What’s up Freedom Fighters! In today’s episode, I meet with Nathan Brooks and talk about scaling your rental portfolio. In many ways, growing your rental portfolio is easier than ‘staying small’, and if you try to stay small…you’ll likely not see the positive financial results you’re seeking. Whether you’re just getting started, or have a few rentals and are looking to grow…you’ll get a ton of value from today’s show. Let’s jump into the show!

Highlights of this show

  • Meet Nathan Brooks, rental property expert.
  • Learn why scaling your rental portfolio makes sense.
  • Join our discussion on investing in markets outside of where you live.
  • Learn how to finance your rental properties.

Resources and Links from this show:

Listen to the Audio Version of this Episode

FlipNerd Show Transcript:

Mike: Welcome to “Real Estate Investing Secrets.” We’re all looking for freedom and the opportunity to live better, more fulfilling lives, but most of us were trained our entire lives to work for someone else and chase their dreams. How can we use real estate investing as a vehicle to achieve financial freedom? My life is dedicated to answering your real estate investing questions and helping you build an investing business that allows you to change your life and the world around you and to enable you to turn your dreams of financial freedom into a reality.
My name is Mike Hambright from flipnerd.com and your questions get answered here on the “Real Estate Investing Secrets” show.
What’s up, freedom fighters? Hey, welcome back for another episode. Today I’m with my buddy Nathan Brooks, here. Nathan and I have known each other for a few years. You were on a couple of years back I think on the show, right? 
Nathan: Yes, I have. Thanks for having me back on. 
Mike: Yeah, awesome. You guys can go back and check out that episode if you want. We’re going to talk about a little bit of a different topic today than we did before. Nathan is a turnkey operator. He basically does about 150 houses a year in Kansas City and he primarily sells them to people that want to own them as rental properties and helps other people build wealth, and he’s building wealth in the process himself too by selling houses and then of course keeping some of those rentals himself. So he’s a wealth of knowledge at kind of building wealth through real estate.
And contrary to what some people believe, because we’re called FlipNerd, we don’t flip everything. I mean, the truth is I have a rental portfolio that is my biggest asset, quite frankly. So we believe very much in using your real estate to build long-term wealth, which is usually through rentals. So that’s what we’re going to talk about. Excited to have you on, Nathan. 
Nathan: I’m so excited to be here and I’m excited . . . It’s funny. Our mission at Bridge is building a bridge to wealth and freedom through real estate, so it’s pretty funny you said building wealth . . .
Mike: Yeah. Did you trademark it? Because I’ve been using it for a while.
Nathan: No, I haven’t. 
Mike: No, that’s good. I think we believe the same. There are a lot of ways to build wealth with real estate of course, and then for us there are a lot of ways to help other people build those things too that kind of need some extra information or they need a hand with finding properties or whatever it might be. So I know we believe . . . we’re preaching from the same gospel there. 
Nathan: We are, yeah, and it’s so important for people to know real estate is such an incredible opportunity, and so just because you don’t want to go, you know, learn how to fix a toilet or swing a hammer or know how to buy a home doesn’t mean you can’t be in the game and really, you know, have all those benefits from it, so it’s cool. 
Mike: Yeah, awesome. So today, guys, we’re going to be talking about kind of scaling your rental portfolio. And, you know, we kind of believe . . . and it’s the truth. I don’t have the exact statistics in front of me, but there are a massive amount of rental properties that are owned in America. You know, considering the home ownership rate is somewhere around 65%, that means 35% are rental properties, right? So one in three houses in America roughly are rental properties, and that’s pretty amazing when you start to think about it.
Now there’s a little sub-statistic there that there’s a huge, huge percentage, like literally 90-something percent of those are owned by people that own one or two. And while that’s interesting, it’s really hard to build wealth or retire from a job that you don’t like or even throw off much cash flow when you have one or two. So we’re going to talk about how to kind of scale that up and how to turn it into something that really can be an asset for you and really can provide some financial freedom ultimately. One or two houses probably aren’t going to get the job done for you.
Hey, Nathan, before we kind of jump into this, for folks that don’t know you, tell us a little bit about you and kind of your background. 
