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October 25, 2022

How To Realize Amazing Property Values Leveraging Value Add Design With Lisa Landry [EP124]

Are you looking for a way to increase the value add design of your multifamily community? Lisa Landry has been in the interior & exterior design business for over 20 years. She's come to appreciate the impact design can have on property values. Her team has found a way to cost-effectively transform a B&C multifamily community by investing in the leasing office, the exterior design, and a cohesive branding strategy. Budgeting for design can provide you, as the investor, with an increase in occupancy, retention, and rental rates. Tenants and employees receive the benefits that come with living in a well-designed community including an increased sense of pride. Listen and learn!

Table of Contents:

An Interior Designer and Multifamily Investor

An Interior Designer and Multifamily Investor Who Focus on Value Add Design
Photographer: Edho Pratama | Source: Unsplash

Darin: A little background on Lisa Landry before we start the show. Lisa lives in the DFW area. Her firm, Landry Designs, works with multifamily operators across the country. Lisa and her team have seen firsthand the positive impact design has on property values. She also discusses how women are many times the decision maker on where to live.

So just a little bit on how we know each other. We are both part of the same multifamily mentorship group, the Brad Sumrok Group, based here in Dallas. When Lisa got started, she was looking to learn, like most people are when they get in. I was managing a property and she said, I'll come out free of charge. Just come out and hang out and see if I can add any value and learn.

She came out and we just happened to be when we were painting the property. We'll get into her background, but she's got a design background. She was giving us pointers on paint colors and what we could do. I'm more of a business guy and not a design guy. So it was nice to have Lisa on the property giving advice. With that, Lisa, can you share with the listeners how many properties and how many units you're invested in?

Lisa: I'm actually a GP in one property right now. It's a 10 million property and it's in the Dallas area and that's 108 units. I just had an LP investment go full cycle so that one's already sold and that one did really well, actually.

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A Unique Background in Value Add Design

Lisa: We're under contract on another deal in Dallas right now. That's a 25 million property that should be closed before too long.

Darin: Did you invest in small multifamily before getting involved in the group?

Lisa: No.

Darin: Isn't it crazy when you've just thrown out these numbers like a $10 million deal, a $25 million? But it becomes common when you start seeing all these other people doing it. That's a big thing, getting surrounded by other people that are knocking down these big properties. You're like, if they could do it, I can do it.

Lisa: That first 10 million I was thinking, oh my gosh, $10 million and then now the second one is $25 million. You start going, what's happening? It's a lot to get your mind around, but you're right. When you have friends and other syndicators and other operators that are closing $50 million deals and $60 million deals, it puts it in perspective. You think, well 25 million's not that big. I can handle this.

Darin: You have partners that you're partnering with that have experience and that helps as well. Can you share with the listeners your background because you've got a unique background that plays very well in the multifamily space?

Lisa: I started an interior design firm over 20 years ago now and started just out in residential and then added commercial properties. We had clients for who we decorated their homes and they had businesses. A lot of them were business owners and they would want us to come to decorate their businesses also, so we added on commercial. About 15 years ago, a local property management company reached out to me.

A C-Class Property Makeover

Lisa: He's in our area and he said, I found you on your website. I manage 45 apartment communities in the DFW area and I have 10 of them that need major renovations done this year. We're wondering if you would help us do those. I was honest with him and said, I've never worked on multifamily before. I'm happy to come to take a look and drove up to the property, the first one for us to look at. I really had in my mind that it was going to be a really nice property, like a luxury apartment or something.

And I was so surprised it was a C-class property and I had to keep my face really neutral and not show that I was surprised. We looked around at the property and I realized that his whole portfolio that they manage were B and C-class properties. Then I realized once we looked at the model unit, the leasing office, and the exterior paint and help with landscaping, that it's really all the things that we'd been doing in residential and commercial.

We agreed to help him with those 10 that year, and we did them all in that one year. So I ended up having five of them professionally photographed. I entered them into this international design contest that was judged by magazine editors from across the country. They didn't have a multifamily category, they just had a commercial. I entered them in that category and they ended up sweeping that category. They won first, second, and third place and they were all B and C Class properties. We were so surprised and excited and we thought we love multifamily. So we started doing more.

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The Value Add Design of Multifamily Investing

Lisa: Now we've done probably a couple of hundred properties across the country. We added on outside of Texas in the last couple of years and we find that we get with groups that buy properties and they keep buying further away from us. So we've started going wherever they go. We decorate now. We're known as the interior designer of multifamily investing because I'm also an investor and our company is called Landry Designs.

