Building Good Relationships in the Business with Tony Alvarez | Part 1 #830

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Tony Alvarez is a well-heeled, seasoned, knowledgeable, and successful Real Estate Investor, licensed Broker, Developer, and Certified General Appraiser; and has lived and worked in the real estate business since 1981.

Tony has built, purchased, rehabbed, rented, and sold hundreds of properties from vacant land to condos, single-family residences, apartments, and commercial properties and is well-versed in the risks and requirements for success inherent in different types of real estate investments.

Tony is also a sought-after speaker and has previously spoken at The Norris Group’s Multi-Millionaire Maker in 2005 and 2006, as well as other Real Estate Investment Clubs and events throughout Southern California and Nevada.





Narrator  This is The Norris Group’s real estate investor radio show the award-winning show dedicated to thought leaders shaping the real estate industry and local experts revealing their insider tips to succeed in an ever -changing real estate market hosted by author, investor, and hard money lender, Bruce Norris.

Bruce Norris  Thanks for joining us. My name is Bruce Norris. And today our special guest is Tony Alvarez. Tony is a very successful investor whom I met in about 2003, Tony began his investment journey with a buy and hold philosophy. His goal was to own about 10 Free and Clear houses in the last 20 years. Tony has done slightly better than that, to say the least. At our encouragement, Tony spoken his first event over 15 years ago. And matter of fact, 2005 and was an instant hit with people lining up to hug him and I don’t remember any other speaker getting that reaction ever. Tony, great. Good to see you again.

Tony Alvarez  Thank you very much, Bruce. Good morning to everybody. Yeah, that was that was quite the experience back then. I I remember that. I remember. There’s two things I remember from from that day, actually three if I think about it, one was I was petrified that didn’t want to speak. I didn’t want to get up there even till the last minute. I had been pacing in my room. You got some really nice rooms at the hotel and everything. And I was pacing back and forth in my room going I can’t do this. My son was there. So it was I can’t I can’t do this. I gotta I gotta I gotta get out of this somehow. And I was the last. Yeah, and I you know, I you know, and you start thinking all creative ways. You know, like, okay, I can fake an illness.

Bruce Norris  I have a sore throat.

Tony Alvarez  Yeah, I can’t, you know, yeah. So, so. So I went downstairs and I and you were there. And I said, you know, Bruce, I don’t know about I don’t know, I don’t even know why you have me. And this is you know, everybody’s, you had everybody up there. They’ve all talked about stuff. And you looked at me and you said and you asked me a question that really rocked my boat that you said do you plan on lying anybody here today? I was like, Actually Actually piss me off a little bit. You know, I like to lie to anybody. He said, Well, you know, you got two hours just get up there. If you’re done in five minutes. Fine. Get out Get up there say what you got to say get off stage but I’ll see what your what what you’re worried about. I’ll show him.

Bruce Norris  You know what, you brought up something that I thought okay, this is risky. Remember, part of being a party being in Seminar. We had to set individual goals. Yeah, and Okay. Well, do you remember you and I went to lunch with Mike Cantu. Yeah. And I wanted I wanted these to be serious goals. Because I think on that one, I had had to lose 50 pounds. Because Jim Rohn was Jim Rohn was there. So I remember the conversation with Mike Cantu. Okay, Mike. How about you give up smoking? And Mike said the word the try word. He says Well, I give that a try. And I said that’s the baby word. Yeah. And then I said, you have a grant, you have a grandson now? Yeah, I did. The surest way to know that he’s going to smoke is for you to continue to smoke. And I thought I just probably risked getting my butt kicked. Every time I talk to him, I can’t tell. You know what he says. But it he knows the number of days he hasn’t smoked.

Tony Alvarez  Yeah. But that’s how he is, you know, I mean, he’s, he, he’s, he’s every time I would speak to him over the years, he would tell me what day it was because he started doing the push up thing where he does so many push ups. Yeah. First consecutive day. And he said it so many consecutive days. That’s the only thing that keeps him going. Like, he has to do it. Because if not, then it breaks the chain.

