From High Salary to Higher Stakes: Agostino Pintus On Real Estate Entrepreneurship

Agostino Pintus joins host Jim Pfeifer on the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast to detail his journey from a lucrative tech career to thriving real estate entrepreneur. Read on for key insights he shares on leaving corporate life, vetting partners, preferred investment strategies like adaptive reuse, and his outlook for commercial real estate markets in 2024.

Saying Goodbye to the Corporate Grind

Early on, Agostino Pintus envisioned having a career in the technology sector. He had a knack for computers and software, which eventually landed him a senior executive role at a publicly-traded firm.

However, after nearly 20 years climbing the corporate ladder, frustrations emerged. He recalled instances of leadership changes resulting in shifting dynamics and uncertainties surrounding job security. By his early 40’s, Agostino explained, “I’m thinking to myself, how many more times can I possibly go through this and put myself and my family at risk?”

The lack of control and whims of corporate politics had worn thin. Moreover, Agostino’s side hobby investing in real estate had shown promising signs of stability and income. Initially he focused on single family and small multi-family properties.

Ultimately in 2019, he decided to make the leap and leave his corporate position to pursue real estate investing full time. As Agostino puts it, “It was scary, man. I was scared to death.”

Stepping into the unknown without a steady corporate paycheck created understandable anxiety. However, the lure of betting on himself and his own business won out. Now, he applies lessons and skills built over nearly 20 years in real estate. This includes overseeing a portfolio of commercial assets and also managing an education company for aspiring investors.

Vetting Partners: Look for Signs in the Little Things

Given his operator role, Agostino gets frequent pitches for investment opportunities and prospective partnerships. When assessing potential partners, he pays close attention to subtle clues in their communication and professional conduct.

In one instance, he scheduled multiple calls with an individual to discuss projects. However, the person routinely showed up 15-20 minutes late without notification or apology. After the fourth occurrence, Agostino terminated the discussions, seeing the tardiness as a red flag.

As he puts it, “If the guy is late for just showing up to a meeting, and it’s shrugged off as no big deal, is it also okay if they skip on a mortgage payment? Who cares if they don’t return a phone call to an investor?”

Essentially if someone does not value others’ time for simple introductions, Agostino has doubts about their ability to honor commitments when real money is on the line. Responsiveness and punctuality speak volumes.

He also vets potential partners on their technical skills and track records. Can they speak credibly about projects and structure deals advantageously? Or do they demonstrate gaps in experience that require hand holding?

Ultimately for Agostino, partnerships need to be with professionals that pull their weight and share his standards. Otherwise, it introduces unnecessary risks and headaches.

Vetting Operators as An LP

On the flip side, passive LP investors also need to vet sponsors and syndicators diligently before investing capital. Agostino stresses investors should look beyond just the lead sponsor they interact with initially. They should make an effort to understand their key partners and leadership team too. While full transparency into backgrounds, capabilities, and track records takes concerted diligence, it’s vital for limiting downside risks.

Additionally, Agostino advises examining how operators communicate with investors and handle issues transparently. Sponsors that provide portfolio updates, educate through webinars, and share their expertise generously tend to take investor relations more seriously. Essentially, LP investors should evaluate operators on their communication, governance, transparency, and technical competency. LP’s need to conduct due diligence and reference checks to ensure their interests will be well-represented.

Navigating the Operating Agreement

Since partnerships formalize through legal agreements, Agostino covers several key considerations when negotiating operating agreements.

One aspect is ensuring language exists that permits seizing control of assets if severe issues emerge with certain counterparties. He wants to avoid scenarios where dysfunction by others puts his own investors and credibility at risk.

Agostino also notes delineating clear roles and economics interests based on involvement levels. Ultimately, legal provisions need to align with the spirit of partnership, not introduce mismatched expectations.

While getting favorable legal protections matters, he believes finding shared vision and complementary skill sets with partners trumps all. As Agostino notes, issues in operating agreements can be remedied – but only before the investment is made.

