David: This is the BiggerPockets podcast show 347.
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Mark: If we had to do it over again, I would say, I would have rather started larger but only if I had a partner that had done it before and been through it. That’s the key and made some mistakes, frankly. If everything’s gone perfectly for somebody, that might not be the person I want to partner with, frankly.
Speaker 3: You’re listening to BiggerPockets radio, simplifying real estate for investors large and small. If you’re here looking to learn about real estate investing without all the hype, you’re in the right place. Stay tuned and be sure to join the millions of others who have benefited from biggerpockets.com, your home for real estate investing online.
Brandon: What’s going on everyone. This is Brandon Turner, host of the BiggerPockets podcast here with my co-host, the man who showed up to my town for a whole 24 hours last week, David Greene. What’s up, David?
David: I’m doing great, man. I just got back from Hawaii. I got some sun. I got some exercise. I got a good conversation with you. I think that we probably squeezed more into a three-hour meeting than most people do into a two week-
Brandon: Probably. Yeah. David texts me. It’s like, “Hey, Do you want to have dinner tonight? I’m in your town.” I was like, “Wait. What?”
And anyway, you were doing a whirlwind trip around Hawaii and got to do a couple cool things so that sounds awesome. Anyway, we had a good time.
David: It’s important. You got to keep your relationships fresh. I don’t want us to get into a rut. I had to surprise you.
Brandon: There you go. Had to surprise me and show up and we had to go to Monkeypod together, which is my favorite restaurant on the planet. I know you’re a believer now, too, right?
David: This is running joke with Brandon and I where he loves Monkeypod and I just feel like it’s overrated. Maybe you guys need to comment on our Instagrams and tell us what you think of Monkeypod. Is it worth it or not?
Brandon: Yeah. If you’ve been to Monkeypod … Yeah. It’s the greatest restaurant on the planet. Their pie, everything. All right. So, yeah. Monkeypod.
Anyway, speaking of Monkeypod, let’s get today’s quick tip.
David: Quick tip.
Brandon: This has nothing to do with the Monkeypod but today’s quick tip is simply this. The BiggerPockets Conference is coming up here in about six weeks from when this episode airs. If you’re watching this in the future, of course, that can be very different but it’s happening October 6th through 8th, 2019. We want you to be there. David and I are both going to be there hanging out the entire time but here’s the deal. The reason I’m saying this is a quick tip is because you have to act quick. This is going to sell out. It’s going to sell out before the event. So, I believe tickets are still available as of right now but you can check and make sure from the moment you’re listening to this. Biggerpocketsconference.com, get tickets before they are sold out because we’re going to come hang out with you in Nashville. Whoo!
David: It’s going to be a blast.
Brandon: That’s it. Yeah. I’m looking forward to it so we’re going to have a good time. Talking real estate for a little while. Yeah, that’s all I got.
So, before we get into the show, let’s hear from today’s show sponsor.
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Brandon: Our big thanks to our sponsor, as always.
Now, it’s time to get on with today’s show. So, today’s show is with Mark and Tamiel Kenney. These are two individuals I met at the Pacific Northwest Conference out in Seattle, the one [Taro Yarbird 00:04:10] puts on every year. I met them a few months ago. We had this long, three-hour conversation with them. It was great. I just wanted to learn everything I could about them.
Then, actually before I could actually invite them on the show, they did a charity auction, Taro hosted a charity auction. We auctioned off one of the spots to come here on the podcast. They actually ended up winning the auction anyway, which I would have invited them anyway but it was great that some money went to charity for this. So, everybody wins here. I’m super pumped to have them on the show today.
So, they’re going to talk a lot about syndication, about going from, doing a couple deals, two, three, five, 10. I think they were up to 15 deals. Then, all of a sudden, jumped to having thousands of units. We talked to that journey. So, if you’ve been interested in getting to that level of your business, really going to the next level …
Also, we talk a lot about investing with your spouse. What does that look like and how do you navigate those things? How do you raise money whether it’s for your first deal, you’re trying to buy a house, and get a private lender. How do you do that without looking weird at events? If you go to a local meetup, they give some just fantastic advice on how to do that.
Then, later, we talk about basically, David gives this analogy of the Chicago Cubs and how the exact same thing that finally made them win the World Series is the same thing you could do to really win in your life, as well. It’s actually one of my favorite analogies, David, you’ve ever given. So, I know. There’s been a lot of them. So, all that and more in today’s episode of the podcast. So, without further ado, let’s get to today’s interview with Mark and Tamiel Kenney.
All right. Welcome to the BiggerPockets podcast, guys. Good to have you here.
Tami: Thanks for having us, Brandon. We’re excited to be here.
Mark: Yeah. Great to be here.
Brandon: Awesome. All right. Let’s get into your story and kind of figure out how did you get into real estate? What was that very first deal? What’d you do before that and how’d you kind of get into the world of real estate?
Tami: Sure. Well, Mark and I have been married 24 years, so he got his first deal just before we got married, so I will let Mark tell you all how he got that first deal.
Mark: Yeah. First deal, I was 22, going to school for accounting but I have an identical twin brother. We’re both like, “Man, everyone needs a place to live. So, let’s buy real estate.” We didn’t have a mentor. We didn’t have a parent teach us anything.
And so we started looking when we were a senior in college and end up getting a deal. It’s a duplex, the big value-add deal. That’s kind of how we end up getting our first deal. We saved some money up, we’re able to pay for it and get a loan for the rest. That’s the deal we did.
Brandon: Okay. So, you started on a smaller deal? Then, how did you get from that to where I know you do today a syndication. How did you go from, “I did a duplex,” to, “Now, I syndicate real estate”?
Mark: Yeah. We bought a few other properties in between there. Not a lot, but then I was doing IT consulting at the time, had an IT business and really wanted to replace our income because I was working so much. I would sleep three hours a night, work 80 hours a week, like literally [inaudible 00:07:06], had no time for family.
So, Tami didn’t like it for some reason and said, “You need to do something different.” I said, “If we’re do something different, you’re going to do it with me, so I’m going to drag you down with me.” And so, we said, “There’s no way-“
Tami: [crosstalk 00:07:22].
Mark: “… Replace my IT income with just buying two, three, four units every couple years. Can’t do it, so let’s syndicate, raise money from other people.” That’s how we started back in 2013 but we started originally as a passive investor and quickly after that did our own deal.
Brandon: So, you mentioned that you started off passive. What do you mean by passive?
Tami: Well, a friend of ours was doing an apartment syndication. He asked us to invest as a passive investor in his syndication deal, which just means he was doing all the work. He found the deal and we were supposed to just sit back and collect the checks.
Brandon: And that is what happened?
Mark: It did. It actually went really, really well. So, that was a good first experience for sure.
Brandon: That’s cool. Yeah. We’ve had a few people on the show talk about how sometimes one of the best ways to get into the larger deals is to be a passive investor in somebody’s else’s deal, which I did. I put up … I think I’ve done three syndications now where I put money into other people’s deals. I got to kind of see how they worked and what I liked and what I didn’t like and look over their documents and their executive summary PPMs, all that, so I felt a lot more comfortable jumping into bigger stuff myself. Would you guys agree?
Brandon: That’s a [crosstalk 00:08:25]-
Mark: It’s a great way. It’s a great way to start. I think there’s kind of a misconception that you’re going to learn so much by doing that. Syndicators tell investors, “Hey, invest with me and you’re going to learn how to become a syndicator.” That’s not true. You’re going to learn the way the process works and you’ll learn a lot more than you knew before but in my personal opinion, by being a passive investor, you are not ready to become a syndicator, just by being a passive investor. Too many more things. Yeah.
Brandon: Yeah. 100%.
So, All right. So, let’s go to that very first deal. Maybe we should go back real quick. Let’s go back to the earlier deals real quick, the 13 to 17, whatever was in there. I’m wondering, first of all, where were those properties at? How were you managing those properties? What did that look like? What was your business like during those years?
Mark: Yeah, so we just got married, basically so I bought my first property and it was a duplex in Michigan. They’re all Michigan. That’s where we both grew up.
Tami: His small town that he grew up in.
Mark: Yeah. So, kind of big rehab deal. We’re like, “Okay.” I was traveling for work, sometimes five days a week and coming back and shoveling show in winter and evicting people and so …
Tami: Hanging our own drywall, fixing toilets.
Mark: Yeah. We have an eight-hour toilet story that …
Tami: We all got an eight-hour toilet story. Yeah.
Mark: And it was like, “You know what? This is really kind of sucky actually, because we’re spending so much time doing that.” It was all recourse loans. This means we had personal liability. I was 23 years old at the time and wasn’t making that much. So, I always had that kind of hanging over us. We self-managed. We didn’t have any money to pay anyone to do anything else so we did everything ourselves, essentially.
Tami: When we unfortunately, and I was only 20, and when Mark was out of town, I had to deal with a tenant and the contractors. So, we unfortunately believed a lot of the tenant’s stories when they told us they were going to pay us. Then, we hear kind of from one of the other tenants that they didn’t feel they really needed to pay us because they thought it was just extra money in our pocket, like we didn’t have a mortgage on it or anything and we didn’t need the money.
We also learned not to allow family to come in before they’ve signed some kind of lease because then they have this squatter’s rights and getting them out is more challenging than getting a regular tenant out. So, lots and lots of lessons learned. Yeah.
