JF2202: Adding Another Asset Class Your Portfolio With Vinney Chopra #SituationSaturday

Vinney is the CEO of Moneil Investment Group and Moneil Management Group and is also a returning guest from episode JF805. In today’s episode, he will be going over how he decided to start developing a new niche in multifamily and why. He will be discussing new ground-up construction of luxury assisted senior living.

 

Vinney Chopra Real Estate Background:

  • CEO of Moneil Investment Group and Moneil Management Group
  • A full-time investor with 35 years of experience
  • Over the past 12 years has completed 28 syndications; 14 of those in the past 3 years
  • Controls over $330 million, and 4,100 doors
  • Based in Danville, CA
  • Say hi to him at: http://vinneychopra.com/ 

 

 

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Best Ever Tweet:

“Senior living has been outperforming apartments for the last 10-15 years” – Vinney Chopra

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JF2195: Future of Shopping Centers Post Covid19 With Beth Azor #SituationSaturday

Beth was a guest in a previous episode of JF1974 so be sure to check out her first episode to learn more about her. In today’s situation Saturday she will be sharing what it is like to be a shopping center investor during the Covid19 era. 

Beth Azor Real Estate Background:

  • Owner of Azor Advisory Services, Inc. 
  • Has 30 years of investing in retail shopping centers
  • Portfolio consist of 6 centers currently $80 million
  • Based in Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Say hi to her at: https://www.bethazor.com/ 

 

 

Click here for more info on PropStream

Best Ever Tweet:

“As a landlord, the COVID19 recession is completely different than the ‘09 recession” – Beth Azor


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’re speaking with Beth Azor. Beth, how are you doing today?

Beth Azor: I’m doing great, Theo. Thanks for having me.

Theo Hicks: Thanks for joining us again, actually. So Beth is a repeat guest. Her last episode was Episode 1974. So make sure you check that out. And today is Saturday, so we’ll be doing Situation Saturday, talking about a sticky situation that our guest is in and lessons learned, things she’s doing to get out of it. So before we get into that, let’s go over Beth’s background as a refresher. So she is the owner of Azor Advisory Services. She has 30 years of experience investing in retail shopping centers. Herr current portfolio consists of six centers valued at $80 million. She’s based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and her website is bethazor.com. So Beth, before we get into the situation Saturday, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Beth Azor: Sure, Theo. So my background has been mostly retail, 35 years in the industry, started investing about five years in, so 30 years is correct. I’ve owned and operated shopping centers solely in South Florida. My six that I own today are within ten minutes of my house. So I definitely have some market knowledge there and some control. I like to have control. I also train leasing agents, how to lease vacancy around the country for large REITs, private investors, wealth funds, institutional clients, and I’ve canvassed knocking on doors over 10,000 hours.

Theo Hicks: Well, that’s a lot of door knocking.

Beth Azor: That’s a lot of door knocking.

Theo Hicks: So as I mentioned, it is Situation Saturday. So we’re going to talk about the future of shopping centers post COVID. So Beth, I’m gonna let you just take it any direction that you want to start off, and then I can ask some follow-up questions after that.

Beth Azor: Sure, Theo. So in March, when COVID hit, and some of the tenants started calling us, the landlords, crying, “We might not be able to pay our rent,” I held my first rent relief reduction webinar with over 700 people that attended, and I was very firm. “Let them go to their business interruption insurance, hold firm, tell them no”, and I had three since, so I’ve had four in all. And boy, what a change things have made. When the government shuts down your retail and the nail salons cannot open and the hair salons cannot open, the landlords have to pivot, because if those tenants aren’t taking in a dollar, you can’t really be the tough old landlord that we might have been in ’09. People ask me all the time, “How’s this recession compared to ’09?” It’s completely different. It’s a million percent worse, because the government shut down the retailers. They told them, “You cannot open.”

So I had acres and acres of parking lots with no cars in them, and it was very challenging. I went from talking local tenants, mom and pops off ledges crying to me on the phone, to talking to national tenants who had huge balance sheets, who were being rude and saying, “Sorry, we’re not going to pay rent for the next year.” As a landlord, after about three or four weeks of that, probably in the April to May range, I decided that I had to have the local mom and pop day of phone calls and the national phone calls, because I literally had to change my strength and armor and empathy depending on who I was speaking to, and that’s something that, in 35 years, I never thought I was going to have to do. Okay, so today’s my day where I’m going to talk to all my mom and pop, hair salons, barbershops, little coffee shops. Now tomorrow, I’m going to talk to these big-box retailers who have the balance sheet, who can pay me my rent, so that I can pay the mortgage, but are just choosing to be jerks and not doing so.

So that has been a huge, huge challenge, and just looking back and seeing how day one, “We need to be tough”, to now day, I don’t know, five months later, where we’re really propping up some of these mom and pop tenants, because if we don’t, we will end up with 20% to 30% to possibly 40% more vacancy than we had five months ago. And there will be a lot of landlords and lenders having big discussions, because I’m not sure if the lenders want to take back these properties full of vacancy. It’s really sad and scary.

Theo Hicks: So for the mom and pops, when you say helping them out, propping them up, can you get a little bit more specific on exactly — not just what the conversations are like, but what’s the results of the conversation?

Beth Azor: So again, back in the beginning, we were like, “No waivers. Tough landlords. We’re not going to give any waivers. We’re only going to do deferrals,” to now five months later, where we have to give waivers. I had hair salons and nail salons that literally were not open for over two and a half months, not pressing the cash register. So we can pretend to defer the rent for them to pay back later at some future date. But in reality, they’ve lost those sales forever, they’re never getting them back. And even if we were smart enough or the tenant agreed to a 12-month payback of a deferral, how likely is it that they are going to recover to where they pay that back? So we are doing waivers for tenants that weren’t open. Now, I have a sub shop guy that is doing 50% more business during COVID. Dining rooms closed. He has an app, he’s doing deliveries, he’s doing curbside, and he’s killing it. So he’s doing double the sales that he did pre-COVID. So he’s not getting any waiver or deferral and nor is he asking.

So the tenants that are asking, smart landlords are helping and we’re helping in ways of either deferrals and or waivers. With the national tenants, what we’re doing, and even with some of the locals, is if we make a deal, it’s as short term as possible. So hopefully we’ll all get back to some semblance of order soon; and if we can get something in return for the waiver, or the deferral, that would be great.

For example, I had a lease with a Panera Bread, and they wanted to defer, I think, April and May’s rent or half 50% of April and May’s rent to first quarter 2021. So I said, “Sure, but your lease is coming up in two years. I want you to renew now your second five-year option,” and they said, “No problem.” So now I have a seven-year lease left, which is great for me, and all I did was be their short term lender, where I just postponed getting my rent till first quarter 2021.

Theo Hicks: And then in order to get the information to know – so this is more for the mom and pops – to know what situation that they’re in. Is that what you’re talking about on your phone calls and getting an idea of where they’re at, what they can do so you can figure out what the best course of action is?

Beth Azor: That, and then requesting their sales reports. So actually knowing what they’ve done… And there are some tenants that, like the national, some don’t report, and there’s this new tool called geofencing, which is mobile data. I’ve had some national tenants reach out and say, “We’re doing horribly. We are the worst in the chain,” and then you can fill up the geofencing tool and actually see that their traffic is back to where it was pre-COVID. So it’s amazing how technology can help the landlords, much to the tenants’ unhappiness. I did have a few nationals that tried to play a little game with me and then I was able to say, “Hmmm. Look at this geofencing report. I can see how many people were at your store yesterday, and it matches to February’s traffic. So it’s not going to help.”

Theo Hicks: You said that was geofencing, like a fence?

Beth Azor: Yes, geofencing, and it’s mobile data. So in retail, for the last 35 years that I’ve been in business, demographics is hugely important. So when you’ve got a Starbucks or a Panera or a TJ Maxx, or even some local tenants, they come to your shopping centers and they’re interested in leasing space, they want to know what is the income, what’s the daytime traffic, the employee base in the area, what are the traffic counts, etc, etc. Now there are tools… Uber has one and a company called Placer.ai, and they have the ability to target your shopping center and tenants inside your shopping center, and they can provide you with a report that shows how many people were at your Panera Bread or your Starbucks up till yesterday.

Theo Hicks: Wow, that’s crazy.

Beth Azor: It’s crazy, and demographics for the last 35 years were always based on census data, which is only done every ten years. So for us, in the retail industry, to be using census data today that’s based on 2010 in South Florida is completely full of errors. So to have this tool where I know exactly how many people drove into my parking lot up till midnight last night is very, very, very valuable.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So we talked about what you’re going through right now. What is– and I know this is probably an impossible question, but… So I positioned it to say what are your expectations for shopping centers moving forward, both from the perspective of your existing portfolio and then what your plan is to whether acquire or get rid of some of your existing portfolio?

Beth Azor: So I’m not going to get rid of anything because I love all my projects and they’re performing regardless. But looking forward, my big wish is that we get our kids back to school because the parents need to work and that gives them disposable income to be able to come back and shop at our shopping centers. And while they’re stuck at home, helping their kids homeschool is a problem for the retail world and the economy. So I’m praying that that happens. But to defend against that, I’ve been encouraging and even myself, putting tutoring places even at no rent almost like a PSA, a public service, in any vacancy in a shopping center where we could have a Zoom setting where we hire a college student, and parents can drop their kids off and get a couple hours reprieve at home because if they can work, they’ll get more disposable income and that will filter down to us. They’ll be able to eat out more, go shop more, etc. So it’s schools. If schools aren’t open, what can we as shopping center people with vacancies do to mitigate that and then bring employees back? Because a lot of my small tenants said, “I can’t get my employees back because they need to be at home with their kids.”

So that’s what I’ve been preaching – How can we in the real estate industry help schools and help parents so that we can get people shopping again? I’m predicting 30% of the malls in our world have closed are indoor malls, and I’m predicting that 50% of those never reopen. So us outdoor shopping center, strip center, power center, lifestyle center owners need to shift and start talking to those mall tenants. For example, Sephora and footlocker, those tenants in those markets where their malls have closed will start looking for alternative opportunities and that will be to us, the non-indoor mall people. So I do think that it will shift and you’ll see “Oh, I used to go to that store in the mall”, and you’re going to start seeing that be in a more outdoor, strip center, power center opportunity.

Theo Hicks: And then what about buying? So were you– or what’s your overall recommendation for people who are currently investing in shopping centers or want to get into shopping centers. Is now a good time? Should we wait? Should we not invest? What would you say back to that?

Beth Azor: I think that in the next year to two, there will be a lot of opportunities, especially with CMBS loans because as all of our community lenders have worked with us as our tenants didn’t pay, the CMBS lenders did not. So if you have a loan with the CMBS, a commercial backed security mortgage, there was no deals made, and I think that the tenants don’t make it. There will be a lot of CMBS loans going into default and those will be opportunities. So my recommendation to anyone that’s listening that would like to invest in retail, is retail’s very community neighborhood-based. Like I said my six centers are within ten minutes of my house. So I know those centers, I know the market, I know the other landlords and I know the tenants. I shopped in these markets.

So for anyone that’s interested, pick a little area that you know well. Maybe you own a mobile home park down the street, maybe you own multifamily nearby, maybe you own office buildings. So pick an area that you know and start researching who owns this property. The more vacancy in the asset, the more likely that that’s going to go back to the bank or the lender, and you might have an opportunity to pick that up, and just start talking to retail leasing agents around that property to get information and get knowledge. If your instinct is this was successful before, it’s probably going to be successful again. When I buy, I look for strip centers that are parallel to busy streets. So there’s no L-shaped corner spaces. They’re just flushed to a main street.

I like high-income neighborhoods, high-income demographics where people have a lot of money. So even if they’ve hit a little bit of a hard time, they still have disposable income, and I like smaller– I don’t like power centers, and I’m not really a grocery-anchored center investor. I’m not going to compete with all of the REITs out there that need to invest their money in grocery-anchored. So I look for the multi-tenant, smaller strip centers, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 square feet that are right on the road, lots of traffic, great visibility. That’s where the retailers want to be. They want to have great parking, they want to have great visibility to the main area where there’s a lot of daytime traffic, lots of employee traffic nearby to feed the businesses and the restaurants.

Theo Hicks: Going back to what you said about the properties that have CMBS loans on them, that there weren’t any deals made with those lenders, and so you expect there to be properties going back to the banks. If I want to keep a lookout for that, how do I find those properties? Is there a website I go to, I need to talk to a leasing agent as you said, or someone else?

Beth Azor: I think that you can reach out to the CMBS loan lenders themselves. You can find mortgage brokers and capital market’s investment brokers in your area. Ask the leasing agents who are the top investment sale brokers. They can probably get you in, but it’s really a who you know game there for sure. I don’t think they published lists. There are watch lists, but you need to know who to call to get that information, and it’s a very tight club.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Beth. Is there anything else you want to mention as it relates to shopping centers and COVID or any other call to action you have before we conclude the interview?

Beth Azor: Well, my call to action is go shop local, go out and pick up from your local restaurants, shop your local tenants. Those are small businesses who support our economy all across the country. So shop local, love local. And then if you have any other questions or want any more information for me, I have a website called www.azoracademy.com, and that has a ton of free information. I have over 150 free videos on YouTube under Beth Azor. So anything about retail, leasing, you can find all of the information on either YouTube, bethazor.com or azoracademy.com.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. I’m actually following your advice right now. I’ve got Uber Eats on the way from a local restaurant. So I’m doing what you told me to do already.

Beth Azor: Alright. Good job.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Beth. Thanks for joining us again and providing us with your insights into what you’ve been doing since the onset of the COVID outbreak. The biggest takeaway that I got was you had your days where you talked to the mom and pops where you were more open and listening and sympathetic, and then you put your arm around to talk to the national tenants. You mentioned that you weren’t necessarily just listening, but you were also confirming what you were hearing with the mom and pops. It was by requesting the sales reports to confirm that their revenue had actually gone down or was non-existent.

And then you mentioned that technology called geofencing to check the mobile data at some of your national tenants who claim to have reduction in traffic, whereas in reality, it didn’t. And then you mentioned some of the things that you want to see happen in order to help your residents, people going back to work, how you mentioned how you’re putting up free tutoring in some of your vacant units.

And then you also mentioned that you think that a lot of the malls that closed down aren’t going to reopen. So there’s going to be opportunities for shopping center landlords to bring on new tenants that are traditionally in the mall and you gave some examples of that. And then opportunity wise, in the next few years, you think there’ll be a lot of properties that currently have CMBS loans that will be foreclosed on because there weren’t any deals made with the lenders and in the end, the owners.

And then you also mentioned that if you are interested in buying, make sure that you are buying on centers that are parallel to busy streets, high-income neighborhoods. You don’t like the power centers, you don’t like grocery-anchored, and then it’s very community and neighborhood-based. All of yours are within ten minutes of each other. So pick an area that you already know well. Maybe you already own property there, maybe you live there, and then start figuring out who owns those properties, what their vacancy is right now, how did they perform pre-COVID. Ask your leasing agents to get this information to see if it makes sense to buy.

So Beth, thanks again for joining us. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Beth Azor: Thanks, Theo.

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JF2194: Important Development Deal Steps With Shane Melanson

Shane is a full-time commercial real estate developer who started investing in 2004 and dived into commercial real estate in 2007.  Shane goes step by step on how he goes through a development deal by utilizing one of his very own deals and sharing the details. 

Shane Melanson  Real Estate Background:

  • Full-time commercial real estate developer
  • Started real estate investing in 2004 & specifically has 13 years of commercial real estate experience
  • Portfolio consist of an Apartment building, retail property, and several rental properties and development land
  • Based in Calgary, Alberta
  • Say hi to him at: https://shanemelanson.com/ 
  • Best Ever Book: Keys to the vault 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for more info on PropStream

Best Ever Tweet:

“Just because you think there is a market, doesn’t mean there is, you have to verify before you proceed” – Shane Melanson


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today I’m speaking with Shane Melanson. Shane, how are you doing today?

Shane Melanson: I’m doing great, Theo. Thanks for asking.

Theo Hicks: Well, thanks for joining us. Looking forward to our conversation. Before we get into that, a little bit about Shane’s background – he is a full time commercial real estate developer, he started real estate investing in 2004, and he has 13 years of commercial real estate experience. His portfolio consists of apartment buildings, retail property, several rental properties, and developed land. He is based in Calgary, Alberta, and you say hi to him at shanemelanson.com. So Shane, could you tell us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Shane Melanson: Sure. My background is, I grew up in a small town. So I wasn’t born into developing or investing in commercial real estate. Both my parents were teachers, and when I grew up, most of the jobs I did were labor. I built logging roads and… Anyways, probably my first year of university, I was back in Whitecourt, and I was working for a good friend of mine, his dad, building roads. My buddy, who is quite entrepreneurial and pretty successful, probably five or six years older than me, brought an investment opportunity to my dad and myself. Just to condense it, the deal didn’t work out. I put all $13,000, which for a 19-year-old kid or 18-year-old kid, that’s a lot of money. But my dad, he remortgaged his house and put $100,000 into that investment, and unfortunately, just saw it evaporate. So they had just paid off their home, and now he was going to spend the next ten years – he was a principal, my mom is a grade one teacher – to pay off that mistake. So that set me on a bit of a different tangent, where I thought the only way to be wealthy was to work hard and save money, but that only gets you so far.

So I think I was in my fourth year of university. Well, I took longer in university because I partied and worked multiple jobs. But my best friend at the time, I was living with him, and he was investing in residential real estate, and he had about three or four homes and I was noticing that he was living– he had no payments, because he had roommates that were paying for his mortgage. He invited me to a real estate conference up here in Canada called REin. So I went to it, I started to learn more about this concept of investing in real estate. I was still very jaded from losing money in the past. But I realized that if I was going to get ahead, that I needed to expand beyond just trading time for money. So I got into fixing and flipping. I went full into real estate. I got my real estate license, my mortgage license, I worked as an appraiser or an assessor, I should say. Then I was in urban planning. I got a job at Sun Life. That was where I got into commercial real estate. There I was a lender, and I was in a meeting one day with two gentlemen that were syndicating a real estate deal that was about $12 or $13 million. They were maybe 10, 15 years older than myself, but I learned that you could pull money from high net worth individuals and buy these larger properties. But it was wasn’t until I met my father-in-law that I was actually able to do a deal like that myself. So I tried to compress my history into how I get into commercial real estate…

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing. So maybe tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now.

Shane Melanson:  Sure. So today, what I do primarily is… Well, between 2016 and 2019, I was doing mainly developments, and the reason for that was, I found the market to be hyper-competitive and I was looking for a way to leverage the skillset that I had, and that was going out and finding opportunities. So for example, we found three acres of industrial land by the airport. We tied it up for four months, spent some money, call it $30,000 to $40,000 probably or more on architectural plans, drawings, marketing material, and we pre-sold 70% before we removed conditions. So this was an off-market deal, or maybe better to call it a pocket listing from residential brokers that were trying to do more commercial. So that was deal number one. We ended up pre-selling the entire building by the time we closed.

So our risk then, was really on execution because my partner Jason, who’s got a lot of development experience – and I’ve got some, but he’s really more the hands-on and I was more on the money-raising, marketing, selling and negotiating with the tenants… That was a very good deal. We sold out in, I think, 16 months. Sold out, meaning that the actual condo units were sold off to the end-user. And then we found a retail property. We secured an anchor tenant there; that’s on about two acres, and we’re just actually developing phase two. I’ve got offers on multifamily and to do some land development for purpose-built, smaller, under 50-unit multifamily right now here in Calgary. So that’s what I’m up to.

Theo Hicks: Do you mind walking us through with more specifics on that first deal you were talking about? Maybe some numbers as well?

Shane Melanson: Sure. We bought 2.9 acres. I think it was $925 an acre. Our construction hard costs were about $135 a foot, and then obviously, you have soft costs. So let’s just say the all-in number on 30… There’s differences between what was the gross square footage versus the net square footage in terms of what you actually sell, but let’s just call it 35,000 square feet, and we were selling anywhere from $300 to $340 a square foot, depending on the size of the bay, the location, and these were small bay industrial warehouses. So a person might say, “Wow, $300 bucks sounds like a lot per square foot.” We have to remember these were three buildings, so you have less economies of scale. Number two, you’ve got smaller base, so a lot more demising walls, more HVAC rooftop units. So all this adds to the cost of being able to do an industrial development. We also didn’t have the– what’s the correct term. Our site coverage was much less than you would have in, say, a typical industrial development. You might see 40% to 44% site coverage. But because this was more retail office industrial, we were closer to 30% or 29.5%, I think, was the actual site coverage. So your cost per square foot of land goes up. If you look at $925 an acre, we’re probably $64 to $66 per square foot. So happy to break it down into more detail or walk you through how that deal all came together, but–

Theo Hicks: I’m curious to see how that came together because again, I’m not as familiar with development deals. I think our audiences isn’t as well. So maybe try to look at the specific numbers. Maybe walk us through more specifically how you found it. And then after you found it, you said you held it out for a little while and spent money on certain things. What happens during that process? And then maybe take us more like a step by step process through that deal.

Shane Melanson: Sure. So this deal, the step by step was two gentlemen brought us the opportunity Like I said, it was off-market. It was owned by a very large developer. So generally, in those situations, you don’t get to negotiate much on price. We tried, but they said, “Here, take it or leave it.” So we said, “Okay, you want the price. I want terms.” So we tied it up for four months, because I learned on a previous development where I was involved, I was the CEO of a company where we did 1,153 acres resorts in Ontario. So in that deal, what I learned very quickly was just because you think there’s a market, you have to verify it, and the only way to verify it is to actually get money and deposits. So what we did is, we said, “We think that the market is x and we tested it, and we were wrong. The market wasn’t 3,000 to 5,000 square foot base. It was 1,350 to 1800 square foot base.” And really what that meant was a price point under $500,000. So what I did  is I said, “Okay, based on that, let’s design three buildings so that we can maximize the site coverage. Here’s the renderings,” and we told our brokers — even though I’m a licensed commercial real estate agent, I could have done that, I didn’t have the relationships in that area of Calgary. So we essentially gave up, whatever you want to call it, paid our brokers very well, about $550,000, I think, in commissions. But they were responsible for profits of over $2 million.

So four months due diligence, multiple iterations, going back to the market, and really, I think it’s important having proper expectations of what an agent does. An agent is there to get the deal, to bring two parties together, and then it was really up to my partner and I to negotiate and make sure that those deals a, closed and b, we were designing buildings that these guys were going to be able to occupy and run their businesses out of.

Theo Hicks: I just want to jump in really quickly. So you’re talking about this broker is with the people who are going to actually lease or buy the [unintelligible [00:12:01].20] once they’re developed. Is that what you’re saying?

Shane Melanson: That’s correct. Yeah. So the broker that brought us the land also went out and pre-sold these units. So when I say pre-sold, they’re no different than when you could build a rental apartment building or you could build for sale, for condos. This was a condominiumized industrial building, and there was 24 units. So we needed about 70% pre-sales before a, we could get construction financing and b, before I felt comfortable going out and raising capital from investors because I didn’t want — a, I wasn’t gonna build it on spec, or speculating that we could sell it. So really, it was relying on our agents to bring us qualified buyers and we secured those with letters of intent, and then switch to purchase and sale agreements. We put the money in escrow, and that was verification that there was demand for the product we were building.

Theo Hicks: So did you actually get the money first?

Shane Melanson: Well, there’s different ways… The money goes into our lawyers’ trust account, and there are ways that developers can access it. We didn’t want to jump through those hoops, so we raised money from our investors. I think in this deal, we raised $2.7 million. So that meant we bought the land outright, and we have money for soft costs. The deposits were there and we did not draw down on them. We had a construction loan from our bank, RBC. So once you hit certain milestones, you’re able to start drawing down. So I want to say, in this case, we were able to build those three buildings, including site work in under 11 months. I think it was even closer to eight months once we started actually doing the construction.

But I think it’s important for people to know that there was about a six-month period where you’re going in for development permits. In here in Calgary, you have what’s called the DSSP, which is your deep services plan, about how water is going to move around on your site. And that took four months, about three months longer than we had anticipated.

Shane Melanson: So in Calgary, one of the other things is you’ve got winter. So all of a sudden, you’ve got a fixed price contract from your general contractor, but that doesn’t include heating and hoarding. So if you’re building and pouring concrete, for example, in the winter, tack on 80,000 bucks plus or minus or more if you’re pouring concrete, doing taping and mudding… So there’s a lot of things that a developer learns when you’re getting into a deal, and I think one of the biggest mistakes I see newer developers or builders making is thinking because they’ve got a fixed price contract, that they’re set. The reality is that there’s a lot of exclusions in those contracts, number one. And then number two, you’re dealing with people. So just because you think someone’s going to show up, a trade is going to do their job, there’s mistakes. And is that trade gonna honor their work? Are they going to come back and fix it? Or are you, the developer, going to be left high and dry? And fortunately, we had an excellent general contractor. Some of the trades squeezed us, so you’ve got to absorb that.

Theo Hicks: So you said it takes 11 months to build the buildings, correct?

Shane Melanson: Yeah, even less than that, actually. Because when you’re just doing steel frame, they go up pretty quick.

Theo Hicks: Okay. So then, once you’re done, at that point, are you completely out of this deal. You get your money, do you pay off the loan, and you’re out completely?

Shane Melanson: In that case, because they were industrial condos, that’s right. Now let’s say, we own one or two, we wouldn’t be able to get out. Now, we also had to set up a condo board, so we had to sit on the board for a year, but we brought in a property manager. But for all intents and purposes, we got our money, we paid our investors back, we closed down the companies and you move on to the next deal. So the next one, the retail I’m working on, that is for lease. So we will keep that and if someone comes along and offers us too much money, we’ll probably sell, but we’re very happy with our tenants and [unintelligible [00:15:38].16] there.

Theo Hicks: So we at Ashcroft do apartment syndications. So obviously the type of person, at least from what I understand, the type of person who invests in apartment syndications have different goals than the type of people who invest in these development deals. So what are the goals of your investors? When you’re talking to them, when they’re trying to figure out if investing in your development deals is going to be a good fit, what are the types of things that they’re saying, that makes you say, “Okay, they’re a good fit,” and maybe what are some things that they say that makes you think that they’re not a good fit?

Shane Melanson: Well, I do multifamily syndications as well, and I would say that the profile of the investors is they’re looking for good returns. In my experience, these investors, high net worth individuals, they’re really betting on the team and their ability to execute. So obviously, if you’re buying a value-add multifamily that has maybe 6% to 10% cash on cash returns and a 15% IRR, well, much less risk. If I’m doing a development deal, these guys are looking for 25% to 35% returns because they understand that there’s more risk. So we explain that upfront and we show them the downside. We show them, “Look, I’ve got my house on the line, and we’re mitigating risks in as many places as possible.” So for example, pre-sales, pre-leasing, you want to verify that demand as much as possible to give comfort both to myself and to my investors.

I think the other thing I would say is some investors– you’re right, I’m very careful. So if someone wants to come into one of these deals, has never invested in commercial real estate, is just looking at the big cash on cash or IRR, and they don’t have an appreciation for the fact that it’s illiquid and they’re putting in their last $100,000 or $150,000, generally speaking, those would not be good investors. Most of the investors I’m dealing with, I would say 70% of the people that come into my deal are either developers themselves, some of them are on publicly traded companies, doctors, dentists, that have a significant net worth, and are looking at this as just another avenue to invest with higher returns, and really they’re betting on the team and a track record.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Shane, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Shane Melanson: I think the best real estate advice I could give someone is that this business is a relationship business, and one of the things that helps me in all of my deals is the fact that I don’t have an ego in the sense that I think I have all the answers. So like I just alluded to, if I’m doing a deal, I’m going to triangulate all my information from mortgage brokers to lawyers to lenders to other developers, and I’m going to also get people with skin in the game that have experience in commercial real estate to guide me and make sure that I’m not making a mistake… Because it’s very easy to fool yourself into thinking you have a great deal, but you really want to test that, and the best way to do it is just from your relationships in the business.

Theo Hicks: Okay Shane, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Shane Melanson: Let’s do it.

Break [00:18:40]:03] to [00:19:43]:04]

Theo Hicks: Okay, Shane, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Shane Melanson: I think the best ever book is a book that I’m reading right now for a second time by Keith Cunningham. Keys to the Vault, I believe it’s called.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Shane Melanson: I would probably go back to commercial brokerage and continuing to help people buy and sell in commercial real estate.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Shane Melanson: There’s a couple of things, but one of them is through the Junior Achievers here in Calgary. Going in and specifically with grade sixers, talking about entrepreneurship as well as some of the stuff that I do with respect to how to invest in real estate.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best place to reach you?

Shane Melanson: Best place is my website, shanemelanson.com. There, you can find my podcast, my book, all that stuff.

Theo Hicks: Well Shane, I appreciate you coming on the show and talking to us today about your background, what you’re doing today, and then your best ever advice. I always enjoy having conversations with people on here that do things that I have very, very minimal knowledge on. So I definitely learned a lot today.

So you walked us through your first deals that you did by yourself, the 2.9-acre deal where you turned it into three different industrial buildings. Something that I thought was interesting, and I really want to think on of myself more is when you talked about how you learned that you need to verify that there is a need, a demand in the market, that you have the right need and demand in the market. So for this deal, you originally thought that it was going to be larger base.

Shane Melanson: That’s right.

Theo Hicks: And then once you actually went through your month of due diligence, you realized that the demand was actually for smaller base. So you do that before you actually go out and raise capital and before you actually start building. You don’t assume you know what you’re doing. So I thought that was very interesting. I’m sure there’s ways that everyone listening, no matter what type of real estate niche you’re investing in, you’re gonna find a way to apply that to your business. I really appreciate you showing that.

And also, you talked about the brokers and how you yourself had a broker’s license, and you could have technically, legally done the pre-sales and gone out and found buyers, but you didn’t really know the market that well, and you knew that you could pay a broker really well, and they’d go out there and make sure that they find you qualified buyers. That you were able to get the pre-sales you needed to order to qualify for financing, and that sure, you pay them upfront a lot, but the ROI from that would be much higher. So you gave us numbers on that as well. And then you also talked about the investor profile for a developer and how typically they’re experienced in developments. It’s not someone who’s putting in their last dollars into a deal and hope to hit it big, and that they are expecting higher returns compared to your value add apartment syndication because of the higher risks involved.

And then your best ever advice which was that this is a relationship business, which I talked about in your broker advice, and then that you realized that you don’t have all the answers and making sure that you’re triangulating and getting all the information you need from the brokers and the lenders and the contractors. And then you also try to work with someone else who has experienced in developments, they have skin in the deal, and that they can guide you so you don’t make any massive mistakes. I really like that. I really like all of the advice that you gave. I’m sure the Best Ever listeners did as well. So again, Shane, thanks for joining us today. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we will talk to you tomorrow.

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JF2191: Retail Shopping Centers With Beth Azor

Beth is the owner of Azor Advisory Services, Inc. with 30 years of experience investing in retail shopping centers. Beth chooses to focus on retail shopping centers because she likes the variety of dealing with all different types of businesses. She shares some advice on how she deals with small business owners versus well-known companies.

 

Beth Azor Real Estate Background:

  • Owner of Azor Advisory Services, Inc. 
  • Has 30 years of investing in retail shopping centers
  • Portfolio consist of 6 centers currently $80 million
  • Based in Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Say hi to her at: https://www.bethazor.com/ 
  • Best Ever Book: The War of Art

Click here for more info on PropStream

Best Ever Tweet:

“The majority of my marketing for new businesses is now through Facebook. Facebook gives me access directly to the decision-maker” – Beth Azor


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, I’ll be speaking with Beth Azor. Beth, how are you doing today?

Beth Azor: I’m doing great, Theo. Thanks for having me.

Theo Hicks: Absolutely, and thanks for joining us. A little bit about Beth – she’s the owner of Azor Advisory Services, she has 30 years of experience investing in real shopping centers, her portfolio consists of six centers currently valued at $80 million. She is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and you can say hi to her at bethazor.com. So Beth, do you mind telling us a little more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Beth Azor: Sure, Theo. So I’m really focused on getting rents today during the post-COVID craze. I am an investor in retail shopping centers. I love retail. I’ve been in the business for about 35 years, started investing about 30 years ago, and all of my shopping centers are within ten minutes of my house, which is great. I have tenants from Starbucks to Aldi to Panera Bread to Verizon. I have mom and pop, small businesses and national tenants. For the last four to five years we’ve been challenged with the whole online sales, and now we’re challenged with having our tenants have not been able to be open for business for two months. But the pent-up demand with consumers shows wonderful signs of rebirth, so we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that own shopping centers these days.

Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. So I actually haven’t talked to someone who has retail shopping centers. I know a lot of people that I’ve talked to for Joe’s business who focuses on collecting rent from tenants who are living there. So are you seeing issues with both the small businesses and the national tenants or is it just one more than the other?

Beth Azor: So the challenge is– and I’ve been likening it to the roller coaster of emotions, because finally what I had to do after about the first two weeks is I had to seriously delineate my days off on certain days talking to the mom and pops and on certain days talking to the nationals… Because as a landlord, when you get on the phone with a mom and pop and they’re crying and you’re talking them off ledges and you’re just trying to keep them wanting to reopen when we can, you have to have empathy and understanding and you don’t want a mass exodus of tenants. And these are local businesses that literally had not been able to punch the cash register going on over 72 days in South Florida. So you had to have one state of mind dealing with them.

On the other hand, you got national tenants with huge balance sheets, Theo; huge balance sheets. And many of them were able to do either drive-thru sale or online sales or curbside pickup sales. So their cash registers were still being run somewhat. Certainly not like in pre-COVID, but they were getting a certain amount of customer traffic and income, and many of them– there were some nice ones, but many of them were not very nice, and making demands to landlords that was not very respectful, courteous or friendly.

