Interview with Gabriel Hamel
Using Seller Financing to Build a Real Estate Empire with Gabriel Hamel
Gabriel Hamel is the CEO of Hamel Investments and an absolute powerhouse in the world of real estate investing, boasting a portfolio of over 450+ units, (Single Family Homes, Multi-Family Apartments, Commercial Real Estate, and Mobile Home Parks) worth over $50 million.
Best of all, he built his real estate empire without having to rely on raising funds from others.
The real estate mogul’s secret? Seller financing. And let me tell you, Gabriel has developed some seriously creative ways of structuring and refinancing these deals to ensure maximum cash flow and maximum savings for sellers.
What’s even more impressive is that Gabriel used the wealth he generated to create the lifestyle of his dreams. He’s found freedom in every way imaginable, and now he’s sharing his secrets with anyone brave enough to take notes. So if you want to learn from a true real estate pro who’s been there, done that, and created an unbelievable life for himself, Gabriel Hamel is your man.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
✅ Unique strategies for negotiating better real estate deals with no money down.
✅ Why seller financing is superior even when bank loan options are available.
✅ The importance of having a purpose beyond generating massive wealth.
Featured on This Episode: Gabriel Hamel
✅ What he does: Gabriel Hamel is the CEO of Hamel Investments and a real estate investor whose passion for real estate, business, and financial freedom has helped him amass a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio of residential and commercial investment property. His portfolio includes Multi-Family Apartments, Mixed-Use, Commercial, Mobile Home Parks, and Industrial. From humble beginnings and a strong desire for financial freedom, Gabriel sought creative ways to start purchasing income-producing investment real estate and is a strong advocate of financial literacy through self-education.
💬 Words of wisdom: “That’s my biggest strategy, I’m just trying to find out what the seller’s needs are because, at the end of the day, it’s a win-win scenario. If you can find out what the seller’s needs are, give them what they want and make the deal work for you.” – Gabriel Hamel
Key Takeaways with Gabriel Hamel
- Gabriel’s journey from Army National Guard and a minimum wage job to real estate multi-millionaire.
- Why he rejected an offer of higher Military rank and the money that comes with it to pursue financial (and lifestyle) freedom.
- Why doing the hard work today ensures you’ll have an easier tomorrow.
- Using seller financing to invest in real estate when he had no money.
- How he structures seller financing real estate deals in today’s market to ensure profitability – and how he does it so both parties win!
- The practical benefits of a relationship-driven approach in real estate.
- Avoiding the trap of buying yourself a job while you’re seeking freedom.
Gabriel Hamel | Creating Win-Win Real Estate Deals with Seller Financing
Gabriel Hamel Tweetables“I want to be wealthy because I want to own my time. I want the ability not to have to show up to a boss, not have someone tell me where I have to be and what I have to do. Click To Tweet “The more financial freedom I have, the more time freedom I have, which means the more choices I have to really go live life on my terms.” - Gabriel Hamel Click To Tweet
- Follow Gabriel Hamel on Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook
- Aerial BVI
- Britnie Turner
- Richard Branson
- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki
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Read the Full Transcript with Gabriel Hamel
Justin Donald: All right. Well, I’m here with Gabriel. I’m so excited to hang and catch up and get to know you better. We’ve had some fun travels and adventures, and I’m definitely looking forward to having you share your story because you have such a powerful story of moving from being kind of stuck, kind of having a job, having this desire for passive income to transitioning into just an epic life of passive income and lifestyle and just cool adventure. So, I’m so glad to have you on the show.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. Thanks for having me on, Justin. It’s always good to connect and chat and we’ve been able to hang out in a few different places. So, good to be hanging out again here.
Justin Donald: We have. And by the way, every time I hang with you, I’m always hearing about some other cool trip that you’re about to embark upon. You just got back from one of my favorite places, one of my favorite islands, which is Aerial BVI. Tell the audience a little bit about this. I did interview Britnie Turner on my podcast, so if you haven’t checked that episode out, go back and check it out because she’s amazing and her island is incredible. But you just did kind of like an extended stay there so share a little bit about that experience.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. It was kind of interesting. I think where you and I met first was actually Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Yeah. We were there with a bunch of different people. And when we left Necker, my wife and I and a couple of other couples ended up renting a yacht and we were floating around the Virgin Islands for a few days. And then we got invited to have dinner over on Aerial. And so, I actually knew nothing about Britnie. You know, I enjoyed my time with Branson and kind of knew his story, and Necker was amazing but I knew nothing about Britnie. And so, that was kind of bonus time. We almost didn’t go. It was our last night kind of floating around on the water there and we decided to go, and it was pretty cool to be on her island. So, we decided to rent the island with a bunch of couples for the following year, which happened to be just got back from there about a week-and-a-half, maybe almost two weeks ago. And so, yeah, we rented with some couples with the focus just being around relationships. You know, her island’s really focused around wellness and they do a lot of stuff for people all over the world, a lot of stuff, anti-child trafficking, a lot of stuff for military veterans. And so, just a lot of neat things going on the island. And so, we had an amazing time. It was awesome to be there with my wife and other couples to share that experience with.