Brandon: All right. So, now that you’ve done that and I’ll let David jump in, too. I’m just hogging the mic here but now that you’ve done that, I’m wondering, do you think it’s easier and we can kind of try to quantify that word a little bit but do you think it’s easier to do what you were doing then or to do what you’re doing now and not just because you’ve gained experience but do you think it’s more work to do what you were doing then or more work to do what you’re doing now? How would you look at that?
Mark: The way we did it was definitely more work then, because we were self-managing. If you had enough smaller properties, you had third-party manage your company, I don’t think it makes much difference, frankly. The difference is when you get into syndication, you’re going to raise capital. That’s a whole new game. I mean, you’re going through it right now, you said several times. That’s when it’s like, “Okay. There is more worked involved in there.” And when we buy a 100-unit property, there are more things from a contractual standpoint. In contacts, you have to assume and the insurance is more complicated, but work-wise, there’s no question. We did a lot more work back then than we do now on properties.
Tami: The work is different based on what involvement you want. So, in those early days, when we were doing everything. We were the handymen. We were hanging drywall after the contractors did a crappy job and we knew nothing and we did a better job, right?
Tami: So, how much involvement in that kind of stuff do you like or can do to save money there versus how much do you want to hire out and if you have to hire it out, whether it’s small properties or a large property hiring everything out to third parties, its cost effectiveness, I guess, the more units you have, it logically makes sense that you can hire it out so that you can work on the business and not so much in the business.
Brandon: This is a really good topic to discuss because I know that there’s dissenting point of views. There’s some people who think, “Don’t start small. Start big if you want to be in multifamily, jump into multifamilies. Hire everything out. Leverage it all. Just focus on kind of where you guys are now, which is where you got to over a period of time.
There’s others who would say, “Divide it into small steps, take baby steps, start with single family. Do it all. Slowly leverage out the stuff you don’t like or you’re not good at. Learn yourself as a business person where you want to be.” What advice do you have for people who are not yet started but are trying to figure out where they want to start?
Mark: Yeah. To me, my personal opinion is, just by doing something, you’re further ahead than 99.9% of people in the world. So, just taking some sort of action, which is great.
If we had to do it over again, I would say, I would have rather started larger but only if I had a partner that had done it before and been through it, that’s the key and made some mistakes, frankly. If everything fell in perfectly for somebody, that might not be the person I want to partner with, frankly.
Brandon: Yeah. That’s typically when people, when people say, “Should I start small or start big,” I feel like you have to get those bruises from the smaller deals if you’re going to get into the bigger ones because, I mean, you’re going to make mistakes in your first deal. So, if you make a mistake on a $5 million deal versus a $50,000 deal, it’s a whole lot less on the smaller deal but like you said, if you have a partner who’s had those bruises, that’s the secret to sidestepping that. If you really want to sidestep that, you find somebody else who’s had those bruises, got bumped around a little bit and somehow, connect with them, work with them, get that done. Do you agree?
Mark: Absolutely. And we did that. We ended up partnering with somebody who had more experience than us when we did our first larger property. That’s very valuable for sure.
Brandon: Yeah. Cool. All right. Let’s go to the end of your story so people have an idea of totally where you’re at today and then we can kind of get into how you got there from that first deal.
So, I guess what do you have right now? What kind of real estate do you own? How many units do you have? Give us an overview of your current business.
Mark: We bought over 5,000 units. We have about, a little over 4,300 left. We sold probably about a thousand units last year.
Mark: Five states so mostly Texas and Southeast US. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. We’ve been changing our … We still buy some pretty big, big value-add deals but reality is those mid-80s construction, five to $6,000 rehab are much easier to deal with. They just are. So, we kind of changed our model a little bit but we still won’t turn down deals if it makes sense, frankly, that those big value-add deals.
Brandon: Okay. Yeah. So, that’s pretty substantial going from, “I own 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 units,” to, “I own 5,000 or now 4,300.”
Let’s kind of walk through, I guess, how you got from there to there. So, what was the very first … First, you started passing, you said. What was the first multifamily then you did like as you guys, as an active or part of the GP?
Mark: Yeah. The 64-unit deal in Mesquite, Texas. Two actual, physical buildings that were separate across a street essentially but a side street so 32 and 32. That was kind of the first deal we did. It was a mid-80s construction kind of property.
Tami: The owner was originally only selling one of the buildings. Then as we were talking with them, we realized that they owned the other business as well. We convinced them to sell both to us at the same time.
Brandon: Oh, that’s cool. And how much total was that in the beginning? I mean, how much were you paying for that?
Mark: 3.9 million.
Brandon: Okay, so 3.9 million. How did you finance that, then?
Mark: So, we got a Freddie Mac loan on that one, actually. Small balance loan. It’s non-recourse, so no personal liability unless you do something bad. The difference, though, with Fannie versus Freddie, this Freddie loan, you don’t get any rehab dollars. So, if you have rehab to do in a small balance, Freddie won’t give you rehab dollars in a loan where Fannie will.
Mark: We didn’t need a bunch of rehab. We were about $2,500 per unit of rehab. One of the 32 units were built as condo so very nice construction. The other ones was pretty nice construction as well but the financing, we got, I think, a 10-year term on it. At that time the rate was probably 4.9-ish percent. We actually end up doing a refi on that here recently.
Brandon: Oh, very cool. You mentioned that you bought the second building from the same people. How did that come up in conversation? Did you guys bring that up? Did you have your agent broach it? Can you kind of build a bridge for how you thought, “Oh, we should do this,” to how it actually came about?
Mark: Yeah. The broker brought it up and my guess it was probably orchestrated a little bit, frankly, that they were … I mean, we’ve had similar situations. We had a portfolio. It’s kind of like you talk to the potential buyer about one property. “Oh, by the way, there’s another property.” But the broker brought it up.
The one property that they were selling was running a little bit better than the other one, so maybe I’m not sure why they wanted … Maybe they’re trying to add some value to the other property but it was the broker. We would have had no idea necessarily that they were selling, that they had the other property.
Brandon: Wow! Okay. So, what can you give advice, I guess, for people who are listening right now who are, at this point, where you were? They have a few properties that are owned. They’ve got 14, 15, 16 units, some small multifamilies. They’ve been doing all their own work. Let’s walk through, what would you tell those people if you were just coaching them, like step one through step 10 here in an abbreviated time. How did they get there? How did they get to that first syndication deal?
Mark: Yeah. I mean, the biggest problem everyone has starting out is they don’t have the credibility. So, if they go talk to a broker and say, “I’m looking for a 100-unit property.” And, “What have you done, Brandon?” “Well, I haven’t done any yet.” Okay. They’re not going to give you the attention because think about it. I wouldn’t sell to somebody first-time buyer. The brokers don’t make any money unless you sell a property and the sellers don’t make any money.
So, number one is, if you’re going to try to buy, want to consider larger, whatever number you want to pick, 100 units, you need somebody, we talked before about partnering with them, get them on your side, leverage their track record.
Some things are fairly simple. I mean, you’re going to struggle with certain aspects of it like, “Okay. Maybe I don’t know how to underwrite a deal.” But that can be learned. “I don’t know how to raise money,” if you want to raise money. Those are the two biggest things people struggle with. But if you’re looking at it from a new person perspective, it’s hard because everyone wants to get that quick deal. Well, it took us a year to get our first deal. That’s not quick, you know?
Brandon: Yeah. For sure.
Mark: And doing things like, hey, I’m going to work with a broker. I’m always going to do what I say I’m going to do. I’m not going to re-trade unless absolutely possible, re-trade meaning I go under contract and I go back to the seller and say, “I want to credit now for something.”
And then, I always tell people, too, “You know, don’t be a jerk.” Might sound like, okay, well, of course, don’t be a jerk. There are people that, I say, if you don’t know if you are, maybe ask your spouse. They’ll probably tell you whether you are a jerk or not but reality is that people want to do business with people they know, like, and trust and everyone says that. It’s not always about the person that can close a deal. You want to be able to have a relationship with somebody that’s easy to work with. We always tell brokers, “We want this to be the easiest transaction you’ve done for both yourself and the seller.” And we keep getting more deals because of that.
So, having that long-term mind-set, which is hard when you’re starting out, not getting in a position where you think you’re going, trying to beg for money. You don’t want to be in that position. One of the easiest ways is, if you can do it legally, by coming into somebody else’s deal, become part of the general partnership, help them raise money but it’s all about if someone has done it before, leverage your track record. There are a lot of things that you can do as a brand new person in the business, even if you have no money to add value so you need to add value. You can’t just say, “Hey, Brendon. I want to partner with you.” And I’m like, “Well, I have time.” Well, that’s useless. Now, you have to train me, right?
Mark: So, make an effort on your own to start learning different aspects of the business and don’t try to be an expert every single aspect of it. Try to pick one or maybe two areas, probably that you’re already good at naturally and become really good at those.
Tami: And I would say, “Don’t be so desperate to get into a deal quick that you’re willing to partner with somebody just because they have a lot of experience. You really do need to make sure that your values align, that you’ve done your research, that they do have a track record of being somebody who maybe will even communicate to other people the way that you do. We’ve had experience with a partner who was good at what he did but he wasn’t tactful of how he disagreed with brokers or with people or laughed at people in their face. That’s taken offensively, right?
Tami: So, you really do need to kind of date before you marry a partner because it’s a lot harder to get out of a partnership than it is a marriage nowadays.
