BP Podcast 061: How to Succeed in Multifamily Investing – A Unique Conversation with Josh, Brandon, and Ben

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Change is good, right?

Ben Leybovich

We hope so – because in this episode of the BiggerPockets Podcast, we change a lot of things up and invite you to come sit in the BiggerPockets digital coffee shop and listen in on a fascinating discussion! For the first time, we bring back a previous guest on the BiggerPockets Podcast to move beyond “their story” and dig into the dirty details on a very popular and important topic: multifamily rental properties.

Today Ben Leybovich, who shared with us his powerful journey almost a year ago on episode 14 of the BiggerPockets Podcast, is going to talk with us about what it takes to succeed as a multifamily investor – looking beyond the numbers and truly investing in the right kind of properties.

As I said- this show is a little different. Rather than just an interview, we decided to make this episode more of a “conversation” between Ben, Josh, and myself – discussing (and often loudly debating) everything from “what kind of properties to buy,” “what kind of location someone should buy in,” and a long debate on one of Brandon’s most recent purchase- the ugly purple triplex.

Although this is our longest show, at almost two hours in length, I think this is one of the most powerful podcasts we have ever done because it’s totally unfiltered, deep, and raw. Come be a fly on the wall in our “digital coffee shop” and discover everything you ever wanted to know about investing in multifamily rental properties.

Listen to The Show on iTunes

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

In This Show, We Cover:

  • Managing single family versus multifamily propertiesBiggerPockets-Podcast-Cover
  • Why cash flow is not enough to base your decisions on
  • Brandon’s “Waldo” property: good, bad, or something else? (Leave your opinion on the debate in the comments below!)
  • The Validity (and Problems with) the “Rental Property Rules
  • The 13 Steps to Analyzing a Multifamily Property
  • How valuation differs between single family and multifamily
  • Dealing with studio or one bedroom apartments
  • Why Ben doesn’t like 2 bathrooms in an apartment
  • Ben tells Josh to “shut up
  • How to really learn what expenses will be
  • And a lot more!

 Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in the Show

13 Steps Multifamily Ben

Tweetable Topics

You can put lipstick on a pig all day long – but if you have a pig, you still have a pig. (Tweet This!)

We don’t put money into property- we put money into location. (Tweet This!)

If you wanna fly – you need to hang with people who fly. (Tweet This!)

Stumbling blocks and stepping stones look very much alike.  (Tweet This!)

Our job as an entrepreneur is to produce cash flow out of thin air. (Tweet This!)

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About Author

Brandon Turner (G+) is the BiggerPockets.com Senior Editor and Community Director. He is also an Active Real Estate Investor (Flips, Apartments, and Buy-and-Hold), Entrepreneur, World Traveler, Third-Person Speaker, and Husband. Come hang out with him on Twitter!

58 Comments

  1. Ben, great podcast! Josh and Brandon, wonderful dialog brought forth from your pertinent questions. Thanks for bringing Ben back. Keep hashing it out like this. Some extremely helpful and enlightening conversations outlining so many variables and outcomes we shouldn’t ignore. Thanks again for such a thought provocking podcast. I think you really nailed it with this one! Some fantastic points from all participants. I’m sure many will find a lot of valuable information here. Quite long but so very important. Well done!

    • Well, I’m finally at my destination. I LOVED the 2 hour podcast. I didn’t want it to end. It kept me entertained during my 5 hour drive and set my mind at ease about my upcoming MF purchase (at least on about 10% of my current worries).

      I think I enjoyed the discussions about “Waldo” the most because I am pretty sure I am purchasing a 9 unit Waldo in about 3 weeks. Like Brandon, I am banking on a great location even though the property is a little “different” and will require some TLC. I tried to walk away and cancel my contract but I ended up coming back because there’s just something about the property that calls my name (and the numbers fit the profile of what I was looking for in my first MF… although I am a newbie so I could be totally wrong, but at least I tried and will probably learn a ton from this experience). I guess I will have to chime in later and let you know whether I agree with Brandon or Ben’s opinions on Waldo….