Justin Donald: Yeah. And one of the things that I love about Britnie and about what she kind of creates, what she embodies, and what her island is all about. When you say it’s about wellness, the food there is incredible. It’s like next level, it’s delicious yet healthy, and it’s just fine like fun recipes, fun concoctions. I mean, what an epic experience that is to the eye just very pleasing but to like all the taste buds and just to the rest of your body, it’s just a very pleasing and soothing place, right?
Gabriel Hamel: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The food was delicious. Got some kiteboarding lessons in the warm water. That was amazing. They had the outdoor gym there. It looks like something out of The Flintstones. It’s like big logs that are cut and they put iron in there for the 45-ton weight. So, that was fun. It’s every aspect of it. You know, every room is really beautiful. And so, the whole experience was amazing.
Justin Donald: Oh, it’s so cool. I feel like I need to get back there. That’s on my list of excursions. So, what I would like to do is rent this place out. I’ve talked about doing a Lifestyle Investor event there but what I’d also like to do is just rent it out and invite a bunch of my friends and just have like an epic extended weekend where we just talk about life, we do life together, and what a fun opportunity it is. And you just did this. And so, like I’ve thought about this ever since being on that island. I think it’s like the perfect place to host an event that can create some inspiration for the next chapter of life. So, well done.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. And that’s really what we did was just with couples we wanted to be around and hang around with. And we’re going to do just an amazing trip somewhere. We thought about going back there every year. We decided on let’s go somewhere else cool every single year. We’ll probably make it back there at some point. So, that’s kind of in the works and just have a couple’s trip somewhere amazing in the world each year. Just go experience life to the best we can.
Justin Donald: Oh, it’s so fun. Well, you are very much a life-first kind of guy. I want to know where you figured that out. Like, how did you get to the point where you valued lifestyle so much? Because early on, I don’t think you had that. And I also want to thank you for your service. I did see that you served our country. And I always want to honor all those that serve our country. And for you, I think you decided, “Hey, college isn’t for me but I need to do something. I need to figure out what the next steps are. Maybe I should join the National Guard and kind of go from there,” right?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. It was kind of an interesting journey because I think the only thing that really kept me in high school was I was a high school wrestler. And that in the social aspect is what kept me there. And then really I was the kid right in class going like, first of all, I had a hard time just paying attention to anything the teachers were saying, and I was thinking about, “What am I going to go do on the weekend and who am I going to hang out with?” But also, the parts that I did actually pay attention to, I’m like, “How does this relate to real life?” Oftentimes the teachers’ response was like, “Well, you have to learn this if you want to go to college and you want to get a good job someday.” And I was like, “Gosh, that is mostly adults. I mean, they hate their jobs like this isn’t appealing.” So, I had a buddy my senior year of high school, so even before he graduated, he was like, “Hey, Army National Guard. One week in a month, two weeks a year.” I mean, he sounded like the commercial, right? And he’s like, “You play in the woods one week in a month,” and I thought, “Oh, and they’ll pay for college,” which I did not end up going to. So, it sounded great, “Hey, we’ll go play in the woods.”
So, this was in ‘99 and then I graduated high school in 2000. And after that, I was doing my one-week-in-a-month stuff and it was fine. And I enjoyed the training and I enjoyed the camaraderie that I had. But then in 2000, I had some odd jobs in between that. And then in 2003, I had a phone call, and five days later I was deployed. And so, it went from one week in a month to, hey, this is getting real. And so, we ended up in Kuwait and Iraq for a year. But a little bit before being deployed, I had read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And so, right around ’02 and kind of close to ‘03, I read that book and I was like, “This makes sense.” This is the first book that I actually wanted to read that I didn’t want to put down. And I was like, “This makes sense.” And so, I had convinced myself that I would be financially free one day and real estate would be the way I would do that. I didn’t know how. I just knew that real estate made sense. This is the first time I’d heard something that made sense, the first time I wanted to actually learn something, and then I got deployed. And so, that was kind of the beginning of my journey of at least where the real estate started, right, the idea of financial freedom, the idea of having something different in my life than the status quo of go to school, get a job, working until you’re old and can’t enjoy life anymore.