David: Well, I think one thing that’s really good to point out is that your relationship with your broker or your agent is actually a partnership. I hear it get spoken of all the time. “Well, I hired him. It’s his job. Find me a deal. That’s your job.” But who takes a job they’re not going to get paid for?
David: That’s not a job. That is a partnership. He only wins or she only wins if you get a house and you only win if you get a property.
So, you need to approach it from that perspective. Do I partner well with this person? Do our personalities match? Are the expectations we have the same? That’s the number one thing when I hear people complain in the forums or people come to me and say, “Hey, David. I know you’re an agent. My agent’s not doing this thing. How do I get them to understand what I need?” They never, ever, ever had a conversation in the beginning where they spelled out, “This is what I would like from you.”
Just this morning on my Instagram, I heard someone say, “Hey, my agent does all these things great but they don’t look for houses for me. I’m looking on my own on Zillow. I that normal?” I just thought, “Why didn’t you tell them in the beginning, ‘I’m expecting you to bring me properties,’ or, ‘I don’t need you to bring me properties but I want this.'” And it never comes up.
I understand a lot of other relationships that we think are the same as this, that you don’t have to do that. Like you’re waiter. You don’t have a conversation when you first meet them saying, “Okay. How often are you going to fill up my water? Can I expect you to offer me drink recommendations?”
So, this is different and I think if people understand it is a partnership, they will treat it the same way that they would as if someone came to you guys and said, “Hey, I want to get in on your deal as a general partner.” That would open a very long conversation. “What are you going to do? What am I going to do? What are you good at? Where can you help me?” When people don’t have that with their broker, they almost always end up having a bad experience.
Mark: I love that because we know countless examples of people that don’t have a conversation, even people that are going to be part of the general partnership, which sounds bizarre but we’ve seen it time and time again, even recently, a couple people that we know, they’re saying, “I’m partnering with so-and-so. I’m a partner with Brandon.” “What’s Brandon going to do?” “Well … “
Mark: “I’m not real sure.” You know what? I’m like, “Are you serious? I mean, what the hell?”
Brandon: Yeah. It’s sort of being part of the general partnership because [crosstalk 00:23:33].
Mark: Exactly. Or they’ll say, “We’re partnering so-and-so for a certain type of deal.” It’s a development deal as an example. I’ll ask the question. “Have they done development before?” “Um, I’m not … ” Are you serious? You’re going to be giving away equity, spending your time, money, losing money potentially and you’re not even doing the simple things?
So, people enter into partnerships on a whim and the second conversation is you better have everything in writing up front. To your point, David, is, who’s doing what and if you’re not doing it, what are the consequences?
Brandon: Yeah. Really good.
David: I was just in Hawaii the other day and Brandon and I were meeting and talking about business stuff like we tend to do. That was what most of our conversations are about is who should I partner with? How should the partnership look? What am I going to do? What are they going to do?
I made a video while I was there, that basically, I just talked about, “When you’re choosing an agent, you should ask your agent, ‘What are you good at and what are you not good at?'” People can ask me that. I will not be offended. I can absolutely tell you, I am going to struggle with empathizing with your emotions and holding your hand as much as somebody else might. There’s some agents that just love that but they’re dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to renting numbers [crosstalk 00:24:41], right?
Mark: Love it.
David: That’s just what their skill set is. So, if you’re great at numbers but you know that you need a lot of reassurance, you don’t need David. You need somebody else. If it’s the other way around, then it’s different. That conversation almost never comes up. I have to initiate that with the client every time and they don’t even realize that was a thing. Now I do that with everyone. When people say, “What should you ask your property manager?” I’m like, “But they already own eight properties.” How have you done it already? You just jumped into it and hoped that that partnership worked out.
So, I think that’s really big what you’re talking about is being easy to work with, being likable, having the expectations very clearly set, knowing this person has a skill set that will help me accomplish my goal and I have something that will help them with theirs as well.
You also said something I thought was really important earlier when you mentioned that the first year you didn’t really make any progress before you bought your first big deal. Tell me what you learned in that year that made it so you were able to pull the trigger and then I’m sure that your success kind of snowballed from there.
Mark: Yeah. Very nervous about it. I think we didn’t make enough offers, frankly. I was finance background so underwriting deals really wasn’t a major issue for me. Do that quickly. But you can sometimes be too conservative in general early on.
Now, you can look at a deal sometimes and without even thinking about it, you can kind of start poking holes all over the place and it just comes to you. Early on, you will analyze every single little aspect. And you get so nervous about it and go, “What if this goes wrong? What it this goes wrong?”
So, for us, we didn’t make enough offers initially and two, we had a very poorly-defined criteria. Eight units? Okay. 800 units? Okay. Well, we couldn’t do with 800 unit and we didn’t want to do it in eight units, so why are we actually spending time wasting our time on it?
Tami: [crosstalk 00:26:29].
Mark: So, we looked at everything so having a clearly-defined criteria, plus it makes you a lot better with brokers if you can rattle off, “This is my criteria,” so they’re not wasting their time, either.
Brandon: Oh, I love that you said that because this is something that newbies. Whether you want to get in your first deal, your 100th deal. I mean, are you a hundred unit or a single family? They make the same mistake. It’s like, “What do you want?” “I want to buy real estate.” “Well, great. Well, what kind?” “Well, like, the real estate kind.” It’s like, “Get specific.” It’s one thing …
Now, I’ve said this on the show before but I’ll say it again now. If somebody would come to you and say, “Hey, Mark. I’m looking for a job.” You’d be like, “Good for you.” But if somebody came to you and they’re like, “Hey, I’m looking for a job in the IT field somewhere like in the Michigan area, preferable like a Fortune 1000 company or larger. Do you have any ideas?”
All of a sudden, your mind starts working like, “Oh, how can I help this person? Do I know anybody that fits that criteria?”
So, when you give people general things, they’re going to give you general answers but when you give people specifics, you give your agent, “I’m looking for duplexes in this state and this price range.” Well, now, all of a sudden, one, you’re seen as more serious because you actually know what you’re talking about, using the right language but two, then actually their mind starts working. “How do I get you that thing that you want?” So, yeah.
David: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s right.
Mark: I think newbies have a fear of missing out, that they don’t want to be more specific because they’re like, “But what if a screaming deal comes along and it wasn’t a duplex, it was a triplex? So, the agent didn’t think of me.” So, they start with … Because I get that a lot, too. “I just want to find a great deal. It can be anywhere. It can be anything. I don’t know how I’m going to buy it. I don’t have my money lined up. Just tell me when you get it.”
My brain knows that the amount of work it would take to try to remember that as too much. I’ll never do it but, Brandon, to your point, this is specifically what I want. You said it earlier, Mark. Mid-80s construction, value-add opportunity, this many units. Now, that broker has a little Rolodex card. Do we even use Rolodexes anymore? It’s an outdated concept but they have a little note they can make in their mind that when they see this they think of you, and that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to get everyone you come across to think of you when they come across the piece you need.
So, Brandon and I were just talking in Hawaii. He’s telling me about his business. I now know the things that he needs for it. If I meet a person who I think he would be great for what he specifically described, boom. I’m going to send him right to Brandon. If he was like, “Oh, I just need somebody really smart that knows real estate,” there’s no way I would even think of him with the number of people we come across.
Brandon: Yeah. Plus, with investors, I mean, with their investor pool, knowing what they want, some people, you almost have to run backward and say, “Well, if I find a property like this, would my investors be interested in it, yes or no?” Maybe, maybe not. There are a lot of things that some investors don’t like and other investors like different aspects of it and they want that big, huge value add. Other people get freaked out by bridge loans. Other people love them. So, understanding your investor pool is critical.
David: So, how did you balance, “I don’t want to be reckless and just write offers that I shouldn’t be writing,” with, “I’m afraid I don’t want to write offers”? Was it just tightening your criteria that allowed you to be confident?
Mark: Yeah. And, end of the day, this was several years ago, so there was a little bit more room in the market so we could negotiate more back then. Now, it’s getting tough but we could come in and say, “Well, you want 4.3. We’re at 3.9. Maybe we end up at four.” It still works for us. So, we had some flexibility.
Brandon: Another reason why that criteria thing is so important. I was just thinking. I’m reading this book right now called Built to Sell by, I think it’s John Warrillow, maybe. I don’t know. It’s called Built to Sell. It’s really good but anyway, in this book, it’s about building a business that you can a little later on sell but if you want to, so kind of an [emiss 00:30:01]style business I guess you could say, something systematized.
Anyway, but in there he makes the point that most businesses are so general, they do so many things, it used the analogy of a graphic design company. They do logos and they do websites and they do SEO work and they do blah, blah, blah and they do everything. So, they have a bunch of people who can do a lot of general stuff and they’re generally good at a lot of things but they’re not great at anything.
So, but he makes this point in the book, if you were just focusing on only what you do best. He said, “Define it with logos.” Okay. If all you did was logos, not only do you have a clear criteria that makes everyone happy,” like we’re talking about here today is all the people who can help you, “But you also get better at that thing.”
So, when it comes to deal underwriting, if you’re trying to underwrite everything, if you’re trying to look at everything, you’re a general at everything or you’re just a generalist at everything but all of a sudden if you’re like, “No, I am buying an apartment complexes between a hundred and 150 units in the Dallas market, all of a sudden, now, your ability to analyze those deals is so much greater because you’ve done a hundred of them that are all the same thing. You know exactly what the water bill’s going to look like in that area or you know exactly what the … Whatever. So, that’s another, I guess, benefit of that focus.