Nathan: Sure absolutely, and thank you again for having me on. It’s a real pleasure and I appreciate it. So Nathan Brooks out of the Kansas City market. I’m a real estate investor. I’ve been doing it more than 10 years. [Inaudible 00:03:52] investments. We’ll do about a 150 houses out of Kansas City market.
I’m married. I have a beautiful wife and two kiddos. So we recently bought our dream spot. I have 11 acres and I enjoy getting to tool around on my tractor and my side-by-side at home and running the chainsaw. I have a shotgun range in my property for shooting clays and stuff, so it’s awesome. Yeah, I love it. 
Mike: That’s great. Well, let’s talk a little bit about the case for scaling, because I found, just in talking to people over the years and over time, there are a lot of people that will say they own one or two rental properties and it seems like they don’t really know how to grow. It’s kind of a burden. Or they’ll say things like, “Well, they’re really a pain in the butt so I’m not sure that I want any more.”
And, you know, you and I were talking ahead of time. Of course, you’re a provider for people to build rentals. I’ve kind of made this joke to you that I have a rental portfolio here in Dallas, pretty good-sized, you know, decent, throws off a lot of cash, and if I am ever . . . I don’t manage it myself. I don’t even believe in managing yourself because I don’t think . . . I think you have to be an operator and that is a business in and of itself, right?
But I think that a lot of people that own a . . . One of the things I was going to say is I’ll go out of my way to not drive past one of my rentals. If I’m on that part of town and I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got a rental like a block over,” I don’t want to drive past it. I don’t want to see that the grass is long. I don’t want to see that the shutters are hanging on there sideways if that’s the case or that somebody is parked in the front yard. Because I don’t manage it myself, I don’t need that burden on my shoulders of knowing that something is not right there and I just prefer . . .
They say ignorance is bliss. I mean, when it comes to rentals, I’d prefer to not know. That situation is going to resolve itself one way or another and I don’t have to be a part of it.
So anyway, let’s kind of talk . . .
Nathan: That’s why you hire a great property manager. 
Mike: Yeah, yeah. Let’s talk a little about kind of the case for scaling though, because there are so many things that I think people see. “Well, I’ve got a couple but they’re a huge pain in the butt and it’s wearing me down.” And it’s like the reality is, in many ways, like in a lot of businesses, sometimes the answer isn’t to pull back and be smaller. It’s actually to grow and be larger because it gives you more resources or things. So kind of talk about really the case for scaling, if you will. 
Nathan: So I think that, and you’ve set it up perfectly, which is you are an investor in your portfolio at that point and it’s not just that, you know, one or two and you’re managing yourself. You get a management company who can do [inaudible 00:06:26], and that’s its own beast, believe me.
But, you know, when you look at the scaling, it brings a couple of things. First of all, it brings some stability in your cash flow, so the more units you have . . . you know, if you have one that goes vacant or two that go vacant and you have five properties versus you have 20 or 30 properties and you have two go vacant, you’ll have a much, much less drag in that cash flow or lull in your income.
And the second is, you know, I think that as you look at the scaling and you start to see it’s actually not that hard to buy 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 homes or whatever that number is, 100 homes. You and I have multiple friends that own, you know, over 100.
Mike: Yeah, for sure. I have a mentor here that owns 2,000. 
Nathan: Yeah, see? Two thousand homes, which is just incredible. And I think a lot of times too it’s one of those things that people don’t even understand that that’s possible. So once you understand that it’s in the realm of possible, then it’s more like the case for scaling is, “Well, you want to get your spouse home from work? Well, guess what? Continue buying some.” Build that cash flow. Or you want to pay for your kids’ college? Well, when they’re 5 or 6 or 10 or whatever, buy a couple of homes. Buy a couple of more homes.
You know, that’s what we’re going to do for our kids. Every year when my kids turn 10, we’re going to literally buy 2 homes a year for each kid. We’re going to put it in a trust. We’re going to own it and then literally be able to say, “Hey, this is how we do it.” 
So not only in the process are we building wealth in the short term, but family in the long term for us and our kids in their life, building that legacy too. 
Mike: Yeah.
Nathan: There are a lot of ways to do it. 
Mike: And you can move the needle faster financially for sure if you have more, right? 