Justin Donald: Well, that had to be kind of like a crazy paradigm shift of what you thought the next chapter of life was going to be compared to what it was like. Walk me through emotionally what that would be like because if I just read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and I was ready to start investing in some real estate, and then I found out, out of the blue, I had no idea, no anticipation I was going to have to leave the country for a year and serve our country, and I basically have five days to prepare and get ready, like that would be incredibly discomforting. And I can’t even imagine what that emotionally was like. Can you explain that?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah, in a weird way it was, I mean, there was a whole group of us like a group of young guys. And there are guys that are going AWOL. There are guys that were like, “All right, we’re doing this.” And I hold nothing against anyone. I understand. I mean, I think war is complicated and the politics of it and everything else. War is an ugly thing. I don’t wish it upon anyone but there was also this weird like adrenaline rush of like, “Oh my gosh.” Like, yeah, I signed up years ago. Yes, it’s possible that it could happen but our unit hadn’t been deployed since World War II. It’s unlikely. And so, it happened so fast that it was hard to really… I don’t really know how to express it other than it was this weird adrenaline of like, “Hey, we signed up. We’re going to do what we said we’re going to do.” And then it became slow. We got deployed. We actually trained in Colorado for two months before ever going overseas. And in my mind, being so optimistic, I’m like, “Oh, this is going to be one of those six, seven, eight-day wars and we’re going to go home before we even go to the Middle East.” And that wasn’t the case.
And so, when I was over there, the perspective, at least in my mind, I still was really focused in my mind that, “Hey, I’m going to come back and I’m going to start investing in real estate.” And I guess even ahead of that, my mindset was like, “I need to come back alive and I don’t want to come back screwed up.” And so, I was just focused on that that there is going to be a life outside of this. And it was the longest 14 months of my life but I still knew that there would be life after this. And so, mentally I was still focused, “Hey, I’m going to come back and I’m going to start investing.”
Justin Donald: Yeah. That’s powerful. I’m just glad you got called and not me because I don’t think I would have been able to respond as well as you. I think that would have taken an incredibly challenging emotional toll on me. My brother served. My brother did three tours. And so, I appreciate that. I appreciate what all of you do and everyone who serves our country does. I looked at the world of entrepreneurship. I looked at the world of college. I looked at the world of any sort of armed forces. And I was like, “That’s definitely not for me,” but I’m glad there are people in this world that are built that way.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. I mean, interestingly enough, like being deployed and having someone always telling me what to do, especially just the two months like training up before going over to the Middle East, it really compounded, though, in my mind like I don’t want someone telling me what to do. I don’t want a boss. I need to be in control of my own life. And so, there’s definitely like things that I got out of being in the military. But more than anything, I’ll get to ask that a lot like, “How have you taken that into the real world?” For me, it was really more like, “I don’t want someone to tell me what to do. I don’t want to have to report to anyone. I want to be in control of my own life and have that sovereignty.” And so, a year after getting back, my contract was up and there was nothing, I mean, they offered me rank and money to stay and there was no amount of money or I could care less about rank to stay in. Like, I was done and that was a chapter that was just ready to be closed and to start something different.
Justin Donald: Yeah, that’s such an interesting story. Another question I have for you, you are really fit. I mean, you’re one of the most fit people I know. I had the chance to hang with you in Jackson Hole earlier this year, which was a great trip, And we stayed in this, you know, each person in our group got these monster homes and these cabins but they were two and three-story cabins, just really cool places. And your routine, you get up, you get to it early. When did fitness become so important to you and how have you made that such a priority even today?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. I mean, it’s always been a focus. I mean, how I’ve worked out has changed throughout the years and it’s evolved throughout the years but I’ve never stopped working out in some way since I was 14. And it’s just become part of who I am. And I think what got me into that I was a little guy growing up. I was quick. I was okay at some sports but it wasn’t really until I got in the weight room and the assistant wrestling coach was just like, “Hey, slow it down like let’s get your form right and we’ll get you strong.” And my body just took to it and then wrestling gave me that discipline to really just work hard. And I just believe in the compound effect and I’m very results driven. And so, I saw what hard work and effort and more than anything just that consistency how that paid off. I didn’t want to be one of those guys that used to be strong and as they got older, they’re kind of strong but out of shape. And so, it’s just something I always stayed up on. I mean, when I was younger it was powerlifting and I moved more towards functional fitness but it’s really just that consistency. And I never, ever leave it up to whether I feel like it. It’s just part of my life. There are days that I enjoy like I’m excited, I’m fired up, I’m ready to go work out. There are days that it sounds horrible and there are days that it’s different but I just go regardless. I never leave it up to how I feel and it’s just part of who I am, part of my identity at this point.
Justin Donald: And these are some of the powerful lessons that we get from sports at a young age where you create habits and you create disciplines, and those disciplines carry over into other parts of your life. And so, it happened in wrestling but now you see it in fitness, you see it in the way that you pursue real estate. So, I’m excited to learn your story here because you’re getting back to the U.S. You know you wanted to get in real estate but you haven’t done real estate before. You write a book about it. And by the way, Rich Dad, Poor Dad was hugely influential in my life as well. And one of the turning points for me in pivoting into real estate also. So, I love that we share that in common. But you have a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio, and when you got back from serving in Iraq, you didn’t have anything. So, how did this happen? How did you build it so quickly and what was the first step?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. I mean, it feels slow and quick because it’s a long story, so I’ll do my best to sort it out but I come back in ’04 and I was like, I’m going to invest in real estate, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad is not a how-to book. It’s just kind of a mindset around it. And so, then I started reading some of the other books and getting just comfortable and familiar with some of these ways to invest and it talked about traditional financing and money down. I don’t have any money. I don’t have a real job. But I started looking at properties and I started kind of learning the language. And so, this is ’05. Now, I go to the bank and the bank said, and this is the subprime, the bank says, “Hey, we can give you a 100% financing loan,” and I thought nothing of that. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. They gave me an 80/20 loan. 80/20 is like NINJA loan, right? All stated income and I had none. They still gave me the loan. And so, I just wanted to make sure that I could eventually rent it out for more than my mortgage was. So, I bought this little three-bedroom, two-bath house in ‘05, rented out two of the rooms. Now, everyone called it house hacking. To me, it just made good financial sense in ’05 to cover two-thirds of my mortgage and live for less than I could anywhere else.
