JF2523: Finding Deals in a Low-Inventory Market with Ruben Kanya
Today we’re talking about fostering long-term relationships to create deals for now and years to come. Ruben Kanya gives us his best tips for making genuine connections to create an inventory for himself. He talks about his approach to finding deals, his follow-up process for getting straightforward answers, and how to be more effective in your outreach.
Ruben Kanya Real Estate Background:
- Full-time Business Analyst, Licensed Realtor, and Director of Invested Talent
- 5 years of real estate investing experience
- Helps investors find large apartments
- Followed the Joe Fairless model in creating a thought leadership group
- Based in Atlanta, GA
- Say hi to him at: www.experimentrealestate.com
- Best Ever Book: The Millionaire Fastlane
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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 fluffy stuff. With us today, Reuben Kanya.
How are you doing, Reuben?
Ruben Kanya: Fantastic, Joe, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Joe Fairless: Well, I’m glad to hear you doing fantastic, and it’s my pleasure. A little bit about Ruben—he’s a full-time business analyst. He’s been investing in real estate for five years, he’s a licensed realtor, and he’s the director of Invested Talent. He helps investors find large apartments. His website, https://experimentrealestate.com/. Based in Atlanta, Georgia.
With that being said, Ruben, do you want to get the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and your current focus?
Ruben Kanya: Sure, no problem. So thanks, Joe, for the intro. As far as my background goes – man, it’s funny because I’m usually on the other side of this mic. I basically used your formula from your Best Ever syndication book of pretty much being a super-connector in my networks. So the way I started was to literally bring it full circle. I said, I want to get started in real estate. Now as you know, real estate is super broad. So I started experimenting in a few different avenues. I was involved with rehab early on, I had graduated school. And then when I said, “I want to start real estate,” I experimented. And I think before you experiment, then you can kind of go deep.
So I got a taste of what I wanted to go into – wholesaling, I worked with the flippers. And then I had a multifamily broker who really took me under her wing; that’s when I just got licensed. So I got my license to always be an investor. And then what ended up happening is, I put it out there; I was on BiggerPockets. I was like, “Hey, realtor for the investor,” and little did you know that was the thing that let people come into my network. But I did the whole thing where I set up a meetup, no one showed up. Only my sister was there. Now, but I didn’t—
Joe Fairless: [laughter] Been there…
Ruben Kanya: But you know what? I was smart because I had a backup plan. I said, “Let me just bring my sister in case no one shows up. And we had a great bonding experience. So that was great, right? She was like, “Okay, here’s the coffee and doughnuts.” “Alright, let’s take it back with us.”
Joe Fairless: Lots of doughnuts for you then.
Ruben Kanya: Absolutely, right? So it was a bonding experience, always a win-win. But what ended up happening is, as I started—you mentioned earlier, I’m based out of Atlanta, it’s where I got my license. I’ve always worked while doing it. And so I was always bouncing into every weekend. So just working under that broker’s wing who I started doing an open house for her, and that’s how I saw that she was in multifamily. And I asked her, I’m like, “Hey, can you teach me a little bit more about how this works?” And she’s like, “Well, yes, can you dial?” And I’m like, “Absolutely, I can.” So when I started dialing, I really started to understand the language, really understanding how an investor thinks.
So I guess I preface my introduction by saying I’m a student, and that’s how I came in, as a student, and I’m still a student and I invest or help other investors, because I have a tool, and that tool was to get access to deals and at the same time, I’m being an Atlanta Commercial Board Realtor… If I don’t know, I reach out to people in my network, and that kind of authoritative figure by association, which is the exact same thing that I do as the host of the Real Estate Experiment Podcast… I didn’t own a piece of real estate when I started the show, but it was to get close to people like you Joe, right? Practitioners.
So that’s why I really resonated with your story, because that’s exactly what it was, it was all positioning. And now I’ve been able to help. I guess my positioning is a little bit unique in the sense that I’m kind of forming relationships with people who are not at the large scale level yet, but they’re looking to get there. So they want to be like a Joe or like a Grant, but they’re starting with duplexes, trips and quads. So I’ve been able to foster those relationships because they understand the vision of realtor for the investor, and I’ve made relationships with these folks and helped them get into apartments or small multifamily; like, it’s not really considered multifamily, even residential, I should say, triplexes and the quads. But then we had this long-term partnership where we’re all in the same boat, where “Hey, when we’re ready and we find that right deal, we can all pull the trigger together.”
So it’s been kind of a really cool thing, how it all comes full circle, and that’s pretty much the high-level story of who I am. As a student early in the game, I should call, when I’m in a room with you – it’s very humbling – but a practitioner who’s willing to learn and then be a resource to his community.
