Oct 8, 2019
James: Hi listeners and audience, this is James Kandasamy from Achieve Wealth Through Value-add Real Estate Investing Podcast. Today, we have Brian Hamrick. Brian owns 370 units which 2/3 of it is syndicated, the remaining is owned by him. He's from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He does multifamily, self-storage and also non-performing notes and Brian is also the past president of Rental Properties Owner Association.
Hey, Brian, welcome to the show.
Brian: Hey, James, great to be here. Thanks for having me.
James: I'm really happy to have you here. I mean, you have been podcasting for the past three years.
You have a really good audience because I remember after showing up on your podcast, a lot of people did contact me. So I'm sure a lot of people love your podcast as well.
Brian: That's fantastic. I'm glad to hear that.
James: Yes. So can we go a bit more detailed into what is this Rental Properties Owners Association, how do they add value to syndicators or landlords or tenants? Can you describe a bit more on that?
Brian: Sure, the Rental Property Owners Association, which I'm a past president of, I'm currently on the executive committee and I sit on a number of different committees, they are a landlord representation organization.
So we also work a lot with Real Estate Investors and provide all kinds of training for both landlords and Real Estate Investors. Every year, we have an annual conference where we have National Speakers come in and talk about all different types of investing asset classes and whatnot. And really I got involved with it because when I moved here to Grand Rapids, 15 years ago, I was looking for a professional organization that I could become part of that would help me network with other professionals in the industry. People who own rental properties and knew how to profit from it and also just an organization that would help teach best practices so I could learn the ropes how to do it and certainly through the Rental Property Owners Association and the people I've met there, I've learned a lot.
We provide a lot of training but probably what I consider most important of all is we have a legislative committee that works with lawmakers, both local and at the state level, to help push through bills that help rental property owners and also help prevent bills from becoming a reality that would hurt us; anything that has to do with like rent control or some of those hot button issues that as landlords and rental property owners would like to avoid.
James: Yeah, very interesting. So like New York and I think, Oregon now is rent control states, if I'm not mistaken, so they probably have similar Association like yours in that city, I guess.
Brian: I would hope so. It sounds like they're fighting a losing battle as you and I both know as rental property owners, you know, I believe you invest out of state, out of your area, is that correct?
James: No. No, I'm from Austin. I invest everything in Austin and San Antonio.
Brian: Okay. So would you even consider investing in a city or a state that has rent control?
James: No. Of course not.
Brian: Yeah. It's really detrimental to the market and I think it's going to cause a lot of problems. I used to live in Santa Monica, California where they had rent control and you can see the negative results of that.
James: Oh, Santa Monica in California, did they have rent control in the past?
Brian: Yeah, a lot of the Los Angeles counties, you know, it's kind of county by county, city by city, area by area, but there is rent control in Los Angeles in certain areas and you can just see how rental property owners, who own buildings in rent control areas, have no incentive to put money back into them. They're not putting the capital expenditures back into their property to keep them in good shape because there's no incentive to do so. They can't raise rents beyond a certain amount each year and you know, so why would you invest $100,000 back into your building if you're not going to get that out in value?
James: Yeah. Yeah. It doesn't make sense for a business. So you may not run it as a business, you may be just run it as cash flow, I don't know, it's like a cash flow investment. I guess you don't have to spend any capital on it.
Brian: I can see how if you've owned the property for a long time and you bought it at the right price at the right time, you could probably be doing well with cash flow. But in these markets where you see a lot of rent control, they're expensive markets. So I'm not really sure once rent control is instituted in these markets what's going to incentivize new investors to come in and bring fresh money into the market.
James: Interesting interesting. So coming back to your portfolio, can you tell me in terms of your holdings, how much is multifamily, how much is self-storage? How many percents of each one of these and how much is non-performing notes?
