Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Podcast with Tommy Brant and Ash Patel
Ash Patel: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever show. I’m Ash Patel and I’m with today’s guest, Tommy Brant. Tommy is joining us from Nashville, Tennessee. He is the founder of TB Capital Group, which focuses on multifamily syndications. Tommy is also an LP on two syndications. Tommy, thank you for joining us, and how are you today?
Tommy Brant: I’m great, Ash. I’m humbled and honored and excited to be here.
Ash Patel: Tommy, it’s our pleasure to have you here today. Before we get started, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you’re focused on now?
Tommy Brant: Absolutely. My name is Tommy Brant. I’m full-time in multifamily syndication, full-time real estate investor. I joke that I’m a recovering electrical engineer. I’ve been in Nashville for 13 years last January, and 12 out of those 13 years, I was an electrical engineer working with the same company in a couple different capacities, some on product support, some on the sales side, some sales support and some as a business analyst sprinkled in there at the end, but mostly customer facing and mostly on the commercial sales side of this organization.
So I guess in terms of how I got into real estate mentor when I was looking for summer jobs through college breaks, I worked for a friend’s dad that was a general contractor, and one of the things that he did was he made mobile homes rent ready. So when in the summer job, we probably touched about 60 to 70 units. Sometimes it was just cutting the grass, but sometimes it was just doing an entire renovation/rehab. About 15% of that demographic ended up being post-eviction. So you’re walking into these units, there’s trash everywhere. there’s used diapers in the corners, there’s hypodermic needles in the other corners and the utilities have been cut off for two weeks, and we need to clean out the fridge and you play the game of who’s going to open it [unintelligible 00:03:51.12]
Ash Patel: [laughs]
Tommy Brant: So we did a couple things that summer – one, we built a lot of character, but two, we gained the ability to see what the finished product looked like through the mess. So I bought my first investment property in 2011. It was a short sale in a national submarket. You don’t see those anymore. But that was a slow live and flip, and I rented it out to a colleague at work before I knew what house hacking was.
So yeah, if you want to fast forward, I now own three long-term rentals, I own one vacation rental in the panhandle of Florida, and I am invested in two apartment syndications, totaling to 356 units. And that’s fun to say, but I would’ve loved to come here today and celebrate a closing with you that would’ve brought me over 400 units, but we actually canceled a contract on a 52, 3 Mondays ago now.
Ash Patel: Tommy, so much to get into. I’m going to start with the easy question. Mobile home parks are hot and you know how to turn them. Are you just jaded from your experience on doing any more mobile home parks?
Tommy Brant: I like the experience it gave me, but I knew that’s not where I wanted to live and breathe all day and every day. I recognize that a little bit of extra effort goes into managing those, and if people wanted to take that on, I leave it to them. There’s plenty of people that are hungry for that kind of thing, but looking for something more predictable.
Ash Patel: And no more stinky fridges.
Tommy Brant: [laugh] No more stinky fridges.
Ash Patel: You moved to Nashville. Why did you move to Nashville? Was it for real estate?
Tommy Brant: So I graduated in December of 2008. I think a lot of people – that year sticks out. I graduated from Georgia Tech, prestigious engineering school. I applied to like 50 to 60 places and two people called me back; that’s just kind of the way the job market was. It’s very different than it is today, where you just show up to an interview, you probably got the job.
Ash Patel: Yeah. That’s important to remember, because anybody under the age of around 33 has only seen good times and they can go to an employer and say, “Hey, I want to work four days a week, remotely and unlimited time off”, and demand is on their side. But we’ve seen different times in 2008. So it’s good to have that experience and knowing what can be on the horizon at some point. So your long-term rentals in the Panhandle Florida – you’ve got one, right?
Tommy Brant: Yeah. So I have three long-term rentals, one county outside of Nashville. They’re in Rutherford county near the Murphysboro, Levan area. Murphysboro is the fastest growing city in Tennessee, fun fact. Nashville brings the most people per day, but relatively speaking, Murphysboro has been the fastest growing city in Tennessee, fun fact. And then yeah, Panhandle Florida, I bought a vacation rental in Panama City Beach.
Ash Patel: Alright. Now, everybody thinks, “Okay, I want a house in Florida that I can rent out, pay for itself.” How easily said is that versus done?
