There is no one way to multifamily property management success, but you can know what strategies and tips are already proven to ensure it. In this episode, Daniel French, the CEO of ResProp, generously shares his tips, insights, and strategies on how to master multifamily and achieve property management success. From the nuts and bolts of property management to embracing the crucial role of technology, David spares no secrets in this discussion. He also offers his advice on balancing “book smarts” and “street smarts” in the competitive world of real estate. And for the intriguing part, Daniel shares his unique perspective on whether to build an in-house property management team or outsource these critical functions. Listen now to this value-packed episode and learn how to master multifamily property management success.
Get in touch with Daniel French:
If you are interested in learning more about passively investing in multifamily & Build-to-Rent properties, click here to schedule a call with the CPI Capital Team or contact us at email@example.com. If you like to Co-Syndicate and close on larger deal as a General Partner, click here. You can read more about CPI Capital at https://www.cpicapital.ca.
#avabenesocky #augustbiniaz #cpicapital
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
About Daniel French
Daniel French is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of InvestRes / ResProp Management. Dan has been an investor and manager of multifamily properties since 2005. Working with the executive leadership team, he has overseen growth of ~ $2 billion of real estate assets under ownership and management. His strategic vision focuses on serving owners, growing the platform, and ensuring ResProp’s teammates live the virtues and mission. Dan is based in Austin; he is a Certified Property Manager (CPM) and holds a BA from Binghamton University and a MPA from Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy.
Mastering Multifamily: Proven Tips And Strategies For Property Management Success – Daniel French
August is on Cuban coffee.
I don’t drink coffee. We were at a Cuban shop or a Cuban bodega I believe they call it. Ava, we go there to get you the Cuban croissants that you love. While there, I noticed all these Cubans coming in and getting this coffee but the coffee was so unclear that they put it in a cup but they put these tiny shot glasses.
These tiny shot glasses are on top of the coffee. I was thinking, “This is very interesting.”
I got to try this Cuban coffee and I have heard about Cuban coffee for a long time. It’s been a fun journey. It’s being on very microdoses of Cuban coffee but I still feel it.
It keeps you awake while we are looking at all those deals.
The deals keep me awake, believe me. There are other things that make me fall asleep but the deals excite me, especially about the environment we are in where there are distress deals coming to the market. A lot of interesting things happening and our guest for this episode will touch on that because property management is an extremely important component of the multifamily space. Our guest is going to shine a light on how property management firms operate and the importance of having the right property management.
That’s one of the questions that the investors asked me on the calls. “What property management company are you working with? Are you guys vertically integrated?” That’s a very important question when investors are on the call and they are trying to figure out whom to work with. That’s a big point for them. We are excited. In this episode, we are joined by Daniel French. Daniel has decades of experience in transacting and operating real estate. He’s the CEO of ResProp, a property management firm. We believe this interview with Daniel will bring great value to both active and passive investors, looking to learn more about the mechanics of how multifamily property management firms operate. Welcome to the show, Daniel.
Thank you so much. I’m very excited to be here. I’m a big fan of you, what you are trying to do for your audience, and being here to create value for your audience.
We appreciate that. Thanks so much for taking the time. Let’s dive into things. Let’s discuss ResProp, the property management firm that you are the CEO of. How did you start with the firm? Did you start working for any other property management firms before ResProp? Tell us about your background and how you got started in the property management business.
It probably will resonate with a lot of folks who are trying to rise in the industry because that’s where I started back in 2005, bootstrapping. I was very grateful to find two amazing partners. The one partner I have been with for many years, his name is Pete Rex and his brother is Rob. These are genuinely amazing people. We got together back then to buy small deals together. That’s a very durable thing that’s in people’s hearts. Globally, I have traveled a fair amount and people everywhere sense that real estate can help you rise. It can create value or wealth. If you are long-term focused, it can change your life.
That was what we were thinking back then. That was a long time ago. We put together a bunch of deals. We thought we were smart ahead of the great financial crisis. 2007 was when we started feeling it and in 2008, it was a pure meltdown. That’s how I got my start as an investor. I was expecting to be very passive and hoping to be. I had a different career and focus in my life like a full-time focus. That was meant to be building for my future family and wealth generation.
I became very active operationally because we got in trouble with our deals. I can talk about that more but that’s where my love of operations comes from. We had no choice. We had to fire our property manager at the time and get hands-on. We did everything from leasing. We did our maintenance, unit turns, and redevelopment. Super hands-on, that’s where I come from. I understand every facet of the business because I was forced to. I’m very grateful that it happened that way because that’s foundational.
