Syndication Series #5: Scaling A Multifamily Portfolio With Liz Faircloth
Multifamily is the ultimate goal of many real estate investors in America. Achieving the dream is possible, but how about scaling? That’s where Moneeka will help as she discusses scaling multifamily investments with the cofounder of the DeRosa Group and the Real Estate InvestHER community, Liz Faircloth. Liz talks about getting into real estate, how she and her husband pivoted into multifamily, and what you need to know about out of state investing. Learn more from Liz and Moneeka about the multifamily market by tuning in.
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Syndication Series #5: Scaling A Multifamily Portfolio With Liz Faircloth
Real Estate Investing for Women
In this episode, I am so excited to welcome to the show, Liz Faircloth. She Cofounded the DeRosa Group in 2005 with her husband, Matt. The DeRosa Group, based in Trenton, New Jersey, is an owner of commercial and residential property with a mission to transform lives through real estate. DeRosa has vast experience in bringing properties to their highest and best value, which includes repositioning single-family homes, multifamily, apartment buildings, mixed-use, retail and office space.
The company controls close to 1,000 units of residential and commercial assets throughout the East Coast. Liz is the Cofounder of The Real Estate InvestHER community, a platform to empower women to live a financially free and balanced life through over 25 Meetups across the US and Canada, an online community and membership that offers accountability and mentorship for women to take their businesses to the next level.
She is the co-host of The Real Estate InvestHER Show, which I will be on too. They published their first book, The Only Woman in the Room: Knowledge and Inspiration From 20 Women Real Estate Investors. Liz has been interviewed for many articles and top-rated podcasts, including mine, including being a two-time guest on the top-rated BiggerPockets Podcast and the Best Ever Show. On the personal side, Liz is an avid runner, has completed several triathlons and marathons, has two adorable children and is a New York Mets fan. Liz, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me.
It’s nice to see you again. You and Andresa do so much cool stuff with the investor community. I love what you’re doing together, but I haven’t gotten to chat with you about what you’re doing. Why don’t you give us a high-level version of your story of how you got interested in real estate and what your path has been?
It wasn’t a linear path. My husband and I at the time had started dating. Before we started dating, I was in graduate school for Social Work. I got my Master’s in Social Work, wanted to open my practice and help people. That’s always been my passion. I grew up in a great family but middle-class family. My dad was a school teacher. I was never introduced to entrepreneurs or investors. That wasn’t in my sphere of any context growing up. Hard work ethic was there, but certainly the business piece of it, I was not familiar with or didn’t have a lot of exposure.
Until I met my brother-in-law, who was an entrepreneur, started a business and handed me Rich Dad Poor Dad. I’m 23 at the time. He’s like, “You got to read this.” I liked personal growth books. I started in college reading different books and always enjoyed them. I liked learning and growing. I’m a dork in college. I’m reading Awaken the Giant Within and everyone’s like, “What are you reading?” I’m like, “I don’t like fiction.” I still don’t like fiction. I have to learn something from it.
Long story short, I read that. My eyes were open to this idea of passive income. I honestly never heard of that before like, “I can have money working for me, not me working for money.” It was a whole new opened my eye concept, which I know a lot of people have said, but what got us involved, I then started dating my now-husband. We lived about two hours from each other. Every weekend we’d go to all the REIA meetings and start learning.
Make sure you’re mitigating risk for yourselves, but most importantly, your investors.
We’re in our twenties and didn’t know anything. We didn’t have any money to invest, but we said, “Let’s just give this a go.” We start taking courses. They told you to like the door knock. This was before Facebook Marketplace. It was literally opening the newspaper, go to the foreign ads and calling tired landlords. That was the million-dollar tip we got at one of the events. That’s what we did.
Every weekend, literally, we are knocking on doors, right outside of Philadelphia, where my husband lived when I visited him. One day, we got someone to say, “That’s interesting. Let me think about that.” We called them back and struck up a deal. A year into us taking courses, door knocking, cold calling and bootstrap whatever we could do, we struck up a deal and bought our first property. It was a duplex for $150,000. We learned everything on that property. We’d go with people.
