Eduard De Guardiola - CEO, Vista Realty Partners

Eduard De Guardiola was born in Havana, Cuba in 1960. When the Castro family came into political office, his family fled from Cuba to Miami, Florida in the United States. This family of eight, came to the new country while Eduard was only six years old. As he adjusted to life in a new country, the young man learned to work hard, help his family thrive, and the value of education. He listened closely to his father’s encouragement that stemmed from coming to the United States as a father with six children and a wife to support with only 600 dollars in his pocket. He found success and set the example for his children to do the same. Eduard De Guardiola has continued to follow the impressive example set by his father through his choice of career, strong work ethic, and desire to see his family do well.

He started working while he was still in elementary school. He and his brothers would pick up work wherever it was possible. They delivered papers, worked as a grocery bagger and carrying boy, and continued to work on their studies. In 1971, Eduard De Guardiola entered college at the University of Florida where he spent two years before transferring to Florida State in 1973. He graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in American Studies in 1975, and a Juris Doctor degree in 1978. However, he soon realized that his passion for law faded and he wished to pursue something else.

Following the example of his father and the mentors he encountered elsewhere, Eduard De Guardiola ventured into real estate. His first steps into the industry were in the form of shopping centers across northern Florida and Georgia. Being an entrepreneur was exactly what he was yearning for, and this satisfied his drive to grow and learn. When he encountered his first real estate low, he was inspired to do further research into the various markets within the real estate industry. Finding the confidence many investors have in multifamily units, he turned his attention there and has never looked back.

After a brief partnership and the creation of the Focus Group, Eduard was able to strike out on his own in 2000, creating the Vista Realty Partners. Through this channel, he has acquired, improved, and managed as many as 15 thousand apartments and condominium units. While he has been forced to adapt to the changing market, at one point Vista Realty Partners employed 125 people, operating both a property management division and construction division. When he liquidated assets in 2017, it enabled him to create the Guardiola Family Office. This office is his pride. Eduard has taken the time to empower, guide, and fund or support other new entrepreneurs seeking to get started in real estate. Through the Guardiola Family Office, he is able to act as counselor, supporter, and on occasion, and sponsor.

When he is not helping others develop their own business or guiding the Vista Realty Partners, Eduard De Guardiola enjoys skiing, deep sea fishing, and golfing. Because his children are now adults with families of their own, he and his wife also take the opportunity to explore the world through travel. He and his wife are also prolific philanthropists with a passion for their faith and the well-being of others.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

My father was in agricultural real estate, and he enjoyed success with it. As a lawyer, I also represented several real estate clients who further inspired me to strike out into the industry. In time, that’s what I did which led to the eventual creation of the Vista Realty Group.

I created the Guardiola Family Office to support other driven entrepreneurs who are working to get started in real estate. There are many obstacles to getting started in real estate. One of the largest of these obstacles is capital. You have to have experienced some level of success to get a loan, or you have to have a lot of capital up front of your own. Few people are fully prepared when they begin with real estate. The benefit of the Focus group for me was in the father of the father-son partnership. He had the credible history of success that attracted both investors and banks. Once the doors were opened, I was able to connect with the investors and create a base for us to develop from. When we moved in separate directions in 2000, I was able to take that experience and find my own success. Now, with the Guardiola Family Office, I can lend that experience to others in whatever way best suits their project.

How do you make money?

We take raw land or buildings that are in need of improvements, and we create what is needed for the community. It may be a brand new building as is the case for one of our projects. We completed construction on a 220 unit, family complex in October of 2017. Currently, it is 85% leased. Once we reach 90%, we will sell it to an investor, which will generate a profit well above what we have spent in the creation process. This is the same process we have followed for years that has really brought a lot of benefit to those around us.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

It easily took ten years to become profitable. Real estate is a difficult industry to get started with and just as difficult to stay in when you’re still building capital. You must have an established track record to get either investors or a bank to invest in your project. Between learning through various mistakes and growing my own base of successful enterprises, the profits did come.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

I had many doubts throughout the early years. I believe that my experience stemming from the move to the United States and the changes it demanded of me have contributed to my desire to preserve whatever has come. Additionally, I was raised with a very strong work ethic and taught to work hard in the face of anything that may occur. When you combine those lessons with a strong drive to succeed, you can overcome anything, even self-doubt.

How did you get your first real estate acquisition?

My first multifamily unit was purchased as a part of the Focus Group partnership. The father was a pioneer in the multifamily unit development market from the 1960s onward. His experience made it possible for me to pitch to investors and together we developed more than 3000 units.

We started with a raw land investment and built our first community. From there it was just a matter of seeding new projects that led to bigger and better opportunities.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

I do not follow the trend of others. If there is a concentration of investment and development inside a city, say within Atlanta, I would look for a good piece or community in the suburbs. By moving in that direction, I have found some solid investment opportunities. I’m often one of the first ones to invest in an area and among the first ones out before there are too many available units. It’s the chance to create investments where they haven’t otherwise been fully discovered.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Over the years I have done a lot of traveling and investing in other cities. At this junction, I have decided that I don’t want to fly to locations or investment properties. I would prefer to drive and visit, daily if needed, locations that I am developing. It is just better to be able to sleep in my own bed next to my wife each night.

 What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I believe the fact that I stick to one area of focus and I’m very good at it. I have a strong work ethic and a quick turn around on decisions. Once we, myself and my management team, have vetted a possible investment, I make sure to take action within a week. It is proven to be a significant positive choice for me to do this regularly.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

To me, opening the family office, which has enabled me to be available to sponsor, mentor, and support new real estate entrepreneurs has been truly satisfying.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about? 

Vista Realty Partners will continue to be active in the multifamily unit development. As the chairman and CEO, I am looking forward to continuing to guide the progress there. I’m very excited about the new opportunities that are becoming available through the Guardiola Family Office. Also, we have been helping a Christian ministry in India create churches in rural, underdeveloped areas of the country. It has been truly rewarding to enjoy watching from here as seven churches have been built.

For my personal side of things, my wife and I plan to continue traveling the world and exploring what we haven’t seen.

What business books have inspired you?

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson was very good to read. I would also suggest The Innovators. One book I refer to often is The Market Never Forgets by Ken Fisher. It is a historical guide to the public equity market.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

Recently I found a fantastic addition to my office. There is a treadmill designed for work. It has a desk and a slow, long-running engine design. This allows me to walk at a steady but slow pace while I respond to email, work on spreadsheets, or read business plans.

What is one thing you’d like to share with new real estate entrepreneurs?

No matter what, you will encounter difficulties in this industry. While you may want to see instant or rapid results, they will not consistently come in that manner. Most of the time, this industry requires you to stick with the projects and work for a long-term goal. Be aware the challenges are going to come, and the problems may be discouraging.

If you stick with it, work hard, learn everything you can, and prepare yourself for it to be a challenge, you’ll find success.

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