James:. Hi Audience, welcome to Achieve Wealth Podcast. We focus on achieving wealth through value listing investing, specifically in commercial real estate asset classes. Today I have two great members and guests from Disrupt Equity. I have Feras Moussa and Ben Suttles. Right. So, hey guys, welcome to the show.
Ben Suttles: [crosstalk 08:40].
Feras Moussa: Thanks for having us.
James: Yes, I mean both of them to own almost 1300 units across eight deals with 70 over a million dollars in assets under management. Their deals are primarily in Atlanta, in Texas. And they have raised almost $20 million from private investors up to now. So, is there anything else that I missed out in your credentials?
Ben Suttles: No, a little bit more than 20, but we’re approaching probably 25 at this point. But, —
Ben Suttles: — yes, no, definitely that’s, that’s pretty spot on. A little bit of background about me, I come from a sales business development background in the IT side, so I know a lot of, probably your listeners are probably either IT engineering. We all seem to gravitate towards commercial real estate in one way, shape or form. But that’s kind of how I got into commercial real estate about five years ago.
Ben Suttles: Feras—
Feras Moussa: Yes, I guess maybe. Yes. I mean my background also in the engineering side that was definitely software. So, it used to be a program manager at Microsoft. Did that for a couple of years less than had my own software company. And then like probably some of your listeners had an extra capital server know how to deploy it and learn about real estate. Started with the single-family space. And so, the first thing I bought was a fourplex than a bunch of houses. And then I realized it was too much brain damage in terms of just scaling. Right. I mean it’s, having 12 insurance policies, 12 tenants and 12 loans and 12 of everything is kind of a pain. And so, learn about multifamily and then kind of the rest of the history. So, I’ve been running with that since.
James: Yes. I really disliked, the insurance part of the single family because–
Feras Moussa: Yes.
James: –lot of it expires at different times of the year.
Feras Moussa: That’s my biggest pain point honestly and I literally will, I’m willing to pay a premium for a broker that’ll just take care of it and I just don’t have to think about it because it’s just not worth the hassle of thinking through and spending the time and effort there.
James: Yes. Yes. I think you can pay like a monthly is the same amount and it’s all automated, but insurance is one thing you have to print out and you have to scan, and you have to do all kinds of things.
Feras Moussa: Yes.
James: So, let’s go a bit more into the thought process here before we go into the details of your deals and all that. So, three IT guys, right? I’m also with an electrical engineering background with some software. Why do you think a lot of these IT guys like commercial real estate investing, especially in multifamily?
Feras Moussa: Yeah, I mean.
Ben Suttles: From my perspective, I think it’s the numbers right. I think it’s– you come from a kind of an analytical side of the brain, right? And I think in real estate, a lot of it is numbers driven. Now there’s a relationship side of the business, right? Which we all have to have. We have to have that side of it to raise equity and obviously work with the brokers and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game, right? You’ve got to be able to underwrite the deals. You’ve got to be able to make, projections, financial projections and all that as numbers and spreadsheet driven. And I think that’s a lot of why the IT and engineering guys, get into this space. Also, I think the other thing is too is that allows us to be creative. When we’re not able to be creative in some, some respects, whenever you’re able to kind of put your stamp on the rehab of a property and improve that and, and kind of get out and roll your sleeves up. That’s another thing that we were lacking probably in a lot of our jobs. And so, I think, at least personally for me, that that might be part of the reason why, I don’t know, Feras might have another take on it as well.
Feras Moussa: Well, no, I think the numbers things. Definitely one of the biggest factors, but it’s also, it’s a space that you can learn it yourself, right? Meaning, you know, a lot of engineers are willing to go above and beyond, spend the effort, research, read books and learn it. You can do that in this space and, there’s not like an engineering exam at the end of it where you have to do, you can pass. Right?
Feras Moussa: And so, it’s the kind of thing where you can learn it and it makes sense, right? The numbers don’t lie. And so, two engineers, right? It’s like, you can see a clear path of the progression, right? There’s not like a leap of faith any point in time. And then the other part of it too is problem-solving, right? I think all engineers like problem-solving as part of the challenge. And to me, that’s what I like about multifamily. It’s bigger and harder, right? Sure. I could’ve probably scaled out a rental portfolio part, really wanted to, but I mean, it’s just not fun to buy, hundred thousand-dollar assets, $150,000. It’s a lot more fun to do bigger projects, a bigger team, and really, work through each issue as it comes up.
James: Yes. Yes. I mean in my mind is a lot about– I mean real estates, there’s a lot of creative thinking that you need to put on and that’s really fun, right? Because you want to, I mean, I’m sure when you guys handle deals, we want to solve that problem. Right?
Feras Moussa: Yes, absolutely.
James: You want to break; I’m going to break that deal. Right? Hey, why? Like for me, I always say, how can I break this deal? Why you should, why you should work for me. Right? That’s why I think, I’m sure you guys do that too.
Ben Suttles: I was doing that earlier yesterday, man. Yes, man, [inaudible 13:36], how do you blow up the deal, right? And–
James: How do you blow up the deal? There must be something wrong with this deal. Let’s find that out.
Ben Suttles: [crosstalk 13:42].
Feras Moussa: Oh yes that’s fun. Let’s have a deal that makes sense. It’s like, this not right, I’m just going to offer a lower, I might’ve otherwise because something doesn’t make me, go 100%.
James: Yes. If that [inaudible] make sense, you are like, let’s say to break it. Something must be wrong and when you can’t break it then, then it makes sense. That okay, that’s [inaudible 13:58].
Feras Moussa: Yes.
Ben Suttles: That’s the one.
Feras Moussa: And then the other part too is that it’s a people game, right? I mean, so something, some engineers might not like it, but at least me, I mean nothing. Ben, same. We like it because it’s a team effort. It’s not one person. It’s how do you combine people really get the thing done both on, on the GP side as well as the operations side, right? How do you build rapport with your manager, with your regional, whoever it is? Right. And kind of help accomplish the goals and give them motivated. To me, that’s part of the fun.
Feras Moussa: I guess what we do is like project management on steroids.
Ben Suttles: Feras, if you touch us up on that, that was really interesting to earlier which was the project management piece, which I had forgotten about. I mean a lot of us to come from big, we’ve done big projects, we’ve worked with teams and let’s be honest, and this is a team sport, right?
Ben Suttles: This is, yes you could maybe be solo and respectful, you’ve got a team in the background that’s helping you accomplish your goal and you’ve got project management or manage that whole entire process in order to get it to close. And then even after you’re closing it, right? In order to asset management or to do the asset management, to do the construction management and for you James too, you do the property management.
Ben Suttles: All of that stuff is, you’re juggling a lot of different pieces and making sure that the ball is continuously moving forward towards that goal. And I think a lot of IT and engineering folks come from that background, understand that. So, once you can kind of segue that into the commercial real estate state space, it’s just essentially just project management at the end of the day.
James: Yes. Yes. You one might, throughout my 22 years in the corporate world, I think 16 years I was a manager and I was also a project manager and I was a very good project manager. I need all that translates to this multimillion-dollar business that you’re managing, right?
Ben Suttles: Yes.
James: Because to make sure your transactions happen correctly; you need to make sure you communicate to people. And that’s what we all learned in project management. But how do you over communicate? How do you make sure people don’t mess up? How do you take proactive action to de-risk a project? Right? So that’s, that’s how the game is played. Even in the commercial real estate with this [crosstalk 16:00].
Ben Suttles: And it’s never going to be straight forward. Right? There are always challenges.
Ben Suttles: So, I mean, that’s where, we’re those project management skills really kind of come into play because, anybody can run a smooth project, right? And we’re nothing ever bad happened, but let’s just be honest. There’s always something that happens.
James: Yes, yes.
Ben Suttles: And so, you have to, you have to have that, that acumen to be able to, to keep that ball moving forward towards that common goal.
James: Yes. So apart from the, IT education itself, do you guys think that your work experience, the classes that you have been at your workplace and the environment that you have gone through? I mean as given certain edge to you guys as well.