When you buy a property, the tenants that are there may not be your tenants ongoing because of a new sheriff’s in town. We learned the whole multifamily. It opened our eyes. It was only multis in this neighborhood. It wasn’t like we chose a duplex. It just happened because it was older homes right outside of Philadelphia. There were only duplexes and small multis. Long story short, we got our start there, we moved to New Jersey and started our business. We focused on New Jersey in buying properties there.
We sold that property and did a 1031 into a four-unit and then that started our trajectory in New Jersey. Over many years I’ve been doing this, we had lots of twists and turns. I wished we focused on multi, but we didn’t. We got involved in a lot of different things early on, like people who get distracted as they do and people that are probably a little naive, little young as well, can do. We flipped houses.
We got into tax liens. We bought a commercial building. We bought raw land. Every random thing you could possibly think of, we probably have done it until we doubled down on multifamily. Our business is focused on multifamily. We went from a 2-duplex to a 10-unit. We grew very steadily. We didn’t go from a 2- to a 200-unit. We did, but over time and now we focus on larger multis and we’re starting a fund where we’re investing with other operators and things of that sort.
We’re diversifying a little bit outside of multi but more from a fund perspective. I’m involved in that, not day-to-day but more from like strategic level, helping build our team out and exciting to be able to invest in different sectors of real estate, not just multifamily, but we love multifamily. We have a letter of intent on a property in the Southeast, which is where we focused on.
Tell me a little bit more about this fund. Let’s dive a little deeper into that.
With regards to the fund, we talk to people all the time. People are like, “This sounds like a great opportunity for a passive investor.” You’re like, “I don’t have a building. I don’t have anything under contract right now.” We refer them. We know a lot of people we like and respect in the business. We have no problem with that. There’s a lot of good syndicators out there.
We wanted to have another flavor of ice cream if you will. The fund will obviously be an ongoing rolling fund and it will give investors what we’re going to invest in and all things that we know and that we’ve vetted. We’re not going to start investing in a business that we have no idea about because that’s a whole other level. It’s like mitigating risk. We want to mitigate your risks. You want to make sure you’re mitigating risk for yourselves, but most importantly, your investors.
Hard money loans will be one. We’re going to start to work with hard money operators that we like and respect, that we know to do good business. We were not the hard money lenders. They are and we’re going to do that. Multifamily will be a piece of it. If we have a project that comes up, we’re going to almost invest in our own projects. That will be a piece of it. Those are the two main pieces.
I want to say, even self-storage, there have been operators. That might be another sector. It will be all related to investing in real estate on some level, but it will be in a way that we are not the sole operators of everything. That’s where, as we evolve, it’s like, you don’t want to do everything yourself. Once you figure that out, you got to focus on that. That’s what that looks like. We’re building out a team and that’s been in the making for some time, but that’s the goal.
I’m so fascinated by that idea because I feel like for me too, there’s something that I do well. I do executive homes in Silicon Valley. I’ve got my entire system. It’s all built out. It runs itself. I don’t worry too much about it. I was telling you before that I’m taking all of May off for my birth month because that’s where my birthday is. We’re traveling to Hawaii and going to a spa in Palm Springs with my sister.
I get to have that lifestyle. It is fantastic. I’m not particularly interested in working significantly more. I do get bored because we have construction projects. We have some other stuff going on so that my entrepreneurial mind doesn’t slow down or get bored. What is happening is I’ve found several different syndicators doing different things. I’ve invested in storage, multifamily and a variety of different things like what you were talking about.
I don’t know how this is going to work for you guys, but every single time I invest, it’s a minimum of $100,000. That’s great for us because we have that money. We’re looking to retire. We’re moving that way, but not everybody who’s reading to this show has access to $100,000 for this and that. They want to be able to diversify without spending that much money. What is that fund look like for you? Is there going to be a minimum investment? Have you worked that out? What does that look like?
One organization we’ve started working with is called Republic. Basically, what they do is, in essence, have a similar type of approach in that people could invest $10,000, even down to $1,000. Don’t quote me on that but I’m not familiar. What’s fascinating though if that for our last syndication, it was a 336-unit apartment building. To your point, our minimum was $50,000 on that project. Not everyone has that, but they want to invest in real estate.
