Edward “Eddie” Lorin founded Strategic Realty Holdings, LLC as a culmination of his years of experience in investment real estate and as an offshoot of Strategic Realty Capital (SRC), which he also co-founded. Since 2008, SRC has purchased over 15,000 units in more than 70 transactions valued at over $1 Billion, and has built a strong performing portfolio. All of SRC’s apartment assets were purchased opportunistically and successfully re-positioned into thriving communities. He is an affordable housing preservationist as co-founder of his venture Alliant Strategic to preserve and breathe new life into year 15 LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) properties. He is also the founder of Impact Housing REIT, a Reg A+ Crowdfunded Platform to buy and transform neglected apartment buildings into thriving communities that are affordable.
Title: Counting Pennies to Jack-in-the-Box to $1B in Transaction with Eddie Lorin
James: Hi, audience, welcome to Achieve Wealth Podcast, the podcast where we focused on value-add commercial real estate investment. Today we have a really awesome guest. His name is Eddie Lorin. Eddie founded Strategic Realty Holdings, it’s also an offshoot from Strategic Realty Capital, which was also cofounded by him. And since 2008, SRC, that’s the acronym, has purchased over 15,000 units, over 70 transactions valued over 1 billion and they’ve built a very strong performing portfolio. Hey, Eddie, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell our audience about things that I forgot to mention that I missed out.
Eddie: Hello audience. We have a very basic formula. We give people a clean, safe, affordable place to live. Treat them with respect and dignity, they stay, they pay, they refer their friends. That’s it, very simple. But it’s quite complicated as you know. There’s a lot that goes into sourcing deals, diligencing deals, financing them, closing them, executing a business plan, getting them stabilized, refinancing and it’s a whole big cycle that you’ll do in your sleep if you’ve done enough of them. But it’s not easy and that’s not for the faint of heart as we know.
James: Yeah. So what do you think about people coming in new into the business and want to do this business? I mean, what advice do you have for them?
Eddie: You better have some really, really good capital behind you. Today, it’s so hard, it’s so competitive to get deals closed without the money raised. It’s very difficult. It used to be you’d tie a deal up and any good deal would attract money, but it’s not always the case anymore. That’s the frustration. You gotta really be careful, you could get caught leaving deposits because you don’t get the money in time. So number one is you gotta have a big pile of capital and capital that you can make money with. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it anymore. It’s really a different market today.
James: So that’s completely different from my understanding. I thought now we are at the market peak, capital is very easy to find if you find a good deal. Is that wrong?
Eddie: No, absolutely incorrect. What is happening is that a lot of this money that’s supposedly on the sidelines raised money at 20 IRRs and they need to make a net of 15 to 17 so they say there’s a lot of capital there, but they can’t invest it in deals unless they can make money, which you don’t blame them. So unless you raise money now in the new normal like we’re doing a new fund and our pref is going to be 6% and we’re going to have a promote over six, now you can make some money, but if your pref is 10, forget it. So these people out there with the equity that’s sitting on the sidelines, they’re still looking for returns that don’t exist. So yes, there’s a lot of money on the sidelines, but try to get him to go in unless there’s blood on the streets, which there ain’t no more blood left.
James: So are you saying that the investors who used to get like 18 20% IRR actually is missing the whole point? I mean there’s no more deals like that anymore and you are going much lower returns.
Eddie: Yeah, you have to. And finding that capital, that’s patient appreciative capital at a lower cost is the hard part.
James: Okay. So what do you advise for the people who are still waiting for that high investment return?
Eddie: Go find cheap capital.
James: How are you finding cheap capital?
Eddie: I do it every day and we talk to probably five, 10 people a day. We have CBREs or brokerage firm going out and talking to investors. We’re just banging the doors every day. It’s really hard; even for someone established like me.
James: So do you syndicate your deals? I mean from private investors or do you use private equity?
Eddie: Depends. I use institutional equity, I use private equity firms and we also syndicate individual deals, it just depends. Every deal has its own DNA and every deal has its own character and you have to decide per deal what you’re going to do and what your business plan because it will affect how long you sell it or hold it, whether you’re going to sell or refinance. The whole gamut needs to be taken into account and it’s all based on the cost of capital and the investor temperament.
