Landlording & Rental Properties

Interview With a Bi-Coastal Investor: Why I Purchased My First Multifamily Property Thousands of Miles Away

Expertise: Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary
40 Articles Written

If you read enough real estate investing websites, forums and books, you’ve probably come across a handful of repeated advice:

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

Find a good mentor. Know your market. Don’t become paralyzed by too much education.

And invest locally at first. Stay in your own backyard until you have experience under your belt.

Today, however, we sit down with an investor who hasn’t heeded this advice — and who has found success by expanding his real estate portfolio to include properties on both coasts. Buy and hold investor Jon Huber calls himself a "bi-coastal techie who spends his free time researching properties, scouting locations, and shooting hoops." Hailing from Los Angeles, he primarily invests in South Florida, where he recently purchased his first multifamily property.

How does he manage effectively from several thousand miles away? Would he recommend bi-coastal investing to others? Where does he plan on taking his business from here?

Read on to delve into Jon’s insight on remotely managing properties, starting out in multifamily investing, and his future real estate plans. And if you have questions we haven’t covered, be sure to leave them in the comments section below!


A Conversation With Bi-Coastal Investor Jon Huber

cutmypic (1)Jon has always been fascinated by passive income and intrigued by the idea of using money to make money. Coming from what he dubs "a real estate family," he says that his mother being a top real estate agent, his father working in construction, and several of his sisters and their husbands having careers as agents piqued his interest in the industry from an early age. He got his real estate license back in 2004 and actively sold for 3 years.

“I got out when the market crashed because I was a 25 year old kid and didn’t have the clientele to weather the storm,” he explains. “I used my degree and got into the tech world, and saved enough to get back into real estate… as a buyer, not a seller.”

I ask Jon about his recent purchase — a triplex he found near Palm Beach Gardens, FL when he traveled there to close on a single family property. He originally tried to call the listing agent for the property (which was slightly overpriced), but they didn’t answer.

Related: How I Acquired 18 Units (& Quit My Job) 2 Years into Buy & Hold Investing: An Interview

“I drove by and saw a FSBO sign with the seller’s number, and was able to negotiate directly with the seller,” he explains.

“I negotiated down to less than 80% of asking price. The rents are about 80% of market value, so the deal really appealed to me. I offered a 30 day close, and settled on the property last week.”

His negotiating tactic? Upon walkthrough, he took note of the condition of the property, then took out the buy and hold spreadsheet he’d prepared (with some trusty BP Calculator numbers!) and showed the seller why they hadn’t been getting the activity they’d hoped for. (You can read all the details in Jon’s Forum post here.)

shareasimage (7)

Now, he plans on bringing the rents up to market, as well as improving the building and the systems surrounding its management.

“The previous owner had a lot of different vendors working on various aspects of the house,” he explains. “They had vendors for pest control, water softener, irrigation, lawn care, handyman, and not to mention a lot of deferred maintenance. I plan on consolidating the vendors, and getting the units up to par sooner rather than later.”

Managing From Afar

Sounds like a solid strategy… but how does he plan on implementing all of this from across the country? It’s all in the quality of your property management, he explains.

“I will be using my property management team,” he says. “They are organized, aggressive, and have been on top of everything from day one. This is key because I am in California, and they are in Florida. It would be tough to unclog toilets from 2,500 miles away.”

Despite the distance, so far his experience owning his latest property has been positive. If there’s one thing he’s learned from expanding into the multifamily space, he says, it’s that it’s just as easy to find great deals, to analyze cash flow, and to close on properties as it is for single family home purchases.

He explains, “Now, the tenants in a single family may be different than a multifamily. Single family tenants tend to take more pride in their homes and the turnover might be less, however, from an acquisition standpoint, it is just as simple.”

Overall, long distance landlording is something he would recommend to other investors… with a few caveats, such as understanding the importance of knowing the markets you invest in — even if those markets are thousands of miles away. He explains his philosophy to me:

“Yes, I live in Los Angeles, and invest primarily in South Florida. I know that my strengths are in analysis and negotiations, not in handy work and 1099 preparations. Property management is the only way to go for me, and that is not as a result of the distance. I already have a full time director position, and I feel that I would be burned out managing my properties even if I lived close. Quality of life at 10% of rent collected sounds good to me.”

shareasimage (8)

He adds, "I think long distance investing is fine as long as you are comfortable with the area. I know the real estate markets of Los Angeles, NJ, and South Florida very well and would be comfortable investing in any of them. People suggest to rent in your own backyard at first, but if you are comfortable out of state, have a property manager who is aggressive, and the returns are there… why wouldn't anyone pull the trigger?"

Entering the Multifamily Space

So how has he reached this point? There are lots of investors out there who’d like to expand into multifamily investing, but may find the proposition intimidating or wonder where to start. Education is key, Jon says, especially education that involves interactive learning with likeminded individuals looking to reach similar goals.

“My real estate education began as a toddler going to open houses,” he explains. “I believe that there are people that know all the ins and outs of real estate and have read all of the books, but still can’t make the first purchase out of fear. By attending the meetups, you surround yourself with those doing exactly what you want to do, or even with newbies that want to do what you do. When you are completely surrounded by success, success becomes more of a commonality. When your mindset changes, and your attitude on success becomes more of an attainable goal, rather than an unreachable wish.”

