Tom Silva / Louis Goodman – Transcript

Louis Goodman / Tom Silva

Louis Goodman 0:03
Welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer Podcast. I’m Louis Goodman. Today we’re going to do something different. I’m going to talk with a client. Let me be clear, Tom Silva is not one of my clients, but he is a businessperson who has dealt with lawyers and the legal system. Tom is the owner of Eden Realty, located in San Lorenzo, California. He is involved in the development, rehabilitation and management of residential and commercial income property in southern Alameda County. Tom was born and raised in Alameda County and has strong family and business ties to the area. Tom Silva, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Tom Silva 0:49
Thank you very much for having me today.

Louis Goodman 0:52
Tom, you and I have known each other for a long time and it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Where are you speaking to us from right now?

Tom Silva 1:00
I’m speaking to you from Cherryland, Eden Township, Alameda County, California.

Louis Goodman 1:06
Is that where your office is?

Tom Silva 1:08

Louis Goodman 1:09
How long have you been in this business?

Tom Silva 1:13
Since 1980.

Louis Goodman 1:15
Can you tell us a little bit of about what your business is?

Tom Silva 1:20
Primarily we’re owner operators multifamily rental housing in San Leandro Hayward in the unincorporated areas.

Louis Goodman 1:29
And how long have you been in that business?

Tom Silva 1:32
Since 1978 as an investor and 1980 as a professional.

Louis Goodman 1:37
Where are you from originally?

Tom Silva 1:39
Floresta gardens in San Leandro.

Louis Goodman 1:43
So you’re very much a local guy. Is that correct?

Tom Silva 1:47
I’ve lived within five miles of the same place my entire life.

Louis Goodman 1:50
And where do you go to high school?

Tom Silva 1:52
Murrow, that’s the rather famous Catholic school here in Hayward. Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of us ancient mariners out there.

Louis Goodman 2:01
Have you had any formal education past high school?

Tom Silva 2:05
Night school in Chabot and also during various trade courses and other week long courses over the time, but basically, it was the night school in Chabot.

Louis Goodman 2:16
What got you interested in being in the real estate business?

Tom Silva 2:21
My parents were dry cleaners, they had a dry cleaning business in San Leandro although the cleaners provided our family with a good living, they work hard at it, what they did is over a period of time, starting in the 60s, every other year, they would buy a rental house. And when it came time for them to retire in 1980, they were able to sell the business and retire from the rents on the house and go traveling and do what they wanted to do. And having grown up into dry cleaning business, I was sick of it. I didn’t want anything more to do with it. But I saw that they did well in real estate. And that’s where I am today.

Louis Goodman 3:00
You also have a fair amount of community involvement just beyond business. Is that correct?

Tom Silva 3:06
Yes, I do.

Louis Goodman 3:07
Can you tell us a little bit about your community involvement?

Tom Silva 3:11
Yes, I’ve been very active in the San Lorenzo community for a very long time. Currently, with the San Lorenzo little league. Also active in various business organizations, I serve as the chairman of the San Leandro Rent Review Board. So in a number, I’ve also been active in our industry organizations.

Louis Goodman 3:31
What do you really like about buying, selling, developing and running real estate?

Tom Silva 3:41
It’s satisfying. It really is for me, I mean, we tried to deliver quality housing, good value for our customer’s rental dollars every day. It’s what we do, and being able to run and work with a group of professionals. Do it on a professional level. Are we perfect? No. But we’re doing a good job every day. And to me being part of the team that does that is the most important thing, satisfying at the end of the day, good customer relations. That’s really what gets the best satisfaction for it. Yes.

Louis Goodman 4:17
How big an organization do you run?

Tom Silva 4:20
We have a full-time staff and then we also have a construction crew. I’ve been a licensed general contractor for almost 30 years now over 30 years, excuse me. And like we’re working on a project and Sally Atheros as we speak, that crew was five people, including myself.

Louis Goodman 4:39
If a young person were starting a career, would you recommend being involved in the real estate business?

Tom Silva 4:47
Yes, but not in California.

