Host: Trey Stone
Stephanie Graves, Owner of Q10 Property Advisors
& 2023 Houston Apartment Association President
Lupita Castillo, Property Manager & Marketing Director of Stone Legacy Group
Stephanie Graves & Lupita Castillo
Stephanie has been a mentor to many people in the apartment industry at the city, state, and national levels. Lupita is someone who Stephanie mentored in marketing. Lupita consistently runs her property at 99% occupancy even though it’s a 488 unit property. She has learned from Stephanie that there’s always a way to creatively do things that others say is impossible.
Stephanie entered the multi family real estate industry while in college. She worked at a bank and one of her customers was in this industry. This was when low income tax credits were appealing. Her customer offered for Stephanie to work with their group to renovate and resell properties while she attended college. Her journey has been a little different than most property managers who start out in the leasing office. Stephanie started on the development and finance side putting deals together with a focus on tax credits and funding. She then morphed into training and property management. Her journey has given her a breadth of knowledge. Stephanie says it’s important that you know many facets of this industry- not only how to make a deal work, but also how the deal operates. Her motto is, “Property management is easy, it’s people managing that’s difficult.”
Over the years she’s helped people develop training programs and she worked with multiple companies. In 2015, Stephanie decided to get out of property management so she could go on the road and train. Her passion has always been in education. She decided to do two things: train across the country for the Apartment Association and buy real estate to start a Montessori pre-school for her daughter. Stephanie utilized her knowledge in real estate and property management to run the performance of the pre-school.
After receiving requests from companies to help them with their training, Stephanie started Q10 as a third party management and consulting firm. She’s grown that portfolio of clients over the last 5 years and now it’s run by a team of women with her input and oversight. Stephanie’s primary focus today is working with the Signorelli Company to build their property management company and run their assets. They have RV parks, medical, retail, single family, and multi family real estate investments which gives Stephanie more opportunities to grow and expand her knowledge as well as share information.
Stephanie loves when people make her better in her career. It’s made her re-evaluate her stance on things that she may have taken for granted. If you’ve been in the business for a while, you see certain trends and come to expect certain things. In multi family real estate you learn the cycle of leasing. When you are with a company with a wide span of real estate investments from retail to medical to multi family, it makes you re-address some things and consider that you may take it for granted and need to assess if it’s true. It makes you better at what you do when you’re challenged that way.
“You want to surround yourself with people who are more talented than you are. If you’re not doing that then you should probably question what you’re doing.”
Stephanie says when someone is with a company for 25 years, their loyalty is great but it’s also great to see people who have had multiple experiences with multiple companies because they learn what’s working and what’s not working. If you only do things the same way all the time and you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not growing and learning. Trey says he always tries to find ways to challenge his employees and keep their interest. He’s discussed mentoring opportunities for Lupita and she has goals to buy her own investment properties. In 25 years when she’s tired of working for Trey, he hopes Lupita will be financially independent from her investments. Trey believes really good people won’t stick around without new challenges or new opportunities just for the money.
Transparency is also important to Stephanie. She tries to be an open book. She shares her resources and information because in this industry “we’re all in this together.” She hopes the people coming up in the industry behind her and Trey will ensure that this industry is respected.
Lessons from 2020
Stephanie sees positive changes being made because of the year we’ve had. She believes the industry is slow to change and doesn’t always embrace technology or new practices. Stephanie finds that the pandemic has caused people to go with change and dive deeper into new ways of doing things.
Trey also sees opportunities for positive change due to the pandemic. He reflects on the traditional process of evictions and how he and his team identified a better process when a possible eviction is pending. He and his team communicated directly with residents and even offered them incentives to move out and return rather than go through the long drawn out eviction process. Trey realized this is a smarter way to handle these situations even without a pandemic. If someone is in a situation where they can’t pay their rent, that situation is what it is. He believes that strengthening relationships with residents by offering them the opportunity to break their lease along with an incentive to return may be a better solution for those who fall behind on rent.
“You need to do the right thing, you don’t have to be right.”
Stephanie says the pandemic has grounded a lot of people and allowed them to see things in a different light. She believes lots of positive things will come from this in this industry as a whole.
Lupita expressed that Covid-19 taught her that she needed to do her job differently. She empowered her team to think outside of the box to continue working. One of the trends she embraced was humorous tik tok videos.
Stephanie’s Advice as an Investor to New Investors
Stephanie says in almost any relationship, professional or personal, it is important to set realistic expectations. She attributes relationships going badly to false expectations. Learning a little bit about the business like what returns mean or what to expect in a financial package will help your expectations. Finding the right connection and right partner is important and Stephanie believes that’s done through managing expectations. Stephanie is a passive investor in several deals. It’s important to her that she does not manage all of the assets that she invests in. Understanding that as an investor, you deal with people’s lives is also a really important part. You’re not just talking about numbers, you’re talking about real families. Working with good people and property managers is important in multi family investing for those reasons. Stephanie says multi family is a great industry and owning property is so rewarding. She also says that having the tax shelter is a good way to save money and invest in other things- that’s why people like Trey are so successful.