So the first two weeks I was taking phone calls from one to the other, one to the other, and I did not really have my armor up. So I decided after two weeks, “Okay, I’m going to bifurcate this and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I’ll deal with my mom and pop tenants, and on Mondays and Wednesdays, I’ll deal with which sometimes were very rude national retailers.” Some of them I knew from being in the industry and going to conferences. I think that they were in job-saving mode and they didn’t like coming to me saying, “I can pay my rent, but I’m not going to pay my rent.”

I’m sure you and your listeners saw the article in Wall Street Journal and many other industry magazines or newsletters about a big national coffee tenant who sent all of us letters saying for the next 12 months we were going to need some rental abatement or deferral or waiver or whatever. So I came to the conclusion that these representatives of these Fortune 500 companies or public companies, they knew what they were doing to us, the little guys – I only own six centers – and they felt bad. And I think when people feel bad and feel guilty, they don’t really know how to handle it and sometimes they use different emotions than we landlords would like them to use.

Theo Hicks: Who do you talk to at these national companies? Is there a leasing person they have that you talked to constantly every month?

Beth Azor: There are real estate managers who sometimes are jumping in the fray on this because they’re not out looking for new stores. They can’t travel. So they’ve jumped in to help with their companies with these rental discussions. I have spoken to CFOs. I have spoken to attorneys. So it runs the gamut. It’s not consistent across the board. With the small businesses, you’re dealing with the small business owners, literally the mom and pop owner.

Theo Hicks: So we’ve talked on the show a lot about apartments and the types of deals and payment programs and things like that, that the property managers and the owners are having with their residents. So not talking about the nationals, but the more of the mom and pops. What type of, I guess, agreements have you come to? What are some examples of payment programs that you’re having at the retail shopping centers that are owned by mom and pops?

Beth Azor: Sure. It depends on a bunch of things. It depends on if they moved out, could you release it and how fast, if they have infrastructure in their space that is valuable to either them or a replacement tenant. If they are, let’s say, a jeweler who, a competitor, after waking up in about 30 days saying, “Wow, I’ve got a lot more vacancy than I ever thought. Let me go down the street and try to steal some other tenants that are easy”, midnight move type things. How long is their lease before it comes up for renewal, and what are things that they have we would like back? So maybe a mom and pop has a termination right. Maybe a mom and pop has an exclusive. Let’s say they’re a hair salon and they have a nail salon exclusive. Well, for me to be able to put in a nail salon when this hair salon hasn’t done nails in ten years, that’s very valuable. So you can make some exchanges with the mom and pops and even with the national tenants in exchange to give them some deferral.

Pretty much across the board – and I consult for landlords all around the country – we’ve all been trying to do deferrals like kicking the can, not full out waivers. So where we might do 50%, 30% rents over April and May, maybe take the difference out of their security deposit, and then anything leftover, they are to repay it in 2021; maybe the first six months. We don’t want to move it to the end of the lease term, because we want the tenant to renew and take the bump in the rent that the market rent in an option would include. So trying to get back any difference of any deferred rent in 2021, even if it has to be over 6 months or 12 months, it is not the end of the game there. It’s not a bad thing.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing all that information. So let’s maybe transition away from the COVID and talk more about your current portfolio. So you have six centers. Are these things that you’ve had for a long time or are you always actively selling one each year and buying one each year? What’s your overall business plan?

Beth Azor: I like to hold them. So the one that I’ve had the longest I bought in ’08, and then I’ve probably bought a shopping center every two years or developed. I developed from ground-up a five tenant shopping center with a Starbucks, a Verizon, a Blaze Pizza. I built that one from the ground up. I bought an old strip club in town. The town was getting rid of strip clubs. I called the owner and got them to sell me the building, knocked it down and built a five strip shopping center. And then three years ago, I bought an old office building that was built in the 70s. I knocked that down and built a Starbucks center on one half of the parcel, and now I have a future parcel to develop on. Most of my centers are unanchored strip centers, but I do have one that’s a grocery-anchored center, and that is anchored by Aldi. It’s a supermarket in parts of the country.

Theo Hicks: What does that mean, unanchored versus anchored?

Beth Azor: So anchor means a big-box tenant like a grocer or a Walmart or a Target or a large tenant that would anchor the rest of the small retail. So it’s like in the old days with the malls where Sears and Penney’s and Macy’s would drive traffic to the mall. They wouldn’t pay as much rent, but the other ancillary tenants would pay more, and they were paying for the traffic that those other anchors, those larger retailers would bring to the property. That’s the way it is. In our center – I have a Starbucks, a Blaze Pizza, a Verizon,  a Select Comfort and an ice cream. They’re all the same size, pretty much 2,000 or 3000 square feet. There isn’t one major anchor that drives the traffic… Versus I have another shopping center that’s 75,000 square feet and 20,000 of it is Aldi supermarket, and they drive a lot of traffic to the center. So tenants will pay more rent to be next to a traffic driver such as a supermarket.

Theo Hicks: Why do you choose retail shopping centers over other asset classes, other retail classes or just multifamily or warehouses? Why would you choose this one specifically?

Beth Azor: I like the variety of dealing with all of the different businesses. One day I might be dealing with an ice cream store owner, the next day with an insurance guy, the next day with Panera Bread, the next day with an athletic shoe store, the next day with a hair salon, Sherwin-Williams Paints… It’s a big variety of businesses and I like that.

Sometimes, we landlords have to evict people. Theo, I always had the motto, I never wanted to manage or own anything that had a bed in it because I didn’t want to evict someone from their bed. I know all of your listeners, unfortunately, sometimes have had to do that. So it’s not a fun time at any time when you have to evict somebody, but evicting someone from their business versus from their home, I can swallow that a little bit easier.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, I like the philosophy. This is an off the beaten path question a little bit, but do you get any discounts at these places like a Target or at all the whatever? I’m just curious.

Beth Azor: No, I would tell you that there probably are some property owners that do that. I learned very early on in my career, and it’s one of the first things I tell anyone that I hire, “Don’t go to the sports bar and ring up the tab, because there’s no discounts.” In fact– and tenants will try to give my maintenance guys or my property managers, “We got you this time”, and absolutely not. It’s a firing offense… Because at the time that I go and collect rent and I’m like, “Why haven’t you paid rent and you’re three weeks late?” “Well, your maintenance guy was in here and look at this bar tab.” I never want to have that conversation. So even my kids who are now 19 and 17, they are always with me hanging around the shopping center, and I have tenants who try to give them stuff, and they know that they’ll be in big trouble if they take anything for free from one of my tenants. But tenants would offer it, for sure, to get on your good side. It’s just a policy that I have to not accept it.

Theo Hicks: What does your day to day look like now compared to when you first started doing this? What types of things do you do now in the business as opposed to what you were doing when you first got started?

Beth Azor: So when I first got started, I would prospect by going store to store, and I still do that, but now I do more Facebook and Instagram prospecting, because I can get through to the gatekeeper so much faster. So back 30 years ago, there wasn’t such a thing as Facebook and Instagram. So I would just literally go hit 40 stores a day, go knocking on stores saying, “Hey, I own shopping centers in the area. What are your expansion plans? Do you want another location? Do you want to reload?” I still do that probably only about once or twice a month, and every day I prospect with social media and Facebook.

The responses that I get, I’ve never, in 35 years of doing business, have seen the response I get from Facebook and Instagram, social media prospecting, because you’re bypassing the gatekeeper. 90% of the businesses that have Facebook and Instagram pages, those pages are monitored by the business owner, because if someone’s complaining about the business, they don’t want their store clerk or their gatekeeper to see that and potentially erase it. They want to handle it themselves. So you can prospect them through direct message on Facebook, and it’s crazy. It’s about a 40% response rate within 24 hours, and of that 40% that responds, 90% will say, “No thank you,” and one or two of the responses will say, “Where is your property? Send me more information.” It’s just remarkable.

Theo Hicks: It’s interesting. So it’s worked for a Starbucks, for example?

Beth Azor: The Nationals, it’s a networking thing. So 90% of the Nationals have what’s called an exclusive tenant rep broker, and they are a local person who knows the local market knowledge and they hire them. They don’t pay them anything because we the landlords would pay the broker if we did a deal, but the landlords choose them as their exclusive representative. So if I wanted to do a Starbucks deal, I would know that this guy Don in our market reps them and I would call up Don and say, “Hey, I’ve got a new deal. I just bought a piece of land. I’m going to develop a shopping center. Starbucks isn’t anywhere around here. What do you think? Are they looking in this area?” And then Don would say, “Yeah, that’s definitely in our path of where we’re looking,” and I would be doing the deal with Don. Eventually, the real estate manager would come in and maybe I’d meet them on a site tour if I didn’t already know them.

So you collect those acquaintances and those connections by attending shopping center conferences. Before COVID we had a lot of those. You could literally be at a conference every other month and that’s where you’d shake hands in the old days and meet who’s repping who and who works for who. So simultaneously, you’re canvassing the locals to fill the local spaces and you’re collecting your connections of the people who work for the Nationals so you know who to call if you have an opportunity that you think would be good for them.

Theo Hicks: For someone who wants to get started in this shopping center, retail niche, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever for that person?

Beth Azor: Try to offer to work for free to a shopping center owner that owns properties, versus a broker. So if you’ve go to work for a brokerage firm, you’ll be responsible to have to go get your own listings, which is very, very difficult. But if you could find someone who owns six shopping centers like me or 20 shopping centers or 100 shopping centers, and anyway you can get in there– I have kids from college that come and shadow me all the time, and I always tell them, “Shadowing leads to internships and internships leads to jobs.” So if retail is something of interest, start figuring out who in your market owns the shopping centers and start knocking on their door. You certainly need to have a real estate license to be a leasing agent, but leasing is the future. I say to everyone always that go, “How did you end up owning six shopping centers?”, “I started as a leasing agent.” If you can figure out how to fill vacancies, you’re very, very, very valuable; very, very valuable. So be that person, learn how to fill a vacancy, and then the rest will be very easy.

Theo Hicks: And then a few other ways to fill the vacancies of what you talked about – social media for small business and then finding that Don in your local area for nationals.

Beth Azor: Exactly, exactly.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Okay, thanks for sharing that. Alright Beth, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Beth Azor: Sure.

Break [00:19:05]:03] to [00:20:07]:09]

Theo Hicks: Alright, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Beth Azor: So I have a book club for leasing agents every month, and last month the book was supposed to be The War of Art, but I changed it, Theo, to Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl… Because we’re all going through a lot, and I think state of mind and perspective is crucial. So that was the most recent book that had a lot of impact on me because you can’t compare what we’re going through to the Holocaust. But sometimes when you’re stuck in your house for two months with kids and your business is severely being impacted, you can go down into a deep place. So I had about 100 people on that book club call and we all agreed that it was the perfect book to switch to in this time. So I’ll say that one.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, The War of Art. Make sure you definitely revisit that one. That’s one of my favorites.

Beth Azor: Cool.

Theo Hicks: Steven Pressfield, right?

Beth Azor: Yeah, I moved it up to September, I think. Yeah.

Theo Hicks: That’s a very solid book. Alright, if your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Beth Azor: Wow. Move to Hawaii.

Theo Hicks: There you go. I guess you can take your own rowboat right now. You can’t really fly there.

Beth Azor: Yeah, exactly. I’d have to wait, yeah.

Theo Hicks: Besides your first deal and your last deal, what’s your best ever deal?

Beth Azor: Buying the strip club. So I say I bought a strip club and built a strip center, and the city loves me for it. So I get more than my neighbors do because it helped clean up the city.

Theo Hicks: There you go. On the opposite end, what is a deal you lost the most money on? How much did you lose and what lessons did you learn?

Beth Azor: I bought a Winn-Dixie shopping center. We did a Staples office supply. I bought Winn-Dixie. They went bankrupt so I bought their lease. We spent $1.2 million. We had done the Staples lease at 20 bucks a square foot and thought, “Wow, this is awesome. I could probably get the Winn-Dixie at $15.” We never leased the Winn-Dixie. We were never able to lease it. Even though in the beginning, we had Walmart looking at it and a lot of people– I think my arrogance and my confidence in leasing the Staples so quickly at such a high rent blinded me. So once we had got control of the Winn-Dixie, I thought I could get $15, when I should have probably been happy and taken Walmart’s number at about $8 to $10. But my partner and I just believed that market knowledge was key and we just did the staples for $20, so certainly, we could get $15. And we ended up giving the keys back to the bank three years later. We had a balloon mortgage. The note was $16 million. We told the lender we thought it was worth $12. They said we can’t negotiate with borrowers, so we handed the keys back and they sold it later to someone for $12 a year later, and personally, I lost about a half a million and my partner lost probably about 5 million.

Theo Hicks: I had to ask you this earlier… Very quickly, how are you funding these deals?

Beth Azor: So the smaller ones I do personally, just with income from the other properties that I’ve saved up or just earned, and some I do family and friend money. I used to do institutional. That deal that lost the 5 million was BlackRock, an institutional partner, and after that deal, I said, “I would not buy properties that big anymore and have to have clients like institutions,” because I was happy to have them at the time, but it was a difficult relationship, obviously, near the end. So I decided smaller properties with family and friends.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Okay. Another lightning round question. What’s the best ever way you’d like to give back?

Beth Azor: Well, currently I’m doing something called the Small Business series, and I’m interviewing small businesses and posting the interviews on my website and on my YouTube channel, and I’m trying to promote small business because they need it. Every time I call and ask if they want to be interviewed, they go, “What’s the catch or how much?” Nothing. I want to get the word out that you’re the best nail salon in town, or the best rib guy, or the best personal fitness gym. It’s been so rewarding, and they’re getting business from it, and it’s just been great. So right now, that’s my best way of giving back.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what’s the best ever place to reach you?

Beth Azor: Probably LinkedIn. Beth Azor on LinkedIn, but I’m also on Facebook, on Instagram, and my website bethazor.com. So type in Beth Azor, you can find me.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, Beth. Well, I really appreciate you coming on this show. I can’t believe this has been only 20 minutes. We’ve gotten so much information about retail shopping centers in just such a short amount of time. So we started off by talking about some of the challenges you’re facing with the Coronavirus. So we talked about how that’s different at the mom and pops, as opposed to national tenants. You talked about how you’re trying to delineate your days, so you’re not having this emotional rollercoaster anymore of talking to mom and pops who are very upset and national tenants who are not being as friendly as they probably should be. Then we also transitioned to talking about your business plan. So you’re buying and developing every two years. You really like to hold on to your property; the longest one being in 2008. We talked about the two main reasons why you like retail shopping centers. My personal favorite being the second one, which is you don’t want to own anything that has a bed because you don’t want to evict someone from their bed. I think it’s a really good philosophy.

We also talked about reasons why it’s not smart to take any discount or concession from your tenants because they might use that as an excuse to not pay rent. We talked about how your prospecting has changed from a lot of door knocking to now doing it on Facebook and Instagram for the small businesses, and then it’s still the local brokers that you meet at the shopping center conferences for the national accounts. And then lastly, we talked about your best ever advice, which was if you want to get started in retail shopping center, find someone who owns a center and either shadow them or be a leasing agent and help them fill vacancies, because you said that being a leasing agent is going to be the future, and if you can help owners fill vacancies, then you’re gonna be very valuable to them. So again, Beth, really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your best ever advice. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Beth Azor: Thanks, Theo. Thanks for having me.

Website disclaimer

This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.

No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.

Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.

Oral Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2151: Construction Owner and Investor Point Of View With Jorge Abreu

Jorge Abreu decided to leave real estate because he was not passionate about working in the corp world. He ended up developing a construction company called JNT Construction and now is the CEO of Elevate, a commercial investment group. He is now a full time active and passive real estate investor with 14 years of experience. 

 

Jorge Abreu Real Estate Background:

  • CEO of Elevate Commercial Investment Group and owner of JNT Construction
  • Is a full-time active and passive real estate investor with 14 years of real estate experience
  • He has wholesaled 200+ properties, flipped 100+ and developed several construction projects from the ground up
  • Current portfolio consists of 1,720 doors as a GP and 1,400+ as a LP
  • Based in Dallas, TX
  • Say hi to him at: www.ElevateCIG.com 

 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“If a contractor doesn’t have a presence online, it is a huge red flag.” – Jorge Abreu


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Jorge Abreu. How are you doing, Jorge?

Jorge Abreu: I’m doing good, Joe. Glad to be on your show.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I’m glad to have you, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Jorge – he’s the CEO of Elevate Commercial Investment Group, and owner JNT Construction. Full-time active and passive real estate investor, with 14 years of real estate experience. He’s wholesaled 200+ properties, flipped 100+ properties, and developed several construction projects from the ground up.

His current portfolio consists of 1,720 doors as a general partner, and over 1,400 doors as a limited partner. Based in Dallas. With that being said, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Jorge Abreu: Yeah, definitely. As far as the background, I graduated from university with an electrical engineering degree. I went to work for UPS in the engineering department. Probably my senior year before I graduated I knew I didn’t wanna do engineering, I didn’t wanna be in a cubicle, crunching numbers all day, so I started looking at some other successful individuals and noticed that a lot of them built their wealth through real estate… So I started getting educated on real estate investing, did some single-family deals, decided to quit my W-2 job, start doing real estate full-time… That’s where I’ve found my passion.

Then, while trying to scale the single-families, I started doing a lot of fix and flips, and ran into some issues with some general contractors, so I decided to open a construction company to help scale that aspect of it. So then the construction company kind of took off on its own as well, and then about 3,5 years ago I kind of looked back, looked at what I had built, and realized that a lot of the stuff I had done was very transactional, and I didn’t have that constant cashflow coming in, and I also hadn’t built that legacy, or that wealth… And that’s what kind of turned me into looking into multifamily.

Luckily, I had some clients through the construction company that were multifamily syndicators, and they kind of opened my eyes to that world. Before then I never thought about purchasing a 200+ unit property, didn’t think it was possible… But with the syndication, that kind of changes things. So at that point — at first, I tried doing both the single-family and the multifamily. I’m a big Tony Robbins fan, and he always talks about focus is where the energy flows, so I decided to just stop doing single-family altogether and just put all my focus into multifamily. Since then, it’s really paid off.

Joe Fairless: Well, let’s talk a little bit about your story. Your senior year in college you worked so hard — you were about to get a degree in electrical engineering and you realized your senior year you don’t wanna do what your degree is in. Electrical engineering, for people I speak to, is  a very tough degree to get…

Jorge Abreu: [laughs] Yes, it is.

Joe Fairless: Were you demoralized by that, or what was your mindset?

Jorge Abreu: That’s a great question. Thinking back, it’s a five-year degree. A lot of math, so a lot of hard work to get past those classes… And I wasn’t demoralized. I had found what I knew I wanted to do, so more than anything I was excited. And I knew this was gonna have to be part of my path to get there – to come out of university making a decent  salary, and then do what I really wanted to do on the side, until I built that up enough to where I can do that full-time.

Joe Fairless: You said you looked at successful people and a lot of them got money through real estate… Who were some of the people you look at?

Jorge Abreu: Donald Trump was one. I know there’s a lot of people that love and a lot of people that hate him. Back then he was mostly a lot of real estate… And then Ron LeGrand I don’t know if you’re familiar with him. He’s been around for a long time.

Joe Fairless: Yup.

Jorge Abreu: So he was the first seminar I went to when I ended up signing up for his coaching, and that’s really what got me going.

Joe Fairless: And then you decided to quit your job at UPS in the engineering department… I imagine, since you majored in electrical engineering, you’re a very thoughtful, logical thinking person… What was your thought process that led you to say “I’m ready to leave this cushy W-2 job and go full-time in real estate”?

Jorge Abreu: It took a couple good deals to close for me to really prove to myself that I can do this, and I can pay consistently… And it got to the point where it was costing me money to be going to my W-2, and I think that’s where I’m very numbers-driven… So when I saw that, it just made sense.

Joe Fairless: That makes a lot of sense, if you have proof that you’re making more money doing your own thing than your full-time job, and it’s actually costing you money to be there. As far as GC issues –  you said you came across general contractor issues, and then you started your own construction company… What were the issues? And maybe if you have a story that you can share about some issues, even better.

Jorge Abreu: Just overall getting burned, paying the contractor too much in advance, and then having them disappear… That happened to us twice. This was back in South Florida; now I live in Dallas, like you mentioned… But I’m originally from South Florida.

Then when we made the move to Dallas after the ’08 recession, the same thing happened here. I think that was the last draw, when it happened here in Dallas; I was maybe thinking “Okay, maybe it’s something in South Florida.”

Joe Fairless: There’s crooks everywhere.

Jorge Abreu: Yeah, that’s for sure.

Joe Fairless: Why did you pay too much of an advance the second time, after being burned the first time?

Jorge Abreu: That’s a great question, too. Just not the right move, obviously… But when you’ve got a lot going on, and trying to scale… I can definitely say that – and this has always happened – I always trust individuals right off the bat, and I’m very optimistic. I finally have learned – it took maybe a couple more times, but… Yeah, that’s mainly why.

Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about some specific deals. So you’ve wholesaled 200+ properties, flipped 100+, and developed several construction projects, and you’re also a GP on deals, and an LP. As far as the development of construction projects from the ground up, tell us about one.

Jorge Abreu: So as the market go hotter – residential is what I’m talking about right now – it got harder to find good deals… And what we decided to do was leverage our construction company to create deals. It started doing a small addition – I know I can add 500 sqft to this house, and it’s gonna cost me $100/sqft, but I can turn around and sell that extra square footage for $200/sqft. Then we started ripping the  roof off of houses and adding a second floor, to the point where we just finally went to the next step where we demolished the house and started building new ones. And then on the multifamily side, actually working on the first one, on a large multifamily scale, which – we’re just in the entitlement phase right now.

Joe Fairless: With the renovation process where you’re building out 500 sqft more, compared to building a brand new house after you demolish it – what are some main differences, other than it’s just larger? But besides that, maybe from an approval process, or from some other type of consideration that we might not think of, and that you’ve discovered when you got into it.

Jorge Abreu: Most people would actually think that addition would be easier than the new construction, which is not necessarily true. Building a new construction is easier. The permitting is harder, obviously, and that’s one reason why we were ripping the roof off and adding a second floor, versus just tearing the whole house down – it’s because the permitting process is a lot quicker, a lot easier… You can get off the ground quicker, because you already have your foundation… But on a new construction, once you have that foundation poured and you start building it, it’s a lot easier than the existing, because you don’t run into plumbing pipes that are broken… You never know what you’re gonna find behind the walls that you’re tearing down.

Joe Fairless: That makes sense. Permitting is harder for new construction, but the construction aspect of it is easier. You gave the example of $100 versus $200. $100 to build the 500 sqft, but you can get $200 on the sale… What were the ratios that you were looking at with new construction when you were doing them?

Jorge Abreu: So we started doing some higher-end single-family  homes, and that was more of the ratio maybe — we were building it for more like $130 to $140/sqft, and then turning around and selling that for $240. I’m not sure exactly what the ratio is there, but…

Joe Fairless: That’s fine; that helps, that comparison. When you say higher-end homes, what’s the end price point range?

Jorge Abreu: Most of them were a million to — I think the most expensive one we did was right around 1.5 million.

Joe Fairless: Any of them sat on the market for too long and made you sweat?

Jorge Abreu: Absolutely. [laughter] Unfortunately.

Joe Fairless: What happened with one of them?

Jorge Abreu: There was one that location — they always say “location, location, location.” It was a good location overall, but it was a little closer than we realized to a main street, and we kept hearing that comeback in the feedback, that they didn’t like the fact that it was — we’re talking about maybe 4-5 houses in from a main street. So it sat out a bit longer than we expected.

Joe Fairless: Out of your deals, thinking back, what deal have you lost the most amount of money on?

Jorge Abreu: Hm… It’s a tough question. We’ve definitely lost on some deals. I won’t say we haven’t. I know there was a renovation we did… It was something with a neighbor… I can’t remember the exact deal, but I know we ended up losing maybe 20k or so on it.

Joe Fairless: You don’t remember — not specific, but high-level, why you lost the money? In case we can learn from that, that’s the only reason I’m asking…

Jorge Abreu: Yeah, for sure. We ran into some issues, so we had to replace all the plumbing. You’re originally from Texas, I believe, so you know about the foundation shifting…

Joe Fairless: Yes… [laughs]

Jorge Abreu: Okay… So the foundation had shifted quite a bit, which we saw that going in, but we did not expect to have to replace all the sewer lines, which we did… So that cost us some money. And then on top of that, it ended up sitting longer than we expected, we ended up having to drop the price… So  a mixture of spending more on the renovations than we had expected, and then having to sell it for less.

Joe Fairless: Do you still have your construction company?

Jorge Abreu: Yes.

Joe Fairless: Knowing that you have a successful construction company, what are some things that you can share with people about the construction process, that you know because you own the company and you see from the construction side what things are like? That maybe are either missed, or things that other investors should realize about the construction process. I know it’s a broad question, but maybe think of it from the standpoint of “When we get quotes from construction companies”, or the payment process, or “Here’s some unique things you could do to work with a company…” Just anything that comes to mind.

Jorge Abreu: No, for sure; I’ve actually done quite a bit of webinars and stuff on these things, because I feel like it is an aspect of multifamily investing that a lot of people don’t have a background in, and they do some of these things wrong…But I think it starts with the contractor that you hire; you need to do your homework. You need to call references, you need to make sure that they have insurance – that they have general liability insurance, and enough to cover if something was to go wrong. That they have a presence online… Nowadays if a contractor doesn’t have a presence online, it’s a huge red flag. So that’s one – do your homework when you’re hiring the contractor.

And then while the project is — well, not even while the project is going on… So once again, before  you hire them, dig into how they communicate exactly. How are you going to communicate with me throughout this project? Are you going to give me a weekly report? Are  you gonna give me daily reports? Do you have a software that you use to actually manage the project? Are you gonna give me schedules? How do I hold you accountable? Those kinds of things. How do you handle change orders? That’s big, because if you’re picking a contractor solely on price, you’ve gotta be careful; you’ve gotta look at the details and make sure that they have a detailed scope of work. If not, they may change-order you to death, which I’ve seen several times… So yeah, I’m not sure if there’s something else… I can keep going on and on.

Joe Fairless: That’s good. So when I meet with a general contractor, what are 2-3 things I need to make sure that I either ask him/her, or get from him/her? I know there’s more than that, but what are 2-3 things that “Hey, you’d better ask or get this information from him/her before they do the job”?

Jorge Abreu: For sure you need to get a detailed scope of work, that lays out exactly what you’re getting. If they delivered a paragraph with a price at the bottom, I will not accept that. Make sure that if they’re supplying some type of materials, that you have an actual allowance of what they’re supplying and how much they’re budgeting for that. And their insurance – make sure that they supply a certificate of insurance, and that it has the owner of the property’s name on it.

Joe Fairless: What do you mean by owner of the property’s name?

Jorge Abreu: You know, each property is gonna have its own LLC, most likely… So that should be mentioned on there as additionally insured.

Joe Fairless: Okay, cool.

Jorge Abreu: Yeah, it just makes it easier if something does go wrong – it makes it easier to file the claim on that insurance, if it goes that far.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Got it.

Jorge Abreu: And the third thing I would say would be the communication – really dig into how they’re gonna communicate with you, and have them lay that out for you.

Joe Fairless: Got it. You actually gave a bonus; you gave four, so even better. Detailed scope of work, materials allowance, make sure that you’re additionally ensured on their certificate, and the communication.

Taking a step back, based on your experience, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Jorge Abreu: Best real estate investing advice ever… Get focused. Don’t get distracted with all the different noise that’s out there. That’s a pretty broad statement, but that can go for so many things. Real estate alone – if you decide that you wanna be a real estate investor, get focused on what type of real estate you’re actually gonna do, what area you’re gonna do it in, what type of properties you’re gonna look for, and then go all-in… And don’t try to be a real estate investor while selling things on Amazon, while doing something else. Conquer the one thing in front of you, focus on it, and then possibly start adding other streams of income.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Jorge Abreu: I’m ready.

Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:18:55].23] to [00:19:38].15]

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Jorge Abreu: Recently, it would have to be Atomic Habits, which mainly goes over the fact that every day we have habits, a lot of them we don’t even realize it; it’s our subconscious mind just doing things. But if you become aware of that, you can actually replace those bad habits with good habits… And then when you really break it down, the outcome of your life depends on those habits.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Jorge Abreu: That would have to be our five-property portfolio of 1,275 units we closed on end of November, last year.

Joe Fairless: How did you find it?

Jorge Abreu: Found it through a broker.

Joe Fairless: And where are they located?

Jorge Abreu: Houston.

Joe Fairless: Why is that the best ever, because it’s the largest?

Jorge Abreu: Because it’s the largest, yes, and there was a lot that went into getting it closed… So it felt really good getting it there.

Joe Fairless: What was just one of the challenge?

Jorge Abreu: Raising 22 million dollars.

Joe Fairless: Fair enough. When you take a look at that deal and the challenges you came across, what’s one thing that you learned?

Jorge Abreu: If you’re going for a institutional or an equity partner, have several back-ups.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back to the community?

Jorge Abreu: I know our company goals — by the end of this year we wanna have a non-profit organization that we support 100%, and we’re gonna start doing a yearly event, where all the proceeds would go to that organization… And probably doing some other things throughout the year. So that’s not something we’re doing this second, but it’s definitely in our plans.

Things I do right now – I like to educate others. I feel like some people get trapped in the “Okay, I’m supposed to go to the university, get my degree, go work a W-2 job, have my 401K or whatever retirement plan, and that’s it. That’s what I’m gonna do.” And there’s other ways to really be able to build wealth, and other investments, like multifamily and things like that, that aren’t really taught in our school systems.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Jorge Abreu: They can visit my website, which is ElevateCIG.com, or JNTConstruct.com. They can also shoot me an email if they like, at jorge@elevatecig.com, and if they do that, I can send them a couple different contents. I have a free checklist for due diligence for multifamily properties, and a couple other things I can send them.

Joe Fairless: Jorge, thanks for being on the show, talking about your construction management experience, lessons learned, talking about the deals that you’ve done, and what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and the differences and the thought process with new construction versus adding on, versus what you were doing before that, buying existing product and wholesaling.

Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Jorge Abreu: Thank you.

Website disclaimer

This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.

No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.

Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.

Oral Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2140: Unique Ways to Increase NOI with Shopping Centers With Alan Schnur #SkillsetSunday

Alan went from owning apartment buildings and hundreds of homes to now focusing on shopping centers. He decided to sell his portfolio of apartments and single-family homes because of all the work and challenges to scalability. Now he is able to scale and have a model of “set it and forget it” when it comes to dealing with fortune 500 companies and shopping centers.

Alan Schnur previous episode: JF1978

Alan Schnur Real Estate Background:

  • Alan has bought and syndicated more than 2,000 units and managed more than 7,000 units
  • Owns numerous medical, office, warehouse buildings, shopping centers, and custom builds multi million dollar homes
  • Based in Houston, TX
  • Say hi to him at www.gr8partners.com 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“For me, shopping centers are more scalable and more of the “set it and forget it” – Alan Schnur


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever; we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Alan Schnur. How are you doing, Alan?

Alan Schnur: Hey Joe, I’m doing great. How about you?

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m doing great as well, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Alan – he has bought more than 2,000 units via his company’s syndication platform and managed more than 7,000 units. He owns numerous medical office, warehouse buildings, shopping centers and custom-built multi-million dollar homes, based in Houston. Today, we’re gonna be talking about unique ways to massively increase NOI with shopping centers. So first, Alan, do you want to get the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background, and then we’ll roll right into the topic at hand?

Alan Schnur: Sure. Thanks for the background on me, Joe. Again, thanks for having me today. What can I say – I’m a New Yorker, I spend a lot of time in New York. Actually, I worked in the World Trade Center in 2001, and I was fortunate enough to have left the building the day before on a business trip, and that 9/11 event really changed my life in many ways. I worked in the 101 floor, and the company that I worked for lost 700 out of 1,000 people, and I lost 40 out of 44 teammates; spent a week by myself in Portland when I was trapped, trying to figure out what I was going to do next with my life after that event, and it brought me to Houston, Texas. And I stayed in the commodity business for a good 10, 15 years, and I was turning everything around at that time in my life, and I wanted to create multiple streams of income. So I started buying single-family houses. Believe it or not, I bought one a month for ten years straight. So I woke up one day, I had around 150 houses and a successful commodity firm. So I decided to sell the firm, double down on the houses which I did, so I had a few hundred houses, and then by then, the world started to turn; not only with the houses, but in the commercial real estate business around 2010. So I looked around and I saw that apartment buildings were on sale. So for a five year period, every 90 days, me or me in a syndication, purchased an apartment complex, and I woke up five years later and I realized I had around 2,000 apartment units, and I grew out a property management firm too where we managed around 7,000 units and 1,000 houses, and life was good. I was just looking for something a little more easier. Sometimes we get involved in this real estate dream, not realizing how much work it really is.

So I had an epiphany one day; I woke up and I said, “You know what, I want to slow down a little or–” not necessarily slow down, Joe, but figure out how I can scale. It was a little hard for me to scale with the multifamily. It was taking up a lot of my time and the stuff that I was managing. So I sold it all. So I’ve successfully syndicated, founded, started, grew, cash-flowed, held on to, and I bought around $50 million of apartment buildings during the downturn and we sold everything for around $80 million. I took my share and I got into the triple net leasing business, the commercial aspects side of real estate, which I’m sure we’re about to start talking about. For me, more scalable, more enjoyable, I like dealing with Fortune 500 companies, getting leases signed that go for 5 or 10 or 15 years; set it and forget it as much as possible when it comes to real estate. So what can I say? So after I got rid of all the housing, I really jumped into buying warehouses, storage facilities, building multimillion-dollar houses, and most importantly, that’s made the biggest difference in changing my life over the last five years, I started buying shopping centers – don’t believe the hype, ladies and gentlemen – started buying shopping centers; awesome cap rates, even better at borrowing the money, nice good spread there of 400 or 500 basis points, and dealing with Fortune 500 companies where the leases go for a long time. So that’s really a quick background on where I am and where I started, Joe.