The best way to learn is learning on the job. When you are pressure tested, it’s no longer theory. It’s practical but where were those investments? What was the region you guys were focused on at that time?
Back then, it was Upstate New York. Another thing we can talk about is picking your markets well. If you are in a high-growth market, it covers some of the problems that you might encounter but we were in a slow-growth market so it compounded some of the problems. These are the things you have learned as lessons in the real estate game for many years. You have to pick your markets. That’s why betting on Florida and Texas in the last several years has been amazing.
We were in Florida doing some property tours. We were there with an associate of ours. We were looking for a new property management firm and they recommended your group. We walked a few properties with some of your associates. Talk to us about how you went from managing your properties to becoming a well-known enough firm that some of the brokers were talking about you. This associate of ours introduced you guys as well. How did that growth transition come about?
First of all, it’s such an honor that someone from word of mouth mentioned our team. It’s a very competitive space. That’s a huge tip of the hat to our team doing good work out in the field. My favorite part about the Florida tours that I do is the Cuban coffee. When you go on-site, our teams are very warm in South Florida. We are always making Cuban coffee. It’s amazing. I have done a couple of those when was in Florida.
How it all came about was we built from 2011 onward. The common thread was Pete Rex, my business partner. He is the Founder and Chairman. That was a platform that he built and that was vertically integrated. At first, we appeared as owner-operators as what they would say in the business. That means you only operate the deals you have an ownership stake in or you are the general partner of those deals. You only operate those deals.
From 2011 to 2019, we were almost exclusively an owner-operator. We only did our internal deals. In 2019, what happened on the private equity side from a business standpoint was that we no longer felt compelled that there was a good buying opportunity. What we showed up to do in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 was a specific moment in time. You can bet on the future of the market. We made strong bets and have the returns to show for it.
By 2019, it was so frothy. We didn’t feel like it was a good time to keep deploying mindlessly. Instead, we shut down, which was a move that almost no one else did that I’m aware of. We shut down the buyer side of our business and sold about $1 billion of assets in 2019. We loved the property management business for many reasons. I can go into it if that’s helpful.
We loved it so much that we wanted to continue operating that business and pivoted from being that owner-operator to providing third-party property management for other groups. That was a bit of a strategy shift. It took some time to bake up new processes, mentality, and paradigm of how to operate in that new business. It’s a different business looking back with so many years of perspective.
We will get into the mechanics of how property management firms are operated.
I can’t wait but first, could you differentiate between asset management and property management?
What they have in common is to maximize the value of the asset. That is both the mission of the asset management team and the property management team. They need to maximize the asset value for the owners. Whoever the ownership group is probably has a bunch of investors, that’s their mission. I would differentiate property management as the hands-on aspect. It’s the people primarily on-site but it’s the platform. Those are the people that are fixing problems and are solution-oriented.
Whereas asset management operates almost like a 10,000 or 30,000-foot level. They were a little bit more financially focused. They might be looking at dashboards and pro forma, how they are operating against the going in pro forma, and saying, “This doesn’t look good. What is happening with the onsite team? How come we are not pushing rents? I’m looking at the comps and we are not achieving the same occupancy.” It’s more removed from the solutions that need to happen.
It’s probably fair to say that asset management oversees the property management.
In the business, the asset manager stands in the shoes of the owner. They are the owner’s representatives so they have to think with an owner mindset, whereas the property management team has a lot to do. They have to think, “I have to keep my resident happy.” That’s a balance. How much do you want to keep your residents happy versus doing what’s best for the asset as a financial asset? You can’t give away two months of free rent just because someone had a lightbulb go out. The asset manager stands in the shoes of the owner and the property management is the hands-on operations folks primarily on-site in a big asset that is achieving and pushing the asset forward.
Thank you for explaining that. Let’s differentiate between institutional and non-institutional properties. Is it fair to say that 100-plus doors are considered institutional property?
That is what we have said in the past. A hundred-plus doors make it far easier to manage in the traditional sense. If you get up below 100 doors, you have to do something different, which is more of what you would call a pod mentality. Let’s say you are trying to get 2 or 3 assets that are close by on a geographical basis and you can run them together. When you have 100 plus units, you nailed it. You can staff an onsite team so it makes the deal work a lot differently.
Do property management firms like ResProp manage non-institutional properties, single-family properties, or even a fourplex, triplex, BTR, or SFR?
Short Rental Properties. We want to differentiate. Somebody who has a short-term rental, do they contact ResProp, or is there a difference between these larger companies that offer services to larger multifamily assets?