Feras Moussa: I will say absolutely. Like I said, I mean what we do is project management on steroids. Right? And so, having done that for years had– knowing how to keep track of multiple projects simultaneously. That’s another thing too, right? A lot of people will get into the business and they realize like, hey, syndicating start to finish is not a walk in the park. There’s a lot that happens, both lending and legal and issues come up and they, it’s a lot to keep track of. But then she tried to do two deals at a time. Right. And how would, it’s not really two weeks, it’s kind of a square, issues. So, I would say absolutely. Right.
And then the other thing that we’ve seen, being on the tech side is how do we differentiate ourselves from other people too, right? How do we, create a better impression for investors? How do you position, everything professionally, right? All of our stuff is mobile friendly. All of our stuff, certain ways. And those are the things that I’ve brought at least from the tech world, to make sure that we kind of do and do well.
Ben Suttles: Yes, I think, I think efficiencies, right? That you come from that IT engineering background, it’s all about productivity, efficiency, how can we automate things and James you probably saw the same thing when he got into space and to completely fracture. A lot of it is backward or outdated and there’s a, there’s a lot of low hanging fruit stuff, ways that can be improved and I’m sure your team is looking to do that constantly and so are we. And that’s all come that comes from our background, right?
James: Background, yes.
Feras Moussa: I told Ben I have to stop myself from wanting to start a software company every few months. Being an entrepreneur and being a software guy, it’s like man, this place some of the stuff we do is pretty archaic.
Ben Suttles: Yes.
Ben Suttles: I think real estate is the last, most, what it called?
Feras Moussa: [crosstalk 18:28].
James: Fragmented industry, you know, that is, they’re like something like AI or something is going to take over soon, right. Because there’s so much inefficiency.
Ben Suttles: Yes. But it’s, you can take it to an extent, but then there’s that personal side, that relationship side. Right. And I think that’s kind of, that’s, that’s one of the parts that I took from my former job, which was, a lot of sales and business development work as well. Right. Taking that, that networking, that relationship building side, that building rapport side into this space. But, I mean, I agree. I think there’s their software and AI and these types of things are going to automate a lot of that back-office part of the process and maybe even the analysis piece. But there’s always going to have to be those two people coming together to make a deal happen, right?
Ben Suttles: Because ultimately, it’s going to be one person or one group and trying to sell on one group trying to buy, and you have to come with some kind of an agreement. Right. And then even after you buy it, right, there’s always those relationships with vendors and employees and all those different things that you have to kind of manage to. But anything that we can bring and that we’ve seen in our past gig where we could make that more efficient here, we’re, we’re obviously trying to introduce that.
James: Got It. Got It, got it. So, let’s go back to the business side of it. So, what are your guys’ focus, in terms of market? Right now, currently Atlanta and some cities in Texas, right? Why don’t you guys talk about, why did you choose these two markets?
Feras Moussa: Yes. So, in terms of why we chose them, I mean, the same reason you’re probably in San Antonio to some degree, right? We’re looking for strong, attractive markets that are not a single industry that is growing right. Population and the business side. And then, really the important thing for us to is the yield, right. So that’s why we got into San Antonio too, was that we can’t find returns in Houston. We look at a lot of bills and use of our base and we don’t own anything in Houston, right? We’re looking for returns that we can, that that will actually, you are looking for deals that’ll give actual turns, foreign investors. That’s also why we don’t look in Dallas, right? Price points are too high that you having to pay so much that you basically have no yield on the deal.
And so that’s kind of what really got us into Atlanta. We got us into San Antonio as well and yes, Beaumont’s kind of a slight story, but those are the things that we look for. And then in terms of future deals, right? If future markets, so, we’ve really kind of manage to, I would say streamline a lot more of our acquisition pipeline, right? In terms of underwriting deals, identifying deals and really keeping a pipeline going. And so, what that’s allowed us to do, especially with a fulltime asset manager now, is we can look at a lot more deals. So, we’ve kind of identified two markets that we want to get into, hopefully, this year. Orlando in North Carolina. And that just, just to give us, just to keep our pipeline going. Right. We can keep looking at more and more and more deals. Yes, we’ll hopefully be finding something that makes sense.
Ben Suttles: Absolutely.
James: So how do you guys choose your market? So, like now you say Orlando and not Carolina, right? So, I have a lot of stats on Orlando because I know it’s growing very quickly. So, let’s take, not Carolina. Why did you guys identify? Not Carolina?
Ben Suttles: I mean, I think, I think all of it boils down to population growth, job growth. We also like to find areas and that’s not every single market, but I like to see a good concentration of different universities and colleges as well because I feel like a lot of the bigger corporations are going to follow where they’re going to have a good funnel of potential students to take from it as well. So, we’ll look in college towns as well too, because, but let’s be honest, North Carolina, it’s got, the research triangle, it’s got a ton of universities. And, it’s calling to be called the Wall Street of the south. The problem with North Carolina is that we’re not the only ones looking there. So, it’s, it’s pretty competitive there too. But it’s got a lot of those good data points that we like to see in terms of population economic growth–
Ben Suttles: –that you see in Texas and in Georgia. And really, we are, we look at in Texas for quite some time and we found Georgia was very, very similar in a lot of ways to Texas. And so that’s the reason we started kind of focusing on Atlanta as well. But it ultimately boils down to, is there enough population job growth to continue to drive demand for the workforce housing that we’re, that we’re looking for. So, people are always like, well, you’re not renting out to fortune 500 folks. So why do you care about that? I’m saying, well, the ancillary service companies and service jobs, they’re going to feed into this white-collar job is what we’re looking for. So, if you don’t have any of the fortune 500 stuff rights, then there’s not any real need for a lot of the infrastructure where a lot of these people are going to be working.
So, when you, when you look at it in Texas, when you look at it and Georgia, right? One of those people is there. So there has to be serviced workforce type jobs that are going to have to be feeding into that. And that’s why we like those markets. And, we see a lot of that same type of thing happening in Orlando and some other markets and Florida and as well as North Carolina. And we’ve looked in Tennessee, we’ve looked in some other spots as well. From us we’ve got so much deal flow coming in that in order for us to be a little bit more strategic work as a team, we’ve decided to focus on about three or four major markets and then just go deep on those and then we can go horizontal and find out that markets in the future.
James: Got It. So, let’s say now today you’re getting a deal, right? Let’s say from North Carolina, what other steps that you guys take? So today let’s say, I mean how do you guys get deals nowadays. Is it through broker relationship, off-market, on the market? How are you guys sorting out the deal flow?
Ben Suttles: Yes, everything in between. A lot of it is brokers. A lot of is people that know what’s his buyers, people that you know, we will get the deal closed, right? Whether it’s the broker that knows it and they might know. Seller. One thing I tell every broker is like, hey, if you have a deal that you don’t have the exclusive on and you need someone to make a pre-emptive offer to try to get that locked down. Like, where are your guys? Right? So, you find ways to motivate the broker is motivated. Other people that know someone that knows someone. So, we, I mean really deals come in all shapes and forms. And so, for us, the biggest volume is definitely the brokers, but it’s really, it’s not about the ones that they just email outlasted, right? It’s really about the follow-up deals that maybe are near, getting to the finish line and getting the finish line in terms of the– in terms of the marketing, but they haven’t had any such interest or for whatever reason. Right. So, I think that’s important. So, once the deal comes through in terms of the analysis side of LLC, dig into the P12, dig into the OEM, but more importantly, talk to them. Sorry, go ahead.
James: I’m just saying, what do you look for first in the deal? Do you get a– so you get a deal, what do you look for? What are the, what do you, what’s your sniff test because I —
Ben Suttles: Yes.
James: underwrite everything, right? What’s the sniff test?
Feras Moussa: I’ll tell you what my first sniff test. I look at what the average rents are and what their price point is, and then I can deduce from that, right.