Mark: So true.
Tami: So, it’s also a matter of focusing, like Mark mentioned, your passive investors, knowing exactly what they want, what they’ve bought before and invested in before. One time several years ago, we were partnering with somebody trying to bring a development deal in Houston to our investors and they were a bunch of triplexes. They were all going to be built together but it was a new market.
Mark: For us.
Tami: Yeah, for us and our investors. It was a new market. It was a new thing. It was a development. It was triplexes versus a hundred units or more which is typically show them.
So, all those things being new to our investors, most of them were like, “Hey, I don’t know if I’m interested because I’m confused. I don’t know about this.” There’s a saying out there that says the confused mind refuses to act. So, if your investors are not clear what the offer is, what’s in it for them, that that investment opportunity is just as solid as your other investment opportunity because we didn’t have a track record ourselves in the development or in triplexes. They’re not going to move forward with that, so you cannot count on, “I have a thousand investors and they’ve invested with me before so they’re going to invest in anything I throw at them.” That’s not true.
Mark: Yeah. That’s a really good point.
Tami: It’s reeducating them slowly and then maybe even taking a questionnaire from your investors to find out what they would be interested in, what type of interests or returns are they looking for because, based on their age, based on how close they are to retirement, that will kind of indicate how risk adverse they are.
Mark: Yeah. It’s a really good point.
David: I know you guys have done quite a few deals. Owning 5,000 units is a lot. I know that you work with other people that are starting to get into this, people that are experienced. You’ve kind of seen the whole spectrum of how this works. In your experience, what have you found are the few skills that really make a difference in someone being successful getting into multifamily syndication and what are some things that people think that they need to know or be good at and they really don’t?
Tami: Okay. So, I think that if you or your partner is really good at deal analysis and you understand the rules of thumb and the different things to look out for, just for example, if there is one lump sum payment in that trailing 12 that you aren’t going to be able to count on as being in your other income, you’re a person who’s in control of the deal analysis part needs to understand all those roles. So, somebody on the team needs to be really good at that.
Then, somebody on the team needs to be really good at relationships, relationships with investors, relationships with brokers, otherwise those broker are not going to be calling you when they have deals. They need to be trustworthy to be able to follow up with brokers, have regular calls with them or lunches with them. How are you going to stick out to that broker from all the other investors out there who are also looking for that same asset type?
Mark: That’s such a good point.
Tami: So, for me, those are the two top skills to have.
Brandon: What’s interesting, it’s like left brain, right brain, too. It’s like you’re an analytical guy and you’re the relationship guy. I love that you said that.
Mark: Yeah. And the other one at the end of the day is access to money, whether you have money or you can get it but it doesn’t matter whether it’s real estate or any other business. If someone says, “I can go raise money and I can raise millions and millions of dollars,” you are valuable to any industry in the world so you need to be able to get money some way.
Tami: And we’ve had people who thought they could raise money because they’re great networkers and they have a lot of relationships with a lot of people who have money. It comes down to those people weren’t ready to act when you had the offer, so you raised zero. You don’t really know what you could raise until you’ve done it and you’ve started building a track record.
It just a little story. When I was in junior high and gym class and we are having to climb this rope, I was very athletic. I thought for sure I was going to be able to get up that rope really quick. I’d go and try it and it was a rope without knots, I couldn’t do it at all. It’s one of those things in life you just don’t know until you try.
Brandon: That’s such a great point. Let’s talk about raising money for a little bit because it’s something that stops a lot of people, whether they’re trying to look for just their first private lender to help them on their first deal or they’re trying to raise $20 million in a fund or something. How did you guys start raising money in the beginning, before you had a track record? Then how do you do it today? What are some of the tactics that you use today to attract people to your company to invest with you?
Mark: Early on, an IT business so I had a lot of IT professionals that I had done business with. So, generally speaking, lots of times, both of us are working and making pretty decent money so that was accesses and people there.
Then, we started going to events. We started going to meetups and other events, which … But it’s the follow-through that everyone lacks. Is that they all spend whatever, a thousand dollars to go to an event and an entire weekend there, they get 20 business cards and they never follow up with people. So, if you can even do that one thing and be the person that follows up with someone after the event, then you’re much further ahead than everyone else.
Tami: And I would say don’t be that one person at the event who is going around and just handing out their business cards to everybody and trying to walk out of that event with a stack of business cards because they don’t care about you. They’re only interested-
Tami: … in getting your money, getting you into their deal at all costs. They’re not into relationship building. Move on.
Brandon: There’s a dude, right? I mean for the dude was at event a couple weeks ago.
Tami: We have multiples stories of that
Brandon: And he had something, a shirt that had his name on it like a sticker but it was actually engraved on there or whatever. The back, it said, “You need my business card?” It’s like, “Dude, [inaudible 00:37:01]a simpler way to-
Tami: That’s one where you go like, “Um, and next.”
Mark: Next, yeah.
David: When I first became an agent, that is what we got told is, “Go ahead and [inaudible 00:37:11]your business card and get other people’s business cards.” And so you do it because you’re supposed to.
I don’t ever call anyone who gives me their card. I don’t remember them when I’m done. I’ve never gotten a call from someone I gave my card to that’s like, “Hey, I just found a way to help you, even though we barely know each other. I’ve been thinking about.”
So, instead, what I do is if I have a good conversation, I think this will help a lot of people at these events, is I don’t even ask for their card. I say, “What’s your Instagram handle,” or, “What’s your Facebook profile?” Then, I add them as a friend right there.
From that point, I can look at their page and see are they legit or not? Is it just like they’re obviously just trying to raise money and they don’t know much about the business or is this someone I can connect with, click with, and it makes it a hundred times easier to stay in touch because I get reminded that they exist when their stuff shows up in my feed. I’m like, “Who’s that? Oh, I met that guy at that thing. We talked about this.” I can send him a message. I can comment on their stuff. That follow up is so important, like you said and because everybody’s eyeballs are on social media, bring social media into your follow up and just make it a thousand times easier on yourself.
Tami: Sure. Yeah. We actually attended a meetup recently and there was a girl and I’ll just say she’s a Millennial and she says, “LinkedIn is back.” So, Millennials are all hanging out on LinkedIn so that’s how she connected with me. Right then and there, she connected with me on LinkedIn and was sending me messages of different things we had talked about during our conversation so that we could continue our relationship at that point.
Brandon: No. I felt bad. I deleted my LinkedIn.
Mark: Yeah. Well, I think, too, just to follow up on your recent question, too, how do you continue to do it? LinkedIn and other platforms, if you don’t have someone’s email address, we know a guy, this is a true story, had over a million people following him on YouTube. Not a real estate guy. Another guy, and he got cut off permanently, 100% from YouTube, they-
Tami: Killed their account.
Mark: … axed him.
Mark: So, he has no access to any of those people now. So, when you’re on social media, end of the day, you want to be able to get people’s email addresses, you need to get … Give them something of value. You can’t be like, “Give me your email.” You have to have something of value. Maybe Brandon puts together 10-step checklist and gives you the first three and says, “You want to see the other seven?” Then, they end up giving your email. Then, you can communicate with them, at least.
Brandon: Yeah. That’s such a good point. I think yeah, a lot of people out there actually Instagram influencers or Facebook people or whatever, yeah. At the end of the day, you don’t own those relationships. The companies, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, they own those relationships and they will shut you off if they want to at any time. Yeah. Very important to get that email address, like a phone number, build your database on your own so that way, no matter what happens, you’ve got something to fall back on.
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So, when you’re raising money from somebody and you’re talking with them and they say, “Yeah. You know, like, yeah, I’ve got some … You know, I like passive investing,” or, “I’m a passive investor,” or, “I like doing that.” Is there any tricks or tactics … I don’t know if it’s tricks but in a good way that you use to get that person into your … I don’t want to call it a funnel or whatever. I mean, how do you get them from, “Yeah, I like doing this,” to they like you enough to give you a check or wire 100,000 to your next syndication? I mean, how do you want them through that journey, relationship-wise?
Mark: Yeah. Typically, it’s going to be more than one conversation. So, if I met someone at an event and like, “Yeah, I’m a passive investor,” again, it’s that follow through. “Hey, do you mind if I send him an email? Hey, can we jump on a call together?”
Sometimes, and we have a guy literally that just invested after three years. He just invested our current deal right now. Three years, every deal, “I’m going to invest. I’m going to invest.” He just never has.
So, sometimes, it’s being persistent and not pushy. I mean, you can be pushy if you want to and it might work with some people. We’re not like that but then, understanding, too, if someone says, “Hey, I have $100,000 I want to invest.” I might say, “Well, maybe you should split that across a couple deals rather than doing one deal.” It’s that credibility and not that you’re just after the money.
In some cases people aren’t in a position to invest. So, trying to see their perspective and not just giving them money. Then, we mentioned before, people want to do business with people they like, too. Having some common themes like when we talked. We had several things in common, which is great and it doesn’t have to be yourself. It could be, “Hey, my kid’s in dance, too, and your kid’s in dance.” Having that relatability with somebody, not just business, people … It’s all things being equal, if they like you, they’re going to do business with you or someone that they just met.