Don’t do everything yourself. Do what you do and do it well.
We found this company and what basically they’re doing is they’re the investor in that project, but they’re the ones going out to the accredited investors because it was the accredited investors to then say, “We are all pooling all this money to gather,” then they are the investor in that project with us. Just so Jane Doe, who’s got a $1,000, they’re all pooled in this together in this company called Republic. Republic is ultimately the investor, if that makes sense. It was really cool because that was the first time we’d ever done that because we thought about it. We have a 336-unit apartment complex. We had close to 80 investors. It’s a lot of people and that’s even at a minimum of $50,000.
You had some people who put a $500,000 and some people put any amount. There’s a lot of money assigned. I’m the cheapest person. I would be putting $1,000 at anything. I’m like, “That’s me. I’m in that kind of money.” I know. I get it. That was interesting. We were pleased to see that. It’s a neat approach. That’s the future, to be honest, because I love that concept and I was intrigued by it. As we do other deals, we’re going to be working with them. I’m not sure the relationship exactly and how that’s going to play out in the fund, but those are the neat example for our last syndication that gave everyone the opportunity and that’s cool.
Are they more of crowd funders, syndicators or do you have any idea of their structure? I’m interested.
I’m not too sure which level they are. I heard about it conceptually and was intrigued, but I know that they’ve been around and they’re not just at the start of the company. There are a lot of different pieces around it to ensure how you do it because some funds are accredited and not accredited. There is an of legal stuff and a lot of money to the SEC attorneys and all that kind of stuff.
I know this is a project we advertised because we only accepted accredited. It’s a project that you can’t solicit. It’s illegal to do that. We have these other projects from friends and family, but I know with this particular project, we advertise because we only accepted accredited. It’s a neat approach, but I’m happy to get more info.
Let’s put our heads together. I’d love to know a little bit more about that because I’m always looking for ways. When I get phone calls from my ladies, when they say, “I’ve only got this much, what can we do to that, for that and with that to benefit them in the biggest way?” Another topic that I’m getting a lot for my ladies is this idea of out-of-state investing, especially here in California. There are a lot of markets where people feel like, “I can’t invest in my backyard.” They’re scared to go out of state. I know that you do a lot of multifamily out of state. Let’s talk a little bit about that, share your perspective and how to look for projects and stuff like that.
For our first seven years, we invested locally. We don’t invest more than 30 minutes away. We had a team. We had a leasing agent. We had our bookkeeper who did all the accounting. We have a tenant relations person and a maintenance person. We had literally four people on our staff besides my husband and me, helping us manage our local properties. We bought a property in Philadelphia, which was an 18-unit and now it was 35 units. It’s like, “We can still do it.” The market shifted. I’m in the Northeast and New Jersey is not the most favorable state on taxes in this country. Even in Philadelphia, the projects that we were looking at were getting outbid.
It was getting more expensive and we raised money. We work with investors. The returns are important to ensure that we’re going to get into the right project. We’re not just parking millions of dollars from a relative. we’re constantly looking at, “How are we going to get into the right area for our investment goals and our investors?” A broker had brought the same broker. That’s the first thing I’d say as a good tip is to start building relationships with commercial brokers.
Sometimes it’s tough, especially now. You think about a hot market. Everyone’s calling commercial brokers saying, “I invest in multifamily. Do you have anything for me? You and 90 million other people.” You got to like differentiate. Keep that in mind too. We had closed that eighteen-unit with the same broker who called us about a property in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is about an hour and a half from where we were living at the time.
He said, “Are you interested?” We like, “One hour and a half, we’re not going to send our leasing agent there. We’re not sending our maintenance person there. We need to look into property management companies.” After betting the deal and that’s a great story in and of itself. The first domino always is a good property management company. You’re going to need that. Some people successfully invest in properties and they self-manage the properties. I’ve heard of it. I know a lot of women who do it successfully.
We knew at a 49-unit, it wasn’t going to be our best strategy. We knew it was going to be important to have a local property management company. Why I say that’s a great person to have on your team? Let’s say your sourcing an area in Alabama or wherever you’re sourcing deals. Before even looking for property, start getting to know the property management companies there because that’s going to follow.