      I also valued Ben’s discussion about the 2/2 vs 2/1. I have been stressing over my upcoming purchase because all of the units only have 1 bathroom (there is a mix of 3/1s and 2/1s). I have been racking my brain about how to add another bathroom into my rehab budget for each unit Now, I’m dropping that idea because I don’t really think I can increase my rents enough to support the additional cost. Thanks Ben!

      I also enjoyed the discussion about desirability. My main reason for purchasing this first MF is that the location is ideal and I plan to rehab the interior to appeal to a particular target tenant. I don’t know if I will “fix everything” (now I have another podcast I need to go back and listen to), but I do plan to do a major overhaul so that I try to minimize my maintenance expenses going forward and make a very desirable unit to increase the quality of my tenants. We will see….

      This was a great podcast for a long trip. Thanks again for all of the valuable information. I wish you were all here in Dallas to walk me through the next step after closing.

      • Well, I’m finally at my destination. I LOVED the 2 hour podcast. I didn’t want it to end. It kept me entertained during my 5 hour drive and set my mind at ease about my upcoming MF purchase (at least on about 10% of my current worries).

        I think I enjoyed the discussions about “Waldo” the most because I am pretty sure I am purchasing a 9 unit Waldo in about 3 weeks. Like Brandon, I am banking on a great location even though the property is a little “different” and will require some TLC. I tried to walk away and cancel my contract but I ended up coming back because there’s just something about the property that calls my name (and the numbers fit the profile of what I was looking for in my first MF… although I am a newbie so I could be totally wrong, but at least I tried and will probably learn a ton from this experience). I guess I will have to chime in later and let you know whether I agree with Brandon or Ben’s opinions on Waldo….

        I also valued Ben’s discussion about the 2/2 vs 2/1. I have been stressing over my upcoming purchase because all of the units only have 1 bathroom (there is a mix of 3/1s and 2/1s). I have been racking my brain about how to add another bathroom into my rehab budget for each unit Now, I’m dropping that idea because I don’t really think I can increase my rents enough to support the additional cost. Thanks Ben!

        I also enjoyed the discussion about desirability. My main reason for purchasing this first MF is that the location is ideal and I plan to rehab the interior to appeal to a particular target tenant. I don’t know if I will “fix everything” (now I have another podcast I need to go back and listen to), but I do plan to do a major overhaul so that I try to minimize my maintenance expenses going forward and make a very desirable unit to increase the quality of my tenants. We will see….

        This was a great podcast for a long trip. Thanks again for all of the valuable information. I wish you were all here in Dallas to walk me through the next step after closing.

        P.S. My comment also ended up in the wrong spot from where I thought I posted it…

  2. I can’t wait to listen to this one today. I have a 5 hour drive ahead of me and was excited to see a new podcast this morning. I am a few weeks from closing on my first multi-family and have been losing sleep over all the things going through my head. Hoping this podcast gives me lots of good ideas, like all of your other podcasts! Thanks for doing these. I have learned so much from you guys!

  3. [Caution: This is a pedantic moment]

    Guys:

    I remembered today why the pod cast, though informative, can be a painful listen.

    The word niche comes from the verb nicher (meaning “to nest”) and is pronounced with a soft ch (ie. nishe), not a hard ‘ch’ ;-)

    Other than that twitch, I enjoyed the show.

    • I think I do it right. In Russian it’s also pronounce softly, which is the way I learned it. So, it wasn’t me – must have been those two Americans :)

      Thanks so much for listening Roy :)

  4. I found the new format to be both entertaining and very informative . It the subject matter answers questions that Most of us newbe’s have . Looking forward to more of this type podcast
    in the future

  5. Liked the message with about 30 minutes left “every property has problems”, at some point just jump in.

    My first property purchased 2/2013 (6-unit) in year 1 had:
    broken water line underground at city hookup
    minor roof leak, water damage into 1 wall
    tenant put in jail
    among other more minor things…

    Consequently… I’m closing on property #2 in 2 weeks.