Darin: Again, I'm a business guy, I don't have an eye for colors and for design. I was like, I'm responsible for implementing this rehab, but I don't have that skill set. So I went looking for people that I knew because I wanted to hire people that I trusted. But they were more from a single family background. I had them redesign the leasing center and I had a number of people provide me with some guidance on paint colors. But I kept looking at them and being like, no, I wanted something different. I went to three different people before I finally said yes.

But I would've loved to have somebody, a turnkey person, to help provide that guidance. As a lead syndicator, you're responsible for those budget dollars, but if that's not your skill set, you want to bring on a team member to help consult. And so that's amazing. In the multifamily world, we talk about value add a lot. I was having coffee this morning with somebody and he was like, what does that mean? Painting the exterior, making it nicer, and putting in new amenities. Talk about how your design firm comes in and helps turn that around and improve the whole community.

A Value Add Design That’s Part of the Team

Lisa: When people are putting their LOIs in, that's when we need to get involved. That's the very beginning phase. We just need to be considered part of the team. When you're starting to get estimates from your property management company, from contractors, we can give you a number to plug into your proforma for the design side of things. I find that the multifamily industry is so male-dominated and driven. Now it's maybe not quite so much anymore.

Just like you mentioned, guys love working on all the construction, the pergolas, the grill stations, and all of the outside elements. They pass over sometimes the interior elements. What I find from many years of working on these properties now is that we're trying to get the NOI up, that's the goal. How do we get the rent up and the expenses down? When you think about who leases these apartments, it's typically decided by a woman, that's the resident that comes in. So we need to do whatever we can to make sure that the first impression of the exterior, of the leasing office, of the model unit if there is one, of the amenities, looks amazing.

We've got 15 seconds to make a first impression in each one of those areas. What can we do within the budget that you've put into your proforma to get the biggest bang for the buck? When you work with a design team, we're taking that off of the operator's plate. Like you mentioned more turnkey where we're saying we're going to take your budget, see what all we can get for that budget range.

Model Homes

Lisa: We give you budget ranges that we think you should work within. Once you've given us the budget range, we work on all the designs. We present via Zoom and we give you options then you just select and then we work with your contractor. If there are things that need to be done that are paint or chandeliers hung, electrical work, or walls taken down, we can work in conjunction with your team and with the contractor to make sure that things get done. We create checklists and follow the process all the way through. So really we have just a simple system.

We're trying to take as much off of you as possible and give you a finished product that looks amazing, that's jaw-dropping. These people that come in would love to live in a house, so they go look at a lot of model homes. That's what we want it to look like when they come in. So the leasing office we feel like is really the jewel of the property. That's the space that they're going to decide, do I want to live here or not, before they even look at the model unit.

Little things like when you walk up to the property, when you walk up to the leasing office, first of all, can you even find the leasing office? Is there directional signage to it, so you can easily find it, I hate that when you can't find it. It's so irritating and that's not what you want. You don't want irritation as the very first thing. So making sure there's directional signage that's easy to find. Then making sure that that sidewalk is perfectly clean and swept every single day.

All the Different Elements of a Value Add Design

All the Different Elements of a Value Add Design
Photographer: Craig Hull | Source: Unsplash

Lisa: Make sure that the rug that's out there with your logo on it is spotless, and that it's vacuumed every single day. That, that front door is not chipped, the paint's not chipped. When you open the door, is the door handle all old and rusty looking, or is it fresh and polished? I'm talking about B and C classes. That's what we specialize in. When you open the door, does it squeak? Does it need WD 40 on it? Those little things are really important. Once that door is opened, what are they seeing visually? What are the smells, the sounds?

Does someone stand up and greet them immediately, not just sit down and greet them? They need to be greeted when they come in. Standing up and coming around from the desk is really important. All those little elements come into play in the first 15 seconds of your first impression. Then we can really look at, okay, this is a lounge area in the leasing office. This is a little business center, this is a little conference table. Here's the leasing station. Here's a coffee station or a beverage station, here's a popcorn area.

All those elements come into play after they're already in the space and we're assessing each one of those. Little things like, what does the lighting look like? A lot of times people just put in recess lighting or they leave fluorescent lighting. We can take down the fluorescence and put in recessed LEDs, and cans, then add a chandelier or two to the space. I'm telling you that makes such a big difference.

Working As a Team

Lisa: It's like the jewelry for the space and this is what makes it look like a model home. Those don't have to be really expensive things, but they are very transformative things in people's minds. Same thing when they walk to the model unit, that whole breezeway better be perfectly clean. The light in that breezeway needs to not have bugs all in. It needs to be on and bright and clean. The little clip by the door where they put their notices needs to be cleaned. Not all chipped up and rusty.