Nathan: Yes. 
Mike: And then there’s also kind of operationally, right? There are some people that . . . I’ve heard people say one of two things. They’re like, “Well, I’m just going to manage it myself until I get, like, 10.” Or there are people that are like, “You know, I don’t even want to mange one. I’m going to start . . .” Which is how I believe.
That’s the beauty of a property manager usually. They don’t care if you have one or if you have 50. They can handle it now. So why would you burden yourself with those maintenance calls and finding tenants and all those things even with one? It is a huge burden on anybody to have to deal with that. And you look at effectively the cost of a property manger and it’s like, you know, you’ve got to value to your time, right? And so, I think operationally . . .
Nathan: And legally, too, right?
Nathan:So you have to know all the legal ramifications of what does it actually look like to have a lease in place? What does it actually look like to make sure you’re following procedure and, you know, legitimate leases and the proration of rents and deposits and all this kind of stuff? You know, it’s not something to be taken lightly and you want to make sure is it . . .
Now, if you want to build a property management company, that’s one thing, but, you know, if you’re looking to build and scale your wealth and your portfolio then absolutely give that to somebody else who has already built those systems and focus on actually developing and scaling what you want, which is those assets that are sitting in your portfolio. 
Mike: Yeah. I think most people . . . and hopefully this is a little bit of a dose of reality for some of you that are listening that are managing their own and they just have a few. Go try to figure out what your hourly rate is to deal with, you know, going to do the make-ready-yourself or spending time showing prospective tenants the house and you run all the way across town on a Saturday and leave your family at home, show up, and then they’re not there and they’ll text you and say, “Hey, changed my mind.”
Just start to think about how much time that’s taking you and what else . . . You’ll start to pretty quickly realize that you would be better off if you literally outsourced that and go flip burgers. You’re literally making like nothing to do those things, and time is our most valuable asset, as you know.
Nathan: Yep. I say this to my team all the time. There are two things that you can’t buy, and it’s time and experience. So do you want to have that experience within the property management thing or do you want to build it out to somebody who’s already solved that problem for you?
Mike: Yeah. In my space as an active investor, we find deals and things like that. I tell all of our students, “Hey, your time is better spent finding more deals.” I usually say, “Your time is better spent doing one or two things, finding more deals or, god forbid, enjoying your life more, which is why you got into real estate in the first place.”
Mike:And it’s definitely not better spent being a property manager. I mean, I think exactly what you said. The only reason you should do your own property management is you’re trying to build a property management business and maybe do it for other people too. And most people that are doing their own management have no desire in doing more of it, especially for somebody else. So anyway, I think we’ve kind of beat that dead horse there about property management. 
Nathan: I think we have, yeah. 
Mike: So let’s talk about . . . back to the comment of me saying I don’t even want to drive past my rentals in my town here in Dallas, like I don’t even want to see them, it kind of starts to make the case for, “Well, why do they have to be here?” or “Why do I have to be here?” I could move across the country eventually, and it doesn’t really matter where my rentals are because I’m not managing them and I don’t even want to see the damn things.
So as a turnkey provider you guys do a lot of houses and you have customers from all over the country, probably I bet you even have some international customers probably that buy from you, right?
Nathan: Yep, absolutely. We have, you know, many states and I think seven countries, lots of military folks as well.
Nathan:So yeah, it’s cool to be able to . . . it really has changed the game that you can literally invest anywhere. 
Mike: Yeah. So let’s talk about that a little bit because I think a lot of people think, “Well, you know, I don’t even know how to find deals in my own hometown.” Or if you’re in California or a lot of more expensive markets, the East Coast, West Coast, it’s hard to find good cash-flowing properties like it is kind of in the Southwest and the Midwest and all that, where there’s a lot of . . . It’s just more affordable housing honestly for rental-type properties, more rental-grade properties. But talk about that idea of investing virtually and why that makes more and more sense as time goes by. 
Nathan: Yep, absolutely. So when you look at it from a global perspective and thinking about scaling, you also want to kind of understand what the numbers are that you’re looking for in your investment. So it’s not just only who’s the provider. Of course, that’s very important, but, you know, what does it actually look like?