Brandon: Yeah. That’s so true. The likeability factor I think is often a miss … I don’t know if misunderstood or not rated as high as it really should be in almost every aspect of business.
They did this study a while back. I read this in a book recently where they looked at people who got raises at work, all the different factors that go into why they got a raise at work. It was everything from job performance to length of time at the company. The only thing that mattered, does your boss like you? That’s what the scientific study come at the end. If you boss likes you, you will get a raise and promoted. If they don’t, you won’t. And has almost nothing to do with performance.
Mark: All true.
Brandon: Yeah. So, work on …
This is a weird question but, yeah, initially, when we started talking, I liked you guys. You were great people. What are things that people can do to get that likeability? This is Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends and Influence stuff but what are things you find have worked well for building those relationships?
Mark: People like Tami better than me [crosstalk 00:44:53].
Tami: The fun one, I must say. For me, it’s eye contact is important so that when you’re actually talking with somebody, you actually act like you care what they’re saying and not just looking around the room to see who else might be there paying attention or what other important conversations you can get in. If you’re really being an active listener, you’re going to be able to ask that person questions based on what they said so if you’re going into a conversation with that intention, that will teach you to be a better communicator. The best conversationalist is the one who can ask questions, say it back and just listen. That way, that person thinks that was the best conversation they ever had because they’re confident about what they know. If you’re asking them about things they know, which is usually themselves and things they’re passionate about and their kids and their dogs, then they feel good. If they feel good about the relationship, they’re going to be ready to take that relationship to maybe the next investing level.
Mark: Yeah. I think paying attention to what they’re saying, to kind of piggyback on that, is important. I’ve been guilty before. Someone says in a conversation, he talked about their kid and then I’m like, “Do you have kids?” It’s like, “Well, they just told me.” So, really being conscious of what they’re telling you.
I mean, I have to do it now sometimes. “Oh, yeah. Your daughter is 14 years old. She’s in dance.” Sometimes, or I remember even seeing someone six months or a year later. I’m like, “Yeah, you had the …” And they’re like, “Wow! How’d you remember that?” You can’t remember every single aspect that someone tells you but a few key points will really set you apart.
Tami: What if you’re going to an event and you haven’t met a hundred people and forgot everybody already by the time where you walk out the door. Just try to remember two or three people. Try to remember the details about them so that when you go home or you go to your hotel room or wherever you are, write it down so that when you connect with them on social media, you’ll have an instant point of contact because we all know that we’ll walk out and we’ll be overwhelmed, our brain is like, “Yeah. I’ve said my name. They said their name. I met that person. I’m moving on.” You completely forget any of the conversation. Relationships are going back to square one at that point.
Brandon: Yeah. Josh Dorkin, who founded BiggerPockets back 18 years ago or whatever it was now, he has this thing whenever he goes to conferences and I always admired him for this, is every time he has a conversation with somebody and he gets a business card, he immediately in the … He goes like, “Hold on.” Grab out a pen and write down on the back of their business card who they are. Then, as soon as they walk away, he’ll go in detail, like, “This is the person who had the three kids and did this thing.” Then, he’ll keep that business card. He’s so good at that because …
Then, he’s got, later on, he’ll go and enter that into some kind of CRM-
Tami: A database. Yeah.
Brandon: … or a database or whatever, so he can keep track of that stuff. Then later, it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to have a call with Jeremiah. Who was that? Oh, yeah. He was the one with the daughter who had the 14 year old dance daughter. Great.” Josh was one of the best relationship people I know because he just knows things about people, so yeah.
Mark: Yeah. That’s awesome.
Brandon: Yeah. Very cool. All right. Let’s go to your guys’ individual business, what each of you do in the business. Mark, what do you do and Tamiel, what do you do? Then, what fires you up? In addition to what you actually do, what do you love doing? What just fires you up in that role?
Tami: So, my role in general is more of the meetups that we do and the branding, the marketing, trying to keep in touch with people on social media, just community building in general because I like being around people and if some of the people we invest with or partner with live locally, then if Mark and I are having a date night, we might call them up and say, “Hey, Mark and I are heading here. You all want to join us,” because community is so important to us. So, that’s kind of my role, I guess what I’m good at [inaudible 00:48:30].
Mark: Yeah. So, I do the rest, basically. So, I’ll end up doing more around broker relationships, deal analysis, the loan kind of aspect of it, some asset management, so kind of more of the transactional and operational side is really where [inaudible 00:48:48].
As far as fired up, for me, we like to help some of the people here and there and they actually seen someone get their first deal, people like, “Well … ” Yeah. I still get excited when we do deals. It’s not like to downplay it or anything like that but nothing like seeing someone brand new get a hundred unit deal their first deal. I mean, it’s incredible to me because now their lights are on and you go, “Man, I can change my life forever.”
Tami: Or watching how excited they are when they’re able to scale quickly with that second deal, right?
Tami: That first deal is definitely the hardest but as soon as you get that, you’ve got your feet wet, you’ve learned some stuff and then you know how to go on and systematize.
Mark: But I love the deal piece of it, trying to get deals is my favorite part of the whole aspect.
Brandon: Yeah. That is fun. It’s like, I don’t know. It’s like hunting for [crosstalk 00:49:31].
Mark: It is.
Brandon: Yeah. It’s like, “I’m going to go-“
Mark: It is.
Brandon: “… get that dough. It’s out there somewhere and I’m the middle of the woods looking for it.” Yeah.
What is the rest of your business look like in terms of, I mean, specifically, we’ll go Mark here because you’re the one, you said, you’re doing the deal analysis and asset management. Do you have employees under you that also help with all those things or are you just like, you’re just everything when it comes to that stuff or what’s your actual structure look like in the business?
Mark: Yeah. We have kind of more of a group, if you want to say people in the group that will fulfill different roles. So, there are half a dozen ways people can get involved in the syndication and some people want to just raise money. Some people want to just put money into deals. Other people want to just analyze deals. So, we definitely have help without a doubt. We couldn’t be where we’re at right now without help at all but-
Tami: I also have an assistant that helps me and then we have a tech guy who handles some of our web stuff, and then we have a tech intern who’s a nephew, 15, really smart but we’re getting him involved in the business as well. So, we do have a team, whether it’s our own team or our partnership team or whatever.
Mark: Yeah. 15 year old. They had 14 people working for him.
Tami: Yeah. Literally.
Tami: Yeah. He’s crazy smart.
Brandon: Yeah. That’s impressive.
I’m kind of just fired a lot of these syndication questions that have been on my mind for a while. So, what does the typical split look like LP, GP?
By the way, for those not familiar GP is general partnership. They’re the ones doing the deal like putting it all together. Limited partners are the investors. So, we use these phrases a lot but sometimes I realized people are listening who might not know. Yeah. This is the first time hearing them.
So, but what does that typically look like? What do you explain and I know it’s probably deal specific but what’s average or normal for you?
Mark: Yeah. Normal for us, we do a one-time 2% acquisition fee so it’s on the purchase price and then we’ll do usually a 70/30 split, 70 to the investor, 30 to the general partnership with an 8% preferred return, so a lot of people don’t understand that term either but basically they get … They, the investor get the first 8% before we, as sponsors, get anything. It’s not captive eight, but they get it before we get that.
And we haven’t really taken disposition fees or refi fees, although the moment we do it, I can see the people do it. I think there’s value and makes sense to maybe do that. And then one and a half to 2% asset management fee, which is based on the revenue collected for the month.
Brandon: Okay. So that basically covers your overhead. They’ll be keep working, doing deals?
Brandon: Then, the 70% goes to investors. You guys include waterfalls in your breakdown at all, anything like that?
Mark: We have instant waterfalls. What people maybe not know is that we maybe hit 70/30 and then go 60/40 and 50/50 depending on some sort of hurdle that we hit. We haven’t really seen a need for it. I can see doing that. I think probably a better way of doing it frankly for us would be to give a different class so someone that invest at, let’s say, at 250 or 300,000 in a deal would get a higher preferred return than someone that best less than not. That structure probably would make more sense for us in our business and our investor pool.
Tami: Yeah, and for those waterfalls, the reason we don’t do it, it goes back to the confused mind basically doesn’t act on anything but if an investor has to read the investor documents multiple times to figure out exactly what you’re going to get versus what they get, they’re not going to act and they’re not going to invest in your deals. So, you’ve got to keep it simple for most investors.
David: Primary investor guys.
Mark: Right. We’ve gone to the big guys before, equity guys and you better be doing waterfall and you better know what equity multiples are. You better know all these terms, pref equity. If you don’t and they’re not going to do business with you, so it really understanding your investor pool.
Brandon: Yeah. It’s great. Great advice. Yeah. The simplicity thing I think is so key. I’m working on my executive summary right now for the fund that I’m doing. I’m just talking like how can I make this so simple and clear that people are like, “Oh, yeah. That makes perfect sense.”
So, I mean, the same way at BiggerPockets, I’m always putting BRRR and house hacking because people need these, the ones we are drawn to the simplicity of something that just makes sense. It’s like a three-step process or whatever. So if you can put that into your deals.
Oftentimes, I do these webinars for BiggerPockets every week. I tell people like, “You might have the greatest deal in the world but if you can’t present your deal clearly, in a concise way that’s maybe colorful, lenders and partners, your spouse, people don’t want to …”
I always joke, never show your spouse a spreadsheet. One of the fastest ways to get your spouse turned off from a deal, like, “Hey, look at this spreadsheet with 900 pieces of information,” because then they get confused. A confused mind doesn’t want to act. They don’t want to do anything.