Joe Fairless: So apartment buildings and exiting out along with those homes got you a chunk of change that you clearly had some money going into it in order to buy a house a month for a very long period of time.

Alan Schnur: Well, you know what, I got a little creative at the time, or I want to say early 2000s. You pick up houses for $20,000, $30,000 a pop here in Texas in the surrounding areas. So yes, I did whatever it took.

Joe Fairless: What was the average purchase price would you guess?

Alan Schnur: $35,000 a house. Maybe fix it up for $5,000. I cash-flowed them for a long time for a good decade, and then woke up one day and realized that I’m gonna have to either sink another $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 into each house to bring it up to true market value; these were all rentals. Or — I just started selling them off in tranches, and that’s how I built it. I’d buy ten houses at a time, hard money, borrowed money from friends and family, or money that I was making, do five or ten houses at a time, and then go get some commercial bank loan on those houses. So it’s like the shell game, I kept moving the ball. In this case, I kept moving the same money into the next five or ten houses.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so you sold those and you sold the apartment buildings and you got a chunk of money, and then you went into triple net leasing, which as you said, was more scalable, more enjoyable. The perception that I have, and we’re going to be talking about this, is yes, more scalable, more enjoyable, but less profitable. So let’s talk about that.

Alan Schnur: Okay, so let’s talk about a few different ways of making money in this triple net commercial leasing business. Well, I have a few choices here. You could buy something empty and pay an empty price, if you know what I mean. Maybe buy 10, 20, 30 cents on the dollar, because if it’s empty, there’s no net operating income. So someone’s going to sell it to you per pound, per price. So let me back up a second. So buy an empty warehouse. I just did one recently; I bought a 35,000 square foot empty warehouse relatively really cheap, like 10, 20 cents on the dollar off of an auction, and put a Fortune 500 company in there. So now it’s cash-flowing, it’s got at net operating income… And when you have these Fortune 500 companies and they’re healthy and the piece of real estate’s healthy, you can really start talking about trading that  stuff that at a 6, 7, 8 cap rate on the net operating income. So it’s a really great way of getting ahead in life. I can’t specify this enough. If you can take something broken, fix it, put a good tenant in there, figure out how you’re going to cash flow it, and then cap rate it out, you can really be off to the races and running.

Joe Fairless: Someone who’s listening to this thinks, “Well shoot, I have access to auction sites and sale sites, and I see a distressed real estate all the time, but when Alan talks about bringing in a Fortune 500 company, that’s where I have a block where it’s like, well, I don’t know, any Fortune 500 company contact people.” So what are your thoughts on that?

Alan Schnur: I know we have limited time here, so let me move the same example to the shopping centers… Because I find that question posed to me many times in the shopping center business, and it’s really just fear and intimidation. Well, how am I going to fill this spot if the tenant goes out of business or doesn’t pay their bills and leaves? It is quite different than the housing business where we can just stick up a sign and see if we can catch people driving by, which still does work in the shopping center business, but we rely more on national brokerage firms, the Colliers, the Marcus & Millichaps. There are specific firms in your area of town that do nothing but lease. It’s an awesome profession to be in. It pays out 3% to 6% commission on the life of the lease for the broker. So the broker is really incentivized to go out and get a tenant for you, and you’ll also find that a lot of these brokers are representatives of these Fortune 500 companies. So as bad as you want to bring them into your space, they’re looking for your space to create a transaction for both parties and get paid.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so what are some ways to make your space desirable for those types of companies?

Alan Schnur: Let me give you an example. I just got back from ICSC. It’s a shopping center foundation group. It’s a national group here in the United States, but it’s actually worldwide. So there was a few major meetings every year with ICSC, and it’s also nationally. So we just had our Texas meeting literally last week in Fort Worth, Dallas, and what you find is every brokerage shop and every retailer that’s interested in Texas will show up at this convention. And on the second day of the convention, for example, all the retailers actually set up a table; it’s very cool. So you have Starbucks, maybe you have Chick-fil-A, you have a major grocer, you have new franchises that are trying to break into Texas. So they all set up their table, and in this particular situation, there was around 100 booths set up for these retailers. So let’s just say, I have some vacancy here in Texas, which I always have a spot or two for a lease… I literally will walk up with a flyer, say, to Starbucks and say, “Hey, I’m on Westheimer in Houston, Texas. This is my block. This is the specific information about the shopping center. Would you folks be interested in taking a look at it?” and you’d be surprised, they move so quick. They know exactly where they are, they pull up all their data, and you’re probably going to start exchanging some drone footage of the property.

For example, I had a very successful meeting with Little Caesar’s pizza. I recently bought a shopping center here in Pasadena, Texas, and it comes with an outparcel, which is another way of making money with commercial real estate and shopping centers. This outparcel was a bonus when I was buying the shopping center.

Joe Fairless: For anyone who’s not familiar with an outparcel, what is it?

Alan Schnur:  Sure. An outparcel is a piece of land. Maybe it’s like an outlier in your parking lot, or maybe even take a piece of your parking lot that backs up to a major road, and that’s exactly what this situation was. It backed up to the corner of the shopping center where two major roads intersected. So if you see me here holding my hands or if you’re listening, just picture yourself, you have a parking lot and two major roads meeting and you own the parking lot. Well, you literally can take a piece of that parking lot and build an outparcel, build a pad site for some retailer to come in.

I’ll give you even another example. I recently did this with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and another shopping center that I have in College Station. It’s a TJ Maxx shopping center, but what’s really cool is the parking lot is huge, and we took a portion of the parking lot that lies up to this road, and we did a 20-year land lease with Krispy Kreme’s. So we took the outparcel, we just took 40 parking spots that nobody was even using, and we just built up a square, if you want to say that, and a foundation, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts came in, they built their own structure, they’re running their own business, under the intention that we signed a lease for 20 years at $8,000 a month, with me as the owner of the property, sure. So they’re fully responsible for everything.

Joe Fairless: So monetizing 40 parking spots that you weren’t getting money for anyway, and people weren’t parking their cars anyway unless it was probably some overnight people who weren’t permitted to be there.

Alan Schnur: And let me break it out into money. What that really means by taking that 30 or 40 spaces, which was bringing in absolutely no income into the shopping center; $8,000 a month, I don’t have to take care of their property, times 12 months is $96,000, and this is trading at an 8 cap, which is high, so 0.08– I don’t have my calculator, I’m gonna say it’s around $1.2 million of value we just added to the shopping center just by creating an outparcel in a parking lot, by a busy road. And that’s another way how you create value and money in retail shopping centers.

Joe Fairless: What type of approval process is typically required to get an outparcel?

Alan Schnur: Well, first of all, if you’re the owner of the shopping center, you have to make sure that you do have the approval; you have to look at your leases. For example, I have another shopping center that has a specific national chain doctor’s office in it, and it specifically says, “You cannot block our view from the street.” So you really have to look at the easements and you have to look into the leases and you have to work with your attorneys. So for sure, I’m gonna abide by the lease and play by the rules and not put something up in front of that doctor’s office, but just maybe 100 feet down or 200 feet down, I can. So you just have to check your P’s and Q’s and see what you can do and what you can’t do, and all the leases.

In this particular situation, it wasn’t really blocking anybody. It was just a far off, distant hard corner. Back to the Pasadena, Texas example that we started talking about with the Little Caesars – so I’m pretty excited, because Little Caesars, that will easily generate $9,000 a month on a land lease, and they’re talking about $1.5 million in valuation just on the outparcel there. So again, outparcels, great advantage, great opportunity to create extra income for your shopping centers.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so outparcels is one. What are some other ways to increase NOI with shopping centers?

Alan Schnur: Well, when I buy shopping centers, I’m really looking for a 20% vacancy or even more, 30% vacancy, because they really trade on a true net operating income number. So if no money’s coming in for the spot, then you shouldn’t be paying for the spot, and that’s how I run my business here at GR8 Partners.

Let me give you a real simplified way of understanding this. When I was starting out in shopping centers, I like to start off small and then work my way up big. I started off buying around 10,000, 12,000 square foot shopping centers, and let me just keep the math easy. Let’s just say there’s six storefronts, and say they’re 2,000 square feet apiece. The first shopping center I bought was 50% vacant. So I had three tenants, 2,000 square feet apiece. So I bought that shopping center for around a million dollars. I put 30% down, so call it $300,000 down, and I valued each slot at $333,000 apiece, just simple math here. So that’s the million dollars that I paid. I hired a leasing agent, the same way I just explained it a few minutes ago. Over a 12 month period, we found three more tenants, and not only did we find three more tenants, we found national tenants. So we went for the mom and pops, who may be a pizza place or a dry cleaners, to an AT&T. We put in a national hearing aid company, and the third one I believe, was a Taco del Mar. So now I’ve got six tenants, and one side of the shopping center is worth $333,000. The other three slots are going to be worth $333,000. So all of a sudden now, on an NOI number, not only did I just pay a million dollars for the shopping center, but I doubled the value of the shopping center. So now it’s worth $2 million, and I actually did do that and I actually did sell that. So that’s a way of filling up your shopping centers and making extra money by filling up your vacancies. Makes sense, right?

Joe Fairless: It does make sense. Why wouldn’t other people do that who were competing for the same property?

Alan Schnur: I have this philosophy, the evolution of a real estate investor, a little older and wiser, just recently turned 50 and been doing this for 20 years, and I went through the same processes as every body. I started buying the houses, I started buying the apartment buildings, and then I started buying the triple net leasing stuff. Everyone wants to go through the pain, they feel like they’re not ready or they’re intimidated about filling up their shopping centers, but I can tell you, here in Houston, having a lot of property management experience, the average C Class apartment building will turn 60% to 80% every year or you’re going to lose your tenants. To me, that’s more scary… The credibility of the tenants and not paying their bills and things breaking, compared to why not do the shopping centers, why not do the triple lease? The money’s more dependable. If something breaks on triple net lease, the  tenant’s paying for it. If taxes go up, the tenant’s paying for it. If insurance goes up, the tenant’s paying for it.

Joe Fairless: I think the hesitation that most people have is, one is just becoming familiar with how to assess opportunities with shopping centers, how to run the numbers, what pitfalls to look for and just the learning process, but then combine that with the second thing, which is, I just don’t know if I can find quality tenants or enough of them because I personally don’t know business owners who would rent from me. Whereas I know that apartment owners don’t think “I’m buying 100 unit property, so I know 100 different people who would rent from me.” I mean, clearly, that would be a ridiculous thought process, but I feel like that’s a mental block for people outside of just learning the process and learning how to do it. It’s just, are there really enough tenants to rent my space if the space is currently vacant already?

Alan Schnur: Yeah, I hear you. I agree with you, 100%.

Joe Fairless: I’m not saying that’s a legitimate reason. I’m just saying those two reasons combined are what allows you to buy more property.

Alan Schnur: Here’s what I’d say to that to help someone get over the fear, or to answer that question. The first thing I would say is, look, there’s a lot more building going on when it comes to apartment buildings and housing right now than retail shopping centers. We went through this lull over the last five years in retail shopping centers. Another reason why things weren’t being overbuilt. Ask yourself a question – when you’re driving down the road right now, how many vacancies do you actually see in shopping centers? We don’t see too much here in Texas right now. So part of the argument would be, there’s a lot less space available to build shopping center strips on roads. Every other block has a new 300-unit apartment building here in parts of Houston, Texas. So when I’m buying shopping centers, I’m looking for core areas of a community, I’m looking for density, where there’s a lot of population, and I’m looking for a high car traffic count. So you can just think of those three things that I just said.

Joe Fairless: How do you quantify those three things?

Alan Schnur: Well, I quantify it– when I’m looking to buy a shopping center, I like to buy shopping centers that have 30,000 to 50,000 cars going by every day. I like to buy near a hard corner where it’s just absolutely buzzing in traffic like you wouldn’t believe it. I like to buy shopping centers where there’s so many people you can’t help but do your dry cleaning there, or go food shopping there or stop off and pick up a Starbucks.

Joe Fairless: How do you quantify that third one – the so many people part?

Alan Schnur: Okay, so we call that population density, and there’s plenty of services out there. I use CoStar a lot, and we’ll get a one-mile radius, a three-mile radius and a five-mile radius of houses. So we’re looking for a good 30,000, 50,000, and even goes up to  — a five-mile radius, we’ll go up to 50,000 people. So you want to have a lot of people if that’s the business you want to be in.

Joe Fairless: For the one mile radius, what’s too low?

Alan Schnur: Well, you’ve got to be careful with the one-mile radius because there’s day time population. Maybe there’s an area that you’re thinking about where people drive to work and that’s what people do; they work in that area, and then there’s households and there’s household incomes. So the daytime population is important. I just finished doing an analysis on a property in California. The daytime work population was 200,000 people, but only 25,000 people live in the area. So you’ve got to take that into account, who are going to be your tenants. You’re probably going to do a lot of restaurant business, maybe fpr  lunches where people are going to go eat and drink coffee, as opposed to maybe you don’t want to put a grocer in that area; and then you do want to look at the household income.

What we focus on at my firm is we’re really buying shopping centers, Class C and Class B. We’re really looking for the household incomes are anywhere from $40,000 to $75,000. We like the discounters for tenants. Some of the tenants I have, for example, are TJ Maxx or a dry cleaners or a grocers or an AT&T or T-Mobile, something where people have to go to this neighborhood center to do their business.

Ask yourself a question, Joe. How many shopping centers will you stop off at in one day? People say it’s a dying business, but there’s people that just absolutely want the experience of shopping. There’s people that have to go and drop off their dry cleaning. Even doctors and dentists, they’re moving out of medical buildings and they’re setting up their cosmetic dentistry in a shopping center strip or an ER clinic, setting up in all these shopping center strips. So again, these neighborhood centers that our people are always going to be drawn to; they just have to, they can’t live without it.

Joe Fairless: Anything that we haven’t talked about that you think we should before we wrap up as it relates to increasing NOI with shopping centers?

Alan Schnur: So another thing that’s really cool about shopping centers is rent bumps are built into the leases. It’s really common. Let’s say I’ve got Starbucks. It’s really common for their rent to go up 1% to 3% every year, and most likely you signed a five-year lease with them. So you’re looking at a 15% increase over the life of that five-year lease, which, when you’re working out your NOI numbers, that’s a huge increase. It’s not that hard to just buy, hold and bank off of rent bumps, and turn around and make 50% on the shopping center when you sell it a few years later; and then of course, we’re always looking for cap rate compression. Maybe bring in some better names, like I mentioned earlier.

We’re in a situation right now, where we have a 40,000 square foot grocer paying a rent rate that’s so low, it’s ridiculous, and they’ve been there for ten years, their options are up and now we’re talking to national names right now that will pay triple the price. So just by going from 50 cents a square foot to a buck 50 a square foot, you literally can increase the value of your shopping centers by millions of dollars.

Joe Fairless: What a fun conversation. I love talking about stuff that I’m not currently focused on, with people who are, and hearing about your approach. So, Alan, thanks for talking to us not only about ways to increase NOI with shopping centers, a couple of examples, building outparcel, have those rent bumps built into the leases, but then also what you look for with shopping centers, and you gave four things – 30,000 to 50,000 cars driving by, having it on a corner, having a population density that fits what you’re looking for and pay particular attention to daytime work population versus people living there, and then the household income being about 40k to 75k, plus the other stuff we talked about. So I really enjoyed it, Alan. Grateful you were on the show, and I hope you have a best ever weekend. Talk to you again. Oh, wait. Actually, last question. How can people learn more about what you’re doing? I apologize for forgetting that.

Alan Schnur: Listen, we syndicate. We have lots of partners in our deals, and you could find us at gr8partners.com. There, you can find our portfolios and what we’re up to and read about us. We’re always looking for new partners. We’re always looking to share what we know, and that’s one way of reaching me.

Another way to reach me is I have a book out, it’s on Amazon. It’s called the Cashflow Mindset. It’s really about lots of stories that we talked about today and ways of making money in real estate, the cashflow mindset. It’s also on audible.com. And I always do this, people think I’m crazy, but my phone number is 713-503-5908. If you’re interested in getting involved in commercial real estate, send me a text.

Joe Fairless: Alan, thanks for being on show. Have a best ever weekend. Talk to you again soon.

Alan Schnur: Bye, Joe.

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JF2132: 100 Years Of Experience With Dean Marchi

Dean is our sweepstakes winner! If you were not aware, we did a sweepstake for the first time ever for a lucky listener to enter for a chance to be on the show with Theo Hicks and ask questions or discuss their story. Dean was randomly picked and is part of a family with over 100 years of real estate experience. Dean focuses on development deals for multifamily and buyers of apartment buildings. 

 

Dean Marchi Real Estate Background: (SWEEPSTAKES WINNER)

  • Full time in real estate development 
  • His family started in Manhattan in 1929, but Dean bought his first deal outside of the family in 2005 and did his first development deal in 2009
  • Portfolio outside of family properties consists of 4 multifamily properties, 2 development sites, flipped 26 apartments
  • Based in New York City, NY
  • Say hi to him at: www.GrandStreetDevelopment.com 
  • Best Ever Book: Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

 

 

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“Focus on every deal your involved in, build up a track record and people will begin to talk about it and you will find investors” – Dean Marchi


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we are speaking with our sweepstakes winner. So if you didn’t know, we did a sweepstake where you could enter, all you had to do is subscribe to the newsletter and you have the opportunity to be interviewed on the podcast, and we are speaking with our winner today, his name is Dean Marchi. Dean, how are you doing today?

Dean Marchi: I’m great and I’m very happy to be here.

Theo Hicks: We’re happy to have you and again, congratulations on winning the sweepstakes. Maybe we’ll do it again in the future, so someone listening right now can be in your place in the next few months… But before we get into the conversation with Dean, we’re just gonna do a traditional interview, because Dean does have a strong real estate investing background. He’s full time in real estate development, his family started investing in real estate in Manhattan in 1929, so almost 100 years of experience in his family of real estate investing… But Dean bought his first deal outside of his family in 2005, and then did his first development deal in 2009. His portfolio outside of family properties consists of four multifamily properties, two development sites, and he’s also flipped 26 apartments. He’s currently based in New York City and his website is at grandstreetdevelopment.com. So Dean, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Dean Marchi: Absolutely. So I really only do two things – I focus on either buying apartment buildings or building apartment buildings. And on the buy side, I’m mainly focused on Class B apartments in Class A or B areas where I see some upside outside of the building itself, and we try to do value add and bring our operational experience to improving them… Just focused on cash flow, and we always pray for appreciation. And on the development side, primarily we focus on what we call infill development in hot neighborhoods. So we’re focused on an area in Philadelphia called Fishtown, which has  a lot of similarities to what we did in Brooklyn, the development deals, the properties that we built there – Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. We have a particular design, focus and style, but those are more Class A properties, exceptionally well located, and we try to bring a little flair to them; we’ve done well. So we’re regional developers of multifamily and regional buyers of apartment buildings.

Theo Hicks: When you started talking about the building – what did you call them again, infill?

Dean Marchi: Infill development sites. So in cities– so we don’t really do, what I would call, suburban walk-ups. Those we buy, but what we build is more of mid-rise apartment buildings in vibrant cities, whether it’s in Philadelphia, Brooklyn or northern New Jersey, where you can walk out the door, get on a subway, get your coffee, come home, there’s a wine bar or restaurant outside your door, that kind of development.

Theo Hicks: Sure. Okay, so you’ve got four multifamily properties and two development sites. So are those four multifamily properties to buy, and then the two development sites to build?

Dean Marchi: Yes, we’ve sold some that we built, and we’ve obviously sold those flips that you mentioned. There are 26 apartment buildings that we bought after the Great Recession, primarily REOs or short sales from lenders who took them back. We fixed them up and put them back into the market, stabilized them and ended up selling them. But we’ve held on to the rental buildings that we’ve built, and we also bought an existing apartment building, about 186 units outside of Baltimore, a suburban walk up as well. So we own and manage and outside of the family stuff, those buildings as well, ten apartment buildings in Manhattan as well.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So how are you funding these deals?

Dean Marchi: Friends and family in, what I would call, super high net worth. So obviously on the equity side, we’ve only done one institutional deal; I would say more of an institution as opposed to a high net worth family office or just individuals.

So the first deal we did, I raised a few hundred thousand dollars from my parents, my uncle and my cousin’s girlfriend’s parents. So just very typical, sitting in people’s living rooms, raising a few dollars to get the deal done, and up to and including — quite frankly, there are a couple of billionaires who’ve invested with me, because with some humility, I’d expect my parents to give me a little bit of money if it was a good deal, but think of super high net worth people – they have tons of options, and for them to trust me with their money and like the deals that we do, that gives me a lot of confidence and a great deal of satisfaction.

Theo Hicks: For these billionaire super high net worth people, you did mention family office– are they through family offices or are these individual billionaires who are investing you in real?

Dean Marchi: Individual, yeah. There’s one deal that we did that is a family office that acts like an institution. So they’re so wealthy that they’ve set up a team of people to invest their money on their behalf. The ones that, in the past, have invested with us and continue today are people we’ve known through the years or met through friends and family and others who’ve recommended us and referred us. So it’s a pretty broad mix, to be honest. It’s great; it’s awesome.

Theo Hicks: Do you have any tactics, any tips, any piece of advice for someone who wants to eventually work their way up towards having these super high net worth, billionaire family offices investing in their apartment deals?

Dean Marchi: The best advice that I would give anybody is  focus on every deal that you’re involved in; the more successful the individual deal is, the more people around you are going to hear about it. So you build up that track record and then people start to talk about it, and whether it be the lawyer involved in the deal, or the broker who sold it or leased it up, whatever it may be, and you build a reputation. But it’s deal by deal; I don’t think you can leapfrog it; I think people trust in two things – the track record, and the person. So if you don’t have the track record, maybe one thing to do is to partner with somebody who does, and borrow their track record, if you will. Even if you get a small piece of a deal, it’s better because you’re building the track record, and over time, you can point to that experience. The other is that I think that people really do look to the individual. So if somebody likes you and trust you and you come referred by other people that worked with you in some capacity or another, that is really helpful for people, and quite frankly, I don’t think that changes from somebody investing $50,000 to somebody investing $5 million. I think those are the two things that people care about.

Theo Hicks: Something else you’ve mentioned too, and again, you might have the same answer – the track record and you a person, but you mentioned that these super high net worth people clearly have a lot of people wanting money from them. So obviously, I could have a really strong track record, and I could be a really good person… So did you meet these people just naturally, just word of mouth, eventually you got to them? But I would imagine that happens a lot. A lot of people are doing big deals, but not everyone has these super high net worth people investing, so once you’ve got that massive track record, what are the types of things, at least from your experience, that set your deal apart from, say, someone else who’s done the same number of deals as you, but is not attracting that type of money?

Dean Marchi: That’s a great question.

Theo Hicks: Does that make sense?

Dean Marchi: Yeah, it’s a great question. So I don’t do a ton of deals. As I said, I’ve been at this for a fairly long time and I haven’t done 100 deals. I do think that we are able to find better than average deals, and there’s no secret to that; it’s pounding the pavement; it’s driving the streets; it’s making the phone calls. But yes, we find, I would say better than average deals, but again, I just think it’s that track record, and what we try to do is to act like an institution in the middle market. So what I mean by that is, we like to do mid-size deals. So for example, the last building we built was 52 units. There are people who are putting up 800+ units in the same neighborhood. There are also a ton of people putting up four or five or six  or ten-unit buildings. So we like to be as sophisticated in our reporting and our approach to how we design and the team that we hire as the guy putting up 800 units, and make our deals though – because they don’t require hundreds of millions of dollars of investment – to make a deal available to somebody who has $100,000 or as I said, $5 million to invest.

So as I said, it’s probably true that we don’t really bother doing a deal that is, what I would call, an average deal, and beyond that, it’s just relationship management. It’s just the same thing, just talking to people, making sure they understand we have the same problems with our deals as somebody doing big deals or small deals, or the same kinds of deals. They’re not without issues, and we have had, fortunately, a track record where quite honestly, Theo, in the 90 years that we’ve been in the business, we’ve never even been late on a mortgage payment, and we started in the Great Recession, having gone through the Great Recession and COVID-19 related issues, and we’ve never even been late on a mortgage payment. So when I say it’s deal by deal, collectively over time you ended up with a track record of good performance, and we don’t oversell. Thank God, we’ve never lost money on a deal. All of our deals have performed at least as well, if not better than our pro forma. So people trust in that. And I always tell people, any deal that we’re going to do, eventually, something’s going to go wrong. We can’t keep it going forever. But I give them my solemn promise that I will treat their money more seriously than my own, and no matter what comes up, I will have at least three solutions for it. We’ll choose the best one at the time with all the information that we have, and try to make right. So people appreciate that and give us their money. So yeah, that’s it. It’s not that complicated, I guess.

Theo Hicks: That’s certainly perfect advice. Alright, Dean, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Dean Marchi: Well, I think there’s three things that I would say. Number one is buy apartment buildings… And not to be over simplistic about it, but Theo, what I would tell you is the first human being who decided to walk out from under the open sky and into a cave found that that was probably better than being out in the open, and I will say that if one day, human beings are living on Mars, I suspect that they’ll want a roof over their head. So it’s one of those essential needs, and I think you can’t go wrong with it… Subject to number two, which is not to use too much debt. I’ve seen people lose buildings, I know people who’ve lost their buildings when events beyond their control, such as the Great Recession or other events – it’s because they took too much debt. So there was a time before the Great Recession where you could buy an apartment building with no money down, all debt. So I would say, be cautious about taking on too much debt.

And then the third bit of advice would be to really think about holding it for the long term. That’s where you have really the greatest return. If I tell you what my grandfather paid for his first Manhattan building and what it’s worth today, it would spin people’s heads, but hold it for as long as you can, and I guess a little bonus bit of advice is try to get with people like you, quite frankly. Learned from your awesome book; wherever you can get with people who have experience in whatever you’re going to do, whether it’s real estate or anything else, that’s a goldmine that quite frankly, I think too many people overlook. Those are my three bits.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright Dean, you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Dean Marchi: Sure, yeah. Let’s go.

Theo Hicks: Okay. First a quick word from our sponsor.

Break [00:15:01]:08] to [00:15:50]:04]

Theo Hicks: Okay, I’m gonna do the normal question, but I do have one question that I would like you to answer as quickly as possible, but I’ll get to that one in a second. So first, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Dean Marchi: So without sounding like because I’m on your show, but certainly I would include in that answer The Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book by you and Joe. And one that’s overlooked, if you don’t mind my saying more than one, is Powerhouse Principles by a man, a hero of mine, Jorge Perez. He’s the CEO of Related Group in Florida. It’s development focused, but there’s a ton of good advice in that book. And then the Steve Berges book, The Complete Guide to Buying and Selling Apartment Buildings; those are three favorites.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Dean Marchi: I would go and do exactly what I have always done. I would go and talk to everybody that I know and start over and do exactly what I’ve been doing for my life. Wouldn’t change a thing, just start over.

Theo Hicks: So the next question I want to ask you – I don’t know exactly how to ask this, but you hear stories all the time of how the one generation makes all the money, and then the next generation maintains it, and then the next one loses all of it…

Dean Marchi: Yes, 100%. I know exactly, yeah.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, you’ve got your grandfather who started the business, your parents are in the business, you’re in the business, all of you guys are successful… So what’s been the main thing that you can think of that has allowed your family to do that and not fall into the cliché trap that I just mentioned?

Dean Marchi: Wow, Theo. Awesome question. Honestly, my whole life, I don’t think anybody ever asked me that, and I think that the immediate answer is that one thing that’s really important to all of us throughout all three generations is that core family. It’s exactly what you said, it’s a business, but first was the family. So my grandfather passed along a lot of really strong Italian principles, if you will, which is where my family is from. Through my father– my father always taught me those lessons and I teach those lessons to my children. And the way I approach the business is that I am giving it and I am preparing what I do to be handed off to the next generation. So we build with incredible quality, we approach everything very honest with our tenants, we really try to honor them and to treat them well, so that when it goes to the next generation, if God Willing it happens, that the buildings, the business is well prepared for that transfer. And of course, I try to pass along every bit of advice that I gather from people like you and others and from my own experiences on to my children and make sure that they understand that they now have the responsibility when that handoff occurs, that they have the responsibility to prepare it for the next generation as well.

And always to remain humble, I think that’s the other thing. Nobody’s bigger than the market; that’s really important too. The way you phrased the question, that oftentimes the son screws it up, if you will, or the daughter goes and blows the business up… I think if you have some humility with what you’ve been given and a sense of responsibility to pass it off, you perhaps avoid some of that hubris that can lead to a business collapse.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Great answer. I’m surprised no one’s asked that before. I had [unintelligible [00:19:06].25] but I forgot.

Dean Marchi: No, that’s awesome. I appreciate it very much.

Theo Hicks: Okay. And then lastly, what’s the best place to reach you?

Dean Marchi: Probably our website, which is grandstreetdevelopment.com. But my email is dean [at] grandstreetdevelopment.com, or we also have an Instagram page, which is @GrandStDevelopment; those would be the best ways to get me.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright Dean, I really appreciate you coming on the show today. I learned a ton from this conversation. Some of the key takeaways that I got – number one, you talked about some tactics for being able to attract that money from the billionaires, the super high net worth people, the family offices, and at the end of the day, it really just comes down to, as you mentioned, the two things, which is the track record you have and then you as a person. So it’s just focusing as much attention as possible on every single deal to make sure that it is as successful as possible… Because then, once you’re successful, people start talking about you, you start building up a reputation, and it’s a snowball effect where eventually people know, like and trust you enough… And you’ve been referred enough times that you’re able to reach those higher echelons of investors. So you said it’s step by step; there’s really no hack or shortcut or cheat. It’s just going deal by deal and making sure each deal is as successful as possible.

A couple other things you mentioned too, that have helped your track record is, you said you act like an institution in a middle market. So you bring the institutional quality, the reporting and the relationship management; rather than focusing on these thousand unit deals, you do the middle 50-unit deals. Or you mentioned, you got very sophisticated reporting, and then for your family business, in the 90 years of business, you’ve never been late in the mortgage payment, never lost investors money on a deal, have always at least met the proformas… And then I really liked what you said is that you told them that if any issue were to arise, you always come back to them with at least three solutions, and one of those will obviously be used to fix the problem.

We talked about your best ever advice, which is threefold – number one, buy apartment buildings; housing homes are always going to be an essential need. I was just doing a syndication school episode today where they did a survey and asked people, “What’s your priority for paying expenses?” and above groceries, above car payments, above utilities was paying rent. So I could definitely reinforce that. Next was don’t use too much debt, and then thirdly was to think about holding for the long term, because that’s where you realize the greatest returns. And then you also talked about what sets your family apart from other family businesses – the cliché of the grandparent creates it, the dad maintains it and then the son destroys it. You said that it’s really about passing along strong values, and then I really like what you said, which is preparing to hand off the business to the next generation.

So not really taking any shortcuts to make money for yourself now that will screw over your kids in 30 years. Instead, you’re using good quality construction, you’re always focusing on having good relationships with your residents and the people you work with, and then passing along any advice that you get, but also included in that advice is letting your children know or the next generation know that, hey, you need to be prepared to pass it on to the next generation as well. So preparing them early on for that next-level transition… And then just being humble, as you mentioned, as well; no one is bigger than the market.

So again, Dean, I really appreciate you coming on the show. I learned a lot; glad you were our sweepstakes winner. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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JF2118: Broad Experience With Alix Kogan

Alix is the President of Ashland Capital Fund and has 20 years of real estate experience owning 1,700 apartment units, single-family rentals, commercial and developments. He started in high-end custom homes and more recently has been focusing on student housing deals. Alix shares one of his new strategies which is investing in second lien mortgage debts.

Alix Kogan Real Estate Background:

  • President of Ashland Capital Fund
  • 20 years of real estate experience
  • The portfolio consists of 1,700 apartment units, single-family rentals, commercial and developments
  • From Chicago, IL
  • Say hi to him at:https://ashlandcapitalfund.com/ 

 

 

 

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Best Ever Tweet:

“My broad experience in real estate has helped me tackle new projects” – Alix Kogan


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever; we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Alix Kogan. How you doing Alix?

Alix Kogan: I’m great, Joe. How are you?

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m doing well, and I’m glad to hear that. A little bit about Alix – he’s the president of Ashland Capital Fund, he’s got 20 years of real estate experience, the portfolio consists of 1,700 apartment units, single-family rentals, commercial and developments. He’s based in Chicago, Illinois, and he has now turned his focus towards student housing. So we’re going to talk about his background, what his focus has been, and then what his focus is now. So with that being said, Alix, do you want to first, give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Alix Kogan: Sure. So I started in high-end design build, building custom homes for clients in south-west Colorado, ran that business for almost 20 years and I had a successful exit late last year in December. So pretty recent, but I have a parallel track for a good 18, 17 years or so. I started developing a single family portfolio, did some ground-up development, townhomes, condos, small subdivisions, and then as of three years ago or so, pivoted into multifamily, and that is, of course, how you and I met, and I’ve been doing that.

I’ve been partnering with groups as a key principal, lending out my balance sheet, and let’s see– distressed debt is another asset class I invest in, and then as of late, I’ve been pursuing some student housing deals; I’m excited about that opportunity as it’s not tied directly to the market’s economy as much as multifamily is. So it’s just another asset class to diversify for me.

Joe Fairless: When you said you were doing development for townhomes and condos, what are some differences from that versus the high-end custom homes?