Joe Fairless: Mm-hmm. Lots of follow-ups for this and thank you for sharing the story. So you’re playing the long game, clearly. Have any of your clients who you worked with initially on the smaller deals gone up and done larger deals?
Ruben Kanya: Yes, absolutely. So there’s been one where I’ve had the relationship where it was we’re working on a duplex together, and then we ended up working on the 30-unit together.
Joe Fairless: Nice.
Ruben Kanya: Large is all perspective. But I think for me, what’s really interesting is, to your point, is that fostering that relationship where when we do want to tackle the big boys – or the big girls; not to discriminate – in the 100 units, in the 200s, we’ve already fostered this relationship for over a decade where, “Oh, yes, well, Reuben helped me get into my duplex, and then I got my quad, and then I got this, so of course, I can do what we know as being a limited partner or a general partner in a deal.”
So to your point, I’m really glad you picked up on that, and I don’t know if it was that clear, but you picked up on it because you interview well. That is the game that I’m playing, the long-term game where we’re actually growing with the relationship and we all have the same mindset of growth.
Joe Fairless: On that 30 unit, were you the broker who was representing your client or were you also a partner in that deal?
Ruben Kanya: I was not a partner in that deal, I was an Associate Broker. And that’s, again, from a learning perspective — the way it was structured, it was literally, “Hey, Deborah, you’ve been doing this for 40 years.” We’ve come across this deal, we’re talking, and what do I need to get in alignment to help my client who I’ve helped in the beginning where it was on my own, but then now Deborah, who was my mentor, she was able to foster and really initiate that deal. But then it’s like, “Who helped me get there?” “Oh, well, it was Ruben”, and who brought on his associate broker who helped foster the whole deal. So that is where I came in.
I’ve done it as a limited partner, but that was me going into something where we didn’t have that previous relationship, but I do feel like I value the growth of “Hey, this is me, and so and so, and we’ve kind of grown together and we’re looking to kind of grow our portfolios together.” That’s the whole goal of all these masterminds and meetups and me helping them along the way.
Joe Fairless: The woman who helped you out, who is the multifamily broker – is her name Deborah? Did you say Deborah?
Ruben Kanya: Yes, Deborah Harris.
Joe Fairless: Okay.
Ruben Kanya: Shout out to Deborah Harris. She’s wonderful.
Joe Fairless: Shout out, Deborah.
Ruben Kanya: Oh man, she’s amazing.
Joe Fairless: So when you approached Deborah, and she said, “Can you dial?”
Ruben Kanya: Yes.
Joe Fairless: I’m assuming that you did a lot of cold calls, is that a correct assumption?
Ruben Kanya: Absolutely.
Joe Fairless: Educate us on how you got the list, who you called, what type of responses you got from those calls… We’d love to hear those stories.
Ruben Kanya: So I quickly learned that in this space – and this is, again, learning on your feet – that you’re not going to get by with when you’re calling property managers, because that’s obviously a threat to their business.
So you asked about the list. So first, it was a list of — she had been in business for 40 years, so she had a list of a lot of people; everyone’s looking for deals. So that wasn’t the hard part; it was connecting the dots of—the first deal was, okay, understand their criteria. So I’m calling these folks who had worked with her before, “Was her criteria the same?” “Yes, [unintelligible [00:09:51].16] the same. Who are you?” “Oh, I’m working with Deborah.” “Oh, fantastic. Yes. How’s Deborah doing that,” et cetera. “Great.” “What’s your criteria?” “Oh, well, we’re still looking at a value-add, price per unit…” They’re giving you the entire criteria, which then for me as a newbie, I’m like, “Oh, okay, this is the criteria that I should have for myself if I’m looking to invest.” This is how these investors are really looking at cap rates. This is how they’re really looking at the cash flow. You have to be very good with looking at a balance statement, the income statements, the current roles, et cetera, et cetera. So you get really familiar really quickly as to how the game is played.
Now the other side is inventory. So getting access to CoStar – great, but those aren’t good enough. Because you realize really quickly, these aren’t the deals that they really want; everybody wants to off-market deal.
So for me, that was the biggest learning exposure, because there’s no way I would have gotten that kind of exposure from scratch, and I’m sure you can attest to this. I mean, we talk about mentorship all the time – you kind of just speed up the process of getting access and getting exposure and getting your feet wet right away. And so that was really, really big. And again, as far as the feedback, it’s tough, because I think it kind of also shows you who’s really playing the game. So you talk about proof of funds, you talk about what is your current property management company, is it going to be self-managed? You talk about all these pieces that you realize need to come into play to make a deal that’s a lot more complex than just a residential deal. And for me, that was the enlightening. Okay, great. Again, I love this because you’re buying businesses, right, so the underwriting, etc. So that was the biggest aha, “Okay, great. I understand, I’m starting to really understand the game.”