Louis Goodman 4:48
Tell us a little bit about that.

Tom Silva 4:52
California right now is actually a very difficult place for rental housing operator to be in specific ugly in Alameda County, we have an eviction moratorium for COVID right now, amongst other things. When I first got into my career in the early 80s, for the first couple years, it was legal to have adults only housing that went out in 1982. A lot of people don’t realize that and back then the rights were really stacked against tenants, it swings to now where it’s gone too far the other way. And it’s very difficult to be able to work in an environment like that. Here in California, when there is opportunity in probably 30 other states in America.

Louis Goodman 5:40
How was actually being in this business met or different from your expectations about?

Tom Silva 5:48
Being in business has met my expectations, because I was born in a business. Remember my parents were dry cleaners. As the oldest child, I was down there all the time. I got my learner’s permit at 15 and a half, and I was driving my dad around the delivery truck. My 16th birthday, I went out and my mom took me to the DMV and San Leandro at the time, got my driver’s license, and in the afternoon, I was making deliveries on my own. So I’ve been in business, I was born into business. So I understand the expectations of business. And it’s always been there. Yes.

Louis Goodman 6:25
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started into the real estate business?

Tom Silva 6:32
Many, many, many things. Yes. Many, many things.

Louis Goodman 6:36
Could you maybe be specific about a couple of them?

Tom Silva 6:38
Sure, I would have liked to have had better people skills, because in a lot of ways back then, it was kind of a rough and tumble, especially in when I was doing the work in Hayward with the Lenio crack houses. And you will learn how to deal with people on that level. And then you got to realize that she got to translate that level to other folks. Working in that type of environment made it difficult for some of the other things I followed but better people skills definitely is a number one and I try to improve them every day.

Louis Goodman 7:11
What do you think’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

Tom Silva 7:15
Be your own person, and be true to yourself at the end of the day because you have to be yourself and be comfortable with yourself at the end of the day.

Louis Goodman 7:26
Now, in the course of your business, have you ever had occasion to hire an Attorney?

Tom Silva 7:32
Many times.

Louis Goodman 7:34
Let’s talk about that a little bit. In what circumstance?

Tom Silva 7:38
First off, estate planning and having a good Business Attorney. Because if you have a good Tax Attorney, you’re able to set up your businesses to where it’s most beneficial all the way around, especially when you tie into your estate planning and creating limited silos for liability purposes.

Louis Goodman 7:58
So have you set your business up that way with what limited liability corporations?

Tom Silva 8:05
Yes, we’re a collection of single-asset entities.

Louis Goodman 8:09
Now, how many of those single-asset entities do you have?

Tom Silva 8:15
The best like they asked you a rancher how many cattle he got up? But I’ll tell you it’s a few.

Louis Goodman 8:20
Okay, and what has your experience with lawyers been like? I mean, it sounds to me like it’s essentially transactional work, where you’ve had lawyers set up legal entities for you and help you with your estate plan as opposed to be involved in litigation but correct me if I’m wrong.

Tom Silva 8:44
No, it’s been the whole gamut that I just started out with the tax planning because if you’re in business and you have a substantial business, it has to be set up properly. I’m a plaintiff in a case right now. Okay, I got a deadbeat Doctor skipped out on $70,000 in rent, and we’re going after him for Okay, so I have that maybe that’s not a good answer. Okay, what do I have now? I have a litigation to collect a debt that’s owed us. I have through my work with the California Apartment Association, we have a number of different prospects that’s going on. And we’re actually working with folks indirectly with county council of Alameda County is another aspect of it. We have ongoing estate planning matters. Those are the areas that are actively working with Attorneys at this time.

Louis Goodman 9:42
What’s your sense of lawyers?

Tom Silva 9:47
By and large, I’m very impressed with the professionalism of the industry. Okay, because I’ve worked with so many different lawyers over so many different ways and being a layman from the outside, I become got an understanding of sort of the nuances of the law, how it works. But I always have to go to council and say, Okay, what about this? What about that? Where are we out? And when you’re able to work with folks on that level, and to have back-and-forth discussions, is really strong. And I think you end up getting to a better place.

