Name: Ricky Beliveau
Hometown: Granby, CT
Dream Job as a Kid: Finance
What was your first step in real estate?
I started in 2010 buying my first property near Northeastern University. It was a 3 family rental asset. My plan was to purchase it, renovate it, stabilize it, and then refinance it eventually. I still own it today as a key rental property in my portfolio.
When did your breakthrough moment come?
I think it was when I had a condo conversion in East Boston in 2016. It was my fourth or fifth project. I was still working full-time in finance. It was at the point that I was having some success in real estate and I was getting the feeling that if I couldn’t advance my career in finance, I was just going to leave the industry. I ended up blogging this project on BiggerPockets. So throughout the project, I was doing updates, showing pictures, stuff about the financials, just sharing with the world. So as the project went, it was going really well, and East Boston was really taking off at this time, so I was able to get this big 3-family building for $600,000, whereas now that building would sell for $1.1M, $1.2M. So I got in at a great time, and then the market grew, I blogged about it, BiggerPockets picked it up, and I ended up making about $600,000 on the project. That’s when I left my job in finance and jumped into Volnay Capital full-time.
Speaking of — you have Volnay Capital, EVO Real Estate, V10 Development...that’s a lot to juggle. Anything else going on, or does that cover it?
You pretty much hit it. Volnay Capital is the original real estate investment/development company — then you have EVO Real Estate, and we have about 20 brokers who work for us over there. Then I have Volnay Management, our management company — we manage about 500 units, a mix of our own, others’, and condo associations that we oversee. Then V10 Development is our new development company that’s concentrated on large-scale permitting and development. We have an 85 unit building under construction right now, but most likely that’ll be the smallest project V10 will take on.
Do you see V10 getting more of your time going forward?
The hope is that my team at Volnay Capital will be able to take more of the responsibility off my plate on the smaller projects so I’ll be able to spend more of my time on the larger projects and big picture business items.
You mentioned earlier how you had success sharing content about your process on BiggerPockets — what’s interesting is that you maintain these offshoot Instagram accounts, like Kitchens of Instagram and Bedrooms of Instagram and so on...what’s the thinking there? Is content an underutilized tool in this industry?
When I started those, Instagram was kind of just becoming a thing, and I was very early with sharing content of my own projects to Instagram and Facebook, trying to create buyer leads and brand my business. Now, everybody is using Instagram and Facebook, and so much content is out there. But we were very early on to that process.
What gave you that instinct to jump in early? Did you just like using those platforms in your personal life, or did you have a deeper insight about what content could do for your business?
My first real business was an events company I started in college, El Tour Events. We used to do these different parties and bar crawls - we still do the bar crawls to this day, around Boston - and a lot of the interest in those was generated through social media engagement. I took that knowledge from college and pivoted it into my real estate work.
The old school mentality was you keep everything secret, you don’t want anyone to steal anything...my mentors always thought I was crazy for putting myself, knowledge, out there for free. But I always saw it a different way. There’s enough business out there for everybody. You just have to be very patient with the content, because documenting projects takes a long time. A lot of people don’t have the stamina to post about the same project for 3 years.
What separates a great developer from an average one? Why do some break through, and others don’t?
Being able to properly multitask is everything. The death sentence for the developer is only being able to look at the deal in front of you. If you think, “When this deal is done, I’ll find my next one,” you’re fucked. Especially if that one doesn’t work out, and you have nothing coming up. It’s like how with actors, they say an actor should always be filming their next movie before their current one comes out.
When a deal finishes, you need another two that are already going, and another one in the pipeline. So the best developers embrace that pipeline mentality. You have to always be looking for the next deal. Even if you’re stressed, and your plate is too full, you could be missing out on opportunity, and passing on what could be a home run. We have over 1,100 units in development. It’s a lot of units, but that’s what’s going to take us to the next level.
How do you build teams you trust?
It’s about surrounding yourself with people who are really good at things that you’re not. I partnered with my general contractor, EJO General Contracting, early on — I wasn’t really doing construction and he wasn’t really doing development. We complement each other. My partner John at V10 Development, we’re very similar personalities and have the same outlooks on life — but we have very different strengths. Companies struggle when people try to do the same role, or, also, not carry the same weight.
What’s your favorite aspect of a deal and why?
My favorite part of the transaction is putting an asset under agreement that’s underutilized — and creating a vision with the architect and imagining, “What can we get approved for here?” while watching the drawings and renderings come together, and then hopefully seeing the approval happen...I just love that portion of the process. I don’t have any involvement in the construction itself, so it kind of gets away from me. You pass it off to others. It doesn’t seem as fun to me at that stage. It’s great to walk in during construction and see it come to life, but the actual entitlement part of the process is what I’m most passionate about.
How do you find inspiration in this space?
I’m always on Instagram. I follow a ton of accounts. I see what people are doing, what’s trending, what’s popular. I’m doing green cabinets in my house and in a unit we’re doing right now — it’s pretty bold, pretty in right now...I think we’ll find a buyer who’s really into it and will be really fired up.
Imagine it’s 2032. There’s a new hotspot in or near the city of Boston that’s being developed. If you had to guess where it’ll be, what would you say?
I can’t tell you. It’s secret.
Say you had to start over in another city in the United States. Where would you go?
I like Miami. There’s a lot of high rise, a lot of cool construction. The idea of LA and the luxury homes is appealing too. I’d say Miami or LA.
What’s next for you?
We have two large projects that got approved - The Cove in Worcester which is 300 units, and the SKY project in Everett which is 385 units. The next step is to raise the equity and properly build them, then we need them to be successful. It’s all well and good to get them approved — obviously a huge step — but the next step has to be finance, construct, stabilize, and exit them. Until you’ve completed that life cycle, you haven’t done a truly large-scale development.
Our 85 unit right now, we still have probably 5 years until that project could be called a success or not. What do we sell it for in 5 years? So I think all of these large projects, we’ve talked about the entitlement phase, but can we make them all successful over the next 6-10 years?
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