So, I do that in ’05, I go back to the bank in ‘06, and in the meantime, I’m still learning. I’m reading stuff. I’m looking at properties. They give me another loan in ‘06, another loan in ‘07. And so, I have these three properties, no money down. And then these are really the only three properties I traditionally financed, that you could consider that traditional financing. So, in my mind by ‘07, I’m like, “This is easier than what any book says. I’m just going to go to the bank once a year and buy a property, no money down, and I’ll just move every year. In 20 years, I’ll have 20 houses like this is too easy. Why isn’t everyone doing this?” And so, in ’06, I had also opened up a small nutrition store, never really made money, some months, never any money. And so, then by ’08, I shut the store down because it wasn’t making any money. My first son was born in ‘08. And so, I go back to the bank and I’m like, well, first of all, four months of that I went, “Oh sh*t, what do I do?” Like, I’m shutting the store down. My child’s born. I need to like increase my cash flow. I need to like actually have some income coming in. A couple of hundred bucks a month of cash flow from these homes aren’t going to kick it. I’m just going to go back to the bank and buy another property.
Well, now it’s 2008 and they said, “Hey, sorry. Guidelines have completely changed. You don’t qualify.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean I don’t qualify?” They said, “You don’t have a job. You don’t have enough pay. You don’t have income.” And I was like, “I didn’t think I needed any of those. I was like buying these homes the last three years. I’ve made my payments on time every month for three years. Can I just to get another loan?” And they’re like, “No, it doesn’t work that way. It’ll probably never be that way again.” And so, that was really my first “Oh, sh*t” moment, “Hey, what do I do?” And so, I wasn’t qualified to really work anywhere, didn’t have a college degree. So, I literally started taking odd jobs like help-wanted ads on Craigslist. And I eventually found myself in a 30-hour-a-week minimum wage job in a high school special education class. And I was doing that. About three months into that job, I started thinking about my goals and going, “What am I doing? Like, I need to get serious about my dreams of being financially free through real estate, or I’m going to end up in a low-paying job for the rest of my life.” And so, I set a goal that year to replace that income. Now, it felt very attainable because it wasn’t a lot of income.
And so, the only other ways that I had heard about investing in real estate was hard money, private money, and seller financing. And at the time I knew nobody with money. I wasn’t comfortable asking hard money lenders or anyone else for money. And so, I thought, hey, seller finance is going to be my path. And so, I spent the next year working at that minimum wage job, spent every night on Craigslist just searching out possible seller finance deals in my area. And I eventually found two duplexes side by side, four units. It replaced my income from that minimum wage job almost to the dollar, and that’s the last day that I worked. I finished out that year. I stopped working. I was technically financially free because my expenses were low but I was still poor as sh*t. Like, I owned real estate and it made cash flow there, cash flow positive, but it wasn’t like I was wealthy. But I felt that I had some level, it’s kind of that first step of financial freedom. And I just spent the next several years buying all no-money-down seller finance deals and my only criteria starting off was they had to be cash flow positive.
Justin Donald: So, that’s a brilliant strategy, by the way. And I love that you had the humility to go back to work when you needed to for your family but you had the ambition to not stay there long and to just figure it out. But what’s interesting is you use a strategy that a lot of people don’t even know exists. When I bought my first real estate property, I also did a seller finance note with the owner, and I still have that note today. So, this note is a 20-year note, which is incredible. Technically, it’s a ten-year note with an option to extend for another ten years. And it’s just a brilliant way if you can figure it out but I think a lot of people don’t know it exists, and a lot of people don’t think that maybe they can find deals like this. So, how did you find these seller-financed deals? How many times did you ask and people said no? Because I got to imagine that was a lot to find the small percentage that would say yes.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. It was an interesting journey because, for me, I actually felt really fortunate that I didn’t have any money because it really forced me to be creative. And so, I spent a year looking and I would actually go on Craigslist and just type in these keywords, owner financing, seller financing, for sale by owner. And I was just trying to find sellers that didn’t want to put a sign in the yard that could just have a human-to-human conversation with. And what I found, it was a learning opportunity for me. I would have conversations with sellers. Some of them wanted large down payments, some of them were really stuck on interest rate or price, but I kind of learned through that year that I didn’t have to know a lot. I would just ask really basic questions because what I was focused on was sellers that already wanted to carry financing. And after I’ve done a few deals I did think, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. I need to go educate sellers on why they should carry financing.” And then I realized, like that’s a pretty tough path like every deal I’ve ever done, the seller already wanted to carry financing. I ask the simple question of, “Hey, what kind of terms would you be interested in?” So, during that first year, there were a lot of deals that just didn’t fit for me. They wouldn’t cash flow or they wanted a large money down where I didn’t have that at the time to put down. And so, it kind of naturally we did those properties out that didn’t work for me.
