BiggerPockets Podcast 014 : Cash Flow, Creative Finance, and Life with Ben Leybovich

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Creativity and real estate go together like peanut butter and jelly – but for many investors, learning how to get creative can be tough. So today, on the 14th episode of the BiggerPockets Podcast, we sit down with real estate investor Ben Leybovich to discuss buying property with 100% financing, the importance of cash flow (and how to get it,) overcoming obstacles that inevitable will rise, plus a whole lot more. Ben’s inspirational story, involving his battle with multiple sclerosis, will teach you the importance of creating passive income through real estate because you never know what the future will hold. Learn how Ben turned this tragic, life-changing news into motivation to create a successful real estate investing business. You’ll definitely want to take notes during this one!

Read the Transcript

Transcript of BiggerPockets Podcast Episode 14 with Ben Leybovich

Listen to The Show on iTunes

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

In This Show, We Cover:

  • BiggerPockets-Podcast-Cover 300 300The shocking medical event that completely changed Ben’s life
  • The three kinds of income … and which you need
  • How Ben chose his real estate investing strategy
  • The message about “flipping” that seems to escape most
  • How to get started with no money at all
  • Ben’s top tips for landlords
  • A reasonable benchmark for cashflow… how much per unit per month.
  • Why 100% of the purchase price isn’t 100% of the leverage/equity.

Links from the Show

Considering a House Flip With 15k Profit? Don’t Do It
“It’s Not My Fault They Keep Trashing My Unit” – Actually It Is…
The BiggerPockets Forums

The National MS SocietyDonate
Multiple Sclerosis Association of AmericaDonate

Books Mentioned in the Show:

How I Turned $1,000 into Five Million in Real Estate in My Spare Time by William Nickerson
ABC’s of Real Estate Investing by Ken McElroy’s

Tweetable Topics

Successful people march toward the blazing guns. (Tweet This!)

Find fertile ground where the stampede hasn’t occurred yet. (Tweet This!)

I’m in real estate for one reason and one reason only: stable passive income. (Tweet This!)

Get good at solving people’s problems – you’ll do well in life.(Tweet This!)

Successful people refuse to fail. (Tweet This!)

To achieve extraordinary results we have to take extraordinary actions. (Tweet This!)

Learn More about Ben

Ben’s Blog –
Ben’s BiggerPockets Profile
Ben’s LinkedIn Profile

About Author

Thanks for checking out the BiggerPockets Real Estate Investing & Wealth Building Podcast. Hosts Joshua Dorkin & Brandon Turner strive to bring top-notch educational content and interviews to our listeners — without the non-stop pitch prevalent around the industry.

With over 180,000 listeners per show, the BiggerPockets Podcast has become the biggest real estate podcast in the world. But don’t take our word for it. We’re the top-rated and reviewed real estate show on iTunes — check it out, read the reviews on iTunes, and get busy listening and learning!


  1. Hi all, I look forward to listening to this when I have time. Could I also ask that BP print a transcript of these interviews? It’s quicker for me and perhaps others to read the interview than listen to it. Just a suggestion.

    Thanks, Alison

    • Sean,

      I’ve always been self-employed (S-Corp / LLC). I had income, if that’s what you mean by job. Bout 10 years ago I set up a non-profit music school where I was teaching and a director for about 7-8 years.

      I figured that it feet with my objectives to do this since teaching is something I can do in a wheelchair if need be, and also because I could set my own hours which left time for RE. I had income enough to qualify for conventional loans for about 2-3 years. Now days, it is not me that qualifies for borrowing as much as it is my portfolio. I could never service the amount of real estate debt that I have with earned income.

      Patrisha, my wife, is now in charge of the school and growing it nicely! I do not have a job per se. Hope this answers your question.

      Thanks Sean

  2. I always wonder how someone with a serious medical condition can be able to give up the career track and become an investor without losing access to medical care. I was hoping someone would ask that question. Probably the number 1 thing that keeps me tied to a 9-5 job is the fact that it provides affordable health insurance for my family.

  3. Ben –

    First and foremost – your life story is incredible and I wish you nothing but the best in that regard. Secondly – awesome podcast! I’m sure I will listen to it several times to make sure I didn’t miss anything. As a newbie investor, I found your strategy and insight very valuable. I look forward to reading everything you put out there and being a sponge and soaking up all I can. Thanks again for your inspiring story and generous contribution of knowledge and experience.

    Kyle Storms

    • Thank you Kyle!

      I don’t know that there is anything amazing going on though. I’ve met people who have fought and beat cancer – that’s amazing. I know people who’ve lost a child, but managed to put the pieces back together, at least somewhat – that’s amazing.