Alix Kogan: It’s really completely different. The high-end custom homes, we always build on client’s land, there’s really no risk per se. It’s really — we’re working for a fee. So transitioning into development is a whole other world. Of course, it’s still a construction, but you’re assessing risk, you’re assessing the market. So really, it took a completely different mindset and skillset candidly to do that; the common thread, of course – we’re building. So it was interesting; it was good, and we rode the tailwinds of a great economy up until, of course, the recession of ’08, ’09. Then we ceased all development activity and concentrated on custom homes and rode through the recession. Well, a lot of our clientele actually came from Texas, and that market was doing very well. A lot of our clients were already the tail end of their careers that made their money, they put their money away, so they were still on a place to retire and build their retirement dream homes, and continue down that path and not be too affected by the recession.

Joe Fairless: You said you’re now focused on looking at student housing. What are some things you’re doing now in student housing?

Alix Kogan: We’re pursuing a couple of different deals currently. It’s a similar play, I suppose, to multifamily. What I like about it is in recessionary periods, like we’re likely heading into now with everything that’s going on, a lot of people go back to school, or they stay in school longer. So you’ve got that natural protection, as opposed to say A class multifamily where I think, where you could have some higher economic occupancy with that asset class — but student housing is an interesting plan. So we’re pursuing that. There’s some opportunities out there, there’s some groups that got over-leveraged, and looking to get out of their assets. So it’s an interesting time. So that’s what we’re– no, I wouldn’t say we’re completely focused on that. It’s just a second asset class in addition to multifamily that we’re looking at.

Joe Fairless: How are you coming across groups that are over-leveraged? Where are you getting those connections from?

Alix Kogan: We’ve made a great connection with a best-in-class property manager, and they of course, have connections with owners all over. They’re also an investor, as well as a property manager as well. So they are an interesting group where they understand the investments side as well as the management side, and they have a very specific buy box for a number of reasons with their business plan. But they’re running into portfolios or individual assets that don’t meet their buy box, and I’ve developed a good relationship with them where they’re bringing me those deals, so it’s a win-win. They get to property manage the asset if we are successful in taking it down. So there’s some good synergies in that relationship.

Joe Fairless: So I’ve never bought a student housing project. Educate me and perhaps some listeners on what would be a buy box. What components are in a buy box for student housing, and then what your buy box is compared to, say, the property management companies?

Alix Kogan: Sure. So the first one would be pretty easy to answer. So the relationship that I have there, they only buy core A Class assets, and they have to be pretty significant size to execute their business plan and to comply with their investors’ buy box, in essence. So in terms of what I look for, I can buy a smaller deal. I don’t have a specific buy box in terms of has to be a large deal, although I can take down a large deal; we’ll look at — for example, right now we’re looking at an opportunity about the $7 million acquisition range. That is considered somewhat small for some of the large players. They’re going to be in that 15+ million acquisition range.

In terms of what we look for, and that’s fairly consistent from whether you’re buying large or small, you’re looking for a successful school with growing enrollment, and that’s pretty key today to be successful. I think, that’s one of the biggest metrics. So not only does the asset have to be a good asset, you’ve got a school that’s got a great sports program; so tier one schools. So you look at that, you look at the asset itself, you look at similar dynamics; you’re of course looking at your rent comps, are you under market, amenities is also a big factor in terms of your rent growth and where you are in the market. So those are some of the big things that we look at.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience with high-end custom homes and townhomes and condos and investing in multifamily, what do you think, from that experience, is most relevant to help you be successful in student housing?

Alix Kogan: I would say I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had a broad experience in different asset classes, and the common thread is real estate. So I don’t know that there’s one thing other than I may just have a broader view, I may look at different things. So I can’t think one major skill set other than just the broad experience.

Joe Fairless: Let’s narrow it down then. For the high-end custom homes that you did for 20 years and you said you exited successfully, what were some ways that your company differentiated itself from your competitors?

Alix Kogan: That one’s pretty easy – we were very early to the game in design build. So while a lot of my competitors were typical, what we call bid build, where they’re bidding on plans through architects or through clients directly, that have plans drawn… We adopted the design build model right out of the gates 20 years ago, where at first, we partnered with some outside resources. We’d outsource some of the design work, but really controlled the whole process from design to build, and then eventually became much more fully integrated with architects, interior designers. So that was certainly a key to our success.

In addition, of course, doing great design and won more awards than anybody in the area in south-west Colorado, and organically grew. Building a great team – no surprise, when you become the largest in the area, you need a great team behind you. So I was fortunate to have a great team to do that with. But those were some of the — great design, great team and the design build model that many people tried to follow, but fewer successful in doing it.

Joe Fairless: You mentioned distressed debt. What have you done with distressed debt?

Alix Kogan: That’s been an interesting space. I started down that road with non-performing notes. So buying defaulted mortgages in large pools and then working them out. So I’ve been doing more of a niche portion of the distressed debt, which is buying non-performing second liens. So rather than buying first liens, which– it’s a bit counterintuitive, but if you understand my business plan and the plan that we’ve been doing, which is buying non-performing seconds behind a performing first.

So I’ll give you an example. If you have a $500,000 house, you might have a $400,000 mortgage of $100,000 worth of equity, and then you also took out, say, a $100,000 home equity loan to finish your basement. You fell on hard times, you stopped paying in your home equity, but you continued to pay in your first mortgage. So those are what I’m buying as the second mortgages.

I like them because, obviously, it’s been demonstrated that the borrower still has some financial capacity because they’re paying on their first; and because I’m buying the second lien, the non-performing lien or note, at such a discount, I have the ability to go back to the borrower and help them stay in their house and say, for example, “You’ve been paying, $500 a month before you defaulted. Can you afford to pay $250 a month?” So because I’m buying at such a discount, I can work with them, help them stay in their home and get them current, and that’s been a really good investment class. It’s not the easiest business to learn, a pretty high barrier to entry, but once you get it dialed in, it’s a very interesting business model.

Joe Fairless: What discount are you buying those second liens on?

Alix Kogan: It’s a broad range. It also depends on what state. Every state’s got different foreclosure laws and timelines. So I would say anywhere from 5% of the unpaid balance up to 50% of the unpaid balance, and everything in between. So you literally have to underwrite each individual asset separately. How much equity does it have? How nice of a property is it? Because that, in essence, is your ultimate security; it’s that asset. Because you can, of course, foreclose from a second position subject to the first.

And then there’s more of a qualitative analysis of the borrower profile. You really have to understand who the borrower is, look at their credit, look at their specific situation, and somewhat assess what is the percentage that that borrower can do work out with you. So that goes into the pricing as well, of course.

Joe Fairless: So you said 5% to 50% that you’re paying. So just so I’m understanding correctly, depending on the state, depending on the situation, if it’s $100, you’re paying between $5 to $50 for that second lien position.

Alix Kogan: Yeah.

Joe Fairless: Wow. So your discount is between 50% and 95%?

Alix Kogan: Yeah. I’ve bought some assets where there’s a lot of risks, and  I’ve even bought them at 1%.

Joe Fairless: Alright. Give us that example, that specific example. Tell us a story about that property.

Alix Kogan: Something that you bid that low, there is no equity.

Joe Fairless: How much you pay for it?

Alix Kogan: So that borrower is completely upside down. So that’s one of those that you’re likely not going to pursue. You might take that asset, put it on the shelf and just wait until that borrower sells the house, and you may be in a position where you get a payoff. So that’s obviously very high risk; but if you have $100,000 unpaid balance and it’s still secure and you’re buying it for $1000 bucks, you can afford to just stick that in a drawer and just wait… Versus other loans that have equity, and the borrower is obviously more motivated to protect and keep that equity. They’re obviously motivated to do a workout with you. So those you’re going to pursue more aggressively, and spend time placing that with a servicer, or spending money investing in whatever legal you need to invest in, so that you could monetize that loan.

Joe Fairless: I know you said you’re buying large pools. So are the large pools of these defaulted mortgages, are they grouped into varying risk profiles, or…?

Alix Kogan: No, no. They generally are just sold in a pool. So you get a spreadsheet with a bunch of assets, and it’s really — you’re doing your own group and you’re assessing the risk and you’re saying, “Okay, 20% of these are in a judicial state, New York, for example, and the foreclosure time is very lengthy and expensive.” So I’m going to price that portion of the pool at whatever it is. 20 cents on the dollar versus, say, for example, California loans, which is a non-judicial state, and very quick foreclosure time. I may price those at 45 cents. So it’s all over the board.

Joe Fairless: Did you say California is quick to–

Alix Kogan: Yeah, believe it or not…

Joe Fairless: That– I would have missed that on a true-false test.

Alix Kogan: Right, exactly. With all the legislation and everything that happens in California, it actually is a non-judicial state. So you can foreclose and get at the asset in 90 to 120 days. So it’s a much faster process in California.

Joe Fairless: Tell us a story of a defaulted mortgage, either a pool of mortgages or an example or two where you’ve lost money.

Alix Kogan: Sure. I had a recent loan that– and fortunately, we were pretty careful. I don’t buy really high-risk loans, but in order to buy a pool of loans, apparently, you have to buy some loans that are higher risk; but I try to keep those at a minimum. So I only honestly have one that was recent; a Kentucky loan that basically foreclosed and we got wiped out by the first lien and completely lost. It was a $7,000 investment, [unintelligible [00:17:37].26] a million dollars that we took down. So that can happen, but if you’re careful, that’s pretty rare.

Joe Fairless: Yeah. So how can you be careful and make that rare if you’re buying a large pool of loans, and it sounds like that’s just gonna happen during the course of business?

Alix Kogan: Well, one, they’re gonna price them at a risk price. So it’s all modeled into it. Think of it as you’re buying a portfolio of single-family homes, you know you’re going to have some delinquencies in one home. Somebody stops paying rent, but you have the income from the other homes to offset that. It’s really the same principle. I’m going to make money, I’m going to hit home runs on some. I mean, I’ve had some that I’ve made 200% return on my investment, and then I have one that I lose $7,000 on. So you just price the risk into it, and then there’s some people that specialize in unsecured and no equity loans. It’s just their business model. So I would even resell some of those loans, and just get my money back and focus on the good loans that I prefer to work.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Tell us the story of, on the flip side, one that you’ve made 200% on or just done really well, just a specific example.

Alix Kogan: Sure. Just recently I invested $113,000 in an asset in California. The house is worth $270,000. We, unfortunately, had to foreclose, got that house back, and up until just a couple days ago, I had a contract for $270,000. So you can do the math on that. That would have been a great exit strategy. Unfortunately, with what’s going on in the world right now, that buyer fell out of contract.

So we’ve got the house, it’s worth $270,000. I can turn it into a rental. I’m hopefully going to sell it to somebody else, but you can see the return is huge if I can obviously monetize, which I’m sure I will… And that whole timeframe was about seven, eight months.  Okay. So let’s talk about the team. I don’t think you’re the one tracking down all these owners and having conversations based on what I know about you… So who’s your team? How do you structure it? How are they compensated, that sort of thing? Sure. I’m on the acquisition side, so I’m developing relationships and finding the assets. Once I find the assets, I have an asset manager in California that works remotely. He’s got 30 years experience in servicing the distressed debt space.

Joe Fairless: How’d you find that person?

Alix Kogan: Just the whole networking, talking to different people, and I met him, and that’s been a great relationship. So he’s literally working out of his house.

Joe Fairless: If you can think back to who introduced you to him, I’d love to know exactly how you found him. You don’t have to name names, but just throw us the breadcrumbs.

Alix Kogan: I think the trail started on LinkedIn or I connected with somebody on LinkedIn, and they had pointed me in his direction for just networking, and that he may know sellers, and one thing led to another, where you think you’re going to buy an asset or get some referrals for sellers, and before you know it, you’re talking to a guy who actually is an asset manager that may have excess time and be able to develop a relationship. So that’s what we did.

It started off as — for him, I was somewhat of a side hustle in addition to other asset management work that he was doing, and as my portfolio grew, he’s come on board nearly full time with a little bit of consulting that he still does with outside funds and outside investors.

Joe Fairless: Wow. So you were randomly reaching out to people on LinkedIn based on what they have in their profile, asking them about distressed debt?

Alix Kogan: Yeah, specifically targeting sellers of distressed assets at that time, and just happened to run it across the guy. So there’s multiple ways that you can do this, and you also, of course — to answer your question fully in terms of the team, there’s also third-party servicers that we use. So they’ll do some of the work, and then my asset manager will serve an oversight with them as well as borrower outreach and talking to the borrowers as well. So it’s really a small team, a small little boutique firm, if you will, in that asset class, and I’m soft capitalized, I don’t have investors in that world. So it’s really a third bucket of my business plan – student housing, multifamily and distressed debt.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as a real estate investor, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Alix Kogan: Learn the asset class well. It seems very obvious, but in terms of investing in different assets, learn that asset class well before you invest. Then if you have an opportunity to invest passively, learn as you go. I think that’s a great way, and you’re a prime example. I invested with you early on and got my feet wet in multifamily until I got comfortable enough to start looking at my own deals, and I think that’s a great way. And that’s also what I did with distressed debt. I invested passively in a more of a joint venture with a guy when I first started and learned the business, and then of course, the natural progression – I felt that I could do it on my own, and hire an employee that knows more than I do, and that’s just the way you scale and grow.

Joe Fairless: That’s a pretty good formula for people – invest passively to learn the ropes, plus build your ally group up so you can form allegiances, and then you learn the business simultaneously as well as actively learning, then go active and then hire someone who has more experience than you. But now you’ve got some experience and you know the ropes, you just don’t know the intricacies of someone who’s been in the business for decades. That’s a really good formula. I’m glad that you walked us through that. We’re gonna do a lightning round. You ready for the best ever lightning round?

Alix Kogan: I guess.

Joe Fairless: All right. Well, we’re gonna do it anyway. So hopefully you are. First though, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:23:39]:05] to [00:24:34]:03]

Joe Fairless: Alright, what’s the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Alix Kogan: A book name Lifescale, which is interesting; a book that I’m halfway through.

Joe Fairless: Okay, Lifescale. Okay, got it. What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Alix Kogan: Bad partner. Easy to say in the rearview mirror. He looked good on the front end, but I think more due diligence on the partner than the asset class is important. I got myself in trouble a few years ago with — and fortunately, we unwound that well, but… More due diligence on the partner than the asset.

Joe Fairless: What are some questions knowing what you know now that you would ask prior to engaging in a future partnership?

Alix Kogan: I think it’s more time getting to know someone, really as much as you can learning how they think, definitely more reference checks… But I think it’s time, and unfortunately, we’re in a business that moves pretty fast, whether it’s notes or multifamily or student housing – the deal comes up and it comes to you from a potential partner. So I’ve learned to slow down and only move forward when it feels right and I have enough of a comfort level with a partner. So as you know, I’m a KP on deals and people bring me deals all the time, and I really have to just slow that process down to get to know them better.

Joe Fairless: On that note, how can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing and get in contact with you?

Alix Kogan: Ashlandcapitalfund.com is my website, and my direct email is alix [at] ashlandcapitalfund.com

Joe Fairless: Alix, thanks for being on the show talking about your areas of focus that you’ve had, and then now what you’re focused on, the three areas, with one of them being student housing and why you’re focused on that; you also talked about non-performing notes in your process there. Thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day. Talk to you again soon.

Alix Kogan: Thanks, Joe. Take care.

Website disclaimer

This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.

No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.

Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.

Oral Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2097: Insight in Development Deals With Preston Walls

Preston is the CEO and founder of Walls Property Group, he currently manages a portfolio of 70 buildings valued over $300MM. Preston shares his experience through starting in residential to now development deals. Joe asks Preston to explain some different challenges he has faced in the development world so you can be better prepared if you choose to venture on this path.

 

Preston Walls  Real Estate Background:

  • Founder & CEO of Walls Property Group
  • Currently manages a portfolio of 70 buildings valued over $300MM
  • 16 years of real estate experience
  • Located in Seattle, Washington
  • Say hi to him at: https://wallspropertygroupre.com/ 

 

 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“It was helpful to move forward with something in the face of somebody you respect and trust pointing out the reasons you should not do it.” – Preston Walls


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how you doing? Welcome to the best ever real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever; we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Preston Walls. How you doing, Preston?

Preston Walls: I’m doing great, Joe. How are you doing?

Joe Fairless: I’m doing well and looking forward to our conversation.

Preston Walls: Hey, likewise.

Joe Fairless: A little bit about Preston – he’s the founder and CEO of Walls Property Group, currently manages a portfolio of 70 buildings valued over $300 million, he’s got 16 years of real estate experience, located in Seattle, Washington. So with that being said, Preston, do you want to get the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Preston Walls: Yeah, I grew up in a real estate family. My grandfather was a professor and started a student housing business on the side, and my father’s a real estate developer, so I grew up with it in my blood. I went to school on the East Coast and worked in Manhattan for a few years; I thought I’d get away, but they called me back and I’ve been working in industry since 2002; moved back to Seattle, I worked with my dad for six years, we did some ground-up together and some renovations, and the downturn came, and he said it’s time for him to move on, and I’ve been doing it on my own since then.

Joe Fairless: Well, what did you learn from your dad? I know that it’s such a open-ended, broad question, but just some highlights.

Preston Walls: Two things come to mind. One, just the practical skill aspect of being a developer and what it takes to put a new construction development together. That was really valuable, just as a skill set. The other, he’s been a critic of mine as well, and if there’s ever a reason not to do a deal, he’s the first one to point it out. Especially in the early, early years, where you’re trying to get over the hurdle of, “Should I do this? Does it make sense?” Just trying to get the conviction and the confidence to do it, it was helpful to move forward with something in the face of someone that you respect and trust pointing out the reasons you should not do it.

Joe Fairless: It was helpful to move forward in the face — so going against what someone who you trusted said not to do? Did I hear that correct?

Preston Walls: You have to be really committed and feel really strongly about the deal to move forward with it, to purchase it, when someone is pointing out the way that it could go wrong.

Joe Fairless: Someone with more years of experience, someone who is very familiar with you, and you’re familiar with them, and you know likely he has the best intentions for you. So how do you ultimately – and if you have a specific example, even better – come to a realization that “You know what, I know he has the best intentions and he has more experience, and he’s saying I shouldn’t do it, but for XYZ reasons, I’m going to move forward”?

Preston Walls: One deal comes to mind. I was living abroad at the time, but I’d managed to put this building under contract. I had done my due diligence from afar as much as you can do without seeing the property. He was in Seattle and attended the walkthrough inspection, and–

Joe Fairless: What type of property?

Preston Walls: It’s a 26-unit multifamily building in Seattle. And his report was there are five active leaks in the parking garage and it wasn’t raining out. So you’ve got water issues, there’s a lot of deferred maintenance, the tenant quality in some of the units is fairly poor. He said roof needs to be replaced, “You should not buy this building. I would not buy this building.”

Joe Fairless: Very good summary, yup. Okay.

Preston Walls: He got caught up on all of these– maybe multiple plumbing leaks are not cosmetic things, but he got caught up on what I viewed as resolvable, fixable items, and the price that we were under contract at was at discount enough for fixing everything that could possibly be wrong with it. So I moved ahead anyway with that property and I still own it today; it’s been a great investment. What number transaction was that in terms of your transaction history?  It was probably in the 12 to 15. But even the first transaction that we did, this dynamic played out the same, same way.

Joe Fairless: Really?

Preston Walls: I remember it was a triplex in Seattle, and the first deal you do is the hardest one to get over that hump, and I had created so many models of so many properties that were listed, and I had done the architectural work, adding another unit to the building and doing some work in the existing units… I had bids from contractors, I had all of these variables ironed out, and he was still telling me of all the things that could go wrong and the reasons not to do it. And I moved forward with that one as well, and I still own that one today, and ultimately, he was supportive of my decision and congratulatory of how the deal played out, but it was hard getting there.

Joe Fairless: You mentioned number one, that the thing that you learned was the skill set required to put a development deal together. I’ve never put a development deal together. I have a lot of respect for developers, because of all the stuff that they go through, and some of it I’m not even aware of. What are the skill sets or some important skills that are required for being a developer?

Preston Walls: One of the biggest ones or probably the hardest one for me is capacity to take risk, because you’re in markets where entitlements take a long time. The soonest you can acquire the land and deliver the product is probably five years in Seattle. So you’re looking at a really long timeframe between when you start spending money and when you eventually see a return on that investment. So a lot can change over that course of time and you need to be able to withstand financial– your balance sheet needs to be able to withstand that, and you need to have a pretty accurate idea of where things are going to be. And that’s rental market, that’s construction costs market, that’s cost to get there, that’s carrying costs, all of those things that go into it. That’s probably the most challenging one that I face.

Joe Fairless: High level, you said the soonest is five years. What is that timeline and just walk us through high-level steps from day one to year five?

Preston Walls: I’d say, three years for entitlements. So you purchase property, you need to get a master use permit, which is the permit that allows you to apply for a building permit; get your master use permit, then you can apply for the building permit. So roughly three years for that. 18 months for construction, six months for lease-up and financing.

Joe Fairless: Got it. You’ve gone through the entitlement process. What are some things that surprised you when you first went through it?

Preston Walls: Wow. There’s so many unknowns and uncertainties, and you’re continually learning new ones. Environmental risk is big. I’m building a site now that’s on a steep slope. Just to get the variance to build in an environmentally critical area added probably another 18 months to the process. Historic risk is another one that you don’t really know when that’s gonna pop up. So there are historic zones and historically designated buildings, but there can be historic aspects of a building, a facade that the local jurisdiction wants to keep, and that can significantly hamper your project or the scope of what you want to do.

Joe Fairless: Have you come across that?

Preston Walls: I have. I purchased a building in a historic district. The structure itself separate from the district had a historic easement on it, which meant that I couldn’t alter the exterior facade of the building. Didn’t say anything about the interior; the interior is essentially open for redevelopment, whatever you want to do. But ultimately, the combination of those two, having to get approval and sign off in order to get a permit from both of those entities was painful and time-consuming, and ultimately, I moved on to a different deal.

Joe Fairless: Do you currently do ground-up development?

Preston Walls: I do. I’m building a 60,000 ft building right now and I’ve got another project that should break ground later this year.

Joe Fairless: So you love the pain. You’re in it and–

Preston Walls: Well, I feel that ground-up construction is really fun. It’s really challenging, it’s exciting. I love the vision component of seeing a site, seeing what it can become and producing something there, but it’s hard from a risk standpoint, it’s hard from a balance sheet standpoint, it ties up a lot of liquidity and it ties have a lot of risk on your balance sheet. So I use it sparingly and I do the projects relatively infrequently. The value add syndication is my bread and butter, and there’s a lot less risk in taking an existing asset, making it better, repositioning it and turning it around more quickly to stabilize it.

Joe Fairless: So just from an internal assessment standpoint, whenever you’re looking at an opportunity, what must be in place in order for you to do ground-up development, since as you just mentioned, value-add, lower risk and less headaches– you didn’t say that, but I’m assuming that’s the case. So what’s gotta be there?

Preston Walls: There has to be a really good opportunity and a really compelling reason. The reason is usually a vision component that the market hasn’t seen. So the building I’m working on now that’s under construction, I bought it on a cap rate because a previous developer had tried to entitle it and did a half-assed job with it with the city, and the city responded with a public record notice that said, “You cannot build on this site.” So the broker that was selling it was hamstrung by that. He couldn’t market the development opportunity with this knowledge from the city, or with the city’s decision ruling on it. So it worked on a cash flow basis, and I got the development potential as a zero cost option to work on. So that became a side project in parallel to operate in the units that were there. And you go one step down the road and if you’re successful, you go to the next step, and all of a sudden, I had variants from the city to build a building there, and then I could move forward. So I’ve got to have a strong value proposition that gives me a cost advantage over the rest of the market. That helps me feel more comfortable on taking the risk of going into development site.

Joe Fairless: So tell us about the deal that you’ve lost the most amount of money on.

Preston Walls: Probably the worst deal I did was the historic one, and part of the reason I bought it was the purchase price was really low.

Joe Fairless: What was it?

Preston Walls: It was $450,000 for this commercially zoned retail property on a main street in Seattle. So I sold it for 20% more than that, but I lost a year and a half of time, opportunity costs that I could have been doing something else. So that was frustrating.

Joe Fairless: That’s pretty good though, if you haven’t lost money on any deal, and the worst deal is that you made 20% on the purchase price. I understand opportunity cost is in play, but from a dollars and cents standpoint…

Preston Walls: Well, the other factor that goes into it is I’m typically not a seller of buildings. I’ve only sold three or four properties over my career. So my goal is to own properties for long term, not sell them and hang on and realize the cash flow that they produce.

Joe Fairless: What are your thoughts on selling them and then doing a 1031 and going into a larger deal with more cash flow? I know you’ve thought about it.

Preston Walls: Oh, I’ve definitely thought about it. Every time I think about that, every time I’m tempted by it, my mind goes back to Robert Kiyosaki and the question of whether you want to carry buckets or you want to build a pipeline. And it’s tempting to carry some buckets and make some money, hire some bucket carriers, but ultimately, the pipeline business is holding on to assets long-term and getting the cash flow from them.

Joe Fairless: Just help me understand a little bit more, because with the 1031, you are still holding on to the pipeline; you’re just building it out with new parts. So help me understand that.

Preston Walls: Yeah, there’s a leakage from your pipeline every time you transact. So there’s frictional transaction costs. It’s expensive to buy and sell property. There’s overhead on your part as the sponsor to find a new deal. There’s risk of not finding as good a deal as the last one. There’s time involved in creating and reproducing it, all of which is time that you could spend working on another deal, a new deal that’s more [unintelligible [00:17:34].19] to your portfolio.

Joe Fairless: I love it. Thanks for sharing your thought process. It’s good to hear.

Preston Walls: I get a lot of pushback on that one. In my syndications, that’s part of what you’re signing up for with me, is not having an exit timeframe. My LLCs are open-ended and I plan to hang on for a long, long time, and it’s hard to think about assets, real estate that way when the majority of the market is on a five to eight year time hold horizon.

Joe Fairless: What did you do in Manhattan for a few years before you came back to Seattle?

Preston Walls: I was an indentured servant in a couple of different investment banks.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Any takeaways you got from that, that you’ve applied to the real estate business?

Preston Walls: Yes. My breaking point occurred about 7:00 p.m. one evening. My cubicle was across the hall from an office. It was the guy’s office that you want to sit in, it’s where you want to get to, and every night that he was not traveling, he said goodnight to his kids on speakerphone from his office and it tore up my 20 something year old soul that — I hadn’t started thinking about having kids, but I knew that that was not where I wanted to be, a working for someone environment; I wanted the passive income that would allow me the flexibility to work when and as much as I wanted to.

Joe Fairless: How soon thereafter did you quit?

Preston Walls: I think I lasted four or five more months after that. My dad had been working on me for years to come back to Seattle, but I was certain that I was going to work on Wall Street and that’s what I wanted to do.

But ultimately…

Joe Fairless: [unintelligible [00:19:21].26]

Preston Walls: It sure did. [laughter] I moved back and we started renovating apartment buildings together, and I haven’t looked back since.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience as an investor, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Preston Walls: I would say don’t be afraid to go really deep into a narrow niche. I see a lot of investors that get distracted by the shiny new thing. There are so many different ways to be successful in real estate. Success for me has come from being really narrowly focused and concentrating on a specific niche, which is multifamily in a narrow geography within Seattle.

Joe Fairless: What’s your narrow geography within Seattle?

Preston Walls: There are five zip codes within Seattle that are within a 15-minute drive from my office. That’s my geography.

Joe Fairless: Have you ever bought outside of those five?

Preston Walls: I have not.

Joe Fairless: How many transactions have you done within the five? About.

Preston Walls: 40, 45.

Joe Fairless: So I introduced you “manages a portfolio of 70 buildings” so I’m assuming multiple buildings within one transaction.

Preston Walls: Some of those buildings are buildings that I had managed for my family, and we have a small third-party property management business as well.

Joe Fairless: Got it. What’s the name of that company?

Preston Walls: Walls Property Management.

Joe Fairless: Okay, I understand where the name came from. We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the best ever lightning round?

Preston Walls: I sure am.

Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:20:58]:06] to [00:21:37]:02]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read.

Preston Walls: The Snowball by Alice Schroeder.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Preston Walls: Not understanding/respecting historic designations.

Joe Fairless: What about something we haven’t talked about? Maybe on a recent deal where you wished you would have done a little bit different?

Preston Walls: I’d say environmental on an acquisition where a bank was not involved. So a bank did not require– a phase one was paying cash, and that came back to bite me on a subsequent refinance round.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so the takeaway is always get a phase one.

Preston Walls: Yes.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

Preston Walls: I’d say it was the first triplex that I did. Just being able to have the conviction to buy something with a lot of reasons not to. I still own it. It feels good to still own that asset.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Preston Walls: Our website, wallspropertygroupre.com. We’ve got newsletters up there and I’d love to connect with people if you’re ever in Seattle or want to chat. Look me up.

Joe Fairless: Preston, thanks for being on the show. Thanks for talking about your experience, what you learned from your dad who was a real estate developer and you worked with him, the entitlement process, what are the components of that process, and then also why you do not 1031, and why you focus on long term holds and building out, to use your metaphor – pipeline versus having the bucket. So thanks for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day and talk to you again soon.

Preston Walls: Thank you, Joe.

Website disclaimer

This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions expressed or provided in this website (including by speakers who are not officers, employees, or agents of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC) are not necessarily those of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC, and may not be current. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this website, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions set forth in this podcast.

No part of this podcast may, without Joesta PF LLC’s prior written consent, be reproduced, redistributed, published, copied or duplicated in any form, by any means.

Joe Fairless serves as director of investor relations with Ashcroft Capital, a real estate investment firm. Ashcroft Capital is not affiliated with Joesta PF LLC or this website, and is not responsible for any of the content herein.

Oral Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2082: Four Decades of Raising Capital With Ken Holman

Ken has over 40 years of real estate investing experience and has done all types of real estate deals like self-storage, industrial properties, golf courses, retail lots, and apartments. Ken has had to raise money multiple times and during this episode, he shares some advice on how he raises capital and the insights he has learned over the years.

Ken Holman Real Estate Background:

  • President of Overland Group and National Association of Real Estate Advisors
  • 40 years experience in real estate
  • He has brokered, developed, constructed and owned over $500 million in real estate assets
  • Experienced in owning commercial, industrial properties, self-storage, golf courses, retail, and apartments
  • Based in Salt Lake City, UT
  • Say hi to him at: https://overlandgroupinc.com/ 

 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“Make sure every deal you do is a good deal. Don’t settle for mediocre projects because you’re anxious to get started.” – Ken Holman


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with Ken Holman. Ken, how are you doing today?

Ken Holman: I’m great, how are you doing?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing great as well, thanks for asking and thanks for joining us. I’m looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Ken – he is the president of Overland Group and National Association of Real Estate Advisors. He has 40 years of experience in real estate; he has brokered, developed, constructed and owned over 500 million dollars in real estate assets. Experienced in owning commercial and industrial properties, self-storage, golf courses, retail and apartments.

He’s based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and you can say hi to him at OverlandGroupInc.com. So Ken, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Ken Holman: I’d be happy to. I guess the primary thing that I’ve been involved with over the years has been apartment development. I think I’ve done a dozen or more large apartment projects, ranging anywhere from probably 150 units up to 440 units. Along the way, that’s led to other opportunities. We’ve done several retail projects, mainly Dollar Store type investments… And built a golf course, done some other industrial and office properties. But the core business has been primarily apartments, and also self-storage projects.

What we’re doing today is we’re building an apartment project in St. George, Utah. 116 apartment units. We’re really excited about that. We raised about six million in investment capital on that real estate syndication… And we are doing a couple deals over in Mesa, Arizona. One’s a 580-unit self-storage project. We raised about 2,5 million on that project. It started construction this week, so we’re excited about that.

We’ve got a 240-unit apartment project we’re doing over there, and a 100-room hotel that we’re doing also in Mesa. We raised about 15 million, which has been fully-subscribed, on the 240-unit apartment development… And then the hotel – we haven’t started that raise yet, but… That’s what our company does.

We’re a fully-integrated real estate company. We do brokerage, construction development, capital raising through our syndication, and also property management. So we try to cover the whole gamut of real estate projects, from beginning to end.

Theo Hicks: Thank you for sharing that background. I think a lot of our listeners are gonna be interested in some of your money-raising tactics. You talked about a six-million-dollar raise, a 2.5-million-dollar raise, a 15-million-dollar raise… Do you mind giving us a few tips? Firstly focusing on someone who’s just wanting to get started raising money. And we’re gonna also talk about some tips on scaling to being able to raise over 15 million dollars for a deal.

Ken Holman: Yeah, that’s a big deal actually, to be able to raise that much on a single project… But I started out with my first deal being a little family Dollar Store that we were gonna build in Thermopolis, Wyoming, of all places. I needed to raise $150,000, and I started thinking “Okay, how do I do this?” You get a little reluctant going to family and friends, and trying to beg money from them… So what got me started was I had a self-directed IRA company approach me and ask me if I would give a presentation to them on that particular little family Dollar deal.

So we went over to Boise, Idaho, of all places, and gave a presentation, and walked out of there with 150k in commitments… And I thought “Man, this is pretty fun.” That was a cool way to raise equity capital, so we started getting pretty familiar with how to do self-directed IRAs. Then that branched into self-directed 401K’s, then we developed our expertise in doing 1031 tax-deferred exchange deals.

Then we started getting a reputation for being able to raise discretionary income, and that’s how it all began… It just started evolving. In fact, I don’t know that there’s anybody else out there doing this, because it’s a pretty sophisticated model. But we can take people with discretionary investment capital, with 1031 exchanges and with IRAs and 401K’s, and marry them all into a single project. It gives us a capacity to raise a lot of investment capital that way.

And then we’ve tied in with a couple money-raising funds that really love our projects… And that’s just expanded our capacity to be able to raise equity capital. So it’s been kind of a fun ride, and you’ve gotta have some good people around you to be able to put those deals together… But I think we do, and we’ve developed a really nice product.