Joe Fairless: Let’s talk about the inventory aspect of it. When I asked that question, I was referring to the inventory. But it was interesting that you were talking about the owners too, which makes sense, given your role. So you had demand, but you needed the supply, the inventory in order to meet that demand. And you said you got CoStar access.
Ruben Kanya: Yes.
Joe Fairless: But you said that those weren’t the deals people were looking for, they’re looking for off-market deals. So how did you find the off-market deals?
Ruben Kanya: Again, you’re talking about long-term, it’s fostering the relationship with the existing folks. Again, you have your 5 year, 10-year strategy, where are you at in the process? What are you currently looking at? Are you looking to 1031? What’s the next step for you? And where are you at in the phase? And I think that’s the way to do it. We’ll pivot to this conversation later, because I ended up getting a deal off of a podcast after and that’s a whole different story.
But it’s tough, it’s a long-term game, because it’s not like, “Hey, Ruben, I’m so glad that you called. I want to sell my deal today.” We had a gentleman who was kind of a six-month play because it was like, “Well, right now we’re trying to turn over a few units, trying to get the maximize the amount of value that they can get on the exit.” So they’re in the process of finalizing their project. So you’ve got to keep in touch. “Hey, how’s it going? Are we good for our timeline?”
So I guess to answer your question, it’s a long term, nurturing the relationship; it’s not like this, “ Hey, I’m so glad that you called, I had no one else in mind, here—.”
Joe Fairless: [laughs] Yes, wouldn’t that be wonderful if every seller that you spoke to said, “Yes, you’re the only person that’s called me about this. I’d love to sell to you right now.” And I love that you’re mentioning and reminding us that is a keeping touch long-term relationship play. And I want to ask you more about how you kept in touch. But before we get to that, just so I’m clear on, how were you getting the information to reach out to these owners? Was it CoStar or was it a separate list that you created? Or was it something else?
Ruben Kanya: Yes, it was a separate list that was created. I had an Excel document of calls, follow-up, here are the notes. So absolutely. And I don’t know that—looking back, I don’t know if that was the best way.
Joe Fairless: Where did you get their information to put in the Excel document?
Ruben Kanya: Her book of business from before.
Joe Fairless: Four—
Ruben Kanya: Yes.
Joe Fairless: Four decades of experience gave you—
Ruben Kanya: Oh, yes.
Joe Fairless: Okay, fair enough.
Ruben Kanya: And again, this is a very interesting conversation, right? Because it’s—how does that look for everybody? I’m very curious. Like, that was the access that I have, right? And again, for me, I’m coming in, and I’m new, and it’s like, “This is the data that I have.” Some people might have some other better systems, but this is what I had and this is what made sense. And again, it could be a phone. I know that that’s one thing. And the notes, I kind of say, “Okay, I just called this person” in the Excel form, and it’s in the notes if they call me back. There’s a big database, so there is Excel or whatever you’re using; it was a big database.
Joe Fairless: Mm-hmm. Well, let’s talk about the follow-up then. Because as you said, when you call them, something else is going on, or they’ve spoken to multiple people who are offering a similar proposition that you’re offering, which is to buy their property or to list the property. So how do you keep in touch and what’s the frequency in which you keep in touch after the initial phone call?
Ruben Kanya: I’m glad you’re bringing this up. It’s a few ways, right? So when I’m on the phone and say, “Hey, is the best way to reach you to call, or are you okay with a text or—” different forms and points of contact keeps the relationship going. Meeting people in person, versus—I guess now obviously, it’s a very different time. But meeting people in person versus having a touchpoint with a text and making sure you’re making a note of those touchpoints, right? That’s just as important. Because you don’t want to call someone and you find out that, “Oh, yes, you already told me a month back about this. But I’m asking you again.” Every relationship should feel genuine, and it should be. Therefore, on their birthdays, write down that thing that they told you about, that’s going on in their life and bring up again, “By the way, how did that go?” “Oh, wow, you remembered?”
We’re in the people business, so it’s really important — in the agency, I do this all the time as well… Anybody, if they told you something, I kind of make a note of it, because that’s going to be an easier touchpoint for me to leverage. “Ruben, I’m going to be traveling for the next three weeks.” And if I call you in two weeks, that’s insensitive; you told me you’re going to be traveling in three weeks. So I need to make a note of that and foster the relationship, just like you would with any one of your friends.