Tommy Brant: I’ve found that it’s a lot easier than I thought.
Ash Patel: Ah, okay.
Tommy Brant: Some of the underlying assumptions there are can you secure a vacation home loan? Which, those are the types of products where you only have to come 10% down out of pocket instead of the historical 20% to 25% down. You need to live in there for 14 days out of the year and it has to be– I’m doing air quotes for the listeners… It has to be warrantable. So there’s a couple of guidelines that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac comes up with that definition. But yeah, if you can find a warrantable place, then you can secure a 10% down loan. And if you self-manage, then it’s not that hard to find something that’s 15% to 20% cash on cash return down there, even buying at retail.
Ash Patel: Tommy, I’m baffled. Wait a minute, I have to put less down on a vacation home than I do a typical house that I want to live in?
Tommy Brant: Yeah.
Ash Patel: That’s a real thing, huh?
Tommy Brant: Yeah. There’s definitely a couple other things; you can’t have professional property management, so… I wish I would’ve started with it, honestly, in the residential space, but… It’s good for people that are willing to hustle a little bit, but there’s so much in the short-term middle space that can be automated, that you can nearly automate the entire front end of marketing, your listing, and just handle the back end inquiries, and things like that, ad hoc. So I’ve learned a lot.
Ash Patel: You cannot have it professionally managed?
Tommy Brant: Yeah, you’re not supposed to on paper.
Ash Patel: Why?
Tommy Brant: Because that would give it away that it’s investment property if you’re having it professionally managed.
Ash Patel: Ah, okay. So it’s a vacation home, not a short term rental home?
Tommy Brant: Right. You can self-manage and kind of hustle it and get around that type of stuff, but as long as you stay there for two to three weeks out of the year, that’s kind of the stipulations there, which I think we’ve already done that this year, but just getting it ready to rent, you know, but–
Ash Patel: Is there a limit on how many vacation home loans you can have?
Tommy Brant: One of the limitations is it has to be more than 65 miles away from your primary residence. So if I lived in Dustin or Panama City, I couldn’t get a unit in Panama City Beach, right? That’s too close. But if I’m in Nashville, it’s good for me. I can actually have multiple vacation home loans, so long as my debt income doesn’t exceed 50% in different markets. So I can have another one in the [inaudible 00:08:44], and I can have one in Panama City Beach, I can have one in California, so long as my debt income doesn’t exceed 50%.
Ash Patel: I think you’ve encouraged a lot of the Best Ever listeners to start Googling “vacation home loan.” Thank you for that piece of advice. Now–
Tommy Brant: For sure. Don’t abuse it is my only piece of advice. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. [laughs]
Ash Patel: Absolutely. Tommy, you had a canceled contract. What happened?
Tommy Brant: Yeah. We had a 52-unit under contract in a Nashville submarket. This was a pocket listing from a broker and I pretty much caught wind of who all the strong operators were, that also caught wind of it, and just assembled a team with my partner and some of the strong players that just kind of happened that we were already in discussions. When we’d worked together, we kind of shown our backend operations for and we knew the strong operators. And so things happened really quickly. So within the time of getting wind of the listing, within seven days, we had our team assembled, had analyzed it 20 different ways to know that it was truly a good deal, and we were under contract. From knowing it existed to seven days later we were under contract.
So we went through the due diligence. I think you should expect surprises to pop up whenever you’re going through physical due diligence, property inspection and stuff of that sort. But one thing that we couldn’t really get to work and get alignment on – and I’m going to say “we” as in the owner, the broker and the buyers, all discovered throughout this process that the onsite property manager that also lived on the property and the franchise was based out of Nashville… The onsite property manager had not paid rent for a year. They had coached their friends on how to not pay rent as well. So there was over $100,000 in balance due. So it was a 52-unit, and there was 40 people not paying rent. That’s kind of the crux of it.
Ash Patel: Is that what was the final straw?