Feras Moussa: Is this going to be anywhere. And really what I’m doing kind of mentally ballparking what the cap might be. Right? But really, I’m looking at what are the average rents and what does the purchase price. Right. And then yield. Is there, are they close enough that I think that there’s some meat on the bone, right? It’s really what it boils down to. I’ll give you a real example. There was a deal in Atlanta that I– so North Atlanta, Atlanta has a really unique market. North Atlanta is really expensive. South Atlanta is the complete opposite. There’s a deal that came through on the northern side and I think the average rents on that deal were like, 850 $900. So, I’m okay, this one might be at a reasonable price point. Right? And so, I’m like in my head, mentally I’m like, okay, let me call the broker. If this is 80 maybe 90 you know, there’s a deal to be had here. Hey, call the broker. And it’s 130 a door, right? So, I mean, that already instantly ruled it out. And so, you’re really looking for some of those kinds of low hanging fruit just to figure out, okay, is this still even in the ballpark for us to look into it anymore.
Ben Suttles: Yes, absolutely. And I think the first sniff test James is really, I mean then the location of it too, right? Do you know what I mean? We’re getting the deal flow and these places that we want to be, and we’ve identified different pockets within those submarkets that we want to be in. So, if it’s not within one of those pockets and we’re automatically, putting that to the side. Now that doesn’t mean that there’s not a deal there. Right.
Ben Suttles: So those are usually kind of the maybe deals and we’re, we want to kind of circle back maybe we’re bored or something. Let’s do that one– –
Feras Moussa: Exactly, whether we are bored, we go back and look at those deals.
Ben Suttles: Yes, we’ll go back and take a look at those. Right. But we’re looking for that are going to be the net, that those are some market pockets, right? That we like. And then from there, right, just like what Feras was saying, you can almost, you can almost immediately tell if it’s going to work. Right. And you pencil out so many deals. I mean, we, at this point we’ve analysed hundreds and hundreds of deals. So, you can on them almost look and say, oh, that’s not going to work for us. Right. Just based on what they’re asking for. And you can also kind of tell that to, by the price per pound versus, sometimes the median income of the area. Right. I mean, are you going to be able to achieve the rent that it’s going to, it’s going to take to make that deal work. And if you’re going to be maxing out your median income, then it’s not going to work either.
Ben Suttles: So, a lot of the things that we look at, population growth, we look at job growth, all those things too. But one of the things that we also look at as the median income, right? And a lot of these is workforce housing, right? So, I mean, you look at, what’s the, what’s the average rent? We’re usually doing the three-x income test. Whenever we’re taking perspective tenants in, right? Like everybody should, and then you determine, what the median income level is and if you’re going to be maxing that out, you’re above that, then the first sign that something is going wrong, let’s get ready to skip. They’re going to stop paying rent, right? So, you want to make sure that you’re under that, right? You don’t want to; you don’t want to be at the top of the market. Yes. Maybe they can keep up with it for a month or two where they’re going to get behind. And so very, very cognizant of that.
Feras Moussa: And to add those, it’s not that, if it’s a lower income area, we won’t buy a deal very well. It’s really these are just kind of rules of thumb. And then from that, you start to work back, okay, well if it’s a lower income area, can assume they are economic occupancy is going to be much slower. So, you should underwrite it that way. Right? Cause there’s a deal to be had anywhere, right? I mean I’ll buy any deal at the right price point, right? Assuming as long as it’s, to me at least this has been new instead of a growing market. Right. And that’s not a deal at f four worry about the city, essentially no one even wanted to live in that general area. But in terms of price points, in terms of, average incomes, all of that, it’s really, again, depending on what price point are we buying it at.
James: So, let’s say the rent and the price seems reasonable right? At the first sniff test, what’s your next level sniff test? What do you guys do?
Feras Moussa: Then and actually started this. The thing I do before that is actually called the broker and just get there [inaudible 29:18].
Feras Moussa: Right? And that’s the first, usually, right? Because a lot of times there’s more to this story, right? Is it, is it a partnership where you know, one of the sellers passed away and they’re looking, you know, they’re a little bit more motivated or is it a deal that just, the Bro, I’ve had brokers a little bit tell me these sellers are terrible operators, right? And you can kind of, and if you have a relationship with a broker, there’ll be honest with you about that aspect. Right? Brokers are all, a lot of times brokers, I don’t want to say always, but there’ll always be, a lot of times we’ll say, yeah, you know, you could do this and this and get, a $200 rent pop. Right?
Feras Moussa: Take that with a grain of salt. But I’m looking for something that’s kind of that ancillary information to help the deuce. Like, Hey, is there an actual opportunity to do, what’s the value add that we can do is we can kind of take that into what we just talked about. Then kind of once, like you said, once you know the numbers make sense or the deals make sense, then you start to dig in and near. That’s where we really do just to, go down to the numbers, right. Look at the t 12, look at where they are today on expenses. Look at where we think we will be on expenses. Where, what does the rent currently, right? What’s the spread on just the rent, the market rents versus what their marketing right. Today. I mean kind of, we really starting to put the bigger picture together. Right. And then understanding is, hey, does this make sense at a high level? Right? Yes. That’s us. Sorry, go ahead.
Ben Suttles: Oh, I was just going to say, what I mean, we don’t even look at the OEM. Right. Do you know what I mean? We’re going straight from our perspective, right. That just use your, you’ll get, you’ll get the skinny from the broker, right? Because they’ll usually– but the marketing packages is the marketing package. Right. And I feel like that sometimes skews people’s numbers when they look in. Concentrate on that a little bit too closely. So, it’s always best than if it passes your initial test and you talked to the broker and there might be something there and you just go straight to the spreadsheet analysis. Right. Because, I mean if you start trying to dissect what they’re going– what they have in terms of pro forma income and expenses, then you start getting that none of those numbers in your mind. And guess what, there, they’re making those numbers work. So, we always, we always go straight to that and then only then do I then look at the OEM and I see how far apart we are. And usually, it’s pretty significant. But, it’s those classic sales tips, like, below replacement costs and all of these things that they love to say, that makes it sound so sexy.
James: Yes, its–
Ben Suttles: At the end of the day and it has to pencil out. It’s all about the numbers.
James: Yes. I remember in one of the deals I never look at the OM until I close because I need a logo for that property. And I say where is the logo and then I called the broker, you understand the OM, I say yes.
Feras Moussa: Oh, you had the floor plan. Yes, we had that for the floor plan. You go back to the OM and grab the floor plan that [inaudible 31:56]—
Feras Moussa: –time and effort on.
James: Yes, yes, we did a floor plan and the logo from the OM, that’s it.
Ben Suttles: There you go.
James: So, it’s interesting. And so, the type of deals that you guys do, I mean, where do you categorize it? Value add deep value add or [inaudible 32:14] yield play or core type of tails.
Feras Moussa: I mean right now we’re focused on value add. I mean we would like to do a more, really to me, the ideal deal for us now or given where we are given, our network, et cetera. It’s really kind of that B minus space. Right? We’ve done the heavy value add, it’s a lot of work. Right? And those skills have worked out. They performed, but for us, I mean it’s just she consumes you, right to some degree. And so, we’re trying to less of those and we try to vary it up. Right. Always have a value add going on, having a stabilized going on. Just cause from a bandwidth perspective, right, we can kind of handle one at a time, but we don’t want to take on three big value add the one time because then he would get lost in that. And so, I think for us we’re typically in that C plus B minus space is really the focus for us.
Ben Suttles: Yes, yes.
Feras Moussa: One day we’ll do an ADL but not in, but not– but it’s about matching it to the right equity pool. Right. If we have equity that’s okay with the lesser returns. Right. We can go do a B plus or a minus. But so far, we’ve been kind of in the C plus B minus space.
Ben Suttles: Yes. Yes.
James: Got It. Got It. So, what about that, that strategy? Do you guys do only agency Loan, Bridge, Bridge through an agency?