And so, that gave me the experience that when a deal came across my way that did pencil, I’m sitting here going, “Oh my gosh, this makes sense. What am I missing? What am I missing?” And I had to trust that that year of educating myself, that year of talking to potential sellers, that year of analyzing deals and realizing that most of them don’t work, here’s one that does. And then I just kept repeating that. I just kept buying deals that were cash-flow positive. There was always upside. I just didn’t focus on the long-term equity and appreciation. Now, a lot of these properties have had massive appreciation through the years that I’ve held them but the focus was always the cash flow. The cash flow is what’s allowed me to hold the properties to naturally allow them to appreciate rather than having to force appreciation or force upside rents, even though I’m able to actualize that almost all the time.
Justin Donald: Oh, I love it. And, Gabriel, it’s good to kind of share this strategy because we’re entering a time where seller finance is back in demand. And so, for those of you that are wondering, “Can I do this? I don’t have a lot of money. Can I find a way to transition out of my W-2 job out of corporate America or whatever it is? Or maybe it’s even transition out of my business because I thought I own my business or I started by wanting to own my business but now my business owns me.” And these are the types of people I meet all the time, right? So, back in the last 12 years, seller finance has been a lot harder to do because, well, number one, you wouldn’t want to do it because rates were so low, you’d want to be able to lock in good rates. But secondly, it was harder for, or I should say it was easier for sellers to find ways to make money on their money. Most of the people that you buy from are not as sophisticated as maybe just your average Joe. A lot of people that are selling properties or a lot of people I targeted tended to be older, right? So, baby boomer age. You’ve got a lot of people right now retiring, a lot of them selling properties or selling businesses. Some of them don’t even know if they’ll sell them. They’re maybe just going to unwind them and shut them down if it’s a business and their family, their kids don’t want to run it. They don’t want to take it over.
With real estate, though, that’s a little different. You’re not just going to give that away typically. But we’re in a time right now where seller finance is way more likely again because it’s harder to get financing. So, if I’m trying to buy a property right now, if Gabriel is trying to buy a property and we can’t get it to pencil because the interest rates are so high, then we can’t do it. So, if sellers are going to say, “Well, what if I carried some of that note?” and they can take a percentage, a high-interest type of percentage for them being the bank. So, I’m curious if you have seen any more seller finance recently, if that’s something you’re looking for, or if you don’t look for it as much today.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. It’s interesting because it’s initially a lot of those early deals I was face-to-face with the seller and so I really focused on that, the relationships that I would build there. But just organic networking too. You know, I wasn’t one that sent out mailers and fliers and auto text and call. I was just building just organic relationships and I did find that most of these sellers were men and women in their sixties and seventies that they did have a level of sophistication. They had built up some level of wealth themselves, and they were just at the end of their investing journey like they were in a place where a lot of these mom-and-pop owners were just burnt out. They were really, really good people. They were fairly savvy investors. They knew to buy and hold real estate but then it was like, “Now what?” And they were tired of being landlords, maintenance person dealing with tenants. And I was surprised that a lot of these sellers actually had adult children my age and I’m thinking, “Why wouldn’t they want the asset?” But they only saw mom and dad dealing with the headaches of the property and their kids a lot of times didn’t have any interest in the property.
And so, this was a way for them to be able to continue to get income like true mailbox money by being the bank and you’re creating new level of positivity for them. So, they’re not having to deal with all the headaches of managing the property and it’s backed by an asset they’ve owned for a long time. And a lot of times sellers will do that because they don’t want to pay the capital gains. They don’t want to go to a 1031 and then actively invest. They sure as heck don’t want to pull that money out, be taxed, and then go put it in the stock market. And so, I saw a lot of that back then and I’ve seen that even coming up recently. But more recently, yeah, I don’t think a day has gone by in the last six months that I haven’t received an email that’s saying price reduction, motivated seller, possible seller financing, which a couple of years ago there was less of it because anyone could put their property on the market for just about any price and there was just a lot of cheap money out there. There’s a lot of stupid money out there. And why would they seller finance? Now, I have picked up some seller financing deals even in a seller market but it’s all relationship based. It’s all because I know what their position is, why they want to sell it.