Tommy Brant: It was what happened to the loan. That really just kind of broke it. So we had 80% loan to cost, which we’ll just say is the best of the best that you can get. And we brought the lender up to speed, and then it started to look more like a construction loan. They said, “Well, we can give you 60% loan to value.” So we went from 80% loan to cost to 60% loan to value, and a seller that couldn’t budge on price because they had previously syndicated and said, “If I sell, it has to be here to make my commitments to my investors.” So we just couldn’t get it to work. And if we did close, we were probably looking at somewhere between 12 to 18 months before we can even make distributions to our investors, which doesn’t scream repeat business, and repeat investors [laugh] whenever you’re taking on something that distressed.
So we’re keeping the lines of communication open. We canceled the contract amicably. So I think he’s going to take litigious action against the franchise for failing of fiduciary duties. And after it gets all that sorted out, 6 to 12 months from now, we’re going to see, “Alright, now that we have a stabilized product and we can get our loan terms that we wanted, are you interested in selling then?” So we effectively have first right of refusal when it comes back around, but there’s too much on it right now.
Ash Patel: Tommy, you don’t have to give me the name, but when you say franchise, is that a property management franchise?
Tommy Brant: It is. Yeah.
Ash Patel: Okay. Well, there’s a lot of money due for the past year. Is that not a benefit, where you can close on it and potentially collect on back rent?
Tommy Brant: Yes. I guess a couple options that we could have explored – one was a master-lease option, where we say, “Hey, look, Mr. or Mrs. Buyer, we will take this property off your hands. We will manage it. You’ll still be the owner on title, but we want to buy this property in 6 to 12 months. We officially want to transfer title in.” But if they get hit by a bus, God forbid, and it went to their children, and they’re like, “Sue me. I’m not going to sell this thing”, we just felt that there was too much risk involved with a master lease option for that one.
The other, I guess, option we could have done was we could have let them do the evictions and then we take it over when it’s effectively and empty property, or we could have just closed on closed date and had to do the evictions and then also lease it up and gone through all that stuff. So all of those were kind of outside of our risk tolerance.
Ash Patel: Alright. And I know you guys must have tried every which way possible to make this deal work. Let’s dive into the numbers and throw some curve balls at you. What was the purchase price of these 52 units?
Tommy Brant: It was 52 units at $4.1 million purchase price, so I think around 78.8k a door.
Ash Patel: And you were initially going to put 20% down?
Tommy Brant: That was plan.
Ash Patel: Okay. Does the property need CapEx?
Tommy Brant: It did. We had budgeted about a million in CapEx, and that was going to be in the loan itself, but that’s interior and exterior. And so we had planned to replace the roofs as well. During the concessions, we were trying to get them to file an insurance claim based on recent storms. That was kind of something that they could do, and it wouldn’t be an upfront cost, that we’d pay for in insurance later. But I’m sorry, I interrupted you. Keep going.
Ash Patel: No, no, no. That helps. Thank you. So $4.1 million purchase, $1 million in CapEx, and what really killed the deal is you went from 20% down to then 40% down. And there’s no way around that, huh?
Tommy Brant: No, there’s no way around it without really managing expectations of the investors that were teasing, went from, “This is going to be a cash cow”, to “We’re going to have to halt distributions for a year.” So when it came to expectation management and keeping everyone on board, we probably still could have raised the targeted $1.4 million to close, but I don’t know… For me, I’m looking for the next deal too, but I want to take these investors along the ride and I want repeat investors. And if I’m tying up all their funds in one deal without giving them any distributions, then I feel like that’s hard to get repeat investors.
Ash Patel: Yeah. And I feel like this can go really sideways, trying to evict a bunch of professional tenants that know how not to pay.
Tommy Brant: Absolutely.
Ash Patel: That’s a tough one. And then you mentioned you have first right of refusal. Is that in writing?
Tommy Brant: No.
Ash Patel: Can you get that in writing?
Tommy Brant: We should. We should. I’m going to explore that.
Ash Patel: I think you should. Even if you have to pay a small amount of money, a couple 100 bucks, $1000, try to get it in writing, just so — the work that you’ve done, you have the first ready refusal. You deserve it, right?
Tommy Brant: Yup.
Ash Patel: You mentioned seven days from when you found out about the property to when you went under contract. Now, in my world, that’s seven days too long. Again, I’m a non-residential commercial investor. So how did you find out about the property first?