James: So why don’t you take an approach of not doing deals right now since a lot of people expect a lot more returns right now?
Eddie: Well, like everyone, I have an engine to keep going and there’s never a good time to do a bad deal or a bad time to do a good deal. Doesn’t mean there are no opportunities, It’s just the returns are lower. Doesn’t mean they’re bad deals. With interest rates, the 10-year treasury is still at two and a half, what should you expect as an investor? You shouldn’t expect more current return than three or 400 bips with upside. So that means 6, 7%. But when people are looking for more, that means they’re in the middle so you need to go around the middlemen and go straight to the investors and that’s what is most important. And those investors have to be realistic and that’s the challenge.
James: So when you’re talking about middle man, you’re talking about people who raise money from investors and come to you because they are taking a cut?
Eddie: That’s right.
James: Got it. So you’re talking about the equity raises. Yeah. For me, we raise money directly from our investors.
Eddie: That’s great.
James: We usually don’t have a problem with the middle man taking a cut. But there are a lot of people who are doing equity raises, function nowadays, right?
Eddie: If they raise their money and it’s too expensive so they can’t do deals today and their money’s going to go back in a year or two. And then these investors are going to say, oh, well, I better get real, meaning the institutional investors.
James: Got it. Got it. So let’s go back to your business model, right? So you have done almost a billion dollars in transactions starting in 2008. Why was it starting in 2008? Is it because that was the bottom you identified and you started it?
Eddie: Well, I worked for another company that was part of the great recession and we all parted ways and scrambled and started over, that’s why.
James: Okay, okay. But how are you adapting enough to start in 2008 because that was the time where everything was low?
Eddie: Well, 2008 actually was still slipping. It was a falling knife. 2009 and 10 were really the bottom and we bought and flipped houses in 2008 and 9 because the deals weren’t making sense and the equity wasn’t there. But eventually, our first deal in Vegas in 2010, we paid 22 a door. 28 a door for a property in San Antonio in your backyard.
James: Wow! Yeah. I remember San Antonio when I was starting to buy it was like 35 or 40 and it started growing quickly to 50 55 within six months. It’s crazy.
Eddie: Yes. That’s right.
James: That’s interesting. So tell me about your business model because I mean every time I talked to you, this second, I’m talking to you, you are very, very passionate about giving people a good, safe housing and that’s it, right? Which is very, very important. And it’s hard to find people who are passionate about that. Can you tell me about your passion about why do you believe that’s an important objective for your business?
Eddie: Well, I grew up very poor and I know what it’s like to not be able to rub two nickels together to figure it out. It was a treat to count out $2 and 12 cents to go to Jack in the box. I remember those days and the humiliation associated with it. And everybody deserves a good place to live and to be with respect and dignity. So I’ve always taken pride in trying to take blight and make light. I think there’s value in creating thriving communities out of really dilapidated stuff. And to me, that’s my challenge and that’s how I create value. Any schmuck can buy a building and ride the market up. The real talent is buying something and seeing the value and the vision and executing a plan and taking that property from blight to light.
James: Got it. Got it. So how do you find that kind of deals nowadays? I mean, a lot of deals has been rehabbed multiple times.
Eddie: But some of them are still owned for 30 40 years. I’m looking at a deal in New Orleans, 37 years it’s been owned by the same family. As I said, there’s never a good time to do a bad deal or a bad time to do a good deal. You’ve got a nation full of a huge number of apartment complexes and there’s a ton of older owners that have bled to death in terms of cash flow and there’s 2- $300 in rent bumps potentially there and still remaining affordable. But getting that pop is only a result of them starving the property of capital. So when they’re ready to sell, then you can go in and refresh, it’s pretty simple. It’s just you got to look at it a lot more deals to find that works. But again, you must not be looking for 20 IRRs anymore, it doesn’t exist.
James: So you’ve been in that kind of deals where people own it for like 40 years, I mean, the sellers and the brokers are going to bump up the price. I mean even though there’s a value-add for the buyer, but I think the seller still have that because the market is so good.