And what I’m looking in seller financing, that’s my biggest strategy is I’m just trying to find out what the seller’s needs are because, at the end of the day, it’s a win-win scenario. If you can find out what the seller’s needs are, give them what they want and make the deal work for you. That’s a win-win. Not like that really is the advantage of seller financing.
Justin Donald: Yeah, there’s no doubt. And it’s funny because a lot of people think that a negotiation is a win-lose. It’s like me against you and it’s not. It is like, “Hey, let’s figure out and solve for what you need. Let’s solve for what I need.” And there’s probably something that solves for both of them and we both walk away in a much better situation. I bought a five-park, it was a five-park mobile home park portfolio, and the seller and this is just, again, to reinforce the whole relationship selling side of things but this is when prices were booming and this was a baby boomer looking to retire. His wife actually wanted him to retire more than he did. And we just developed this great rapport and this great relationship. And this guy is just such a fun guy. Like, even to this day still, I love getting time with him. I love talking to him. And I think I would say I know for sure because he’s told me he enjoys our relationship. And so, for me, like, part of the fun is in that. And so, I think he had a little seller’s remorse. You know, he felt like he wanted to stay involved. And so, I actually hired him as my property manager of our portfolio beyond just the parks that he had because he knows them better than anyone else I’ve ever met. And he’s just a great guy and he just wants to stay busy and do cool stuff. And I got to tell you, I have more fun talking to him than most of the people in my network. He’s just a blast and I learn a ton from him every time.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. I love it.
Justin Donald: Well, I’m excited to hear kind of where your next big leap was. So, you, I think, started getting into bigger properties from there. So, you had the duplex and then you kind of upgraded to a larger scale, isn’t that right?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. So, really, so after that first deal, I was like, “Hey, this works,” and I’m really focused on this particular neighborhood in the town I was in, and I was really focusing on small multifamily. And so, ‘09 through ‘13 it was all no-money-down seller finance deals. And I bought like 12 different properties during that time. And so, it felt like a lot back then. Now, I look back around, that feel slow, right? But I was just kind of just going through that same process, building relationships, analyzing deals, put deals together, and then I refi’d out of those in 2014. And what kind of a neat experience with the refi process is it was the first realization where in 2014, so interest rates were down, prices were up, I had better tenants in there paying higher rent, and all these properties appraised out at 70% LTV or better. And it was a realization of like, “Oh my gosh, I’m getting long-term fix debt on these homes that I would have had to come in at 30% down to buy previously. Now, I have the same loans. It’s like this phantom equity happened, I don’t know, locking these deals. And then on top of that, one of the sellers that I paid off, she said, “Hey, what I’m going to do with all this money?” And she eventually became my first private money lender. And that’s really where it goes back to relationships.
So, I never intended to borrow money initially from her but she was carrying financing for six years for me and we had six years of trust. We had six years of making my payment on time every month. So, when she said, “Hey, what I’m going to do with all this money?” I said, “Hey, you can lend it back to me.” I share the story all the time. She laughs. She thought I was kidding. And then a couple of months later, she’s sitting there with cash going, “Well, this is stupid. I have all this cash.” It was a good problem to have. She’s like, “I have all this cash and I don’t want to put it in the stock market. What do I do?” So, she calls me up and says, “Hey, were you serious about borrowing that money?” And I had just gotten a property and contract, and I said, “Yeah, I would.” And so, she became my first private money lender. And so, I just kept building from there. I started buying some smaller apartment complexes, and I just kept buying. And then in 2019, I started buying some mobile home parks. So, I really decided, “Hey, I’m going to stop looking at single-family, small multifamily.” I thought I was going to get into larger multifamily and I just felt like the returns were getting condensed down to nothing.
And so, I always really look at, “Hey, what has a better return than multifamily?” And I bought my first mobile home park in 2019. I have nine parks now and then more recent in the last couple of years I’ve shifted into industrial. I really like it like out-of-state industrial and that’s really kind of been my focus. I’ll still buy mobile home parks. I like that space but I like these larger commercial deals. And I’m able to convert some of the equity and some of the liquidity that I’ve never really accumulated over the years from those initial properties and go put them into larger deals to cash flow better. So, it’s just Monopoly in real life. You know, like you, I think we both love the game and as long as it’s fun, we keep playing and really use that as a tool to be able to go enjoy everything else in life that’s fun and rewarding.
Justin Donald: It’s so cool, Gabriel. It’s neat because, I mean, you said it. It’s exactly like playing Monopoly. Right now, we’ve got a family Monopoly game going, and I just love playing it. I remember playing this as a kid and I love the game. I always wanted to play. It was such a blast to me. And then now in real life, like it’s a game. We’re playing Monopoly but with real dollars and it’s just so fun. And I like seeing how you have diversified to different asset classes. It’s also worth noting that your two most recent acquisitions from the standpoint of asset class are the two highest-performing across all real estate asset classes. So, the last five years, industrial has been the number one performing real estate asset class, and mobile home parks closely second. And so, it’s great seeing you diversify there. And it’s also good for those of you that are looking to get started, “How do I get started?” Well, people ask me all the time, “Well, should I just start with like a small park or a small property?” And for me, now knowing what I know, I would not buy a ten-space park if I could buy a 50-space park. It’s like the same amount of time that you would put into it. And especially as you grow and develop and you have teams and you have protocols, well, even then more so, why not increase scale?