Theo Hicks: That was another question I was gonna ask you, it was about your team… But I do wanna ask one follow-up question. Well, I guess two. One will be quick. So we talked about how you’re able to take 1031 exchange investors, IRA investors, 401K investors and wrap them into a single project. You mentioned that is very sophisticated… Just very quickly, if someone wants to do something like that, where can they go to learn more about how to do that process, or is that something they should talk to their securities attorney about? What advice do you have for that kind of person?

Ken Holman: I’ve had to educate some securities attorneys and some 1031 intermediaries on how to do this… So I don’t know that you can go to one single source and get some guidance on how to do it. I’ll give you a quick overview of how it’s done, but that’s where the secret sauce is. That’s why I want everybody who come to our company to be able to do that.

LLCs have the ability to sell basically units, ownership interests in the LLC, and you can bring in investor capital that way. Self-directed IRAs and self-directed 401K’s – the same thing; they can buy units or ownership interest in LLCs. But 1031 tax-deferred exchanges don’t have the ability to do that. They have to do like-kind exchanges; so you’re selling one investment property and buying another investment property.

We see a lot of people with smaller single-family homes, duplexes, fourplexes, that are kind of tired of doing management themselves and would like to get into bigger projects that have more potential, and the possibility of higher returns… So often we see them sell their assets and 1031 into one of our deals. I usually limit the amount of 1031 capital to basically the value of the land. So they can 1031 into the land that we’re acquiring or have acquired, and then we marry that all into what’s called a tenant-in-common agreement, or some people call it a TIC agreement.

TIC agreements in the past have been a bit of a dirty word for 1031 investors, just simply because they’ve been mismanaged, or you get somebody in there that doesn’t know what they’re doing. In our case, it just becomes the mechanism that we use to blend the 1031’s with the LLC investors. So that – you’ve got more than I tell anybody else almost.

Theo Hicks: [laughs] I really appreciate you sharing that with us. Okay, so my other question is you mentioned that one of the reasons why you’re able to do a sophisticated process like this, able to raise so much money is the team. Let’s say I’ve got a business and I’m ready to bring on my first team member; who’s the first person I should bring on?

Ken Holman: That depends… You’ve gotta have a good acquisitions person. That usually is me. I like to handle the acquisition side of our business. And then the supporting cast… I’ve got a son who’s a CPA, and he runs our accounting and our investor relations department, and he and I team up on the development side… So you’ve gotta have somebody that understands acquisitions, somebody that understands development… Reporting is a big deal when you’re raising investment capital. And I didn’t understand that early on, and that’s probably one of the bigger mistakes that I made – I just raised the money and thought “Okay, we’ll do this deal and I will tell everybody when it’s done and we’ll get going, and we’ll make distributions as the project stabilizes.” And we did that, but I have found that investor communication is a real key.

You’ve gotta keep them informed and let them know what’s going on every step of the way. If you do that, they begin to trust you and you develop a relationship with them where they not only wanna do one deal with you, they wanna do several deals with you. So that’s been a side of the business my son Mike brought into the program.

And then because we also do construction, you’ve gotta have a good construction team. Our model is we don’t try to self-perform all of the scopes of work on a construction project; we just oversee the whole project. So we do project management, project engineering estimating and superintending. So we put our superintendent on a project, but we don’t try to self-perform all of the sub-trades. That’s made it so we can move around the country and work in almost any state, which is really good. We’ve been in probably seven or eight states now that we’re licensed in, which is good.

Then you need a securities attorney, and there are different types of securities attorneys, frankly. There are some that throw more roadblocks up than actually are helpful in getting  the private placement memorandum done. And/or they’ll make the private placement memorandum, which is called the PPM, so darn difficult, and with so much legalese in it that it scares away the investors.

So you’ve gotta be able to work with a securities attorney that understands investing and how to work with investors, so that you get all of the disclosure in there that you need to, but you’re not putting so much difficult language in there that it scares people away.

And then obviously you need to develop several sources of fundraising. That includes doing your own webinars, things like what we’re doing here today. Also, any other funds that like to invest with you… And they’re out there, but they’re also looking for really experienced people. So they generally won’t work with a newbie right out of the gate.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Okay, Ken, so for someone who wants to  be in your position and have been involved in over 500 million dollars in real estate transactions, what is your best ever advice?

Ken Holman: Oh, my gosh… Best ever advice maybe is two or three-fold. One, make sure that every deal you do is a good deal. Don’t settle for mediocre projects because you’re anxious to get started. That would be number one. Number two, do what you say you’re gonna do. When you’re raising equity capital, do the very best you can to inform them on what they need to do and how they need to do it and what your timeframes are, and then work really hard to stick with those.

And then I guess the last piece of advice is communicate. Just keep them informed every step of the way; whether you’ve got good news for them or bad news for them, make sure you’re always there, telling them where you are and what you’re doing, and if it’s bad news, just be straightforward with them and let them know where you’re at. They’d rather hear that than not hear anything.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Ken, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Ken Holman: Oh, my gosh… I guess. Let’s try it and see what happens. I  may fail, but you never know.

Theo Hicks: Okay. First, a quick word from our Best Ever sponsor.

Break: [00:16:36].23] to [00:17:20].15]

Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the Best Ever book you’ve recently read?

Ken Holman: What did I really like right now that I’m reading, I’m kind of excited about is a book called “Start With Why” by a guy named Simon Sinek. He talks a little bit about how great leaders motivate and inspire other people, so that’s been kind of a fun book to read.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Ken Holman: I’ve been in this business 40 years,  man… I’d retire. I’ve had some people already tell me I should retire, but I’m having too much fun, so I don’t see any reason to stop yet. But if my business were to collapse, I’d probably take a little time off, buy a new suit, and then I would probably get started again, doing exactly what I’m doing… Because I’ve learned how to do it, and frankly I’m pretty good at it, so… I think it’d be possible to do it again.

Theo Hicks: What deal did you lose the most money on? How much did you lose, and then what lessons did you learn moving forward?

Ken Holman: Well, I’ve been in the business enough years that I’ve been through more than one real estate cycle, and probably the hardest real estate cycle that we dealt with was back in the Resolution Trust Corporation days, when the 1986 tax reform act happened… And they didn’t even have what was called passive losses; they didn’t have those. But the losses that you generated in real estate through depreciation, you could write off against ordinary income. They disallowed all of that; it completely changed the business. 5,000 savings and loans went out of business, and we really struggled with properties. During that era, occupancies went from 90 down to 50, and we lost some properties back then, as did everybody else. Some of the big players went out of business… So that was just not a good era.

Today I see this Coronavirus and I see a few things happening, but what we’ve got going on right now in terms of its impact on the real estate business is just not that great compared to what some other downturns have had… So that’s my worst situation; it’s a long answer to a short question, sorry.

Theo Hicks: I didn’t know about that, so thanks for sharing that. So what is the best ever way you like to give back?

Ken Holman: I have two or three ways that I give back. I’ve been a member of Rotary International for a long time. I was one of the founding members of my club here that we formed, and they have a program called the Paul Harris Fellowship, which is with the Rotary Foundation, and you can contribute money to that, and then that goes into all sorts of humanitarian efforts.

I also contribute to a humanitarian program with our local church. And then I’ve helped organize several Blood Drives with the American Red Cross, which has been cool.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you?

Ken Holman: Probably the easiest place to reach me is on my email address, which is kholman [at] overlandcorp.com. You reach me there at any time and Natalie, my assistant, just keeps on top of that, so we’re pretty good at responding when we get emails.

Theo Hicks: Well, Ken, I really appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing your advice, and I also appreciate you sharing your email address. So Best Ever listeners, make sure you take advantage of that. It’s rare that a guest with this much experience gives away his personal email address… So make sure, again,  you take advantage of that.

Just to summarize some of the biggest takeaways that I had – you kind of gave away your secret sauce a little bit about raising capital…

Ken Holman: Don’t tell anybody, okay?

Theo Hicks: I promise I won’t tell anyone. So you wanna relisten and listen to that. You also gave us some advice on what to do to get to the point of being able to raise such large amount of capital, and sort of how you started with a small $150,000 raise, and obviously are up to 15+ million dollar raises… It sounds like it is just slowly stepping your way up and gaining reputation, and as you do more and more, you learn more, you know more, and you attract more and you attract more people to you, assuming you’ve been successful.

Ken Holman: Yeah.

Theo Hicks: And then also you  mentioned how you eventually were able to work with funds as well, so I’m sure that was also helpful.

Ken Holman: Yeah.

Theo Hicks: You broke down the different team members that someone would need to do what you do, and then you gave your three-fold best ever advice for someone who wants to grow  up to doing 500 million dollars’ worth of transactions. Number one, make sure that every deal you do is a good deal, so don’t settle just because you’re anxious to get started into your first deal. Number two is to do what you say you’re going to do in raising capital; whatever you say that you’re gonna do to your investors – make sure you stick to that. And then number three was to communicate with your investors. Keep them informed every step of the way, with the good news and the bad news. They’re rather hear the bad news from you than not hear it until it starts affecting their money.

Ken, again, I really appreciate you coming on the show and joining us today. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening, have a best ever day, and we will talk to you tomorrow.

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JF2062: Commercial Real Estate During The Coronavirus With Tim Karels

Tim is the Owner of Falls Real Estate, he owns and manages $15-20M in commercial real estate and has over 9 years of experience. The coronavirus has impacted everyone in the market and today Tim explains from a commercial real estate perspective how he is handling rent collection and making property improvements 

Tim Karels Real Estate Background:

  • Owner of Falls Real Estate 
  • Falls Real Estate owns and manages $15-20M in commercial real estate
  • Over 9 years of experience in real estate investing
  • Based in Sioux, South Dakota
  • Say hi to him at https://fallsre.com/
  • Best Ever Book: Richest Man In Town

 

Click here for more info on groundbreaker.co

Best Ever Tweet:

“We have to emphasize with everybody but we also have to remember we have our own investors and mortgages to pay and we should look at how we can work together as a team.” – Tim Karels


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners, and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. My name is Theo Hicks, and today we’ll be speaking with Tim Karels. Tim, how are you doing today?

Tim Karels: I’m pretty good. How about you?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing good, thanks for asking, and thanks for joining us and being willing to talk about what everyone is talking about, which is the Coronavirus. Today we’re gonna talk to Tim about how his business is being impacted by the Coronavirus, and just all things Coronavirus.

Before we get into that, a little bit about Tim. He is the owner of Falls Real Estate, which owns and manages 15 to 20 million dollars in commercial real estate. He has over nine years of experience in real estate investing. Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. You can say hi to him at FallsRE.com.

Tim, before we start talking about the Coronavirus, do you mind telling us a little bit about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Tim Karels: Yeah, a little bit about myself – I am born and raised in South Dakota. I’ve been here my whole life, and I absolutely love it here. Our real estate is all focused in South Dakota as well. Right now we’re really just focusing on potentially looking what we can do to improve our properties. It’s really hard right now to look at investing in properties, given the situation that we’re all experiencing… But the labor force is looking for projects and for stuff to do, so how can we use that labor force, often at a cheap rate, to improve our properties, and also try to help the economy and keep people in business.

Right now it’s status quo on the investment properties, but how can we improve those, and focus on how to collect the rent, and the best way to deal with people that might be put into a bad financial situation based on the virus.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Thanks for sharing that. So before we dive into our tactics, I wanna just set some more context, so people understand what your portfolio is. It’s 20 million dollars in commercial real estate… Do you wanna walk us through how many properties that is, what they are – is it retail, office, medical, multifamily? That way we have a little bit more context, and then hone in more specific questions.

Tim Karels: It’s really just four large properties, mainly consisting of office space. We have some downtown — Sioux Falls is a metropolitan area of about 200,000 people, so it’s not very big, but it’s the largest in South Dakota. We have some loft apartments, we also have some retail, some restaurants, and some event centers.

So it’s a mixture – probably about 75% office and 25% in that specialized retail and apartment and loft. So kind of a mix of basically everything.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. So your two main areas of focus right now are 1) improving your existing properties, and 2) making sure you’re able to collect rent. I actually haven’t talked to anyone who — because most people I’ve talked to are just multifamily… So maybe we can focus on the rent collection part first. Obviously, a lot of retail places are shut down because of the stay-at-home orders and the essential business  orders and things like that… So maybe walk us through how you’re approaching collecting rent on your retail properties specifically.

Tim Karels: We’re definitely working with our retailers. The PPP program that’s come out has 75% to be used for payroll and 25% to be used towards rent and utilities. It’s our focus to try to help as many small businesses in the retail sector succeed, as much and long as possible, understanding that we have to keep the lights on and the building at working condition, even if we’re not getting rent, and knowing that we have our own mortgage to pay. So what we’ve been doing is working on a case-by-case basis, giving these retailers some context in the banking world, the financial world, to allow them to apply for the PPP. We’re not really telling them that they should do it, we’re saying “Hey, you have to do this, especially if you cannot pay rent.”

Once they do apply for that PPP — I know the banks had a hard time rolling it out. It sounds like we’ve already hit 250 billion out of the 350 allocated, and by Friday that’s gonna be hit… So if these retailers did get their PPP in, they got funded. We’re working with them on a case-to-case basis on how we can collect rent, while they utilize the ratios that the SBA has allocated for how they can use those funds.

If they haven’t applied, we’re telling them to apply, and if the funding does run out, we’ll have to probably just defer the payments until they can get that PPP. If they’re not gonna apply for the PPP, then unfortunately they’re not gonna try to help themselves. We will probably just gonna have to go through the legal realm of what happens when somebody doesn’t pay a rent.

So we have to empathize with everybody, we have to try to help everybody as much as we can, but we have to also understand that we have our own investors and our own mortgage to pay, so how can we all work together as a team. Usually, it is on a one-by-one case type thing.

Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. That makes a lot of sense. I know that PPP program is very helpful for a lot of people right now. What about office? My wife works for a corporation who has an office in a downtown area, and they’re all working from home… I guess it depends on what type of a renter you have, but it might just be a little bit different for an office; those corporations can just work from home. The company is still making money, so I’m assuming they can still pay rent… But obviously, you would know more than me, so correct me if I’m wrong, if there are any problems with rents. So what types of things are you doing to collect rent on those office buildings?

Tim Karels: For the most part, everyone at the office/individuals has paid. South Dakota – we’re one of eight states that don’t have a shelter in place order. Now, the city of Sioux Falls – I don’t know if you just saw on the news; we have the Smithfield Pork Processing Plant, which has now become the number one hotspot for Coronavirus sources in the nation… So our mayor and the city council is trying to put together a stay-at-home shelter ordinance for the Sioux Falls city ordinance.

So the economy here was very strong; the offices that we rent out, those companies were all very strong, so I think in the short-term they all had cash reserves to pay for the rent. They too can apply for the PPP program. They don’t rely on foot traffic nearly as much as the retail, the restaurants, and bars, and event companies and whatnot… But how this is different from the financial collapse is that every business is getting affected. Some of them are reaping the benefits, for example exercise equipments at home, beer sales, distribution sales, liquor sales are going through the roof. If you look at even smaller things, such as planning events or wedding and all that stuff are going through.

So there are some offices that might be semi-retail that are struggling, but I think overall, they’re gonna be fine. They’re probably not gonna make nearly as much money, but I think that they’re gonna be fine, given that they can also apply for the PPP, and that it’s not affecting them like some of these retails, that literally overnight went from 100% full-blown/let’s go/balls to the wall, to they lost 90% of their business in 12 hours. It’s just crazy.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, totally. I figured that’d be the case, where retail would be a little bit harder hit than office. I guess depending on the retail too, because as you mentioned, if you were renting to a liquor store, then they probably have no issue; maybe you can ask for a little bit more rent from them, or something. [laughs]

Something else you mentioned too that I really like, and it’s funny, actually my mom was talking about this stuff – what are you gonna do during this time to improve and come out the other side better… And you mentioned that one of your focus, since obviously acquisitions are slowing down  – what can you do to improve your existing portfolio. So you’ve got office, retail, apartments… You can either go one by one, or just overall improvements you’re making. Give us some examples of things that you’re focusing on right now to improve your current portfolio.

Tim Karels: Like I said, we have some exercise rooms and facilities in some of our real estate, and people are feeling uncomfortable going out to exercise facilities that are off-site, and they might even feel uncomfortable going here, but we do have our cleaners go in… So we’ve been buying new equipment; if there’s some shoddy or old equipment, we’ve been replacing that… We’ve been looking at what type of things that will bring some more bang to the buck.

It literally could be just simple things, such as painting, things that you don’t need to bring in a whole crew, because — keep in mind, we don’t have that shelter in place quite yet, so business that are deemed not essential still can come in to work. So we are trying to keep our tenants as comfortable as possible by not bringing in a whole crew, and demolishing and putting up new stuff… But if we can paint, replace countertops, replace flooring, elevator panels, the equipment rooms was a big one… And just stuff that will make a small difference and make the tenants maybe feel a little bit happier, knowing that we’re not bringing in a  whole crew to do it and risk their health.

Furthermore, there’s people out there looking for work. I’ve just had my HVAC system go out in my house, and I called an HVAC company because it’s 28-30 degrees out at night, so we still needed some heat… And I had a guy come in 15 minutes and he basically just said “We’re sitting on our butt, we’re looking for work. If you need some stuff to get done, now is the time, because we can probably get you a good deal, at least on the labor side of stuff.” So I think it’s those kinds of improvements that you can look to do without jeopardizing much health for your tenants.

Theo Hicks: Okay. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention as it relates to the Coronavirus and your business, before we move into the lightning round?

Tim Karels: I don’t think so. I think it’s interesting, because most financial institutions when it comes to mortgages that are due – I think if you’d have someone have good relationships with them and you are struggling with cashflow, a lot of the institutions will hopefully do an interest-only, or maybe defer some payments or move them to the end of the loan… But I really think it’s important that landlords do work with their tenants as much as possible.

I see some tenant strikes going on in the bigger cities, but I also see some landlords that send out unreasonable letters to their tenants… And I just hope that as Americans we see the bigger picture; we know that we’re all struggling, so how can we help each other, and what can we do?

On the residential side, I think the government is taking care of most people, whether you agree with it or not… But with that being said, there’s still gonna be  independent contractors or people that own small businesses that haven’t got the PPP, or they’re a seasonal business and they can’t get what they need, that are still gonna need to be worked with.

So I just hope that other landlords have the passion to work with these tenants, but I also hope that tenants don’t always [unintelligible [00:13:36].21] tenant strike, and hurting landlords that are providing housing, and trying to help people with their businesses, and stuff like that. That’s really all I had to say, and hopefully we can get through this together.

Theo Hicks: Absolutely. Okay, are  you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Tim Karels: Yes, sir.

Theo Hicks: Okay. First, a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:13:55].19] to [00:14:57].28]

Theo Hicks: Okay, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Tim Karels: There’s a book called The Richest Man in Town. It’s actually written by a guy from Brookings, SD. An individual that worked at Walmart his whole life, who absolutely wasn’t rich, but had the best personality… And it’s changed my life, and it made me look and be more humble.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Tim Karels: Probably go camping for a month, and just let my mind get clear. I’ve worked hard, and hopefully it doesn’t collapse, but I also deserve a break, I think.

Theo Hicks: Do you go camping in South Dakota somewhere?

Tim Karels: Probably I have to because of the restrictions, but it’s a little cold. So if it collapsed today, I’d probably wanna go somewhere down South.

Theo Hicks: What deal did you lose the most money on, and how much did you lose and what lessons did you learn?

Tim Karels: Probably just trying to get into the house flipping. I didn’t really lose that much money because of the appreciation that houses had, but when you put in your time and effort on it, and you have to pay your property taxes back, pay a real estate agent back, pay short-term capital gains… I looked at the amount of money I was making versus the time I spent, and it’s “What can I do better and become more efficient?” To be honest, it scrapped the whole idea altogether. I think because I learned from it quickly, it saved me tons of money in the long run.

Theo Hicks: And then lastly, what is the best ever place to reach you, and anything else you wanna mention before we wrap up?

Tim Karels: Just my website, www.fallsre.com. Fill out a Contact form if there’s anything to talk about. I don’t know, I just like talking to other people about the investing world. I own a couple other businesses too, and I just kind of like to stay in touch with everybody about anything business. So if there’s anything to talk about, feel free to contact me. If you’d like to have a phone call or if you’re in the area when this whole thing gets done, have a coffee or a beer or something.

Theo Hicks: Alright, Tim, I really appreciate you coming on the show today and being willing to talk about the Coronavirus and how it’s impacting your business. To just quickly summarize what we’ve talked about – your portfolio consists of mostly office. We’ve talked about how most people have been paying their rent; office is not gonna be as impacted as retail is. You kind of walked through what you’re doing on some of your retail properties, which is mostly asking and telling your tenants that “Hey, you guys need to apply for this PPP program, so you can use 25% of that loan to pay for your rent and utilities.”

I also really liked when you talked about how you’re focusing on how to improve your existing portfolio during this time, as opposed to just writing it out, not doing anything. You basically mentioned that you’re trying to do things that make a small difference and make your tenants happy, not having to bring in a full crew to stress them out about potentially catching the Coronavirus.

So again, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Best Ever listeners, as always, thanks for listening, stay safe, have a best ever day, and we will talk to you tomorrow.

Tim Karels: Thanks. You have a great day, too.

 

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This website, including the podcasts and other content herein, are made available by Joesta PF LLC solely for informational purposes. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions expressed in this website do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. Neither Joe Fairless nor Joesta PF LLC are providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice in or by virtue of this website. The information, statements, comments, views and opinions provided in this website are general in nature, and such information, statements, comments, views and opinions are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC to that listener or generally, and do not result in any listener being considered a client or customer of Joe Fairless or Joesta PF LLC.

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The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action. For more information, go to www.bestevershow.com.

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JF2055: Open Air Shopping Centers With Chris Ressa

Chris is the COO of DLC Management Corp and he currently oversees DLC’s a portfolio of $3 billion. Their goal is to buy value-add properties that are underlease or undermanaged. He explains in detail what a value-add property is and how they analyze if it is a good buy or not. 

Chris Ressa  Real Estate Background:

    • COO of DLC Management Corp
    • Currently oversees DLC’s asset portfolio of $3 billion
    • 15 years of real estate experience
    • Located in Elmsford, New York
    • Say hi to him at:https://www.dlcmgmt.com/ 

 

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“Don’t be seduced by the price dropping.” – Chris Ressa

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JF2050: Managing and Dealing During The Coronavirus With Shannon Robnett

Shannon has 25+ years of real estate experience owning 500+ properties, experienced builder, and syndicator. His family has always been in real estate where dinner conversations consist of real estate deals. In this episode Shannon shares the ways he is approaching his investors and residents to make sure they are all taken care of and his business stays safe. 

 

Shannon Robnett Real Estate Background:

    • 25+ years of real estate investing experience
    • Developer, builder, and syndicator in multi-family and industrial
    • Currently owns 500+ properties
    • From Meridian, Idaho
    • Say hi to him at: www.shannonrobnett.com  

 

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“Communicate early and often” – Shannon Robnett


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today, we’ll be speaking with Shannon Robnett. Shannon, how are doing today?

Shannon Robnett: Good, Theo. How are you?

Theo Hicks: I’m doing good, thanks for asking, and thanks for joining us. Today, we’re gonna be talking about the coronavirus, which seems like everyone is talking about today.

Shannon Robnett: That’s for sure.

Theo Hicks: So we’re gonna ask Shannon how the coronavirus is impacting his business and the things that he is implementing in order to combat it. But before we get into that, let’s go over Shannon’s background. So he has 25+ years of real estate investing experience, he’s a developer and builder of all types of real estate, as well as a syndicator; he currently owns 500+ properties, and he’s from Meridian, Idaho, and you can say hi to him at his website, which is shannonrobnett.com. So Shannon, before we start talking about the coronavirus, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on today?

Shannon Robnett: Sure, Theo. So I grew up in a real estate family, so I watched my parents do deals at the kitchen table and talk about if we sold this, we could buy that. My mom is a third-generation realtor, my son is a fifth-generation realtor, and my dad is a general contractor. So I kind of got that growing up. I didn’t really see that there was much option for me with that background. So I’ve always been about doing deals and putting things together, and we’ve just been able to continue to grow a business that meets the needs of our clients, meets the needs of our community. So with that, it’s definitely kept me busy and given me a lifetime’s worth of work.

Theo Hicks: Perfect, thanks for sharing that. As you mentioned before, you’ve started — so you’re a builder and developer. So you build all types of properties – commercial, industrial, multifamily, retail, but then you mentioned that you don’t own those. But you own 500+ properties. What are those? Are those multifamily, or are those something else?

Shannon Robnett: Currently, we just finished 180 doors. We’re in process, right now, of constructing one particular project of 191. We’ve got another project at 36, and then we’ve got two other projects that total another 200 doors that are under construction. So we develop those, we find the ground, we put the deals together. I also own industrial space. We’ve got multi-tenant industrial buildings all over the valley. But the retail business, the office business is just a little bit different business, and is just one that I’ve chosen to stay out of, and we’re seeing a decline in retail, we’re seeing a decline in shop space, and things like that. So that’s just an area that I’ve stayed away from.

Theo Hicks: Okay, and then all of the other multifamily projects you were talking about, will you then own those or manage those afterwards, or do you then sell those?

Shannon Robnett: Our goal is to build them up and then sell them, essentially to another one of our entities that is a syndication entity. I also do have a property management company, so I keep real tight control on what value my tenants are getting, making sure that we’re more concerned about the bottom line, giving the tenant the experience that they’re willing to pay for, because we all know, at the end of the day, that affects the value of the property through the cap rates. So we’re always, always managing our own.

Theo Hicks: So, for your syndication business, are you raising capital from other people to fund those deals?

Shannon Robnett: We are raising capital from other people. We’ve got a pretty good network. Obviously, we’re always willing to have other people join our projects, but we’ve been pretty good with that. Myverticalequity.com is where our capital raise is centered out of, but our investors that are on our syndications are in the mid-20s for their returns, in their IRR.

Theo Hicks: Okay, yup. So the reason why I was asking you all of those questions is I wanted to see what you were all involved in, so I can figure out what type of questions to ask with the coronavirus. But it seems like you’re involved in everything, so can we take this really in any direction. So let’s start with property management. So you said you have your own property management firm. Before we start talking about communicating with tenants, let’s talk about the operational perspective. I know a big thing right now is collecting rent. So we’re recording this on April 8th. So April 1st was the first of the month, when rent was due. So maybe walk us through how that went, what type of things you did to make sure you were able to collect the rent, what types of concessions that you guys came up with for your residents, or really just walk us through what happened.

Shannon Robnett: Okay. So when this whole thing started coming out, we sent out a memo to our people. It was about the 25th of March, and we hand-delivered it, actually put it on everybody’s door, letting them know that we were interested in understanding if they were affected by it and if they could let us know that there had been some change; maybe there was a letter from their boss or their unemployment filings or medical notice, we were willing to work with them.

So our approach was always to reach out to our tenants first, because we want to maximize that experience for them. So contacting them about this early really put us ahead of the curve, because we started hearing rumblings, we started having tenants come to us, and everybody is afraid of the unknown. They don’t really know what’s going to happen next. They don’t know how secure their job is. So just being able to come and talk with us.

Then when it progressed a little further and we started seeing states shut down and things like that, when we closed our amenities, we immediately told the tenants that in April, that we would not be collecting for the RUBS, nor would we be collecting for the cable, and the internet. So the tenants felt like they were being compensated for not having the amenities. So from there, we were able to really build a bridge with them and begin to continue the conversation. Moving forward, we had about five people come forward and most of them were interested in how this month was going to go, but how next month was going to go. So we were able to build a bit of a forbearance where we reduced the rents here, and then extended them by another year in the property, and spread out the discounted rent over that time period. So they were able to feel like we heard them, they had a choice in how that was going to go, we weren’t looking for a raise for next year, but we were able to spread out the discount of this month and next month over that period of time.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so we’ve talked about the residents side of things. What about your investors? So how did you handle communication with the investors? So these are deals where you, obviously, raise money from people, they’re used to getting their returns, they’re used to things just going as normal. From here on out, you really don’t know what’s going to happen by the end of the month, so what types of conversations, emails, phone calls have you had with them?

Shannon Robnett: Well, Theo, we used the same philosophy with our investors as our tenants, and that’s  communicate early and often. So we reached out to them with an email, letting them know that we didn’t know what was going to happen. However, we reminded them that we did have cash reserves that we could pull from, that we weren’t in trouble of not making our payments this month, nobody had issues with any of those things. And really before they ever got concerned, we took the proactive step with them and just let them know there was no reason to be concerned. And then after that, as always, we’ve really tried hard to stay in front of them, and most of our investors aren’t that concerned, because we are always communicating often.

Theo Hicks: So you sent an initial email. After that first email, how often were you sending emails? Every day, every week?

Shannon Robnett: We gave them an update on the fifth, and then we’re starting to do a weekly wrap up. Hey, here’s how many people we had come in looking for some assistance, here’s what we think to do, here’s how we’re going to handle it, here’s how that would potentially affect cash flow. So we’re going to start doing that on a weekly basis as we move on, just so that we over-communicate and don’t run into issues.

Theo Hicks: Okay, and then what about on the opposite side. We talked about deals that you already completed, that you have a property management company, have tenants, have investors. You mentioned that you’re working in a few development deals. Are those being impacted at all or are those still on schedule, everything is going smoothly?

Shannon Robnett: Well, construction is considered an essential service. So our contractors have been on site and moving forward as scheduled. It has given people a time to pause, as far as jumping into our deals, but it’s also been a funny time because we’ve seen a lot of people wanting to get out of the stock market and coming to us and saying, “I decided I want to invest with you guys now.” So we’re seeing both sides of the spectrum there, where we’ve got people coming into our deals faster than we thought, on stuff that we have shovel ready that we’re moving forward on. Some of the stuff that’s in planning that’s out six to nine months I don’t think is going to be bothered, but right now, we don’t know.

Theo Hicks: Okay. As you mentioned earlier about forbearance – are those conversations you’re having with your lenders?

Shannon Robnett: No, we’re not in a position where we need to have a forbearance conversation with our lenders. We’re just doing that with our tenants and we’re structuring it… Because everybody’s hearing that word in the media, and tenants like to get what everybody else is getting. So having them talk about, “I’ll give you half off of April and half off of May, and then we’ll add it on to June and July and spread it out over the next 12 months. And maybe that requires a lease renewal, but we’re great [unintelligible [00:10:32].28].”

Theo Hicks: Alright, and then another question. Obviously, they recently passed– it was last week, I don’t know time is like a time warp right now…

Shannon Robnett: Right. You’re running in quicksand.

Theo Hicks: I saw a funny meme – January is 31 days long, and then February is really short, it’s 28 days long, and then March is 6000 days long. Something like that.

Shannon Robnett: Right, right. Exactly.

Theo Hicks: But anyways– so they passed the CARES Act. I was wondering if you have investigated it or are taking advantage of any of the loan programs – the EIDL, the PPP loans at all?

Shannon Robnett: Yeah, we have applied for both the PPP and the EIDL loan program, and the reason that we’ve done that is because our employees were really excited when we applied for the PPP program, because they knew that there was an opportunity for additional protection for them, and it also puts us just in a stronger position on a balance sheet to have those funds available if we need them. They’re grants that can be paid back, but if you’re not applying for them, you’re definitely not going to be eligible. So having the opportunity to get the cash while it’s available is definitely, I think, prudent business.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, and then for the EIDL, that $10,000 advance is considered a grant. I don’t think you got to pay that one back, is that right?

Shannon Robnett: That’s my understanding as well.

Theo Hicks: It’s confusing, but it’s my understanding too.

Shannon Robnett: Yeah, and that’s the thing. We’ve applied for this and I’ve stayed in touch with our lenders on this. Everybody’s trying to get to the bottom of it. I know that– typical government, they say, “We’re going to do this,” and then they throw it off onto another agency that’s got to sort out how that actually gets implemented. But from the standpoint that cash flow right now or cash in hand right now is what everybody’s looking for, any opportunity to increase that and have that to work with later is definitely a great option.

Theo Hicks: Okay then the last question, I’ve been asking this to everyone who I’ve talked to this about… Where do you see your industry – let’s just call it, I guess, development – in six months or a year from now or once this is all over? Do you think it’s gonna snap back to normal or do you think there’ll be any changes, and if so, what do you think those changes will be, and then are there gonna be opportunities, just like there were after the 2008 recession that people should be aware of?

Shannon Robnett: I think that we’re going to snap back fairly quickly. The biggest difference between right now and 2008 is that there’s inventory shortages everywhere. So with the inventory shortages, I think we’re going to see it snap back pretty quickly. I don’t think that we’re going to go into an 08′ type recession, because that had a lot of product available. But I do see that there are some people that shouldn’t be in real estate, that are going to get removed fairly quickly… But those of us that have been here for a while that are about staying the course, I think you’re going to be just fine.

That’s the way it is with development. We’re always looking 12 to 24 months down the road anyway. So I see that we’re going to see some positive changes in how the lending market is going to respond to this, because I think that, like most things, lending has been getting a little bit loose and a lot of people that maybe shouldn’t be doing this are getting in the waters which is making it a little muddy.

Theo Hicks: Yeah. I think that’s a common theme that everyone thinks that this is going to, in a sense, weed out the fakers, so to speak, that shouldn’t be investing in real estate. So I guess that’s probably a plus plus, once they do leave and they’re trying to sell their properties. Those are opportunities for people to take advantage of.

Shannon Robnett: Yeah, like Warren Buffett said, “When the tide goes out, you can see who’s swimming naked,” and I think that there are going to be opportunities, but I don’t believe that they’re going to be the opportunities that we saw in ’08, ’09, because most people, if they’re not in a cash flow position right now, they’re not far from it, because they’re not dealing with the vacancy that would require a lot of discount in multifamily. Single-family is still selling very well. In most areas, there’s not enough inventory of that. So if their single-family product comes back on the market, they’ll get snapped up pretty quickly.