So, you know, when you come to a city like ours, Kansas City, and some of those Midwest states . . . there are some in Florida. You know, there are some good areas where you can still invest and really get solid cash flow.
And it’s really understanding the type of market you want to invest in, right? So you can get one that’s just straight cash flow market. You can kind of get a hybrid market that has some cash flow and some appreciation. That’s Kansas City. You know, that sits in that space. And you have those straight up appreciation kind of markets where maybe you’re not getting cash flow but maybe you have an opportunity for higher appreciation. 
Mike: Yeah. And I think technology and turnkey providers, you know, that’s a relatively new phenomenon over the past handful of years or so that that’s become kind of more mainstream, right? I think in the past people would only own them in their hometown or maybe like the town they grew up in if they’ve moved away or some town that they feel like they know well. It’s like, “Well, if you’ve ever invested in the stock market or anything did you base your investment objectives on where the company was based at?” It’s like, “Well, no.” Never, right? And so, it’s like why is this . . .
If you feel good about the person managing them . . . because property management is key in the rental business. Whether it is in your own market or anywhere else, if you feel comfortable with them, who cares where they’re at?
Nathan: Yes, 100%. And then you also know that now you have the opportunity to scale. And talking about scaling, you know, you could literally own 50 homes in one city, 50 homes in another city, and 50 homes in another city and, you know, you have three great property management companies and you could scale in all of those areas, build relationships with banks, and that kind of stuff where it’s not localized. And the technology makes it easy to get the reporting and it makes it easy to understand what you’re buying.
You rely on those partners out there who are bringing those deals to put those together and be the boots on the ground, and then you can decide what’s a great fit for you mutually with those people bringing in the deals. 
Mike: Yeah, the technology and, you know, just like you can hire an Uber driver to drive you around, you can hire . . . There’s a company called WeGoLook, wegolook.com. You can hire people to go drive past a house, take pictures for you. You can hire real estate agents to go do a BPO and look at a house or appraiser. It’s easier than ever to connect in other markets and have people go do things for you than it has been ever before, right? 
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. And literally in real time too whether it’s Facebook Live or Google Hangout or you have FaceTime on your phone with the person walking the home. You can get a video. Matterport cameras are cool where you can see the whole three dimensions of the property.
Mike: Oh, yeah, those are cool. 
Nathan: And then there’s also the update technology too, whether it’s a Dropbox folder with pictures of your property. Our company, we give you the scope of work, we give you the inspection report, we give you all that stuff in one place so you can just save it, right? You can just save that folder and have all your stuff in one place. 
Mike: Yeah, and you can kind of be there without ever being there, right? I mean, for most people, it should give you a higher level of comfort as to what you’re investing in. You can kind of see it and feel it without actually having to physically feel it. 
Nathan: Yeah, exactly. Well, that’s what we tell our clients all the time, which is, “Hey, we don’t want you to have to feel like you’re a Kansas City expert. We want you to feel like you found the right partner.” And that way, it’s like wherever you’re going, you don’t need to be the expert, but you need to understand it enough fundamentally on, “What am I buying, what kind of returns am I looking for, what asset class am I buying, and then what’s my long-term strategy so I can make sure I find the right partner that can scale?”
And if you want to buy 100 houses over a couple of years and you’re working with somebody that can only do, say, 20 a year, maybe, you know, it’s not necessarily the fit.
And also, really understanding that asset class and the type of renovation, the type of product that you’re getting so you’re really clear that you all of a sudden close on this home and it wasn’t exactly what you wanted and you got into something now that you own that isn’t a fit for what you were hoping for. 
Mike: Right. So, Nathan, one other big thing that comes up with people owning rentals is around financing. So some people don’t know that you can use government-backed financing Fannie Mae and Freddie to finance your first 10 properties usually, if you have a good job and a good . . . you know, they’re going to look at your income and they’re going to look at your cash reserves and things like that. But that truly is the best financing you can get because it’s low interest rate and it’s fixed over 30 years, which we’ll talk about next when you go to the commercial level and you start to find financing. It’s usually not fixed for long term.