Tommy Brant: That was a pocket listing from a broker. I found out that they had sent it to about 5 to 10 people overall. The discussion with the seller went something like, “If you can hit this number, I’m open to selling”, right? So the broker was like, “Alright, we can get to this number. I want an easy transaction. I want to send it to people that know can close”, and then it went out to a select view.
We actually had a really strong relationship with the broker. They’ve been basically my primary broker since Q3 of last year, actually. So knowing who had a tendency to get first wind of the great deals that came through their pipe was also someone that we’d been building relationships with over the same course of time. So we were ready to assemble a great team, and then through recommendations, just kind of filling in our [inaudible 00:15:55]. “We need an asset manager. Who do you recommend?” And so we got that figured out all in short order, and so we had a team of four ready to support that deal.
Break: [00:16:03] to [00:17:50]
Ash Patel: I’m still diving into those seven days. When you first found out about this, what due diligence materials were you handed?
Tommy Brant: There was a couple financials. So there was a rent roll – not a lot with regards to account balances or anything like that, but we did understand what the market was doing and then what the market could be doing. Two of the property managers that were in that market holistically, one was pushing rents to top of market, and another one was pushing rents to like middle of market. So at the end of the day, we ended up just going with the property manager that worked the best with us, that could support us systematically and wasn’t handling ad hoc stuff and wasn’t scrambling to answer an easy question, and was open to a weekly review of things. I digressed from your question there.
Ash Patel: Tommy did you– did you negotiate price from what they were asking?
Tommy Brant: During the due diligence period, we did. At the price, the deal worked. The deal worked great. One of the things that we were expecting to exercise in this was an extension, and that was because of the debt product that we wanted. So we knew that if we were doing 60-day closing, we’d have to go with a bank loan and that would’ve made the deal still work, but we were hoping to get a different type of debt product that would’ve made the deal screaming good, which would’ve taken probably closer to 90 days to close. So we were asking questions up front of, are they trying to do a 1031? What is the motivation for selling? And then we found out that throughout the process, everyone’s reasonable and open to deviations here. So we wanted to try to get the loan product that we wanted there.
Ash Patel: And what was that loan product?
Tommy Brant: It was basically a tax credit for a bank. So if I can compare it to a normal bank loan, if you go to a bank and say, “Hey, I’d like a loan for this product”, they will give you prime plus 200 basis points. That is their lender spread. So that is their profit. So this one, anybody that lends below prime is effectively losing money. But there’s actually incentive from the government or other financial institutions to do that. They have so many tax credits to try to get [unintelligible 00:19:41.29] So we were actually going to get about 150 to 200 basis points under prime. So if we were to close in April, our interest rate would’ve been two.
Ash Patel: That’s incredible. How long is that good for?
Tommy Brant: I think it was five years that we were looking at there. There was no prepayment penalty. We were going to get one year of IO. And it’s a variable product, but prime would have to go through the roof for that deal to not make sense.
Ash Patel: One year IO is interest only?
Tommy Brant: Yes.
Ash Patel: How did you find out about this loan?
Tommy Brant: It’s called TITC, a Community Investment Tax Credit, something or another.
Ash Patel: Got it.
Tommy Brant: It’s not available everywhere. It’s available to low-income housing places. So there’s a couple other boxes that need to be checked, but this particular property, we gave them the address, they said, “Yup, we can find it.” So it was effectively a broker, and he was [unintelligible 00:20:27.27] banks that wanted to write off an expense, effectively, on their bottom line. And so the broker was basically shopping around. We found a sponsor within short order, actually, and then whenever we had to update them on everything. So it was a sad day, but [laughs] that’s kind of how it all came to fruition.
Ash Patel: Well, I applaud you for walking away, because a lot of people could have seen the potential money and the fees coming in. When you’re using other people’s money, it’s important to make the right decision on their behalf. So you did the right thing walking away from this. What kind of earnest money did you put down?
Tommy Brant: We had put 1% of the purchase price, and earnest money; it was not hard, so it was refundable. We just got that back a couple of weeks ago. And so 41,000 total for a $4.1 million purchase.
Ash Patel: Okay. So why not lock this up earlier than day seven? I would be afraid that somebody else is going to get it under contract before me.
