From Homeless to Homebuilder
Richard Montaño owns and operates Montaño Companies, three real estate investment groups that allow people to generate passive income by owning property. His mission is simple: Give people a way to create more free time by giving them a way to build wealth without slaving away at a desk.
Richard Montaño Rises from the Street
To a Pinnacle in the Real Estate Industry
By Jennifer Coburn
If Richard Montaño’s life were being made into a movie, the opening scene would be his mother knocking her 9-year-old son to the ground, then bolting in the opposite direction to catch up with her drug dealer.
Homeless and addicted to crack cocaine, Montaño’s mother often went missing. This time it was for several days. When the boy finally found his mother, he interrupted a drug deal by grabbing her purse and emptying the contents onto the sidewalk.
That’s when she struck him. “I just wanted to go to the park, I just wanted to be with my mom,” Montaño says. “She wasn’t physically abusive, but her addiction took her to a desperate place that day.”
When they saw the altercation, several adults came to Montaño’s aid. One of them asked what the boy was going to do. The man was most likely inquiring about the boy’s immediate plans, but Montaño started thinking long term. “I looked around and realized none of these guys knew what to do, so if I wanted something different, it was up to me to figure it out,” he says.
While his peers were safely tucked away in their fourth grade classrooms, Montaño walked to Father Joe’s homeless shelter, where he had spent many nights, and called his aunt and uncle. It was then that his life took a dramatic turn for the better.
His aunt enrolled him in school and he watched the family build economic security through real estate investment. “My uncle used to say that there is no more real investment than real estate,” Montaño, now a 34-year-old homebuilder, recalls.
Today, Montaño owns and operates Montaño Companies, three real estate investment groups that allow people to generate passive income by owning property. His mission is simple: Give people a way to create more free time by giving them a way to build wealth without slaving away at a desk.
“A lot of people want this, but lack traditional investor attributes like time, money, and expertise in real estate investment,” explains Montaño. “So we created a system to put everyone together” so they can invest collaboratively.
Montaño’s original company, FIT Properties, is a boutique brokerage that has been buying and selling investment properties in San Diego since 2007. The company serves as a consultant to builders and provides property management as well.
Two years later, Montaño launched LIV Capital Group which brings together private investors for real estate projects. The homebuilder says he believes people should have entrée into real estate investing at any income level, so his company offers public and private investment opportunities ranging from $10,000 to $100 million.
Montaño’s third company is close to his heart for several reasons. Sofia Living, a group of three projects, currently under construction in San Diego County, is named after his daughter, the eldest of his three young children. Montaño says he named both his daughter and his company Sofia because the name is a derivation of the Greek word meaning “wisdom.”
“Sofia Living is inspired living with a purpose, which is green, sustainable living,” explains Montaño. All three projects, which include a nine-unit complex in Bankers Hill, 32 row homes in Golden Hill, and 14 townhomes in Carlsbad, include solar power and other amenities designed to reduce the carbon footprint of residents.
Montaño Companies currently employs seven people and estimates its gross revenue for 2014 to be $50 million. It expects to double that in 2015.
The once-homeless real estate mogul has a very different family life than he did in his early years. Happily married with three young children, he’s passionate about making sure he has time to spend time with his family, characterizing them as “what is most important in life.”
This doesn’t mean Montaño has forgotten his roots, though. He is a partner in the Voiceless Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to raise awareness about children in the foster care system in America by producing a feature film.
Montaño is working with Mindy Fletcher, foster care advocate and wife of former California State Assembly Member Nathan Fletcher, to educate the public about how foster children impact the community. “Eighty percent of people in the prison system were once in the foster care system,” says Montaño. “Within 18 months of leaving the foster care system, 66 percent are dead, homeless, or on drugs.”
Of the Voiceless Project film, Montaño says, “We have an opportunity to have an impact, to educate people, inspire them, and show them ways they can help make a change.”
There are many people who would have been embittered by their early experiences living on the street. Montaño talks about his life without judgment for his mother, and without regret for a childhood lost. In fact, he says, sleeping on the streets was kind of fun at the time. “We were all lined up with our sleeping bags on the sidewalk,” he says with a laugh, as if describing a slumber party, though he says he now he understands the seriousness of the situation.
Perhaps it is this outlook that leads him to success in business. Maybe it was his uncle’s good advice, or a sincere desire to provide a different life for his own children.
Richard Montaño may have started his life being knocked down. But he got up, got smart, and is now writing his own happy ending.