JF2092: From IT Sales to Multi Family Investing With JP Albano

JP started in IT sales and later found an interest in multifamily investing. Today he owns 70 units in Houston, Tx, and 165 units across the metro Atlanta area. His first deal was partnered syndication, where he learned a lot of lessons that he implemented in his journey forward in acquiring multiple properties. He shares some of the lessons he learned from a deal where he lost over six figures.

 

JP Albano Real Estate Background:

  • Owner, of JP Albano
  • He started in IT sales and later found an interest in MultiFamily investing.
  • Today he owns 70 units in Houston, TX, and 165 units across the metro Atlanta area which are currently undergoing successful repositioning.
  • Resides in Serenbe, Georgia
  • Say hi to him at https://www.jpalbano.com/

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Best Ever Tweet:

“Partner with a more experienced person in a group and seek to offer value in some way.” – JP Albano


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, JP Albano. How you doing, JP?

JP Albano: I’m doing wonderful. I’m so excited to be here, Joe.

Joe Fairless: Well, I’m glad to hear that and I’m glad you’re doing wonderful. A little bit about JP – he started in IT sales, found an interest in multifamily investing because he wanted another way to provide for his family. Today, he owns 70 units in Houston, Texas, and 165 units across the metro Atlanta that are currently undergoing repositioning, so we’re going to talk to him about that. Based in Serenbe, Georgia. Did I say that right?

JP Albano: You got it, Joe.

Joe Fairless: Serenbe, Georgia. So with that being said, do you wanna give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?

JP Albano: Absolutely. So background, as you mentioned, has been IT sales; I got into multifamily as a way of trying to figure out how I can generate – I’m doing air quotes, but passive income. I’m still waiting for the passivity to kick in, but what I didn’t realize is number one, how much I would enjoy pursuing multifamily deals, and just how incredibly rewarding it is to work in an industry where everybody wants to partner and everyone wants to get things done. Compare that to my sales career, it’s a bit of an uphill battle. You’ve got customers who don’t want to talk to you, competing partners that want to sell competing products… So it’s a refreshing place where I can come into it and pick up the phone and call people and welcome the opportunity to partner and grow and build together. So where we are today, we look at assets that are B and C class. We do the value add. like everybody else.

We have a different spin on multifamily than most people. We really want to dial-up and change the way multifamily is done today by adding up higher levels of customer service, and really treating the people that live there with more dignity and respect than they’re otherwise getting today, and we’ve got a whole business model around how we do that. We look for properties that are 250 units in size, across a variety of markets here in the south and southeast.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so up to 250 or 250 plus?

JP Albano: 250 plus.

Joe Fairless: Okay, have you closed on a 250 plus?

JP Albano: No, the biggest we’ve got right now is almost 100 units. Well, we’ve had a 100-unis and a 60-unit, so in total, that’s the 165. But the biggest we have so far is a 96-unit.

Joe Fairless: Okay, biggest is 96. So why aren’t you focused on other 96 units?

JP Albano: It’s a great question. In order for us to really demonstrate our ethic and our core values for our business here at significant lifestyle communities, to demonstrate that customer service level, we really need to support the staff, and we found that in order to do that, we need properties that generate enough revenue to support the payroll “burden”, and 250, that’s the sweet spot.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so you’ve got 70 units in Houston and 165 across the Atlanta area.

JP Albano: Yes, sir.

Joe Fairless: What came first of those two?

JP Albano: The Texas properties.

Joe Fairless: Texas properties. Okay, tell us a story about the Texas properties.

JP Albano: So my first deal was really more of a key principle or limited partner in a deal. The idea going into that was that I was going to get some experience or at least talking points that I can use to leverage that with brokers and get access to more deals. What I found that is 1) it gave me more confidence, but 2) it didn’t really necessarily lead to more door openings; maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. But my real, real first deal for the Best Ever listeners here is a 28-unit property in Houston, Texas, that me and three other gentlemen, we pulled down, we syndicated. That was our first deal that we really did on our own. We syndicated the deal on top of that. Talk about baptism of fire. There’s a lot of learning opportunity there and a lot of growth that happened. What really got me excited was the personal development that came from that; coming from most people when they’re getting into active real estate investing, getting rid of a lot of limiting beliefs, the idea of “asking people for money” instead of looking at it as providing opportunities for people to get great returns; just going through all those sorts of things. But that was about a $2 million acquisition price. We raised about $700,000. We got a number of friends and family with about $20,000, $25,000 or so, and the property is currently undergoing a really successful repositioning. We had some battle with a third party property manager that seemed like he was saying all the right things and doing the right things. The problem was they weren’t really delivering. So that was a really good learning opportunity that came out of that.

