Business Management

What I Learned by Rubbing Shoulders With Industry Giants at a Rental Investment Conference

Expertise: Mortgages & Creative Financing, Business Management, Landlording & Rental Properties, Commercial Real Estate, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary
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Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited as a panelist to the 4th annual IMN Single Family Rental Investment Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona. It seemed like pretty much every major player in single family investment was there, including B2R, Colony Homes and First Key.

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It’s a bit surreal when you hear people talking about how the company they represent owns 5,000 or 10,000 houses (or some other ridiculous number). One guy even referred to his operation as “small” because they only owned a meager — and quite frankly, rather pathetic — 1,700 homes.

There were plenty of smaller investors in the group and certainly in the audience. Still, among this crowd, we were quite small fish indeed.

While some of the discussions centered around topics that only a few investors would have any interest in (say, how to value packages of hundreds of houses several states away), others were more applicable to a general real estate investing audience: how to keep your rehab costs down, whether to manage in-house or outsource, hold or flip, etc.

But there were two major points that I couldn’t help but take away from this conference that I believe are worth highlighting:

The Importance of Measuring Just About Everything

There are advantages and disadvantages to both being big and small. Small investors can certainly be more flexible and quick and less bureaucratic as well. But one common factor among these larger companies that immediately became apparent was how much they measure. Over and over again, from a variety of different investors, lenders and vendors, this point was hammered home.

Related: 5 Smart Tips for Outsourcing & Delegating Work in Your Real Estate Business

And this is something I think many smaller investors can learn from.

It's not just about measuring how much money you made on a flip or how much you are all into a property versus its ARV for a hold. There are all sorts of smaller things that can be measured and then evaluated and improved. For example:

  • Average Profit or Equity in Particular Submarkets
  • Marketing Costs/Lead
  • Marketing Costs/Acquisition
  • Costs for Particular Types of Marketing/Lead or Acquisition
  • Cost of Repairs/Budgeted Repairs
  • Cost of Particular Repairs (i.e. HVAC, Plumbing, etc.)/Budgeted Cost for Those Repairs
  • Cost of Repairs/Budgeted Repairs for Different Job Sizes/Types
  • Average Length of Remodel
  • Average Annual Vacancy in Particular Submarkets
  • Actual Rent/Estimated Rent
  • Average Time to Lease
  • Average Time to Lease in Particular Submarkets

The list can go on and on.

These are the components of the larger picture (i.e. the profit from a flip). By evaluating each of them, you can figure out where the problems are or if there are certain types of properties, areas or job types that you do well on or not so well on. Nothing is better to help make decisions than such data.

And while there are many on the above list that may not make sense or be worth the time to track, for the most part investors err on the side of too little rather than too much measurement. After all, it’s awfully hard to make informed decisions about the future if you only have a foggy idea about what happened in the past.

We’ve actually been working with a consultant lately to create key performance indicators for each position we have in the company. Not only does this let us track performance more objectively, but it also gives employees and vendors clear objectives to aim for.

In the end, it’s simply not enough to know a flip went badly. You need to know why in order to avoid that mistake again, even if it’s not particularly enjoyable to dig back into the numbers on it. And if something goes well, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have gone better. What gets measured gets done — or is at least more likely to.

Think Big

I wrote an article a while back recommending that investors and entrepreneurs don’t get ahead of themselves and work to grow their business at a consistent, moderate pace instead of hunkering down or trying to go into overdrive. While I still believe that, I don’t think that precludes having big goals and taking action on them.

Talking with industry leaders about the massive projects they were taking on takes the mystique out of them. While you’re not going to go from buying one house to buying hundred at a time overnight (nor should you try), that doesn’t mean you can’t get there in good time.

Related: Big, Fast-Growing Businesses Are NOT the Ticket to True Financial Freedom: Here’s Why

Sometimes this means thinking in an entirely different manner. Indeed, other than one large portfolio that just came across our desk, looking into these large acquisitions and trying to reach out to the institutions that sell and finance them hadn’t been seriously considered before. Perhaps it should be.

And perhaps there are opportunities around that you’re not looking at because they just seem too big.

Perhaps they’re not.