Ben Suttles: I think we’re doing all this. It’s really deals dependent. Right. Do you know what I mean? I think the bridge has gotten a little bit of a bad rap. I mean there’s, there obviously you have to be careful with it, right? You have to understand that your exit strategy, you have to be able to hit those targets in terms of, especially if it’s a value add, tell him the hair on it, which is, it’s going to with a bridge, right? You got to be able to hit those timetables in terms of your construction, your rehab in order to refi out of it quickly. And then at the best price point that you can write, because obviously, you don’t want to have to bring money to the table. So, we’ll do a little bit of the bridge, but for the most part, where everyone, just like every other smart operator, you’re looking for agency debt when you can.
But at the end of the day, we’re looking to maximize returns for our investors. And so sometimes, going bridge versus agency has been a better way in order to do that. And people understand that there’s a little bit higher of risk tolerance with those. But we always get a three-year term with two years’ extension. So, at the end of the day, it’s still five years on a bridge that, it’s not something like an 18-month deal. So, I think that that gives people a little bit of, they feel a little bit better about it as well. But we’ve done agency all the way up to 12 years too. So, it’s a little bit about, just depends on the deal.
Feras Moussa: Yes. For anyone listening, I mean I think we have a Ph.D. in the agency space. Unfortunately, we’ve had issues that people that do 50 deals never hit. So, we’ve seen it all. And so, if anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out. But we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on the dead space. So, it’s, you kind of, you work through those problems, right? If you get the closing, which is the good news, but then you kind of learn from it and you know, start to figure out what are the things that could be learned from this to basically avoid the situation in the future. Right. We’ve had, we’ve really seen a variety of things. Unfortunately–
James: Oh, let’s talk about–
Feras Moussa: –that’s where Ben lost all this hair.
Ben Suttles: Just one. Just one lender, which I’ll tell if you want to email me, I’ll tell you which linear it was.
James: Okay, tell me the worst story with an agency, just let’s just go–
Feras Moussa: The worst agency story. I’ll tell you one, and this is one near and to you James. So, it’s in San Antonio.
Feras Moussa: San Antonio deal its a, a deal that pencils in really well. And for those of you that know on the agency side, right? With a standing loan, you can do what’s called fully delegated, which means that fanny lets the dust lender, which in our case could be Arbor, could be haunted, it can be any variety of them. For us, it was an Arbor deal and lets them operate in the wrong capacity, right. To some degree. And so, there’s kind of a box. As long as they’re within the box, Arbor could approve the deal, no questions asked. Well yes, we’re like three weeks from closing pretty much at the finish line. Money’s in the bank. Well, we’re already looking at the next field that we had to go on and then kind of going back, what happened was that because it’s the San Antonio deal and the deal pencils in really, really well, right from a financial perspective, the lender said, well hey, we can go get your five years IO.
And we didn’t think much of it. Right. It was like, okay, that’s fine. Well, at least we’ll back out to where we are today because we run the road at one-year IO. Well, long story short, this deal essentially used to be on a watch list three years ago. The sellers are only deal in San Antonio. They struggled with it. Plus, it was kind of whenever they’re in the midst of a lot of rehabs. So, he got on the watch list, it wasn’t on the watch list the past few years. And that whole you, that market better than we do James. And that whole area has really turned around from where it was three years ago. But guess what, it was already flagged by Fannie and they just wanted to essentially get it off their books. Right. And so, this is something very, I actually did this just the other day where I, I was talking to a broker about a deal and asked him was the saber on a watch list.
Feras Moussa: That’s something I’ve learned to ask now because and what sucks about it is that once a lender, a dus lender, this gets Arbor went to fanny, right? Once Fannie times in, Fannie is the authority, right?
Ben Suttles: Versus if we would have just not ever done that, we could have closed the deal agency with Arbor, no questions asked. And so, it’s a very unique situation. I don’t know anyone that’s actually ever encountered that. Right. But these kinds of things do happen. And so just knowing that they can happen, figure on how much risk you want to take because we would have been happy with what we had– what we could have closed. Right. We were happy with the one-year IO. That was great. That was fine. But it’s your kind of get a little bit more than that and then now completely bag of worms. So.
James: Yes, I learn, even I learned about this watch list, last week when was looking at another dealer then someone says, Oh, I backed out because of watch list, I say what is that? Right? Then we realize there are so many other issues with the deal. Right? So that’s crazy. Yes. I mean for listeners, just FYI most dus lenders, they have one-year authority on a delegated underwriting. So within, if they give one-year IO, they don’t have to go back to Fannie Mae and get approval. But once they go above that they have to go to Fannie Mae. And a lot of things can change when you go to Fannie Mae.
Feras Moussa: Yes. So, I have learned that there are different tiers. Right? So, there’s the tier two, tier three. So, if you’re at higher leverage that can only give you one. But if you’re willing to go down to 65% they can actually approve 5 years IO, no questions.
Feras Moussa: So, you start to learn. And again, why did I learn that from a different deal? So, start to understand really the mechanics of what’s going on behind the scene. And this is where having the right mortgage broker makes all the difference, right? They can help steer you in the right direction and help catch some of these. So, I mean for the– for the watch list, the sellers were actually more pissed that we were about the whole, they didn’t think that was going to be an issue in terms of us getting the next one. Right.
Feras Moussa: And they never thought to just close it. You don’t think it’s going to be an issue.
Ben Suttles: No, they thought it was off too.
Feras Moussa: Yes.
Ben Suttles: But, do you know what I mean? I think there’s that just like, like our earlier part of the conversation. Right. You know, we’re project managing these things, things are going to pop up. So, we were able to make it through that process–
Ben Suttles: –and still come out on top in terms of the debt. But yes, I mean we’re always looking to maximize returns and risk and minimize risk for our investors. And I think that having this different background and different debt products and having a good experience with some of these different lenders really gives us a good broad overview of the debt market and which deals are going to make sense where, and I think that that’s huge when you’re looking at who to invest your money with, because know some people, let’s be honest. So, they’ll just go straight to Fannie, if it’s not Fannie or if it’s not Fannie then I’m not doing it. Right.
Ben Suttles: But I think sometimes you’re missing out on opportunities there as well.
James: So, wasn’t, like three weeks before closing, didn’t you guys had a rate lock at that time?
Feras Moussa: No, we’re supposed to [inaudible 40:01] lock a few days later.
James: Oh okay.
Feras Moussa: Like little, they’re just waiting on the final. Oh, because they went to Fannie, Fannie kind of asked– this is where really, I think we could have– it’s about positioning the story. Right. Again, I think the lender just went in thinking that it’s going to be easy down the middle because really that’s what they told us. Right?
Feras Moussa: They didn’t even bother. We had a great story for the deal, for the sponsorship team. They tried to do it retroactively and kind of wants Fannie comes in it’s really hard to change. But we were literally at the point of rate locking and getting, being done with the steel. Like we will do, so.
James: Yes. [crosstalk 40:36].
Feras Moussa: You do full 360 and charge full 180 and change things and kind of Redo. So, in my mind, it was really, we did, it took us to close if get that deal done.
James: Yes, it’s, yes, it’s, it’s a day just to do it at the end because you’re almost at the closing table. Right. So,
Ben Suttles: Yes.
Feras Moussa: Yes. So, so in that situation, just maybe to complete the story, right. The seller realized kind of what happened. They gave us more time, right? They gave us another 30 days they knew that wasn’t really for lack of use or lack of anything that we did. And so, we’re able to buy more time and then redo the process and kind of, get to where we needed to be.
James: So, did you do a different loan?
Feras Moussa: Yes. So that one we call back every investor because I mean we basically what we did Arbor realized the mistake that they made, which was they should not have gone to the lender, tell Fannie, they should have just closed. And so, they basically gave us a balance sheet loan, right? Which is like a bridge loan on their books that essentially, the short term just to get it off of Fannie’s book, —
Ben Suttles: –then in nine months. Right. So, for us, we kind of turned it into a value add reprice scenario. Right.
Feras Moussa: And so, when that case, we will, nine months, 12 months, somewhere around there. Right. We’re also pushing our NOI as hard as you can. We’ll refi, pull equity out and get back into a panty permanent loan.
