Ben Mallah says his childhood was the worst you could ever imagine. He was raised by a “horrible, crazy, lunatic mother” (who used to beat the sh*t out of him for no reason) and a “cheapskate dad.” They lived in a bungalow, in the worst neighborhood in the slums of New York City, surrounded by criminals and drug addicts.
As a kid, Ben knew he wanted to make a lot of money when he got older. He’d walk past the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and people-watch all the dignitaries and big shots, and say, “You know, one day I’m gonna stay there.” Funny enough, when he eventually made enough money to stay there, he said, “This place is a dump!”
After serving in the Army, Ben went to work for a guy who was already in real estate. Right away, he knew that was what he wanted to do. It was perfect. You didn’t need to be educated. There was plenty of opportunity. And, if you thought smart and worked hard, you really didn’t need a lot of money to get started.
In the early days, Ben basically bought crack houses that nobody wanted. He would fix ’em up, flip ’em, make some money, and use the profits to buy better properties. Soon, he was onto retail shopping centers, apartment complexes and hotels.
Buying real estate far away from where he lived was one of Ben’s biggest challenges. “I like to touch the real estate. I like to get my hands dirty,” he told Graham Stephan in an interview. “I like to feel it. I like to deal with the problems easily.”
“When things are far away, it’s very hard to deal with. You don’t wanna hire management companies ’cause then you’re not in control of your own investment, and they can do things you don’t want them to do. It’s not their investment. They’re not gonna protect the investment like you are,” he explained.
Ben learned, the hard way, not to be so spread out. Besides, he had no desire to be a big, giant company. He was happy being a family business.
He also warns against biting off more than you can chew. Stick to what you know. Don’t get over-leveraged. Luckily, when the real estate bubble popped in ’08, Ben was able to sell off some of his properties and use the profits to scoop up some of the bargains caused by the crash. Had he been stretched too thin, he would’ve been in serious trouble like so many others during that time.
If you wanna follow in Mr. Mallah’s footsteps, his advice to you is simple: “You just gotta get out there and look for the deal. Find a deal that has some kind of potential, where you can make it better, you can create value, you can get some sweat equity in it—and typically, there’s always gonna be a place like that.”
“You know, people die. People retire. There’s always a house, even, you can fix up. Let me tell ya, another thing I did very well on: student housing. Senior housing is great, because with seniors, they never move. And they don’t break anything. And they don’t really use anything,” he added.
But you really have to be all-in if you wanna be successful. You gotta live it, breathe it, eat it. Ben recalled staying up all night, in the early days, because he didn’t have the money to hire anyone. He’d paint the walls and do minor repairs himself to get his properties ready for inspection the next day.
“You gotta cross the line,” he says. “You gotta go where nobody else wants to go. You gotta work the hours nobody else wants to work. If you really wanna be wealthy in life, you gotta go further than the average guy next to ya.”
You might wanna write that down considering Ben Mallah’s net worth is around $255 million dollars as of today. Here’s more: