duplex.
It led me to a third property that was a fix-and-flip in Philadelphia. You don’t get to these $700 million acquisitions without doing that first one. It takes a little bit and it gets you going. It proves to yourself that you can do it because that is the biggest thing. Back to the analysis paralysis, I equate it to going to the gym. I love working out. You can read about going to the gym, but it’s not going to transition your body in terms of you having to open the door and get on the treadmill. It’s the same thing.
I can read all these books in the background and they’re going to make me knowledgeable, but you need to put all the knowledge into action, see if it’s going to work, and put it on the street. You might get your ass handed to you, but you might not. At the end of the day, you educate yourself to try and avoid pitfalls, but there are going to be pitfalls. That’s where education and surrounding yourself and mentors and like-minded people are important because they can help you avoid the pitfalls. Ultimately, we all make some pitfalls. It’s just trying to minimize those pitfalls as you grow businesses or start investing in real estate.
From there, how did Wildhorn come to you? I know you said that’s not Wildhorn anymore. Was that the first step away from using your own capital?
It was a step before that, and that was getting a mentor. I helped introduce that mentor to another business partner. I was working full-time. To stay in this country, I needed a full-time job. In 2014, I made the move back to Los Angeles, where my wife is from. I was working at a structural engineering firm. I met a gentleman. I had this mentor and coach because I knew I needed to do more. That was when I was like, “I needed to start investing in my own personal brand.” That’s where the podcast Investing In The US came about.
It was more talking to other people about my journey of how to start an LLC, what an EIN number is, and what cashflow means. Through that, I was trying to raise money for other people’s deals, i.e., my mentor. Fast forwarding quickly, at the same point in time, I made a very key decision, which was I use my skillset of being a structural engineer to go and get another corporate job because I needed that visa to be in the country. I went and joined a big development firm here in Los Angeles because I had a skill set that they found valuable and I could be surrounded by real estate 24/7.
I could do the highest-paying corporate job I could find in the real estate sector, plus do my deals on the side. There were many steps in that process that were very key, then we did four major syndications, roughly a bit over 1,000 units before I got to the point where I got my green card and quit my corporate job. That was the start of Wildhorn.
Wildhorn was around a partnership between me and my former partner. I was based in Los Angeles. He was based in Texas. I was looking at deals in Texas. I didn’t have boots on the ground in Texas, but I came from that institutional background of construction management and asset management in the day-to-day corporate job that I had. I had a skillset and he had a skillset because he was local. We came together and did 8 or 9 deals over the years.
Before I went full-time, it was a period of time where we were doing 40 or 50 hours a week day job and then doing the syndications on the side, finding deals, underwriting deals, raising capital, and all that good stuff back in 2014 to 2018. There are a lot of things in there in terms of the story and the journey. Back to what you said before about overnight success, it takes ten years to get there.
The strategic decision of using your current skillset in corporate while also learning, a lot of people think mentor. They think a coach these days is someone they have to pay. The takeaway from what you told us is it doesn’t necessarily have to be a coaching program or someone that you’re paying to coach you. It can be someone you meet at REIA, networking in your company, or using your skills at your company where you’re learning about real estate for example.
I did pay a mentor. In parallel to my switching careers, both two things happened together. I did pay someone. It was the minimum amount of money I could find for a mentor. That payment is a mental investment in yourself like, “I’m worth this money.” Many people pay mentors and don’t do anything with them, but I was coming from the fact that I needed to find someone who was young and hungry like me. I didn’t want to find and pay someone $30,000 to do nothing.
The second thing was looking back, it was an investment in myself. That’s the big leap of faith that I’m worthy of taking that investment because only I can change my trajectory in my life. No one else is going to come and hand me the keys to the kingdom by sitting on the couch. It was trying to take that control. One, quitting the job that was in. I hated engineering. I was so fed up with it. Looking back, I had the foresight to say that I could use this skillset in another corporate job and continue to learn there. Plus, outside of work, I need someone to teach me this multifamily business, then try and mirror up the two in terms of skillsets learning either side of the coin to give me the best starting possibility to start a company and do it for myself eventually.
You were in the multifamily space from the start. I want to talk about the economic differences between now and then in the multifamily space. Wildhorn was from 2014 to 2018. Talk about that versus now, how you’re making decisions, and how that looks different.