James: Got it.
Feras Moussa: And so, but the deal changed, right? And so, we had to call every investor, tell every investor here’s what changed, here’s what happened. Then thankfully pretty much everyone stayed in the deal. Right? So that kind of– for us that it’s a sigh of relief. But also, it’s like, everyone just doubled down on us. Right? So, we’re–
Ben Suttles: –going to get babysat through the finish line.
James: Yes, the amount of pressure for you to go, on the contact to rate lock it so much. Right. So, I mean, I don’t know, I mean– there’s a lot of pressure on, responsibility. You have so much money tied, and you are under the gun and you have all your reputation out there. You are doing the deal, investors are looking at you, you are to be a leader. You have very strong leaders. So.
Ben Suttles: Yes.
James: Yes, it’s a lot of work.
Feras Moussa: Absolutely.
James: So, kind of back to value add, right? So, you guys do value add strategy. So, what’s your, what do you think is the most valuable value add?
Ben Suttles: I think, ultimately, what tenants care most about, right? I mean, whenever you’re doing value add, unfortunately, you have to cure a lot of [inaudible 42:52]. You have to do a lot of things that you not going to get the best return on your investment on. But the two things that tenants care about, first being their interiors. So, what was actually in my unit, the second thing that they care about is amenities, right. Probably a distance second. Most of the time with the workforce housing, they’re caring about what their units look like. And I think that’s where you’re going to get the best return on your investment when you’re doing value add. And then you can obviously update and add on amenities as a secondary thing to that. But unfortunately, with those value adds, you got to do things like roofs and HVAC replacement and other things that just people just say, hey if I’m renting from you, I expect that to be working.
So, you know, but you might be spending a hundred or two hundred grand on some of this stuff, right? So, your return on investment is almost nothing, but you have to do it. So, you’ve got to balance those two things, right? You’ve got to work in curing that deferred maintenance along with how do I push the NOI and the revenue side by, really updating the property for the way that the tenants are looking at it. So, I mean that’s kind of how we look at every value-add play that we do. A combination of those two things.
Feras Moussa: So, James, is your question really specific about ROI? Like what are the things that we putting kind of deferred maintenance aside, what other things would we do to really try to maximize our return?
James: Yes, other than deferred maintenance, like the roof and all the big stuff [crosstalk 44:21].
Feras Moussa: Yes, so I mean it’s, its properties specific, right? It’s really depending on the asset, what it looks like currently and what is the market doing right now? That said from our experience, right? The most common thing, flooring, two-tone paint, right? And pimping out the kitchen some degree. Right? And you can go as crazy as replacing all the cabinets or you really replacing the front or even just putting fixtures, right? Like for us, fixtures are definitely cheap. Easy to do. It gives a different, pop to the thing, right? Flooring almost always, painted and really two-tone paint. It’s important. And the other thing too that we like to do is really putting a backsplash. You can do backsplashes with this kind of stick on backsplash, really, really cheap to do per unit. And it gives the kitchen, which is usually known the seventies, eighties build kitchen, a bit of Pop, right? It gives it something to modernize it. Right? We didn’t go as far as putting granted in. Right. But you are putting that in kind of coupled with a resurfacing. It actually looks pretty good. And then, the obvious is white and black appliances. Right?
James: So, let’s say–
Feras Moussa: And that’s all, white, black or aluminium.
James: Let’s say how the interiors, right. So, let’s say you guys lost for some reason you thought you had 100% of your interior budget, but now you need like 50% of the budget. What would you focus on, on the interior?
Ben Suttles: Yes, if the property needed any flooring or paint. Right? [crosstalk 45:38] Those are important things to think.
Feras Moussa: Yes, I mean, you got appliances too right, but I mean appliances, you’re going to be two x in your interior budgeted, just adding those in. But a lot of people they take, there’s a price difference between white and black appliances are really not, but there’s a perception that they’re a little bit higher quality. So, you can even do that too. Right? You got to replace the appliances, but you don’t have a whole big budget for that. You can just go from white to black to and I think that adds a nice pop too.
James: Yes, that’s a really good point. I mean I realize a lot of times if you give them even white, really nice appliances, people are happy. Right?
Ben Suttles: No. Yes, you can do, right. It’s– I mean, but like, you’ll see people like, they’re just ecstatic that they’ve got black appliances. Right now, the market is about the same in terms of pricing.
Ben Suttles: So, but it’s just a perception thing or just, like I said, backslash 150 bucks.
Ben Suttles: [crosstalk 46:38].
Feras Moussa: Let me turn the question around to you, James. Would you, the same question to you, right, would you do the same thing, or would you do something else?
James: So, we, so for me, I think my most valuable value add would be just giving them good management, right? So, there are so many bad operators out there, which is mismanaging not respecting the tenants, not taking care of it. So, we just want to make sure, really good management that’s on the management side. But if you go back to the interiors, I would say, of course, we do the appliances and we do the painting and flooring. That’s what we would, I would say the most, so, but I think, a lot of people just love having good management people who take care of them. Everything–
Ben Suttles: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they want to feel comfortable and who miss their right. People that understand what’s going on. I mean, that’s to me, and that’s why for all of our properties, we’re big people, putting, doing parties, doing tenant events, pretending retention vents. Because from the operations side, right. This is, you have the backdoor and you have the front door, right? You don’t have people renewing, right. You’re going to have delinquency problems, not a delinquency problem, you’re going to have an oxygen problem, right? And so really keeping people happy, renewing, right. Well, then it makes it easier on the front end to start the push friends, right? Because you have people that are enjoy working there, living there. Right. You know, for another 10, $20. Sure enough, it’s more than the cost of moving. Right. And so that’s absolutely.
James: Yes. I think at the end of the day the tenants just want to be felt appreciated. That you just– so many properties out there. You don’t have to be being mismanaged.
Ben Suttles: Yes, clean, quality, safe housing, man. I mean, it seems so easy and the way that I describe it, but so many operators, I’ve just run some of these properties in the ground and they don’t take care of it. Right? And so, the tenants, therefore, don’t consider home and they don’t take care of it. So when you get a good operator, I know you get a good management company in there and they showed that they’re taking care of the property, then by default you’re going to get more loyal 10 tenants, you’re going to have people that are going to be more apt to take a renewal increase, cause they like, they like coming home again. Right? It’s home.
Ben Suttles: Versus just a place just to sleep.
James: Yes. Yes. I think one of the episodes, maybe episode five or six, I interviewed, Addie Lauren from California strategic alliance and he had been doing this for 30 years, more than 1 billion in a transaction. And he told me very simple, clean, basic and functional quality is what his motto is that’s it. Right?
Ben Suttles: You don’t have to get; you don’t have to be creative about it. Right. I mean, you know, the space that we plan is essentially workforce housing. I mean, across our whole entire portfolio, our average rents are less than a thousand bucks, right. So, folks aren’t looking for crazy amenities and crazy things even in their interiors. They just want a good quality place to come home to and then, and the management side is a big piece of that too.
James: Correct, correct, correct.
Ben Suttles: Yes, she bought up a good point.
Feras Moussa: And then another thing too with good management, right. You get lower delinquency. So, for us, I mean that’s night and day. We had a deal that we, one of our heavy value add deals where essentially where we were, I went back and looked at numbers July versus where we are today. We have three times more revenue collected than we will, we did before total, like literally straight revenue you and that’s a combination of, cutting back the delinquency, bringing units, align, updating. But I mean, it’s, once people know that it’s, someone taking care of the property and enjoying it, people want to stay there.
All right. People are eating $200 rep push because guess what, this place has been completely turned around. It’s more family oriented and even just bringing more families on board helps to come back for delinquency. So, for us really looking at how do you build that community and some people really cheap about it, but like, hosting these parties is you, I mean, do the math, right? How much does it cost to go get a hundred hot dog and a hundred burgers? Right?