Brian: Sure. Sure. So multi-family is my bread and butter. I've been doing that since 2008. I moved to Grand Rapids in 2005 and 2008 the bubble burst, you know, we entered the Great Recession, it was a buyers' market. I bought my first 12 unit, I was using my own money in the beginning, started using other people's money and then started syndicating.
We currently have about 370 units here in the Grand Rapids area, Grand Rapids, Michigan and that's multi-family residential. In 2018 we purchased a self-storage facility, it's about 28,000 square foot, we're currently adding another 15,000 square foot to it and that's been a fantastic investment, I really love self-storage. And then, as you mentioned, I host a podcast - The Rental Property Owner and Real Estate Investor Podcast - and one of my guests over two years ago was a gentleman by the name of Gene Chandler and he was investing in non-performing notes and I really liked his strategy so much that I ended up investing well over 300,000 dollars with them and the results have just been fantastic.
James: So, you now do multifamily and now you're doing two other asset class. So can you tell me what does multifamily did not offer that these two other asset class offers?
Brian: Well, I like you, I'm investing in my own backyard for when it comes to multifamily. Even though I've bought and sold over 450 units, in 2015, I stopped buying multifamily altogether because the values had gone to a point where I could no longer justify syndication. I couldn't get the returns that I needed for my investors to be able to to pay the prices that people were asking. The last two deals I found - one was off-market, one was kind of in between market - and I can go into details on that but anything that I saw after that point just, I was so spoiled by the prices I was getting between 2008-2014, that I started looking for other asset classes.
And there were probably about 3 years where I just sat on the fence, waiting to see if the market would change or something else would come along. And at some point, one of the people who I met through the podcast, brought me a self-storage deal that he had found off-market. I looked at it, I like the numbers. His underwriting was very conservative, but the numbers were very compelling and we ended up buying that in 2018. And just in one year of basically bringing the rents up to market value and switching to a virtual online web-based management system, we were able to add over $700,000 in value to that property.
So I like the simplicity of managing and owning self-storage more so than multifamily because in multifamily, you have tenants and plumbing issues...
James: So it's very Property Management intensive, right?
Brian: It definitely is and the self-storage, it's not. When you have turn-over, you're basically sweeping out a metal shed, you know, so it's a lot easier to manage and own and operate self-storage, especially when you're in a good market and I think we bought in an excellent market. It's just north of Lansing, Michigan. And then with the non-performing notes, I found a strategic partner who handled a lot of the nuts and bolts of that and I was able to invest with him somewhat passively so I enjoyed that aspect of investing there and the returns we were getting were very good.
James: Interesting. Yeah, I mean, as I mentioned in my book, commercial asset classes go in cycles. I mean, I know I'm a multi-family guy and your bread and butter is multifamily but if you find the right operators in other asset classes, you can make a lot more money or equal amount of money as what you're making with multi-family. So, would you think so?
Brian: Absolutely. Finding the right strategic partners in other asset classes that's one of the things I set my mind to when I realize I'm just not seeing the returns I want to see in multifamily and apartments in my area where I'm comfortable investing. Now, have you looked at other asset classes?
James: I did look at a few asset class. I mean the asset class that I looked at is also like, you know, self-storage or mobile home parks but it's also in demand. I'm surprised to see here that you found something in 2018 because I thought self-storage is a hot asset class as well, I will risk going after that.
Brian: Yeah, it was a lucky strike and we've been looking for similar opportunities. But yeah, we're not finding them. What we're doing instead is building ground-up construction in self-storage, finding locations where the demographics are right and the need for more square footage of self-storage space is there and then we go in and fill that need.
James: Yeah, but I'm happy that you are looking at multifamily is not like the only asset class throughout the whole real estate cycle. I mean you felt like in 2015, things picked up and you really can't find the prices that you want and you have changed strategy which is how an investor should be. You always want to look at what's available out there, the deal flow because the economy is still doing very well. There's a lot of capital out there and it's just harder to find a great really-making-sense deal. I wouldn't say deals, making sense deals in multi-family, something that makes sense. It's just so hard to find out nowadays.