The vision is that we will be able to do smaller assets well but that remains a vision because our team is set up to handle the 90 or 100-unit-plus deals. If it’s a single-family rental, we would not be your team. We would be much more 100 unit plus. However, if you are an owner who does have some geographic concentration, our vision is that we can change the whole workflow and the way that you do property management. That’s being baked up. We have a bunch of pilots that are in flow to be able to handle those but it’s not perfected. What we are good at is 100 units plus.
That’s for portfolios or communities of single-family homes or if somebody has a scattered portfolio of single-family homes, you could still help them out.
BTR for sure, Built To Rent for the folks out there. Sometimes they call that horizontal multifamily. It operates almost the same way as a multifamily asset that’s a garden style or something like that. Single-family is spread out. We’d have to talk to the owner and make sure we can handle it and maximize that property. That’d be more of a conversation.
What is the industry standard for property management fees? How does this differ with smaller multifamily properties or other residential types when comparing it to institutional multifamily?
We commonly hear that. When you do short-term rentals or single-family, 10% of the rent goes to the property manager. We hear on the multifamily side that 3% of the rents go to management and then you have to pay the salaries of the staff that work there. Demystify that if you don’t mind.
I will attempt to because it is very mysterious. For the most part, if you have an institutional asset and you want to call it that 100-unit plus, yes, you are getting 3% of revenue. That would be your standard. Some groups are going to do 2.75% maybe and they are going to try to beat others depending on the asset. If it’s a huge asset and a class-A luxury thing, you could have some differential between 2.5% to 3% of revenue.
You have this thing called reimbursements within the industry. For the most part, these are pass-through costs that go back to the owner. To run any platform of any size, you need certain things. You have to have a small presence of an IT team in the back office to help support the properties to make sure that the software is working correctly and believe there is a lot of software in this business. The property management software will be one of the bigger expenses and that is not covered by the 3%. That is covered by a reimbursement schedule that is negotiated with almost every deal with the owner.
In the space that you guys are, we talked about Florida. You guys are in that market. With these property management firms that provide services to these larger multifamily projects, is there an abundance amount of them? Is it competitive? Is there supply and demand? Are there not enough property management firms? A follow-up question to that is we understand that Greystar is the largest property manager in the US. Why isn’t it that they have the whole market share? How can properties like ResProp even compete with the Greystars of the world? Maybe we can encompass your answer about all of that.
Greystar, I have a lot of respect for that team. I have come across many of them. Our founder knows the founder of Greystar a little bit but they have executed extremely well since the ’90s. Some of their growth has been through M&A, acquiring other very large groups of 100,000 plus units. They have a spread that’s a national footprint and also global. They are going to work well for a certain type of owner, especially a class-A luxury. It’s an easy pick for people to pick Greystar.
How we would differentiate from our pitch standpoint is that we are going to be more of a bespoke white glove experience where you can call me a CEO or an owner. Chances are I have been to your asset and I can talk to you about how it’s going. Our team is going to be very hands-on with you. We are going to differentiate that way. We are scrappy and hungry. We are trying to put ourselves in the shoes of the owner. I’m not saying Greystar can’t do all those things but when you are that big, 700,000 to 800,000 units, if you are not a huge owner with a shop like that, you can get lost in the shuffle.
It’s a more intimate type of communication. We say that in our firm, CPI Capital. People can pick up the phone and call the CEO or the chief investment officer. Let’s break that down a bit more. I have done some research before our show to understand the mechanics of a property management firm, the hierarchy, or the org chart. I couldn’t find a lot of information online, particularly on YouTube so it’d be great for us to break this down.
If we were looking at a property management firm from boots on the ground or the onsite crew that is usually what properties have to the leasing office, to the regional manager, and up to the CEO. Could you break down for us each critical member or person’s roles and responsibilities throughout the firm? We then can go from there.
I will break it down the way I understand it. It’s the easiest way to explain it. Let’s take a 300-unit property. Let’s say it’s a garden-style. Everyone is familiar with this type of property in Florida and Texas. The easy traditional staffing model would be what they call 3 inside and 3 outside. Inside would be your more resident-facing operation staff.
This would be a property manager and then you are going to have an assistant manager and a leasing consultant but some of the staff overflows. If the assistant manager and leasing consultant are not in the office, the property manager is going to do a leasing tour. They are going to handle that. A lot of that is overlap based on what’s happening, what time of month it is, and what’s happening inside the office. 1 per 100 will be the ratio on the sales side or the in-house side.