Eddie: Did you go mute? There you are.
James: Okay. Sorry about that. So what I’m saying is even though the property has been owned for a long time, I think the brokers and the seller do expect a high price I guess, right?
Eddie: Yes, but you’re solving now to a six and a half or seven exit on your cap rate on cost versus we used to underwrite to an eight or a nine because there’s so much demand, there’s a certain amount of just appreciation that’s going to happen with the shortage of housing that’s affordable in this country. And the workforce housing is a BNC product is still going to be, you know, you’re talking 30 40% of replacement cost and growing because replacement costs are so challenging. So the value will eventually go up as well.
James: So what’s your strategy buying deals at this peak of a market? I mean what about loan strategy, investor expectation? I think you talked a bit more about the [13:32inaudible] investor, but what about the loan strategy or Rehab Strategy? You know, how long you’re going to hold date, what’s your strategy like? Because we believe we are at the peak of the market.
Eddie: I don’t think we’re at the peak of the market. I think we’re at a plateau. I don’t see us going back down, there’s too much demand for housing period. Not for the new stuff, but for our stuff, the NC product, will continue to have a demand, especially a good quality product that’s affordable because more and more people are coming off the couch. I remember that when they all doubled up and the kids were living at home, they’re all starting to start their lives and it’s going to continue and a lot of the older people are selling their houses and they all want to rent as well. They don’t want the responsibility, they don’t want to take care of anything. So you see the demand is still tremendous and I don’t see any sign of a liquidity problem, which is what causes, well, 9/11 cause the recession in 2001 people got spooked after the DOTCOM bust. Seems like PE ratios are still reasonable in terms of the global markets. And of course, the great recession was about the housing over leveraged. Well, I don’t see overleverage, I still think there are condo buildings that still won’t sell until 50% are sold so you can’t even get a loan on condo development. So you don’t have a de-glut of condos out there and houses are all gobbled up by the Blackstones of the world and they’re on a rental scenario and that’s a different person who rents a house versus an apartment. I just don’t see, I just think it we’re plateauing, we’re not at a peak. As long as there’s demand, this world is about supply and demand, period, no matter what it is. Whether they’re tulips or apartments, and as long as there’s tremendous demand, especially at the low end, we’ll be fine. So you got to find the niche,
James: Find a niche. Yeah. Yeah. So let’s go to the market. So you are in California and you are buying nationwide, is that right?
Eddie: Yeah, we’re buying in the beltway. I love the Maryland area with Amazon coming by and we own in Florida. I love Texas, Dallas mainly. Las Vegas, Colorado. And I’m finding stuff that’s distressed still. Now, it’s not economic distress, it’s just distressed. It’s not keeping up with the market and the capital, people bleed their properties. So there’s always meat on the bone if you can find it. I’ve been doing this a long time.
James: I can see that now. Absolutely. There are so many things to learn from you. How’s your team being set up right now? I’m sure you’re not one person doing this. Can you describe how your team is set up in terms of asset management, acquisition analyst, transaction and all that?
Eddie: Yeah. We have probably four in the acquisition team to analysts and two guys going out. I have two construction managers to execute the business plan. We use outside contractors to do our work. It still takes work to ride herd on them and then, we have two asset managers and accounting, but based on that, you know what, 10 or 12 something like that. You know, it fluctuates. Some people work from home and they’re busy and they are traveling and so you don’t always think of them and they’re not in the office, but they’re out working. I don’t care as long as you do your job,
James: How do you split your time managing them? Do you have someone who’s assisting you managing the whole operation or do you manage your whole operation yourself?
Eddie: Well, my head of asset management primarily deals with all the operations and I only talk to him once a day and make decisions. Like he just popped in and I said, I want a podcast so I’ll talk to him after. But I spend more of my time on acquisitions, analysis, and investors, you know, dealing with them and the lenders.
James: Okay. Yeah. Because like right now, I think I’m at 1300 units and I’m trying to see how do I grow to your level. And I’m trying to figure out how do people with 15,000 units manage their whole team?
Eddie: I’m down to 7,000 now.