Feras Moussa: I mean it’s very, very cheap, right? To be there and grill it out, have like a little patio, you know, a party, whatever it is. These things are almost, you know, half of the units rented a month, right. It’s kind of thing. And so, they’re almost rounding errors, errors where we are, but guess what? It changes the dynamics in the property. And so, I mean, some people don’t really– people are very short-sighted. I see. And really it has a much bigger kind of longer-term impact.
Ben Suttles: And I think going along with the value add, right? I mean, you know, a lot of what we’re doing is repositioning the property too, which is kind of where you’re going with this James. Is bringing in better management. You’re getting a better tenant profile at the same time too. So that’s part of the value-add strategy as well, so once you, and once you show them that you care, you’ve got tenants in there that care than the properties just starts performing. There’s a whole– the energy shifts are palpable. Do you know what I mean? You go from a bad energy deal to a very good energy deal and you have less delinquency. Yes. Better occupancy people more apt to take a renewal increase and you can, you can rent that out more easily because people that prospective tenants that are walking around fuel that same thing too. So that’s a huge part of what we do. We don’t like to focus the value add just on the what the aesthetic of the property to, it’s how you manage it and tenants that you have in there as well. A huge part of it.
James: So, you guys operators, which is the definition. What I mean is very active asset management because you know the details of what’s happening on the side by side. Right. So, is that a correct assumption? Right? So.
Ben Suttles: Absolutely.
Feras Moussa: Yes, absolutely.
James: How do you guys manage this third-party property management companies?
Feras Moussa: Man, that’s, that’s part of the secret sauce. But I mean, it’s really is nothing to it. There’s nothing secret about it. So, we have an asset manager now that we’ve brought in who very experienced, 20 plus years if families a property, he manages family really. And so that’s starting to help, but we plan to keep a pulse in general on what’s going on in every deal. And so, for us, it’s really about putting systems in place with each of your property managers, right? And having accountability. Right? And so, we have not brought in property management in house, but we’ve been successful with managing our property managers. Right? Yes. And it’s a partnership, right? It’s not like they’re your employee. You really need to get on the level of like where they understand like, hey, we’re partnering, we’re growing together. Right? And so, they’ve seen that, and you know, yes. Identify the good property managers from the batch. So, there’s a whole betting cycle. I don’t want to get too far into, but really, we have the weekly calls, we have the weekly reports come in at a certain time. We have certain expectations that within a few days we expect them to follow up with hearing all the action items and did these all get done? Yes or no? Why not? Right? And how do we, I can keep them accountable, so.
Ben Suttles: Yes, it’s all about obviously keep it to an agenda, keep into the processes that we put in place to templates and checklists. And we’re very upfront when we get into a partnership with these property management companies that this is what we expect, that this is when we expect it. Right. And then we, like we said, we keep them accountable through–
Feras Moussa: And this is the format that we expect, that these are the numbers that we need and sent out.
Feras Moussa: Just to help us track everything the way we want. And then you learn from it. Right. We’re not perfect. It’s not, it’s an iterative process, right. Anytime we identify something that we can improve from one property manager, we applied to the portfolio. The nice thing is really is that having different property managers, we see the strengths and weaknesses of each property manager and you figure out how do we make them all better and so what things can we do across the board to make everything better?
Ben Suttles: Yes.
James: So, can you name like three things that you guys always look out for in the property management performance? When you realize that someone of these three things is not going well, things are not going right.
Feras Moussa: Oh Man. I would say renewals is the lowest hanging fruit. Look and understand what’s going on in renewals and how important it is because early renewals are indicative of a lot of other things. Are they following up with tenants for the renewal? Right. Did they really? That’s just a– that’s the number that you can kind of look at and realize that there must be other problems going on. I would say that’s my answer. I don’t know about you, Ben.
Ben Suttles: No, I think, yes, I think you’re right, man. Totally. Yes. I think my biggest, my biggest hanging out in delinquency because it’s like that’s the properties money. Like you know, go out there, how are you going to collect the rent that is owed? And so, when you start seeing that slipping and we’re increasing, that’s my big red flag that hey, there’s something going on here, right?
As our management on site, not, not doing their job, or are we getting bad tenants in there that aren’t capable of paying the rent that we’re asking of them may be what’s the, there’s a, there’s usually a bigger problem going on, but yes, I mean all of these, these metrics we expect on our Monday morning report. And so, we’re looking at each of these things weekly and we’re also having follow-up calls throughout the week to either our asset management or asset manager or us or having calls with the property manager to track these things. So, it’s not like a weekly thing. And that we don’t have any kind of insight into what’s happening for the rest of the week. If there’s a challenge, we’re having a follow-up call that week about it as well.
James: Okay. So, do you convert like renewal to percentage and look at, give that as a goal, that what you guys delinquency at two percentage and give that as a goal?
Feras Moussa: It’s a balancing act depending on how hard you’re pushing. Right? So, it’s not like you can just say, hey, we expect 50% renewals across the board. I think it’s really, it’s deal specific and I mean we’re looking at renewals, we’re looking at least as we’re looking at delinquency, right? We’re looking at how much traffic came in versus how much leases got closed and then going in and really both on leases, we didn’t close. What’s the story? What’s the story? What’s the story? Sometimes there are cases where you, maybe you, no, you can go save that, that person. Similarly, on the delinquency, we go through what’s this person’s story? Are they going to pay? Cause really in Atlanta, our delinquency is higher than it isn’t and Texas, right? It’s just by nature of the market. And so, you, you kind of need to be more flexible in one market versus the other. And so really go through and understand what’s the story behind me. Just like whenever we, you asked me earlier about the properties, how we analyse it, you’re looking for that story. And so, we talked through each one of these and figure out what makes sense to kind of do moving forward. Because to us, it is very different between different properties.
Ben Suttles: Yes, and I, I would say targeted for delinquency, right? It’s always zero. And do you know what I mean? So, the property management companies will say, oh yes, we got zero across our whole portfolio, I’m like, yes right. Do you know what I mean? Not, not the workforce housing stuff. So, you got to be realistic. But I would say your target, there’s probably one to 2%, you know, on a stabilized property if you’re dealing in the workforce housing space that we are and so that’s usually the metric that we’re pushing towards. But on the renewal side too. One thing I want to point out, right? When you’re doing a heavy value add and you’ve got a lot of interior budget to kind of burn through and you have units that you need to update too, right? You’re not going to be chasing after those folks as aggressively as you would on a stabilized property because maybe you don’t have a lot of down units are a lot of vacancies and you need to free up, you know, units actually update them, right?
So, you’re not going to be as aggressive in renewing those folks. So, we’ve been able to connect like Feras says, right? I mean, you don’t want to, you’re not going to burn that bridge completely. So, you’re constantly looking at occupancy, versus how much, how many units are we supposed to be turning a month in order to hit that target of, 60, 70, 80 units a year. Right. Because people have, people aren’t moving out. What are we going to do? We can’t sit on the money and there’s usually a finite amount of time that we can, we can actually use that cash. So.
Feras Moussa: To expand on Ben’s point too. It’s almost like, we have a deal where we almost went the opposite. We don’t want renewal. And what I mean by that is that one of our deals in Atlanta, we’ve pushed rents an insane amount on this deal. Like we’re probably up 30% honestly, you know, 30 40% and we still have 98% occupants are choke when they’re property managers at one day on the call, it felt to 97 and a half. And then, we called her out on it like, Oh, you’re at 97 and a half, you’re not a 98% anymore. And she’s like, no, no, I just had someone who fucking renewed. She’s back at 98, but in that deal, we have interior budgets that we need to go spend. We were literally just sitting on the side-lines. Right. Trying to, so you were kind of that balancing act is because we knew what was below market. Right. And figure out, where can we land on to where we have some people not renewing and we can go in and actually spend the money to even get, you know, that better push.
James: Yes. I think you need to look for where is the base rank, where’s the base rank before you really go and spend all that rehab money. Otherwise, you can’t be spending, spending, spending.
Ben Suttles: Exactly.