Joe Fairless: Okay, please elaborate.

JP Albano: Yeah, sure. So we had a property where our business plan was to go in and renovate the units, increase the rents, the normal stuff. The problem was we weren’t getting tenant showings. People weren’t biting on the higher rent increases, our renewals were falling through, and we had very little visibility into what the current third party PM was doing. We had a portal that we can log in, we could see leads, but they use a different system outside of that to actually nurture the leads. So we couldn’t see that. So as far as we could tell, we’ve got people putting emails and phone calls in and no one really following up.

Then we found ourselves in a funny spot where we tried to move away from them and suddenly realized that that size property, 28 unit, is a funny place. It’s not small enough for the single-family people to want to care about, and it’s not big enough for the bigger real property managers to wanna deal with. So we almost were forced to take over property management ourselves, which we ended up doing. So we bought some big boy property management software, which we’re moving the rest of our portfolio into, and one of my partners who’s local to the deal took over the day to day management. I’ve gotta say, it’s probably one of the best things we ever did because in a matter of, I want to say, two to three weeks, we got all of our vacant units rented up, and we have a waiting list for our property.

Joe Fairless: You said the first deal you did was at 26 units. Did I write that down correctly?

JP Albano: Yeah, this one we’re talking about right now was 28 units.

Joe Fairless: 28, sorry. 28 units, and you syndicated it…

JP Albano: Yes.

Joe Fairless: So how much equity did you raise in the syndication?

JP Albano: The total raised was about $700,000 to $800,000 if I remember correctly.

Joe Fairless: Okay. What was the purchase price?

JP Albano: It was a $2 million purchase price. So we also raised money for the capital improvements and there was an extra, above ordinary closing costs.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Do you know about how much the legal fees were to syndicate that?

JP Albano: It wasn’t that bad. I want to say it was between $8,000 and $12,000. Yeah, it wasn’t awful.

Joe Fairless: Okay, cool. So with that deal, it was you and how many partners?

JP Albano: It was four of us total. So three other gentlemen.

Joe Fairless: Okay, and how did you split up your roles and responsibilities?

JP Albano: That was a good learning opportunity as well. That when we split up pretty much evenly amongst ourselves. Everyone got 25% from an ownership standpoint. As far as responsibilities go, we didn’t really define who would be doing what, we just had the understanding that each of us is going to contribute in whichever way was possible or wherever we need help; that sort of mentality. It worked out fairly well. As time went on, we saw that the property required a lot more care and feeding than we were expecting, simply because we were under the impression that our third party PM that we were paying money for was gonna be managing the property, but the reality was we were working on the property almost every day for the first four to six months.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so that was your first deal. Do you still partner with those same three other people on deals that you’re working on now?

JP Albano: We are still in communication on other opportunities as they come up. Absolutely, yes.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so what’s the last deal you bought?

JP Albano: Last deal we bought was – oh, this is an interesting one… This one was in October, it was a 57-unit in Hapeville, Georgia, which is a city inside of Atlanta. It’s just north of the airport in Atlanta.

Joe Fairless: Okay. Did you have the same three partners on that one?

JP Albano: No, that was a different deal, different opportunity. I partnered on that one with my current business partner, Matt Shields, on that one, and a few other friends and family. We did not syndicate that one, we just raised money from about eight other people because we bought the property for a song.

Joe Fairless: Okay, got it. So it was a joint venture then.

JP Albano: Exactly, exactly.

Joe Fairless: Okay, so you had a joint venture on that one. So tell us the business plan on that, and first off, how’d you find it?