If you cannot find a property management company in a geographical area, that might be a sign for a lot of reasons that something is off. Even with Airbnb, I know that’s very hot vacation rentals and luxury vacation rentals or whatever the people are interested in. If it’s a hot area, there are people managing in that hot area. That’s a great source and a great team member to start to talk to. Number one, they know the area, what streets are good or aren’t good? What areas are up and coming? What areas are just too hot and too expensive because we know that’s the case.
In it exuberant, everywhere is like, “Hold on. What do you want?” On my way to Target, at the end of the day, you’re a real estate investor. You never turn it off. I saw a lot for sale. I’m tangent. I saw a sign that said For Sale and a handwritten phone number. I’m like, “That’s a good sign.” It’s a great area and what county where I live. I’m like, “That’s an interesting area.” I texted the person. I said, “How much is the lot? What’s the size?” All the things you ask. “We’ve done a bit of new construction a time, but we could probably pull it off $250,000.” I’m like, “I don’t even know if you’d get $500,000 for the property. That’s just for the lot.”
People are not even with their prices. Going back to out of state, property management companies are helpful to have on your team. What commercial brokers care about is if you’ve closed deals. They do not want to work with people who are going to get to the finish line and not be able to pull the money together because they want their commission. That’s what they care about.
Beyond everything else you want to talk about with them, they care about if you’ve closed with them or with anyone of them. If you or someone on your core team has closed deals that you’re looking for. If you’re looking at 100-unit, you better have someone that you’re bringing to the table that, “This is the kind of team we have and we’ve done. This is what we’ve closed.”
The idea of the diversity of jobs is even more important than job growth.
That is what they’re thinking right now when you call them. This broker brought us this project and we started to talk to property management companies in the area. What helped and I’d always say this, is if you have somebody in your family or network who lives in the area, it is helpful. You don’t need to have a degree in real estate. They don’t have to have ten years of investing.
If you have some boots on the ground and feet on the street, people that aren’t just property management because our property management company is a vendor, we always like to offer our property management companies potential ownership in the building. Every time we buy a building and we say, “We’re syndicating this. Would you like to own part of it as well?”
It’s not the best sign if they’re like, “No.” Even if they put $25,000 and maybe they think that’s chump change. Most of all the property management companies we’ve worked with have invested in our deals. That’s a good sign. That’s skin in the game, so to speak. I would say the second, start to look at, “Is this an up-and-coming area? Do I know anyone in my network that can help me? Is there a reason to go there? Do I want to go there?” If you’re going to invest in an area that those are questions to ask. If I have to now get on a plane, is that on the way to my aunt or my parents? Is this an area where my kid’s going to college for the next four years?
I don’t know, but make it make sense versus an area that literally you know no one. That can work, but if you can blend a few things in there and it is an up-and-coming area, you’re going to want somebody that’s 10 to 15 minutes from the property, whether it’s a realtor, you got to pay them hourly. If you can’t get there, someone needs to get there because fires happen. Things happen. We have a cousin in this area, Lancaster.
When we’re looking at it, we’re like, “What do you think?” He’s an investor, which was even better, but he was able to be our boots on the ground. He’s part of our general partner. It has been huge. We had a fire there years ago. We want to be to make sure everyone’s okay. We couldn’t be in one hour and a half. The fire is probably going to throw a little more damage than ten minutes.
You said so much there, but a couple of things that I want to highlight is I think that people think that you hear about an amazing market and you should just invest in there. I remember before 2008, in the mid-2000s, everybody was in Henderson, Nevada, outside Las Vegas. I have close friends who are all invested. There was also Florida and Chicago.
Those were some big hubs where they were marketing to investors from out of state, especially California, because California had a bunch of equity and wasn’t working for us. Everybody could get loans by just stating things, so there were these pockets that were trending. People were making money hand over fist.
I thought I always play the longer trend. I don’t play the short short-term trends. I will admit I would probably be a lot richer if I got that right more often, but there are so many people that get that wrong. Part of it is they didn’t do some of the things that you talk about. It wasn’t a place that I would ever want to visit. It wasn’t a place on the way to anything Las Vegas, Chicago or Florida. A lot of people didn’t have that mentality of, “Would I want to go there? Would I vacation there? Would I want to live there? Would I want my kids to go to college there? Is there any reason for me to go there?”
