Apartment Projects


How it started

When Lance Edwards bought the four building, 44-unit Fairmont Village Apartments in Fairmont, West Virginia (pop. 18,000) at the end of 2020, he felt that the property – like hundreds of others he invested in across the country over the years – didn’t need a lot of rehab, just a great deal of attention. For the bestselling author of “How to Make Big Money in Small Apartments,” what could have been a routine series of upgrades that he’s done for so many of his investments in the past became something much greater than he could have imagined – a major transformation impacting countless lives in the small town that led to a special landmark day in the community.


The Backstory

Exactly three months after Lance and his team took over the property on December 29, the Marion County, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for what the Fairmont News called a “new affordable apartment complex.” In its coverage of the event, WBOY wrote, “A real estate entrepreneur has turned four apartment buildings into a safe living space across the street from Fairmont State University.” Elaborating further, the article said that the four building, 44 unit complex is the pilot project for Operation True Potential. It continues: “The goal is to take a property that may be poorly managed, have drug trafficking problems or an unsafe environment and clean it up, fix it up and make it safe for residents and the surrounding community.” The backstory on how the transformation of Fairmont Village Apartments led to the launch of Lance’s new mission to change thousands of lives across the country is a deeply inspiring study of how a few simple encouraging words can change lives. After observing the myriad positive changes that Lance and his team had made – including ridding the property of drug dealer tenants/visitors and raising occupancy from 22% to 89% – a VA case worker who regularly visited a tenant who was a veteran told Lance, “You’ve brought hope to this community.”

What is OTP?

Lance formally defines OTP as a collaborative effort of Mom & Pop entrepreneurs aimed at transforming small multi-family communities for the better nationwide. He and his team aim to bring out the true potential of each property, which rewards everyone – residents, investors and the local community – in numerous ways. They see themselves as “potentializers” who “potentialize” these properties. One of the unique aspects of OTP is that it’s not a government sponsored program, but rather a grassroots private sector initiative where the return to the individual participants is measured in both financial and social returns. In an innovative and powerful way, it leverages the classic American free enterprise system.
Besides his widely renowned entrepreneurial and teaching skills, one of Lance’s innate gifts is his ability to spot potential in people, situations and businesses – and take massive action, with great attention to detail, to turn that into vibrant reality. Though he envisioned that Fairmont would ultimately be a successful, profit-bearing investment, he had his work cut out for him. The father, son and mother team that sold it to him had health issues that precluded them from managing or upgrading the property effectively. When he bought the property, it had, to say the least, a negative image – so much so that one local resident, upon hearing the news, said sarcastically, “Oh you bought that thing?” Fairmont was an eyesore full of less than desirable tenants and that many in the area considered a blight on the university across the street. It had a rep for drug trafficking (Lance estimates that half the existing tenants were “dopeheads”) and homeless people sleeping in the stairwells. Partly due to COVID-19 and partly due to the building’s condition, there were no students living there.

The New Sheriff

After basic clean up tasks like picking up trash outside and in the hallways and vacuuming each unit, the first major endeavor Lance engaged in was getting the local police involved and running off the “bad actors” – the drug users/dealers who were tenants, their visitors and the homeless people who saw the property as too run down for people to care where they set up camp. Then, in an ongoing effort to start reversing the property’s poor image in the surrounding area, he got the word out through local influencers that there was a “new sheriff in town” who was working tirelessly towards Fairmont living up to its potential. As the “new sheriff” taking charge, Lance placed a full-time leasing agent on site (in an office that was previously unused) to take control of the day-to-day activity of the property. He also sealed the property with a first-time key-fob system for the residents. He and his team also cleaned up the exterior of the building and revitalized the apartment units to provide what he calls “a quality housing product of affordable comfort.” Inside each apartment, they installed luxury vinyl planks that look like hard wood to replace the carpet, painted the walls agreeable gray and spruced up the cabinets. This allowed him to create a reasonable raise in rent. One of the final touches was literally changing the name of the property. Making it a dog friendly community for the first time was the proverbial cherry on top.

A Real Testimony

The VA case worker who told Lance he had brought hope to the community also remarked that the transformation that he and his team enacted was exactly what the neighborhood needed – and suggested that now providing safe housing for many was going to make a huge difference in the community moving forward. She had attended the university 20 years earlier when Fairmont was a nice place. Lance had never heard someone speak to him about a property he had bought in all the years he had been in real estate investing, and he took it as a sign that he could make a great difference not just in Fairmont but in communities all across the country. “In the real estate business, we have what’s called Broken Window Syndrome, where if someone breaks a window and no one fixes it, that becomes the norm and that state of disrepair and lack of improvement spreads,” Lance says. “As we see with what happened with Fairmont, Operation True Potential is the antidote to that syndrome. It’s not an acceptable status quo, and we’re taking a stand so people don’t have to live that way. “Once we were finished and started advertising affordable comfort,” he says, “students once again moved in, more veterans took up occupancy and many others have expressed interest in living on the property. The new feeling of security made a huge difference in the way people perceived it. And just as the lady from the VA predicted, there was also a great ripple effect, with people from the university elated about the difference Fairmont made in the overall neighborhood and the fact that many more students could safely live close to campus.”


