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  • Antoine Martel became interested in buying, rehabbing, and renting out property to create cash flow.
  • He used money from his father’s retirement account to buy an investment property.
  • Once he realized he could do it and had all the right contacts, he recycled his strategy and scaled.

Before going all-in on real estate, Antoine Martel was getting his bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Both of his parents worked full-time, and his brother, Etienne was a real-estate agent in San Francisco.

“While I was in college, back in 2015, my brother took me and my dad to a real estate seminar. At the seminar, we learned about flipping houses, wholesaling, [and] apartment buildings,” Martel said. “From there, I became addicted to real estate.”

But there was one issue: Real estate in California had steep price tags, an obstacle that would make investing too expensive.

Martel was reluctant to give up and wanted to find a way to start building a real-estate portfolio for his family. In the next semester, he decided to register for evening classes so that he could use his days to network with experienced investors.

He told Insider he met with hundreds of people, mostly over coffee, to pick their brains about how they started investing. And, he listened to the “BiggerPockets” podcast all day just trying to figure out how people went from zero to one house, he said.

"And that's kind of how I came to realize that investing out of state was the way to go for me and my family," Martel said.

The first property

The first property he found was in Memphis, Tennessee. And the seller's agent was instrumental to the deal because he was able to connect him with a construction company that would clean up the property. The agent also owned a management company that would oversee it. Martel then approached his father, Eric, and asked him if he'd invest.

"I went to my dad and I said, 'hey, you know, I found this house and I want to help grow this rental property portfolio for the family'," Martel said.

So, in 2017, at 21 years old, he purchased their first investment property out of his dorm room. It was a single-family home for $40,000, a payment that came from his father's retirement account, he said.

Once it was cleaned up, they rented it out for $775 a month. Since it was cash flowing, Martel was able to approach a local credit union in Tennessee and request a cash-out refinance. He then got his father to sign the mortgage paperwork.

"My dad was able to get most of his money back, almost all of it back. And now we had this first cash-flowing rental property," Martel said.

Although it wasn't exactly in Martel's name, being in college and having his parents cover his expenses motivated him to do it for his family.

How he scaled

"Then I went to my dad and I said, 'hey, you know, I'm graduating from college. I haven't really applied to jobs because I don't want to work for somebody else. And I think we have something here in Memphis'," Martel said.

Since there was a team already in place from their first purchase, including a realtor, contractor, property management company, and title company, he wanted to see if he could do it all again.

"So that's exactly what I did. I graduated in May of 2017 and then I just kept recycling my dad's money over and over and over again in Memphis with that same realtor and property manager,' Martel said.

The required upgrades on each property remained minimal and would hit between $5,000 to $15,000. This allowed the time between purchasing, renting, and refinancing to take no more than two months.

The realtor he was working with had already been flipping about a house a month, and working with a good contractor. That same contractor would work with Martel.

"And so that contractor could go to a house. He can give you a rehab bid by the end of the day. And he would just make that rehab that happen," Martel said.

Having a good network and team of people was key to his success. While a local credit union in Memphis was also important because they could refinance properties within 30 days of ownership, rather than the 6 months that larger banks often require. This is referred to as a seasoning period requirement.

Within the same year, Martel's brother left his real estate job in San Francisco and joined him, effectively continuing to build the family's portfolio. While he and his brother did the hands-on administrative work, their father remained an investor.

"And then obviously as my dad got more confident he started putting more of his cash that he had in savings and other things into buying more properties as he saw the success," Martel said.

In 2020, his mother, Lynn, also quit her job and joined the family business. Today, the family owns 89 rental properties under a family trust, according to property records viewed by Insider. They also run a family-owned firm MartelTurnkey, where they buy, rehab, rent, and then sell it as a cash-flowing property. And have since expanded their operation to include properties in Cleveland, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, and Detroit, Michigan.

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