There has been some stuff that’s popped over the past couple of years, but it’s usually not as . . . when the government is subsidizing it, it’s a good thing to get while you can get it, but you run out of that . . . So let’s talk about that for a bit and then we’ll kind of jump into what do you do after 10 deals. So talk about kind of the value of that access to funding your first 10 deals first. 
Nathan: Yep. So the first Fannie Mae ones you can put 10 deals . . . and the other thing if you have a spouse or somebody else adult that’s investing with you, you can actually do 20 really if you both have W-2 income or you can show the income. Obviously, talk with your attorney on how you do it, but if you put both of your names on the contract, now you’ve both used one of those spots. But if you keep it separate and you can qualify separately, then you could potentially have 20.
But you get the best interest rate, and of course that 30-year money is the cheapest to get, and then you can literally set it and forget it for the 30 years of that mortgage.
And what I like to think about is, you know, as you have those 10 or 20 properties and then you look at what are the top performing ones, and maybe if there’s one at the bottom that’s consistently not doing very well, sell it off and take that money, put it back into one or two other ones, and then you can literally get the best interest rate, the best, safest, most long-term money in those Fannie Mae mortgages. 
Mike: Yeah. So then when you get up above that and you want to do more than 10, then you start to get into some more kind of commercial-type loans. So talk about that. Where do you go beyond that? Because a lot of people get stuck and they think, “Well, I can’t get financing after this.” Well, clearly there are people that own way more than 10 rental properties, so talk about what the most kind of typical routes are from there on. 
Nathan: Well, you know, there’s now some institutional money in that space too. CoreVest is one. I can’t think of any other off the top of my head but . . . Can you think of any other ones?
Mike: Lending One has some products and . . .
Nathan: Lending One. 
Mike: Yeah, some of the big national lenders have some products like that. 
Nathan: Yeah, exactly. So you have some institutional money, and then you also have the, you know, community banks too where you could come in and go work with the bank and you can sit across from that VP or President of lending and have some deposits on with that bank and you can get . . .
A lot of times too they make those lending decisions in that bank, and so you want to know what the lending limit is and you want to know what they can do, but it’s called a portfolio loan. And so, then they can take, say, 10 properties or 20 properties or 30 properties and they can put them all into a package or however you want them and they’ll loan, you know, far beyond that number of 10 properties.
So a couple of things to ask there are, “What is the am?” What is the amortization? A lot of times, it’s not a 30-year am. It’s either, you know, 15- or 20-year am. And then also just “What is the lending limit of the bank?” So if you have 20 or 30 homes and it’s $3, $4, or $5 million worth of properties, then what they can lend up to for an individual there at the bank? So you want to know that as well. 
Mike: Yeah. Usually when you’re dealing with community banks, probably one of the things that has a little more leverage if you’re . . . the houses are also in that same community, right? 
Nathan: Yes, absolutely. And they want to know . . . and the other thing is what kind of home it is, and there are some incentives for banks depending on where those properties are and the type of areas. Yeah, absolutely.
And it’s important that they understand you too. It’s a relationship. You’re building that relationship. They understand who you are. They understand that you are in business and what your business looks like. And you really take it seriously not just as a transaction of going to ask for, “Hey, I need money,” but, “How am I here to help you? How am I here building the community? How am I here building this relationship with the bank?” 
Mike: Yeah. That’s awesome. So, Nathan, maybe give some guidance to people. We kind of talked about a lot of stuff here today, like getting started with rentals. What do you think . . . I mean, of course, probably I’m going to . . . I guess if people want to get started, like if they don’t own any rentals and they want to start buying rentals, or they own a couple and they’re like, “Okay, I want to actually start to scale this up now. This makes sense to me,” where do they go to even start that process?
Nathan: You know, that’s such a great question. So first of all, I think to start from asking yourself the question of “What do I want it to look like?” So if ultimately you want to own 10 properties, you can do them all in your Fannie Mae mortgages. And that is assuming that you have the W-2 income and you have some reserves set aside and whatever. You can do that, right?
If you say, “Hey, Mike, Nathan, I really want to have 50,” okay, well, let’s start thinking about it in the long term and let’s start a relationship with one or two different community banks and building those relationships now and put a few thousand dollars and grow that.