So, it sounds stupid but add a chart, add a color, add a graph and people like, “Oh, yeah. That looks really good.” It’s not even about the thing. David, I know you do this same thing with your real estate agent clients. You go in there and give them a 500 point PowerPoint but I’ve seen you. You’re just super simple, like, “This is what I do for you. This is how we get it done.” They just moves that way.
David: I learned that when the Chicago Cubs finally won their World Series since 1907 or whatever it was, I was listening to the manager and they had asked him, “What did you guys do different that you hadn’t done before?” He said, “I came in here and all I did was drill fundamentals.” Now, these are big league players, the best of the best. They’re supposed to have been playing baseball since they were six years old. He said, “We went back to the very basics, how to bunt, how to run the bases, how to hit your cutoff man, just stuff that you learn in Little League because we get away from that.” There’s this tendency to overcomplicate things because it makes you feel smarter but it isolates you from everybody else and it’s oftentimes not effective.
That’s why I asked you guys a question. What are the things you’ve learned that, from doing this, that make people successful? And you didn’t tell me you have to go get an MBA and you have to be an Excel god and be able to craft a waterfall spreadsheet. It was very relationships, standout, follow up, know your criteria.
David: Not really complicated things but if you do, though, that’s why they’re the fundamentals because if you do them well, you’ll be successful and people that have done things for long periods of time have recognized, this is the most important part of football. This is the most important part of basketball. If you do these, you’ll be good.
Brandon quoted Mark Cuban. Brandon loves to quote other people but he gave Mark Cuban credit this time when he did it. It’s been in my head the whole time I was in Hawaii and that business is a sport, which is why business is fun to me because you start off and you suck and you guys, you spent a year before you got a deal and it was miserable. Then, you finally figured out, these are the fundamentals we needed to learn. Your conditioning kicked in, boom. You’re having success.
Just for those people that are listening to this, don’t let yourself get intimidated by anything because it’s almost always the simple things that are going to make you successful.
Mark: Yeah. I love that.
Brandon: Cool. All right. I got a couple more questions before we move onto the deal deep dive but first, how do you define success? And I don’t mean that just in a deal, like I’m not wanting just number wise but being a successful person or couple, a family. What does success look like for you?
Tami: Well, for me, it’s … The American dream is to make a lot of money and to be able to have a nice house and travel when you want. That’s great but for me, the more you make, the more you can give. If you’re not giving when you have a little, you’re certainly not going to be giving when you have a lot. Money only makes bigger what’s already in you. If you’re greedy and selfish, you’re going to be even greedier and more selfish and paranoid the more money you have.
So, I encourage you regardless of where you are in your finances to be free with giving. If you … Our church recently said, it’s one of the very few messages I actually remembered because they kept it simple. See a need. Meet a need. It is that simple. Whether it’s somebody you’re in a conversation with has something that you know somebody who might be able to help them with that need, then connect them. Don’t hold your relationship so close because you want them to benefit you someday. Meet that need because it will eventually come back to you. So, for me, that’s more important is learning how to be a giver.
Brandon: That’s cool.
Mark: Yeah. And for me, it would probably be … I mean, that’s awesome for sure. More around having the complete balance, which I know it’s the same realities, extremely challenging to do but if you can balance your marriage, your being a parent, being a business person, fitness, I mean, all those aspects, the spiritual. If you can balance everything and work to balance everything, then you’re going to be a lot better in everything you do.
With that said, don’t beat yourself up when some area isn’t going exactly the way you want to, because sometimes it’s the season but I think that’s one thing early on that I did not do. I had no balance. I worked my butt off. I was really good at what I did. Any deadline, I would make no matter what. It was unrealistic but I had no balance.
So, for me, to be able to sit here and say, “Well, now, fitness is huge for me. I’m being the best dad I can, the best husband.” Those are all things that I didn’t do before and now to be able to do them, to me is successful.
Brandon: That’s cool. Yeah.
In the book The ONE Thing, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan talk about there is no balance. It’s balancing. I really like, that’s one of the simple things, again, simple things that stood out to me is that it’s okay to go a little far one way and a little far the other way sometimes. It’s about the balancing act that we do. Some people are just never balancing. They don’t even think about it. So, yeah. You will never get perfect balance, no matter what. People get frustrated because of that and that’s … I mean, I’ve given up on the idea that I’m ever going to have perfect balance all the time.
Mark: That’s right.
Brandon: We’re just balancing those things.
Tami: Yeah. True.
Brandon: All right. I got one more for you before we jump to the deal deep dive. I don’t know if David has something, too, but what’s been your biggest challenge so far in the world of syndications and growing this massive portfolio you have today?
Tami: Well, since Mark and I kind of did this together, my biggest challenge is learning how to balance our relationship outside of the business because we’re both passion about the business. We tend to talk about the business all the time, which is okay because we’re both passionate about it but we’re finding it difficult to really turn that off so that we can reconnect as a couple and individuals, that we’re not just these business machines always on. To us or to me, that’s one of the biggest challenges is finding that balancing act to just be, be us.
Brandon: That’s such a good point. All right. What have you found that has helped with that, because I struggle with that, too. My wife and I go to dinner. All we talk about is whatever real estate deals we’re doing. Now, we talk about Rosie as well but we talk so much about business and we struggle with that so anything that you found works well for being just focused on each other?
Tami: Well, we just hired a business coach who’s also going to be working on that with us.
Tami: So, yes. So, we are big on getting coaching in different areas of your life, just to take you to that next level or something you’re missing, so he will help with that. We also have other friends in the business who we can kind of talk with who are also married doing it together. So, it’s really nice being able to balance ideas off of them to see how they’re handling their partnership in it as well.
Brandon: Yeah. That makes sense.
David: All right. So, let’s go from there … This has been awesome. There’s probably 10,000 more questions on syndication I want to get to but we’ll see what comes up later in the fire round but first, let’s go to the deal deep dive.
Brandon: Deal deep dive.
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David: All right. This is the part of the show where we dive deep into one particular deal that you’ve done recently. Do you guys have a deal in mind that we can pick apart and go into the numbers?
David: Okay. So, the first question, what kind of deal is this? I guess give us an idea of what kind of deal it is and also where it was located. What kind of property is it and where was it located?
Mark: It’s a multifamily deal. It’s in North Dallas and it’s 255 units.
David: All right. It’s 255 in North Dallas.
Brandon: And how did you find this deal?
Mark: It was listed with a broker that we had a relationship with. What we had not done a deal with him before but we had a relationship with him.
David: Do you do most of your deals with brokers? I should have asked you that earlier but we’ll throw it here.
Mark: We do. No, a lot of the deals we get are off-market now but we definitely work through brokers and we don’t really work directly with sellers.
David: Okay. So, you’re not out there sending, “We buy apartment” direct?
Mark: No. We’re not.
David: Okay. And when you say, “Off-market … ” I know this is going deeper than the deal deep dive but we say, “Off-market,” what’s the difference in your terminology between because I’ve heard some different definitions of this. Off-market, pocket listing, broker. It has a relationship. It hasn’t listed it yet. How do you define what is off-market and what do you mean by that?
Mark: Yeah. I probably need two categories. One, it’s listed. There’s an offering memorandum, which is kind of the marketing, and they blasted it out. It’s on their website. They blasted it out to the email list. That’s a listed property. In my mind, all the other ones are just a variation of that. If you’re not listed, not on the website, maybe they went to three people that they want to maybe potentially buy it.
David: Yeah. Okay. That’s about how I define it, too. Okay. Cool.
Next one, how much was it?
Mark: 15.4 million.
David: Oh! 15.4.
Brandon: And how did you negotiate that price?
Mark: Frankly, it was a very fair price which was a little surprising for the Dallas market but we came down. We got a small credit on it and not a big credit. We got maybe 150,000 off, I think, but that was it. We didn’t do a ton of negotiation because we knew it was going to be competitive. We knew it was a fair price and we wanted to be in the deal. We ended up getting a little bit less than we did because we actually put a huge amount down as earnest money.
David: I’m glad that you mentioned that. This comes up a lot in just the world of agents and buying properties and investors who buy a lot understand it. There’s this belief that it’s your agent’s job to the price as low as possible. That’s not necessarily the case because you could have went in there and said, “Well, your agent could have fought for you to get it for 10 million and someone else offers 15 and all you got was nothing,” right?
David: It’s to get you the property for the best price possible. So, in this case, you could get 150,000 off. Sometimes you have to pay 150,000 more to get the deal. Do the numbers make sense is the best question to ask as opposed to just how cheap could I get it?
Mark: That’s right.
Tami: Right. And one point that you made about the brokers or the agents working for you to get the price down. For commercial real estate like we’re buying, typically, there is a selling broker. That broker works for the person who’s selling the property. Their job is to get the top dollar they can for that seller. In our world, we don’t typically work with buying brokers. You can if you’re trying to find something out of state. You know nothing about that market, you don’t have any boots on the ground, and you just need a foot in the door to get you started in that market, then it might make sense. But again, typically, you’re working with that selling broker, and it’s their job to work for the seller, not you.
Mark: Yeah. So, we negotiate with them, essentially.
Brandon: Yeah. All right. There you go. Cool.
