DE 24: The Importance of Knowing your Partners & Working Your Strategy with Benjamin Inman
In today’s episode, we have the pleasure of having Benjamin Inman, founder of Inman Equities. Benjamin brings over 20 years of experience and has become successful via hard work and strategy. He has a really good reputation in the real estate market due to hard work, consistency, and persistence.
Benjamin touches on his beginnings into the wonderful world of real estate, his lesson on how important it is to have dealings in writing and the difference between the two markets he’s involved in like buying a property of over 200 units and buying properties on a smaller scale. He also discusses the importance of being involved from start to finish with the deal on the table along with the other partners or investors involved.
- Benjamin’s Career Briefs And An Unexpected Experience About His Very First Deal
- His Tips And Tricks On How To Become Successful
- How He Grew His Reputation Within The Southeast And Beyond.
- Details About How, When And Who To Chose As A Business Partner
- Never Miss Any Details In The Contract Agreement
Connect with Benjamin:
Intro: Hey guys! I hope you’re ready for today’s episode. Today I’m going to host Benjamin Inman. Benjamin had been involved in multi-family in the past 20 years and worked and learned under the famous real-estate guru and tycoon Grant Cardone. In this episode, we will talk about the process of understanding that you can do this by yourself and use your connections and knowledge that you’ve acquired during the years. And also, for the first time on the show, we’ll have an investor that invests in institutional properties that are over 200 units. So, these are the bigger deals out there. Today’s episode is very informative, so stay tuned. And on another note, I’d like to remind you to check our website donandeden.com where you can find ways to contact us and connect with us and learn more about who we are, our deals and so on. So yeah, let’s get started and we have a lot to talk about.
Intro: Welcome to the Real Estate Investing Podcast with Don and Eden where we cover all aspects of real estate investing with special attention to multi-family apartment buildings and off-market strategies.
Don: Hey Benjamin! Welcome to the show. How’re you doing today?
Benjamin: I’m good. How are you doing?
Don: I’m doing just fine. So, I know you’ve been doing a lot of work, you’ve been buying properties in the market that everybody’s saying that it’s hard to buy but you’re still finding good deals, and I know you’re buying institutional properties over 200 units. So, I would like for you to tell our audience a little bit about who you are, what you do and how you got into real estate.
Benjamin: To start, I appreciate you for having me on. Always enjoy doing this type of thing. I started my career 18 years ago. Really starting to ground up I was so eager just to get in the business that I actually started as a landscape architect, doing single-family homes and then really just put myself out there because I was always interested in the multi-family space and got introduced to a developer down the Miami, offered a job to me as his corporate landscape architect and I was off to the races. Once I was there, I knew that it was a good opportunity for me. I was always asking a bunch of questions and surrounded myself with the right people in the firm and, so really just utilized that to the best of my abilities just kept growing and building on that from the time I left there until I went to the next shop and then from there just kept building and adding on. Just about all knowledge-based and then 2 years ago I left the last two investors I was working for and started my shop and never looked back. So, we typically have two different focuses. All the stuff that we buy, they are all in the multi-family space. So we have an institutional arm and we have a smaller bucket that we acquire 50, 76 units, 44 unit properties in and we have the institutional side bucket to where we buy 450 unit portfolios at one time and I do each of those with different partners so I have a partner for the big stuff and have partners for the smaller stuff. That’s our way of diversifying. The big deals are good in their way, the small deals, they are good in their way. The small deal’s cash load typically a little bit better than the big stuff. So that’s really in a nutshell, our focus and we pretty much focus throughout the southeast.
Don: So, I know you are buying large properties and small properties and you’ve been doing that for the past two years but your career had spawned for a lot more. So, I would think that you working with big investors, I know you’ve worked with Grant Cardone, Cardone Capital and I’m from Florida so it’s impossible not to know who Grant Cardone is if you live in. So, I know you’ve worked with these investors. So how does working with people of that caliber helped you understand the market and got you to the place where you are at right now?
