Invest in America | Non-USA Citizen Turned Real Estate Investor

Today I discuss with Ola Dantis how he was able to invest in America even though he was not a citizen. Learning how to invest in America and in real estate rental properties as a non-citizen took some time but he actually did it. His up's, down's, and how he built his real estate business as he was able to invest in America.

Ola Bought was able to invest in america with his first house as a house hack. Now, he continues to build his real estate business as he looks to have financial freedom.

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Ola Dantis was able to invest in America because he found the way to buy properties while he was living in America while going to school.

He realized that he was just paying money for rent and he wasn’t making any money from it, so he bought duplex and house hacked his way into a property. I love having other people pay my mortgage for me and this is what you can do to get your first property. We are going to talk to Ola and see how he got started investing in real estate properties.

Tell us a little about yourself.

  • Ola is from the U.K. and came to the United States about four or five years ago.
  • He is married and he and his wife love to travel. They just came back from Bali, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Travel is a big thing for his family. They try to travel at least once a year. Traveling changes the way you think and gets you out of your comfort zone. It is good to see how other people live.
  • He has a daughter who is almost two and this was her first big trip.
  • Ola used to play a lot of video games, but he got older and doesn’t do much of that anymore. Now he loves real estate and cannot wait to see where this journey takes them.

What got you started in buying rental properties to invest in America?

  • Ola’s wife got a job at Disney and convinced him to come over to check it out. He didn’t realize that Florida was so beautiful, so he decided to move to the U.S.
  • They decided to move to but they had to figure out the best place for job opportunities and career advancement. They ultimately decided on the Washington, D.C./Virginia/Baltimore area and they moved to Maryland. Ola and his wife moved into an apartment and everything was going great.
  • A friend of his called him and asked Ola meet him in Dubai to consult with him with about his rental business in the U.K. His wife said to just use Skype, but Ola has a masters degree in consulting and thought he could learn something. He jumped on a plane, met up with his friend in Dubai, and dissected his business and saw how much money his friend was making.
  • Ola started reading books and listening to the Bigger Pockets podcast. There was one book that kept coming up, and it was Rich Dad Poor Dad. He picked up the book and learned about cash flow, assets, and liabilities and realized he was just paying some investor’s cash flow.
  • He had an epiphany and decided that he wanted to be on the other side cashing checks, and he talked to his wife about buying a duplex. A few months later, they bought their first property in Baltimore. The rest is history!

When you started to invest in America, was your first property was a duplex?

  • Yes, Ola and his wife stayed on the first floor and they had tenants on the second floor.
  • When they bought the property, they moved from a very comfortable apartment. They never had to worry about parking or fixing anything.
  • After they moved in, they had to rehab the duplex and they could never find parking. The opportunity lies in the sacrifice. Moving to the next level is never easy, you have to understand that. When you start to feel uncomfortable, pressed, and pushed, that is where the opportunity lies.

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That first deal is always the most difficult. How did you find it and fund it, and do you manage it? What are the numbers?

  • When you look at getting your first deal, there are so many questions and you can get really overwhelmed. Ola knew he wanted to buy a duplex in a good area of the city, and he could tell if an area was good or not by visiting. He knew he wanted to manage it himself.
  • The duplex had been on the market for six months and nobody had picked it up. He believes it is because retail real estate buyers are looking to buy a cute, nice home for them and their family and they are not looking for multi-family homes. He also believes it is because of the price, which they negotiated down. They saved up for a down payment.
  • If you are buying your first property, you do not need to have 20 percent down. you can get an FHA loan, which allows you to only put 3.5 percent down on the property. That really helped Ola and his wife buy the duplex.
  • Anything above four units is considered multi-family and requires a commercial loan, so you can buy a duplex, triplex, or fourplex with a regular mortgage or FHA loan.

How much did you buy it for and how much were the rents? Did it actually cover the mortgage? Who manages the property now?

  • Ola bought the duplex for $240,000 and currently the tenant upstairs pays $1,400 a month for a two-bedroom unit and the tenant downstairs pays $1,200 for a one-bedroom unit. The rent covers the mortgage and then some.
  • Ola is still self-managing the property, since they still live in the city.
  • A year after they rehabbed the entire duplex, top and bottom, it was appraised at $400,000. They were able to take out some money from the property to use for another property.

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What was it like buying your first rental property? What was going through your head, what was the fear, and how did you get over it? How did you get your wife onboard?