The outside staff will be the maintenance folks. You have a maintenance super and then traditionally, maintenance tech. Someone operates more like a porter. Sometimes they are also a second tech but that person that’s lower in the stack there is going to do a lot of things like picking up trash every morning. That could be a team effort but for sure, that is their job. The less skilled labor is going to go to that person.
The maintenance tech, you often want to have them have HVAC certification or pool certification. You are paying up for a little bit because they have more skill. The maintenance super is going to do things like order parts to make sure that the shop has supplies. They work hand in hand with the property manager to say, “We had four move-ins this week.” “How do they look?” “Let’s go walk them.”
That person will help splash all the work orders and different maintenance operations. Things that need to happen on-site will typically go through the maintenance super. He’s a supervisor for a reason. 3 in and 3 out, 1 per 100 on both ratios. If you want, I can go into this back-office idea of who’s supporting all these folks.
Briefly touch on it, please.
With a platform like ours, we have 11,000 units and growing. Every platform will be a little bit different based on many things but certainly, size is one key differentiator. Greystar’s back-office is going to look different from ResProp’s back-office but there are always going to be certain back-office things that need to happen. It’s also interesting and this might be a tangent but it’s how much you have a vision of changing the workflows that happen on site.
We would say, “We have the vision to centralize a lot more of what happens on site and do it more cost-effectively in a centralized and specialized almost back-office way.” I can go into that in a bit but generally, in the back office, you are going to have a CEO. I’m the CEO. We have a chief operations officer who cuts across many aspects of the business but has a special focus on property operations. Sticking with property operations, you are going to have layers of managerial authority and oversight. Every PM is going to roll up to a regional manager.
Every onsite property manager who is the highest person at the property level detects people out. Exterior people and internal people report back to them and then the property manager reports to a regional property manager. How many properties is the regional looking after?
It depends on how big they are but 5 to 6. It could be 7 or 8.
It’s somewhat a handful of properties their regional is looking at. Who’s above the regional?
An RVP, Regional Vice President, would be able to handle it. We have two of them. 1 for Texas and 1 for Florida so that’s 11,000 units. You can have two. They have a handful of RMs each. That’s the way it flows and then they flow up to our Head of Operations.
It then flows to the executives within the company.
We have construction management as well. That’s a whole other layer to the business. Owners have a menu. They can only choose property management. Some say, “I love operating their construction side.” I have my team. Some of them have their general contractor. They do it themselves. If they don’t have that, we can offer property and construction.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of an investor or a property owner who is hiring a property management firm. Their main point of contact is the onsite property manager. Is that fair enough to say?
Also, the regional. They are very in touch with the regional.
Let’s say an owner of the property or one of the partners that owns the properties on-site sees one of the ground crew guys taking a nap on a bench. Do they have the authority to go up to the person? They don’t technically work for the owner. They work for a property management firm. They hear some complaints on the property. Do they go to the regional or the onsite property manager? What’s the hierarchy and the point of contact for the owners or the investors of the property?
ResProp wants to be the most owner-focused operation. We know our key customer is the owner. That’s not to say that the resident is not supremely important. If you don’t have great credit-worthy residents who are happy, they are not going to get retained. You are going to have a very terrible property so the resident is key. We love that aspect of it because you are serving people and improving their homes and lives. The owner is the key customer of our business.
Getting into your question if an owner is on-site what’s the authority structure, to me, that is about tact. Some owners are very familiar with our properties. We have a couple of owners that go outside. They smoke a cigar and hang out. They love it. This is their baby and they are protecting their asset. They represent LPs, Limited Partners, that are in the asset with them. They love being there. They are very proud of their ownership. They get to know the teams and the teams know them.
If something is not right, they have that relationship. If an owner is coming out of nowhere and then coming in and barking orders, that doesn’t tend to work that well. They should try to respect the channels of, “Let me go talk to the regional.” They are more mature in their business career. If they can’t get a good answer from the region, they should elevate to the RVP. If that doesn’t work, they can call an executive.
Let’s talk about a couple more points on this before we change the conversation to some other important points. Let’s talk about performance and the key figures. If a property is not performing as it should, the occupancy is dropping, there are other issues on-site, or maybe a type of tenants are coming in, is the regional under the gun? Is it the onsite property manager that’s to answer?
Can an investor or the property owner come in and say, “We don’t feel that our property manager is performing well. We want this to be changed?” Is that something that commonly takes place? Is that something that you guys or property management firms push back on? You don’t want an investor or property owner to come in every month to say, “We don’t like the property manager. Let’s change it.”
That’s going to be very difficult for a property management firm to handle but how do they achieve it? I’m sure that within the investment company, there’s also an asset management division and what have you as well. How do they seek the best performance on this concept of trying to make sure that each critical person is performing like the regional or the onsite property manager? Maybe we can touch on that a bit, please.