Theo Hicks: Alright. Well, Shannon, I really appreciate you coming on the show today and sharing your background, first of all, but also how the coronavirus is impacting your business and some of these solutions you’re putting in place. Just to summarize, from a resident-tenant perspective, you mentioned that you initially sent out a memo, hand-delivered memos – first time I heard about that – to all of your tenants asking them to let you know if they’re going to be affected financially by the coronavirus.

So you reached out to them first and early; it was a theme with communication. You mentioned that once you closed the amenities, you told residents that you would not be collecting for the RUBS or internet or cable. So they felt like they were being compensated for not having the amenities, because as everyone knows, those aren’t a monthly fee or anything. They’re just built into the rent. I thought that was a very solid approach. And then, you mentioned that people who needed help, you extended their lease by a year, and then spread their delayed payments over that timeframe. So that was your repayment strategy.

For the investors, you mentioned that you sent them an email on 5th of April that you don’t really know what’s going to happen, but here’s all the measures we have in place that makes us think we’re going to be okay. We have reserves, we’re not getting any trouble paying any expenses. So just like the tenants, you acted quickly. You mentioned that you’re also doing a weekly wrap up emails. I really like that. So just mentioning, “Hey, here’s what happened this week, here’s who needed help, here’s we’re going to do, here’s how it’s gonna impact the financials, but we were still okay.” So just trying to stay in front of them as much as possible.

You mentioned from a construction perspective — I didn’t know that construction was considered an essential service, so you’ve got your contractors are still there working. You got some people who are not interested in investing, but then you’ve got more new people coming in who want to get out of the stock market because of how poorly that’s been performing.

You mentioned that you applied for both the PPP and the EIDL loans, that your employees were excited about the PPP because of the extra protection that they’ll get, and that it’s good to just to have cash right now, because you have stronger balance sheets.

We talked about your post COVID predictions, that you don’t think it’s gonna be as bad as 2008 because the fact that there are inventory shortages right now, and that you think that once it’s all over, people who shouldn’t be in real estate will have been kicked out, and that there’s gonna be positive changes in lending and lending requirements because it’s been a little loose, which just allowed these people to come in… And again, that you don’t think it’s going to be like 2008 because vacancy was much lower then and inventory was much higher then. So I think that covers everything we’ve talked about.

Shannon Robnett: That’s it.

Theo Hicks: Again, really appreciate you coming on the show and being willing to talk about this stuff.

Shannon Robnett: Thank you, Theo.

Theo Hicks: I’m glad to hear that you’re doing okay. I’m glad to hear that you’re safe. Stay safe. Everyone listening, stay safe. Have a best ever day and we will talk to you tomorrow.

Shannon Robnett: Thanks, Theo.

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JF2001: Being Your Own Tenant in Commercial Real Estate with Ken Wimberly

Ken is a business owner who started out as a land broker and in 2008 he quickly learned how to adapt due to the economic downturn. Fast Forward to today and now he has developed a successful app called Legacy of Love, an app that helps connect kids with their parents. Ken also shares a story on how he went from purchasing a shopping center and searching for tenants to creating his own tenant. 

Ken Wimberly Real Estate Background:

  • Founder and visionary behind Legacy of Love, LLC.
  • Entrepreneur and real estate investor, and has 16 streams of passive income and 4 streams of active income
  • Based in Fort Worth, Texas 
  • Say hi to him at https://www.laundryluv.com/ 
  • Best Ever Book: The Obstacle is the Way 

Best Ever Tweet:

“Whether it’s a client, customers, tenants, your partners, your lenders, if we can figure out how to be a significant source of value to others life rewards us.” – Ken Wimberly


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Ken Wimberly. How are you doing, Ken?

Ken Wimberly: Dynamite. And you?

Joe Fairless: I am doing dynamite as well. You said that earlier, but when I first called you, I was like “No one’s ever said ‘dynamite’, and I love that.” So maybe I’ll start incorporating ‘dynamite’ more in my vocabulary. A little bit about Ken – he is the founder and visionary behind Legacy of Love LLC. He’s an entrepreneur and real estate investor, has 16 streams of passive income, and four streams of active income. Based in Cowtown; if you don’t know Cowtown, that’s Fort Worth, Texas. Go see the Stockyards.  It’s a great tourist place, as well as for locals in Fort Worth.

With that being said, Ken, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Ken Wimberly: I’d love to, and thanks so much for having me on the podcast. I’ve got a background in finance out of college. I studied finance and real estate in college – if you wanna date me here, back in the early ’90s. I served in the Navy for a little while, got out… Kind of got into an entrepreneurial spirit. I was a restauranteur for a little while… And I eventually made my way into the real estate business in 2002.

I got into real estate brokerage, and really got into the land brokerage business. For anyone getting into the real estate brokerage business, especially the commercial real estate brokerage business, the lead time is long to start really producing. It took about a year to start making any money. But once I did, I spent that year building a pipeline and things started to really kind of flow in.

So from end of 2002 is when I got into the real estate business, I started making money in 2003. Around 2006 I broke away from the small, family-owned partnership that I had interned with and mentored with and learned the business, I started my own company in 2006, and around that time I started looking for my own real estate deals at that time, and got involved in a couple of commercial real estate deals. Around that time markets crashed; basically,  July 2008 the commercial real estate market crashed, and I had to really reset and restart, figure out what I was gonna do within the brokerage business… Because the land brokerage business died. Everything I had dried up at that point that we’d stuck in the brokerage business. I did a lot of REO work with some banks, and really just whatever I could do to help people at that point… Help them, which helped me.

I stuck with that, and continued to grow my real estate business. I really started to scale it around late 2009, early 2010, and scaled a pretty significant brokerage operation. We became the number one producing real estate team in all of KW Commercial out of about 2,000 agents… So we scaled a nice business, which was beautiful, because that threw off income, and we were able to use that income to make investments, both in our own deals, and in some other folks’ deals, and start to slowly build this passive wealth path that we’re on today. Also, the income from those allowed us to venture into some other endeavors that have evolved, other businesses that are also creating income opportunities. One of those is a laundromat business that we’ve actually created. The beauty of the laundromat business is we have a built-in tenant for real estate opportunities. So our first laundromat called Laundry Luv just opened three weeks ago. We bought a shopping center a year prior to that, where our laundromat is now a tenant in the shopping center… We bought a 50,000 sqft. center, we’ve now got a 6,200 sqft. laundromat as a tenant in that center, and now we are looking to repeat that process over and over and over again as we expand the laundromat operations.

Also, the income from the real estate brokerage business had allowed us to get into the Legacy of Love app, and that allowed me to really focus on a passion project of giving back and being a parent, and being a dad, and we created an app that is [unintelligible [00:05:05].27] parent-to-child journaling platform; a cross-platform journaling app that we’ve got a pretty rapid growth trajectory so far… And we’re growing and scaling that business.

All of this came from the ultimate real estate, and now I continue to invest in real estate and focus on these two growing businesses as well.

Joe Fairless: So much to talk about… [laughs]

Ken Wimberly: Pick and choose.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, well – let’s talk about Legacy of Love app. We are gonna spend a lot of time on the shopping center stuff, but just to quickly touch on Legacy of Love app… You said it’s a parent-to-child journaling platform. When I hear that, I think “It’s a way to take notes that are then shared with my kid.” But I’m sure that it’s a little bit more to it than that. Can you just elaborate a little bit more?

Ken Wimberly: Yeah. Think of this as a place to capture moments, memories, and lessons of life before they fade away with the passage of time. Things happen, the funny little stuff that your kids will say, and you wanna capture that moment, and you think “Oh, I’m gonna remember that forever”, and a month later you can’t even remember what they said, or even what was funny about it.

I guess the best way to describe it is a modern-day, easy to use digital scrapbook. It creates a chronological history of your child’s life based on what you input in there. The system automatically calculates your age and your child’s age of each entry, so that later in life they can go back and read these entries with the context of where you were at the different stages of your life.

You can put photos, videos, voice notes, save voicemail… I remember some of the sweetest little voicemail of my now 15-year-old son left for me back when he was 4-5 years old. Of course, now it’s hard to get him to say five words, but back then he used to leave the sweetest little voicemails. And of course, with phone upgrades and whatnot they eventually disappeared, but we created a space where all of that can be captured and passed down to future generations.

Joe Fairless: I love it. I have now downloaded it, and I am registering it right now, and I have successfully created the account, it says… And I’m off and running. I’m gonna be doing that. Such a great idea.

Ken Wimberly: Thank you.

Joe Fairless: Thank you for creating it. You’re the one who created it, so I appreciate you and other entrepreneurs for creating stuff that can be useful, and is useful, and fills a need, so props to you for that. I guarantee you I am your newest downloader, because I literally just did.

So let’s talk about the shopping center stuff.

Ken Wimberly: Yeah.

Joe Fairless: And it was very quick to register, I did it while you were talking about it, by the way…

Ken Wimberly: Awesome.

Joe Fairless: So the shopping center – the business model, it sounds like, is buy a shopping center and then have your own  businesses, or have some of your own businesses be the tenants to double-dip on the income. Is that correct?

Ken Wimberly: That’s correct. And I learned that strategy from a client of mine that we’ve done a fair amount of business with. This client owns the Family Video chain. No doubt that that is a dying industry, and they’ve realized that for years, but now they’re converting those locations into other tenants. But what that tenant allowed them to do was acquire a lot of real estate. They own somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 real estate assets that they have these old video storage locations in… I thought “That is a beautiful idea.”

So when we came up with this idea for the laundromat, we thought “This is our foray into having a great tenant to go into these B and C class shopping centers.” So our objective is to go pick up some of these centers with a decent amount of vacancy at a significant discount, that we can then go put our built-in tenant and then other tenants that would like to cohabitate with us… Because there’s kind of a natural fit based on the demographics and income that we’re looking for for a laundromat.

Joe Fairless: Okay, it makes sense. Your businesses that you bring into your shopping centers – are they only laundromats?

Ken Wimberly: Yes, our business that we have is just the laundromats. However, it’s a different laundromat. It’s not like you would drive by and see in so many places. We are a laundromat with a mission. Laundry Luv  is our laundromat concept, and we’re a large-store format, 5k to 7k sqft, brand new, beautiful [unintelligible [00:09:26].13] machines. You walk into our store – it’s super-clean, super well-lit, safe, big-screen TV showing positive programming up there… We don’t allow daytime crap TV on there; we put positive programs on our TVs. Big areas in the laundromat to sit as families while your laundry is being done… So we’re building these to be an impact in the community. But with a 6,000 sqft. tenant, that allows us to put a very nice tenant in an otherwise vacant center right there. That’s the one business we have at this time, and frankly, it’s enough to keep us busy.

Joe Fairless: Okay… And how do you make a laundromat profitable? Because most laundromats I see are not what you described, and my guess is they’re not what you described because it’s tough to make a lot of money out of a bunch of quarters that are being inserted into it… So educate us on the business model of your laundromat.

Ken Wimberly: Yeah, it’s interesting… When we started studying the industry and the profit margins that could be in the industry if done right… First of all, we have no coins in our operations; we’re all card-based systems; all of our machines are card-based, so it’s all cash going into a vault that issues a card out, like a Dave & Buster’s type card… But how it becomes profitable is just a matter of garnering enough of the business that is in a particular location. So the site selection is one of the most important factors in opening up a laundromat.

Number one, we need the right kind of demographics, and it’s a lower income demographic that typically goes in and visits a laundromat… Although with a pick-up and delivery wash/dry/fold business, that opens up the opportunity for laundering higher-income folks’ laundry. We have that very minorly factored into our proforma numbers right there. But we expect based on our investment that we’ve made into the asset, we expect pushing a 30% cash-on-cash year one return. You’ve gotta keep in mind, it’s an operating business; this is not a passive real estate business, although the real estate component is… But this is an operating business, so we’ve got employees that are hired, managers that are hired… It’s a full-on operating business here.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And out of the different types of businesses that you could put into a shipping center, how did you initially arrive at doing a laundromat?

Ken Wimberly: By a fluke. I was not looking for a business to get into. What I was looking for was a tenant for a shopping center. I actually had been asked to invest in a nearby shopping center, not the one that we purchased, and frankly, I was just looking for tenants  that we could backfill the vacancy on that center.

I met a guy at a conference that was kind of [unintelligible [00:12:15].15] and I said “Hey, would you guys be interested in coming in as a tenant in this center?” I sent him the details on the center, he ran a side-assessment on it… He said “Ken, this is like an ideal location for a laundromat.” And again, I thought he was a tenant; I said “Great, let’s get you signed up, get you in there”, and I came to realize that he was not a tenant, he was actually a manufacturing rep for a laundromat equipment company. So he started looking for an operator and couldn’t fine ond in this particular town – in Abilene, Texas, in West Texas. he just didn’t have any operators out there.

So I went to one of my partners in real estate deals and said “Hey, what would you think about us exploring this opportunity to become an operator of a laundromat?” Because we were already looking for opportunities in that area as far as real estate investments… Let’s look into it. So we went to a third friend of ours…

So this guy and I are both big-picture real estate guys, neither of us have the bandwidth to be an active operator, so we went to another friend of ours that is a phenomenal operator, asked if he would be interested in exploring the opportunity… And that’s how it started. So we went to a couple of seminars, and listened to these laundromat companies talk about how to run one, how to set one up, the economics of what it looks like… And that’s how it started.

We started by going to seminars, we talked to other laundromat operators, we talked to people that had good experiences, bad experiences, people that were doing it right, and wrong, and we started to learn a lot. And really, we took about a year of studying the industry before we pulled the trigger, and took about another year once we pulled the trigger to get it operational and the first one opened.

So it’s been a two-year endeavor, but now we have this beautiful model, a beautiful concept,  a business plan, and a way to move forward and do these time and time and time again.

Joe Fairless: And I believe if I heard you correctly earlier you said you opened it up three weeks ago, correct?

Ken Wimberly: Yeah. Our first location in Abilene, Texas opened three weeks ago. We had our official grand opening last Friday. Every day our customer base is growing, and the feedback has just been amazing. People have walked in there and said “I’ve never been in a laundromat like this in my life. I will never go anywhere else.” That is the response we’re looking for.

It’s more than just a laundromat, it’s a place for us to impact community. We want people to come in there… It’s a lower income demographic, and maybe it’s not always treated that well. And we want people to come into our operation and feel like it’s a home away from home, and it’s a place where they can gather the family. We’ve built in a children’s play area in our laundromat. We’ve got hundreds of books in there that children can read; we’re bringing in local librarians and volunteers from local colleges to read to children at pre-designated times, so that it is truly a community space where people wanna come back time and time again.

Joe Fairless: How many other spots does the shopping center have that need to be filled?

Ken Wimberly: We have one remaining vacancy, and then we have four other tenants, our primary tenants; we’ve got a CSL Plasma, an EZPAWN, and a buddy’s home furnishing in there, then us with the laundromat, and then we’ve got a 12,000 sqft. vacancy remaining… So we’re looking for larger tenants who would fill it all, but we’re also talking with a few smaller tenants to subdivide the 12,000 sqft. into a number of smaller tenants.

Joe Fairless: And how much did you purchase the shopping center for?

Ken Wimberly: We got it for a song, actually. We bought this thing at just over $20/sqft. and it’s  a 50,000 sqft. center, so we’re around 1.1 (million)

Joe Fairless: And how many tenants were there when you purchased it?

Ken Wimberly: Those primary tenants were already there.

Joe Fairless: Oh, okay…

Ken Wimberly: …and EZPAWN. So we went in at over an 8 cap, buying it with the vacancy, and then we knew we were gonna back-fill some of the vacancies… So to give you perspective, we’re cash-flowing at a 12,5% cash-on-cash today, and the laundromat tenant is just now starting to pay. This is one of those things that will be  a really phenomenal investment… And we just went in, we did a basic rehab of the center as we were opening the laundromat… So we went in and repainted the entire center, we resurfaced and striped the parking lot, just refreshed it, and it looks much brighter.

We’ve put wall pack LED lighting up, so it’s super-bright at night, and upgraded the sign… So we’ve just done some little minor improvements, and we budgeted for that when we bought the center. So we had the reserve funds in there, budgeted for it, and we had the intent that we would do it when we opened the laundromat, so it all looks new and fresh at the same time.

Joe Fairless: What’s something that if you had unlimited budget and you didn’t quite care about profitability, that you would do to enhance the shopping center?

Ken Wimberly: There’s only so much you can do with a C+ shopping center… If I had unlimited budget, I would probably update the facade even more. So we’ve repainted everything, it looks great… But I would update the facade and put a really nice sign up front. Just a couple of things like that.

I can tell you, the parking lot improvements alone made a massive difference, from resurfacing and restriping the parking… That and the paint refresh – it looks incredible.

Joe Fairless: About how much did it cost to resurface and restripe the parking lot?

Ken Wimberly: We were pretty close — around $15,000.

Joe Fairless: And how did you find the deal?

Ken Wimberly: In that market, in Abilene, Texas, I have a [unintelligible [00:17:36].16] realty franchise in Abilene, so I’m out there quite a bit… And this was a broker friend of mine that I know; he had this for sale, and I’d kind of seen it come across, and I called him to start enquiring about it, because I thought it would be a good fit for our laundromat.

Joe Fairless: And how many shopping centers have you purchased to date?

Ken Wimberly: In addition to this, we have some office buildings, some land holdings… I’m in shopping centers with some other people… This was the first one that I’d put together that was just me and my partner as a large-size shopping center.

Joe Fairless: What type loan did you get on it, if any?

Ken Wimberly: We put debt on it. In this case, a traditional bank loan. It was a lender that we’ve done other business with. It’s a 5-year fixed interest rate on it, and then it bumps for another five.

Joe Fairless: The reason why I ask that is what concerns did they bring up – if any – about you all creating a tenant from scratch, doing a business model that you’ve never done before?

Ken Wimberly: The separate lender on that, that is a lender on our laundry deals… And our primary lender had no concerns, even though we did not have direct experience in the laundromats, my other two partners did not have certainly a lot of experience in business… Our operating part was a West Point grad, and has run some very sizeable companies; he’s really dialed in, got his act together… So we had an incredible business plan that we put together as we launched this. Frankly, all the lenders that look at that were very pleased with what we had come up in the plan.

Joe Fairless: Do you remember what year your buddy graduated from West Point? Or do you know?

Ken Wimberly: I don’t know… It was 10-12 years ago.

Joe Fairless: Okay. One of my brothers graduated in ’96 or ’97; that’s why I was wondering. You said you have office buildings… What’s the last office building you purchased?

Ken Wimberly: We bought an office building that houses our [unintelligible [00:19:28].01] It’s a single-tenant office building, it’s leased [unintelligible [00:19:35].13] as the single tenant.

Joe Fairless: Cool. So that is a building you purchased, and then you are the tenant for that?

Ken Wimberly: That’s right. We added a tenant in there. Then I’ve got some guys that have done a whole lot of different office buildings, and I’m passive in that. However, I would encourage your listeners… Someone made a comment to me about five years ago, and it really was a light bulb moment. He said “Ken, I own a small interest in a lot of deals, and they all add up.”

Prior to that, I would just look at my own deals, and putting my own deals together that I was either going to be the sponsor of, or own then all outright… And that was a light bulb moment. Since that time, I’ve started investing into many other people’s deals. I only had so much bandwidth that I can run on my own stuff… Some great deals I’ve done have been frankly from investing into other folks that I know have a good track record, that invest in things that I understand as well, and I trust them… And they’ve performed quite nicely.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Ken Wimberly: Be a source of value for others… Whether it’s a client, customers, tenants, your partners, your lenders… If we can figure out how to be a significant source of value to others, life rewards us.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Ken Wimberly: Yes, sir.

Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:20:58].21] to [00:21:47].13]

Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?

Ken Wimberly: The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday. I’m gonna give you my second and third – Building Your Story Brand (Donald Miller) and Profit First (Michael Michalowicz). I’ve read all three of those recently, and they’re all dynamite.

Joe Fairless: What deals have you lost the most amount of money on?

Ken Wimberly: I haven’t lost money on deals yet. I’ve not made money, but I haven’t lost money on a real estate deal here.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

Ken Wimberly: One of my first deals that I did – a buddy and I put together  a land assemblage. We acquired three parcels, about 6,5 acres, took it through zoning, got the land entitled for a beautiful office complex that we were gonna develop… We dealt with the asbestos issue on the house that was there, razed the house, got everything planned, and ready to develop. It was interesting, because it was almost the worst deal I ever had, because the day before we closed on our development loan to start our first two buildings, our equity investor walked. The financial markets were turning, he walked from the deal, and we didn’t start construction on our first two buildings.

Shortly thereafter, about two months later, the financial markets started to collapse. A couple months after that, I had someone approach me about buying my interest out. I had less than $10,000 of my own money invested in this. We had an equity partner that had put up the bulk of the money that we did, and a lender on it… And I sold  my interest in that for $150,000 based on the value that we created bringing in this project. So I think that was my best deal yet.

Joe Fairless: What’s a mistake you’ve made on a transaction?

Ken Wimberly: Giving up control of a deal. One of the first deals as I was starting — probably THE first deal I tried to put together, with the same partner that I later did the one I just described to you (the one where I sold my interest out for such a big return), we tried to put our first deal together and put a deal under contract. We went to someone that was gonna be our  equity partner in it… We ended up assigning the contract over to the equity partner. We just didn’t know better at the time. I’ll tell you what – we learned on that.

The equity partner ended up not manifesting, not materializing, and we had assigned the deal over to him, and the deal ended up dying.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back to the community?

Ken Wimberly: The two ways that I’ve kind of mentioned – with our laundromat, and what we’re doing with  the laundromat as a community service; I love what we’re doing there. And then with Legacy of Love, just as a way to help parents to really create a true, beautiful legacy to pass on to their children.

Joe Fairless: How can the best ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Ken Wimberly: Go check us out at LaundryLuv.com or LegacyOfLove.app, to learn a lot about what we’re doing there.

Joe Fairless: Ken, thank you for being on the show today, talking about your business model at Laundry Luv, your business model of buying shopping centers, and putting in a business that you create; the app that you’ve created along those lines as well… And just overall your real estate experience as an entrepreneur.

Thank you for being on the show. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Ken Wimberly: Thanks so much, I appreciate it.

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JF1981: Rebuilding your portfolio with new develoment with Russell Westcott

Out with the old, in with the new. Investor Russell Westcott is repositioning his portfolio by selling his older properties and replacing them with new construction rental homes. Having transacted over 100 properties over the past 20 years, Russell and his business partner decided they were done being eaten alive by deferred maintenance. He also discusses some of the lessons he’s learned by surviving a couple Canadian market downturns. 

Russell Westcott Real Estate Background:

  • Veteran and full time real estate investor 
  • Built his first million-dollar real estate portfolio within his first year of taking the leap into real estate investing
  • Based in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
  • Say hi to him at https://russellwestcott.com/

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“You need to invest in yourself first. Even though you might not have the money and you might not be making money-investment into the deal, you need to invest into yourself. ” – Russell Westcott


The Best Ever Conference is approaching quickly and you could earn your ticket for free.

Simply visit https://www.bec20.com/affiliates/ and sign up to be an affiliate to start earning 15% of every ticket you sell. 

Our fourth annual conference will be taking place February 20-22 in Keystone, CO. We’ll be covering the higher level topics that our audience has requested to hear.


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Russell Westcott. How are you doing, Russell?

Russell Westcott: Hey, Joe. How’s it going today, my friend?

Joe Fairless: It’s going well, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Russell – he is a full-time Canadian based real estate investor. He’s built his first million-dollar real estate portfolio within the first year of taking the leap into real estate investing. So, built a million-dollar real estate portfolio within the first year, we will talk about that. He’s based in British Columbia, and his website, RussellWestcott.com, is where you can go and check him out; it’s russellwestcott.com. So with that being said, Russell, do you want to give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Russell Westcott: Well, thank you, Joe. I’m honored to be on your podcast and share today. Before we get into it, I just want to acknowledge you. I want to acknowledge you with the service that you’re providing for real estate investors, and congratulations, the world’s longest-running daily real estate show. I understand your event that’s upcoming is getting pretty close to being sold out, so congratulations to you for providing an amazing service out there.

Joe Fairless: I appreciate it.

Russell Westcott: Well, it’s interesting… Maybe it’s just the Canadian in me deflecting and that– I’ve often found that’s the hardest question to answer, is “Talk about yourself for a little bit, Russell.” Well, my journey is maybe a little bit longer than most people’s; maybe because I’m just a slow learner, and I just take the long route a little bit, but I joke that my journey started around the turn of the century, right around the year 2000. At that time, I had a self-inflicted Peter Pan syndrome, where I was afraid to grow up. It was a milestone birthday that hit that year in 2000, I was turning 30, and I need to grow up, I need to take financial control of my future.

I was renting a basement suite and never bought a property before in my life, had no idea where I was going to go for advice or where to go to take my business and take things to the next level. And lo and behold, the answer to me came from watching Oprah. On Oprah, around that time, I saw Robert Kiyosaki when he talked about Rich Dad, Poor Dad. That little purple book changed the direction and changed the trajectory of my life. After reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it changed everything on a different path that I was going down. That’s almost coming on 20 years now.

Joe Fairless: Got it. So what is your current focus now?

Russell Westcott: My current focus right now is what I’ve been doing for 20 years. I’ve built a fairly sizable portfolio. I’ve transacted over 100 properties. I’m actually in the process right now with myself and my business partner – we’re building brand new construction rental properties. So I’ve had my lesson handed to me of buying old crappy– now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anybody who’s buying older, junkier, crappier properties is doing it wrong. Maybe my age and advanced years, what I’ve seen, I’ve had my lessons handed to me by buying old properties with deferred maintenance; you just get eaten alive.

When you buy a property, and you hold it for 15 to 20 plus years, it’s now another 20 years older, deferred maintenance starts catching up on you, and you just get your lunch handed to you with expenses and bills. I’m now getting into actually building rental properties, like building houses with suites, building houses and garage suites, building duplexes, fourplexes, all the way up to eightplexes, and that’s what I currently hold.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about that. But first, within your first year, building your million dollars real estate portfolio that’s in your bio, what does that consist of?

Russell Westcott: Well, it consists mostly of townhomes. You may call them a little bit different, you may call them semis; different people call them different names. Where I’m investing, they call them townhomes, apartment-style condos. Those are the typical ones. Condo fees just slowly started creeping up and just eating me alive. When I first got started, and I put it in my bio that I built a million-dollar portfolio in my first year, I add about a million dollars in properties every year. What I’ve done now is changed my focus a little bit. But there was a time when I first got started that I bought a property a month for five years, on average. But I say that to not impress people, I say that to impress upon people that that actually was a big mistake; that I added way too many properties too fast, didn’t have the infrastructure built, didn’t have maybe the business acumen, didn’t have the support structure to do that. When you build a portfolio of 60 properties in under five years, you better have some really good support systems and people and teams surrounding you to be able to handle that, because that’s very, very big business.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so 60 properties in five years. How many of those 60 properties do you still have?

Russell Westcott: Today, I have a right around 30. I added another six last year and I’ll probably add another six to ten this year.

Joe Fairless: What property have you made the most money on?

Russell Westcott: The most money would be — probably it’s still to be determined. The new construction properties that I’m buying–

Joe Fairless: To date. Whatever deal’s gone full cycle, what deal have you made the most money on?

Russell Westcott: Well, most of the properties that I have sold, actually, I didn’t make a lot of money on. Most of the properties that I did was because I called the herd; when something’s not right, get rid of it. So the properties that I do have are ones that are performing well now. But I’m actually repositioning, I’m calling the herd, getting rid of old properties, and building brand new construction to hold for the next 15 to 20 years. Eventually, I’m repositioning my entire portfolio.

So I’ve been doing it — not to say I’m starting over, but in essence, I’m almost starting over again with my portfolio, as I built an entire portfolio, but a few of them did not turn out well; it was in a market that had to downturns in 10 years. Some of the properties I bought 12 years ago are worth less than they were today than when I bought them. So I’m just repositioning a lot of my portfolio now and building it all again from scratch.

Joe Fairless: I get it. I want to talk about the two downturns in ten years and the causes of those based on your perspective, but just to complete the circle of the question, so you have sold about 30 properties. So of those 30, which one, if any, made you the most money?

Russell Westcott: Well, interesting to note – most of the properties that made me money, I had to reinvest that back into the properties that lost money. It’s funny, it was probably about five years ago I had to sit down and I had to have a really tough conversation and a real tough look in the mirror, and I put together the good, the bad and the ugly plan. What I had to do at that time is I had to sell some good properties to pay off the downright ugly ones. Some of the bad ones are starting to be flushed through now and I’m left with a few leftovers. I’m building more– I’m left, when I say a few, I’m left with 30 places.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, 30’s a lot.

Russell Westcott: Plus, still adding more to the portfolio.

Joe Fairless: So of the ones that made money, regardless of what you did with that money, I’m just wondering, of the 30, which one made you the most money and then we’ll talk about the flip side.

Russell Westcott: The mistake I made was, I probably should have exited when I needed to, at the peak of a mark. So I had properties that I bought that skyrocketed up in value and then dropped down significantly. But I had properties that have made hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t have the exact number. That’s actually a very good question. I probably should go back and [unintelligible [00:08:23].20]

Joe Fairless: About how much has the one that made you the most money, how much did that make you?

Russell Westcott: I would say probably about $130,000.

Joe Fairless: Okay, got it. So $130k on the upswing, and then some of them that you sold, as you said, you’re calling the portfolio… Which one did you lose the most amount of money on?

Russell Westcott: The one I lost the most amount of money on probably was on a flip that I had gotten, and had bought it, and  I’m just trying to get the exact number… It was probably the flip it was at about nine months and it lost about 60 grand.

Joe Fairless: Okay, that’s not that bad. If you were presented a similar opportunity now, and you had to buy the property, but you could change the terms or price (within reason), what would you do differently to help mitigate that loss from taking place?

Russell Westcott: The number one thing I would do is with the money partner I was working with, I would have clearly expressed to him that if this doesn’t make money by the time we turn around and sell, we are going to then turn around and rent it. We got in with the money partner together. We got in, and the total intention was to sell it at the nine-month mark. The nine-month mark came and there was a loss in there. I had to do what we agreed to, but I would have probably positioned it upfront that we have to be prepared to hold it for more years to come if it is at a loss position.

Joe Fairless: How many years was that ago?

Russell Westcott: That was fairly recent, actually; within the last two years.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Let’s assume that you had rented it out for the last two years. Where would you be at this point with it?

Russell Westcott: It’d be getting closer. That was actually in a suburb of Vancouver where I live, where we did that. We had a very severe downturn in the last probably 18 months, where the market just fell out, the bottom fell out.

Joe Fairless: Is that the market where you said it had two downturns in ten years?

Russell Westcott: That was the Alberta marketplace.

Joe Fairless: Another market? Geez, I’m staying away from where you invest in… [laughs] I’m just kidding.

Russell Westcott: I make a joke quite often, “Hey, I’ve invested in this marketplace. Everybody stop investing now; go somewhere else.” One of my early mentors on the ground told me that sometimes we’re put on this earth to be a warning to others.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] Well, I think that’s true for everyone. There are things we can learn from everyone, that’s for sure. With the markets, two downturns in ten years for the, you said, Alberta? Alberta market?

Russell Westcott: Yeah. It was an oil-based economy.

Joe Fairless: Oil-based. Okay. So primary economic drivers were oil, so oil went down, therefore the economy goes down.

Russell Westcott: Yeah. Well, it’s a little bit more involved than that, but that is the gist of it. The first downturn was the global economic crisis back in 2008. Then the next one  – there’s a lot of policy things that have happened. There’s been a lot of– not going to get political here, but there have been some governments that have not been favorable for the energy industry, things like that have just not been favorable to energy-based economies. But the good news now is the market has been down long enough that the green shoots are coming in and it’s actually a fantastic time to get back in and buy at a very aggressive rate.

Joe Fairless: Alright. So now let’s talk about what you’re currently doing. Thank you for sharing the lessons that you’ve learned from what you’ve acquired so far. So now, you said–

Russell Westcott: Success is actually a poor teacher. So we learn more from our failures than we do from success.

Joe Fairless: So now, clearly you’re a personal development student; you follow Tony Robbins and others. Yes?

Russell Westcott: Absolutely. I did it far more back in 1992.

Joe Fairless: When you mentioned the phrase, “Impress, and impress upon,” I was like, “Tony Robbins. There he is. I know that.” Alright. So you said, “Forget that other stuff. I’m doing new development. I’m going to be building my rental properties because the maintenance expenses over the next 15 years will be minimal. And I’m going to hold these puppies.” First off, is that an accurate assessment of where you’re at now?

Russell Westcott: Absolutely, yes.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So I’m going to play devil’s advocate and just mention – I want to hear your thoughts – that okay, new development, totally agree that maintenance is low, and you’ve got a brand new property, and it’s a shiny thing for residents to flock to. On the flip side, should a downturn happen – like what happened twice in Alberta, and like what happened in Vancouver that you mentioned – then having dirt that you’ve purchased that’s not generating income prior to stabilizing it puts you in a precarious position. So what are your thoughts on mitigating that risk?

Russell Westcott: So here’s how I mitigated that risk. I actually only buy the finished product. I do not own the dirt. I’m a business partner and I will go out, identify land positions, and then we have a group of builders that will actually go out and build it for us. We do not buy in spec, we actually only buy based upon properties that we have. When I close on it, there’s actually a host on it. When I own it, there’s actually a tenant in place on the property, fully done, purpose-built rental property.

Joe Fairless: Wow, okay. Just so I’m understanding it correctly, you identify the land positions, meaning you go and you say, “I’d like a house here, please.” Then you speak to your builder and he or she goes and builds it. They put up all of their own money, they put all their resources in it. You have no money, nothing tying you to purchasing that. Then once it’s built, then the builder comes to you and says, “Okay, you said you wanted that. So now you may buy it from me at x price,” and then you buy it.