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How it Started

Before Lance Edwards launched Operation True Potential in 2021, the veteran real estate investor and bestselling author of “How to Make Big Money in Small Apartments” perceived every property he bought and fixed up as an opportunity to add another building to his and his team’s great portfolio – with a laser focus on how to maximize income and profit. Now, each endeavor must fall in line with the organization’s mission to improve the small apartment experience for the residents, investors and local community. A collaborative effort of Mom & Pop entrepreneurs and community influencers aimed at transforming small multi-family communities nationwide, Lance and his team aim to bring out the true potential of each property, which in turn rewards everyone. On the incredibly inspiring heels of their 2021 transformation of Fairmont Village Apartments in Fairmont, West Virginia, OTP’s second major project is the Ridgewood Village Apartments, a 56-unit property located on a frontage road facing I-35 (and backed by a single family home neighborhood) in Moore, Oklahoma, a city of 63,000 located just south of Oklahoma City.


The Transformation

Perhaps the best way to chronicle the transformation Lance’s team achieved in the first ninety days after its March 2022 purchase would be quotes from a neighbor whose life has been directly impacted by the changes and a local police sergeant. Neighbor L. Rogers said, “In the 25 years that I’ve lived in the neighborhood, I have never seen so much activity and improvement at the property.” Sgt. Rebecca Moore of the Moore Police Department added, “The police calls for service for your apartment complex are relatively low compared to other complexes in the city of Moore.”

Lance shares a powerful origin story that offers a perspective on where the property was reputation and aesthetic wise when he bought it. “I walked onto the grounds at Ridgewood and asked the first couple I saw sitting outside their apartment, ‘Can you tell me where the leasing office is?’ You know how they talk about hitting an artery and you get a gusher. Well, I hit a couple of gushers in these two. They immediately opened up and frankly wouldn’t shut up, warming me off: ‘You don’t want to live here. The management is lazy. There’s no one on site. They don’t fix anything, bla bla bla. A man like you and at your age, you don’t want to live here.”

Before/After Comparison

See the transformation for youself!

The Backstory

Prior to his purchase, Ridgewood had a less than stellar reputation. It was notorious for its drug traffic and frequent disturbances. Unlike Fairmont, it had over 90% occupancy, but with high delinquencies. Some nearby homeowners had reportedly sold their houses to get away from the drug traffic.

To get ideas of how to best make improvements, Lance visited the nearest competitor 0.3 miles away. It was a 48-unit property, but unlike Ridgewood, it had a leasing agent for walk up traffic like himself. The property was professionally managed, clean and tidy and obviously tended to – unlike Ridgewood, which had mismatching colored apartment doors and at least two of them installed upside down.
Just 90 days later, Lance and his team had taken control of the property, removed the drug traffic, quieted the disturbances and, perhaps least tangibly but most impressively, re-established a true community feeling – all the while raising rents $200 within the first five weeks of renovation. In addition to installing professional management and leasing agent on site, they used investment capital to begin updating the apartment’s exterior and interiors a quality housing product of what Lance calls “affordable comfort.”
From the get go, Lance wanted to change the exterior from its original red brick which dated from the 60’s. When he and his wife Kim were driving around looking at brand new apartment buildings near their home in Florida, they happened upon a beautiful building just being built whose color was an attractive two tones of gray. In addition to changing the exterior color scheme, he and his team changed the interior floors the same way they did in Fairmont, installing luxury vinyl planks that look like hard wood to replace the nasty brown carpet – and changing the walls from white to agreeable gray. They also spruced up the cabinets.


Lance’s Discovery

In doing research on small apartment tenants, Lance discovered that while 67% of Americans own dogs, only 28% of apartments accept them. Ridgewood is not only canine friendly, even putting together a dog registry for tenants, but the property has a small (1,200 sq. ft.) commercial building which houses a dog grooming, boarding and training business.
Lance’s new Pet Friendly Property strategy begins with an incredibly heartwarming story. A little over five years ago, a little mini yellow lab looking dog followed Lance and Kim home from their Saturday morning walk in Houston. His bones were showing, he had a 24-Hour fitness lanyard tied around his neck as a collar, and if you felt his breastbone, you could feel a metal BB where he had been shot. The vet reported he had heartworms and was severely malnourished. Kim posted “Dog Found” ads online and with the gate sentry. No one claimed him, but one couple offered to take him if no one else would. Kim asked Lance if they could keep him, but Lance initially refused because they had just signed a contract on a beach house in Florida, which would make boarding and traveling an obstacle.

The nice couple came by on Sunday and spent two hours with the little guy in Lance and Kim’s backyard. The woman finally said, ”We’ll take him.” And off they drove with the dog. Kim was all tears, and Lance felt sad too. Three hours later, the woman called back and said her husband changed his mind. She needed to bring the dog back. Kim was ecstatic. As they pulled in their driveway, the little guy leaped out the passenger window of a moving car, ran to Lance and jumped up into his arms. He’s been with the couple ever since. Kim immediately doted on him, and when she asked, “What shall we call him?” Lance immediately said, “Riley. It’s clear he’s going to live the Life of Riley.”
“At Ridgewood,” Lance says, “we have two dog grooming and boarding businesses on either end of the property. I’m the landlord for one, as she runs her business in my building. I envision an alliance, with at least one of those businesses where I can advertise: ‘On-site pet grooming, dog walking, pet hotel, dog park, doggy day care, pet parties…’ We’ll advertise our pet friendly properties with the ‘Life of Riley Seal of Approval’. He’ll be famous. I’m naming the dog parks and buildings after my investors and students whose referrals of these properties make Operation True Potential possible.”


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