I came away with the sense that there is a middle ground between large institutions and small entrepreneurs that everyone should reach for no matter how big or small they are. You never want to lose the nimble flexibility of a small company nor the entrepreneurial passion. But at the same time, you want to measure and analyze your business in a thorough, corporate-like manner.

And of course, don’t be afraid to think big!

What important business-related lessons have YOU learned lately?

Let’s have a conversation in the comments section below!

Andrew Syrios has been investing in real estate for over a decade and is a partner with Stewardship Investments, LLC along with his brother Phillip and father Bill. Stewardship Investments focuses on the BRRRR strategy—buying, rehabbing and renting out houses and apartments throughout the Kansas City area. Today, they have over 300 properties and just under 500 units. Stewardship Properties on the whole has just under 1,000 units in six states. Andrew received a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Oregon with honors and his Masters in Entrepreneurial Real Estate from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He has also obtained his CCIM designation (Certified Commercial Investment Member). Andrew has been a writer for BiggerPockets on real estate and business management since 2015. He has also contributed to Think Realty Magazine, REI Club, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Data Driven Investor and Alley Watch.
    Douglas Skipworth Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Thanks for the article, Andrew. I have always heard great things about IMN. It’s nice to have a summary of your big takeaways.
    Greg Rutkowski from Chicago, Illinois
    Replied about 5 years ago
    As of right now I am 5 units deep in my real estate investing career. I think that you hit the nail on the head about tracking everything. I operate in one town and tracking this information could be very valuable not only for me, but for other investors especially since I am starting a turnkey rental business. Thank you for the insight. I will now definitely start tracking more.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied about 5 years ago
    It’s one of the hardest things to get yourself to do because it feels like useless paperwork or dwelling in the past. This is especially true for entrepreneurs. But it’s critically important and the number of problems and opportunities we’ve found from the limited tracking we’ve done so far is huge!
    Don Alberts from Frankfort, Illinois
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Knowing the small things allows me to Think Big. Thanks Don
    Darren Sager Investor from Summit, NJ
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Hey Andrew, I do the same thing over here on the east coast and go to as many large scale multi family conferences as I can. It can be a bit awkward when you’re telling then your number of units you own (at least it was for me) when they’re in the thousands of units. But my reasons for being there are to learn from the big guys or else I won’t get there. I learned an incredible lesson in the first 15 minutes that to me was worth my $500 price tag for the entire day. I would have left totally satisfied if I only found out that one item, and yet the day gave me so much more. You never know who you’ll meet at these conferences. My thoughts were always to piggy back on what the big guys are doing. Let them go in and create a market, build a big multifamily, market it to the masses, and then I have my units nearby which are larger and that lower cost. They will continue to spend money on marketing their building. When people do a web search their product will come up as will mine. This has been my strategy for quite sometime. By going to these seminars and conferences I’m finding out where they’re investing so I can take advantage of it on a smaller scale. If you’re serious about your real estate investing you need to make investments which will enable you to be more successful. Attending events like this is another way to increase your chances of success. Thanks for sharing this!
    Chad Carson Investor from Clemson, SC
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Darren Your comment here was valuable in and of itself. Follow the big investors. So smart. Thanks for reminding me of that. Andrew, Helpful and very thoughtful article. Thanks for sharing your insights.
    Ben Parr Investor from Royal Oak, Michigan
    Replied about 5 years ago
    Yeah, I should probably be doing more of that, thank you for sharing. I just wish I remembered more about my statistics class and figuring out how to figure out margin of error based on sampling size and such. I think you’d need to be a certain size to have your current numbers accurately predict the future. Any math guys care to help us out with where this starts to make sense? 5 units maybe? 10? Or is it more like 100? I’m really rusty with statistics so I could be way off base here….
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied about 5 years ago
    There’s a lot of analysis, but it’s not quite on that level. You don’t need to run any regressions or anything like that. The big problem I have is dealing with all of the assumptions like what is the average amount of rehab/deferred maintenance on a large portfolio of houses when you can’t view many before making an offer.
    Peter Mckernan Residential Real Estate Agent from Irvine, CA
    Replied over 4 years ago
    Hey Andrew, I caught this Blog off BP on Twitter, that’s why it’s such a lag on the comment verses the post. How was that conference? I checked the website and it’s a little expensive; however, I think it could be very beneficial.