The front door to that model unit needs to be painted. If there's a rug there, it needs to be spotlessly clean. Every little thing inside the model unit from fingerprints on faucets to fresh switch covers are all of those elements people are looking at. Crooked paint lines, chipped things on mirrors. So we really help. We're part of your team where we're assessing every one of those things that you're probably just overlooking. Make a checklist of, this is what we see here, this is what we would recommend fixing. We'll do this part. Your maintenance guy can do this part. Here's his checklist, here's our checklist, and here's your checklist.

And work as a cohesive team. What we find is, once we get these things done, first of all, potential residents, want to live there when they come into this kind of space with this kind of service. Second of all, current residents love it when the property's upgraded and everything looks great. People tell me a lot of times, well, people don't go in the leasing office very much. Residents don't go to the leasing office because they pay online.

The Trifecta

Lisa: They're supposed to do their maintenance request online. They do come to the leasing office all the time. We're on those properties, we're on site a lot. That is a revolving door, people come in to say hi. People come in to say they couldn't get their cards to work on something. They come in to say somebody parked in their reserved parking space. That they don't want to put their maintenance request online. They just want to tell somebody or check on it.

People are in and out all the time. The current residents, if you can get them to renew, that's way cheaper than doing a unit turn if you don't have to and bring it up to market rent. That's two elements, the potential residents and the current residents. The third element though that's really overlooked, and we call this the trifecta, is the onsite staff. They love working in this space that looks so amazing. The lighting's right, it's functional, the traffic paths are right, and all the little areas look great. They want to come to work in that kind of environment. So you have less turnover.

Darin: I didn't even think of that.

Lisa: They're the people running the property. So if you make them happy, they want to work.

Darin: They have pride in where they're working.

Lisa: They feel more comfortable charging those higher rents because they know the property has been upgraded. Everything looks so much nicer than you're elevating the entire property. So we really focus on the leasing office first. If you are going to have a model unit and then work on the amenities, look at the exterior paint. All those areas are what we can really help with.

The Value Add Design of First Impressions

Darin: When I got going maybe four years ago, I was thinking, you want to have a nice interior renovated unit. That's where your focus would be. But then I had a lot of syndicators that said, no, the first thing you do is the exterior. Because people drive by and see that the owners are putting money into it and they want it. Then they're curious and they want to see the interior, but the first place they're going to go is the leasing office.

And some people may think that it's not good money spent, but that's huge when somebody comes in and they're like, wow. That's the first impression. Wow versus this is a dump. And then all right, I'll go see what the unit looks like. But in their mind, they're already thinking that this place skimps. One thing you said that surprised me was that you like to get involved at the LOI stage, depending on the syndicator. I know some syndicators who put out a lot of LOIs before they win a deal. That's a lot of work where you're not winning the deal either if they don't win the deal. How do you approach that?

Lisa: It's not a lot of work on our part because we have a multifamily menu of services. There are budget ranges based on how big the leasing office is, how many spaces there are, and how many onsite staff there are. That's really just a formula that we can plug in once we learn a little bit about the property. We can be on a 15-minute call with you and know enough to be able to give the budget range for the property.

Setting Yourself Apart

Darin: That's like talking to an expert that does it every day versus the syndicator who, maybe gets two, three deals a year. Now they're having to come up with the budget for that and think it's a lot of work. For somebody that's doing that every day, and you've been in business for 20 years, it's like second nature to you.

Lisa: You mentioned people coming to look at properties, a lot of times when people are looking at apartments, they'll go to many apartments in the same day. They go and look at a bunch. So whatever you can do to set yourself apart. That greeting at the beginning where you stand up and come around the desk and greet someone, that's one little thing that just tips it over the edge. Also, they might remember that really cool blue leasing office or that model unit with the orange. You've got to do something to set yourself apart when they're going from place to place. Maybe you're more expensive than some other place they're looking at and is it worth it to them?

Darin: The other thing you said that was interesting was that women are typically the decision-makers. As you were speaking, I was thinking, you have single moms or single dads that are renting. I don't know what the dynamic is in terms of whether it's 50/50, but then you have couples and families. It is the wife or the girlfriend that's going to say, this is a place we want to live. The guy might be the one that's talking, but when they leave and they make the decision, the woman is saying, no, that place is dirty. I don't want to live there.

Who Makes the Call

Lisa: Or it wasn't welcoming or something.

Darin: Then he's the one that makes the call and says, no, we're going to pass. You think that he's this decision maker, but really, it's the wife or the girlfriend.