Tommy Brant: Sure. And part of that was the broker said, “If we got it on Sunday”, she said, “On Friday, that’s when I’m calling it quits. We’re no longer accepting offers. No more different terms, nothing like that.” So she effectively gave everyone five days, and then the Saturday was me signing, and on Sunday that was them signing, and the contract was executed.
Ash Patel: Got it. So the broker had a window in which they were accepting offers. Makes perfect sense. Got it. What are you doing next? How are you going to find the next deal?
Tommy Brant: We’ve been doing direct-to-seller marketing since the turn of this year. If you look at the funnel of conversion, I have to have so many leads, to have so many properties underwritten, to have so many properties under contract, to have so many properties that we close upon. So in order to do that and get that type of volume, we need to close on couple of deals a year. We have to make our own leads. So we pivoted this year and started doing direct-to-seller. And we’ve actually been doing it with a broker, which is kind of interesting.
Since the turn of the year, we’ve looked at probably close to 100 now in between middle Tennessee, the north of middle Tennessee, some Kentucky, some Northern Alabama and Eastern Tennessee. And we’ve put offers on 44 properties so far.
Our buy box is 30 to 200 units. Anywhere 1980s or later built within our geographic area I just listed there. So we’ve been putting offers on bigger properties since then. Our average total — it’s fun to say, but we’ve put over 700 million in offers [laugh] to these places. But some of those discussions have led to, “I don’t want to sell this property, but I want to sell these other two. I want to offload some other ones.” So at the end of the day, this is basically free marketing, where we’re getting in front of sellers and we’re just effectively getting that line of sight and having open discussions about what are their goals and what do they want to do? What are their partners want to do? So we’ve had five or six people not tell us no. [laughs] So I’ll just say, there’s [unintelligible 00:23:13.12] in the fire and we’re confident we’re going to have something else before the end of the year.
Ash Patel: Tommy, you mentioned you’re doing direct-to-seller advertising with a broker. What does that mean?
Tommy Brant: The process looks something like– I’m going to get into the details here. I’m an engineer, I can’t help but be detail-oriented. So we’re using Reonomy to identify what inventory is out there, that is 30 to 200 units, 1980s or later, built in these markets. Great. Check.
We take that as lists of properties that fit our buy box, we take them to a broker and we’re like, “Hey, Mr. or Mrs. Broker, can you give us a CoStar report?” So they generate a CoStar report, underwriting report where it gives you rent comps and sales comps, which I would say is way more accurate than anything on Reonomy. And then from there, we’d look at properties – alright, what’s top of market? Pass. For market rent. So what has room to grow or is there opportunity to add value? That’s where we put offers on. We put some assumptions in our underwriting, whether it’s percent of expense ratio, or $4,500 a door for expenses or $5,000 a door for expenses, and then we just take the income for the top line and determine our NOI, and that determines our purchase price.
So our first touch, instead of saying, “Hey, Mr./Mrs. Owner, can you give me a rent roll, and then I can give you something?” we’re giving on our first touch. And so we’re giving them an offer, which just helps us stand out and just starts the conversation. The fact that it’s coming from a broker– I think the fear in doing that without a broker is they’re going to take our purchase price and give that to a broker and say, “Sell me a property, and I want more than this”, or having it through a broker. So instead, “I want more than this”, it’s like, “Well, let’s talk about it.”
Ash Patel: This is a lot of different nuggets of advice. So I was going to ask you how you differentiate yourself in all the other postcards or mailers they get. You’re coming in with an offer and a broker. And your broker is helping you do due diligence, because if they end up listing it, they could potentially use them as both sides of the transaction, right? It’s a brilliant model. I love it. Because they’re getting bombarded with “Quick close. Cash offer. Would love to buy your apartment.” But you’re going two steps above by making an offer and coming with your own broker.
Tommy Brant: Yes, sir.
Ash Patel: Are you finding that you’re getting a higher acceptance rate by doing that?
Tommy Brant: It’s more than I thought. By like the end of Q1, I think we were about 30 offers, and we were just like, “Ah, what’s going on?” But we found that the magic is in the follow up, really. So whenever the broker is calling on a weekly or biweekly basis to these properties we’ve made offers on, that’s where the great conversations are had. There’s not anyone that gets our letter and mails us back. And no one reaches out then, but it’s just like, there’s a lot of good conversations after the fact. People are starting to ask questions about their operators, and have we put teams together before, and also what is the broker’s experience… And so I would argue that my partner and I are fairly new, but they’re getting the perception of the broker’s experience. And so we can lean a little bit more on their credibility in the space and their market knowledge to help get our foot in the door.