We were buying deals at $50,000, $60,000, or $70,000 a door. Nowadays, deals are getting done at $150,000 or $200,000 a door. It is a completely different landscape out there. I closed on a deal in Phoenix, Arizona, with my current company, RSN Property Group. We paid $195,000 a door for it. You look historically at those deals. I’m sure they would have traded back in the day at those historical rights, but guess what else was all low back then? That was rent.
Back in the day, rent for a single bedroom was $550. For a two-bedroom, it was $750. Nowadays, one bedroom in Phoenix would go on the low end for $1,000. A two-bedroom on the high end could probably go for as much as $1,700 on Class B, C-plus, and workforce housing type of stuff. The same was similar in Central Texas and other secondary parts of the country.
The value has been driven by the cost of rent going up, coupled with the fact that a lot of people are now involved in this space. There has been a big transition to alternative assets in the last few years, helped along by stuff like the Jobs Act, which we can talk about, allowing retail investors to invest directly into syndicators like myself. There are a lot of things that have been going on. In 2021, it was the peak coming out of COVID and there were astronomical highs. I sold a bunch of deals and made some incredible money.
Now, we’ve seen a complete dip in the commercial real estate. I’ve seen upwards like this deal I purchased. I saw that in 2022 and they wanted 30% higher for it than what I picked it up now. That’s because interest rates have gone up at an astronomical right in 2022 in response to fighting inflation, That has also caused massive problems in floating rate debt in commercial real estate, which I’m sure we’ll talk about. I’m sure you and a lot of your clients are seeing it, and it is making people nervous. In general, compared to where we were, we are still looking at the fundamentals. Real estate rent is growing. People still need a roof over their heads and there is a lack of supply in terms of housing. Those three boxes are still being ticked today.
Something that’s important to notice is multifamily and commercial space at this time overall, if you’re not in it, it gets a bad rap right now. It’s finding the sponsors and the people who are still looking at exactly what you said, “Is rent growing? Are people needing housing?” The opportunity is there. As you mentioned, the property that you looked at in 2022, you got it for significantly less because you waited. It’s not about committing to the first deal. If someone is looking to invest in a syndication of some sort in the commercial space, what would you say are some questions that they should be asking of the sponsor?
“How is your portfolio going?” That is number one. “Do you have floating rate debt on your deals? Do you have the right cap on those deals?” Back in the day a few years ago, a lot of people bought deals with no rate cap. We can talk about where the right cap is with floating rate debt when debt is cheap. Debts and interest rates are tied, and so are market cap rates. When assets are trading for 4% and 5% caps, usually the Federal Reserve rate is around 4% and 5%.
Now that the Federal Reserve rate is at 5.5% to 6% percent, guess what has expanded? Cap rates have expanded. The value of those assets has also decreased compared to 24 months ago when interest rates were a lot lower. I do believe interest rates will go back, maybe not as historically what we’ve seen, but they will come off the boil. If you can pick up something that has an expanded cap rate, I mentioned the deal we bought at a 25% discount to what it was eighteen months ago, I still do believe that in a compressing cap rate environment as interest rates, they will cut interest rates at some point. That will only benefit us as investors.
Where do you think the opportunity as a sponsor lies in 2024?
All about trying to find other sponsors who are in distress, and they are. Trust me. I’m having conversations within my inner circles. The people in big groups are struggling.
I came back from a conference. We’re in the residential mortgage note space, but the commercial space was a big topic of discussion. It’s pretty much exactly what you said. There’s a lot of distressed sponsors debt out there for people to capitalize on.
People aren’t talking about it but it’s there if you know where to look. It’s coming and it’s just how long people can hold on to survive.
One of the books you wrote was about financial freedom. It is the most popular word that is used in conjunction with real estate investing or passive investing. Give me your definition of financial freedom. Has that evolved as you’ve grown?
It’s like the old saying, “You quit your 9:00 to 5:00 to work 24/7.”
“I left my W-2 and then I have financial freedom,” but unless you have passive income, that’s not financial freedom. You’re working harder as the owner. Tell me a little bit about that journey.