Benjamin: You have to understand their way of thinking because you can ask ten investors what the criteria are and you may get ten very different answers. Each deal that you decide that identified to take down, you pretty much know which of those deals or you should know which of those deals fit the personality box for your potential partner or partners. And so, I kind of cherry-pick which deals I want to share to which partners based on that knowledge and it’s worked out well. I think the challenge a lot of people have is, they have a database of, let’s just say they give you a deal flow, but they aren’t successful on either how to start or if they do know where to start, they are having trouble executing because I don’t think they put that strategy to work because I think that’s a very standard not only what your partner’s personality type is as it relates to, you know, in the investment criteria in the properties that look for but also, knowing what their individual bandwidth is. For me, I’ve had different partners that I use for different properties because I know that this partner A actually get so many deals done in the time and if I have another deal come across my plate that makes sense, I have to find another partner that’s similar in personality type and criteria wise as well but then I’ve got to do the deal with them just because I don’t want to overload anyone partner including myself and not be able to take a deal down. And so, really just being very strategic about which partner I chose to bring in to which deal is just as important as knowing the investor types that come into the deals from the LP standpoint. I know what their personality types are because you have some 50,000 and some 25,000 check writers and then I have guys that are 500 and million dollars check writers on every deal that I put in front of them. So, different people and it depends on overall equity sides of the deal and what their percentage ends up being allocated out to. So, there’s a lot of those variables that come into play when making a decision, of course, but yeah, it just really comes down to knowing your individual investors.
Don: Yeah. So, when you say you’re partnering up with people on different deals, so I assume that you’re getting the deal so the process works in a way that you’re talking to the brokers, outsourcing your deals and then you find a good deal and so you raise the money already you know your investors. And so, you want to partner up with people in the local market where the deal is at so that these people would implement the value add a plan or what exactly is the other partner doing in each one of your deals?
Benjamin: Yeah so it’s a good question. So, most of my partners are either in south Florida or in Texas or Charlotte, North Carolina. So, you know the partners that I’ve had deals with aren’t necessarily in the local market where a specific asset is located. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad strategy, that’s just not our strategy. Mainly because all the markets that we’re currently in, I’m knowledgeable of those markets and already have boots on the ground in many cases whether that’s construction companies or just different vendors like flooring vendors, paint vendors, roofing vendors you name it. We already have those relationships resources in place. I don’t look at that way with having a particular partner being based in a specific geographic area and that’s not what I use to base my decision on but, for a different person like me, that’s not a bad strategy, that just hasn’t been our strategy.
Don: Yeah. So, what is your strategy, how do you choose your partners?
Benjamin: It’s just based on their criteria, as well as balancing that with knowing what their internal bandwidth is, meaning that, when we do a deal together with a partner, we hopefully would share roles 50-50. That’s just an ideal way of doing it. But if that partner has a one-person or two-person staff, there are only so many properties that I can deal with that particular partner, maybe one at a time. So, if I have another deal that comes across my plate while I’m working on a particular deal at the current moment, then I’ve got to find a different partner to do that deal with because I don’t want to slow down the process or progress of the other partner. They have got their stable of investors. I have my stable investors. Some partners, their investors can only invest in one deal at the time and they need a 30 or 60-day break thereafter to replenish their stock capital. So, that’s really how I look at it, just knowing my particular partners and what their bandwidth is and really what their stapled investors look like.
Don: I see. Okay, so let me ask you this; what kind of processes are undergoing in your business right now, so, what exactly do you guys do? Your source for deals that’s one thing that I know everybody does, and so, you raise money. I’m sure you’re doing that as well. What other things do you do besides it? Do you manage your own portfolio or you have a management company? So, how many people work in your office, for instance, working with you or underneath?
Benjamin: So, we’re a staff of two. We are very lean and streamlined. So, what we do is we identify a property, identify my partner on that particular deal pretty much right away. I’ll go ahead and get the deal sourced, get it tied up, together we’ll go and start doing the due diligence on the asset. I handle a lot of the underwriting on our side so I know exactly how things are going to pencil. And then, from the due diligence standpoint, my partner on the deal will actually split that effort and then we’ll also bring in the third-party whoever we’re going to have to manage the property is who we’re going to have to conduct the unit-by-unit walkthrough and the audits on every property. And they will then send their service reports. We’ll review those reports and see two or three standards. At that point, you’ll know, for us, during that on-site visit with the unit-by-unit walkthrough, and even the lease audit, we are even going to show up on those days as well. I’m just not the person to walk 100% of the unit, but the teams we have in place that do walk those units. They take pictures, they make reports. As soon as the reports are reviewed, and then together, during that time me and my particular partner on that deal will start raising the capital together from our individual databases, and sometimes there’s overlap there, meaning that sometime we’ll have the same investors in our database. We’ll try to raise that together, we’ll go through the process of dealing with the lender and getting all the paperwork together for the lender. During that time we’ll have decided on who we’re going to have to manage the property because we do third party management at this point. So, at that point in time, we’ll focus on closing once closing takes place. Then we’ll have the business plan execution which involves the value add program which since the property management has staff on site. They’ll obviously be there, boots on the ground to have any type of face time with the particular vendors that are being sourced at a particular moment. But we oversee it, we drive that process just because we’ve been down that road many times. We’re very very hands-on with the employee and the business plan, we don’t just rely on the on-site staff or even the third-party management company to oversee that because we are so involved.
