Stephen Kraus

Founder of Baltimore Realty Group

Stephen Kraus is a real estate entrepreneur and the founder of Baltimore Realty Group. Like all entrepreneurs, Stephen identified a gap in the market and went for it. About two decades ago, Stephen noticed that he could buy distressed properties from financial institutions and resell them at a tidy profit. That is how Baltimore Realty Group was born. Through hard work and a singular vision to build a successful real estate, Stephen learned the loops of real estate, including buying run-down properties, repairing them, then selling at a profit. He also discovered that he could make a passive income in real estate by holding on to some of those properties for rentals. Today, the company holds a multimillion-dollar rental portfolio made up of single-family units, multi-family units, and gulf-front properties, and continues to expand with every passing year. Having achieved his dream of building a successful real estate business, Stephen diverted some of his energies towards mentoring upcoming entrepreneurs looking to get into real estate. Some of the issues that he mentors them include budgeting, understanding error margins, and other calculations that make all the difference between profits and losses in the real estate business. Stephen is also a philanthropist and is very active in charities that focus on issues of the homeless. He has been especially active during the COVID-19 pandemic when this population segment has been most vulnerable. His donations have been in the form of cash and food donations. Stephen also an admirable social life. He enjoys hiking and kayaking and has even taken part in competitions involving the two activities. It is his way of relaxing, to develop the mental fortitude needed to run a successful real estate business. He also uses these activities to bond with his family and friends.

Where did the idea for Baltimore Realty Group come from?

I have always been passionate about real estate from a young age. It’s this passion that drove me to create the company. Before I started, I worked on acquiring as much information as I could. I would spend time observing others in the field to learn the tricks of the trade.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I am a morning person, so my typical day starts at 5 am. I like jogging because it helps me clear my mind, so I jog for 1 hour whenever the weather permits. I believe having some form of exercise keeps your body and mind in its optimal state. I also like to get to the office very early to make sure I stay on top of things and abreast of all new developments. During this time, I try to find recent trends in the market and educate myself on how and where they can be applied. From there, I head out for meetings with contractors and staff members where we update each other on the progress of ongoing projects and the way forward. By afternoon, I am usually done with meetings and head out for site visits to see ongoing projects’ progress. To make the day productive, I delegate most administrative tasks to my staff to give myself time for strategic thinking.

How do you bring ideas to life?

My ideas begin with conceptualization. Once I see a property, my mind starts to conceptualize how best to transform it to bring out its best qualities. I am keen on identifying some of the areas that can be improved, such as lighting, and in some cases, bringing down walls to create bigger spaces. I also usually have a specific type of client in mind and try to remodel the property in a way that would meet the clients’ needs and satisfy them. Once I have these ideas, I put them down, noting all the changes that would have to be made. I then work alongside professionals such as engineers on the structure and architects to help with the design. Upon completion of the design process, I work with contractors to get the right materials and implement the changes I want to the property. It’s a process that I have applied successfully for years.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I am excited by new cost-effective design techniques that are making construction cheaper. I believe this will drive up profit for developers while at the same time helping more people access affordable homes. Technologies like 3D printing could transform this business long-term, and it’s exciting

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am excited by new cost-effective design techniques that are making construction cheaper. I believe this will drive up profit for developers while at the same time helping more people access affordable homes. Technologies like 3D printing could transform this business long-term, and it’s exciting

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to love himself more and believe that everything he needs to succeed is already within me. I would also tell him to go with his gut when it comes to making decisions. In all my years of experience running this business, I have found that having confidence in my skills has helped me get to where I am. Trusting my gut has also kept me from making bad business decisions. I would also advise my younger self to invest in meaningful relationships. No business can thrive without a network of people supporting it. The network of people I have met has contributed to my growth both personally and in business over the years. These networks have been my source of clients as they have referred me repeatedly to prospective clients. The earlier you start building those networks, the better. Lastly, I would advise my younger self to read more. Reading has exposed me to a world of possibilities I never knew existed. I have learned great lessons about success and failure from great people in history. I have also learned lessons about business management and how to work with teams to ensure efficiency successfully. Everything you need to know about unlocking your potential will literally be found within books. Books have also challenged me to evaluate my priorities in life and ensure that I always deliver the best. If you follow the above, you stand a good chance of making it in life.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I can’t think of anything. I am very open-minded, and I always have something in common with most people.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I emphasize building my team’s capacity and strengthening their leadership skills. A major part of any business is run by other team members or staff. It is, therefore essential to ensure that they understand and implement the values of the company. They need to have expertise in their professional fields and a work ethic that reflects the company’s values. Investing in your team will ensure that the company continues to run efficiently as you focus on other activities.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Customer satisfaction has always been my strategy. Happy and satisfied clients will always come back and will refer more clients your way. I aim to please my clients by listening to their needs and working towards meeting them. I also find that having honest and open communication with them strengthens our working relationship. They are able to trust me because of this.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I once remodeled a home based on my preferences as opposed to going with the client’s ideas. I thought I knew best, and they would eventually come around once the project was complete. The prospective client was displeased, and I had to look for other clients. It ended up being an expensive lesson and very time-consuming.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Unfortunately, none. I believe most businesses are born as a result of a personal desire to fill an existing gap. Therefore, everyone has to search for themselves to see what they can fulfill in a particular niche.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I spent it supporting a homeless family. It felt good knowing that my money was going towards touching someone’s life, albeit in a well way.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use Facebook a lot for marketing. It has helped create awareness about our company to millions of people and has really boosted revenues.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book provides a guide on how to get rid of beliefs that limit our potential and lead to unhappiness. It’s a book that is very practical for everyday situations.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is “Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God” from the book A Course in Miracles. It helps me keep things in perspective.