Joe Fairless: Mm-hmm. You’re always building momentum with them, regardless of how long it was since you spoke to them, because you’re stacking each experience on top of the other experience, and building on it, because you’re referencing it.
And one thing I do with investors when I speak to them, is I’ll take notes, and when I speak to them, say a year later, I’ll mention, “Yes, I take notes in my calls and I wrote down that you have a daughter, and it was her birthday, how’s her birthday this year?” Or whatever. That way, I’m not pretending that I’ve got all their stuff memorized. And I feel like that’s even more of a genuine approach, because if they’re like, “Man, how do you memorize all these very well?” “I don’t, I have it written down.” “Oh, okay, that makes sense.” I proactively say, “Hey, I write this down”, and people, I think, appreciate that, too.
Ruben Kanya: Yes, absolutely. And I have a hack for everybody if you’re listening to this. Your phone is the best database in the world, and it’s already there for you. Depending on what you have, whether you have Android or iOS, go to the notes section or even in the company description. I’ve written paragraphs; and you don’t have to have paragraphs, but to your point… I have a guy, I have his granddaughter’s name in there. So anytime I’ll be like “How is so and so?” I don’t want to say her name now, but, “How is so and so?” And he’ll be like, “Oh, no kidding, yeah.” So I’m like, “Wow, that’s really cool.” Yeah, just take a lot of notes; you’re in the business of people. And that’s what it should be as well. If the deal happens, great. And if not,—and I hope we can talk about this real briefly… Your branding, your personal branding of like caring and being genuine, matters. And that echoes — you’ll get referrals just for that reason because it’s how you made them feel. So that’s important.
Joe Fairless: Yes, of course, it’s true, but I wholeheartedly embrace that. Especially as an owner of an apartment building who receives phone calls, they’re going to come across a lot of people, and those who they emotionally connect with — and you want to root for the person because you want to do business with them and you want them to succeed because you like them. And if you want them to succeed because you like them, then boy, they’ve got such a competitive advantage over the others.
So I think one big takeaway on this is for all the off-market deals that we’re trying to get direct to owner, we’ve got to have a dynamic where the owner is pulling for us and wants to do business with us and wants us to succeed. And the way to do that is to develop a genuine relationship with them and to stack the experiences on top of each other. And remember that it’s a long game that we’re playing with them. And we’re not a unique individual on the first call to them, because they have a lot of other first calls. But we are becoming a unique individual and someone who stands out, the more calls we have with them and the more we stack those experiences.
Ruben Kanya: Absolutely.
Joe Fairless: What’s been a challenge of yours, the biggest challenge as it relates to commercial real estate and being a broker?
Ruben Kanya: The timing. I think we talked about it. I think it’s — depending on when you make that relationship… You might have fostered a relationship with someone who’s just gotten into a project and there might be a five-year play, right? The timing is key. I think if you ask me frankly, obviously, it’s the inventory. I still have people who reached out to me, “Hey, I’m looking for deals.” I’m like, “No kidding. Everybody is.” Right? And like, “Oh, you want to start investing in real estate? No kidding. Me too.” So I think that — and I don’t even think that I’m qualified to answer that question, because I’m still learning, Joe. It’s such a learning curve.
Joe Fairless: From your standpoint though, because you’ve helped broker a 30 unit. Is that the largest deal that you’ve helped broker?
Ruben Kanya: Yes, because it was one that was kind of separate. It was like a 70 unit, but we did the 40 unit first.
Joe Fairless: But you are in the game…
Ruben Kanya: Yes.
Joe Fairless: So from your experience as a broker, it’s finding the inventory?
Ruben Kanya: Yes. I would say that’s finding the inventory. And some might have other issues, but for me the relationship part comes easy. But that timing is key. That timing of, yes, the time is right and the other side—you’re a matchmaker, that’s what you are as a broker; you’re a matchmaker.
Joe Fairless: It reminds me of Judy Robinett. I interviewed her around Episode 100; I don’t remember which one it was exactly. But she wrote the book, How to Be a Power Connector. It’s exactly what you’re talking about. It’s connecting the dots.
We talked about how you stay in touch, but we didn’t talk about the frequency in which you stay in touch. When you have the initial call — and I heard you on if they tell you “I’m going on vacation in three weeks”, you don’t call him in three weeks, but just what’s your standard process for following up with the person after that initial call?