Russell Westcott: That’s very close.

Joe Fairless: There has to be a catch. I knew there is a catch, because I knew it didn’t quite work that way. That’s why I wanted to summarize it.

Russell Westcott: Very close. So my business partner and I – he will go out, he lives in the area, I live in Vancouver. My job is to get on stages and talk and bring people and excite people and bring investors to the opportunity. I will go find an investor that might want to buy a property through me, or just go buy it on their own. Then my business partner goes out, finds a good subdivision, finds the right spot with good parking, everything; they have the right floor plan for tenants. Then the investor who’s buying it, whether it’s myself or the person that I bring to it, will write an offer. They’ll put down a deposit anywhere between 5% and 10% deposit. They’ll also qualify for a mortgage. Then when they have a purchase contract, the builder then has the confidence and they’ll go build the property then. Then the investor will then close on it, say, six to nine months later.

Joe Fairless: Got it. Okay, so the investor and builder are the ones who have the risk in that. The investor has 5% to 10% deposit and the builder has their time and perhaps supplies.

Russell Westcott: But with the investor, the risk is mitigated because the money sits in a realtors’ trust account. If the builder does not build it or does not fulfill upon it, the investor can get their money back because it’s sitting with a realtor. There are laws governing deposits sitting with realtors.

Joe Fairless: Cool. So assuming that there’s not a major market crash, then a lot of the risk is mitigated in that scenario.

Russell Westcott: Yep.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

Russell Westcott: The builders don’t want to bite off more than they can chew, too. Most of the builders are actually just using land positions they already have put deposits on.

Joe Fairless: Sure, right. Of course.

Russell Westcott: Right now, in the market I’m buying in, to buy a brand new construction property is not much more money than actually buying a house off the MLS. Usually, people say, “Well, with new properties, you’re paying a premium.” In the market I’m in, new construction properties cash-flow, and they’re not that much of a premium. That’s why I’m doing this.

Joe Fairless: What market are you in?

Russell Westcott: It’s in a northern city of Alberta.

Joe Fairless: Edmonton Oilers.

Russell Westcott: You betcha.

Joe Fairless: So you’ve been all over Canada. You’re all over… [laughs] It’s like, pick your Canadian reference point in this conversation. I gotta look at a map afterwards to see your travels of real estate ventures.

Russell Westcott: Well, I actually grew up in Saskatchewan, so…

Joe Fairless: Okay, there we go. I want you to mention as many Canadian places as possible during this 30-minute conversation.

Russell Westcott: Yes. And I may drop a couple A’s and I might apologize a couple times, too.  I should have my Tim Hortons’ coffee with me here, too.

Joe Fairless: [laughs] So Edmonton is where you’re buying. What’s the purchase price on average of new construction?

Russell Westcott: Well, depending on the model and finishing and stuff, anywhere between 400k to 525k for a suited house model, all the way up to, say, 1.6 million for an eightplex.

Joe Fairless: An eightplex, okay. For easy math, we’ll start with the $525,000 property. What’s that renting for?

Russell Westcott: Well, I’ll give you my last two suited houses I bought, where in essence there’s 920k, essentially for a fourplex. That’s rented for 75k grand a year.

Joe Fairless: Okay. $75,000 a year divided by 12 is $6,250. Then what did you say the purchase price was? 900k?

Russell Westcott: All-in, that includes all taxes, that includes all landscaping, that’s a completed turnkey  property.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So people talk about the 1% or 2% rule. This is 0.67 of a percent. But it’s a new construction. Have you heard of the 1% rule?

Russell Westcott: Yeah, absolutely.

Joe Fairless: Okay, cool. So it’s under, but your take on it, which is very logical, is that it’s new construction, so you have less maintenance headaches.

Russell Westcott: Well, let’s put it this way… I have not had a phone call for these properties yet. As a matter of fact, they’re under warranty for the next two, five, ten. There’s a warranty on it. The maintenance hassles are a lot less. The difference in tenant profile is completely different, too. Like, getting people that are making a $100,000/year incomes. One of the other units is — there’s a police officer, an [unintelligible [00:18:05].20] officer, and his family. It’s a completely different tenant profile that you’re getting. It removes a lot of the maintenance and a lot of the management hassles as well.

Joe Fairless: Then when you scale up in units for the eightplex, is that a similar ratio?

Russell Westcott: It’s a little bit better.

Joe Fairless: A little bit better. Okay, that makes sense.

Russell Westcott: Yeah. On an eightplex, I don’t have my numbers in front of me, but it’s significantly better on an eightplex where potentially you’re getting, depending on the mix, you’re getting $1,800 per unit on the up; you’re getting almost $12,500.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So you did the annual amount?

Russell Westcott: No, that’s for a month.

Joe Fairless: Twelve five, $1,250 a month, per unit?

Russell Westcott: No, a total, all eight, $12,500.

Joe Fairless: Okay, because it’s about $1,800 a unit?

Russell Westcott: They come in stacks; there’s an up and down. So it’s 16 up, 9 down.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So how much per unit, on average, rent per month for an eight-unit?

Russell Westcott: $2,500 per stack of four. $2,500 times four. Then there are utilities on top of that. So the way it’s built is essentially– it’s a stacked townhome and there’s four of them put together.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So there’s an eightplex, so there are eight different families. There could be eight different families living there. Is that accurate or not?

Russell Westcott: That’s correct. It could be 16 up, 9 down.

Joe Fairless: 16 up, 9 down for an eightplex?

Russell Westcott: No, there’s four. There’s a stack of four. So think four townhomes all stuck together.

Joe Fairless: Okay, got it. [inaudible at [00:19:41]:05] Okay, so eight total dwellings if it’s an eightplex, right?

Russell Westcott: So I guess this would be the best way – four of them at $1,600 and four of them at $900.

Joe Fairless: Got it. Okay, so four are at $1,600 rent a month and then four of them at $900.

Russell Westcott: Correct. Then there are utilities, there’s parking there, there are things on top of that as well.

Joe Fairless: Fair enough. Okay, I understand. I apologize for being dense on that, but I understand now. So let’s just go with the best-case scenario. If it’s $1,600, and I’m paying about $200,000 for it, instead of 0.67%, it’s 0.8%.

Russell Westcott: Yep.

Joe Fairless: So it’s inching up closer to the 1% in the $1,600 case, and the other one would be obviously lower than that.

Russell Westcott: Then where we’re doing these and building these, that might be different across jurisdictions. But some of the investors that are getting in with residential financing on these, instead of going the commercial route, are able to get actually a residential mortgage with full discount CMA, those kinds of things as well, as opposed to the commercial route.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Yeah, I imagine it’s going to be a lower down payment and lower interest rate and longer amortization.

Russell Westcott: No fees as well.

Joe Fairless: Oh, beautiful. If they buy the whole eightplex, they can get that type of loan?

Russell Westcott: On one title. If you buy one title, you can get one mortgage.

Joe Fairless: Wonderful. For the whole eightplex?

Russell Westcott: Correct. And really cool exit strategies; you now have the ability to potentially subdivide it into four separate titles.

Joe Fairless: There you go. Then you can sell them off piece by piece.

Russell Westcott: Yes. Buy by the yard, sell by the foot.

Joe Fairless: Okay, that’s not the first time you said that. I’m kidding with you. Cool. Well, when you take a look at your experience as a real estate investor, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Russell Westcott: The best advice was someone who gave it to me very early, and the best advice was, “Money is required to buy real estate, but it doesn’t have to be your money.” That came to me very early and thank goodness it came to me very early, because I had no money to buy real estate. I had to learn the process of how to raise capital from other people in order to move forward and keep building this portfolio. So I built my entire portfolio raising capital from other people. I’ve written books on it, I’ve taught people, I’ve trained… I’ve done the majority of my real estate investing in other people’s capital and helping other people.

Joe Fairless: You’ve just come across a 20-year old, and she asks you how she can get started in real estate. In particular, she wants to learn how to partner up with people and use their money, not hers, because she doesn’t have money. What is your advice to her?

Russell Westcott: The best advice I would give her would be you need to invest in yourself first. Even though you might not have the money and you might not be making money investment into the deal, you need to invest into yourself. I was in the exact same boat and then I would just share my story; truly, when I got in, I had no money. I could qualify for a mortgage, but I had no down payment. So what I did was I got involved with a network.

I networked, I trained, I got a coach, I got mentored, and I kept sharing with everybody that I talked to what I was doing, and the action I was taking, and the properties I was dealing with, and things that I was learning. And all these people that had the capital saw that I was willing to invest in myself and that I was willing to do the work. Then eventually, I was getting my hands dirty, and eventually, they trusted me to do the work for them, and they were putting up their money into the deal after that.

Joe Fairless: What program did you go with to find a coach?

Russell Westcott: Through a company up in Canada called the Real Estate Investment Network. I actually ended up being their vice-president for the better part of 13 years as well.

Joe Fairless: So I was going to ask, would you recommend — but you’re a fan. So yes, you’d recommend it.

Russell Westcott: Yeah, 100%. But here’s the thing – things have changed so much, and you would know this too, Joe; things have changed so much. Meetups – there are so many amazing meetups in the real estate space. Every local community and market almost has something. The main thing I would just say is, just show up, get out there, start hanging out with those like-minded people, and you’ll be amazed at what can happen.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?

Russell Westcott: You betcha, brother.

Joe Fairless: Alright. Let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:23:59]:08] to [00:24:59]:02]

Joe Fairless: Alright, what’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

Russell Westcott: Best ever deal– interestingly probably, it was my first one. I know sometimes people obviously say their first one, but the first one was the one that I got in the game. I will be honest, I did everything wrong, I made all the mistakes, I struggled along. Actually, the tenants in the basement suite passed away on the property and I sold it within probably a year of buying it. I did the entire cycle of buying and selling it within one year, and I lost money on it. I lost about 500 bucks. I sat there and I’d go, “You know what, if I just do one thing better the next time, I think I can make this work,” and I didn’t quit. That was the main thing, was it got me in the game. It started — even though I did a lot of things wrong, I didn’t quit, and that was probably the best deal I ever did.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you’d like to give back?

Russell Westcott: The best way I like to give back is actually just teaching and sharing and coaching and consulting. I jump on to podcasts all the time, I do Facebook live all the time. I host multiple Facebook groups. I write books, I teach, I share. I’m a firm believer in the quote by — and I’m probably gonna mess up the quote a little bit, but it’s a John F. Kennedy quote, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And I’ve been so blessed over the years and in order to be a blessing to others, I need to share everything that I’ve learned. I’ve had so many amazing mentors in my life, and I’m actually in a point that I’m giving back to the real estate investor community of mistakes I’ve made.

Some people will not talk about their mistakes, that it’s only just unicorns and butterflies and sunshine and roses and everything’s wonderful. Not everybody will actually share the struggle and share the downturn and share the mistakes that you made. I actually celebrate them, and I actually am sharing all these lessons I’ve learned through almost 20 years. I share this with the real estate investing community, to encourage them and inspire them to keep moving forward.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?

Russell Westcott: My website is the hub of all things. That’s just russellwestcott.com.

Joe Fairless: How’d you come up with that website name?

Russell Westcott: I think my mom did. [laughter]

Joe Fairless: Russell, I really enjoyed our conversation. As you said, celebrating mistakes and talking about that, but then also talking about your success and your focus now, and why you’re focusing on it, with new development and the structure that you have with the individuals or the parties involved. I really enjoyed our conversation. I hope you have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Russell Westcott: Right on. Thanks, Joe.

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JF1940: Investor Gets Into Real Estate On Accident, Scales To $750M AUM with Don Wenner

Don got his start in the industry by knocking doors to sell security. An investor told him to do that same thing with real estate. He took the advice and ran with it, knocking on doors to find properties to buy, eventually getting away from the door knocking and scaling a large real estate investing business. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

Best Ever Tweet:

“When people lose money on an asset, usually it’s because they couldn’t execute internally and over extended themselves” – Don Wenner

Don Wenner Real Estate Background:

  • CEO of DLP Real Estate Capital, a family of real estate solution companies w/ 350 team members, 750MM in assets under management, and 100MM plus in annual revenue
  • 10k units owned, 12k homes and apartments acquired
  • Based in Allentown, PA & St. Augustine, FL
  • Say hi to him at https://dlprealestate.com/
  • Best Ever Book: Turning the Fly Wheel by Jim Collins

 


The Best Ever Conference is approaching quickly and you could earn your ticket for free.

Simply visit https://www.bec20.com/affiliates/ and sign up to be an affiliate to start earning 15% of every ticket you sell.

Our fourth annual conference will be taking place February 20-22 in Keystone, CO. We’ll be covering the higher level topics that our audience has requested to hear.


TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Don Wenner. How are you doing, Don?

Don Wenner: I’m doing great, Joe. How about yourself?

Joe Fairless: I’m doing great as well, and looking forward to our conversation. A little bit about Don – he’s the CEO of DLP Real Estate Capital, a family of real estate solution companies with 350 team members, 750 million in assets under management, and 100 million plus in annual revenue. They’ve got 10,000 unit owned, 12,000 homes and apartments acquired, and based in a couple places: Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Don, where are you located?

Don Wenner: St. Augustine, Florida. Just south of Jacksonville.

Joe Fairless: Just south of Jacksonville. First, Don, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus? And then we’ll go from there.

Don Wenner: Absolutely, so I’ll give the one minute or two version. I started in real estate probably like most people; I was a college student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and I was actually spending my days knocking on doors… Literally, all day, knocking on doors while I was in college, for ADT Security. I became the number one sales rep in the country for ADT, and I was making 5k to 8k every two weeks; I thought I was on top of the world, I was 19-20 years old… And the guy who owned the company was in real estate. This was 2006. Everybody was in real estate in 2006… And he told me if I could sell alarm systems knocking on doors, I’d do great selling real estate.

So I got my real estate license, started selling real estate. That led to very quickly starting to flip real estate, which then at the bottom of the market led to building a real estate portfolio of single-family homes, scattered multifamily, all the commercial food groups… That led us to build a construction company to handle all the renovations, it led us to build property management to handle all the management, it led us to need to open private investment funds to bring in capital to fund all the growth… That led down a path of starting to lend capital to other investors and growing a large lending business, and then further writing equity and partnering with other operators.

To fast-forward all that now to today, we have a family of 350 team members across eight total companies, headquartered, as you said, in Pennsylvania, Florida, offices really throughout the East Coast… And having a lot of fun at it.

Joe Fairless: What do you miss about door knocking?

Don Wenner: [laughs] It was a lot of fun. The simplicity of the one appointment sale, the simplicity of you know on the door, you put your head down and shuffle and walk in that door, and you walk out with a signed contract and a commission check. The simplicity of that type of sale was pretty awesome. It was a great way to cut your teeth and learn the basics of sales… I’ve been having a lot more fun since then, but it was a great experience.

Joe Fairless: So how many units does your company own right now?

Don Wenner: We own somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000 right now.

Joe Fairless: And where are they located?

Don Wenner: We’re heavy in the South-East. We’re in a total of 15 states. We’re heavy from North Carolina down to Florida, we’re also heavy in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, because that’s where the company is headquartered, and we have a lot of relationships and assets… But we’re out as far West as Arizona, we’re as far North as South Bend, Indiana, but we’re in 15 total states and we own anywhere from 200 to 3,000 apartments and homes.

Joe Fairless: And how are you able to manage that process?

Don Wenner: Great question. It starts, of course, with great people. If you asked me where do I spend most of my time, the largest segment of my time is spent on hiring and developing leaders. We really build a culture of  — our mantra is “Leaders made here.” So we build great leaders throughout the individual businesses, empower them to grow and take ownership and lead, and that’s been really the key to our ability to scale, both geographically, and the new business lines, and sitting in different seats with any of these different business lines and transactions.

Joe Fairless: And I’d love to talk more about that, but first just so I’m wrapping my head around this correctly… You said you have 350 team members. How many of those are W-2 employees?

Don Wenner: 325.

Joe Fairless: So you have 325 W-2 employees across eight companies. What company of the eight has the most employees?

Don Wenner: Property management.

Joe Fairless: Yes, of course…

Don Wenner: We have about 150 in property management.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And why have your own property management? Because I’m sure you did some pros and cons of starting your own management company.

Don Wenner: Yeah. To be honest, in the beginning, the types of properties we were buying – it was hard to find good management. When you’re buying 20-unit, 40-unit, 60-unit type properties, there’s really not good professional management out there. Or at least not that we were able to find in the secondary and tertiary markets we were in. So in the beginning, there really wasn’t any other option. And then as we grew, we evaluated and we’ve used third-party management, and we have some of our portfolio today, about 2,000 of our apartments we do a third-party management. But we still provide the construction management and the asset management.

But really, at the end of the day, your job running a business is operations, and your ability to execute is the key in any business, and certainly managing real estate is no different. I believe that my interest, my alignment and then the interest in generating profits at the asset level is always gonna be much greater than the interest level in the management company whose goal is to drive his bottom line.

So the alignment of interests are in place when you own your own management company, and then we believe strongly that by executing what we call our elite execution system, which is how we run each of our businesses, and the disciplines of executing, of hiring, of laying out our strategy and business plans and then doing the things every day, building the right forms of communication, solving issues, managing your top priorities – the way we’ve built that throughout our organization allows us to get significantly better results than any other management company we’ve been able to come across.

Joe Fairless: And since that’s the case, why have 2,000 units be with third-party management?

Don Wenner: When we go into a new market – for example, we’ve gone into Arizona, and we didn’t own anything within six or seven hours of this new community we just bought in Arizona… So in that specific case we didn’t have any infrastructure in place yet, we didn’t have any relationships yet, we didn’t have any contractors yet… So it was in easier — in that case, actually, it was one of the rarest situations where we bought a property that already had pretty good management in place… So it was just a lot easier to keep that third-party manager in place initially. They already had the knowledge of the asset, the knowledge of the market, the knowledge of the people… Than to force change, and with all my senior leadership being remote – it made it a lot more challenging.

So generally we’ll bring in third-party if it’s a new market to us, we don’t have experience… And then if they do an incredible job, we’ll keep them. If they don’t, then we take over the management.

Joe Fairless: So let’s talk about the Phoenix portfolio or property. Can you tell us some details about it?

Don Wenner: This property is actually right outside of Tucson, and…

Joe Fairless: Oh, Tucson. Arizona — I made a poor assumption.

Don Wenner: [laughs] So this is a 196-unit built in 1997, class B community, in a class B+ neighborhood.

Joe Fairless: Okay. And how did you find the deal?

Don Wenner: I actually bought it through an auction platform. So we’ve actually done pretty well buying through auction platforms, because generally, especially this platform, you have to wire a 10% deposit, and it was a 14 million dollar deal… A 10% deposit within 24 hours of winning the auction, and you have to close in 21 days with no contingencies.

So generally, what we joke is smaller operators generally don’t have the ability or the confidence that they can pull the money together that quickly, and the big guy, the guy sitting in New York, generally the big Wall Street funds, they generally can’t get the contract signed in 21 days, let alone close on the asset. So we’ve generally done very well on those types of deals, with very short timetables and very hard terms.

Joe Fairless: That’s interesting. What platform is it?

Don Wenner: Real Insight Marketplace.

Joe Fairless: Okay. How many deals have you bought from Real Insight Marketplace?

Don Wenner: Five or six.

Joe Fairless: And the first one, how did you get comfortable with buying the first one off of an online auction? …I assume it’s an online auction platform.

Don Wenner: Correct. You have to be willing to invest and do your homework upfront. So you have to be willing to invest, and doing your due diligence, getting out to the asset, doing everything upfront when you know there’s a good probability that you’re not gonna win the auction. You have to make that investment to get to the point of 100% confidence before the time of submitting your offer, so that then you’re confident in the asset and in your underwriting, but also in your ability to close quickly, and understanding all the hair that could come up as you’re finalizing up your capital structure and getting the deal closed.

Joe Fairless: So what do you do, tactically speaking, to get 100% comfortable with purchasing a property where you’ll have 21 days to close with no contingencies?

Don Wenner: I’d say the first place for most people who start is you have to confident you have your capital in order. That’s the first thing that we focus on. Beyond that, it’s understanding the asset and the market at a high level. Generally, our due diligence process consists of a team going out to the asset, or an acquisition team, our construction management team, our asset management team… In this case, this property didn’t have a heavy redevelopment component, but when they do, generally bringing contractors, and often bringing — our third-party is bringing an engineer out right away, if there’s not already one. In this case there was. Getting the phase one done on the property before you even have it tied up…

But bringing a full team out there, spend a couple days, walk through every single unit, dive deep into the asset, do your full lease audit and evaluation of the financials upfront… And then getting out to the competition. That’s really a big part of it. Truly understanding the market… This was, again, our first deal in a new market, so getting to know the market, getting to know the competition, getting to understand the demand, getting to understand the larger employers in the market, understanding the demographics, understanding the tenant base, and getting comfortable that we’re gonna be able to continue to execute over the 5 or 7-year business plan that we’re laying out for that property.

Joe Fairless: Approximately how long does it take to complete this part of the process for you? I know on the ground you said a couple days, but I imagine the lease audits, and looking at the financials – that takes a little bit longer.

Don Wenner: Yeah, if we’re under a short timetable, like on a deal like this, we’re generally gonna complete the whole process, start to finish, in about seven days. Like most, we’d prefer to have a little more time, but when we’re operating under a short timetable, generally we’ll complete the majority of our due diligence in about a week.

Joe Fairless: And what part of what you’ve just said — are there still some lingering things that could bite you in the butt, just because you were having to compress your timeline to seven days?

Don Wenner: Yeah, it’s a great question. Like any deal, we look at it as — a deal or an asset can be a great asset at one price, and a terrible buy at another price… So one of the great parts of buying on auction platforms generally is you’re picking up assets at a lower basis, that gives you a little bit more room. So anything we’re not 100% confident we’ve nailed down, then we just assume the worst in our underwriting. We’ll assume the worst on what it’s gonna cost us, or if we’re not 100% confident with what rents we’re gonna be able to drive through an upgrade package, we’re gonna assume the most conservative side of our analysis, and max out our max bid based on a more conservative underwriting.

So generally, the more holes we have in our underwriting at the point of the auction, the lower our bid is gonna be, which can result in us getting a better buy, or of course, can result in us losing out, because we weren’t able to complete and check every box in our underwriting, so we came in more conservative.

Joe Fairless: I believe you said you’ve closed on six properties on that auction platform… Did I hear that right?

Don Wenner: On that specific auction platform, yeah. We bought many, many on multiple different auction platforms, but on that specific one – yeah.

Joe Fairless: Okay. On that platform, approximately how many bids have you put in to get those six closings?

Don Wenner: We’ve probably bid on 15 assets to win those 5 or 6.

Joe Fairless: Oh, so 15 which includes those six, or 15 that you didn’t get? Wow…

Don Wenner: Correct. So we have a 33% to 40% hit rate generally on auction deals that we decide to bid on. We feel we have a good chance at it, and we do all our homework upfront to determine what the whisper price is, what the reserve price is, really where is the thing gonna shake out, to know if it’s something we’re gonna put forth all that energy and effort around.

Joe Fairless: If you mobilize your crew to go do that 7-day exercise and go visit the property, and do the lease audits, do you generally then move forward with making an offer?

Don Wenner: Generally, yes. There’s certainly exceptions to the rule. You come up with something you just don’t wanna tackle or deal with. It’s usually less about the physical asset, and it turns out that an issue with the neighborhood that we don’t wanna tackle, whether that be crime, or drugs, or just we see negative trends in population growth, or socio-economic changes going on that we don’t feel confident in the basis, that we didn’t have the most accurate assumptions before we got out to the asset. That’s generally what happens. It’s less about the asset than the neighborhood.

Generally, we like to buy C+, B- assets, in B+ or better neighborhoods. So if it turns out to be a neighborhood that we don’t think we’re gonna be able to control or change, then that can be what turns us away from an asset.

Joe Fairless: What online platform have you bought the most properties on?

Don Wenner: In terms of multifamily communities, we’ve bought on many of them. But I’d say the one we’ve historically been the most active on has been 10X.

Joe Fairless: How many would you say you’ve closed on that?

Don Wenner: Maybe 15.

Joe Fairless: Any recent ones?

Don Wenner: I don’t think we’ve won any in 2019. In 2018 we definitely bought a number of assets. I know we’ve been the bridesmaid on a few this year, but I don’t think we’ve won any this year.

Joe Fairless: And any nuances that you’ve identified from one auction platform compared to another, that you think would be relevant to share?

Don Wenner: I’d say some of them have more flexible terms, but the more flexible the terms are, generally the higher the price is gonna go. For example, on 10X they’ve started providing debt options, or giving you time to place debt… Which, as an operator, of course, that’s a great thing. We actually, on the lending side of our business, have funded a ton of auction deals for other operators, because we’re one of the few lenders who will close loans in 20 days. So it’s actually been a huge source for us not only to buy deals, but actually to fund deals to other operators. And some of the auctions that we’ve lost out on, actually we’ve ended up funding the guy who won the auction. And because we already underwrote the property, we were comfortable with it and we could close in 21 days. That’s happened many times. More times that we funded other guys buying deals than we’ve bought them ourselves.

But when auction platforms start saying “Hey, we’ll give you a 30-day extension, we’ll give you 60-day terms to place financing”, or sometimes they’ll say “Hey, we’ll give you unlimited time, as long as you’re working with our lending partner” – that’s generally when everybody realizes “Hey, I can have a lot time. I have time to go place debt, I can go get financing.” Then that opens up the buyer pool times three, four, five or ten. If they had to close in 21 days, or even 30 days, they wouldn’t be bidding. When that happens, generally we’re not able to be the buyer, because people are gonna be willing to overpay, when they can go out there and place some CMBS debt, or something that operators will use to get interest-only 10-year paper, and they can justify paying prices that to us don’t make sense.

So we actually love [unintelligible [00:16:52].15] as an operator, and we love it as a provider of debt and equity. The other guys — when there isn’t time typically to place financing, that’s where we can excel and get the best deal and bring value.

Joe Fairless: And what makes you like a deal as a lender, but not like the deal as an operator?

Don Wenner: That’s a great question. I’d say if one of our partners or borrowers comes to us with a deal that they wanna fund, we don’t compete against them. A lot of times we do like the deal a lot as a lender, but in many cases we’ll go and provide equity to them as well. A big majority of deals where we provide debt to, we end up providing the majority of the equity as well. So a lot of times when deals do come to us for debt, we really do like them and we provide them with capital as well.

We just had a deal – it was an auction deal – this past week that we were bidding on, and then we found out one of our close partners that we do a lot of business with was bidding on the same deal. We didn’t bow out, but we strategized with them and we still put out an offer, but we purposely put out our offer to be inferior terms to the partner, to help his offer actually look better, and we actually helped him win the deal. Then we ended up coming in and we’re providing both the debt and we’re providing 90% of the equity on that deal, but we’re doing it with another operator; we’re allowing him to run and manage and execute on the property.

Another case is we’ve had situations where we’ve put offers in on a deal, we lost out, because somebody else was willing to pay a little more, and then we found out who the winner is and we come and offer them capital into the deal. We’ve operated that way as well many times.

Joe Fairless: Tell us about the deal that you’ve lost the most amount of money on.

Don Wenner: Yeah, good question. I can’t really say I had a deal that I’ve lost a lot of money on. We certainly had some single-family flips, we’ve done a couple thousand single-family flips… One that comes to mind – we’ve renovated a house, start to finish, beautiful house, sold it; it was like a 350k house. And a week before closing, a realtor or an inspector doing the inspection – we never identified who did it – turned off the emergency heat switch and shut off the heat, and the whole house froze. It was a long story, but the insurance company didn’t cover it… So we ended up having to re-renovate this entire house, to the tune of about 80k. So it turned it from a 40k profit to a 40k loss. That’s the biggest loss that I can think of on any property we’ve had.

We don’t have a lot of times we’ve lost money. When I think about bad deals, where my mind goes with deals gone bad is generally doing deals with people I don’t wanna be in business with, and I think that’s the mistake that people often make. A deal can go bad because you’re stuck with a partner who restricts and doesn’t provide the capital, or doesn’t agree with the business plan, or slows things down, or won’t make decisions, or whatever the case. Or just makes your life miserable.

In the early days, like a lot of people, when we first got going, we would partner with anybody who had capital… And we worked with some lousy partners in the beginning, that really made deals unenjoyable, and sucked some of the profits out, because we had to move so slow, answering questions, and getting their feedback, and getting their approval on decisions… It really slowed us down. So that’s been the bigger challenge in our early days, and why we really committed to raising our own private funds that we had complete discretion and control of, and then being able to go out there and offer capital to others with complete control. It’s been a huge reason why we have not dealt with those issues since our early days, and why we haven’t had issues of major losses on deals. It’s a big part of it, because we do business with people we wanna be in business with.

I think building relationships with people is a huge part of success, but the other point I wanna make is I think generally when guys lose money on a property, generally it’s not that the property was a bad piece of land, or a bad asset… Generally it’s not that they bought it at a bad price. Generally it’s not that they didn’t understand construction, or they didn’t understand property management. Generally it’s not that the market turned on them. Usually it’s that they couldn’t execute internally. They tried to take on too many projects at once, and they just couldn’t handle them. They over-extended themselves.

They didn’t have any structure in their organization to stay on top of the important things, and time started going by, and things didn’t get done, they forgot to pull their permits, and then they had to go backwards, they hired a new project leader and put them in charge of the project and he completely screwed up because they hired the wrong person; they didn’t really train them, they didn’t really manage them… They didn’t have a way to scale. And what I’ve seen is when guys go from being successful home flippers or whatever type of investor and wanna scale and grow a business, they tend to struggle not because they don’t understand real estate, but because they don’t know how to scale a business. They hire the wrong people, they don’t partner with the right people, they don’t build the internal processes to execute in their organization.

They don’t have a way to drive communication as their organization grows, they don’t have a way to set priorities, they don’t have a way to solve issues, they don’t have a way to keep out the noise and stay focused on what really matters, and they end up overextending themselves. And even though they may be doing a decent amount of business, they end up starting to have losses, they end up starting to be inefficient, they end up starting to take longer than it used to take them, and they start running a business that’s no longer profitable like it was in the beginning. That’s what we see more times than not, especially over the last number of years, where the market has been so great.

Joe Fairless: Based on your experience, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?

Don Wenner: My best real estate advice ever kind of ties to my last comment, and it’s two parts. Number one, be in business with people you like. The Chug Test I heard recently by Steve Sims, who wrote Bluefishing, the Chug Test – don’t hire anybody or do business with somebody you wouldn’t wanna go and grab a beer with. So be in business with the right people.

And focus on building the internal operations of your business, and it’ll take care of everything else if you focus on execution in your organization.

Joe Fairless: We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Don Wenner: I’m ready.

Joe Fairless: Alright, I know you are. First, let’s hear from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:22:24].03] to [00:23:00].12]

Joe Fairless: Okay, best ever book you’ve recently read?

Don Wenner: I read 3-4 books every week, but my best one I’ve read recently I’d say is Turning the Flywheel by Jim Collins.

Joe Fairless: And what have you implemented in your business from that book?

Don Wenner: Turning the Flywheel is a little monogram, as he calls it, an add-on to Good to Great, and I’m a huge Jim Collins fan. He doesn’t really teach anything new in this book, but what he does is he crystallizes a lot of his teachings – Good to Great, and Great by Choice, and How the Mighty Fall – and really lays it out in a really clear basis.

The biggest thing I’d say I implement is he [unintelligible [00:23:26].28] that you need your organization to be discipline-centered. He calls it disciplined thought, disciplined action, disciplined people. He just does an amazing job of crystallizing and explaining that, and then he breaks out all his different tools and things he teaches: the hedgehog principle, the flywheel etc. and breaks them out in a really organized fashion. It’s a tiny little book, it takes an hour and a half to listen to, but his strategy simplified in a little tiny book – it’s amazing.

Joe Fairless: Best ever deal you’ve done?

Don Wenner: The next one I’m gonna do.

Joe Fairless: What deal have you made the most money on, and how much did you make?

Don Wenner: I’d say a deal we’re actually selling in 3-4 days is gonna be the most profitable single deal. We bought a property for seven million dollars in Orlando, and we’ve put about a million dollars into it, so eight million total cost, we put two million equity and six million debt, and we’re selling it for 15 million. We’re gonna return an 8 million-dollar profit on a two million dollars investment in a little over two years.

Joe Fairless: A couple things that you did to increase the value that greatly are what?

Don Wenner: Management was the big play there. Really, really poor management, and a really, really poor tenant base. So we’ve spent a lot of energy and effort to turn over the tenant base, and put the right people in place there on our end, on the management side, and changed it from — when we bought the property, there were multiple shootings on the property the previous year, there were a lot of drug issues, there was unfortunately a rape on the property… And we really focused heavy on putting security in place, not allowing that type of behavior to continue, getting rid of all the troubled tenants. We turned it around over the first year and really drove up not only the occupancy and the quality of tenants, but the rents as well.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back to the community?

Don Wenner: About two years ago I launched a foundation called DLP Positive Returns Foundation, and we focus on two epidemics that we believe to be epidemics in America. One is the affordable housing epidemic here in America, that’s frankly getting worse every day, and second is attacking the job epidemic; that we’re losing jobs to technology at  a rapid pace, and I believe the only way to solve for that is through entrepreneurship here in the States.

So we’re really focused on those two causes, supporting a lot of other great organizations, both in terms of monetary capital, but then also I teach our operating system, our elite execution system – which I’ve just finished our book called Building an Elite Organization – and I go and I teach that to social entrepreneurs and help them grow their causes. It’s been incredibly rewarding.

Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing and get your book, Building an Elite Organization?

Don Wenner: Email is the fastest way to contact me: don@dlpre.com. And of course, you can find us on all the social platforms and such as well. Our website is dlprealestate.com.