Bruce Norris  Yeah, he has to start at one. Yeah, that’s

Tony Alvarez  yeah. So so it was, it was quite a thing. And yeah, in the in the the second thing I remember was, you know, that question guy, because I learned, you know, anytime you said anything to me, I really paid attention because I realized over the years that that, uh, you know, for whatever reason, you’ve been that kind of person in my life that had, you know, whatever you talk to me about whatever we discussed, I would take later on, take take the words you say, and I would really pay attention because they would mean something different. They would mean something more than just that conversation to me later on. So that’s and that started early on, you know, even when you weren’t speaking to me when I saw you on stage. And you said you know I for example, Bruce you know, I talk a lot most Cubans do but but I you know, I get in the conversation I could be outside in the parking lot talking to somebody they asked me one question I’m there are three hours, you know. Yeah, and people suffer through that, but, but you were different than that. You know, somebody asked you a three hour class Shouldn’t you get them back a three second response, but it’s dead on, on right on, you know? And and so when you said that to me that really, you know, that really woke me up

Bruce Norris  with a I want to point out the reason that you came up to talk to me, because it’s important that people realize that people like us that own businesses are always observing character. And so you heard me in front of an audience get asked a question about commercial real estate. And without batting an eye, I said, you know, I it’s not what I an expert on at all. So I don’t really feel that I should answer the question. And you appreciated that I took the guts to do that. But I’ve thought about that a lot, you know, Creek, Hill Creek kills it with the Norris group, for that exact reason. I was borrowing money from him, he was my hard money lender and an appraisal came in 35% less than the value. And so my loan is going to get affected by a lot. I say, Craig, can we just ignore the appraisal? And get the loan I wanted? And wow, whole new Craig showed up and he said, Bruce out for you, or anyone else will I you know, pumping appraisal up to get a loan. And when I hung up, I really did make a commitment and say if I ever start a business, I’m gonna have him work for me. So, you know, you do the same thing. You’re when you talk to people you’re always watching their, their character.

Tony Alvarez  Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You can’t hide that, you know, no matter how much somebody tries to, to perform in a different way, you know, their, their character, their core beliefs are going to come out in even the simplest of conversations, you know, even when it comes to little simple things. Even if you haven’t lunch, you know, and they and they bring you the check in and the waiter screwed up. He didn’t charge you for something, you know, and somebody’s hey, look, we’re getting away with give me give me right now. And you know, you’re calling the waiter back going, you know, you made you $3 off, okay, or whatever. And but you just got a peek into that person. And that got you might be having a meeting where he wants to borrow money.

Bruce Norris  Yeah, it’s your turn next.

Tony Alvarez  Build over three bucks. Okay. Come on. So, yeah, but of the day that, you know, when when we met, as a result of me hearing you speak, that was one of those moments where you it was a, in a blink of an eye, you said a couple of words. Somebody else your question, hey, we’re listening. We’re all apartment owners. It was apartment owners association. We’re all apartment owners, you’re talking about single families, you know, and what’s coming, you know, how’s that going to impact us? Man, you could hear a pin drop. Okay. And this guy stood up, he didn’t just raise his hand. So he’s, and I’m in the back with a buddy of mine from Argentina. He was in he’s and he looked at me with all. I said, Okay, let’s see, then you went you shuffled a little bit. And you said, you know, I’m, I’m, I really don’t know, I’m not sure. Can I continue? And we all laughed, and he said, Yeah, go right ahead, Bruce, you know, and, and, and that was, and that was marvelous. You know, for me, that was that was marvelous. I looked at my buddy. And I said, you see that? And I said, I’m going back to meet this guy said, This guy will never lie to me, you know? And that’s what that’s what I got out of it. Because I just saw you hear the words, but what do they really represent? They represent this guy on stage, you know, who’s in front of all you know, all these people, you would think you can come up with anything to impress them, you know, you can you can just even slightly without lying, you can say I don’t know you’re gonna could be the stick was probably going to be the same thing. And then boom, continue with your story. Nobody would even notice the guy would sit down he would he would even feel somewhat defeated. Like What a dumb question I asked you. But that and then when you asked me to speak at the at the millionaire maker in 2005 was another shock. Because who’s Tony, I mean, I had done this stuff. And um, but to me, it was just work. I was just working, and learning every day and stuff like that. I was learning from everyone I ever met, including my tenants. And, you know, in real estate, I just love the business Ivan from the you know, I’ve spoken to Sabrina about this several times because she’s she’s unraveled herself in the business she’s often asked me you know, so why kept you in, you know, over the years and what really what really did it you know, we all go after the money, well, we’ll have a motivating factor that gets us in. But if you think that’s what’s gonna hold you in this business or any business, you’re out of your mind, you got it. You have to fall in love with what you’re doing because you realize the impact that you’re having on on things that have that, you know, that are not you that are your everything in your life, you know, I mean, all these people that you’re meeting all these situations, it doesn’t matter whether they’re your tenants or the real estate agent, guy or some other event. Astrid, you’re just, it’s it’s a monumental amount of relationships that you’re going to go through. And it kind of reminds me the old Tarzan movies, you know, he would swing from one tree to the other. He’s got the vine, you know, and then and then you know and so, so there I am, hey, I want you to come up and speak and tell your stories, all that kind of stuff. And I was like, What the hell? Well, I’m gonna tell people I’m gonna get up there. I’m gonna say I worked my butt off. Okay. You want to give 100% of yourself to something? Yeah, you know, it might work for you. But don’t