Brian: Absolutely. As an investor, you have to stay nimble and flexible and be open to other opportunities. Now, I know a lot of people in our field, our asset class of multifamily and apartments will find strategic partners outside of their area like in Texas or Georgia or wherever and partner with strategic partners who are able to find better value and better yields in their Investments. But I've had some bad experiences early on with some single-families that I owned out of state so I've always been very hesitant since then to own rental property, residential rental property, out of state.
James: So you like to have any property within your own backyard, but you like to diversify within asset classes. Some people have one asset class, but they go across the nation. Like some people like to buy multi-family across the nation, wherever make sense but you are doing it the other way around.
Brian: Yeah. Since I've branched out into self-storage and non-performing notes, I'm comfortable switching up asset classes.
James: Awesome. So on self-storage, are you the operator, are you the primary guy?
Brian: No, my strategic partner is. He's the one who found the deal off-market, he negotiated it. I basically came in and raised the money; we syndicated that and raise the funds to be able to acquire it.
James: Got it. Very interesting. And on the performing notes, you have a strategic partner, I would say, right?
Brian: Yeah, I have a strategic partner on that. He's the one who knows that world. He's been doing it for well over six years now and really knows how to negotiate with the lender who we're purchasing a non-performing note from. He works with the homeowners to try to keep them in the home and figure out if that's even possible and then knows who the title company is that he should work with to get the right due diligence done and he's got the different scenarios in his head of how we can profit off of these notes. If we keep the homeowner in the home, what are the strategies there for us to maximize our profit or if we have to go through the foreclosure process. How do we go about that and maximize our returns in those cases as well.
James: Interesting. Interesting. So if you get a multi-family deal today, would you still do it?
Brian: If I found a deal that made sense and my underwriting shows that I could get the returns to my investors that they're accustomed to, I'd do it in a second, absolutely.
James: Okay. Okay. So let's talk about the market and submarket selection. So why did you move from California to Grand Rapids, Michigan? Everybody's heading to Texas and Florida from California.
Brian: I'm from Michigan, originally.
James: Oh, you're from Michigan? Okay, that makes a lot of sense.
Brian: Yeah, my wife is from here as well. So we met in California but decided okay, if we get married, start a family we didn't want to do it in Los Angeles, it's just too busy there.
James: Makes sense. Yeah, I mean just based on data that 50% of the population move to Texas And I think there's a lot more but Texas and Florida is the favorite destination for people from California.
That's why I was asking the question. And how do you select the submarket in Grand Rapids, Michigan? Like how do you select which submarket to really do the deal?
Brian: Well eyes because I live here, I am looking within a half hour to an hour of where I live. Grand Rapids is very strong, has very strong demographics. It's one of the few Midwest cities that really bounce back strong from the Great Recession. A lot of diversified manufacturing industry. Furniture, Amway is here, we've got a lot of different industries and employment based here. So when I look at submarkets, I'm looking more at the neighborhoods, what's the crime rate in that neighborhood? What's the income level in that? What kind of rents can we command and by the way, I'll buy B properties and C properties or you know, C minus properties that we can push into that C plus B minus range. But I will avoid the The D areas and I've seen a lot of opportunities in the D areas. And by D, I mean where you have a lot higher crime rate, where you have a lot more evictions and tenant turnover and problems.
So I'm just very careful about and I work with the property management company that has a good grasp of these areas. So when we look at a property, we can really get a sense of if we buy this, is there an upside value, can we improve it and get higher rents, get better residents in here or is it going to be bound by the neighborhood it's in, that where it is now is what just where it's going to be?
James: Got it. Got it. Interesting. What about underwriting? I mean, when you look at a deal like I mean when you are buying multifamily, right? So how would you select the deal? Let's say a hundred deals been sent to you, do you know how many percents of it you would reject?