We probably are similar in age. You usually start with nothing. A lot of what I’ve built, I’ve built through sweat equity and working hard. That builds up equity over time. I’m 37 years of age. In ten years’ time, I do not want to be an operator anymore. I want to be investing in other people’s deals. That’s the cycle. I’ll always be an investor at heart. Being an operator is because I’ve come through the ranks of civil engineering and into the corporate world. That added value when I started my business.
That could attract capital because it’s like, “Reed has some experience.” Over the last few years, we’ve built a portfolio of multifamily real estate. In time, I will transition into being more of maybe private equity that I place my own capital in other sponsors’ deals and not have to do the hard stuff, like constant asset management calls, grinding away with delinquency, tenants, construction management, and all that stuff, which is what investors trust me to go out and do every single day.
It’s not financial freedom, but it’s a freedom that I’ve chosen to start a company, or the other world would have been staying in my day job in my cubicle in Australia and never going down this path. I’ve always wanted to challenge and not be complacent with unfulfilled potential. That’s what I’m doing right now. My financial picture looks ten times different than what it was when I started, but it has come through a lot of work. That will look different in ten years’ time as well. You’re a mass wealth and then you grow that wealth in different ways.
To your point, when you start from nothing, it takes a lot to build that up to a nest egg where you can then become that passive investor and have financial freedom. There are elements that we can talk about like being addicted to the grind and all that stuff. I constantly say that this business is somewhat flawed because you have to go and keep hunting for the next deal. You’re not just building a widget and selling mass quantities of that widget, and you manage the business over the next twenty years. It’s, “When’s that next deal coming through? When’s that next cashflow coming through?” My wife knows that. We’ve spoken about that in-depth. As an investor, long-term commercial real estate has been and will continue to be a very good place to park your money and grow it over the long term.
The last thing I wanted to touch upon is your personal brand. For people who are becoming a sponsor and operators, talk about building your personal brand, how that’s important, and how has that helped build what you’ve built.
It’s the crux of it all. At the end of the day, you can take a word whole away or different names away, but my business isn’t me. People invest in me personally. They invest in trust. Building a personal brand around investing In the US was around interviewing other like-minded people and experts about how to build wealth. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now. That helped me build not necessarily a track record, but credibility in a short period of time because this is a day of information.
Putting out my moving to America story was around attracting other people who may think like I think. I’m not going to attract everyone. I don’t intend to attract everyone to be my customers, but I attract people who resonate with my story. Thus, that’s a personal brand and I put myself out there. My business is my brand, Reed Goossens. That’s who I am. No one can take that away from me.
The beauty of this is that everyone has an awesome story. You just have to know how to tell it well. That’s through podcasting, writing books, blogs, and all that stuff. This interaction and talking on podcasts is a skill you learn. I was a mathematical geek engineer with a very black-and-white brain. I was like, “What the hell is this personal brand BS? What the hell is putting your name on a book and putting a podcast out and making sure you are on social media?” Some of that I still hate to this day, but I know it helps know shorten the time people get to know me.
My take on personal brand is that it is just that personal. For people looking to try to be someone else and have someone else’s voice, it is never going to work for you. You have to own who you are, especially when you’re raising capital. That trust is crucial. The hook is the product and the asset, but they invest because of you, the sponsor. I feel like people have a better sense that we give them credit for assessing someone’s true self, if they get a good feeling or bad feeling, if you’re being sincere and honest, or if you’re trying to say what you think you should say.
As cliché as it might sound, that’s completely correct. Being true to your word.
I’m super cliché.
Work hard, keep going at it, and be truthful. It is that. The other thing is when you do personal branding, it’s it’s a long game. It’s not going to happen overnight. To build a reputation, it can go in an instant, but it takes not a lifetime but years to build. That’s another thing I want to touch on briefly.A personal brand is a long game. Building a reputation is not going to happen overnight. It can go in an instant, but it takes years to build. Click To Tweet
Along that same line, it’s finding your voice, and your voice will evolve. For example, writing on LinkedIn or doing a podcast. It takes time to figure out what works for you and how you present yourself. The more you do it, the more in tune with your message or your voice you become. People think, “If I do this one-pager on my brand and who I am,” that’s a great place to start. Don’t get me wrong, but be okay with that evolving as you grow. Have more experiences, interactions, and conversations.