Because the goal is number of units because that’s increasing your number of paying tenants. So, I’m curious for you like what’s the end game like you don’t need to work, you don’t need to buy more properties. Obviously, it’s fun and I get it because I don’t need to buy more either, but it is a blast. And part of what it is for me is I’m mentoring people along the way, I’m mentoring lifestyle investors that are part of my mastermind or I’m mentoring people that I’m actually getting in the deals with me or I’m buying a company and plugging operators in and I’m partnering with them and helping them get out of corporate America. So, for me, I feel like there’s impact happening while I’m playing the game and I can teach people how to do it. What is it like for you? And then I really want to dive into just kind of some of the cool lifestyle stuff that you’re up to.
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. I mean, a lot of it and I think some of it still I’m just exploring like, what does that second mountain look like? I mean, there was a lot of years of just building and then there was like a period of time of like I’m just going to enjoy life. I didn’t stop investing but I’m really conscious to make sure I don’t make any moves that get in the way of the other things that are important to me. You know, number one, being my family, my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my kids, like being able to go on cool trips with my family or just with my wife or with other friends. Like, I think with financial freedom, it’s about time freedom and really comes down to just choices and freedom as a whole, like more opportunities to do what you want with your life. I know you asked at the beginning and I think I kind of forgot to answer it like when the focus shifts to lifestyle. And a lot of it, it just clicked way before I had the ability to go do a bunch of cool stuff and have that full freedom. But I was on a walk and I started thinking like, “Why do I want to be rich?” I used to tell that I want to be rich. And why do I want to be wealthy? And I realized it really wasn’t about swimming in a pile of money. It wasn’t about just having fancy things.
It just clicked for me one day. I’m like, “I want to be wealthy because I want to own my time.” I want the ability, as we said before, like not have to show up to a boss, not have someone tell me where I have to be and what I have to do. And it just really clicked that, hey, the more financial freedom I have, the more time freedom I have, which means the more choices I have to really go live a life on my terms. And so, that may change throughout the years but at the end of the day, I want to be able to do what I want, when I want, where I want, with who I want, and that’s important to me. As far as the investing like, do I stop? As long as I enjoy doing it and as long as, you know, I really don’t feel like I have to sacrifice these other areas of my life to keep growing my real estate portfolio and I’m able to do it in a way that doesn’t take away from these other things that are important to me. And I’ve said no to a lot of opportunities that would take me away from those things that are actually important to me. And so, I just make sure it’s on the forefront of my mind of, like, why did I get into investing in the first place and make sure that the things that I do, the activities that I am involved in actually align with why I got into investing in the first place. And if it doesn’t align, I’m not going to do it.
Justin Donald: I love that.
Gabriel Hamel: I will shift.
Justin Donald: It’s great that you have so much conviction and focus on what it is that you want out of life and that you’re doing the things to achieve it. And by the way, I know that you live a great lifestyle. I’ve seen some of the places you travel to. I know some of the cool things you’ve done. I mean, I know that you’ve done well enough to be able to rent out an island, right? That’s not cheap. And I know that you’ve gotten a chance to do the sailboat type trip where you do extended days and sleep on the boat and have a skipper and someone that prepares meals. I think that’s so fun. And by the way, I’m doing one of those trips here this August, which I’m thrilled about. So, I’m curious, what are some of your favorite trips? Like, what are some of the ones that have really been special or life-filling or maybe it’s something that’s coming up?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. I think the ones that are most memorable and there’s a few that come to mind. The first trip we did out of the country as a family was in 2017, went to Belize for a month. And it was super memorable because it’s not that we did all these fancy touristy type things but it’s like we lived in Belize for a month. We cruised around on a golf cart with the kids. We went to the beach like we did some cool adventures that we mostly just lived for a month somewhere else like that was a big impact, the one the kids still talk about that. Another one was this last December. My wife and I went to Bora Bora together. When we were really young and didn’t have money and I pointed to a picture of the Four Seasons, Bora Bora, the overwater bungalows, and she’s like, “Someday we’ll go here,” and I’m like, “Yeah, someday we’ll go there.” And so, yeah, last December, we went there for the 10-year anniversary of, or sorry, the 17-year anniversary of our first date. And so, that was an amazing trip. Another one was when all the schools shut down here, we had a trip planned to Thailand and it didn’t happen. And so, we ended up buying an RV and we jumped in an RV for two months with the kids with no plan. We jumped in and we’re just winging it the whole time and it was a blast. Those are probably some most memorable trips.