Brian: Right now 100%. I'm not even looking right now, but what I'll do is I'll do a quick rule of thumb. Okay, what's the net operating income? What's the cap rate that they're asking? Is there upside potential? And of course, if it's listed by a broker, they'll always tell you the market the rents are way under market. you can raise the rent. No problem. That's sometimes true, sometimes not true.
But this area is so strong that any seller right now knows that they can get top dollar and while there's a lot of Institutions and out-of-state investors and even International investors who are willing to pay top dollar, the yields that they are willing to accept are much lower than what I'm willing to pay, which is why I'm not even looking at the moment.
James: Very interesting. Now I see it's happening across the country. I thought it was only happening in Texas and Florida but looks like across the country, that's what's happening. It's just so hard to find deals that used to make sense to us long time ago, right? So it's crazy out there.
Brian: Yeah, and it could just be that I'm spoiled because I was buying during a period when I could buy it at eight nine ten caps. And now, when I see things at five six, six and a half caps, I don't even want to consider them. But had I bought it at those cap rates between 2015 and 2017, I would have made a lot of money. So maybe I'm just a little too stringent in my criteria right now.
James: Yeah. That could be it as well.
Brian: Are you buying right now?
James: Well, I mean, well, I'm still buying if I find the right deal. It's just so hard to find the deal that makes sense for my criteria, and I'm sure that's the same thing as your criteria. I'm still buying if I find the right deal but I'm not underwriting a hundred deals, you know, in one month. You know, whatever deal comes to me, I usually know that within the quick look, I know whether it makes sense for me to underwrite or not. And sometimes brokers will call me if they know that a certain deal is something that I would do. That's the only deal that I look at.
Brian: What's your quick back of the napkin way of determining whether or not you want to invest in something?
James: If it's an email blast, I probably wouldn't look at it.
Brian: Yeah. Yeah, you kind of eliminate the ones that go out to everybody.
James: Yeah, it's already got everybody on his shop date and coming on an email blast.
You know, you have to go on a best and final and best and best and final and then this ultimate best and final offer, which is you're shooting in the dark, right? You're basically bidding against yourself. [20:45 inaudible] I'm not really in a desperate mode to buy deals that go through that kind of process. So when I look for value-add if there's a true value-add deal, I mean, minus the crime rate area, I definitely know the area that has high crime rate, I can check it out quickly Class B and C, but need to have true value-add that we can go and add value. I don't really look at the entry cap rate, but I look for the spread of the cap rate from the time I buy to in the next two years kind of thing without any rent increases.
Brian: I think part of part of my problem, one of the reasons that I've just been on the fence is because we bought a value-add property back in 2015. It was an older building, built in 1920 and it was such an exhaustive process to go in and add value to that property. I was over there like every day.
James: It is very tiring to do those value-add deals. To do deep value-adds, I would say.
Brian: Deep, deep value-add. And so my bandwidth for more opportunities was just completely limited because I was so exhausted by working on this one particular project. Now, luckily, we got it to a point where we added tremendous value to it and we're very proud of the work we did but you have to weigh the opportunity cost when you do those value-adds because sometimes they're so intensive that some of the lower hanging fruits, you bypassed that.
James: Correct. Yeah. I see some syndicators doing deals every month and they're not doing a deep value-add or they're just doing the lighter value-add. Maybe they're just doing a yield play. [22:30inaudible] they can buy every month. They can claim 5,000 units or 3,000 years versus deep value-add to be like 100 and 200 and 300. It's a really really deep value-add. You probably make a lot more money than the guy who owns 3,000 to 4,000 units, but it's a lot of work.
Brian: It's more than just asset managing. You kind of become a de facto developer.
James: Developer, a huge project manager. Yes, so many things but the deep value-add gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Brian: It does. I'm very proud of the work we did on this particular property and more so than any of my other properties because I didn't have to put nearly as much work into them.