Don: Yeah, that’s amazing. So, you are working mainly on getting the deal and then doing the numbers because you have so much experience and you know what kind of deal you want to get into and then you partner-up with the right person, people you’ve partnered-on before with and they’ve done a good thing with you or people that have a good reputation and that’s basically how you scale it up, because this way you could work with various people. You can do many deals at a time because some on-site staff or the value add plans and everything, am I right?
Benjamin: That’s correct. So, you have a very good point and that point is, I can have multiple deals going on at the same time with multiple different partners and that’s one way I’ve been able to scale out so quickly the past two years. As of this past Friday, I just closed on my 22nd property in the past 24 months. The only way that I’ve been able to do that is because I’m very strategically selected which partners I want to do different deals with versus doing all the deals with only one group. Because at some point there is going to be some breathing room that is needed. And so, to keep that from happening, I’ve just been focused on taking down deals with different partners. That’s the way we’ve done it. That strategy may not be for everybody but that’s the way we’ve been successful.
Don: I have two questions about that strategy. The first question is: how do you split the profit on the GP side? Is it 50-50? Let’s say it’s a 30-70 so you guys get 15% and your on-site partner would get 15%?
Benjamin: Yeah correct. So, let’s just say it’s a typical LP/ GP structure with syndication. So, let’s just say there’s an 8% preferred return, and then after that, the cash will get split 70-30 between the LP and the GP partners, 70% going to the LPs, 30% going to the GPs; and then my partner and I would split the GP profit 50-50 assuming that’s a 50-50 deal between us.
Don: Yeah, I understand. And so, the second question I had was, did you ever have a bad partner, somebody that did not do what you expected and then the deal was not that successful?
Benjamin: No, most of the deals that we have done have been very successful. Nothing really went sideways. But I will say this and I can’t really go into too much detail of it this moment but, my very first deal that I did, I did with a partner and I allowed that partner to run with the contract and the creation of the operating agreement just so, I can focus on finding more properties and getting more properties into our pipeline. I trusted this individual because I’ve known him for three or four years. The closer we got to closing, I think it was like a month before closing, I realized that I was not written into the operating agreement. So, I had to go to the other partner that was brought into the deal to have him step in and fight for me, basically because of that point of time, I was written out of the operating agreement. And the second partner never knew that I was supposed to be written in the operating agreement because my main partner at the time didn’t communicate that. You can imagine how big of a mess that was and the interesting conversation that took place. But shame on me for being too trusting because it’s just the way I grew up. Experiences like that cause you to open your eyes. So, my very first deal was the deal where my main partner tried to cut me out of it. I am grateful I’ve learned that on the first deal and not now, cause I’ll be able to get through that and move on and gone and get 22 deals in. But that partner, put it this way, I don’t think he’ll ever see a deal just because of his reputation in the market is known for doing that at this point in time. But I learned that very early on. So, my suggestion is, just know the people, I mean you have to have a certain level of trust. But when it comes to the legal documents, that certainly needs to be a 50-50 shared responsibility for all partners in the deal just to make sure that all checks and balances are in place. Because the last thing you want is to have a surprise like that. No hard feelings. It helped me learn a very valuable lesson which I’m grateful for. Hopefully, somebody hears this, can avoid the same mistake.
Don: One of the most famous books of real estate is the ‘A B C of Real Estate Investing’ written by Ken McElroy. One of my favorite investors. I think he’s based off Phoenix or Scottsdale, Arizona. That was the first real estate investing book that I read. He said something very interesting in that book he said, “in real estate, you have to trust, but you also have to verify”. So, he says trust, then verify. And I guess that’s a lesson that you’ve learned by yourself because I could only imagine your first deal being cut off the operating agreement is the worst-case scenario. It’s something you wouldn’t expect.