Bruce Norris  see the reaction to you didn’t surprise me. Did it surprise you? I mean, literally, very much. So very much like people lined up to argue. Yes. And that

Tony Alvarez  was the thing. I never forget it. And because because the auditorium was like it went up. Well, yeah, yeah, it was on the left hand side, the mini riot row. They all went to the left hand side, and they were coming down. I’m like, Whoa, what’s going on? And I turned around, and they were all like, they wanted to get a hug, you know, they wanted in people. This is grown men and women that with tears in their eyes, want I never forget one guy hug me and he said, You reminded me of something about my sister. He said, I’m going to call her right now. So he probably had a falling out, you know, or something in their relationship or something. And, and, and something I said about relationships, you know, crack broke that egg, you know, and it was like, so I was like, but I was definitely amazed at the reaction that I got. I went on stage thinking I have nothing to say here or any for getting wrong had been on that stage.

Bruce Norris  You know what my canteen said to me while you are speaking. Wow, he’s sitting next to me. He goes, thank you for putting me before Tony.

Tony Alvarez  Yup, Mikey was but my Mikey was like, boom, boom. Oh, yeah. Remember,

Bruce Norris  per minute more information about real estate than anybody ever. I listen.

Tony Alvarez  And everything was irrelevant. And so I remember well, so here’s what I said. When he was done. I turned in, I said, I got nothing to say. No, I mean, what what’s there for what’s left for me to talk about?

Bruce Norris  But remember what the whole seminar was about was the different approaches. In other words, I wanted somebody to be able to go oh, I’m people person, I can relate to why Tony gets a yes, answer. My Cantu is very, like process oriented. He doesn’t even want to meet people. He doesn’t meet people that he doesn’t.

Tony Alvarez  I remember him saying that, then yeah, it was transactions.

Bruce Norris  Everybody was handpicked, because Jack Fortin, he bought everything going door to door not not like knocking on a specific picker house, he goes to a neighborhood and said, Do you know if anybody interested in selling literally everything he bought in Orange County was from that process? So that’s why, you know, I picked everybody I pick because they were successful investors from a different path. And that was that was cool, because I wanted people to see, you could probably relate to one of us.