    Despite feeling “in over my head” at times, I still turned a healthy profit and feel slightly more confident in my ability to handle the unexpected problems that WILL occur.

  6. Was so excited to see Ben back in another podcast – great choice! I feel the need to point out to folks who listen to the podcast and/or read his 13 Step Valuation book and still feel like they’ve only scratched the surface of Ben’s knowledge and perspective on multi-family investing to definitely consider becoming a member of CFFU (Cash Flow Freedom University).

    After being a SFH investor for the last 15 years, I took his course on multis and was absolutely blown away. Ben thinks about RE in a way I previously had never even considered, and his tips on location, desirability, creative finance and more are worth every penny.

    Great fun Brandon, Josh and Ben – really enjoyed it!!

  7. Great podcast @Ben, @Josh and particularly @Brandon, hope you recover from the beating you took soon :)

    Josh and Brandon you did a great job of translating Ben’s apartment-ese into terms beginning investors could understand… but I think it is important to learn to speak the apartment lingo if you are going to be a player in apartment market (+5 units). Ben did a great job of explaining the apartment biz in its native language and any future apartment investor would do well to listen to Ben’s explanations until they make sense and sound natural.

    Finally, a request: Can we agree on what to call apartments and duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes? Coming from the 5+ world I would like to monitor the posts about 5+ units and am not so interested in smaller properties but it seems there’s no one set descriptions that I can set my keywords to that will filter one and not the other.

    One I’ve heard that makes sense is that plexes be called plexes and larger properties be called apartments or multifamily. Another possibility is that plexes be called multi-UNITS while the 5+ are called apartments or multifamily. (Sorry about the caps but there doesn’t seem to be any bold or italic options here, or for that matter, @?)

    Thanks for another great podcast and considering my request.

    • Hey Giovanni,

      Brandon is doing fine – I gave him a virtual sensual massage…extrapolate as you wish :)

      Plex vs. Apartment sounds about right to me.

      Thanks so much for listening and taking the time to leave a comment!

      • Hi Ben, thanks for your reply and especially on the Plex vs. apartment issue, if we can make that official it would be very helpful.

        … And I won’t even ask if Brandon got a happy ending :)

        • Haha – don’t ask…please :)

          And yeah – since I am the boss around here, I’m making a judgment call on the other issue…lol

          Thanks so much!

  8. Really enjoyed the new format, it was a great change-up and it felt a lot more natural/conversational. Obviously the podcast guests always have knowledge, but the back and forth and experience of both Josh and Brandon as well as questioning/opposing viewpoints was solid gold. I hope you guys utilize and do more shows with this format mixed in with the straight interviews.

    Like someone previously mentioned, Ben is spot on with most of his explanations, and an experienced investors understands what he is talking about, but a newbie may not. It was great not only hearing directly from Ben for those more experienced investors, but it was great that Josh and Brandon took it back down to layman’s terms.

    Again, great show.

    • Thanks so much Tom!

      I don’t know if it’s exactly proper to say this, but this time seemed a lot more relaxed than Podcast 14 to me too. Part of it is, I am sure, that Josh, Brandon, and I have another years worth of a relationship behind us, and what you heard (at the risk of sounding presumptuous) is that we really do like each other. But, I also think that the format had a lot to do with it. It was truly like sitting in a coffee shop with your friends :)

      Thanks for listening Tom!

  9. Thierry Van Roy on

    This was actually better than most regular podcasts IMHO. The discussion really went in depth on a lot of issues that trouble me, I had a lot of “that’s what I was meandering about just yesterday!” moments. Keep it up, would love more ad lib discussions like these!

  10. Christopher McGuire on

    Great podcast! I like this format much better. The quick tip and sound effects made my ears bleed.