Benjamin: Right. But I agree, trust then verify is a very important thing. And that goes for people that you’ve just met maybe a couple of months ago. It also goes for people you have known for quite some time. And it also applies to family and friends. I learned that a long time ago. I always heard that even if it’s family-related, you still needed in writing. Because people are human, people make mistakes, people forget things or so they claim. So, if It’s in writing, you can’t deny. That’s one thing that I would highly recommend is to have everything in writing. That’s one of the processes that I would 100% highly encourage to do 50-50 on and that is to co-manage the creation of the operating agreement.
Don: that’s a very valuable lesson. Okay so, let’s move on to another thing that I wanted to ask you because I know you’re buying these institutional deals of over 200 units. I want to ask you about the difference between the two markets, between buying a property of over 200 units and you’re sort of competition so, who are you competing against and then buying properties of a smaller scale like 70 units or 100 units or 50 units. What is the difference between the two?
Benjamin: It’s a very good question. I’ll start off by saying only the larger stuff, the larger institutional size product, that’s what’s driving a lot of the cap rate to the market. Because you are going to have so much competition on those bigger deals, people are looking for you, they are looking for a place to put the capital on. A lot of groups out there have a minimum check size of 5,000,000 if they want to write, and sometimes higher. So, these larger deals you’re going to have a lot more competition with bigger groups. We bought 475 units last year. We got 457 units and we got that off-market. We were introduced to a family in New York that happened to own these portfolios so, we closed on the 475 units portfolio with this family and they were so pleased with the transaction that they end up giving us their second portfolio 457 units. We took those down both off-market. We never promoted through a broker. After that transaction took place about six to nine months later, that same family brought us another 214 unit property that stayed nicely within the portfolio that we already have with them. We’ve stayed below the radar without having to get into these bidding wars with these larger groups because it was an off-market transaction. And the smaller stuff, you still have a lot of competition on those deals. The competition is a little bit different and the reason why it’s different is that these smaller properties, these 50 units, these 76 units, 44 units whatever, fall below the radar of the large institutional groups just because they are too small to worry with. And some of these properties even fall above what the local investor would be able to acquire deal at. So, you kind of fall into that regional player bandwidth and in that you just don’t have a whole lot of competition. So, on these middle-sized deals I’ll refer it to them as you still have thirty people going after that deal, you may have five, seven, maybe eight groups that are going after that deal, obviously that it comes down to this. Most of those sellers, they are obviously looking for price, but more than anything, they are looking for the ability to close. Because they don’t want to go down that road with someone that offers a higher price. But gets them a week before closing and can’t get the deals on and had to back out of the contract, they would rather take a lesser price with a proven group that they know are going to be no complications with and they are absolutely going to close that deal with. And thankfully that’s the relationship or the reputation that we’ve developed from the marketplace. And while we’re able to get deals awarded to us so quickly because we have that reputation. We have the reputation of closing deals, we are not known for re-trading on price. That word gets around among the brokerage shops that are out there. And it also trickles down to the sellers in the market. So, those are very important things that people should know is to know who your competition is on the deal. Are you up against the local player, are you up against a regional player or you’re up against the national institutional sized player? It’s almost like the David and Goliath thing, right? You’ve got to know your competition and you got to know if you are going to go up against the big boys. You better have your ducks in a row and you better know what you’re doing because these guys can come in, put down a $100,000 hard money day one, and smaller syndicators are not in that position for the most part.
Don: Definitely, I see what you’re saying. There are a few things that I want to ask you about this. So the first thing that you’re saying is that, for somebody who’s trying to syndicate their first deal in today’s market with the fierce competition for deals, you’d say that the best asset class is a multi-family of around 50 units, between 50 to 100 if I got you right. Is that right?
Benjamin: I do recommend and the reason why I recommend that is because, if you are somebody who has that capital, you just don’t have that track record yet, this is kind of the chicken and the egg thing, right. Because the lenders, don’t want to jump in bed with you until they know you have some experience on your own as a principal. And then there’s a lot of equity groups out there that know the same way and even some smaller investors, and the way I know this is because, if you go out and try to tie up a deal, the lender’s going to say, “Okay, what’s your RES schedule.” If you don’t have anything to produce, they are going to be a little bit nervous about doing a deal with you because unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you have 5, 10, 15, 20 years experience in the industry working for another company. That experience doesn’t exactly translate over how you think that it would in the eyes of a lender and equity partner when it comes time to do your own deal as the principle so, the reason that I recommend doing these smaller deals, at least start out because it helps you get a transaction done faster. Because, you are going to find that when you are out raising capital for your first property, some investors, are not really going to ultimately write you a check because their going to get cold feet, they are going to want to monitor your progress from a distance just to see if you are able to do what you claim that you can do on your own. So, on the smaller deals, it just solves two things. Number one, it helps you to raise equity faster because it’s a smaller amount of equity to raise. And number two, it helps you to get a deal done faster because the faster you can get a deal done, and you add another, and then another, and then another, next thing you know you have a handful of properties in your portfolio and now you have a good story to tell to equity partners and lenders that say, “Hey, I’m now proven” and this goes back to my story of why I focused on this two year window. When I started out, I was in that situation. And now, I can go to any lender, any equity partner and there is not one person on the planet that could ever look at my RES schedule of where it is today, the portfolio we’ve been able to acquire and say I don’t have the experience or the track record, because now I’ve proven that I can do this. I know it sounds kind of cliché to say “if I can do this, anybody can do this” but the reality of it is, it’s true. As long as you have a database and you know how to work your database, you can accomplish the same thing. If somebody else has accomplished it, then you can accomplish it as well. It’s just down to finding the right deals and the right investors.