Even let’s say you put those first two or three or four properties and you actually just have those rents deposit back to that bank. Just say, “Hey, we’re going to do a refinance soon. I want to work with you guys. This is what it looks like. This is my goal.” You might not say, “I want to do 50,” but you might say, “Hey, I got five coming. This is what we want to do. I want to portfolio these together.” 
But if you come back to that first one or two properties, think about where you want to invest in and, you know, what kind of market. Maybe there’s a place that you already have familiarity with or maybe there’s a certain company that you want to work with.
And then also understand, like I said earlier, the asset class. So what is the actual property and what do the actual numbers look like? How much does it cost? And if you’re a first-time investor and you’ve worked really hard and you maybe only have $20,000 or $25,000 to put in that investment, then you’re looking at a $100,000 house. So make sure you understand, “What am I actually buying?”
And then start saying to yourself, too, that it’s that principle of putting away money and paying yourself first and saying, “Hey, I’m not willing to accept this anymore of not owning more properties. And if it’s, you know, $20,000 a year, I’m going to put away enough to buy one this year and I’m going to put away enough to buy one next year or two next year.” And you’ve set yourself up to start seeing that this is actually possible. 
Mike: Yeah, don’t let that big goal kind of scare you of 50. It’s like, “Well, that could be over 10 years. It’s five a year. That’s one every other month.” Once you start getting a plan in place and you kind of have some smaller stepping-stones . . .
Just like in everything and all of our businesses, right? It’s like, “Hey, I have a big goal. But I’m not going to go from zero to achieving the goal overnight. I have milestones along the way to help us get there.” And for you, it’s like, “Hey, I want to buy three a year.” So once every four months, you’re buying a house. It’s not unrealistic, right?
And once you start to build it up, then, I’ve seen you’re kind of like, “Wow.” You kind of look back and you’re like, “Wow, that was easier than I thought.” It wasn’t that bad because you just did baby steps, right? 
Nathan: Yep, exactly. And you also recognize that once you’ve done it one or two or three times, it’s like anything. It’s like riding a bicycle. The first time, it takes you forever to just get on that bike and pedal, right? And then all of a sudden, you’re riding and you’re moving around a little bit, but you stay on the bike. No more crashing. And then all of a sudden, it’s in your subconscious and you’re not stressing about it and you understand what it is and how to ride and just the enjoyment of the riding.
It’s the same application with real estate. It’s just like anything. So the first time you do it, second time you do it, third time you do it, there’s a lot of learning. It’s part of it. But take notes, learn from it, understand what you want, and then by the time you get to that third, fourth, fifth one, it’s a lot easier. 
Mike: Yeah, you’re more confident. You can make decisions quicker. You’re more confident that the financing that you need is there. Just like you said, like everything, you just start to get better and more competent and confident in yourself, and you might just surprise yourself and grow faster than you thought. 
Nathan: Yeah, absolutely. 
Mike: Awesome. Well, Nathan, if folks want to learn more about you . . . I know you’re an amazing provider in the Kansas City market. If they want to learn more about you and what you’ve got going on, where should they go?
Nathan: Absolutely. They can go to bridgeturnkey.com. And I’m also on Facebook, just Nathan Brooks. I’m the most active social-wise on Facebook. Yeah, you can check out our properties on the website and also, you know, connect with me online. 
Mike: Awesome. Everybody, I hope you got a lot of value today. Nathan, thank you for being with us today. 
Nathan: Thank you so much, Mike. Really enjoyed it. 
Mike: Yeah, always good to see you. For those of you guys that are listening, this is episode number 463 with Nathan Brooks.
If you haven’t yet, please go out to Stitcher Radio, iTunes, Google Play, wherever you might watch us or listen to us . . . at YouTube, of course, we have . . . you guys might not know this, but we have just an insane amount of downloads and views on YouTube, and of course our own website flipnerd.com where you can watch or listen to all of our shows. We’d appreciate it if you’d go out and subscribe. Give us some positive feedback, or if you have some negative feedback you can send it to [email protected]
But we hope you got some value out of this. We’re going to keep the shows coming at you. Hope you guys have a great day. Until the next episode, stay strong, stay cool, and keep fighting for freedom. We’ll see you. 
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