BiggerPockets, he adds, has been helpful in introducing him to fellow investors and rounding out his real estate education, especially through the BP Podcast. He cites the feeling of camaraderie amongst the members as a major reason he frequents the site.

“The fact that Josh and Brandon are still there greeting newbies and answering questions is amazing,” he says, and adds, “It’s a beautiful thing to see multimillionaires reaching out to someone to help analyze their first deal for the goodness of the community.”

Related: Interview: A Realtor’s Insider Secrets for Selling a Fix and Flip FAST

Future Plans

So with a growing portfolio of properties on both coasts, where does Jon plan to take his real estate business from here? While his initial plan was to retire early, today he’s not quite sure he’ll ever retire — he loves working in real estate too much. He may quit his day job one day, he says, although he is currently enjoying the steady income that he uses to buy more properties. His long term dream?

“I want to eventually get to the level where I can travel world, and collect my rents from a beach at an undisclosed location.”

shareasimage (9)

To conclude our conversation, I ask him the most important question of our interview, which is: You have to get a tattoo of a famous quote. What does it say?

“Two of my favorites are ‘Power without wisdom is tyranny, wisdom without power is pointless’ and ‘The safest ship is the one docked in the harbor, but that’s not what ships were made for,’ he answers. “But those would NOT be cool tattoos. It would have to be: ‘Aquila non capit muscas.’ It’s a Latin proverb that translates to: ‘An eagles doesn’t catch flies.’ Just a reminder not to deal with insignificant issues.”

Now, there’s a quote that can be applied to real estate investing.

Investors: Have any questions or comments about Jon’s bi-coastal real estate endeavors?

Be sure to leave a comment below, and let’s chat!

A career writer, editor and blogger, Allison serves as the Director of Content for In the past, she has channeled her passion and curiosity for all things real estate into her jo...
Read more
    Replied over 5 years ago
    great article. i am a total newbie (but need to make a decision on my house very soon). the article mentions mentors and meet-ups — how do i find those??? thanks for your help!
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Katherine, use the search bar in the upper right corner of BP to search meetup with your city name or zip code.
    Katherine Brown from Manchester, Massachusetts
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Thank you, Mindy!!! Also, just read that I should not ask about a mentor (if I am using the free service — and I am). oops! sorry for breaking the rules!
    Jon Huber Rental Property Investor from Boca Raton, FL
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Katherine, I was having trouble finding LA Meetups as well. There were meetups, but they were every couple of months. I ended up starting my own because there was such demand.
    Mindy Jensen BiggerPockets Community Manager from Longmont, CO
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Great interview, Allison. I live in an area that is ridiculously hot right now. It is nice to read more about successful investing outside your area. Jon, is your PM a local company that takes other clients as well, or something you put together for the sake of running your own rentals? What percentage of your property is located out of state?
    Jon Huber Rental Property Investor from Boca Raton, FL
    Replied over 5 years ago
    And of my investments, I only own my primary home in Los Angeles. Being that I search for cashflow and the possibility of appreciation, I couldn’t find cashflow at the price point I felt comfortable coming in at. It only made sense for me to do all oft investing out of state.
    Jon Huber Rental Property Investor from Boca Raton, FL
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Mindy, The PM definitely has other clients. When searching for a quality PM, I gathered about 30 names and numbers from various sources (Better Biz Bureau, yelp, yp, etc). I began calling in the middle of the day on a weekday. If they didn’t pick up, I didn’t bother. Of the PMs I got a hold of, I ran them through the gauntlet of questions from the “Questions to ask a PM” in the BP FilePlace. The PM I chose aggressively answered all questions and stayed on the line for an hour just to talk about investing. They are investors too. I’ve been very happy so far.
    Kyle Atans Investor from Sherman Oaks, California
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Jon Huber is real estate entrepreneur and i am glad to know him as a friend. Success comes to people that strive for it daily. (10-plex is the next step).
    Jon Huber Rental Property Investor from Boca Raton, FL
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Kyle, thank you for your support. You were included in the group I was referring to about surrounding yourself with like minded people who are successful. By surrounding myself around you and the rest of our LA meetup group, it’s transformed my mindset always thinking about my next deal and never being complacent. I’m glad to know you all as friends as well.
    Lisa Phillips Real Estate Investor from Arlington, VA
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Great post John! I invest out of state, as I always live in really high income areas that isn’t friendly to an easy investment portfolio. Thanks for your unique view!
    Jon Huber Rental Property Investor from Boca Raton, FL
    Replied over 5 years ago
    Lisa, thank you for reading. As much as I would like to take credit, Allison did all of the work. Haha. I just answered her questions. And I definitely feel your pain… Los Angeles has the worst of both worlds (extremely high prices and low rent control). Best of luck!
    Gianni Laverde Investor from Corona, NY
    Replied over 5 years ago
    John, Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your acquisition. This is a very inspirational post for someone like me who is looking to invest in multifamily properties out of my home area. I had never heard that Latin proverb you mentioned. Really cool! Gianni