They typically have a cadence where either the owner themselves or someone who is representing them like a financial asset manager are going to be on a cadence of sometimes weekly calls with our team. They have KPIs and dashboards. There’s a lot of it as you know. You are all great investors. You are looking at these things. When something doesn’t look right, you are going to have action plans and commitments. If things still don’t improve, it gets elevated and you ratchet up the pressure.
The way I operate, I’m never satisfied. Every dollar counts in our business. Even if you are hitting pro forma, who cares? Let’s blow it out. A good operator in my mind is someone who’s continuously dissatisfied with performance. They have a vision that it could be better and then they have a belief that they can achieve more. To me, that’s a definition of a good operator. That’s someone who’s always pushing.
Who would you say is the most critical person in this chain of command that exists? Is it the onsite or the regional? What would you say?
I would say the least critical is me. It would have to be between the PM and the regional. To provide color on that, it’s because it’s such a people business and the leadership has to happen at that level. The subsidiarity needs to be driven down to the PM level because they are the ones who are going to hire great people. They are going to keep them motivated, train them, and keep them accountable. That has to happen from that lower level. It can’t happen from being pushed down by someone at a corporate office. It doesn’t work well.
Let’s talk about the state of the multifamily market. Real estate is cyclical. I believe we are in the hypersupply/recession phase of the market. We are seeing some distress coming to the market. Office is having a big effect on the macro real estate market as well with 25% vacancy and up to 50% phantom vacancy that exists in office space. It’s having an effect. We have certain banks that have failed and so on. Every week, there’s a new article about a syndicator who is in distress and giving the keys back to the lender.
A lot of times we hear, and this is a matter of fact, that it wasn’t only issues with the debt and the interest rates rising or the debt maturing and then they have to get a new debt and purchase a new rate cap. All those financial-related items aside, management operations are also a big part of the failure of a lot of these groups and property management especially at this higher level of 100-plus institutional properties. It’s the most important part. Talk to us about what you are seeing in the multifamily market and the new economic changes and distress in the market.
Owners are starting to feel distress. Many of these are people who have exposure to floating rates. Their debt is floating and so when they purchase the asset, they weren’t expecting to have this debt service be such a mountain. If that’s the case, even if the operator is doing the best, they are blowing out the NOI that the operator expected.
If the debt service has climbed so high, it is going to lead to a problem for the owner either way. Having said that, there are other things that the operator might not have any control over as well like insurance rates. You guys are in Florida. Those are skyrocketing and it doesn’t seem to be a good insight. As you go into a deal, you have a lot of assumptions. How occupied are you going to be?
That’s a function of supply and demand in your market. If you got that wrong and you think you are going to be 95% forever but your sub-market got to 90% because of new supply that came into that pocket that’s driving down occupancy, an operator can outperform the submarket. I truly believe that. At some point, you have gravity pulling you down to this new 90% level. Even if you had that 95% in your pro forma, that is a lot to make up.
Even the rent has increased year over year. A lot of operators by saying a tiny bit change the numbers like that.
We are seeing that but that’s why a lot of deals are not making sense. You are talking about all the uncontrollable, things that investors cannot control. Ava talked about the rent increase. You talked about insurance costs and the demand in the area. It’s fair enough. Let’s talk about the things they can control.
Why is it that some of these groups have gone in distress and lost investor equity under controllable items that they could easily control when they had empty units sitting on the property? They could have either given concessions or gotten people in there. They could have brought up their retention for the tenants they had. What type of failure are you seeing on things that are controllable by the property manager and the sponsor?
In what ways can property managers get more creative to help with the distress that’s happening and to make sure that the property that they are managing doesn’t go into this distress state?
One problem is that if your strategy going in was a very heavy CapEx value-add strategy, it was predicated that you would flip all these units very fast and get these rent bumps of $250 per unit or $300 even if you have the best operations in the world and you delivered everything under budget in terms of a CapEx standpoint and on time.
If the resident is not coming into that sub-market to rent at that new hire rate or at the velocity at which you need to have it rented out, you are going to have a mismatch between what you are delivering to the market and what your operations can do. A great operator is going to find a way to market differently to get the cream of that sub-market interested in that property.
They’ll say, “Fine. You guys underwrote a very aggressive velocity on this rehab project but we are going to find a way.” That’s the mentality you need for a property manager that represents an owner. That’s why in our business ResProp, we say, “Find a way or make one.” You find a way to fill that property up. That’s what you have to do.