Ruben Kanya: Typically a touchpoint. You want to be there at least once a month, I’m getting at least 12 touches with one individual. Now if they’re going to be away, then that’s different. Now aggressively going into it, I had a large list, so that was such a tough question too, like “Alright, do I hit everyone once through this list of like 100 contacts, or do I try to go deep?” And I would say, “Deeper is always better.”
I had an interview with a guy, his name is Phil M. Jones, and he focused on the maybes. If it’s a no, it’s no; it’s not right, move on, right? But the maybes can be converted into yeses. And I love that, because I feel like you can kind of go into your database and sort out the people you want [unintelligible [00:21:24].26] more likely on the same page, and kind of go deep with them. So those guys — not everybody’s equal. So one of the things we ask is, “Hey, is this something that you’re considering in the next quarter, end of year or two year?” Because now you can segment your database based on that.
And that’s very important that you actually have that conversation, because you might be talking to someone who’s just trying to flatter you, he or she, and they’re trying to be polite… Because people struggle with being upfront as well. They’re just trying to be polite. But if you give them the opportunity to actually tell you, “Hey, where do you stand?” And I think we should all do that business, even with a client. Don’t let them walk away saying, “Do you think this could be a good fit?” Because now you’ve given them permission to be honest with you. And I think that’s really important; then based on that, you note your database and you can be a little bit more, “Hey, I’m thinking the next month or in the next quarter?” Well, that person, you better be on top of it, because that next quarter, if you say next quarter, don’t call them next quarter, check every month to see, “Hey, is it still next quarter? Is it earlier?” Because it might be earlier.
So I’d love to say there’s one fixed rule, but I think if you can segment it into those sections that I hope that was practical advice that someone can apply, segment your database, and based on that, obviously work around the one-offs where people are not available, etc, based on what they tell you, but then be a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more moderate and a little bit more relaxed based on the feedback that they give you.
Joe Fairless: That is a powerful question to ask. Powerful. Thank you for that, the question of “Is this something you’re considering in the next quarter, at the end of the year or in a couple years?” And listen to what they have to say and then segment accordingly. Thank you. That’s ammo to the arsenal for off-market deal finders.
Taking a step back, what’s your best real estate investing advice ever?
Ruben Kanya: It’s not even going to be about real estate, it’s going to be about the people behind the real estate. It’s all about rapport building. It sounds kind of corny, and there’s a lot of properties and there’s a lot of realtors, there’s a lot of brokers, there’s a lot of owners. So what’s going to separate you from the pack is how you treat them.
So I would say in one word, to keep it simple, I would say relationships. And then to piggyback on that, rapport building. Once you build rapport – and I know we haven’t talked about this, and even having people on my show, on your show, you’re building rapport. “Oh, remember that time we were on the show, that was fantastic.” “I actually remember, it was like March. Great.” Rapport. That’s a building block for a relationship. Another touchpoint that you can touch on. “That episode is doing fantastic, by the way.” “Great. How’s Denise?” It’s relationship and rapport building, double “R’, I won’t forget.
Joe Fairless: We’re going to do a Lightning Round. Are you’re ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Ruben Kanya: Let’s do it.
Joe Fairless: Alright, let’s do it. First, a quick word from our Best Ever partners.
Joe Fairless: Best ever book you’ve recently read?
Ruben Kanya: Well, I’m going to go to my favorite book ever read, it’s The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco. It’s an acronym. Every business needs this; control, entry, need, time and scale.
Joe Fairless: What’s the best ever way you like to give back to the community?
Ruben Kanya: Through mentorship. I know that people might take that as, “Oh, well, you’re not even that far.” I don’t feel like I’m ready for a mentor, but I feel like if you’re two chapters ahead and you can help someone who’s never done something, that’s a form of mentorship, and that counts, moving the needle forward for that other person as well.
Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?
Ruben Kanya: Well, you can find out about me and what I’m doing at https://experimentrealestate.com/. We also have an agency there that also helps real estate investors launch their podcasts, edit the content from there. So that’s the best way to connect with me. And then if you want to see my day-to-day what’s going on, you can go to The Real Estate Experiment on Instagram, The Real Estate Experiment. That’s where people can see me and what I’m doing on my day-to-day.
Joe Fairless: I love talking about your approach to finding deals, because as you said, inventory is the biggest challenge with most people right now, most investors. And you gave some very practical tips for helping everybody who’s listening be more effective in their outreach when they’re speaking to potential sellers. So thank you for that. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you have a best ever day, Ruben, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Ruben Kanya: Thank you, Joe. I appreciate what you’re doing. Keep crushing it, my friend, and blessings to you and the family, my friend.
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