James: That’s still a huge amount. But you have an acquisition head, I mean, asset management head, which has acquisition and then you have accountants. Okay, got it.
Eddie: And construction is really important.
James: Got It, got it. Does construction mean that you’re talking about remodeling and Rehab and all that?
Eddie: Yeah. Rehab, getting the bids together, putting the business plan, dealing with the draws from the lenders, all that stuff.
James: That’s a lot of work, especially draws from the lenders. Have you ever thought about other asset class other than multifamily or you just focused on multifamily?
Eddie: I don’t feel, especially now as we talked about in the beginning, the credibility to raise money today for anything other than what you do. You get pigeonholed and I’m fine with that. They don’t want to take a flyer. Wait, I thought you’d do apartments so you want to do a retail deal? I didn’t even try. It’s hard enough to raise money staying in your lane. Switching lanes, I just think as suicide, my personal opinion.
James: Yeah. I mean everybody would be doubting you, right? What does this guy know about something else, especially after you built so many skills and credibility in one asset class? So got it. Let’s talk about value-add because I’m sure you are an expert in value-add, right? Because you have been doing a lot of units and all have value-add. So what’s the most important value that you see whenever you take a project, what’s the most, not most of but most valuable value-add?
Eddie: Well, it’s really just whatever the marketing walk, as we call it. What do they see as they go from the leasing office, the amenities there? Is it a nice clubhouse and then you want them to see outdoor fitness, social areas with barbecues, outdoor kitchens, state of the art fitness center even though they’ll never use it, they want to see it. They dream of using, honestly, they don’t. And then just general dog parks and then you go inside the units and as long as they’re clean and safe and feel like they’re well done, that’s it. And then plenty of units that don’t even have that still. The old strappy pool furniture and ugly coping and shitty rod iron that’s rusting. That kind of stuff is what turns people off.
James: So how do you standardize this process in terms of implementation across your property?
Eddie: Well, I rely on my head of construction who basically knows what we do. And you have a certain bucket for if you’re buying a high rise, it’s a different feel. And we bought a high rise in Vegas and it’s like Vegas. We have a really cool downstairs, we took an Italian restaurant, a 3000 square feet and transformed it into a club room and Yoga Studio, fitness center, all that. I mean, it’s really high end. That’s one thing. Or it’s more of a lower income area. I mean, but those are the average rents are 1400 bucks. If your average rents are 800 bucks, you’re going to be doing lower end stuff, but you still want to give them the fake Gucci bag, so to speak.
James: Got it, got it, got it. So one thing I read in your website is you would like to internalize older mentality, operations management and I think that’s important, but I find it just so hard to implement that to our property management, even though we own our own property management company. And how do you do it in your operation?
Eddie: Well, I do not do property management because I’m all over the country and I don’t want to make a decision on an asset based on the fact that I have employees there. So, I have different crews. I’m the client, I get a lot of respect as a result of that. We have good relationships and I just try to instill that mentality with all my people and it just works, I don’t know. There’s art and science and business. That’s the art, I can’t describe it. The science you can underwrite, you can do all these things, but how does the property smell when you walk in, is it friendly? That’s the art of it. Do people feel comfortable and appreciated? Again, that’s the art of the business that you can’t make it science, it’s art and you need both. You asked the question but I can’t answer it.
James: Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s always hard whenever you have third-party management managing your property.
Eddie: No it isn’t it.
James: It’s not? Okay.
Eddie: Because you fire them if don’t do what you need them to do. And they wouldn’t be in the business if they didn’t want to serve people. And you just got to inspire in them and give them the tools so they feel comfortable that you’re giving everything they need to do to do their job, no matter if they work for you or not. And I feel like it’s better than they don’t work for me because I always have the threat. Oh, Eddie’s coming. They’re not like, Oh, I [23:40inaudible] because he’s got employee issues.
James: Okay. So that’s interesting. And you also mentioned something about high touch investor relation culture. So how do you do that with your investor base?