You are the CEO of the ResProp. You have a property that’s coming to distress territory. The occupancy is dropping. It’s getting to dangerous levels. When it got in your guys, your guys managed it at 95% but the property is sitting at, let’s say 80% and dropping. What is it that you do?
I have to level set the conversation with the owner and say, “It depends on the deal but I probably would recommend drop pricing stabilized.” The pressure as an operation and owner when you get down to 80% is so high because you are so upside down. Everything compounds upon itself. Your onsite team has to walk more vacant units because of what’s going on behind the door.
Instead of walking 20 vacant units, they are walking with 50. They are trying to understand, “What should I make ready? How do I spend these precious dollars? Which one do I show?” When you can get to a more stable number, even if it’s an 85% to 90% occupancy, I would recommend getting up there and sometimes taking concessions or dropping pricing. You hate to do that but sometimes you do it. You restabilize and say, “Mr. and Mrs. Owner, we are going to come back together and re-pivot strategy every time we level up and ratchet up the property.”
You have 11,000 units under management. I’m sure you have had experience in the past when you had that conversation with the property owner but they still didn’t implement some of the ideas that you had. What did you do? At what point do you throw in the towel? Is there ever a point where the property management walks away saying, “This thing is going down to a level that we are not going to even manage anymore?” Is that not common practice? If you have provided your advice to the owner, they are not taking your advice, and the occupancy keeps dropping, what do you do?
Let me go to the first one. We are in a new territory for many multifamily people. COVID was tough but multifamily proved very resilient from an operation standpoint. Immediately, everyone was very scared including our team, safety people, teammates, and residents. We got over that quickly but then you saw rent going crazy.For many multifamily people, we're in new territory because COVID was tough, but multifamily proved resilience from an operation standpoint. Click To Tweet
The years leading up to that in a low-interest rate environment were good times. You didn’t see a lot of these distressed conversations happening. To answer your question, have we ever had to walk away? The thing that would compel us is when the owner gets in so much trouble, they are not even paying their bills. That’s a bad spot.
We unfortunately had to deal with this. If an owner can’t pay vendors, it impacts our platform and our way of staying in business. Vendors only know us, ResProp. They don’t know the general partner. They say, “ResProp contacted me and then ResProp didn’t pay its bill.” This is why being a third-party provider is a little bit difficult because if your owner runs out of money, that’s a cascading effect. It gets more difficult by the day. Sometimes the property management fees don’t get paid. That’s a bad day.
Could you share some effective property management strategies that your firm has implemented to keep multifamily assets financially stable and out of distress?
As a platform, we have a couple of differentiators. One is that we have a very forward-looking approach to centralization. We have taken a lot of the tasks that are very mundane or rote that can be done that we believe much better in a more controlled environment with more high fidelity in a back-office setting. You can have someone specialized in renewals and make sure if the owner wants X percent, we are showing that out to our residents at that particular property.
Evictions would be something similar, even setting up leasing tours. We have a lot of data behind this to prove that we can do it better in a controlled setting offsite. You can use technology to automate some of this stuff and make it more efficient and cost-effective. Centralization is one differentiator. That’s going to take multiple decades to prove itself out in a more fulsome way.
We have a thing called the BizTech program. This is where we try to identify new college grads right out of school to get them interested in property management. They bring energy and creativity like a new buzz to a property. It’s worked out very well. We can raise them through the ranks to become property managers someday. I believe our industry needs more talent and people coming into it.The multifamily industry needs more talent coming into it. Click To Tweet
You are running a $30 million or $40 million asset. We are paying people comparatively not that much money. We believe in training people on the financial acumen side and how to think like an owner, be creative, and be more tech-forward. This all works better if you staff it with a bunch of BizTech program-like graduates and grow them up internally.
How does your firm approach tenant retention and satisfaction? Why is this important for multifamily investors?
It’s key for multifamily investors. It depends on what your strategy is on your property. Sometimes you want to have a velocity of people moving out so you can rehab the units real fast and that’s part of your strategy. Hopefully, you have capitalized it correctly coming in to do that. For most people, they are running a stabilized asset as an owner. Retention is critical.
There are very famous studies of how much it costs to flip a unit versus keep the unit occupied with a renewal with someone who’s retained as a resident. The costs are many. You have a unit term cost to get it made ready. You have to put in new blinds, repaint, put in new carpet, and whatever you have to do. You then have a vacancy. You might be having a vacant unit for 15 or 30 days.
