Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing editor with REALTOR® Magazine. Connect with her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Never Taking a Home For Granted
From homelessness to achieving the American dream and helping others do the same, broker Richard Montano now wants to give San Diego’s most vulnerable children a voice.
July 10, 2015
Growing up on the streets of San Diego, Richard Montano called several women mother. But that was only because his real mom would disappear, forcing him to pose as the son of random homeless women so they’d have a better chance at securing a bed at the local homeless shelter.
His mother suffered from drug addiction, and they went from sleeping at other people’s houses and in cars to sleeping on the streets. Montano spent countless night searching for her when she’d run off, and he’d sometimes end up sleeping under loading docks.
Montano was forced into the foster care system and never attended school for more than two or three consecutive weeks until he was 10. That’s when his life changed.
His great-aunt and uncle took him in and eventually adopted Montano, lifting the curtain of poverty that hung in front of him. “I didn’t realize that my life before wasn’t normal,” he says. Suddenly he had a warm, safe place to sleep and to call home — indefinitely. Montano has never taken that for granted.
His eighth-grade science teacher opened his eyes to his full academic potential. Montano went on to earn a degree in physics from Pepperdine University. He worked as an aerospace engineer and earned a master’s degree in business administration in 2004.
It was his uncle who once told him, “There’s no more real investment than real estate.” That statement stuck with Montano. He decided to make a career change, and in 2008, he and his wife Marissa opened Fit Properties Inc., a San Diego real estate investment firm. Shortly after they formed a second company, LIV Capital Group Inc., which focuses on providing investment opportunities to people who may not otherwise have access to or know how to invest in real estate.
“I’m not just a real estate guy out there trying to make deals happen or trying to make clients really rich,” Montano says. “I’m trying to help families make their households stable and give them more time with one another.”
He has employed a crowd-funding model, enabling investors to pool their money in local real estate projects to help them earn passive income. He started with 10 investors in 2009 and has nearly 100 active investors today.
One of his clients is a divorced mother of three who has been able to get back on her feet and spend more time at home because of the income she’s earning from her real estate investments. “If I could frame that feeling, I would. That’s what keeps me motivated to help the next person,” says Montano, who’s releasing a book in August about group real estate investing called The Loudest Silent Partner.
Montano recognizes that his story is unique. He knows that most homeless youth don’t get adopted, nor do they experience the stability that eventually helped him thrive. That’s why he formed a nonprofit called Voiceless, with the aim to produce a documentary chronicling the struggles of homeless youth in San Diego. Using crowd-sourced funds and sponsors, the film will also bring to light issues children face in the foster care system.
“This is a small group of vulnerable children that we can identify,” he says. “Many go into sex trafficking or prostitution. It’s an epidemic that we can stop.”
Montano is starting out by connecting with a small group of foster youth ages 8 to 12 and sponsoring them for education and mentorship opportunities. Montano and his film crew plan to develop the film’s story from those experiences over the next few years. For more information, visit voicelessfilm.org.