Even in Henderson, it’s not like people were like, “I’d like to have something in Henderson because I like to go to Las Vegas.” It was, “I’m investing in Henderson because everybody else is investing in Henderson.” I love how you talk about this, especially in your first few deals. This is hugely important is as you’re getting to know what this is like, the very first time you step out of state, you don’t want it to be in a market that you completely don’t understand that you get a bunch of numbers from someone that’s a vendor. They’re interested in selling these properties.
They’re not going to lie to you, but they’re definitely going to paint a very pretty picture. If you don’t know the market and you don’t know anybody who’s there. We had a friend that moved to Henderson and we went to visit them one time when we went on a trip to Las Vegas. He was like, “There are all these crazy investors coming in here.” All around town, people are like, “This bubble’s going to blow,” because there weren’t as many people in the restaurants anymore and there were things that were closing down.
We’re like, “How is it possible that all his expansion is happening, but the Asheville economy is shrinking?” There’s no way to have known that if we hadn’t had this conversation with our friends that had just moved there. There’s all this hype about Henderson, but they just closed down the local, Whole Foods or whatever market it was. I love what you talk about as we don’t have to have boots on the ground all the time, every time. Eventually, you do develop a skill and get to know markets or you focus on certain markets.
Especially in those first few deals that you’re going out. That is all such good advice. Make sure that it’s someplace you would want to go. It’s like basic, intuitive, common sense stuff that we don’t think about because we get whisked away in the excitement of what’s possible. That basic comments and stuff, I like to go there. Is there anything there that I appreciate? Do I have someone that’s relatively close by maybe within a half-hour that they’re not going to be boots on the ground? Just have the conversation once in a while, see how things are going in that market or whatever.
Thank you so much for that because normally, people are like, “You need to look at the colleges, employers or the average income rate.” You do need to do all those things, but it’s not the end of the story. Especially when you’re starting, it’s not necessarily going to give you the comfort that you need to get out there and do it because nothing happens for you until you take action. If it’s just the numbers and that’s not inspiring you to take action, then nothing is happening for you.
Many people do get caught up. There are so many important numbers as you analyze markets and deals, but even just the idea of what COVID brought is the importance of diversity of jobs. Are there different jobs that people can be employed by? They’re literally all in on the tech, government or in whatever industry. The idea of the diversity of jobs is, to me, even more important than job growth.
They’re both important, but just to know that people can get different jobs. These are positive things. There are many markets that don’t have that. Even high-priced areas don’t have that. We probably invest more in the workforce housing, more up-and-coming areas, not areas that are on any hot market list. If those are the two expensive areas, we’re like, “No. We don’t want to invest in an area that’s on any list.”
Your mistakes are going to just make you propel you forward and you’re going to learn from it and you’re going to grow from it.
It’s much more practical advice. My ladies learn a lot of good advice here from very smart people because sometimes we got to ground it. This is how you make yourself comfortable with that. Ask yourself some real common sense questions because so much of building a real business is common sense. There’s a lot of fancy languaging. There’s a lot of people that say things that sound smart, but in the end, it’s a common-sense business. Thank you so much for grounding that for us. That was helpful.
Ladies, we are going to do EXTRA. Liz and I are going to be talking more about building your team. Finding partners, building teams, when you’re in-state or out of state. She likes to say, “Who’s on the bus,” and then team-building with all those people that are on the bus. I love that picture because you’re all going out on a field trip and you’re all on this bus. Where are you going to go? How are you going to get there? Is it going to be fun? Is it going to be profitable? That to look forward to. Before we move to our three rapid-fire questions, could you tell everybody how they can get in touch with you?
In terms of some of the active multifamily projects or funds or to learn more about some of the day-to-day real estate projects, you can go over to my DeRosaGroup.com. My husband got a lot of teaching as well. We’re both love teaching and helping. You’ll see a lot of YouTube content and things of that sort from him. In terms of women who are interested in getting more support from women and getting connected, check us out, TheRealEstateInvestHer.com. From there, you can learn all about our meetups that are across the country and our Facebook Community, membership and things we got going on with helping women.