Capital Calls – A “Necessary Evil”

Tying back to investor relationships, the podcast discussion addresses the controversial subject of capital calls. Many passive investors expressly try to avoid deals that require participation in capital calls but rather prefer operating agreements that make them optional.  On the other hand, operators argue that funding reserves are necessary to remedy problems and preserve equity value.

Agostino structures deals to require participation in capital calls. In his view, this prevents those who choose not to participate in the capital call from benefiting from the capital other LP investors choose to contribute. 

Ultimately both sponsors and limited partners need alignment on the treatment of capital calls written into the operating agreement prior to investing in the deal.

Adaptive Reuse Targets Urban Infill

Diving into Agostino’s investment strategies, he covers an intriguing asset play – adaptive reuse projects. This involves converting obsolete commercial buildings into residential apartments, hospitality, or mixed use.

Agostino favors redeveloping outdated downtown office spaces into multifamily. By locating in urban infill areas, proximity to infrastructure, jobs, retail, and entertainment drives leasing demand.

He also targets cities with tax incentives, economic opportunity zones, and friendly zoning policies to spur revitalization. For instance, Cleveland offers robust developer perks relative to other regions.

According to Agostino, the math can work more attractively for urban adaptive reuse than ground-up construction. Repurposing standing building frameworks reduces costs compared to new builds. And any discounted basis gets boosted by rising area rents and property values.

For investors though, lengthy development timelines for adaptive reuse pose a key risk. Cash flow and capital events can take years to develop while property is being retrofitted, leased, and stabilized.

Yet for sponsors with specialized expertise managing this asset class, it introduces opportunities beyond traditional value-add multifamily plays, and LP investors enjoy participating in community progress.

2024 Market Outlook – Cautious Optimism

Assessing prospects for commercial real estate in 2024, Agostino remains upbeat about net lease properties. He believes high quality tenants signing long-term leases will continue benefiting from inflationary rent bumps.

However, headwinds endure for multifamily investors facing maturing debt, especially on recent purchases with variable debt. Agostino thinks class B/C apartment plays offer stability with room for operational improvements and gradual value gains.

Office properties also face lingering uncertainty until remote work preferences stabilize and jobs fully rebound. Yet for experienced sponsors, distressed office acquisition opportunities may emerge, primed for adaptive reuse conversions.

On the upside, Agostino sees inflation driving more retailer interest in single tenant net lease properties. And he expects community bank appetites for construction financing to recover gradually.

Overall commercial real estate appears set for tempered growth, rewarding knowledgeable sponsors that control risks. But larger forces like interest rate moves could quickly change investor sentiment.

The Journey From Specialist to Visionary

Agostino Pintus delivers multi-faceted insights bridging his experiences as a corporate executive, real estate professional, and entrepreneur. He took difficult steps leaving a lucrative career path to tackle new endeavors in real estate ownership and education. Now Agostino combines specialized expertise with discipline, vision, and communication fluency to drive his successes.

Tax advantages attracted small-scale investing initially. But a bigger purpose emerged to teach and empower others to take control of their financial destinies.

Today Agostino oversees $100+ million in commercial real estate assets under ownership and management. Yet he still makes time to produce educational content and individually mentor new investors.

Balancing these priorities while living fully aligns with his concept for purposeful success.

For investors and sponsors interested in connecting with Agostino and tapping into his knowledge, check out BulletproofCashflow.com. And take a listen to the full Passive Investing from Left Field episode for more great insights.

Take Your Investing to the Next Level

If you enjoyed Agostino’s wisdom and stories, the Left Field Investors (LFI) Community offers more great resources to advance your real estate investing education.

Become an LFI “Infielder” to access:

  • Exclusive educational content and investor training programs
  • Off-market investment opportunities from vetted sponsors
  • A network of thousands of like-minded passive investors
  • Virtual and in-person events to engage with experts
  • The support to confidently build your investment portfolio

Whether you are new to passive real estate investing or a seasoned veteran, LFI provides contacts, knowledge, and opportunities.

Join now to take your investing to the next level!

This article is for educational purposes only and is not to be relied upon as the basis for entering into any transaction or advisory relationship or making any investment decision. All investments involve the risk of loss, including the loss of principal. Past performance, and any performance results reflected in this article, is not an indication of future results.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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