James: Yeah, and the deep value-add it becomes a case study, right? Because it truly shows your skills to turn around property. And people who have done deep value-add it's going to be easier for them to do the lighter [23:30inaudible]
Brian: Yeah, yeah, that's an excellent point.
James: So that's very interesting. So can you name like 2 or 3 secret sauces to your success?
Brian: The two or three secret sauces to my success. I'm sorry if you hear that printer going in the background there.
James: It's okay. No worries.
Brian: Hopefully that ends soon. Secret sauces to my success; I think doing the underwriting, running my numbers. I always like to say, I like to see my numbers in bullet time. To see all the Matrix, you know, everything slows down and you can see it coming at you. I want to know what are the real expense is going to be after we've acquired the property. One particular mistake that I see a lot of investors making is they assume that the property tax is going to be the same as what the previous owner was paying and that's just not the case.
So right there that's one of the main factors that I look at right away, is what is the property tax going to become once I buy this property and that eliminates 50% of the deals that I would even consider. So number one secret sauce is just really understanding the numbers. Not just where they are today, but where they will be once we acquire the property. Number two is having the right team. I am all about partnering with strategic partners who add value because they understand inside and out the asset class that you're investing in. The reason I was able to expand my multifamily portfolio was that I partnered with someone who owned his own property management company and managed the type of properties that I wanted to acquire.
That without his assistance and without his team that really knew how to go in and do the due diligence and help me assess upfront, what are the capital expense costs going to be? What are the true costs going to be when we acquire this property? Without that, I would have made a lot of mistakes. The same with self-storage. I partnered with someone who even though he's young and new, somewhat new to the business, he had really studied it, talked to a lot of professionals, been mentored by people and really understood inside and out how we could add value to that self-storage facility. And everything that he put in his pro forma ended up becoming a reality.
With my non-performing note partner, I mean he knows that world inside and out. So when we acquire a note, the first 12 that I bought with him, we only had one that we lost money on and that was about $1,700.
James: Out of how many notes?
Brian: We bought 12 notes to start with because I like to test before I bring other investors in so I bought 12 notes with my partner, I JV with him. Five of the notes our average return was over 80%.
James: Wow. What timeline?
Brian: A year and a half. Well, actually, each note is kind of on its own timeline. So I'll tell you that of the twelve notes that he and I purchased together, five of them are closed and paid off like we've made our profit. Our average return on investment, before we split 50/50, our average return was 81% and that included the one note that we lost $1,700 on. Some of the returns that we're getting are phenomenal. Five of the notes are re-performing, which means that we were able to keep the homeowners in their homes, which is fantastic. That's our number one goal. Our average return on those notes as we collect the monthly income is 30%. And then two of them are in some form of foreclosure. In fact, we're about to sell one. We just listed it today actually, so we should make a decent return on that. We always try to work with the homeowner and keep them in the home. Half the time we're able to do that, half the time it just doesn't work out. But you asked me the timeline so, of those five notes that we closed, our average return was 81%, the average number of days that we were in each of those notes was 163 days so that took less than half a year.
James: I mean, those are good great numbers. I mean, I mentioned in my book, find the right operator in that asset class and partner with them or invest with them for passive investors. So as I said in every asset class, there's always good operators. So the numbers you're telling me in non-performing notes in self-storage are huge, right? I mean, I know multifamily you can make money if the market went up and you have a really good operator that can handle that. On average, not everybody is making what you just told me right now on self-storage. So why is multifamily more popular than other asset classes?
Brian: There are more people teaching it.
James: That's absolutely my point.
Brian: Yeah, I mean like there are some excellent instructors out there in multifamily and you and I are both the part of a group with one of them. I mean great top-notch training material. Okay. Yeah, there's just fewer people out there. Whereas you have between 10 to 20 people out there teaching multifamily, you could count on one hand the number of people teaching self-storage and it's even less teaching the non-performing note.