Eddie: Oh, it’s just about communication and contact. Anybody calls me, I answer the phone and call them back within a day. That’s it. It’s a really simple formula. If they don’t need you, they don’t want you to bother them unless you got another deal. But if they got a problem, they got a K1 issue if they call you, you better call him back and say, hey, we screwed up. We’re doing this. Our accountants behind, there are new tax laws, whatever it is, communication is the only way. And not to dodge or duck someone like a wuss, you screw up, you face the facts and say, hey, I screwed up, but we’re doing the best we can. I promise you that’s it. It’s really basic.
James: Do you delegate your investigation or you are direct to the investment?
Eddie: Absolutely not.
Eddie: I mean the reporting I don’t do, accounting does, but if someone has a problem, it’s me. We’re trying to do a deal, it’s me.
James: Yes. Yes. I think that’s important too. So coming back to the low-income housing tax credit, I think you own like 15 of those or you have owned it in the past. How does the whole low-income housing tax credit business work?
Eddie: That’s a whole podcast.
James: At a high level. At a very high level.
Eddie: The government gives incentives to banks and insurance companies to invest in affordable housing. That’s how affordable housing gets built. Okay? In essence, free money. So it’s free equity, but they’re getting a tax loss as a result. So let’s say it costs $100,000 a unit to build something, for simple math. It’s more now, but whatever. And you get a loan, bonds for $50,000 and there are tax credits that size up to about 35,000 and that leaves $15,000 left to build it. So that $15,000 usually, comes up with from the government, they give you subsidy loans and all kinds of low-interest loans. It’s a very complicated business, but that $35,000 of equity disappears after 10 15 years. So now your basis in the property is only the $15 and 50 on the loan, which is amortized. So now you’re able to offer lower rents because you’re not paying a return. You’re paying a tax loss on that 35 bucks if that makes sense. And we buy those properties. My affiliate partner, they supply the tax credits, My business with them, I’ve been a joint venture, we buy those deals after they’re done, after year 15 and reinvigorate them and bring them up to maximum allowable rents because the rents do move up based on area median income. And again, it’s very complicated but those bases and that’s a business that’s a unique niche and we’re good at it.
James: Okay, got it. Got it. So it looks like 10 to 15 years, you have some kind of assistance from the government and after that, you can bring it up to your market value and that
Eddie: No, you bring it up to max allowable rents as decided. It extends beyond. The tax credits go away, but the rent restrictions go from 30 to 55 years and you have to live within those means. And that’s how they remain affordable.
James: Got it, go it. You also have a REIT, I’m my right?
James: Because I say something on REIT. So is that right?
Eddie: I tried to raise a reggae plus I broke my pic, lost a ton of money and you just got to move on. But I thought I thought the world or the country was ready for the ability to invest as low as a thousand dollars into housing, but I didn’t raise enough and I had to raise enough for the SCC. So I scrapped.
James: Yeah, I didn’t know RAGA, you have a minimum to raise and you have to raise it to that amount.
Eddie: Yeah. You’re spending $800,00, you got to have some minimum to make it work. Otherwise, you’ll never be sustainable. That’s what happened. I lost lots of money. Your first loss is your best loss. Maybe in five years, it’ll change, but…
James: interesting. Interesting. So can you give us some advice on what is your secret sauce to success? I mean, like one to three things, why do you think you are successful so that people can learn from it?
Eddie: Creativity, tenacity and grit. I’m sorry to be so vague, but it’s really 30 years of experience. That’s the art of the business. Anybody can learn the science, the art comes from your gut and breaking your pick and getting your teeth knocked down. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s a very tough business. It’s a great business, but it’s a very tough business. That’s why people burn out. There are so many things to juggle and so much risk you take that investors have no idea what you go through. That’s the funny thing. And they all want their returns and they want this when you take the risk, and it’s a funny formula, but it works. You got to do it but there’s no secret sauce other than grit.
James: Have you ever thought about, I’m just going to give up all of these and go passive, invest in someone else?
Eddie: No, because I don’t think they can do it like I can. That’s why I have built up 30 years of experience. I’m getting better at what I do. Why would I jump ship now?
James: Yeah, because sometimes as you mentioned, it can be very tiring, right? I mean, sometimes we do a lot of hard work and sometimes it just feels sad that some passive investors don’t see how much we do in value-add.