Joe Fairless: That’s how they also can get the book?

Don Wenner: Yeah, so you shoot me a quick note to my email address, and as soon as the book is going live, which is gonna be January 1st, you shoot me a note and we’ll send you out a copy of the book.

Joe Fairless: Awesome. Congratulations on the book, and also clearly congratulations on the real estate business. I really enjoyed learning about the approach you’ve taken to acquisitions on the online auction platforms, and what you do to mitigate risk as much as you can, what would be a reason why you would pull out – not necessarily about the property, but really about the market, because it’s very challenging to change that… And then the approach that you take from a mindset standpoint, and how you’re continuing to learn, you’re annihilating books on a weekly basis. Very impressive.

I really appreciate our conversation, I enjoyed it. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Don Wenner: Awesome. Thanks, Joe. I appreciate the opportunity.

 

 

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JF1930: Building A Real Estate Investing Business & Apartment Syndication Breakdown with Mauricio Ramos

Mauricio has been building his real estate portfolio and is invested in passively in other deals. He currently owns 48 units, we’ll hear about his first 16 unit apartment syndication, and what he’s learned along the way. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“Take action, don’t wait until you have learned everything on the subject” – Mauricio Ramos

 

Mauricio Ramos Real Estate Background:

  • Full time real estate investor and accredited investor
  • Founder & Managing Member of de Medici Group
  • Currently controls over $2M in multifamily assets
  • Based in San Antonio, TX
  • Say hi to him at https://www.demedicigroup.com/

 


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Our fourth annual conference will be taking place February 20-22 in Keystone, CO. We’ll be covering the higher level topics that our audience has requested to hear.


TRANSCRIPTION

Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks, I’ll be your host today. Today we’ll be speaking with Mauricio Ramos. Mauricio, how are you doing today?

Mauricio Ramos: Hey, Theo. Doing great. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure.

Theo Hicks: Absolutely. We appreciate you coming on the show today to share your expertise. Before we get into the conversation, a little bit more about Mauricio’s background. He is a full-time real estate investor and accredited investor, founder and managing member of de Medici Group. Currently controls over two million dollars in multifamily assets. He’s based out of San Antonio, Texas, and you can say hi to him at demedicigroup.com.

Mauricio, do you mind telling us a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?

Mauricio Ramos: For sure, and thanks for the space. My names is Mauricio Ramos, I’m from Merida Yucatan, Mexico. I grew up in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, which is also in Mexico. I went to school through high school all the way in Mexico, and I came to Texas for college, under a student visa, and obtained my civil engineering degree from Texas A&M University, and worked for ten years in the construction industry as a project manager, under different work visas.

Currently, I’m 34 years old, I live in San Antonio, like Theo mentioned, since 2014. I’m married to my wife, Dominga, since 2018. She’s a mariachi director here in San Antonio ISD. Currently, my wife and I own and manage de Medici Group, a multifamily real estate investing firm here in San Antonio.

We are currently invested in 234 units, and recently just got another 28-unit apartment complex under contract. A little bit of how I got started – I got introduced to real estate by one of my interns when I was in construction, and it  really caught my attention. I started educating myself and changing my mindset, like many people who read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Cashflow Quadrant, and those kinds of books. So definitely  a lot of mindset changing for about a year; not really a lot of deals, but just mindset changing.

With the help of my first mentor I bought my first deal. It was  a mobile home. So I bought a mobile cash, fixed it up, and owner-financed it out in 2017. Right after that I did another mobile home, wholesaled a few single-family homes, and then this is when I came across multifamily, and I immediately fell in love with it. I started educating myself, reading books, listening to hundreds of hours of podcast, and going to seminars to start learning.

I decided to start doing my first direct mail campaign in September 2017, so by December 2017 I bought my first my first ten-unit apartment complex in Lexington, Texas, which is 34 minutes South of San Antonio. This was a seller finance deal, 0% interest, 7% down. It was a very good deal, and actually, this property — I just went full-cycle on this property 18 months later for a 159% return on investment.

Theo Hicks: Alright, thanks for sharing that story. Of the current 134 units, are those all properties that you own yourself, or is it a combination? Because I know that you said you’re an accredited investor as well. Is it a combination of deals that you own outright yourself, obviously with the loan, and deals that you are a passive investor in?

Mauricio Ramos: That’s correct. It’s 234, and it’s a combination of passive and syndicator, and that 10-unit was just me and my wife.

Theo Hicks: Of that, how many do you own yourself?

Mauricio Ramos: Currently, 48.

Theo Hicks: Okay. How many different buildings?

Mauricio Ramos: There’s a 16 and a 32-unit apartment complexes in McAllen, two separate properties that we’ve syndicated.

Theo Hicks: Okay, so you actually syndicated those deals. Do you wanna walk us through — which one was your first deal, 16 or 32?

Mauricio Ramos: The first syndication was the 16.

Theo Hicks: Alright, do you wanna walk us through that? Before you’d even found the deal, what types of things did you put in place? Did you have the capital first, did you have your team in place first, or did you find the deal and did that later? Walk us through the process of acquiring that deal.

Mauricio Ramos: For sure. At this point me and my business partner Adrien – we continued sending direct mail (postcards) to McAllen and different other cities which we were familiar with… And we found this 16-unit apartment complex. This is in a very good area in McAllen, Texas. We bought it for $570,000, and we brought four other investors, and Adrien and myself, and we just got a long-term loan on it. The plan is to hold it for 3-5 years.

Theo Hicks: How did you find those four investors?

Mauricio Ramos: People that I knew from when I was in corporate America, people  that knew that I was doing real estate and they saw how I was making progress, and having success. Then I quit my job last year, so during the last few months they said “Hey, the next one – I wanna jump in with you.”

Theo Hicks: Did those first four investors actually come to you, seeking out the opportunity, or did you bring the opportunity to them?

Mauricio Ramos: I brought the opportunity to them.

Theo Hicks: Can you walk us through how you presented that to your co-workers? Did you do it at work? Did you do it at a bar after work? I’m just curious… I know a lot of people that are listening probably have their W-2 jobs, have a lot of people who are the ideal passive investor, but might not necessarily know how to properly go about presenting deals, especially when they’re still working at  the company… So do you wanna walk us through that process?

Mauricio Ramos: For sure. I put a package together, my investor package, which is a ten-page deal where I explain all the ins and outs of the deal. I presented it to my investors, met for lunch with them and said “Hey, I have this opportunity. This is how much I’m looking for, this is the return on your money. If you’re interested, this is how it’s gonna look like”, and they decided to jump in. But it was definitely a combination of doing things while at work, then at lunch, and then definitely a lot of work after five, after my job.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, I figured. And what was your structure for those passive investors? What types of returns did you offer them?

Mauricio Ramos: This one is a 9% cash-on-cash average, and 96% ROI over the life of the project, for a 3-5 year hold. It’s a 70/30 split GP/LP.

Theo Hicks: So the GP gets 70%, or the LP gets 70%?

Mauricio Ramos: The LP gets 70%.

Theo Hicks: Okay, okay. Are those the actual numbers? Is 9% cash-on-cash, 96% ROI over the life of the project, or is that what your projections were, that you presented to them, and said “Hey, if you invest, here’s what our projections are.”

Mauricio Ramos: Those are the projections. We’re six months into the deal, so we’re still working through it.

Theo Hicks: You said 96% ROI?

Mauricio Ramos: Yes.

Theo Hicks: So essentially doubling your money, okay. What about the second deal? Do you wanna walk us through that one?

Mauricio Ramos: For sure. This 32-unit we found through cold-calling. We called the seller (he’s out of state). After probably two months of following up, we finally agreed on a number, got it under contract… And this one is a little over a million, so we were able to get agency debt on it. Similar situation, 70/30 split, brought seven investors, and then my business partner and I, to the deal.

This one is a little better, because since it’s an off-market deal, the price was pretty good compared to the area… So this is a 10% cash-on-cash average for 3-5 years the life of the project, and 100% return. We’re pretty confident that this one — we should be able to turn it around in two years max.

Theo Hicks: Why did you decide to transition from the direct mail to the cold calling?

Mauricio Ramos: We had both going on… We just had the resources to do some skip tracing and have some good properties to call. So we just had the resources to do it.

Theo Hicks: So you’ve done three deals so far: the 10-unit, the 6-unit, and the 32-unit that came from a combination of cold calling and direct mail. How many marketing contacts – combination of direct mail and cold calling – would you say you did in order to get those three closed deals?

Mauricio Ramos: I’m gonna back up real quick, and I’ll get to the question; it’s a great question. So after I did my 10-unit through direct mail, I found an 8-unit in Kingsville, Texas, and I wholesaled that for a five-figure fee. Then I found a 24-unit in downtown San Antonio, and with that one I did a six-figure fee, which was twice my annual W-2 income… So this is the one that really put me in a different position to be able to get into some mentorship programs, get into a couple of Airbnbs and get some additional cashflow. I also basically quit my job. At that point is when I decided to marry my wife, and quit my job and just went full-time into real estate.

So to answer your question, I’d say the response of the postcards is pretty good compared to what typically single-family people see. I’d say probably 5%-8% response. We have a good 150 to 200 leads that got offers in our system to get to those five deals or so.

Theo Hicks: Do you wanna walk us through that 24-unit that you got the six-figure fee on? Obviously, you mentioned that you got it through your direct mail… Why did you decide to wholesale it, as opposed to buy it yourself? And then how did you find the person who ended up buying that property from you?

Mauricio Ramos: For sure. And a little bit of that I have prepared to one of the questions further, but I’ll try to not spoil it…

Theo Hicks: It’s your best ever deal… You can go over it now, and I’ll ask a different question.

Mauricio Ramos: Okay, I’ll just go through it. We found it through a postcard, it was a mom and pop owner… They were just tired. My postcard was delivered just at the right time. It was actually the right color. My postcard is pink, and the owners of the property are gay, so for some reason they decided to call my postcard. So they called my postcard, we met, great people, they liked me, and we went under contract.

I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do with it. I was going to either wholesale it, or try to kind of syndicate it, bring some investors in and do it. It was a very old building; there’s two buildings, one of them built in 1896 and the other one in 1928… So there’s a lot of historic character in it.

I wasn’t prepared to syndicate it at the time; I didn’t have the resources to do it. So at the same time I attempted to wholesale it. I put a package together, put it on Facebook, and within 24 hours I had it under contract to sell.

Theo Hicks: That’s amazing. And then you said you got a six-figure fee. Was there negotiation back and forth, or did you just say “Hey, this is how much money I want for wholesaling this”?

Mauricio Ramos: I double-closed, so the buyer didn’t know how much I was making until the very end… But I double-closed, and actually there was my asking price, and the buyer really wanted it; it’s a buyer from California that has a strong presence in San Antonio. They really wanted it, so they were like “What do you need to put this under contract with us right now?” So I said “Alright, just throw in 50k and then I’ll do it”, and they did.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Alright, so before I ask you the money question, I had asked you — for those who are listening, I’ll describe it, but those watching will understand… So Mauricio has a whiteboard behind him, with a bunch of different color codes on it. I can’t read it, but it’s got a statement at the top. Do you wanna walk us through what that is?

Mauricio Ramos: Yeah, the statement at the top says “Keep God first place.” I’m a Christian, and ever since I really started taking that to heart and really putting God first, my life really started making a transition and making a change for good.

Theo Hicks: But below that, are those like your goals, or is that strategies for your business? Is that like a goal board/vision board?

Mauricio Ramos: No, it’s really just everything that I have going on in my mind… Everything just floating in my head, I put it on the board, and that way I get everything every morning, and I just know where I’m at. Just different things that I have going on at the same time; so it’s not necessarily goals, but just ongoing deals.

Theo Hicks: Okay, Mauricio, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Mauricio Ramos: Best advice for the Best Ever listeners is to take action. Don’t wait until you have learned everything, all the ins and outs on the subject. Just take action, jump, and build the parachute on your way down. Just do it. For example, you don’t have to wait to learn how to do a 1031 exchange if you haven’t even submitted an offer on a property.

Theo Hicks: Alright. Are you ready for the best ever lightning round?

Mauricio Ramos: Ready.

Theo Hicks: Alright, first a quick word from our sponsor.

Break: [00:14:07].26] to [00:14:50].05]

Theo Hicks: Alright, Mauricio, what is the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Mauricio Ramos: It’s called “Am I being too subtle?” by Sam Zell.

Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?

Mauricio Ramos: I would go straight into  multifamily.

Theo Hicks: What deal have you done that you’ve lost money on?

Mauricio Ramos: I haven’t done a deal that I’ve lost money on, but maybe I can think of a few deals that I could have done it, I just wasn’t ready; I didn’t have the knowledge at the time to do them. So now that I know, it’s like “Oh, man, I could have done that”, I just didn’t know.

Theo Hicks: What is the best ever way you like to give back?

Mauricio Ramos: Anonymously. I believe in Matthew 6, so I give to my church and other charities, but I don’t announce it to social media.

Theo Hicks: I like that. What is the best ever place the Best Ever  listeners can reach you?

Mauricio Ramos: It’s on my Instagram. I’m at @maurms, and my webpage, demedicigroup.com, and mauricio@demedicigroup.com.

Theo Hicks: Mauricio, I really appreciate you coming on. A very inspiring conversation; you’ve come quite the journey. I’m sure things are just getting started for you. Just a summary of what we talked about – we went into how you got into real estate, and you were actually introduced to it by an intern at one of your companies. That’s a first I’ve ever heard that one. You mentioned how you started off with buying a mobile home, which you owner-financed out after you bought it, and then you wholesaled some single-family homes before you came across multifamily.

You started sending out your direct mailing campaigns, and your first deal was that 10-unit in Texas. Again, another seller finance deal, 7% down, sold it 18 months later for a very high return on investment.

We went through two of your syndication deals. One was that 16-unit, which was your first one; you got that through direct mail. Four investors, all co-workers, and you kind of walked us through how to present investment deals to people that you’re working with, while still at that company. You also gave us the returns on that one.

We talked about your second deal, which was that 32-unit that you got through cold-calling back and forth for two months and ended up putting it under contract. It was a better opportunity because it was off-market, and again, you walked us through the returns on those as well. You told us that you get about a 5% to 8% response rate on those direct mail that you sent out, and for those five or so deals that you either bought yourself or wholesaled, you said that you had to go through about 150 to 200 offers before you got those five.

Then we also talked about your best ever deal, which was that six-figure fee on the 24-unit. Mom and pop owner who you sent the pink letter to, so perfect letter, perfect timing… You didn’t really know whether you’d wholesale it or syndicate it. Older building, historical building. You decided to wholesale it. A company came to you once you posted on Facebook within 24 hours. You got to add a nice little $50,000 fee to that to close it quickly.

Then you talked about your whiteboard, which I like how you’re just kind of like journaling, but you see it; it’s much more present in your office. And then your best ever advice, which was to take action. I liked how you said “Don’t wait until you know everything. Just jump and then build your parachute on the way down.”

Mauricio, I appreciate you coming on the show. Great advice, again. Best Ever listeners, thanks for listening. Have a Best Ever day, and we will talk to you tomorrow.

Mauricio Ramos: Thanks, Theo. Thanks for having me. It’s such a pleasure.

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JF1916: How This Investor Grew His Portfolio to over 125,000 Units with Jeff Klotz

Jeff is not only an investor, but also a broker who helps others grow their own portfolio. He struggled in the beginning to grow his business, so he focused on that until he was having some success. Now Jeff shares his knowledge with his clients and with us on today’s episode. If you enjoyed today’s episode remember to subscribe in iTunes and leave us a review!

 

Best Ever Tweet:

“If you buy right and you have the right business plan and business strategy, you should be able to survive another 2008 crisis” – Jeff Klotz”

 

Jeff Klotz Real Estate Background:

  • Serial entrepreneur, real estate investor and developer
  • Klotz’s investments have included 125,000 apartment units, 42 developments, and numerous other real estate projects
  • Founder of over 100 companies
  • Based in Jacksonville, FL
  • Say hi to him at http://theklotzcompanies.com/
  • Best Ever Book: 10X Rule

 


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TRANSCRIPTION

Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Joe Fairless, and this is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of that fluffy stuff. With us today, Jeff Klotz. How are you doing, Jeff?

Jeff Klotz: I’m doing great.

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m glad to hear that, and looking forward to our talk and our conversation. A little bit about Jeff – he’s a serial entrepreneur real estate investor and developer. Klotz investments have included 125,000 apartment units, 42 developments and a bunch of other real estate projects. He’s the founder of over 100 companies; based in Jacksonville, Florida. With that being said, Jeff, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

Jeff Klotz: Okay. Well, my background is interesting – I started out in real estate, literally straight out of high school. I actually bought my first investment property while still in high school. I fell in love with the multifamily business, and I guess the rest is history. For 24 years we’ve been intimately focused on the multifamily industry, and have built a platform called the Klotz Group, which is basically a group of wholly-owned subsidiaries that provide pretty much everything from concept through completion, along the way of both a multifamily value-add strategy, renovation, rehab, modernization, to a ground-up development strategy.

Like you said, that body of work over the last 24 years has been a little over 125,000 units of multifamily throughout the South-East, and just over 40 projects completely full-circle… And then of course the platform itself provides a whole series of services, including brokerage, property management, mortgage banking, construction, development, investment banking, and a handful of other (what we call) ancillary service providers that have probably racked up transaction volume into the billions.

So it’s been an interesting track record and an interesting 24-year stretch in the industry, and I still love it today as much as I loved it when I joined.

Joe Fairless: So you own companies like a mortgage brokerage within your portfolio? Did I hear that right?

Jeff Klotz: That is correct, yes. We are in the mortgage banking business, which is predominantly a commercial mortgage brokerage; I’d say 90% of that body of work is strictly multifamily.

Joe Fairless: So what made you want to be vertically integrated, versus just being focused on development?

Jeff Klotz: Well, for me, early stage I really struggled to grow. As a teenage entrepreneur, my challenge for business and business growth was probably the same as almost everyone else starting out – access to capital, capital constraints. I think experts will tell you the number one reason why most small businesses fail is a lack of capital… So I certainly battled that. As a kid, it’s hard to access capital. I didn’t grow up rich, I didn’t know any rich folks. I was kind of knocking on doors the hard way.

Early on, I really wanted to perfect my portfolio, and I needed to grow my business, and the best way to grow the business was to produce what I’ll call “ancillary revenue” from all these different services. But I started to become more successful, and then later on I began to really understand capital markets, and started to really solve my access to capital problems, it was almost the exact opposite.

We perfected the platform and really broadened the reach and the scope of all the different platform services to really serve our own needs, because that was the best way we found to control the results and to deliver superior results and returns by really controlling your own destiny. We learned along the way that it was next to impossible to rely on third-parties and get the same type of results if you were relying on yourself.

So long story short, I probably don’t desire to be in all these different businesses, but to some extent it’s a necessary evil.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, I get that. So how many companies do you actively oversee right now?

Jeff Klotz: The Klotz Group has as many as 12 subsidiaries that are in the real estate business. I’ve got some other investments, and we’ve got a family office that focuses on some philanthropic efforts and things like that, but probably for the focus of this call there’s 12 wholly-owned subsidiaries under the Klotz Group umbrella that provide all different types of services, pretty much a soup to nuts or an A-to-Z, or a concept through completion strategy in what we’ll call multifamily real estate investment.

Joe Fairless: And the purpose of those businesses is twofold, it sounds like. One is to help you and your team do your deals, but then also you might as well have other customers and clients outside of your company if you’re gonna have a business anyway. Is that the thought process?

Jeff Klotz: That’s exactly correct. The strategy is really a 50/50 strategy. I think that a healthy business is one where you’ve got diversification. About half of our business comes from what we call captive work, which is our own investments, and then the other half comes from the third-party marketplace. So that does a lot for both the industry and the organization. It allows us to have a lot of different touchpoints to the entire industry, and it really helps us grow the business. We meet a lot of really great people, and can help a lot of really great people…

You kind of hinged on the mortgage banking business – a lot of our clients come to us looking for debt, and for whatever reason they’re staking 75% leverage and we might only be able to get them 70%, because that’s what the deal qualifies for, so they might be 5% short on a deal, and we end up stepping in and becoming their partner, owning a piece of the deal and helping them get it across the finish line… And then of course, by that time they’ve figured out they can leverage a lot of our other services and really add value to the deal.

Joe Fairless: What’s the most and what’s the least profitable of those 12?

Jeff Klotz: Oh, boy… I’d say property management is probably the least profitable… And included in those 12 is the investment subsidiary, which is by far — the gain on sale, or the gain on real estate investments is by far the most profitable.

Joe Fairless: Okay.

Jeff Klotz: Many of those businesses are loss-leaders. They really contribute to the overall investment result. I might make X in the construction business, but I’m creating 10x at the property level because of my efforts on the construction side.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it makes sense. And I imagine over the years you’ve created a business as a result of [unintelligible [00:07:15].09] loss-leader, but even — it wasn’t something that you wanted to be in the  business anymore. So you created one, then shut it down because you thought you needed it, or thought you wanted to be in it, but you didn’t… What’s an example of that? If there is an example of that.

Jeff Klotz: Okay. Well, there’s a couple of times… In 2001 we sold the construction business. We were able to stay out of that for a couple of years. In 2006, if you remember, the market was on fire. You couldn’t help but trip and fall and make money in the real estate business… So we thought we didn’t really need to be in the property management business, so I sold the property management company, only to really be forced back into the business a couple years later by my partners and investors, who said “Look, Jeff, this isn’t working. We’re not seeing the same results or returns from the properties and from the projects like we were when you were running it, so… Get back in the business”, basically. He who has to go makes the rules, right?

Joe Fairless: And with where you see your group of companies headed, do you see a new business coming up that you are gonna be creating, or maybe putting more emphasis in a current area that you have?

Jeff Klotz: Well, our business – we really hit a reset button back in 2015 after building a portfolio of (we’ll call it) C-class housing. We were one of the most active operators and groups focused on (what we’ll call) middle market C-class housing throughout the South-East. We’d built a portfolio close to 40,000 units, and that was the goal; so we accomplished our goal, but we really couldn’t celebrate the accomplishment because it was just a really tough struggle. That’s a tough business to scale, and it’s a really tough portfolio to operate… So we really kind of hit the reset button, spent the next couple years exiting that business, and really focused on a cleaner, more quality body of work. So for us it was testing and proving the concept in a much newer, higher-quality asset class [unintelligible [00:09:00].06] create the same type of results and returns.

Over the last couple of years we spent proving that concept out, so today the real focus is just growing that strategy. So we find ourselves doing a lot more luxury ground-up development today. It’s a different type of development than we’ve done previously. Previously we were just looking to get something built, and it was more workforce housing, and what have you. Today we’re able to develop some of what I’ll call best in class in several different markets.

The strategy today is not necessarily get into new business, but it’s just continue to grow the business both vertically and horizontally, so that we can once again — we were once upon a time the largest residential landlord in about 13-15 cities throughout the South-East, and that’s our goal, to do that again, just with a little different quality of assets.

Joe Fairless: And I’m sure you get this question a lot, but I’m gonna ask it anyway… When a correction takes place, what’s your thought about being in ground-up development luxury?

Jeff Klotz: Well, you’ve probably heard this, and I’m sure every one of your listeners have heard that – you make your money on the buy. That can mean a lot of different things, but it’s kind of an old cliché in real estate. It took me a long time to even really figure out what that meant… But being well-protected by your bases on the way in, so that you have what I’ll call “a lot of screw-up room” or a lot of mistake room, is really one of the founding principles that we operate by. So if you buy right and you have the right business plan and the right business strategy, you should be able to withstand another catastrophic event like in 2008.

Joe Fairless: What’s a quantifiable example of buying right? How do you stress-test that?

Jeff Klotz: Well, I think today this concept of value-add – that’s probably one of the bigger buzzwords in the multifamily industry, and a lot of times it’s a lot more complex than just buying a piece of real estate and raising rents. You’ve really gotta understand the asset, the asset class, the market… And I think you’ve gotta buy right. You’ve gotta buy at — I’ll still call it a discount. I’ll tell you what is not lining up through an internationally-marketed brokerage effort and participating in first, second, third round, best and final, and winning an option – the concept of who pays the most wins, I have always had a hard time understanding that. So almost all of the deals that we do are privately negotiated, they’re off-market, they’re situational acquisitions and they’ve got a good story.

Even in today’s very frothy real estate market, you look at the last 12 acquisitions that we’ve made  – they’ve all been what I consider below market value. I think there’s good deals out there, you’ve just gotta really know where to find them and where to look. Our platform, which has many touchpoints to the industry, helps to contribute to putting us at the right place, at the right time, and being able to have access to those deals that otherwise might not be available to us.

Joe Fairless: And just maybe one or two more follow-up questions on this, and then I’d love to learn more about the 40,000 units and the scaling challenges with the C-class housing. A lot of people will say when a correction takes place, class A is gonna get hit first, because they’re the ones who are gonna lose their jobs, so those residents are gonna then go down to class B… So you don’t wanna be in class A. And then the people will also say that ground-up development is riskier because there’s no income that’s being generated until you get out of the construction loan and you’re completely leased up in your long-term financing. What are your thoughts on those two points?

Jeff Klotz: Well, I agree with those two points, to some extent. In fact, that was the thesis of some of our early real estate funds, and that was the pitch. And again, we were focused on C-class… And I think, for the most part, that’s  a real concern, right? But we always like to shoot for a much shorter strategy. A long-term strategy – you have a greater chance of getting stuck holding the ball, or whenever the music stops, without a seat… So I think the merits of a project are strong. Again, if you buy or build the project plan with a lot of screw-up room, or mistake room, or whatever you wanna call it, it should pass the stress test for a softening in the market, or what have you.

The bottom line is people will always need a place to eat and sleep and call home… But there’s always gonna be a cyclical nature to our business and almost every other business, so I think you have to be afraid of that. You have to plan for that. When we underwrite a deal, when we go to acquire a deal, when we go to build a deal, there’s always a sense of urgency, and we always plan for the worst, but work for the best. So it’s always a concern of ours, which is one of the reasons why we have a short-term strategy.

We were a large multifamily owner going into 2008 in the recession/downturn/crash, and our strategy then was to really just protect the asset; if we were the best operator, with the best service and the best performance in the market, then we were well-protected… So we were fortunate enough to survive the downturn without losing any assets. In fact, we were quickly able to start a growth process.

I think it’s just a quality operator, with a quality project, in a quality location, with a quality credit risk. So the stronger your residents are, the more protected they are from a recession, and things like that. So I think there’s a whole series of merits that you really have to pay close attention to.

Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about the 40,000 units. What were some specific challenges that you had in scaling and executing on that level of collection of units, with that type of classification of property and resident base?

Jeff Klotz: Well, first of all it wasn’t so much the class of asset, but  it was. And what I mean by that is to succeed at C-class multifamily operations – it’s a lot more staff, or manpower, or people-intense. You’ve really gotta check the boxes and  dot the i’s and cross the t’s. You need a lot more people to succeed in that effort. We built a team of over 1,000 employees, and we went from 100 to over 1,000 really quick. So just that type of scale was really difficult. We were consistently chasing the growth.

And then to top it all off, the business strategy that we had – we were buying and selling quite quickly… For about five years in a row we were buying over 8,000 units/year on average. So to have that type of portfolio churn, you’re always moving. It’s hard to build a team, it’s hard to build consistency… And then of course, the assets themselves – yes, they’re challenging. They were in rougher neighborhoods… So it’s harder to find good people, it requires more training, it’s harder to find good residents, it requires a lot better screening and tenant evaluation or qualification. Even the municipalities started to neglect those types of neighborhoods, where there’s lower income. So it’s a tougher, longer, harder grind or battle or fight, and you almost had to fight for every bit of success, every good resident, and what have you. So all in all, the entire effort is more difficult.

On a personal level, I really underestimated or probably was naive in how difficult it really is to build and scale a business. I’ve found building a real estate portfolio easy. In fact, growing is easy. But actually building a business around all that growth, and building the right type of team, and the right types of policies and procedures and structure – that was probably the most challenging part of it all.

Joe Fairless: Thank you for that. I appreciate that insight. That’s very, very helpful. And one thing that I’d love to learn more about is if you were to have a 300-unit class C apartment building, in a class C area, and a 300-unit new development – picture whatever you’re building now, that 300 units – how many people would it take to staff each of those?

Jeff Klotz: There’s an old rule of thumb in the industry – 2 per 100. So in theory you’d need 6 people. Three in the office, and three in the field, on the maintenance team. I think that in a C-class operating property… Was the A-class a new build, new construction?

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it’s one you’ve just completed. We’ll just say one you just completed.

Jeff Klotz: I think on the property itself there’s probably only a slight difference in the amount of manpower needed. But we’ll call it the corporate oversight, or the regional/district oversight – you definitely need a whole heck of a lot more oversight on the C-class asset than you do the A-class asset.

Joe Fairless: Got it. Taking a giant step back, based on your experience in the industry – you’ve bought your first place while you were in high school; that is pretty close to a record, I think, from the 1,800 guests I’ve interviewed… What is your best real estate investing advice ever?

Jeff Klotz: Oh, boy… That’s a hard one. I think the real estate business is not a get-rich-quick plan/strategy. All these late-night advertisements for “You too can be rich like me” – it doesn’t work that way. I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and it took a long time to create success. It is a get-rich-slow business, by the way. It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a long late-night grind…It’s difficult, and it’s tough to think that yo can create success as a hobby or a part-time business. It’s a lot like the gym – there’s no shortcuts. Nothing takes the place of hard work and effort if you wanna get in shape. You can try all the latest, fad this or fad that, but you’ve gotta do the work.

I see way too many people enter this business thinking that they can do it part-time, or in-between a day job, or after a day job… And I think if you’re gonna be a passive investor – sure, that works. There’s a whole other topic of how do you make good passive investments; probably the least successful deals I’ve ever done were called passive investments… But  I think just preparing somebody for the time it takes to learn the business and what have you – it sounds pretty basic, but that’s where I see most people making a mistake; it’s the inability to really truly commit to the time, effort, energy and hard work it takes to be successful in this business.

Joe Fairless: And over the period of time that you’ve done it.

Jeff Klotz: Right.

Joe Fairless: Yeah, it’s a shiny object for some people, and then they find something else… Whereas put in decades – then you can see some results if you do things consistently that are the right thing, right?

Jeff Klotz: Right. And I think whether we’re talking real estate or we’re talking anything else in business, I think that part of our culture today is that of things happening quickly, and there’s almost a sense of lack of patience, and I can go on and on… But I just really think that you’ve gotta really be realistic with the goals, and the time it takes, and of course the effort it takes. There’s an old saying, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it”, right?

Joe Fairless: Yup. We’re gonna do a lightning round. Are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?

Jeff Klotz: I’ll give it my best.

Joe Fairless: Alright. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.

Break: [00:19:15].10] to [00:20:13].09]

Joe Fairless: Okay, what’s the best ever book you’ve recently read?

Jeff Klotz: Oh, boy… I’m not a big book reader. There’s an interesting story behind it… But I’ve just recently read some of Grant Cardone’s stuff, and I was amazingly shocked with just how relatable it was, and just how great the content was. That was kind of an interesting experience for me.

Joe Fairless: What’s a deal you’ve lost the most money on?

Jeff Klotz: That would have been a passive investment. Once upon a time, prior to really committing to grow the entire platform vertically and horizontally, I thought I could leverage some other operators and other sponsors. I wasn’t in a good pick of a couple different guys. I had no control, and so therefore the outcomes weren’t that good.

Joe Fairless: And knowing what you know now, if you were to passively invest and you were to interview them again about the opportunity, what are some questions you would ask now that you didn’t ask before?

Jeff Klotz: Well, I’d really wanna understand the track record, their true experience in actually controlling outcomes… There’s a lot of sponsors out there that have worked for other folks, or have been alongside other sponsors, or have been on teams with sponsors, but I  really wanna see someone who has a solid track record of doing it themselves, signing on the debt, having real skin in the game, and really a solid commitment to the business.

I think nowadays there’s a lot of folks that think it looks a lot easier than it really is, so I think that might be the tone of what I’m saying here… I’d spent a lot more time getting to know the individual and the organization and understanding what their theories and philosophies and their ideas are for how they operate real estate.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever deal you’ve done?

Jeff Klotz: Well, the next deal, right? In this business you’re always as good as your last deal, so we continue to get better and better. I think that really my next deal will be the best deal I’ve ever done.

Joe Fairless: Best ever way you like to give back to the community.

Jeff Klotz: Years ago I’ve formed a family office called the Klotz Family Office. We have three main philanthropic efforts, including a faith-based not-for-profit named Save Your Communities, which is focused on creating and preserving, as well as providing sustainable [unintelligible [00:22:10].08] affordable multifamily housing. That’s a big part of our mission. I also have a Central-American-based foundation called [unintelligible [00:22:16].17] which basically serves the needs of those living in poverty, most likely as a result of natural disaster.

Then we have a third effort, which is basically an entrepreneurial scholarship. So once a year we pick a young individual who I think might possess some real serial entrepreneurial traits, and we try to partner with them and mentor with them, and help them get themselves in the door [unintelligible [00:22:35].20]

Joe Fairless: Best ever way the listeners can learn more about what you’re doing?

Jeff Klotz: Well, they can visit our website, TheKlotzCompanies.com. They can email me at jklotz@theklotzcompanies.com.

Joe Fairless: Cool. Well, Jeff, thank you so much for being on the show, talking about your experience, talking about your approach, what your focus is now, and the challenges that you came across on the passive investment, as well as when you achieved the goal of 40,000 units… Not really having time to celebrate, and then reconfiguring the structure of your focus. And what you’re doing now, building the luxury ground-up development.

Thanks for being on the show. I really enjoyed our conversation. I hope you have a best ever day, and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Jeff Klotz: Thanks, Joe. I enjoyed it.

 

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