FROM REAL ESTATE AGENT AND BUSINESS OWNER TO PROPERTY MANAGER: HUGO SALINAS HAS GREAT ASPIRATIONS
Written: September 13, 2015
Topic: Profile piece, Real Estate, Property Management
His name is Hugo Salinas and he calls himself a “jack of all trades.”
The 41-year old ERealty real estate agent and business owner has worked previously at a glass company, diamond chemical company, and a furniture moving company. Now, he operates his Legal Process Service company with his wife of 15 years, Elizabeth Salinas, from their apartment building in North Bergen, NJ. Mainly working with civil cases, not criminal cases, Salinas and his wife serve all different types of court documents, such as summons, complaints, subpoenas, divorce papers, eviction notices, and powers of attorney. Hoboken and Bayonne are just a few of their regular stops as they cruise all over the state serving papers. Salinas says for out-of-state work, they usually hand over the work to other process serving companies to get the job done. Salinas runs his company on the side, delivering papers in between showing houses in Jersey City, Bayonne, North Bergen, and Union City. “I work in the Hudson County area because that’s where I find most of my clients. Commissions on buildings and homes in Hoboken are high, but the town is filled with real estate agents. It’s too competitive,” Salinas said.
When he’s not serving papers or showing houses, Salinas manages his property, the two-story apartment building that he lives in with his wife, 15-year old daughter Rachel, and 20-year-old son Marc, who is away at college—a junior at Drew University studying Physics and Mathematics. The three share the building with their two tenants who live on the second floor of the corner side property. “I know a lot about construction,” Salinas says, “so I usually do the work myself. I’m just a homeowner that takes care of his property.” Salinas has done the electrical work in his one-story apartment, has repaired broken boilers, and refurbishes his tenants’ apartments. Over the summer, his son helped him re-paint and plaster the walls of one of his tenants’ apartments as well as tile the floors of the other’s. Salinas says that since he’s more than comfortable with his toolbox, he has considered property management as well as contracting and although Salinas claims he bought his own building at the “wrong time” back in 2006, hoping to flip the property fast for a quick profit, he hopes to purchase another apartment building in the near future and invest in other properties. “The market was booming, but I bought my building at the wrong time. The property was a ‘three-family’ and I figured that the rents would sustain the mortgage until I was able to flip it, but the market went sour before I was able to sell it and I got stuck with it. I bought it high and took a chance because I thought the market was going to continue to go up,” Salinas explained. “I am hoping to make passive income through another property,” he added, “but I would also like to start my own property management company.”
Salinas says he first got into the real estate business in 2000 after he saw that his brother, Eddie Salinas, started to make good money. A few months later, he bought out a school friend’s legal process serving business and made it his own. His purchase of the corner side, three-family building in North Bergen followed shortly after in 2006. His latest venture: becoming a property manager.
Salinas described the process to me earlier. He was towering over electric boilers, equipped with gas hoses in his hands—a Home Depot flatbed cart, his pedestal. He had raised his left hand to his chin and his right arm took a more relaxed position atop a 60-gallon gas boiler. His thoughts seemed to bounce around and collide in his head. “That’s what I need,” he said, hopping off the cart and rushing over to the end of the aisle. He returned with pipe screws in his hands and said, “To start my own management company, I would have to come up with the capital first. $50,000. It seems like a lot, but the money is a cushion. For example, you have to hire a super, so subtract $1,500 a month. You have to pay for the super’s room and that takes away from the number of available rooms you can rent out. So potentially you’re losing, what, $18,000 a year, assuming the rent is $1,500, for that one unit. You’ll need money for repairs if anything breaks down. You’ll also need money for licenses and repair crews to help the super. But, if I had the money, my next step would be to set up a team and create an automated system of duties and projects. All property managers have to project a system structure where all obligations can be met and the real key to any business is the right personnel.”
Salinas says his motivation is money, food, and, “believe it or not, the fear of being homeless.” This motivation keeps him going even when life deals him harsh lessons. “I was eight years old, working at a grocery store after school for this Cuban owner who took a liking to me—he treated me like his son. I worked there Mondays through Saturdays—Sunday was my day off. One day, one of the owner’s friends came over, and I remember this so clearly because I was restocking the shelves and overheard his friend say, ‘I didn’t know you were hiring little Mexican kids now.’ I felt so second-class. So undervalued. I felt beneath white people because, you know, Cubans are white. From that moment I realized that there seemed like there would be less opportunities for me due to my color.” Salinas, a full-blooded Ecuadorian who was born in Hoboken, NJ, says he has experienced several first-hand accounts of racism throughout his lifetime, but he doesn’t let that stop him from working hard.
He stated that working hard is important because it is so rewarding. He extends this philosophy to how he has raised his two kids, stating, “Laziness causes people to become comfortable and that is a destructive thing. It causes people to become complacent and come up with excuses for not doing things because they don’t think it’s the right time to do it, they think it’s too complex or it takes too long. Laziness is a virus that paralyzes and consumes you.
Salinas admits that his greatest challenge is laziness, yet he reiterates how paramount working hard is to survive in the world and has high hopes for his children. “I know that my kids will become very important people in life and I want it for them. I want them to excel and not to be mediocre. I want them to achieve greatness. If I don’t become a property manager, it’s not the end of the world because I will still have my kids’ successes to look forward to. Even though I don’t have many awards, trophies or monetary value, my greatest achievement is my kids.”