Eddie: They have no idea and it’s a shame because they really think they know and they have no idea because it’s our job to make it turnkey and easy for them. But that’s a blessing and a curse. Because the blessing is they have a good investment and don’t have to think about it. But if they only knew what goes into it, they would help us as advisors. And there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just the way the world works.
James: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
Eddie: The more you live, the more you know, the less you know, the more blissful you can be.
James: Especially on the mortgage side of it and the multifamily lending. If you know a lot of details about how that whole industry works, you will feel sad and say, oh my God, I should have done this. But it’s all part of learning.
Eddie: Yeah, it’s all saw dust. You can only move forward and learn from what your mistakes are. But people that are looking for silver bullet and perfection doesn’t exist, it really doesn’t.
James: Got it. Got it. Got it. So do you have any proud moment in your life that you can think about it when in your later part of your life and really be proud of it? Is there anything that you want to share?
Eddie: Well I think I’m really good at that staying with things. I had a deal in Maryland that the county exercise the right of first refusal. So I went through all this effort, due diligence and then all of a sudden, the county had the right to buy it out from under me. And I’m like, what? Are you kidding? And I pulled it out on my gut and I went to fight, I hired a lawyer and I hired some politicians to help me out. And long story short, we won the deal and we own it today. And that’s what keeps me going is that I can win. I don’t always win when I do, then it’s glorious because I beat the system. And that’s fun.
James: Yeah, that’s crazy. How can a county have the first right of refusal, right?
Eddie: It’s the law.
James: In some places, I guess. So what about looking at your daily habits, what do you think is some of the more important habit that you think makes you very successful in your day to day life?
Eddie: I wake up every day and be thankful for what I have. And try not to compare myself to others because everybody you look at, has their own story and you’ve got to remind yourself this is my story. I’m doing the best I can and accept the crap that you’re dealt. And you can fight it and piss and moan or you can just deal with it. The day you accept reality and accept what’s happening that’s where happiness comes from, plus thankfulness. Just emotionally staying positive and realistic. That’s to me. And then you’ve got to exercise and you got to be kind to people and do the right thing. And I’m just very straightforward. I tell people like it is, some people don’t like it, I don’t care, that’s who I am. I’m not gonna apologize for who I am. But sometimes, you’ve got to be more politically correct, but then you look at our president and you say, really? Do you? How’d that happen?
James: Awesome. Awesome. So last question. So can you give three to five advice for newbies who are trying to get started in this business, in multifamily rehab and value-add?
Eddie: Number one, go to work as a property manager. Learn what it’s like to collect the rent, lease an apartment, turning unit, and deal with all the day to day action. That’s the most important thing. If you’ve never run a property, you don’t understand where the revenue comes from. There are people who need to be happy and pay their bills. So that’s number one, be a property manager, be a leasing assistant, be a marketing director at a property. Learn the business that way, then work for someone who actually owns property like us and then hopefully, go learn how to be a lender. Take finance courses, do everything you can in your life to understand all aspects of the business. Then nobody can snow you.
And number four would be in construction. Learn construction costs. Learn what it takes to turn a unit, what materials costs. All these things. Learn, learn, learn, learn, learn. Because most of the people that come out of school, they go straight into a big private equity company and they don’t have any clue how to turn a unit or what the essence of this business is. And that’s your competitive advantage because people can’t take advantage of you because you know more than they do and they smell it.
James: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, Eddie, it was nice and awesome having you on the podcast. Do you want to let the audience know how to get hold of you? If you want people to reach out to you.
Eddie: Sure. Strategicrh.com, Strategic Realty Holdings, Alliance Strategic, alliantstrategic.com. We’re also there too; working on opportunities, zones and affordable housing and workforce housing. Always happy to be of service. This is what we have to do. We have to pay it forward. We all had help when our lives and we have to help others. That’s my goal.
James: That’s awesome. Awesome. Very happy to have you here. And I think that’s it. Audience if you guys want to join us on Facebook, you can go to Multifamily Investor’s Group on Facebook and join us over there. And that’s it. Thanks for being here. Thanks, Eddie.
Eddie: Thank you.