James: I understand. Yeah, it is it is true. There's a lot more people teaching multifamily, a lot more boot camps, a lot more 2 days weekend seminars on multifamily compared to self-storage or non-performing notes. And I think multi-family is also very simple to understand, it's a house. Not many people understand what is non-performing notes.
Brian: Yeah, there's all that educational like just understanding and wrapping your head around the concept. I got into multifamily because I understood the economy of scale and I understood people have to have a place to live. So if you can get them to pay their rent and that rent pays all your expenses plus the mortgage, well, you can make a lot of money that way. And then once I understood the next level of value, which is the income valuation method, how commercial multifamily is valued based on the income method and you can increase your returns exponentially if you understand that. The relationship between cap rate and your net operating income and value that was very compelling to me. And I think that still is very compelling when it comes to investing in commercial real estate whether it be multifamily or self-storage. I think non-performing notes, there's a lot more perceived risk in that because it's not valued based on any - it's hard to understand how that's valued because there are so many different scenarios in which you can profit from non-performing notes. That you can't just say well we value it this way and if you buy this note, this is what you're going to make, it's kind of a crapshoot. But if you do it right and you partner with someone who knows how to avoid the dogs, you can actually make a lot of money doing it.
James: So what is the most valuable value-add in non-performing notes?
Brian: You mean an example of one of our...?
James: No, not an example. I'm talking about what is the one thing that if you do the most of the time or the frequency of things that you do in non-performing notes that you get the most value out of?
Brian: Well, yeah, it differs note by note. I'll give you two examples. One is a property that was pretty much a teardown property that we bought the note on in Middlebury, Indiana. We paid $5,000 for this note and I asked my partner, I mean it's $5,000, this property is a teardown. How are we going to make money on this? And he said, well, we're not buying this for this property for the house that's on it. We're buying it for the land because it's right next door to a farm and this farm is owned by this Amish family. So he sent a realtor over to the Amish family and they ended up paying $35,000 for that note. So after closing costs and paying the realtor and getting our initial $5,000 investment back, our profit was over $24,000 that represented a 245% return and we did that in less than two months.
James: Yeah, but you need to identify that opportunity. I mean, it's not like you can go and buy any deals right now. Okay, very interesting.
Brian: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Another quick example of how you can profit on notes and I don't want it to lead you to believe that your best profit is always going to be a few foreclose or take possession of the property because you can still make a lot of money if you can work with the homeowners. We bought a note on a property in northern Michigan, probably about 9 or 10 months ago now. And I believe the numbers were in the line of we paid $20,000 for this note, got the homeowners re-performing, the unpaid balance on this note is $41,000. Once we have them season for 12 months, meaning that they're paying on time for 12 months - we've been working with them with a mortgage loan originator, where they can go and get new financing, permanent financing of FHA or Fannie Mae type loan in place with much better interest rate much better payments. Well, when they go do that, they're going to pay off that unpaid balance. So our $19,000 investment, now that I'm thinking about it was $19,000, our $19,000 investment, we're going to get paid that $41,000 of the unpaid balance on their note, plus the money that they've been paying each year.
So our return on that is going to be 100%, it's actually over a hundred percent.
James: Across how many years?
Brian: We'll be out of that in under 15 months.
James: Okay, interesting.
Brian: Because they're going to refinance and when they refinance, we get paid that unpaid balance.
James: Got it. Got it. What about on the multifamily properties that you own before 2015? What do you think is the most valuable value-add that you really like?
Brian: Well, they're all great because just anything I bought between 2008 and 2012, I've achieved an infinite return on those.
James: Okay. So refied it by and you kept it?
Brian: Yeah. Yeah, we've refinanced, pulled our initial investment out. We have no money in the properties and we're collecting cash flow every month. So you can't calculate a return on that. Probably one of the best examples is a 37 unit that we purchased. We bought it at a short sale in 2009, was about 600,000 is what we paid for it.