David: Okay. Next question. How did you fund this deal?
Mark: We syndicated the deal with a group of investors that we had. We had done a few deals before that. We knew this would be something they interested in but it was our biggest raise at the time. So, our investor pool, it was only … We did 506(b). This means that we could only go to people we already had a relationship with and we went to our investor pool.
Tami: 506(b), meaning we were working with accredited and non-accredited investors.
David: Yeah. It makes sense. Yeah. I just did a 506(c) recently. The difference being with the 506(c), you could advertise and market but you can’t take non-accredited. So, I made that choice. I didn’t know which one to do but I thought, because of the power of my Instagram because I have so many followers, I thought I better go with the C. I feel bad. Most of my followers, I couldn’t even work with because they’re not accredited but I thought it’d be too hard with the podcast and all that to do 506(b) but I do have-
Mark: Oh, yeah. We’ve done both.
David: Yeah. You done both? Yeah.
Mark: We’ve done both.
Tami: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
David: What have you found? I mean, have you found a difference? Do you like one more than the other typically?
Mark: The C I like as far as building in that your list because after you condition them and they’re in there for a while, then you can start offering … You have to get legal advice what you want to do on that but you can all start offering them 506(b) at some point and time. So, it’s a good way to build your list.
David: Yeah. That’s a great point, great point.
Actually, let’s go back to some more specifics on this. So, it’s 15.4 million was the purchase price. You got a bank loan, I’m assuming, on a good portion of it and then you raised the down payment or did you raise the entire 15 from investors?
Mark: So our equity raise was 4.8 million. We did a loan assumption, which just means that the seller already had on loan and we assumed it from them so, not to complicate things, we assumed it and then we also got what’s called supplemental loan. So, their proceeds that we got were 75% of the loan to cost, which included some rehab dollars, which is a little unusual.
So, we assumed it from them, put aside maybe 60%, I don’t remember it was, leverage. We got an additional loan from the same lender though a supplemental that gave us additional money.
David: Okay. Very cool. Is that kind of like a separate mortgage if we’re dealing with a smaller deal? Okay.
Mark: It is. It is.
David: Very cool. And then, what did you do with this property? Like, what was the kind of the story, then?
Mark: So, this one had a lot of things that … You might have 10 things that you think are going to work out on property and maybe only six or seven work out, whatever it might be but this one, it was a big management play because they, even though the occupancy was high, they weren’t collecting rents. They treated their tenants, I mean, horribly. I mean, example after example, we saw for ourselves how bad they were treating people. Then, they weren’t actually charging anything extra for rehabbed units, so they had 113 that they did not rehab but all the other ones they had rehabbed and the rent roll showed all the rents. They weren’t changing a penny more for units that were rehabbed.
So, we’re like, “Man, we know we can charge more for those. We can renovate the rest of the units. We can do better and manage a perspective and better rent collections and things like that.” So, that was kind of the business plan. It didn’t require a ton of rehab. It was actually pretty decent looking property though we did rehab some exterior, kind of spruce it up, spend some money on landscaping and then did the remainder of the interiors.
Brandon: So, what ended up being the outcome?
Mark: Oh, we still own the property. Actually, I was just on the phone today and bought a refi for the property, which, if we can get close to what this guy is saying, it’s going to be quite amazing so we’ll see.
David: Yeah. Do you have an estimate? What do you think it’s worth today if you had to guess? You bought it for 15. What would you …
Mark: Yeah. Mid 20s.
David: Oh! Whoo! That’s awesome. That’s awesome. All right. So, what lessons did you learn from this deal?
Mark: This one, so loan assumptions, you’re paying and timing them can be tricky so what we wanted to do what’s called a supplemental loan initially. Then, I started to then do a second supplemental loan. So, not to confuse things but at the end of the day, we said two years later, we’re doing another supplemental. Well, what happens is you’re going to the same lender. They’re not as aggressive because you have to go to the same lender for supplemental, so they’re like, “Well, we’re giving everybody else five years left on the loan and you’re doing a second supplemental,” so the proceeds weren’t going to be very good so that one kind of scratched that so we ended up looking at the refinance instead.
On this one, frankly, we’ve had other ones and not every one goes perfectly right but this one, lesson learned were we raised enough money, which didn’t pass before. Sometimes we didn’t but they actually gave us $371,000 more when we closed the deal, too, the lender did.
David: Oh, wow!
Mark: Which may be even better. If they didn’t, maybe we would have needed that but we probably underestimated the amount of time it takes the lender to reimburse us so we have to pay for things up front, some cases several hundred thousand dollars. We’re waiting for the lender to reimburse us and it’s a fight. Now, we’re stuck. We can’t necessarily pay distributions.
So, over-raising is key, within reason. And then realizing that, hey, you know, you have to condition your investors that, hey, we have $350,000 out. We can pay distribution right now. It’ll work out but reality is … And then we have other things like that we didn’t even know about, like the property management company put some seasonal workers in there we didn’t even know about.
David: Oh, yeah.
Mark: And they didn’t ask us. 17 people move out in a day. We’re like, “What’s going on?” They’re like, “Oh, they’re seasonal workers.” Like, “What do you mean, ‘Seasonal workers?'” Like, “We’re in North Dallas.”
So, I guess really understanding, even though you have rules in place, sometimes property management companies can do things that they shouldn’t but really kind of understanding up front what your rules of engagement are kind of back to David’s point, what do you expect from your management company? “Hey, we don’t do 24-month leases. We do 12-month leases or six-month leases. Hey, we don’t do leases for seasonal workers.” So, really kind of getting more concrete on that. We could have done a better job on.
David: All right. That’s a good answer. That’s a very good deal, too. That sounds awesome.
So, very cool. Well, let’s head over to the next segment of the show called the fire round.
Brandon: Fire round!
Speaker 3: It’s time for the fire round.
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David: All right. It’s time for the world famous fire round. These questions come direct out of the BiggerPockets forums that we’re going to fire them right at you right now since you guys got to say it. Here we go.
Number one, “I’m an army helicopter pilot currently deployed. My wife and I just made 170K on the sale of our first rental property. I want to invest the money, most of it back into real estate. So, what has worked for you? If you could start out with, we’ll call it 150K, what would you do with 150K if you were trying to start a real estate investing business?”
Mark: Yeah. I would split it into three probably, frankly. So $50,000 increments. Now, if you only have 150, I’d keep 50 back.
Tami: For emergencies, for the family.
Mark: Yeah. [crosstalk 01:14:10]so you have a hundred to work with. Split it across two deals. If they want to be active, I would say, they don’t even need to start passive, find a partner and go do it. If they want to be passive, I’d go slowly but you have to understand the basis of a deal before you invest. Just because you have $100,000, doesn’t mean you should go spend it. You need to understand the basics of any deal before you put the money in and most people don’t. So, become educated before you do it.
David: All right. Very good.
Next question. This is a very, very popular thread on the forums. “Getting discouraged. Everything is going wrong at once.” So, Ryan says, “I have 13 doors but everything seems to be going wrong at once. Insurance is requiring me to get the roofs done, the siding changed out and some steps repaired. I’ve already spent all my reserves and maxed out a couple credit cards. It’s been a terrible four months. Does anyone have any advice for getting through this?”
Mark: I would say, I don’t know where he is on the positioning. Maybe doing, looking at a refinance or bringing somebody in. I mean, if he’s … Credit cards are horrible, just at the end of the day.
So, he’d be much better off bringing another equity guy in, get 50,000, whatever he needs and give up part of the ownership of the deal. Still staying in position where he makes all the management decisions. They give up part of the equity of the deal and get out of credit card.
Tami: Even hard money loans require less interest from you than credit cards, so that’s …
David: It’s a very good point. And hard money loans are a lot easier to get right now than I think a lot of people realize.
Brandon: Yeah, very true. All right. Number three from Mike in Colorado. “How do I vet a syndicator? How do I know I can trust this person with my money?”
Mark: Yeah. So, we have a number of questions. We have 22 questions on our website. You can go download to that you ask a syndicator before. It’s a small world so ask other people at events, BiggerPockets, right? “Hey, have you ever heard this guy?” Whatever you want to do but it’s a small world to understand that.
End of the day, it’s unfortunate but you might trust somebody and they might still end up doing something they shouldn’t do. It’s just reality. Take it slowly. Ask good questions and ask around and ask their experience or track record if they have partners, ask to talk to their old partners. We have old partners but I think they would all have good things to say about us, I really do so there’s nothing wrong with asking and don’t be scared to actually question people, say, “Oh, should I ask this question?” Think, man, someone wants 50 or $100,000 of your money, you ask whatever questions you need to to feel comfortable.
David: I had a conversation a couple weeks ago with a gentleman who’s a consultant for, helps place high end clients within Microsoft and Google and stuff like that. Anyway, so he does a lot of hiring and things. He gave me this piece of advice from the hiring. I thought it was fantastic and I think it applies to this as well, where he said, “If you think back to a bad employee you’ve had in the past like an employee, a bad one and someone were to call you and ask you and say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m thinking about hiring this person for a really vital role in my company. What do you think of them?'” You’d be very guarded. You’d be very careful what you said. At the same time, you don’t want to throw them under the bus but you’d be like, “They worked for me. They did a job.”
But if they were one of your best employees that left on great terms and you had a great relationship with them, you would go to bat for them and you would sell that person. You’d be like, “Oh, my gosh. They’re the best. You’ve got to hire them. They’re awesome.”