It’s very expensive when you look at it to have constant churn at your property. You want a stable base of people who love your property and they want to stay. We found that maintenance is one of the key ones. If you are a resident and you can never get your work order fixed correctly, you are very much more likely to leave. You can have a lot of other things happen but if that maintenance thing is not on point, you are at risk.
What is your advice for value-add investors? Many syndicators utilize the value-add strategy. What is your advice when it comes to renovations and the value-add? How do you achieve renovating the vacant units or the leases that have expired and now the tenant has moved out because they don’t want to pay the higher rent? What is the perfect sweet spot between renovating and bringing new units to the market and not decreasing occupancy? Is there a sweet spot? Is there a number of doors per month? What is advice there?
Some of it is so asset-specific that I will leave that aside. General thoughts would be things I’m sharing with my team as well like market ideas. CapEx on the exterior program is supercritical. That’s a great way to spend CapEx dollars.
If you spend $1 million on roofs, you don’t get a rent premium. That’s going to help your roof not to collapse and increase the value of your property but you don’t get the same bang for your buck.
You talked about retention. If you have a leaky roof, that is going to be one key thing. People are going to say, “I don’t care. You have repaired that roof five times and it still leaks. I’m out of here.” It does have an impact on your NOI for sure. It’s a point taken but I’m talking more about freshening up your clubhouse.
Paint the exterior. Let the market know that you are flying a flag for your property. Your flag should say, “New management, welcome in. We are going to do things differently. We take care of your property. This thing is going to look good. You can feel proud to call this place home.” Freshening up the CapEx dollar lights or make it safe. If there’s a gate that doesn’t work, do that work.
Why is it that more than half the properties I have ever visited, the gate doesn’t work? There’s something wrong with gates.
My wife is going to tour with me and she’s going to say, “What’s up with the gate?” I might forget to even think about it but this is how you have to think.
People notice all these other things.
We got to bring you back on. Let’s get through a few of these things because we still have the second segment of our show. Let’s talk about technology. Talk to us about some tech that is used for property management. What is the one that figures out the rent in your competition circumference and then sets your price for that rent? What is that called again?
Revenue management, lease optimization, or rent maximizer. There are many of them.
Talk to us about some tech that’s used in property management to make it more efficient and so on.
AI or anything you could think of that is a problem. It’s a very crowded space. We know very well because we are building tech in a separate business called Rex. Rex.com, you could look it up. We are building different solutions for stuff we have experienced as owners and operators so some of those pain points we are trying to solve ourselves as well. We are very plugged in.
Broad strokes. If you are running a property management platform of 10,000 units plus, you are using a lot of software. You have to have people dedicated to making sure that it integrates well. You are driving down costs because they can get crazy. What I have noticed is every department head wants to have the unique software that people are selling to them.
The most important one is your property management software. This is what people might remember, Yardi or RealPage. We use ResMan. We are very happy with ResMan. There’s Entrata. You have options like AppFolio. That’s going to be your key system. That’s where resident ledgers are located and a lot of the stuff that happens from a resident standpoint is located there.
The biggest problem with the industry is that it doesn’t integrate. The integrations that happen between leasing, maintenance, and everything else, plugging into your property management software including purchasing and procurement, are massive pain points. That’s why we even got into the real estate tech because we were like, “No one is building good stuff. We have a long-range vision to build better things.” We can go anywhere you want from there.
The advice on the tech that sets your price relative to your competition’s price, is that something you promote any advice for or do you see it as not useful? What is the strategy there?
We have traditionally used it and advise people to use it. I will say that for sure because you could look at data and there’s been many AB testing if you use the revenue maximization software versus don’t use it. It tends to drive better outcomes. It might be 1%, 2%, or 3% but that’s a lot. That’s meaningful. You have to manage it extremely well. You have to put in good inputs and make sure all your systems are up to date and your comp set is up to date, otherwise like garbage in and garbage out kind of thing. You have to heavily manage it. You don’t have this magical software that does everything and you shut your brain off. Your teams have to be super plugged in.Using the property management revenue maximization software just tends to drive better outcomes. Click To Tweet
It’s like the CRM that we have. It’s a very complex CRM but we got to be plugged in and manage it.
Otherwise, it owns you.
This is more opinion. This is more about your thesis. Some of the multifamily owners, syndication groups, and investment firms have their property management firms in-house. They are vertically integrated as is known in the space. What is your thesis on this? We know that a lot of institutions like family offices or funds that invest with real estate investment firms require that the investment firm has property management in-house.
That’s the way they will invest with them because they feel like they have more control. For somewhat newer groups that are getting into the space, newer syndicators, smaller groups, or boutique investment groups, is your advice to go ahead and start their property management in-house? I’m sure you have talked about this topic before. This is probably an important part of your business. Give us your thesis on this.