We put a $200,000 into it right away to replace roofs, windows. It was a hodgepodge of heating systems. There's electric baseboard heat and hot water boiler heat and then gas forced-air furnace heat. It just depended on which unit you were looking at. So we replaced a lot of the mechanicals, made it as much of a new property as we could, as far as just the mechanicals and the roof and the windows.
And we refinanced it once it had over 1.1 million dollar value, pulled all of our initial investment out plus some extra cash flow and then we just refinanced it again, put a tenure fixed loan on it through the Freddie Mac. small apartment loan. So we got great terms on it, 30-year amortization. At that point, it valued over two million dollars. So we've added a lot of value to it and the compression of cap rates didn't hurt either.
James: Yeah. Yeah. Those are the awesome deals, the deep value-adds. That's where you can go and refi and make it infinite written because you pulled out all your cost basis.
Brian: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's the goal to achieve infinite return. Whenever we can do that, that's what we do.
James: Absolutely. Aren't you worried about the state of the market right now in real estate in general?
Brian: You know, gosh, I was more worried about it two years ago than I am now probably.
James: What has changed?
Brian: Probably because two years ago, I was thinking, oh, it's going to turn any minute now and then it only got better and better. You and I both know Neil Bala and we talked to him at the last event we were at together and he made a very good case for the continuation of this market. And it basically rests on the fact that the United States, it's one of the few, if not the only places in the world where you can go to get real yield on your investment. We're seeing a lot of international money coming into the United States because in their countries, they're seeing negative yield or 0 yield. Here even if you can still get three or four percent yield on your investment, that's a lot of money. It's bringing a lot of money into this country and that's going to prop up our values for quite a long time. On top of that, I've always fought or believe that interest rates were going to rise and I've been believing that since 2000 and they keep going down. And even now, as we're speaking, they're talking about lowering the rate again by the end of the year. So that interest rate risk, I know we're playing with fire here and eventually, we're going to have to pay the piper but our government seems to keep coming up with ways to prolong this growth and the increase in prices. So am I worried? Not in the short term. No. No. The Economists I listen to are saying, oh, it's going to be a roaring 20s for us. Things are really going to hit the fan and. 2027, 2028, 29.
James: Interesting. Yeah, because I think I don't know, maybe my thoughts are similar to yours somehow the Fed has figured out how to do quantitative easing and quantitative tightening. Somehow they're able to contract the economy and bring it down. So they could have found some new mechanism to keep the economy going even though our thought process always has been real estate goes in cycles. But at some point, you will hit an affordability issue, it can't [40:13unintelligible] go up all the time, right?
James: The prices can go up because the interest rate is coming down because now you can get more cash flow. But at the same time, you can't keep on increasing rent because our wages are not going up so much. I mean, I'm not an economist but at some point, you will hit some roadblock, but I'm not sure where is it and how is going to come.
Brian: Yeah, well, we're seeing a plateauing I think right now in just the rents that we're able to charge, the prices that people are willing to pay but it's still a very strong market. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going out there and just buying stuff like crazy because I am very conservative and like I said if I can't get the returns that I need to bring investors into my deals, I'm just not even looking at it. I don't anticipate that the market is going to have a huge correction, there might be a bump, I think if you're in a good market, like Grand Rapids, that bump won't be nearly as severe as some other places.
I'm keeping my eye on the market but at the same time, investing conservatively in asset classes that I think will be able to withstand the next correction.
James: Awesome. So let's go back to a personal side of things, right? So is there a proud moment throughout your career in real estate that you will remember for your whole life, one proud moment?
Brian: One for a moment to put on my tombstone.
James: Yeah, absolutely. That you really think that hard, I'm really proud I did that.