Don: Interesting, yeah. I agree with everything you said. So, the other thing I wanted to ask you regarding the brokers and their position on who you are in the market. So, you were saying that you are not known to be a re-trader, so somebody that asks for a discount after the contracts are already signed. And so, you are saying that brokers know the kind of reputation that you have. So, my question to you is, why would a broker speak to another broker and tell them about their client and how they behave because I mean, I would think that a broker doesn’t really want to disclose their clients and their investors, right?
Benjamin: So, you have like Kushman, JLL, ARA, Marcus & Millichap, big brokerages and the main competition that they have is getting listings. In the brokerage world, the holy grail is getting listings for selling an asset for an owner, right? A lot of those brokers have a lot of the same buyers that buy different properties so they can’t really stop that but, what I’ve been able to do is a particular brokerage shop, it’s a national company, that I’m one of the top buyers in the SouthEast. And, I’m known within that brokerage farm to have a very strong reputation throughout the SouthEast. What that allows me is, not only can I get deals in the south-east awarded to me relatively quickly, but it also serves to, look, things in the south-east have been hot for a while and let’s just say I wanted to start looking in Arizona or Oklahoma. So now, I’m in a position where I can have the brokerage shop in the south-east contact their office, the midwest and put in a good word for me that pretty much leveraged my reputation in the south-east. To enter a new market with the same brokerage firm even though it’s a completely different group, but they’ll still put in calls for you so, they were to leverage that reputation and really spread it out country-wide if that’s what it came out to. Furthermore, I just got a deal awarded to me in Florida about 30 or 45 days ago and the way I was able to do that is this was a completely different farm, another national farm that I’ve known for a while. And what I was able to do even though I never closed a deal with this broker, he knew who I was, he knew my reputation in the market. But I had this big brokerage firm that I’ve closed a lot of deals with, I had them write a letter of recommendation to this other brokerage firm, verifying and vouching for me that I am a buyer, I have never had any hiccups in my closings, I’ve always closed deals that I’ve locked up, I’ve never re-traded. So really, from one brokerage firm to the next, I was able to leverage that reputation to now build a relationship with another group. And that’s a very, very, very important thing to understand and really leverage it for your benefit. Because if you have the experience and reputation, why not leverage that? So, it’s one brokerage shop, vouching for me as a buyer to another brokerage shop, they are not losing anything. Now they wouldn’t do that on the sales side. They would say, “Hey! Here’s a seller I’ve done a lot of deals with. Maybe you should go get some of his listings” because they know that they have the power by locking up these deals. A broker recommending to another broker about a buyer, there’s no harm in that. They’re not taking away any food from their own table really when they do that.
Don: These are some great valuable lessons and I think you know you’re emphasizing the fact that real estate is about people, it’s a relationship business. You have to have relationships in order to be able to accomplish anything. Speaking of which, what if one of our listeners wants to connect with you and create a relationship with you, what would be the best way to do that?
Benjamin: Happy to give out that information here. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or they can text me, they can even call me. My personal cell number is 615-513-3088. And I’m on all the social media channels and my username on most social media channels are @inmanequities. Linkedin or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find me @inmanequities.
Don: Nice, great. It’s so beautiful that you give out your phone number. So yeah, if anybody wants to connect with you, to connect with Benjamin, you guys are more than welcome. I can assure that he’s a great guy. Thank you very much for coming to this show.
Benjamin: Yeah thanks for having me. Really appreciate it.
Don: Of course. You have a great rest of the day.
Benjamin: You too. Thank you.