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Real Estate Lab Teaches Allentown Residents How to Manage Real Estate Properties

By Colin McEvoy on May 17, 2021

Graduates from The Real Estate Lab, a free program that teaches downtown Allentown residents how to invest in real estate and manage properties in their community. (courtesy photo)

The first set of graduates from The Real Estate Lab in downtown Allentown have received financing to help manage their first investment properties.

The Real Estate Lab is a free program that teaches downtown Allentown residents how to invest in real estate and manage properties in their community.

The program was launched in January 2020 by City Center Investment Corp., the real estate development company revitalizing downtown Allentown, and Lafayette College’s Dyer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

People First Federal Credit Union has provided financing for some of the program’s nine inaugural graduates, who now own investment properties of their own.

“Access to friendly financing is so critical for first-time investors,” said Jon Strauss, Program Director at the Real Estate Lab, which is located at 6th and Linden streets.

“We appreciate People First stepping up and being the first financial institution to finance our graduates,” Strauss said. “By doing so, the participants are developing the bankability necessary for success in the industry. We want to make sure more people have access to do the same.”

The Real Estate Lab is currently considering participants for its 2021 program. Anyone interested can submit their information at RealEstateLabAllentown.com.

Nine participants completed the program in 2020, all of whom came from different walks of life but share an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to help their downtown Allentown community. The graduates include a financial advisor, an immigrant from Sudan, and a social-service professional, among others.

“Learning firsthand how to’s on fixing properties, getting deals, and networking with like-minded individuals was the solid foundation I needed to kickstart my real estate investing business,” said Pedro Jose, one of the Real Estate Lab participants.

Three of the nine graduates now own and manage their own investment property, and other graduates are actively working to acquire their first investment properties.

“People First is delighted to support The Real Estate Lab in helping local residents invest in their communities,” said People First President & CEO Howard Meller. “This program aligns with two of our important values: empowering others to achieve their financial goals and serving the community.”

The program gives local residents walkable access to the resources and capital they need to become real estate entrepreneurs. It offers several programs at no cost, including a 10-week First-time Investor Program, a Real Estate Entrepreneurship Access Program and an Investor Club.

Participants are taught how to acquire, rehabilitate, and manage real estate and learn about the many additional business opportunities in the industry. The Real Estate Lab’s comprehensive programs tap into collaborations with Allentown’s most successful investors for the benefit of participants.

The Real Estate Lab also helps participants develop the bankability necessary for success in the industry. City Center established an Allentown Neighborhood Innovation Fund with an initial investment of $1 million. Community leaders pool capital in the fund to be invested in program participants through grants, low- or no-interest loans and equity investments.

“The Fund is self-sustaining,” Strauss said. To date, more than $600,000 of the initial $1 million Innovation Fund has been utilized to provide temporary low- or no-interest rate gap financing, bridging first-time investors into the permanent financing.

People First is the first financial institution to provide financing to the students through the program. The Fund will act as a revolving credit facility, allowing for continued opportunity for future program participants.

City Center donated the space for The Real Estate Lab, which includes a classroom with computers and whiteboards and a demolition/construction demonstration wall for hands-on learning about basic wiring, drywalling, plumbing and more.

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