After living through years of working in the real estate industry, John C. Lettera has dedicated himself to evolving with the industry, rather than fighting to keep it stagnant with old conventions. John began investing in real estate in 1990, during the nadir of the real estate market. At the time, access to capital was severely restricted, and investors were genuinely panicked. Space in the capital stack was opening up as institutional lenders were sticking with safe loans.
“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,” John says.
Now, John has taken his legal knowledge and prioritization of modern technology to support RealFi Financial LLC. As RealFi’s founder and CEO, John is proud to lead a company that is now recognized as one of the nation’s leading mortgage companies, employing hundreds of professionals and continuing to grow exponentially. RealFi is 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 always enjoyed investing in real estate and different businesses. Investing in real estate was great but I wasn’t creating any real enterprise value for myself. The more I learned about investing the more I realized that a successful business is one that can be sold. Sold at a price that includes a return on investment commensurate with the risk involved. This was the motivating factor behind institutionalizing my real estate investments into a real business that can be sold, either privately or to the public, for a large multiple,” John says.
Even with a clear motivation and end goals, John is the first to admit that challenges arise at every turn, especially when you’re pursuing entrepreneurship. Obstacles can appear at any scale, John specifies, from large to small. To make it through any amount of challenge, John encourages new entrepreneurs to choose the right support network, as the people around you will make or break your business.
“There’s small challenges, like hiring the wrong person. Sometimes you make medium-sized ones like choosing the wrong business strategy. Sometimes you make big ones. You give up. It’s a challenge to surround yourself with the right people. Business partners can bring you triumphant glory or catastrophic disaster. I have been beyond fortunate to have partnered with Jodi Mosiello many years ago. Jodi has been instrumental in building RealFi. It’s having partners like Jodi that allows you to create results that would otherwise be unobtainable,” John says.
With the right team by his side, John is able to differentiate himself in the crowded space of real estate. Above all else, RealFi represents the future of real estate lending. While the company experienced significant growth, John understands that to stay relevant in a changing market, RealFi needs to diversify continually and respond to an ever evolving industry.
In the coming months, John and RealFi have much to look forward to. In addition to their organic growth and strategic acquisitions, they are focused on upgrading their technology to 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.