Tony Alvarez  Yes. And I think you did that very effectively. i The point here is that none of us were aware of what you had done. The only in retrospect, did we understand the magnitude of that of that day? It was because, and I and I’ve said this over and over over the years, people would ask me, So what the hell so I said, Listen, there was people in that audience that left that day. And we we bonded, you know, a lot of us bonded over the years. And we stayed in touch and they became million, but I mean, they went from zero to five $6 million, relatively soon. And it was like, just from what they got out of that thing. I just by the way, a young man come up to me actually came up to me not that recently came up to me at one of the timing events that I attended with you and your your, your timing things. And I was going to Sabrina and I were walking over to get lunch, you know, and you go out to the other room. And I see this young man off to the side and he’s looking at me and he’s in every time I mean, we meet eyes, he turns away he’s almost like he’s embarrassed or something. And I told him, I said, Hold on a second, I gotta find out what this guy wants. He wants something he’s not he’s afraid to ask. So I walk up and I said eight. What, um, what is it that you need? I see you’re looking at me. And so if you want to if he says and he starts a big smile, he goes, you know, Tony, I just want to say thank you. And I was like, okay, he goes, I just didn’t want to interrupt you. I know you’re here with everybody. He said, I just wanted to thank you because I heard you speak years ago and I didn’t have anything I wasn’t in the business or whatever he said, and what you She had kind of changed my whole life because you, you made it sound like it was possible for me to do this. He says, And he starts telling me how many rental houses he’s got now and his partner was there with them. The other guy was with them never said a word. He was like, you know me. And I’m fascinated by that sometime. Well, he turns out, he’s, he’s up. He’s a young, I just saw him at another class, I attended recently a seminar in Florida on on taxes and John Hart. And, and his name is Derek harms. And I’m sure a lot of people Yeah, sure. And he’s gone on to be a magnificent. I mean, he’s just he, but his character is, is, you know, a reflection, his business reflects really the way He sees things, you know, and so I ran, I ran into him, and he’s, he’s doing fabulous, you know, to think that my words had anything to do with that. Well, your words have those effects on us see, and what you did that day, you brought the best of us together, we didn’t have a clue what the heck you were doing? Honestly, I mean, all of us were nervous about presenting, none of us were professional speakers. And, and, and what I remember about Jack Fullerton, you won’t know what I remember about his whole routine. But two things. One, how was your leaky bucket? Because I went home, and I found a lot of leaks in my bucket. Okay. That was a simple concept. You know, in other words, he’s saying, where’s your money going? Because you’re making money, but you got to pay attention where it goes. And the other one was the method that he used to buy houses. This guy didn’t look for deals, he wasn’t looking for discount prices. He’s paying good value, right? And he and he laughed about it. He said, Hey, I paid top dollar movie. And he says, I feel silly being on stage with you guys. Because you’re all deal finders and stuff. That’s not me. I pay somebody whether it was worth but what were his property’s worth? Because he strategically purchased, you know, in the right areas in the right.

Bruce Norris  So yeah, he didn’t he didn’t hurt for anything, for sure. Oh, no, no, I just thought, yeah, I thought that was a very interesting group of skill sets, that were so different, that somebody in the audience would relate to somebody and go on that person. That the other thing is, of course, Jim Rohn was there, because of the character qualities that are necessary? You know, that was the that was the point of him being there, he had nothing to do with real estate, but he had the ability to bring out the best in me in that field, you know, just because of what he said. So yeah, that was a special. That was a special event. No doubt about that. That was a lot of fun. I’m curious about something. And I don’t think we’ve ever, ever covered this, you know, I met you in 2003. And you really became known for buying tons of Oreos from REO agents. Yes. How did you buy the slugger properties that you had, and that you already had in 2003? Because there wasn’t, I wasn’t an REO market after, let’s say, 97. It was a market that gradually went up and up?