Louis Goodman 10:25
So what advice would you give to lawyers in terms of dealing with clients?

Tom Silva 10:32
Well, the first one always is listen and understand that, although these particular individuals matter, that is before you is a routine one, it’s not routine for them. Okay.

Louis Goodman 10:48
Yeah, I think that’s really important. I think that’s very, very important for clients and for Attorneys to understand about clients that for us, oftentimes, it’s another case, it’s another file in the cabinet. But for the client, this is the most important piece of legal problem and issue that they have.

Tom Silva 11:11
Yes, and you have to be able to draw out of them, what exactly is going on. Because remember, they’re a bundle of nerves, especially if they’re under some sort of threat, and being able to calm them down to engage in the dialogue with them. Yeah, the meter is running, and they’re worried about the meter. Okay. But that’s the minimis versus the few moments of really getting the understanding the person that’s sitting in front of you and the matters they’re bringing to.

Louis Goodman 11:42
In general, have you been satisfied with your dealings with Attorneys?
Tom Silva 11:47
Yes, yes.

Louis Goodman 11:48
And what sort of things worked and what sort of things would you change?

Tom Silva 11:52
Work is obviously the communication being able to banter back and forth. And each one doing their homework is by parties, each one meaning, the client and the Attorney, because the Attorney can’t do his homework properly, unless the client fully informs the Attorney of what’s going on, and gives documentation and such. What I would change or suggest to change, I understand the move to digital and if there’s a way that, if for like mom and pops to be able to bring things in and get them digitized to get it into the system, I think that would help a lot. I know I scan and send things to attorneys constantly. But that’s pretty difficult mom and pops to do, so if there’s any assistance there to help them through technology, that’d be really beneficial.

Louis Goodman 12:47
What’s your primary means of communication with the lawyers whom you deal with? Telephone, calls, or emails or texts, or what?

Tom Silva 12:56
All the above.

Louis Goodman 12:57
What do you think has worked well in terms of dealing with lawyers?

Tom Silva 13:01
Open communication, collaboration, time for all parties. You know, I have to be a timely respondent. They can’t be sitting around saying if my deadline is Tuesday, I can’t call you on Thursday and say it’s not there. If it’s Tuesday, it’s Tuesday. But that’s what’s really worked, is when we were diligent about it in a professional manner.

Louis Goodman 13:23
Is there anything that you would change about the way lawyers deal with you or the way you’ve dealt with lawyers?

Tom Silva 13:30
Not really. No, it’s always worked out well, I had some really good teachers early on, lawyers that schooled me, school me very well, in the art of law and the practice of law, and that helped a lot haven’t been able to work with good quality people early on.

Louis Goodman 13:50
What mistakes do you think lawyers make in dealing with clients?

Tom Silva 13:54
Not talking through the whole process for them. Because there are a lot of times people are going to be nervous, and they’re not letting everything out. You got to kind of try to draw it out of them a little. I think that would be the one mistake that I hear from folks out there.

Louis Goodman 14:11
In your dealings with the legal system, do you think it’s fair?

Tom Silva 14:16

Louis Goodman 14:17

Tom Silva 14:17
It pays to have good representation, it’s better to have very good competent representation because of the complexities of the system. And though it especially the way that it’s overloaded right now, you really have to have the ability to pay for good representation.

Louis Goodman 14:35
I’m going to shift gears here a little bit Tom, what’s your family life been like? And how has working in the real estate world fit into that or affected it?

Tom Silva 14:44
Family life is wonderful. Any day now, we’re expecting our fifth grandchild, a little girl whose name’s going to be Athena. So we’re on pins and needles about that. The family, we work as a family business, and we have family evolved in the business. So we’re all local. So we’re nearby each other, we see each other a lot. So it’s really helpful to be have family in business working together.

Louis Goodman 15:10
How do you define success?

Tom Silva 15:13
Being able to have peace of mind and enjoy your family, in your loved ones around you. That to me is the definition of success.