Ash Patel: Tommy, I’ve got to ask you, I mentor a group of people in a mastermind, and one of the students sent out a list of mailers, but he put his picture– actually, he put a picture of him and his wife on the mailer. Do you think it would help if your broker’s picture and your picture was on there as well?
Tommy Brant: We’re actually thinking about that. It’s worth revisiting. I’ve seen people wholesaling residential. I’ve seen people take pictures of them and their dogs. Just making it more personable, I think that’s probably a clear point of improvement.
Ash Patel: I would try it.
Tommy Brant: Cool. I’m taking notes.
Ash Patel: Yeah. Awesome, man. This is an incredible conversation. What is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Tommy Brant: Part of me wants to say take action, but in the commercial space, just taking action– but I would say, get educated and then take action. And try not to get paralyzed as much as you can. It’s so easy to say, just get educated, but there’s so much that’s too much. So get educated and take action. If you can couple those, then at that point, it’s just a matter of finding the right team to help you scale.
Ash Patel: Tommy, are you ready for the Best Ever Lightning Round?
Tommy Brant: I’m so pumped for this, Ash. Let’s go.
Ash Patel: Alright, Tommy, what’s the best ever book you recently read?
Tommy Brant: The disclaimer, aside from Rich Dad Poor Dad, the Best Ever Syndication Book, aside from all of those great resources like Traction, Miracle Morning, Atomic Habits, Rocket Fuel, Who Not How, the most best ever books I’ve recently read is– it’s a tie. So Story Worthy is a book that I would say that just helps you try to identify story-worthy moments in every day, rather than just looking forward to something else or removing something else. It helps you live in the moment and try to spot those story-worthy moments, but it also coaches you of how to tell a proper story that is captivating to an audience, and maybe thought-provoking as well.
Ash Patel: I could see how that’s very beneficial in a lot of different industries. Thanks for sharing that.
Tommy Brant: For sure.
Ash Patel: Tommy, what’s the best ever way you like to give back?
Tommy Brant: Right now, it’s just my time. At the beginning of this, we started talking about the vacation home loans. All of this is fun for me. So I’m talking about stuff that may or may not benefit me, but it’s just like, I’m happy to talk to anyone about real estate and the different niches and paths of success that have worked for me. So I’m giving time back.
Ash Patel: Tommy, how can the Best Ever listeners reach out to you?
Tommy Brant: Yeah. So on my website, tbcapitalgroup.com. You may be prompted to download a book that has the best information in there if you just want information on the multifamily ecosystem in general. it’s a passive investors’ guide to multifamily universe. If you just want to secure 30 minutes with me, if you go to tbcapitalgroup.com/connect, and my calendar is right in there, you can pick a spot that aligns with your time outside of that. I’m on LinkedIn and Facebook. Check me out.
Ash Patel: Who’s the ideal person to book 30 minute with you? Is it a potential investor? Somebody that wants to get into short-term rentals? Somebody that wants to buy a vacation home?
Tommy Brant: I would say on paper, probably a potential investor. I welcome any and all conversations. One day, I do want to explore syndicating a short-term rental portfolio. So people that are interested in the short-term rental space that acknowledge that it’s a great avenue but don’t want to spend the time to learn the markets or assemble the teams or identify the cleaners and the handyman would do that part. I think syndication has a card to play there as well.
Ash Patel: Tommy, thank you so much for joining us today and giving us a lot of great advice. Your story starts out graduating from a prestigious university, electrical engineer, full-Time into commercial real estate after going through mobile home rehabs. I thank you again for your whole story today. And I’m sorry that deal in Nashville didn’t work out, but I’m sure there’s a lot more in the horizon for you.
Tommy Brant: Well, thank you so much, Ash. I appreciate all of that you do.
Ash Patel: Best Ever listeners, thank you so much for joining us. If you enjoy this episode, please leave us a five-star review. Share the podcast with someone you think can benefit from it. Also, follow, subscribe, and have a best ever day.