JP Albano: That property was interesting. My real estate coach, Bill Ham, had notified me. He knew I lived in the area, and he knew that there was something that I and my team could take down. He was at the same time closing, he found himself in a situation where he was closing two properties at the same time. This one would require a lot more work, so he was a little disinterested in it. So his offer was, “Hey, pay me a finder’s fee and you guys can have the contract.” So that’s what we did. We call it a unicorn, really. It was an original owner for 60 years. You wouldn’t even tell this property existed, because when you get off the highway to get there, it’s down the street of a dead-end road. So unless you venture down the street a little bit past the trees, then you’re greeted by this oasis of a smorgasbord of different houses.

The gentleman that was running it previously, was running it as a weekly rental property, again, for the last 60 years. Rents for about $100 a week or $400 a month, and this is in a submarket where a one-bedroom apartment was average rents are $915. So we saw an opportunity to increase the rents, not necessarily to $400, but somewhere in the $500 to $600 range. We had a variety of challenges around not having actual financials. This was the definition of mom and pop. So things were written on carbon copy paper. There were no systems in place, there was very little documentation, so we had to underwrite that with really good finger in the air assumptions on things and being very aggressive with respect to what losses we can expect, things like that.

I can happily say so far, knock on my thick  Sicilian head, that things are turning out a lot better than we ever anticipated. There’s been a tremendous amount of demand for that type of housing. People have the ability to pay weekly because frankly, these people are in a financial situation where they just can’t manage their money well enough to be able to do monthly rents. And they like the area, they like the job opportunities that are there. They like being close to Atlanta. We have a waiting list and we haven’t even advertised any of the property.

Joe Fairless: With that deal, what’s been something that surprised you in a bad way about it?

JP Albano: In a bad way? I would say that– I guess I didn’t recognize or realize that the people that do live there — well, I feel like they’re trying to do their darndest best. A lot of them have sorted and troubled histories and backgrounds. I’m not surprised. I think there might be a few registered sex offenders that live there. So as a family man and a father of two children, two girls, I should say there’s that part that doesn’t sit super well with me, but at the same time, they are human beings. I’m sure that they have atoned for their sins in the legal system. So that’s probably how I would answer that question, Joe.

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

JP Albano: Oh, it’s a good question. So this was a deal that, as of last Monday, I should say that I learned that the deal was dead. It’s been dragging on for almost a year now. It was a 300-unit student housing property that I was part of the earnest money and due diligence contributor in the GP team; that was my contribution. The team that was running the deal lost the contract. It’s through a variety of mishaps, not being able to raise the capital, some shaky business with the loan, with the deal sponsors themselves. It’s a story for another day, but yeah, I lost a six-figure amount of money on that deal. Pretty sad.

Joe Fairless: I’m sorry that happened.

JP Albano: You know what the good part about is, Joe? It’s a good story to tell to other people in my community and other investors and show them, hey, bad things happen. And it’s okay because you grow from it, you learn from it, you make the best of it and you try to learn from those things, and that’s how I really moved on past it. Honestly, it doesn’t really bother me anymore. It’s just more [unintelligible [00:14:05].18]. It was more of a giant waste of time than anything else, and that’s really the biggest sucky part of it; just a waste of time, for no reason.

Joe Fairless: I get that. So knowing what you know now, if you were presented a similar opportunity somewhere else–

JP Albano: Oh, yeah.

Joe Fairless: –what questions would you ask, now that you know what you went through?

JP Albano: You ready? How much of your money, Mr. Deal Sponsor person or Mrs. Deal Sponsor person, are you putting in the deal? How much of your skin is in this game? And that was the problem; they didn’t have any skin in the game.

Joe Fairless: Got it. So they worked with partners. Those partners did put up the earnest money, they did not, deal fell out of contract, partners who put up earnest money lost money – is that basically what happened?

JP Albano: Exactly, exactly.

Joe Fairless: Got it. That’s a big question to ask. Any other questions? Because let’s say they say, “Oh, I’m putting in 50k of my own money.” Anything else you would ask about that?