      Me – I’ve been lucky enough to have the strength to play the hand I hold, which is a pretty good hand considering. I get up in the morning and I pray that I will continue to have the mental strength to “git r done”. My greatest fear in life is that some day I will be tired…that’s not going to be a fun day!

      Thank you for listening!

  4. BP continues to provide me with education, motivation and inspiration! Where else could a beginner like me find the volume and variety of resources provided here?! I cannot begin to express my “Attitude of Gratitude” for having access to this site and the generously shared knowledge of it’s contributors, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

    Ben, I gained so much from this podcast! You’re a regular “Super Hero”! You inspired me in soooo many ways! Both in dealing with my own health issues, (I’m trying to live like it never happened!) and in my quest to invest. I’ve had a lifelong career in the equine industry and have just been studying REI for a few months now. I’ve been trying to put together a business plan as the experts on BP (like you) advise. You helped me to realize that I don’t have to have an EXACT plan, there are many ways to get where I want to go. And that I don’t have to spend all my hard earned capital, instead I need to get creative with financing! I so badly want to do my first deal, I have to hold myself back; because I know I need more knowledge! (BTW, one of the things I love about the podcast is that my schooling doesn’t stop if I’m not in front of the computer, I can listen while I drive around looking at properties). Having said that, I’m going to listen to it again at home this evening and write down any (many) questions I have. So, please, stay where you are, “Russian Power Ranger”, I’ll be back! 🙂

  5. Hell ben, just got a chance to sit down and listen to your amazing story and how quick your life can change even when you are on course . I think that alot of us think that it will never happen but it does every day and while you can’t plan for it you should try and be ready if possible when it comes. such as long term investing that you talk about in this pod cast. I also think that it is hard to step out of your comfort zone and easier to stay in the rut that everyone hates. I am ready to do that so listening to everything everyone on Bigger Pockets has an opinion on is invaluable and it is free. thanks for your story.

  6. Hey Ben,

    Seriously, awesome podcast! It was one of my favorites—and the bar is already set so high 😀

    Quick question: I may have misunderstood you but I thought you said (I’m paraphrasing here) multi families and commercial properties are valued based on NOI—not the market. If you can make improvements and, consequently, raise the rents…the value of the property goes up.

    I posted a question in the forums about similar scenario and many people corrected me. They said that multi familes, like single families, are valued based on the surrounding market.

    Maybe I’m just confused? (Yes, I’m a newbie. Haha.)

  7. Thanks Ben. I’ve spent the past 30 years as an Aerospace Design Engineer and the past three months reading BP. I must say more I learn about REI there is a place for systematic design and logical thinking I never thought would exist. You mentioned being a master at solving problems, or better yet people’s problems, and that it is not all about numbers. I’m thinking Transaction Engineer with people skills? Engineer with people and management skills I have never seen, lol! Perhaps that is where systems engineering design and entrepreneurship skills meet?

    In my years of working for corporate America one thing I hope to never loose site of while I am off managing bigger money making systems, is what is going on at the grass roots core operations of my business. I have seen it too often, big companies that promote people into management that do not belong there, and the CEO’s, CFO’s, VP’s, have loss site of the damage it is doing below them. One Hawker Beech Craft just emerged from bankruptcy because of that exact reason, and there have been others. So I say kudos to you maintaining that control, how to delegate it is the big question and risk. Most will never have the concern an owner of company does.

    Another observation from corporate America is many have had to consolidate to diversify their portfolios to survive, having their hands now on many market places. Many such as Boeing for example have purchased other enterprises for this purpose I think it is a good idea in setting up a REI portfolio. A lot of them have looked for employees with diversified skill sets, for example, that can not only design but have a full understanding of manufacturing they are designing to. I can draw similar analogies to REI investing and setting up systems as you mention in the podcast.

    • Thank you Terry,

      You’ve just given me an idea for an article for the BP blog! Skill sets of some professions can indeed lend themselves better than others to success in RE. Engineering is certainly one of those, music, architecture, etc. It is not simply a question of systems, but a question of synthesis, if that makes sense. Investing is about synthesizing a solution out of a multitude of inputs data – so is engineering. A history teacher should have a more difficult time of this – in principal.