Louis Goodman 15:23
What sort of things keep you up at night?

Tom Silva 15:28
Right now, we’re in an era of uncertainty. And this next year or so is going to be difficult times for a lot of people. And what I’m fearful of these next few years is that we end up being … like we were back in early 90s, where the sluggish period of time few years of economic world, unfortunately, and how people are going transition through that with us as a society has been through a heck of a lot, we were of running up and before the COVID, that COVID hit with spin three years now. And now we’re post COVID and we’re in this interest rate environment where the economy has been slowed down, the brakes are being put on, that’s going to hurt, some folks is going to be difficult for people these next few years.

Louis Goodman 16:21
Let’s say you came into some real money, several million dollars, what if anything would you do differently in real life?

Tom Silva 16:28
I think I’d establish a foundation and chartered a foundation to only spend its interest so that it perpetuated itself sort of like, I don’t mean to be on this level, but like a Nobel Prize, but you know, how it’s self perpetuating, you see it in news, on ESPN, all those foundations that are there, set something up like that, to be able to do more things that would benefit folks who are immigrants here to America, we need to do a better job of bringing our immigrants, supporting them, welcoming them, we need fresh blood, or a nation or immigrants. Unfortunately, right now, immigration is a really sensitive topic for people, but to really create the opportunities for first-generation people to establish footholds and thrive here in America.

Louis Goodman 17:26
Let’s say at a magic wand, there was one thing you could change in the real estate world and the world in general. What would that be?

Tom Silva 17:34
To lower the temperature and bring down the animosity in the partisan shift that we have to deal with every day. And we’re all in this one blue Marvel, we got to go along to get along. If there’s some way that I can sprinkle the magic dust to make that to where everybody would be able to go along to get along, that’s what I would do.

Louis Goodman 17:59
Let’s say you have a Superbowl ad, 60 seconds on Super Bowl. What would you like to say to the world of a nation in that very, very large forum?

Tom Silva 18:13
I would do something along the lines of Rodney King’s famous words. Can’t we all just get along? Is there a way that we can go along to get along? We’re all on this blue marble together. Is folks, can’t we get along better with one another? There has got to be a way.

Louis Goodman 18:34
Tom, if someone wanted to get in touch with you to talk about real estate or anything else, what would be the best way to contact you?

Tom Silva 18:47
The best way to contact me is by email at [email protected]. That’ll be Tom@ O-R-G

Louis Goodman 19:03
Tom, is there anything you want to talk about that we haven’t touched on in this discussion?

Tom Silva 19:10
Yes. I like to talk a little bit further about the current state of affairs in the tensions that we have within the rental housing industry in Alameda County. We are at a point now where we still have the eviction moratorium that’s been in place for going on three years. There’s a lot of different cross-currents that are going on with it. But the biggest problem is that it’s reached a fever point to where facts don’t matter anymore. Okay, it’s all about emotion. It’s all about being afraid. It’s all about understanding that sometimes things happen and it’s understanding that we got to go along to get along. It’s understanding that they’re afraid of this eviction tsunami. But we all know how at least a lot of us know how hollowed out our courts are, and how the funding has just diminished for it. And there really isn’t. It’s, the works are totally gummed up. And this is not a way to run our community, it’s not our way to have a essential industry, like rental housing, and have our customers interact with one or the risks become so polarized, and the temperatures really needs to come down.

Louis Goodman 20:42
Tom Silva, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been really interesting getting the client perspective.

Tom Silva 20:52
Thank you very much for having me, Louis. I definitely appreciate it. And thank you to the Bar Association for making this possible. Thank you.

Louis Goodman 21:00
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.

Thanks to my guests, and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Roberts for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman

Tom Silva 21:40
We’re gonna need to cut that a little bit. I stumbled there.

Louis Goodman 21:43
I want you to understand, you can start anything over, we can edit anything out.

Tom Silva 21:47
I’m going to back up, give me a moment, let me get back, I want to go in again. I know we’re on a train but I got lost.

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