At the height of the 2008 housing crisis, the devaluation of subprime mortgages and housing prices was at a historical high — serving as the perfect opportunity for Keith Wasserman and Damian Langere to make their entry into a tumultuous industry shaken to its core.
Close cousins from a young age, the pair of entrepreneurs would further their bond through the formation of Gelt, Inc., a multimillion-dollar company focused on acquiring value-add multifamily properties implementing significant renovations and strong management, thereby repositioning the properties and yielding a high return on investment.
Noticing an opportunity at their fingertips, Langere first approached Wassernan about the purchase of a fourplex in East Bakersfield. “People thought we were crazy — there were high interest rates, foreclosures everywhere, and no buyers to be seen,” Langere commented, as a result of the recession. Yet this was only the start. They would soon acquire more than 4,200 housing units and amass a $400M portfolio over the span of six to seven years.
Major southwestern cities such as Denver, Phoenix, Reno, and Salt Lake City soon became their primary housing market, though they plan on one day adding Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland to the mix. Specializing in older properties built in the ’70s and ’80s, Langere shared their joint goal of obtaining more than 10,000 housing units in the future.
Native to Los Angeles, the two attribute their success in part to their close ties with investors, continuing mentorship from others such as their dads, and the decision to avoid turning to institutional capital — from insurance companies and big banks — as a source of funding, retroactively initiating their “own crowdfunding,” Wasserman joked. “I treat everyone like a partner. They grow with us over time, and I think that’s been part of our success.”
One issue that soon became apparent to the founders of Gelt, Inc., had affected them personally early on: the high cost of moving in for many renters. As a result, the company Domuso was created by the co-founders of Gelt, Inc. and Michael Lightfoot in 2013. This online digital platform provides renters with assistance by cushioning the costly blows associated with moving in by providing flexible financing for their move-in costs.
“I treat everyone like a partner. They grow with us over time, and I think that’s been part of our success.”
Likening the concept to eBay’s “Bill Me Later,” the founders furthered that Domuso is greatly rooted in and marketed toward a millennial generation that does not care to purchase a home; thus, renting is an attractive alternative despite the rising costs of moving in. “Truly, it’s an incredible thing, and we live in an age where we see ourselves taking advantage of the social aspects of technology,” Langere says.
Since the nascent rise of Gelt, Inc., the company has developed vast philanthropic goals, which include supporting charitable religious organizations such as Jewish Big Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles, American Jewish Univerity, and the Jewish Federation. However, these goals do not stray far from the founders’ own personal ventures or the company’s namesake, which takes after the Yiddish word for “giving.”
Wasserman, who graduated from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California in 2007, leads the charitable giving program at Gelt, Inc. He serves as a big brother for the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles, a local organization dedicated to encouraging mentorship and youth development, and was one of three honorees during their 100-year anniversary in 2015. He is also a part of the Moriah Society for Real Estate Professionals.
Graduating from the University of Santa Barbara in 2004, Langere believes that Gelt, Inc. has given him a chance to build a successful business while empowering both renters and investors alike. Recognizing the early dynamics of holding a piece of real estate, the co-founder said, “I think it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. The possibilities are endless.”