      Thank you again Terry

      • Your welcome, demand for skill set is something interesting I have watched change for better and worse over decades. Back in the day, we designers throw an idea over the fence (to the shop, finance, etc) in hopes they could build it cost efficiently in the production cycle (decades), the 1-2 year design effort. We realized that was wrong in the mid 80’s so we then went to “teams” as did a lot of industry. We called them “Integrated Product Teams” where a lot of skill sets or downstream users had a say in the design.
        The IPT leader had the challenge of facilitating all this, gaining a consensus or majority agreement, bottom up management instead x-style of the past. Well they thought that the IPT leader did not need to have a knowledge of all the skill sets they were “facilitating” which later proved to be wrong……So now they try and get diversity in a leader but often times they end up making the same mistake with Subject Matter Experts(SME’s) that still are not well enough diversified.

        You know more about the REI synthesis than I, but from my perspective I can imagine the skill set most productive as being one that has diversity and/or at least a basic understanding of their teams daily activities and needs, team includes buyer, seller, subs, agents, lenders, appraisers, inspectors, etc….I see the creative finance Engineer if you will, as having the same surrounding downstream users to satisfy as the big companies do. You have ones that have no business attempting to manage things they don’t understand, and the SME’s that are best in corners doing what they do best in their world.

        I personally am a SME, an analyst, not management material. I can design the creative finance systems, but would rather let a partner with good people skills negotiate and manage them. Perhaps why big company management teams have Chief Engineers, Program Managers, CFO’s, VPs of sorts, etc. I know most REI’s are not large corps, but as you said why not shoot for the stars in our thinking.

        I’ll suggest another topic you don’t see often on BP is the skill set of the ones that service this industry for lack of a better term. For example, ones that want to get into REI but need some earned steady income from being a GC, sub, agent, appraiser, etc…..some of these skills can make a lot of money and you can start with no money down and less risk. We did it with a construction company.

        Looking forward to your next podcast and seeing how you put this all in perspective.

        • I teach students the following:

          Know enough about every aspect of the business to be able to speak intelligently with people whose job it is to know more! You don’t need to be a CPA, but you need to know their language – this was a lesson I had to learn early on. I think you agree with this basic philosophy Terry 🙂

  8. Eric Hettena on

    This is with out a doubt one of the most powerful and educational podcast I have ever listened to. Ben, you definitely are a great representation on what an honorable, ethical, and educated buy and hold investor should be like. I got a lot out of this podcast and appreciate your efforts in making it.

  9. Best show yet. I really like the idea of being able to buy a multi-unit property and increase it’s value myself. I know that my first investment will be a small multi-family that I will finance with an FHA loan, but after listening to this podcast I am seriously considering just jumping right into commercial investing after I establish myself. Do you think that would be a good strategy for a newbie like myself? Great show and a truly inspirational and motivational story Ben. I wish you all the best.


    • WOW – thanks for the compliment Terry! I am certainly glad that my podcast is inspiring you to o think in different directions.

      Yours is a very interesting question, answer to which is at the core of a lot of what we do and therefore is rather involved. There are benefits to both small multiplex and larger (commercial) type buildings with respect to both the acquisition, management, and exit considerations.

      As we speak, I have a student in Cincinnati who is struggling making this very decision. He is in the middle of negotiations on a four-plex. The price is fare and the building would throw-off about $550/month of cash flow. However, on his walk-through he discovered that while the building is in reasonable condition, updates would be required. Once completed, these updates would not necessarily justify a higher valuation in part because while the updates would attract good tenants, they would not necessarily justify substantially higher rents, and partly because since the building is a 4-plex, the value-setting mechanism does not take income into much of a consideration in the first place. So, his dilemma is whether the existing cash flow justifies the down-payment on the way in plus re-investment of capital into upgrades in the short term on this 4-plex, or whether he should pass it up and think “bigger”.

      The thinking around this can get quite involved in a hurry. You may be interested to know that I devoted very substantial time to this in my CFFU. Please check it out if you haven’t yet by going to my website. CFFU may be something that is of value to you as part of your knowledge acquisition.

      Thank you so much for the comment. Keep in touch and good luck!

  10. BEST PODCAST TO DATE! (I’m in the process of playing catch up)

    Thanks Ben for your time and input. The topics and talking points fall directly in line with my strategy for REI based on my financial education thus far.

    Do you have a favorite BP blog or source that covers explaining how commercial residential financing is acquired? From what I’ve read, the loan to make this kind of a purchase is secured based on the operation of the property and not on the personal finance and credit of the borrower.

    Also, are there many opportunities for seller financing in commercial real estate that you have experienced? Or are you mainly looking to banks and private lenders for your creative financing?

    I intend on becoming self-employed in the near future in order to make property purchases but I am concerned about qualifying for commercial financing.

    Thanks so much again for sharing your knowledge! Your teaching style connects with my style of learning…I will be checking out your website for sure!


    • Chris – thank you so much!

      We are all playing catch up. Sure, there are a few players on BP who are already enjoying the fruits of their labor – guys like Bill Gulley, Jon Holdman, and Jeff Brown. However, the rest of us are young guns who have an idea and are passionate about achieving, but still very much in the mix of it all.

      I’ve written here and there about financing. Please make sure you read all of my articles on the BP blog to start with. I do use owner financing in commercial – it’s out there. But like with everything else, you have got to understand what to look for, how, and where. Creative finance is ALL of the above, and I cover all of it in CFFU.

      Feel free to contact me through my site, and good luck!

    • Hey Sam,

      Thanks so much for listening and for the kind words! I would be happy to do a sequel, but I think we have an uphill clime on this – seeing as I’ve become famous, I don’t know if the boys could afford me…lol

      Thank you so much and feel free to reach out to me!


  11. Sree Vemulapalli on


    Great Podcast full of very practical information. Just had one follow up from listening to this: Could you provide the link to the post you had about acquiring the MF you mentioned in the podcast?


  12. Gualter Amarelo on

    I just finally got a chance to listen to this podcast. Some really great stuff here for the long term buy and hold investor. I just closed on 2 houses this year (a triplex and a duplex) and after dealing with everything involved I can definitely appreciate the concept of going for more units in a single deal. Also considering I’ll need some time to save up a little more coin, I really like that you mentioned that creative finance is all about creating relationships and that you don’t have to close a bunch of deals constantly. As long as the deals you do close are quality and will cashflow. I think it’s time to continue my real estate education and hopefully I’ll be able to find something perhaps with a “subject to” or possibly get a lender willing to be flexible with what I’m doing.

    Thanks for all the great advice and the encouragement!

  13. Vince Beusan on

    Hi Ben,

    I want to comment and let you know that I just listened to your first Podcast for the first time, and really enjoyed your philosophy for RE investing. I agree and can relate to much of what you discussed during the conversation.

    I’m establishing systems, methods to manage and get my business off the ground. I’m grateful for experiences and stories like yours as you’ve provided wisdom and an income philosophy which is exactly why I too have chosen the business of RE as well. Passive income properties for buy and hold, so I can spend the time with the people that matter most to me, my young kids and beautiful wife.

    Kindest regards,


  14. Jonathan Andersen on

    This was one of my favorite Podcasts so far! It really hit home for some reason. Ben Leybovich is really engaging and I truly enjoyed his story and listening to him talk. I absorbed some great knowledge from this and it effectively changed my personal perspective of which niche may be best for me.
    Ben Leybovich, If you ever see this, Thanks man…

  15. Marcoantonio Tinoco

    I just listen to this for the first time and man is it great advice. But one thing that I notice about this one that stands outs from this first few podcast, is that Ben has such a different way of looking at things, that it pretty much makes up his own system and I LOVE IT! I will most definitely look into designing my portfolio structure similar to his. Wonderful interview that he gives and will definitely be coming back to give this a second listening. ?? ?

  16. Joshua Keene

    Another fascinating podcast! This has to be one of the most motivating and inspiring podcasts I’ve heard yet. Ben has the perfect mindset not only when it comes to business (working with people, business plans, setting goals, shooting for the stars), but also with life and how he overcame his struggles with health to place him on this path of success. There are so many quotes and motivational pieces in this podcast to help many investors on their quest to achieve financial freedom. I would highly recommend listening to this podcast if you haven’t already and I will definitely play it again.

    Keep inspiring Ben! “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt

  17. Mike Dymski

    I woke up at 3 am this morning and could not fall back asleep; so, I had this podcast downloaded on my phone and decided to listen to it. Wow, the technical and emotional content and humility were excellent…simply brilliant. You don’t have to be a real estate investor to enjoy this one.

  18. Cameron Godsill


    Thanks for sharing your story. You have such a great outlook on things and a simple way of describing what you are doing. Loved the fact that you are so real about it. Definitely going to look more into what you have done and written.

  19. Brian Dailey

    I just wanted to thank you for this podcast. I just finished listening and felt it was really speaking to me. I can relate with Ben because I too have an auto immune disease that will be cutting my working life short. Everything from this post just seemed to echo the path I am on. I am a newby and have not acquired any deals yet but I too will be building a portfolio of buy and hold rental properties for the cash flow. I am hoping to find my first deal by the end of the year. I too enjoy target shooting as my hobby, more specifically long range rifle shooting. I just want to thank you for this very inspiring podcast.

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