Keep talking to investors and all that stuff. There’s a great book called 24 Assets by Daniel Priestley. He has another book called Key Person of Influence. It has nothing to do with real estate, but it has everything to do with how you pitch yourself. He talks in that book about Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. It’s a classic speech that everyone knows, but he had to pitch it a thousand times in different churches across the South back in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s before it came on the Washington Monument.
The same is true in different scales on civil rights, but when you have to pitch about your business, you have to energize people. It’s not just going to be about the one-pager you build. It’s going to be about the consistency of the message, the different platforms you use to get your message out, and the time in the saddle to get people to understand what you’re saying and what your business is all about.
That goes back to making sure you have the long view of the game because it isn’t something that you’re going to start as a personal brand like, “I tried it for six months. It didn’t work.” This means multiple years of what you’ve built and what I’ve built. You are not trying to have the millions of people or the Tony Robbins of the world. They’re great examples, but you can have a following of 500 people. Five hundred people can completely change your business. They’ve been attracted because they like your story.
It’s not go viral or go home.
It’s not about being the most viral thing on the internet. It’s about consistency around your message. Also, biting off what you can chew because doing podcasts and writing books and newsletters is a full-time job in itself.Personal branding is not about being the most viral thing on the internet. It's about consistency around your message and around. Click To Tweet
While you’re also managing your property, your investors, and everything else. You can’t be consistent if you have taken on more than you can commit to. Trying everything at once is fine, but find what works for you. If it’s not podcasting, if it’s writing on LinkedIn or TikTok, you probably get a lot of people on there.
We’ve been talking about the REIA and the old-fashioned made-up events.
It’s a great place to pitch yourself.
It is also a great place to start a platform. Maybe you’re in a city that doesn’t have a real estate investment club. Start one. You eventually will do that enough and have enough meetings that you will be the key person of influence in the room.
To wrap it up, if people are interested in learning more about what you do and connecting with you, where can they find you?
There are two different places, depending on what you want ReedGoossens.com. I’m across all the social media platforms, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can check me out there. I do a weekly podcast called Investing In The US. That’s all on the educational side. If you want more on the real estate investment side, our investment platform is RSNPropertyGroup.com. If you’re ever coming through Los Angeles and you want to hit me up, you can hit me up at Info@ReedGoossens.com. Give me a heads up about when you’re coming to town. We can meet up for a beer, talk shop, have a coffee, lunch, or whatever.
That’s something that the real estate world is good about. It’s like, “If you’re in town or you’re ever in my city, reach out.” I’d be curious to see how many people take you up on that.
Surprisingly, not as many as you think. Out of the years I’ve been doing this, I could probably count on less than two hands the amount of people who have said, “I’m coming to town.” I’m like, “If you listen all the way to the end, you get the prize.”
Thank you, everyone, for joining us on this episode. If you enjoyed the show, share it with a friend, subscribe, or leave us a review. Until next time, thank you, Reed.
Thank you so much.
- Wildhorn Capital
- Investing In The US: The Ultimate Guide To US Real Estate
- 10,000 Miles To The American Dream: Our Story Of Financial Freedom
- RSN Property Group
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Investing In The US
- 24 Assets
- Key Person of Influence
- Instagram – Reed Goossens
- Facebook – Reed Goossens
- LinkedIn – Reed Goossens
About Reed Goossens
In 2012, Reed quit his job in Australia and moved halfway across the world to chase a goal. He moved to the US without a job, he had no established network and no family members for support. He backed himself and took a leap of faith. With limited funds, Reed purchased his first property all cash for $38,000 in late 2012. Since then Reed has co-founded Wildhorn Capital and now controls over $700 mill worth of US commercial real estate, and he has achieved financial freedom in the process! Reed is also the author of two best-selling books on Amazon: Investing in the US – The Ultimate Guide to US Real Estate, and 10,000 Miles to the American Dream – Our Story of Financial Freedom. Reed is also the host of the successful podcast called Investing in the US wherein he interviews real estate investors, business owners, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and go-getters who have successfully achieved financial freedom through investing here in the U.S. If Reed can move halfway across the world and achieve all that he has in such a short period of time, then so can the average American. Please see the attached Reed’s media pack.