Brian: Yeah. So a couple of answers. I mean any time we're able to go in and improve a property and improving neighborhoods, that always makes me proud, you know, that we're adding value to a neighborhood and community. The older building that I told you about here in Grand Rapids,
it was built in 1920. When we bought that it was very tired, kind of poorly managed, it was losing money. We were able to turn that around so I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of the fact that we also fought very hard and work very closely with the city to be able to put a restaurant in that building.
So the fact that when we bought it it was 96 apartment units and about 6,000 square foot of vacant commercial space. Now we had to work with the city to get it rezoned because it had been vacant for so long, it had to be reverted to being zoned residential. So we spent over a year trying to get it rezoned so we could add commercial in there, but we filled up all 6,000 square foot including a restaurant and that took about two or three years to do.
So when I think about what I'm proud of I think I'm definitely proud of that.
James: Awesome. That there is hard work because you're turning the zoning from residential to mixed use.
Brian: Yeah, mixed-use residential commercial, just dealing with parking, number of parking spots and green space and tree canopies. I mean, it was a massive undertaking.
James: Yeah. It's very interesting that kind of work. I did one that was borderline and we merged it with an apartment and we did so many things. It was a very unique value-add that we recently refinance.
Brian: What was it, a lot of work for you?
James: It was a lot of work because you have to go through, you know, buying the deal - you had to buy two deals at the same time. One is the apartment and one is the land and then we have to go to the city to merge these two plots. Then you had to rezone it, then you had to - I mean replot it, rezone it And then after you do a tree survey, you have to do so many different surveys have to do to get that. It's not normal in a residential, you know, where you buy today and increase rent, reduce expense kind of deal. But it's very interesting and people got 80% of our money within 15 months, which is huge, just by doing this creatively.
Brian: That's fantastic. Yeah. Yeah, you talk about its zoning and tree, you know.
James: Yeah, zoning and tree and all those.
Brian: So it's a whole new world and it definitely is costly and time-consuming because you have to have experts on your team. You got to bring experts like architects.
James: Yeah, we brought in architects, engineers.
Brian: Yeah, engineers who even understand what it is that the city is asking for because if you were trying to do that yourself, you just would be a mess.
James: Yeah. I mean the good thing about what you said about what I'm proud of this kind of process and 99% of the syndicators don't have that kind of experience.
Brian: Yeah. I didn't have that kind of experience but now I do.
James: Most of the time, you just buy buildings and, you know, look at increasing income and reducing expenses and after that, at some point you sell but you don't do different contracts buying land and doing kind of things.
So another question for you, Brian, why do you do what you do?
Brian: I love it. I love what I do. I feel very entrepreneurial about it because I've been an employee up until about five or six years ago. Whatever it was I was doing, whatever job,
I always embraced it and did the best I could. But what I love about being an entrepreneur, being a full-time real estate investor, now syndicator/asset manager is that it's all very self-motivated. I'm the one who decides what needs to happen, what I need to pay attention to on a day-by-day basis.
I don't have a boss or anyone else telling me, 'Hey, Brian, go do this' when I'm like, 'no, I want to go do this instead.' I get to call the shots. So that's what I love about it. I get to call the shots, I get to take time off if I need to take time off and I get to kind of fill my day with activities that I want to be doing.
James: Awesome. Hey Brian, you want to tell our listeners and audience how to get hold of you?
Brian: Sure, James. First of all, you can go to my website, which is higinvestor.com. That's HIG is Hamrick Investment Group. You can also listen to my podcast and James you've been a guest on there so you can definitely listen to me interview James. It's the Rental Property Owner and Real Estate Investor Podcast and it's sponsored by the RPOA, which we begin this conversation talking about. And if you want to get in touch with me, you can also email me Brian@higinvestor.com.
James: Awesome, Brian. Thanks for coming in and adding value to my listeners and audience and to myself as well in the kind of things from our discussion here. I think that's it. Thank you very much.
Brian: All right. Thanks, James. It's been a pleasure. It's a lot of fun.
James: Lot of fun, thank you.