JP Albano: I would, yeah. “Let’s also do a personal guarantee on that.” I would be comfortable with that, the personal guarantee, and also understanding how much they are on the hook for as well, and I think that’s fair. And maybe even hashing out a plan, a go-forward plan. Let’s say there’s a couple of partners in the deal and JP is being asked to contribute 20 grand or 30 grand for some due diligence stuff, whatever. “Okay, guys, what happens if we lose the 20 grand? Is everyone gonna contribute $15,000 or some amount of money to help recoup the cost?” I think that’s a fair way of doing it, and just having that conversation about, okay, what happens worst-case? Because those go down; it’s part of life.

Joe Fairless: Well, let’s reverse the focus, and let’s talk about the deal you’ve made the most money on.

JP Albano: That’s lining up to actually be this 60-year-old original owner property.

Joe Fairless: Well, let’s talk about money in the bank, as of this moment, out of all the deals that you’ve done. So the most amount of money in the bank you’ve earned from a deal to date. What is that?

JP Albano: That’s a hard one to answer because all of the money in the deals coming out of them are anywhere from $500 to $1,000 of distribution, which I’m extremely appreciative, Universe, but it hardly is that a number where anyone’s going to crash their car or hit repeat on their smartphone.

Joe Fairless: By crash their car, they’re crashing it because of excitement.

JP Albano: Actually, they’re staggered, they’re staggered.

Joe Fairless: Okay, I was wondering why they’d– that’s a lot of money. Okay, I’m gonna end it on a high note; go find the tree. [laughter]

JP Albano: The funny part about it, Joe, is I’ve been doing this for a number of years and I totally recognize this as a long, long haul game. I’m sure you’re in the same boat, and I’m okay with the very, relatively speaking, small returns right now, because I’m building something that’s going to be bigger than myself and bigger than the partners that I’m working on it.

So I see that there’s a lot of upside and a lot of impact that we can make on the people that we affect and touch in our communities and our investors’ lives as we make amazing returns to them. So that’s the part I’m more excited about right now, and the financial part will catch up to me later on.

Joe Fairless: On the 96-unit, for example, $500 to $1000 a month – I assume it’s from the 96-unit because it’s the largest one, but correct me if I’m wrong.

JP Albano: Yeah.

Joe Fairless: Was there not an acquisition fee? Is there not any–

JP Albano: Oh, yeah, you’re right. Yeah, you’re right. There was, actually. So the fee we got was a $30,000 split from that. So you’re right. Thank you for prompting my memory on that.

Joe Fairless: Okay. So you got probably like–

JP Albano: My portion was 30k on it.

Joe Fairless: Oh, well, there you go. Who needs 30k? Yeah, 30k is nothing, right?

JP Albano: I’m so good at spending money on building this business and scaling out a team that it’s really not.

Joe Fairless: Fair enough. Well, let’s talk about you’ve got the portfolio and you’re focused on finding another acquisition that’s twice as large–

JP Albano: Yes, sir.

Joe Fairless: –as what you’ve acquired, and you said at the beginning of our conversation, that you pride yourself on higher levels of customer service. Will you elaborate on how you deliver on that with the community level?

JP Albano: Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s a couple of aspects of that. One is really making people feel like they are part of a community, and I know that’s an often thrown around term, community and belonging and stuff like that. We’re building a business where that is a core, core function of our membership coordinators. The people that are greeting the prospective members and the people that want to express interest in living there.

For example, we have our people go out of their way to introduce a prospect to any other members of our community that might share similar interest, because you really want to show them that, hey, there are other people just like you that live here as well. Isn’t this wonderful? You want to learn about, ask questions about the people that are expressing interest in living in that community. And what I found is when I’m doing my secret shopping, going to different apartments, I can count on maybe one hand how many times a leasing agent actually asked my first name or even what brought me in today. The first question out of their mouth is usually, “When can you move in?” or “When do you need the unit by? How many bedrooms?” It almost goes without fail, and so I don’t feel that the industry is really delivering on this idea of excellent customer service. Especially in the workforce class housing product, where blue-collar people, hard workers, they’re honestly not used to being treated like if you were a resident at the Ritz Carlton. I don’t know if it has to be that extreme, but that’s just the direction that we choose to operate our business on. So it’s a tremendous opportunity there.