Tony Alvarez  Well, you know, and that’s a good point. Because I’d be very frank with you, I, when I first went to the Antelope Valley, they had a lot of HUDs and stuff like that, you know, everybody was buying on the auctions on the went on. And, you know, you had a if you got one word wrong, and your offer they disallowed you offer and all this stuff. And I tried that at the beginning. And I was very disappointed, because for that reason, you know, the agent you’re using, you had to go through an agent, and the agent would, would make one one bad click on the thing, or, you know, and you’re out, you know, so I felt like man is a lot of effort, you’re going out, you’re having a drive, you see all these houses and stuff, and then somebody who’s sitting in some computer someplace, arbitrarily make some decision based on on something that somebody else did that I can’t control. And I thought, Okay, this is this is kind of a clown show, you know, not that I didn’t keep participating, I just had to find the right agent who, who was conscious of what he was doing, you know, but that led me to understand that there’s a difference in, in, in the quality of agent and, and in the level of knowledge and the level of experience and professionalism, people that care about the money that they’re generating, not only for themselves, but for their clients. Right. So in me, here’s what I discovered in every real estate office. Now we’re going back a few years, I don’t think it’s changed much. Although we’ve got the internet and everything else. I think it’s important that I inject one thing. When I got started in this business, there was no internet, no cell phones, no computers. So if we weren’t talking one on one, if I didn’t get in my car, drive down your office and put my hand in yours, looked you in the eye and have a conversation with you. Nothing was going to happen, because you didn’t know who I was, and you weren’t going to be calling me. So now I’m I’m having to talk to these agents. Yeah, I gotta find the right agent. This as a matter of fact, the very first agent that I ran into just to show you the differences in agents, okay. It was a lady whose deal Yeah, she’s a listing. She had her sign in front of a HUD house. And then compete agents would do that back then they would write and and I call her and she represents me on this deal. I ended up buying it $37,000 A house, a three bedroom, one bath and Rubina cost me five grand and fixes paint and carpet and whatever. Okay, 37 grand for a house and in that moment was worth $100,000 You know if I just fixed it up, okay. And then would rent for like 750 the lowest was 650 to 750 800 bucks. I mean, do the math, you know, even if you’re paying 14% interest six points, who the hell cares? So, so So anyway, so so she represents me. I call her as soon as I land the deal. And and I realized there was on that street, there was 10 other houses boarded up, I’m thinking, Oh, my God, I landed, you know, in Disneyland. This is this is great. And there’s nobody buying there’s that there’s nobody, there’s no competition, because most people didn’t really understand values. And my background had been as an appraiser, even though I was working to shake his pizza. Because I lost my I lost my, my, my trust in myself, my faith in myself, you know, my judgment. So, but anyways, but that wakes you up real quick, you know, I got enough gumption to get in that first deal. Once I made that first deal. I’m like, oh, all I saw was money. I was like, This is too. This is too good to be true. And so. So I really, I go to her and I say I want to make five offers and bla bla bla bla bla bla, she’s just, you know, I’m pounding. I’m just going off in all directions in front of her and I was excited. She calls me up. She’s, I need to talk to you because I had call her that night. And I’m calling her all the way up to 10 o’clock, nine o’clock at night. You know, she calls me I need to see you tomorrow morning. She goes, I go to see her. She says I just want to let you know that. I don’t think I’m the right person for you. Know, I was heartbroken. I’m telling you honestly right now because I thought, am I that rude or something? You know? She goes, No, no, no, no, no, I need I need to explain. I’m a single mom. I’ve got kids, you know, you’re calling me at nine o’clock at night and you deserve the attention. You know, if you’re going to be buying it looks like you’re really serious about this and you know what you’re doing? She said, Tony, I don’t want to work that hard because I can’t I got kids I got to take care of I got stuff to do. You need to hook up with the right agent. And she did the greatest thing for me for the rest of my state in the Antelope Valley and even beyond. She said you need to hook up with this guy. And she gives me the name of a broker. And and I said, Well, who’s this? She goes? And she was Hispanic like me. Okay, so please forgive him. Because nowadays everybody’s so you know, politically correct. And everything. She goes, he’s a white guy. You know, I said, Oh, I said I Yeah, I heard there’s a lot of those out here. There wasn’t that many Hispanics. Okay, at that moment, there she goes, but he’s really good. He’s an improved Fannie Mae broker. He’s one of the best guys in the valley. He’s a little hard to deal with. But I think you guys will be able to hit it off because you’re at the same level. That man, Don Anderson turned out to be one of my best friends in real estate and guy who’s probably responsible for at least 50% of all the stuff I ever bought in the Antelope Valley. And that relationship was was magnificent. In my friendship with our dad. I danced with his daughter at her wedding. I knew those kids. They’re the ones who who didn’t want to give me the tagline Uncle Tony, her brother. They’re the ones who call me uncle Tony, I bought all their candy. When they had those sales in the office. Nobody wanted to buy the candies, I would go in and say much for the whole thing. And I got to buy chocolates with them. I mean, I’ve told those stories to everybody over over over the years. So here’s what happens. I get to meet when I got to term a professional broker. Right? These guys deal with distressed properties. So yeah, I, you know, I worked the reo market when it was working. But I also got to understand that those brokers when the reo is on there, they’re dealing with other stuff. They’re dealing with attorneys that deal with probates, or dealing with divorce cases. Because always in an office in a real estate office, there’s at least one person or a team or something that handles distressed situations, not not just distressed properties, but distressed situations. And so he is the one who in essence educated me, he would call me and say hey, I got an attorney here in town, and he’s got some properties coming up because somebody passed away and they want to get rid of them all fast. I need you to go see them right away. Tell me what you’re willing to pay for this stuff. They’re not even appraised yet.

Bruce Norris  Yeah, thank you.