James: You don’t know where’s your base. Where is your starting point? Right. So, yes, I’ve had properties where we didn’t even spend, we have the money yet, but we already bumped up just because people like it just because we are just a better operator than the previous guy. Right. So, —
Ben Suttles: And you’ll get that. Right. Do you know what I mean? You’ll just, you’re amazed that how much they’ll take it on renewal too. And that’s great. You know, I mean, I just think it’s a balancing act sometimes, but yeah, you have that, you have to kind of see where the market is and, and obviously be strategic with those dollars as well.
James: Yes, correct. Correct. That’s right. So, can you give us some advice on how do you choose third-party property management? Because you guys are going in multiple markets, right? How would you give them expectations? Because a lot of, I’m sure a lot of property management company don’t like, active asset managers. I couldn’t control, [inaudible 59:57] I guess.
Ben Suttles: Well, hey now. [crosstalk 01:00:01].
Feras Moussa: Ben. I think, yes, I think.
James: [inaudible 01:00:04].
Feras Moussa: Well I will say though all of our property managers literally, you ask them, they say we’re one of their favourites.
James: Oh okay.
Feras Moussa: So, let’s not because we’re active or inactive. [crosstalk 01:00:15]. Well, it’s, we’re doing maybe some of it, but it’s more so that we’re realistic. Right. I think what I was surprised to hear from them as a lot of people will just sell their property may, here’s your budget, here’s what you have to go, you know, accomplish. And sometimes it’s not realistic. Right. I said before any of your deals because we’ve already worked on a budget with a property manager, we have an agreement on what that looks like, what the plan is, and we’re not just picking numbers out of a hat just to make our deal work. Right. And really kind of do it the other way around. And then, yes, whenever issues come up, we’re both, I mean, I hope people on the audience, I get this impression. Ben and I are pretty level headed, pretty easy to work with. And so, they understand things happen. And so, the property management companies, at least they enjoy because we’re easy to get a hold of. We understand what’s going on the deal. And we’re realistic. And so, because I’ve asked them and pretty much all of them have said that we’re one of, we’re one of their favourites. Right. And so, —
Feras Moussa: Now, that said, maybe to answer your question, Ben, do you want to answer? Do you want me to answer?
Ben Suttles: I mean, I, I think, I mean, you’ve got to be stern, but at the same time, you can have a friendly relationship with them at the same time. Right. But I think it’s all about setting the right expectations and just betting them in general. I think it’s, it’s all you usually start off with referrals. Right?
Ben Suttles: But I think some of the big things are as, go take a look at some of their properties too. Go secret shop those deals, so you’re going to say, okay, hey you, you’re a good referral on whatever market. Right. Give me three of the assets that you, and then you fly out there and you go shopping. What does the property look like? Is it clean? Is the management, is the leasing agent and the manager, are they friendly, are they knowledgeable of the property?
Are they good or are they leasing it properly? All of these things go back to the property management side and, and as long as that’s, that’s kind of coalesces with what you’ve heard about them and everything. That is good. Obviously, the fee has to be online and those roles have, the references have to be there. But I think the biggest, the biggest asset test for us is, vetting the deals that they currently have, and do we like what we see, and they call them out, right? I mean, if they don’t, if there’s a deficiency saying, hey we went to Xyz property and there’s trash on the ground, what’s the deal with that and then how do they respond to that? Because that’s going to be, — there are always challenges, but it’s how you respond to those challenges is what I’m looking for on the property management side.
Feras Moussa: And then a couple of things too, just to add, I mean it’s about what’s kind of, what’s the impression and feeling you’re getting from them? Right. And, and working on a budget with a property management company is actually a great exercise to understand how they look at things and how are they going to meet what you’re looking for. And I mean that in multiple, always, right? A, are they, — is their budget realistic? Right. And B, is there pushback? I mean we actually like when they push back, right? If we say, well we think we can run payroll at x amount and they’re like, well no, payroll is going to be this amount. Here are the 10 properties we have nearby to prove it. Right? That’s good. Versus we’ve had property managers that are essential yes people, right? That’ll say yes to everything and that’s not at all what you want because we need something realistic.
We’re not trying to, we have millions of dollars at stake, we have other people’s money. We’re not here to just take a gamble. So, looking at that and kind of what we’ve found success in is really the people that are in that five to 15,000-unit range, right? The 40,000 guys in too much, they don’t care about you. The guys that are smaller, there’s just a lot of them. You know this first-hand. There’s a lot of back offices that need to happen for a successful property management company. Right. And so, we found that sweet spot seems to be that five to 15 and then to where there our portfolio is enough volume for them, right? That we kind of get that professional preferential treatment where needed and at the same time, right, they’re developed enough to be able to, kind of take on and succeed with it.
James: Got It. Got It. Very interesting, very interesting. So, let me ask some question about more the personal side, right? So maybe each one of you can add in on your own site. So, what’s, what do you think is the top three things that are the secret sauce, for the success that you guys have been having in terms of closing deals?
Ben Suttles: All right. Go for it man.
Feras Moussa: Partnerships and relationships, right? Most important, first and foremost, right? Being willing to partner with brokers, property managers, other partners, partners, right? On the GP. People that can help us, would the deal, right? Whether it’s helping with construction, helping with equity or whatever it is. I think that’s been one thing. Another one is just differentiating ourselves a little different, right? Doing things, a little bit different than what the norm is, right? Not doing the same thing as everyone else. Finding ways to be unique, right? Whether it’s, putting on our conference, whether it’s formatting or emails a certain way, doing our webinars a certain way, right? We really do look at how do you do these things differently. And then third, I’d say, I mean, I mean, maybe it’s going back to the basics. Running it like a business, right?
A lot of people, it’s a side hustle, right? But really, it’s a business. There’s a method to the madness and doing things in that way, right? Our goal is to do a hundred deals. Our goal is not to do one, two, three deals from retire, right? And so how do you build up the track record for that? How do we, keeping our fee structure simple, right? We’re, we don’t have 10 fees like some people do, right? Our goal is really simple fee structure because again, we’re not out to just, make it quick, fuck on one or two deals and then disappear. And so, I think I’d say those are the, maybe the three, three things that we’ve done that have helped us kind of succeed.
James: Do you want to add?
Ben Suttles: Yes. And, and just, add onto what Feras, I mean those are, those are probably my top three. I’ll just add a few extra ones that I kind of see.
Feras Moussa: I made it hard for Ben.
Ben Suttles: I know right. Yes. I think the biggest thing for your listeners is that you got to take action. Right. Do you know what I mean? We can, we can hear about it, we can read about it, we can go to conferences and see other people talk about it. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to get out there and you got to start talking to brokers. You’ve got to start underwriting deals. So, you guys start making offers. And if you’re, if you’re not willing to work and do and go the extra mile and you’re never going to be successful in this business. And I think that’s where I and Feras or we’re burning the candle at both ends. I mean, we’re working evenings and weekends and 12-hour days. And some people just aren’t willing to do that, right? They’re not willing to put in the work and take action and get it done.
So, I think that that’s another thing, that’s another reason why I think we’ve been successful too. Right? And I think, going back to running it as a business too, I think the other thing is we’re pouring all of the money into the business as well to improve those processes and then, and establish a good platform that we can then grow the business even bigger in the future. And I think a lot of people, they do one or two or three deals, they retire, then they’re taking all the money out of those one or two or three deals, and then they really can’t build from there. There, there’s no foundation because they’ve taken it all away. And so, I think that’s another thing that disrupts equity has done a very good job at it. We’ve poured all the money back into making disrupt equity better and then continuing to improve on that. And I think that’s another thing that differentiated us from some other folks that are in the space.
Ben Suttles: So.
James: Interesting. So, let me ask one, two questions, but I’m going to ask each one of you at the same time. So why do you do what you’re doing right now, right? What’s your big why? And describe some, you know, some important habits that you take in your life that’s making that success happen.
Ben Suttles: So, I’m going first on this one, man.