So, he said the number one thing he looks for when hiring somebody, and I would say this is similar if you’re vetting a syndicator, is our previous people going to bat or they’ve been safe on how they respond to the story about them.
I just thought, that just blew my mind thinking that way. It’s like, “Yeah. That’s exactly how I would do it.” If it was somebody that I didn’t absolutely love, I wouldn’t go to bat for them but I’d be very careful and very legal about it. Yeah.
Mark: Right. Exactly. That’s good.
Brandon: Yeah. I thought that was really good, so anyway, yeah, I would call up a previous person who’s worked with them and just say, “What do you think of them?” If they’re selling you on it, then there’s a good chance that they were actually really good to them. So, anyway, cool. All right.
David: Great advice, Brandon. All right. Last question.
Brandon: I’d like to claim ownership but I did not come up with that idea. I don’t claim ownership for things.
David: You’re becoming so much better at it, not taking credit for other people, right?
Brandon: I never took credit for any [inaudible 01:18:19]. All right. Go ahead.
David: All right. From Pete Harper in Streetman, Texas, “The seller for a 12-unit complex I’m looking at has been refusing to provide detailed financials. They sent a flyer with high-level figures but the numbers don’t look right to me. I’ve requested three year actual financials, but the seller’s refusing. I’ve never run into this before. Is this a red flag?”
Tami: Yes. Oh, my gosh. Yes. Yeah.
Mark: We run into it many times before.
Tami: We do.
Mark: Even on the larger properties. End of the day, you have to position it … If the seller has a reason to give it to you … If they do, like, “Hey, my lender won’t get me a loan unless you’re going to do that, going to give me the financials.”
So, having a reason, but end of the day, you have to really, really careful about something like that because if they’re not going to give you the basic financials for the last three years, you’ve nothing to go off of. You’d have to assume the worst. Hey. It’s vacant. Who knows?
We’ve been to properties literally before where we … This is recent. Hey, it’s 65% occupied, very low. Go there, it’s 15% occupied. No joke so …
Tami: You just have to do a lot more due diligence of your own to know what that business should be running at. I mean, it’s a commercial property. It’s 12 units. It is a business.
So, the financials and everything that the seller would normally provide you would give you a good base to work from but when you don’t even have that, there’s so much more work involved in trying to figure out if this business will work for you or not.
Mark: Okay. You can still do your due diligence. You can walk the property. You see who’s vacant, occupied. You could ask. They may not give you … “Hey, I want to see a deposit and a check. I’m going to pick tenants randomly. You’re going to show me that they’ve actually deposited in a checking account.” You could actually poll the tenants and ask them.
But at the end of the day, if you’re not comfortable and your guts telling you that hey, there’s something wrong with this, I would suggest not moving forward with the deal.
David: Yeah. I like that because there’s two reasons it could be that’s motivating the seller. It could be that they’re lazy. They just didn’t keep good books and they don’t want to have to do the work, which would be better or it could be actually bad. They’re not getting money. They’re misrepresenting the property. It’s not being rented out. And so what I like to do because this comes up a lot when I’m representing clients and deals where the seller says, “I’m just not going to give you that,” and they’re just … And my clients say, “Well, what do we do? I don’t know what I’m supposed to think.” I like to try to create a situation that puts the onus back on the other side, the responsibility on them.
So, I would probably draft something that says, “Okay. Well, if you don’t give me the information, I got to assume the worst. Here’s the price I could pay you if I have to assume I’m buying 12 evictions. Here’s the price I can pay you if the financials look this way. Which one would you rather have?” And if they say, “Well, I want the higher price,” then say, “Great. Then you need to give me the financials and you can have it. If not, here’s my offer,” and it looks terrible. Now, I’ve created an incentive in the seller to earn himself more money by giving me the financials.
If they still refuse to do that, then I would just assume, “Well, that’s because you are misrepresenting this property and I’m having to buy evictions basically at that point.” I’d walk away.
Tami: Yeah. For sure.
Brandon: That’s great. Yeah. Good point.
All right. Well, that is the end of the fire round. Now, before we get out of here, let’s head to the one last segment called be world famous.
Speaker 3: Famous Four!
Brandon: These are the same four questions we ask every guest ever week here on the podcast. All right. With that, let’s get to it. Number one, and you guys can answer this individually or together if you’d like. What is your favorite or current favorite real estate-related book?
Tami: The only real estate-related books I’ve read was when we first started and that was by Ken McElroy, The ABCs of Real Estate Investing, The Advanced Guide, and then if you’re wanting to self manage, he’s got the management book as well. It’s just very simple. It tells his story of how he started and why he transitioned from single family to apartments and why they rock.
Brandon: Anything different for you, Mark?
Brandon: You’re going to stick with them? That’s perfect.
David: All right. How about your favorite business book?
Mark: Yeah. Business book. I mean, I don’t know if you want to consider … I mean, it’s kind of default but Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad Poor Dad. I mean, consider it was the biggest influence on me personally as far as mind-set perspective, without a doubt.
David: What about some of your guys’s hobbies?
Tami: Working out in general, I guess. Mark’s very, very diligent. I’m trying to be diligent but I’m more dedicated on the job right now so I’m a little less diligent but we both have had really enjoyed that.
Mark: And fitness, UFC, we’re watching them, really.
Tami: That’s really the only sport we follow right now is people bashing each other’s faces in. Way cool.
Brandon: That’s fun.
Mark: And cars.
Brandon: Oh, cool.
Brandon: All right. Well, final question. What do you believe sets apart successful real estate investors from those who give up, fail, or never get started?
Tami: I think it’s mind-set. It’s not how many times you fall or try to avoid falling. It’s how many times you’re willing to get back up. Whether it’s business or relationships. Like Mark and I have been married 24 years and it’s tricky. Business is tricky. Life is tricky, but you’ve got to learn how to work around those obstacles. Like we talked earlier, it’s a balancing act and it’s being confident that you will be successful and just getting back up and trying again. Don’t give up.
Mark: Got it. No, there’s a study done somewhere recently and the word really was grit. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. When everything looks bad or nothing’s going the way you want to but just sticking through it, it’s great. It’s what’s going to get you through it.
Mind-set, obviously. You have to have a mind-set you’re going to do it but a lot of people have mind-set frankly. It doesn’t mean they’re successful. The action is what’s going to make it successful.
Brandon: Yeah. That’s a great answer.
Brandon: Great answer.
David: All right. Last question from me. Tell us, people. Where can people find out more about you?
Tami: People can find out more about us by checking out our website at thinkmultifamily.com. That’s T-H-I-N-K multifamily.com. They can also reach out to me personally at tami, T-A-M-I, @thinkmultifamily.com or mark, M-A-R-K, @thinkmultifamily.com.
Brandon: Perfect, perfect. All right. Thanks, guys. This has been a lot of fun and …
Brandon: Yeah. This has been cool. I’m excited to kind of get more into your world and learn how you guys do this stuff. So, thank you for joining us today. You’ve been fantastic.
Tami: Thanks for having us, Brandon.
Mark: Now. Really appreciate it, guys.
Brandon: Yeah. Thank you.
All right. That was our episode with Mark and Tamiel Kenney. Yeah. Good people. Good people. Very, very smart and yeah. I learned a ton. I love that.
David: Yeah. They’ve got a really good system down. I like how they explain how each of them, how they kind of divide up the business and then how they work their own personal relationship into the business. That’s something I have to work on but I know a lot of investors do like Brandon, we talk about that a lot is how you balance those two things. And your point about you’re never in balance but you’re always balancing was very insightful as well.
Brandon: Thanks. I made that point up all myself. I didn’t read that in a book like The ONE Thing at all. I completely made that up. I’m going to put it on my Instagram later as a quote and I’ll put Brandon Turner under it.
David: You’re growing so much in this giving away credit. Josh Dorkin will be so proud of you.
Brandon: I know. I gave Josh a good shout out today in the podcast as well. No. Yeah. Really good stuff and yeah, I really like … I didn’t say this in the interview. I could have probably commended them even more. It’s just like how smart that is about the two sides, the left brain and right brain. You really need both sides to put together a real estate deal. If you don’t have that personality side of things and all you are is the analysis side or vice versa, that’s the hole you need to fill in your business and so go out and find somebody who’s like that.
David: Amen. That’s great.
Brandon: Cool. Well, with that, I guess it’s time to get out of here. David Greene, anything you want to say before we get out of here. Anything that’s going on in your life or interesting or anything you want and need in your life, you’re looking for?
David: Yeah. I’m hiring real estate agents for my team. If anybody here is a talented person who wants to kind of step up their game as far as making more money or even step up their investing and they want to work with me on that, please reach out, especially if you live in the Northern California Bay Area.
I do these meetups pretty much every month where people can come and teach them for free, all that I can because we’re all about giving value away as much as we can here. So, take advantage of that because you don’t know. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow and you’ll be like, “Oh, I wish I’d gone to one of those meetups.”
I think, in general, the couple today showed us the power of going to meetups and meeting people and letting people get to know you, not just in an email in an in-box but as a real human being makes a big difference in your business so you should absolutely be taking advantage of that.
Brandon: [inaudible 01:26:50].
David: Thank you.
David: That being said, this is David Greene for Brandon finally giving away “credit” Turner, signing off.
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