    I do have one suggestion, you guys are trying to appeal to the masses so I would completely cut out the bad language. It doesn’t bother me a bit but my dad mentioned it as a negative.

    Other than that, loved it as always.

    • Haha Christopher – “…The quick tip and sound effects made my ears bleed…” That kind of talk might get your membership revoked for life lol Josh and Brandon take their quicktip and sound effects seriously – you know…

      Sorry if the occasional slip in a way of “bad words” offended anyone’s sensibilities. I have never known this to be an issue in any other podcast. This one was totally unedited to my understanding – we were going for the feel of a real, natural coffee shop conversation – you know? I mean, at the end of a hard day of “hustle”, as Brandon put it, a word will creep-in here and there, and this is what you heard. Again, sorry to offend :(

      Thanks so much for listening!

    • Joshua Dorkin

      Christopher –
      I’m glad you enjoyed the format, but don’t get too used to our lack of sound effects . . . they will definitely be back. On the language, if you listen back through the previously 70 or so hours of podcast, you’ll note that no bad language was used. There was a slip on this one and to honor our commitment to keep a complete show that was raw, we put it out without the edits.

      We certainly didn’t mean to offend.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  11. Hey guys. I could have sworn I heard Josh mention something to the effect of “if you’re watching this on youtube” then..

    Did I mishear that over the roaring sound of my 4-cyclinder or is there actually a way to watch the show? Cause that would be awesome! Just imagining the different facial expressions while I’m listening cracks me up but to actually be able to see them…wow

  12. Have to say this has been one of my favorite episodes so far. A LOT of insight rubbed off on me during the conversation from all three of you, good stuff! Tons of great nuggets of information that are really helpful to me where I’m at as an investor right now. I’ll definitely be listening to this episode multiple times, I can tell already.

    It’s funny, because I have a triplex under contract right now and although certain things are different, it almost felt like Ben was talking to me directly during the show :)

    BTW Brandon, I use the 50/60(including water)% rule to compare it with the actual numbers on my deal, then use the lower NOI to be safe. Good to hear I’m not the only one doing that as well.

    • Mehran – thanks for listening indeed. I haven’t heard from you in a while and now I know why – a Waldo tri has kept you busy :)

      Congratulations on your new baby. Food for thought: perhaps when you have a real baby you’ll think differently about taking time to play with Waldo…everything in life is function of perspective my friend.

      Good stuff!

      • Dawn Anastasi on

        Ben, I think you will appreciate the fact that while Mehran is investing in the triplex, he’s unlike Brandon in that he will not be doing any of the actual “handyman” type work on it. His “work” has focused on the analysis and negotiation side.

      • Mehran Kamari on

        Haha, you crack me up Ben!

        In addition to the things Dawn mentioned above, you’d be happy to know that I have been developing relationships with local portfolio/commercial lenders. AND on this deal we got the seller to carry back a 2nd mortgage, I’m only having to bring 10% of the purchase price to the closing table. The property still has healthy cash flow and is in a “desirable” area :)

        I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but I have been taking notes on creative finance my friend!

  13. Ben,
    I’m in your camp when it comes to thinking the neighborhood/location controls…but you left me, your first violinist, in a fermata waiting for you, Maestro Ben Leybovich, to say something about the changing nature of locations.

    Locations and neighborhoods are not stagnate. They are either getting better or worse. The good news is that landlords CAN easily change bad neighborhoods that border good ones IF they want to exercise a little leadership.

    Here’re are the steps: http://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/2997/blog_posts/22522-8-habits-of-highly-effective-inner-city-landlords

    Here is the road map: http://www.biggerpockets.com/blogs/2997/blog_posts/28149-a-landlords-role-in-the-journey-to-community-revitalization

  14. Joseph Weisenbloom on

    I personally like the longer and less planned podcast. You get to cover more materials and you veer off into tangents that may have not been typically discussed. A podcast is supposed to be a conversation. I don’t consider it unprofessional at all that this podcast was unplanned because that’s how a conversation is supposed to be. My 2 cents.