  • Not everybody is going to have their spouse onboard how to invest in America in real estate. You first have to gauge their interest and understand the spectrum and where they fall on it, either no interest or very interested. After you know that, you need to be very articulate and clear as to why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Ola’s perspective is that they could continue to live how they were living and pay someone else to live in their apartment, or they could buy a property and get paid. If they do it properly, in 30 or so years they can retire whenever they want.
  • If you have a spouse who doesn’t want it at all, that is a different situation. Ola first gauged his wife’s interest and explained his why.
  • For Ola, he got over the fear by thinking about the worst that could happen. You can get disabled by the fear of the unknown. When thinking of getting your first property, you need to think “what do I have to lose”. You can keep paying rent for the rest of your life, buy a house and pay the mortgage, or you can make your dwelling pay you. There is nothing wrong with any of these approaches, it just depends on your lifestyle and what you hope to achieve.
  • Ola overcame his fear by learning and knowing that he had nothing to lose. He wanted the cash flow for himself. In the end, it can be fantastic.

What are your favorite things about rental properties?

  • Ola loves to say six-figure jobs are great, but when he passes on, he cannot pass his job title to his daughter. With his properties, most will hopefully be paid off and he can pass those on to his daughter and she can continue to get that check in the mail, month in and month out.
  • Rental properties give you a level of passiveness, because, for the most part, you are bound to keep getting that income. If you can figure out a way to pay down that mortgage quicker, you can get more cash flow every month.
  • Moving into apartments and bigger assets, it helps you with your taxes. Most people who have a W-2 job could work for the government from January to May, because that is how much you are paying in taxes. Invest in America and try to bigger assets is how wealthy people stay wealthy.
  • “It’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you keep” — Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad Poor Dad)

Where are you investing and what type of properties are you buying? Tell us about your business currently.

  • Ola and his wife did a few flips in Baltimore, but they aren’t going to do them anymore, because it is not something that suits their business plan. They are going back to what they really like, which is buying apartment buildings.
  • They invest in select markets like Texas, Florida, and Baltimore. There is one asset in Jacksonville, Florida that has 138 units they are currently looking at with other investors.
  • As syndicators, they coalesce, raise the funds, take down the deal, manage it, stabilize it, and then exit in a five- to seven-year period. This is where they want to put all of their time, focus, and energy. They are pretty aggressive in terms of getting the deals and building stronger relationships with other investors.

Do you have multi-family units right now?

  • Currently, Ola has the duplex and some of the other projects.
  • Now they are ramping up to the deal in Florida and one deal in Texas.

Tell us about any failures or any big lessons you’ve learned along the way.

  • Ola’s focus is multi-family units, but the shiny object syndrome happened and it diverted their attention to flips. That consumed the better part of last year and the result wasn’t what he expected. Dealing with contractors was a thing. He has stories about them walking off job sites and difficulties they encountered.
  • Know the reason you got into real estate. Ola likes the passive, or somewhat passive nature, of multi-family buildings where you have a property manager. He doesn’t like the day-to-day noise.
  • As you are getting into real estate, stick to why you are getting into it. Don’t get distracted by the promise of making a quick buck. Flips are a great way to make money, but there are a lot of factors you might not understand.
  • If you feel you don’t have the time, it is okay to invest with other people. You don’t have to be the person to flip a house. It looks sexy on HGTV, but the reality is way different.

If everything was taken away from you and you only had $1,000 to $2,000 in your pocket, knowing what you know now, what would you do and how would you start over?

  • Ola would first find a way to buy a four-unit property. Do whatever you need to do to get that seed money, maybe $15,000 or $20,000, depending where you are located in the U.S.
  • After that, buy a second, four-unit property within a year or two.

Is it possible to live in the U.K. and buy a rental property remotely in America and rent it out?

  • There is a way, but consult with a CPA or financial advisor.
  • There are a ton of investors who sell shares in condos so investors can stay in the properties when they visit and rent it out when they aren’t there.
  • The American dream is still very much alive.

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Ola Dantis Ola Dantis

Founder of

Ola, an entrepreneur at heart, brings his experience in owning and managing cash flowing multifamily property in his personal real estate portfolio to larger multifamily investing. This foundational experience derived from the strategic acquisition, renovation, and repositioning has been instrumental in the apartment syndication space, resulting in a competitive edge in value add and equity creation. In addition, Ola draws from his leadership and analytic skills as a manager for a fortune 10 company.

Ola is an alumnus of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom graduating with bachelors' and masters' degrees.

Ola is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute [ULI].


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