Feras Moussa: All Right.
James: He insists.
Feras Moussa: But I can say, yes, a bit.
James: [inaudible 01:07:58].
Feras Moussa: Whatever Ben said.
James: No, no, it’s individual.
Ben Suttles: No, no. The why is important for everybody, every individual out there, right? You’ve got a why and I think mine is my family, right? I, I’m out of here right now while I’m young hustling so I can buy back time, so I can, I can retire and I’m putting that in quotations in three to five years because I’m never going to retire. Right? But I want to, you want to get to a point where you could do the business when you want to do the business from wherever you want to do the business. Right? This is not, you don’t always unless you’re just doing the property tour or you’re doing your due diligence, everything else can be remote. So, for us, we want to get to that point. So, my why is I’ll put in the time now so I could spend more time with my family, even more, time with my family and be able to provide for them, wherever I was, not being able to be provided to whenever I was growing up.
Right. So, you’re always wanting to give your children more than what you got when you were younger. And that’s, that’s my biggest thing too, right. And to show them that you can build something from scratch and go out and be successful in this country. And I think that that’s important to show your children as well. So that’s another big why for me.
James: What about daily, daily habits?
Ben Suttles: I think daily habits, I think for my perspective, I think it’s, it’s all about time blocking. I’m a big proponent of this and I’m to, it’s a struggle, right? Everybody has to continue to do that, but you need to, you need to time block your day out for specific things because otherwise, you’ve got messages coming in, you’ve got text messages, you got phone calls, you’ve got meetings, you’ve got emails, you got all these different things, right? We need to say, okay, from nine to 10 I’m going to just do this, and you completely block out the rest. And then from 10 to 11, I’m going to do this, right? And that is really, — and once again, it’s a constant, it’s a struggle. I’m still improving on that. But as I’ve gotten better at that, it’s got easier.
And then also the other thing that I’m a big proponent of, this is just an action item list. Every day before I leave the office, I’m writing out a list of important things that I need to be doing. And I stick to that very rigidly too, right? I mean, if I get to the end of the day and I haven’t done something, I’m like, okay, I, that’s not one of the things I’m just going to roll over. Right. Maybe there’s a reason why I had it on that day. And so, I stick to that. A lot of this can be automated too. I’ve just jot it down because it just helps me memorize it. But for me, I think those two things have really helped me structure my day where I’ve been more productive, then I was in the past and so that’s kind of helped me grow and be able to multitask and do some of the stuff that we’ve done in the commercial real estate space.
James: Feras, yours?
Feras Moussa: All right. So, Ben kind of took my thunder but it’s the same why right? Family and kind of doing that. The other one part. Yes. I don’t want to go too far into that one. The other thing too, to me is just the challenge, right? Building a successful large company from thin air, for lack of a better word, right? Where people will enjoy coming to work, work there. And at the same time, you’re providing income to all the employees, you’re providing good housing, all the tenants and you know, being able to take on that deep value add where you take the diamond, sorry, not the diamond, you taking the rough poverty in the area and turning it into the diamond. Right? And seeing kind of the, just to the tenant’s eyes light up. Right. That’s actually, I didn’t expect that I guess, but from one of our deals we did, it was actually pretty cool to see where they just enjoy, living there. Right. I mean from where it was before. So, kind of to me the combination of the two, it’s pretty awesome to experience and see. That’s probably the other why.
James: What about your daily habits?
Feras Moussa: Daily habits, man system sizing the hell out of everything. So, bringing software into things where I can and keeping everything accounted for and measured and rolling forward. Right. And so, both personally and the company. And so, I don’t do yoga at 5:00 AM in the morning. I’d love to, I don’t, I’m, I’m not, I’m more of a night person than a morning person. Y’all be first to admit that I’d love to. Although I feel like I’ll admit, I need to be better about consistency, right. With my schedule. But I mean definitely, time blocking. That’s important. I think most Ben and I do that right. We’re basically Ben, it doesn’t work from five to seven and then I don’t work from seven to nine. The rest of the 22 hours we work. No, but we, time blocking is important. Okay. Keeping everything track because the sausage making for its indication. I mean it’s a lot of project management going back to what we started, the conversational, right. Keeping everything diligently tracked in. Yes. To where you don’t drop the ball on something because guess what, your investors see that your property managers see that. Your partners see that. And so, whenever they see that things don’t get dropped. Right. Creates a different dynamic.
James: Got it. Got it. Is there anything else that you guys want to share with the listeners that you think, hey, I want to share this because I think it’s a good tip and or have never shared it in any of the podcasts?
Feras Moussa: Well I’ll think about that one.
James: Now you guys are thinking?
Feras Moussa: [crosstalk 01:13:05] think about it.
Ben Suttles: Feras is going first on this.
Feras Moussa: Let’s see a big important tip. And it can be, I’m going to reiterate, it’s one I mentioned earlier softly, but the follow-up with the brokers, people keep saying there are no deals to be had, but it’s all timing. Did you call the broker on the right day that the deal happens to fall through and that now they are more motivated, right? An example or did you follow up whenever the deal blew up and the seller is really determined, right? Or is it the day that the broker’s going to lose the exclusive and they’re looking to get something in front of the seller? Right. So, the seller has to start over the process. I mean it’s, that’s how you find the deals and you really got to get out there having the conversations keep, — another thing we didn’t even talk about its CRM and tracking notes of brokers and all that stuff. I mean my brokers are my friends, right? And I mean that not just from a business perspective but like, legitimately right. He’d try to build friendships, try to, I send them pictures of things. I do all this random stuff to build rapport, right? Just to be more front and top, front and centre and top of mind. That’s what helps you get the deals. And so, being willing to kind of go and about and do that I think is key to kind of finding deals right now in this environment.
Ben Suttles: And I think just as a good Segway for that, and I think on the equity side, I think what our investors are looking for and what all investors are looking for, right? It’s somebody that they’re genuine, they’re transparent, they’re open, they’re honest, and there, and they’re willing to answer some of these questions. A lot of these people that are getting into this space, they’re investing in deals, but they want it. They want to eventually probably do their own deals, right? So, they’re kind of trying to answer questions. And I’ve seen a lot of people that just, they blocked that out. They don’t answer questions or not helpful. And so, from us, we’re trying to go the extra mile with our investors and people that are looking to get into space and, we’re not doing any coaching or mentoring.
We have no desire to do that. But we answer a lot of questions. And I think that that has been very, very helpful for us, and lining up equity partners for our deals because people appreciate that type of stuff. So that, Feras kind of hand on how are we getting deals? And I’m kind of hitting on how we’re getting money and this stuff is not rocket science. It’s just, getting out there and actually just doing what you need to be doing. And there’s still stuff out there still deals out there.
James: Yes, yes, absolutely. And I think project management is something that, you know, if, if any listeners, you guys, I think that’s an important skill and if you’re working right now at number two job and for companies offering or if you want to go do some project management classes, it’s very, very useful, especially in real estate on a syndicated deal as well because everything is so many moving parts there. Right? So, thanks for coming for the show. And can you tell the listeners how can they find you guys? Where’s the best place and fastest way to get hold of you guys?
Ben Suttles: All right. All right, so go to our website, www.disruptequity.com is our website and then firstname.lastname@example.org. Feras@disruptequity.com. One thing that we didn’t want to mention, we do host, some conferences each year. We’re going to be in LA, June 22nd so, if he, if this drops before then or, or even after, then check us out msinvestornetwork.com. These are no sales pitch events or just bringing our friends up that are industry leaders, doing a lot of speaking a lot of panels and just give back a lot of knowledge that we’ve learned over the years in the space and people who enjoy that stuff. So, check us out on that website as well.
James: Okay. All right. Sounds good. Thank you, guys, for coming into the podcast and thanks for all the value that you guys give, and I think it was a really good discussion. There’s a lot of details being discussed, and I think, I’m sure the listeners will be appreciative of that. Thank you.
Ben Suttles: We appreciate you.
Feras Moussa: Thank you.