Justin Donald: That is so cool. I love it. So much fun. And one of the things I think is really meaningful, at least for me, for our family, is getting that extended stay. So, the first time you actually go for a month straight or you go for a month-and-a-half or you go for two months, I mean, that’s how you can become immersed in a culture, right? I mean, that is so fun. I remember a trip to the Ambergris Caye in Belize early on, and we just loved our time there. And I love some of the other cool things that you’re doing, some of the cool trips that you’re up to. I love how you have goals and you guys have talked about, “Hey, we want to go here at some point in our life.” I think that that’s so fun because it’s important to have some compelling vision of the future and something that you’re excited to go after. Whatever the thing is, the thing doesn’t actually matter but that you have it and that it excites you. And something I want to point out, for anyone that’s looking to take epic trips, one thing that I learned so like when I buy real estate, I look for a Walmart because I know if Walmart is there, they’ve done way more market research than I ever will, and that’s probably a good location.
When I travel, I have the equivalent, but I’m going from Walmart, which appeals to like a budget to Four Seasons, which appeals to kind of like your higher-end traveler. But I will tell you, the same is true. You will not go to a Four Seasons around the world that is not in an epic location. I mean, they have the best locations. And it doesn’t mean you have to pony up and pay for a Four Seasons, though I do think that’s fun and I do think you should at times. And it’s always fun to splurge when you’re in a position to be able to do it. But for those of you that want to travel on a budget, just look where a Four Seasons is and then go to a place near the Four Seasons because it will be an epic adventure. So, I love that. Any upcoming trips that you’re super excited about, that you want to share?
Gabriel Hamel: Just any trips? I mean, we’re right now planning a trip with the group. I mentioned that we went to Aerial BVI with, and so we decided, hey, we’re going to go somewhere different each year. We’re just kind of brainstorming where we’re going to go. Is it going to be Greece? Is it going to be Fiji? Maldives? I’m not sure. And my wife’s also really good at finding cool places to go. I kind of want to go everywhere. So, if she says, “Hey, here’s a cool place,” or someone’s like, “Hey, what if we all go here?” And there are so many amazing places around the world and I don’t have any like, “Oh, I have to go here one day before I die.” It’s kind of like someone says, “Hey, this is an amazing place, and I see a few pictures.” I’m like, “That is pretty damn amazing. Let’s go there.”
Justin Donald: Oh, I love it. Well, that’s so fun. I actually just today you’ll appreciate this. Right before our recording here, I finalized our Iceland trip. So, my family’s due in Iceland this summer. We’re going to hit up Portugal as well but I haven’t finalized that one but Iceland is in the books and I’m really looking forward to that. And I’m going to be taking a trip to Bordeaux here to pick up some futures on some Bordeaux wines that will be done in 18 months from now. So, we’ll spend a week there. And really, to me, the adventure in life and really just the exploring, the creating, the curiosity, like that to me is what making money is about and sharing those experiences and those memories with the people that are most important to you. So, you live life very well. You embody what a lifestyle investor is. And so, I’m so glad to have you on the show, learn about your story, have exposure from you and your ideas and your strategies and your thought process to our audience. Where can our listeners and our viewers learn more about you?
Gabriel Hamel: Yeah. The best place to find me is just on Instagram, @gabrielrhamel, you’ll find me. I’m often not active on there but I’m on there. And I love your message, The Lifestyle Investor message. I think a lot of people get into investing with the idea that it’s for a lifestyle. That’s how they create a job for themselves. And so, I love that you’re sharing that message to people and I try to do the same with like make sure you know why you’re investing. Why did you get into this business or real estate or whatever it is in the first place? And does it actually align with what you want out of life? Because I’ve watched a lot of people, even in the real estate world, back themselves into a corner building a business that they’re in and they’re working twice as hard as they did it at their W-2 and they don’t have the life that they originally wanted. And so, I love what you’re doing and what you’re sharing out there with your community.
Justin Donald: Well, thank you. I appreciate that, Gabriel. And really, we all have to be careful that our job doesn’t own us, that safety and security doesn’t own us, that our lifestyle expenses and keeping up with the Joneses, that that doesn’t own us, that our business doesn’t own us, that our passive investing and passive income doesn’t begin to own us. And really, the biggest danger, the biggest culprit is that money owns us. And so, it’s just a danger we’ve got to stay on top of and make sure that things are kept in priority. So, I like that you do that. I like that you’re family first. I like that you’re adventure and travel first and relationships. So, you live a great life and you’re a great role model to many. And I hope a lot of people hear this and are inspired and choose to copy the way that you have decided to live life. Very cool.
Gabriel Hamel: I appreciate it and I look forward to the next time we get to spend some time together, whether it’s on a private island or a boat or in the snow, again, whatever it might be.
Justin Donald: I love it. Me too. Well, I love ending every episode with a question to my audience, and that is this. What is one step that you can take today to really move towards financial freedom and move towards the life you desire, a life that’s on your terms, not a life by default but rather a life by design? Thanks. And we’ll catch you next week.