Tony Alvarez  I’m like, Excuse me, you got an attorney who’s got properties who wants to one? Tony, just come by I’m gonna give you the addresses. Just get out there and just keep it to yourself because they’re not listed or anything yet. It’s just a conversation we had. You know how many times that happened over the years? I can’t even begin to tell you.

Bruce Norris  Well, here’s another important question. said how many other phone calls did he make besides you?

Tony Alvarez  Well, you know, here’s the thing at the beginning, keep in mind, because there’s a process at the beginning when I went to their office, right, yeah, my foot in the door. Keep in mind, he’s got to stalk him. And he’s got a bunch of other. Of course, yeah, of course. But and I had to humble I had to jump over that hurdle. Because the very be honest, the very first time so I called him on the phone left him a message that went on for weeks. I never got a call back, right. He’s that. And he even told me, and I’ll be very frank with you. And he knows I say this, because I told him, I said, I got to tell the truth. I don’t want to hide this stuff. Because it’s important for people out there to hear it, especially guys that were in my shoes, right? He says, Tony, when I heard Alvarez, I heard the message, I thought, Oh, God, is my gardener wanting to get into real estate. That’s what he said to me. And I said, you know, you’re such, you’re such a white dude. You know, he said, Well, you know, and the truth of the matter was, is that he worked with, you know, with these agencies that work with kids, and he mentored kids, and so Hispanic kids and stuff, you know, but the truth at his core, he’s got certain mindsets, right? He’s got saying that he’s been brought up, right, he was brought up a certain way, he’s got limitations in his thinking, and, and so to all of us to one extent or another, but who cares? Over the years, he learned a lot, his dad and my dad were very similar people, even though ethnically there were two ends of the spectrum, you know, and but yeah, we’ve had him and I both got the brunt of those personalities. And they were very similar. And so we put so we built this, this tight friendship, but over time, and it had to do with the way we set up, he got to understand my character, and it comes back to this, Bruce, it doesn’t you can’t get away from it. It comes back to situations where my character and my commitment to be a certain type of business person, a certain type of individual came through in my decision making, right? So so what’s the deal? I say to him, Hey, I’m gonna, here’s the deal, you know, every deal you give me, I jot it down. It goes, like, you know, it’s like, you know, in the book of life kind of thing, you know, and it’s, and when I get ready to sell this property, whether it’s in three weeks or 330 years, I’m coming back to you. And if you’re retired or whatever, and I’m gonna pay you a full 6% Commission. I don’t care now, you know, when the markets soaring, right? What’s the what’s the predominant mindset is, how cheap can we get if I can get myself right, I’ll put it on the internet or something. And I don’t have to pay commissions. And that’s fine. It but what happens is, here’s the market changes. And I’m calling him up. I’m going in there, right? I’m ready to liquidate now, when you finally gave me permission, when you call me when you called me that day and said, Hey, time to sell it all, dump it all. You said to me, something like that. And I said, Wait a second, I’m up 3 million bucks. Market soaring. Can I just hang on? Just got what about another six months? Because the markets going up like 20 grand a week or so? You said again, here’s a short little brief question you asked Tony. And you got my attention cuz I was like, oh, it’s I said, Come on, Bruce. Tony, what what? Do you want to sell your stuffed to a euphoric market where everybody wants it? Or do you want to sell it when No buddy wants it at all. And in that moment, my brain went, and I remember failed. When you were trying, I was trying to do more of what wasn’t working anymore. And I felt that pain in that moment. I went thanks. hung up the phone. I got on. I said dumping with dumping everything right now right now right now. And that was the that was the best decision. Now I want you to know, I saw properties I sold to people. They turned around sold them like a couple of weeks later a month later, making another 30 grand and every time I would see that or go Yeah, Bruce Jenner Believe it or you know, oh God, and then I would sit down and do a calculation 30 times 200 properties.

Joey Romero  Well, that’s gonna do it for our show this week. Please join us next week for our conversation with real estate investor and mentor. Only hours or as we like to call him uncle Tony. See then,

Narrator  For more information on hard money, loans and upcoming events with The Norris Group, check out For information on passive investing with trust deeds, visit

Aaron Norris  The Norris Group originates and services loans in California and Florida under California DRE License 01219911, Florida Mortgage Lender License 1577, and NMLS License 1623669.  For more information on hard money lending, go and click the Hard Money tab.




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