For that group that you mentioned, the people starting, 100% do not focus on building and also building the PM. Focus is key in business. I have to talk about myself here. If you want to be great at two things at the same time, getting up the learning curve on both, it’s almost impossible. It’s going to take years for you to bake up all these different insights, knowledge, and experience to do it. Stick with the asset allocation because that’s where you can differentiate being an allocator of capital.
You might have some special knowledge about your little pocket of Naples and something that’s been overlooked. You can nail it there. You can beat the institutional because maybe they don’t play in your little space but property management is so competitive and is so much knowledge. Don’t do both at once. Call up ResProp. We are happy to help you out and give you advice. Even if we don’t manage, we will give you advice.
Thank you for your wisdom and transparency in answering all of our questions. We appreciate that. Let’s get to the next segment of our show.
The Ten Championship Rounds to Financial Freedom. First question, who’s been the most influential person in your life?
I have to go with Jesus. If I have to go secular or someone I have met or interacted with, my dad would be number one. He passed away several years ago. He’s a working-class guy who values sacrifice for the family and work ethic.
What is the number one book you’d recommend?
There are a billion out there but I would recommend something that’s not even a book. It is something that changed so much. It’s Warren Buffett’s Shareholder Letters. I read all of them from several years ago to now. They are full of investment wisdom. Thinking about the proper way to be downside-protected is amazing. It’s hard to get through.
We got to do that.
Next question. If you had the opportunity to travel back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so dumb. From the investment side, pick your market well because you are going to spend so much of your blood, sweat, and tears on your assets. You need to be in a spot that’s going to grow from a population job growth standpoint that’s going to help you out. I would say, “What are you doing up in this market that you picked? Why?”Pick your market really well because you're going to spend so much of your blood, sweat, and tears on your assets. Click To Tweet
Up in New York, right?
Upstate. It doesn’t make sense. Also, where the people are going.
What’s the best investment you have ever made?
I would say marrying my wife and finding a great lady and someone who’s behind me 150% being a rock, allowing me to achieve in business. We have four kids so she helps cover all that. She’s amazing. I’m investing in my family proudly.
What’s the worst investment you have ever made? What lessons did you learn from it?
It’s probably related to my other answer but that would be by far my worst investment. There are a couple of deals in the past that we didn’t pick our spot very well. I wish we had concentrated our bet a little bit more in Austin, for example, in the real estate private equity business.
How much would you need in the bank to retire? What’s your number?
I might be unique here. There is no number. I would never retire. If I made all the money in the world, I’d still be at it. I would change my focus. I would be full-time in charitable initiatives and doing things like that. I love to build and be entrepreneurial.
If you could have dinner with someone dead or alive, who would it be?
That’d be Jesus but if I can’t pick him, I would pick George Washington. He’s a hero. I love the American Revolution. I try to be into history. I wouldn’t say history buff but I love history and what he’s about. He’s selfless. He’s putting his nation first and the way he stepped away from power. Great lessons. He stands above so many other people.
If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
I will simplify my life and travel with my family. If I was trying to go off the grid, I would go be a citizen of the world.
Let me ask you this question in a different way. For example, you would have answered, “I would have been a race car driver.” Is there any other profession that you would have picked aside from being a CEO of a couple of different companies?
I wanted to be a history professor. If I’ll be able to have time to write a book and go deep on a subject, that would be amazing and a lot of fun.
Book smarts or street smarts?
Can I say both? It’s a bit of a cop-out. To me, street smarts are like, “You have to have it in business because otherwise, you will be taken advantage of.” I was born in The Bronx, New York. Maybe it’s in my DNA somewhere but I’m very competitive. I like to be very aware. Negotiation is super important. That takes street smarts. That’s human-to-human interaction. In my experience, the people that tap out in business are people that aren’t reading. They are not curious. You can get ahead by reading great books and learning from other people’s mistakes or successes. You have to do the book thing too. You have to do both.
Last question, if you had $1 million in cash and you had to make one investment, what would it be?
It has to be what I’m already doing, which is investing with our team across so many different things or investing with you guys. I would say investing internally to our team staff because I’m also asking people to invest with us so I need to be putting my money with them or at risk so that needs to be what I do.
What’s the best way that people can reach you if you can let our audience know, please?
Always trust the man who gives you his phone number. We appreciate you being here. Thanks for taking the time. We were excited and looking forward to this. Thank you for letting us press you. We appreciate all the wisdom.
It was a lot of fun. Thank you so much.