  15. Huge fan of the new format. The debate instead of simple question and answer was a great reminder that there is no single style even between people of similar beliefs. I do not miss the terrible sound effects. Love hearing from Ben as he has made a profession of getting over my big obstacle, the money. Although hearing how cheap property is where you guys are drives me up the wall.

  16. Enjoyed the podcast … particularly the panel style debate. Everyone had great perspective. Frankly, I would not have listened to it all had Ben’s absolutes not been challenged periodically.

    Brandon offers increasingly impressive lessons as well. His ability and commitment to make a deal work in his small pond is awesome. Too often, I hear experienced investors suggest working on vs. in your business is the way to be. However, you have to, on occasion, work in your business to get it done (right or on time).

    I hope you’ll continue to have a similar, long format with multiple guests.

    Rick

  17. Josh,

    I enjoyed the podcast and like the format, I just hope this isn’t a permanent change. The debate forces both sides to argue the pros and cons of their stance. I will admit, I nearly turned it off a few times as the Waldo discussion felt like beating a dead horse.

    If i might make a suggestion to do a format like this on times intervals. Say every 5th or 10th podcast. A momentary change of pace is welcomed.

    Jason

  18. Another great show guys – thoroughly enjoyed the change in format and hope you guys do more of the shows like this.

    Thanks Ben (for sharing your experience and insight), Brandon (for buying a Waldo which resulted in a great debate), and Josh (for being focussed on how a newbie – like me! – can digest and act on all this great info).

  19. Hey guys great show, big fan and I have learned a lot over the last 7 months.

    I have a question, around 1:42:09 into the show you are discussing NOI, and Cash Flow, and the topic of including debt service when your valuing the property vs. calculating based on 100% financing, I believe Ben stated you should always “imagine” 100% financing and cash flow 100$ a door.

    Can any one of you expand on this a bit? Or direct me to an existing conversation.

    Why are you figuring 100% even if you have a Down Payment and financing in place?

    Ben, I enjoy listing to your analysis, we think a like; that being said I don’t have nearly your level of knowledge. I am in the process of getting my ducks in a row so I can move forward. I will be purchasing your book mentioned during the show as well. FYI, I spent 4 weeks in Russia a few years back, unbelievable trip! Moscow, St. Pete, Kremlin, and a bunch of small towns in between. It was a trip of a life time.

    Brandon, Josh, I’m a big fan of the site and your work, appreciate all you have done, it is this site that has shown me the error of my ways and provided the necessary information to start
    the process of turning it all around. If I only found you 10 years ago….

    Thanks again.

    As for the Pod Cast format, I enjoy both, honest two cents, in the shorter casts don’t waste as much time with the small talk.

    • Hey Frank – since no one has answered your question yet, thought I’d give you a quick answer. If you calculate your cash flow (NOI – debt service) at 100% financing, if you are still on the positive side of things under that circumstance, then surely you will be profitable if you have a down payment. It is kind of like a worse case scenario number crunching technique that many investors use.

  20. Abel Vazquez on

    Awesome show as always. By the way I am team Brandon on his analogy on why Waldo is a good buy for a newbie. I believe that if you really have the desire to be a successful real estate it will show having and experience like Waldo, it will make you or break you. Sure it will be costly but if you really want success and you are passionate your going to make it happen. Anyways that is my two cents, thank again guys for such a great show.

    Abel

  21. Valid points on all sides that show the diversity and flexibility in real estate investing and the importance of know the nuances of one’s market. What is good for the goose may not be good for the gander!

  22. “Stumbling blocks and stepping stones look very much alike”

    Gold!

    This is one of my favorite quotes that I have printed out:

    “Take risks and you’ll get payoffs. Learn from your mistakes until you succeed. It’s that simple.” – Bobby Flay

  23. Laurie Williamson on

    Thanks for a great podcast. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. I am interested in investing in multi-family, and it is wonderful to have found such a rich resource for information. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience.

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