Are you ready for three Rapid-fire questions?
What’s one super tip on getting started investing in real estate?
Don’t get distracted. Focus on a niche and go all-in on one thing.
What’s one strategy to be successful as a real estate investor?
Don’t give up. I hope you don’t lose money, but you may lose money, like many of us. You’re going to see it potentially. In many years, I can tell you a lot of interesting stories. It had money like the mini Bernie Madoff situation where literally hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen from us. We don’t give up. That makes anyone that’s successful in any line of business or anything in life, don’t give up. Know that your mistakes are going to make you propel you forward. You’re going to learn and grow from it. If you don’t have that attitude, then everyone gets stopped after they lose money and something bad happens. Don’t give up. That’s the key.
What would you say is one daily practice that you do that contributes to your personal success?
It’s something I’ve always done, then go back and forth and don’t do it consistently. I do daily prayer. I read a little spiritual and think about it. I’ve been doing like ten-minute meditation. I’d like to increase that eventually. For me, it’s been super helpful. I focus on whatever I learned in that prayer. I focus on that in my meditation. If I miss a day, it’s rare, but I have maybe missed 1 or 2 days for four months. Every day, I get that in.
My meditation practice has gently worked its way into my life, to where I don’t even think about it. It started just to happen, then I missed three days. My husband and I were on edge. I lost my temper at a restaurant. I didn’t yell at anybody, but I didn’t have the patience to wait. Nobody saw it, but I felt it. I’m like, “What is going on with me? Who is this person?” My husband was like, “Are you stressed out?” I was like, “I haven’t been meditating. I haven’t been taking Moneeka time.” I have been taking Moneeka time. I got a pedicure. I still do, but that piece that starts my day has been so important. I’m glad you mentioned that.
It’s constant. It’s like going to the gym. You can’t do it once and you’re good.
I always say about bliss, like all of our bliss practices. You can’t just brush your teeth once in your lifetime and hope your teeth are going to be good. You got to brush it every day. You got to keep doing those little things. Liz, as always, I’ve loved our conversation. Thank you for everything you shared in the show.
Thank you so much for having me. This is amazing. I hope I was helpful and gave some content that your audience will help them with.
Liz and I have more to talk about. We’re going to be talking about building teams, who are on the bus, and all of that good stuff. Stay tuned for EXTRA. If you’re not subscribed, go to RealEstateInvestingForWomenEXTRA.com. You get the first seven days for free. Check it out, see if you love it, and if you don’t, that’s totally fine. For those of you that are leaving Liz and I, thank you so much for joining us for this portion of the show. I look forward to seeing you next time. Until then, remember, goals without action are just dreams. Get out there, take action and create the life your heart deeply desires. I’ll see you soon. Bye.
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About Liz Faircloth
Liz Faircloth co-founded the DeRosa Group in 2005 with her husband, Matt. The DeRosa Group, based in Trenton, NJ, is an owner of commercial and residential property with a mission to “transform lives through real estate.” Liz is the co-founder of The Real Estate InvestHER® community, a platform to empower women to live a financially free and balanced life on their own terms through over 40 Meetups across the US and Canada and an on-line community and membership that offers accountability and mentorship for women to take their business to the next level!
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Moneeka Sawyer is often described as one of the most blissful people you will ever meet. She has been investing in Real Estate for over 20 years, so has been through all the different cycles of the market. Still, she has turned $10,000 into over $5,000,000, working only 5-10 hours per MONTH with very little stress.
While building her multi-million dollar business, she has traveled to over 55 countries, dances every single day, supports causes that are important to her, and spends lots of time with her husband of over 20 years.
She is the international best-selling author of the multiple award-winning books “Choose Bliss: The Power and Practice of Joy and Contentment” and “Real Estate Investing for Women: Expert Conversations to Increase Wealth and Happiness the Blissful Way.”
Moneeka has been featured on stages including Carnegie Hall and Nasdaq, radio, podcasts such as Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod, and TV stations including ABC, CBS, FOX, and the CW, impacting over 150 million people.