Joe Fairless: So a couple of questions that the person who greets the prospective resident asks out of the gate… What are some other tactical things that if a Best Ever listener’s listening to this and they want to implement something, what are some tactical things we can do?

JP Albano: Very basic questions, greeting them with a smile, standing up and maybe instructing your staff to be able to make it clear that they are excited that someone came in and is inquiring about your property. So asking the basic questions, what’s your name, greeting them by that name, showing a warm and caring welcome, ask them what brings them there today, and then easing into the topic rather about what brings you in and what answers can we provide to you about our community that you want to know about it.

Because reality is 80% of a person’s decision to move into your property is made when they pull up; that’s the whole curb appeal thing. The rest of the experience is either going to move the needle further in the direction of yes or it’s going to dissuade them from wanting to live there. So I just see a lot of properties falling short on that.

The other part of it too is really if your leasing agents are speaking with a prospect and Mrs. Smith walks by, and then in your conversation with this prospect you learned that they like gardening or they like dogs or whatever, have the leasing agent to go out of the way and introduce Mrs. Smith to this prospect. “Hey, Mrs. Smith, I wanted to introduce you to JP. JP here loves gardening.” What that shows you is it shows the prospect that, hey, this is a community that I can fit in, I can get plugged in right away and really have a sense of belonging. I think that’s what’s missing in multifamily housing today.

Joe Fairless: Once they are in the door, and they say, “I love to rent,” and they do rent, do you have anything within your system that delivers on that customer service aspect, that may be outside of — or when you were talking about it, were you really thinking about that initial interaction and impression with them?

JP Albano: Yeah, the initial interaction and impression is the biggest part, because they’re really just not going to get that anywhere else. At least not that I have experienced thus far.

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

JP Albano: If you’re early in your (we’ll call it) active investing or real estate investing career, you really need to show that you can close deals with brokers to win deals. It’s a very competitive market. So you’ve got two options, in my opinion – either buy a small property and you grow bigger over time. Eventually, you’ll gain credibility and the experience to show that you can close deals, and incrementally growing the unit size and your account a bit at a time.

Alternatively, option two is you partner with a more experienced person or group. Maybe you seek to add value in some way, offer help to raise capital by introducing your friends and family to them so they can start to build relationship with those deal sponsors. I guess, in a short time, you’ll start being part of the general partnership pool and you can point to those deals while you build up your investor base, allowing you to have more street cred, if you will, with those brokers, and give you the opportunity to really scale your business and scale your real estate career a lot faster.

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

JP Albano: Bring it.

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

Break: [00:22:45]:03] to [00:23:33].10]

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever resource that you use in your business that you couldn’t live without?

JP Albano: Neighborhood Scout.

Joe Fairless: What do you use it for? Neighborhood research? [laughs] As soon as I asked that question, I was like, “Oh, that’s a dumb follow-up question,” but will you elaborate a little bit?

JP Albano: Glad to. So Neighborhood Scout is a great first pass tool to use to help get a sense of what a neighborhood or a market looks like where a property’s located without physically being there. Especially if it’s a market that you’re unfamiliar with, it’s a great way to get a sense of what the crime rate looks like, what the schools look like, what’s the median income… All the basic things you want to know before you make a decision if it’s worth to go physically there and visit this property.

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

JP Albano: Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza.

Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back to your community?

JP Albano: So I’m an accountability coach with the Jake & Gino group. I enjoy helping students, I’m super passionate about real estate and also growth and personal development. So I like helping get them into the game. I also really enjoy pointing people in hopeful directions around health-related issues, as I’m very passionate about bio-hacking and health and fitness.

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

JP Albano: Check me out on jpalbano.com.

Joe Fairless: JP, thank you for being on the show. Thanks for talking about how you’ve built your portfolio, how you’ve partnered with others, some lessons learned on that 300 student housing project for what to do, questions to ask, and then just your overall approach to business. So thank you for being on the show. Hope you have a best ever day. Talk to you again soon.

JP Albano: Thank you so much show. I really appreciate you.

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