Lisa: Because if she's not happy, they're not living there. If she doesn't like it, they're not going to live there. That's why we're always thinking to cater to people who really love the design and who like to watch HD TV and go look at model homes. All those elements of the light, how bright it is, the smells, the sounds, all those kinds of things really play into it. And I think guys are more easy-going about these things usually, but women are really particular about where we live.

Darin: If you think about it, getting that bang for the buck. If you have a hundred units or 200 units, you're renovating one leasing office to give an impression of the entire property.

Lisa: It's money well spent. Some operators that we started with the very first time budgeted a smaller amount. They didn't even ask us how much, that's just what they put in. Once they got it under contract, they reached out and it was really too small of an amount. So we did what we could. It looked nice, it just didn't look over the top cool. But he told me, Lisa, I promise you on the next one we will put more. We will put what you have told us now we should have put, and they do. We do one of their properties across the country now. It's money's so well spent because they'll hold these for not that long.

Testing for a Value Add Design

Testing for a Value Add Design
Photographer: UX Indonesia | Source: Unsplash

Lisa: They get their business plan done and then they sell for so much more money. So you mentioned the unit interiors also, and I do think that's important. We actually help with unit interior design packages. Let's say you have a particular vendor that your property management company likes to work with. Or two or three vendors even then we can go to those vendors' websites and put together unit interior design packages so that they can just be replicated over time.

A lot of times we'll recommend testing. We're doing this on my property right now, a silver, a gold, and a platinum package, and putting different elements in those. The silver might have everything pretty basic and the gold has a backsplash and black appliances and the fur down removed. Just everything's a little bit nicer. That one's $50 a month more than the silver. Then the platinum has everything the gold has, but it also has pendant lights over the bar with the fur down that was removed in the kitchen area. Also, a micro hood.

It’s a big deal to the micro hood because a lot of times these apartment kitchens are so small. The countertop space is so limited that if they have a big old giant microwave on their counter, it's taking up most of their counter space. The micro hood is a great amenity to add in. That's a microwave-into-hood combination that doesn't take up any space at all. It costs a little bit more to put in, but then we can charge $50 a month more for that platinum unit that only really has the micro hood and the pendant lights in addition.

Platinum Units

Lisa: Every time we do one of those platinum units, and that's the one that we have on the website also, it leases immediately, even though it's more expensive. Once they see it, that's what they want.

Darin: So then if you see that leasing up, do you start making more platinums?

Lisa: We're assessing each unit as it comes available to see what we have available in that size and what was rented recently for what pricing. We're assessing it on a weekly basis.

Darin: Talk about model units. Some people will think that that's a unit that you're not renting. So you see value in having model units or not?

Lisa: It depends on the size. If the property's about a hundred units, then I think no, you probably don't need a model unit. What we did on the property that I am an asset manager on, that's 108 units, is we took a vacant unit. We did a make-ready on it, and then we staged it. Landry Designs has a staging division also if it's in the DFW area of Texas. So we staged the model, then it was professionally photographed and videoed, and then we de-staged it so that we were able to rent it out. But those images of that model are on the website so that they can show them.

But if you have 200 units, 150 to 200 units, or more, then I think you should definitely have a model. Just that amount of rent you're getting each month, you're going to lease probably so many more from people coming through and actually getting to walk a model. They get to see it, feel it, touch it, look at how the windows are, and look at the balcony.

Painting the Vision of a Value Add Design

Lisa: It's so much easier for them to visualize themselves living there with a model and what it can actually look like.

Darin: Versus, I'm thinking about the property that you came on. I know the leasing manager sometimes would be showing a unit and the flooring's down. But maybe the countertops haven't been resurfaced or it's been painted. New fans haven't been put in and have to paint the vision versus seeing the model and it's like the leasing office. It's like a wow. I want my place to look like that.

Lisa: Property management companies, some of them, it's a rule that you cannot show a vacant unit that's not finished. That's their rule. Better property management companies require that because it's better to not see it at all than see it in a bad state.

Darin: I can see that for sure.

Lisa: Then there's something called mini models. I'm not sure if you've heard of that or talked about that. Let's say you don't have a model unit and you do have some vacant, then you can set up a mini model. You're not putting any furniture or anything in it, but you're putting a few accessories in the kitchen. A couple of accessories in the bathroom, you're putting maybe a plant in the bedroom, just something so it looks like it's staged a little bit, a little bit home feeling. If there's a bar, maybe there's a placemat with some dishes and some wine glasses where it looks like you could imagine yourself living there. So slightly staged. As soon as that one's lease, you can do one of two things.

A Traveling Multifamily Investor and Designer

Lisa: You can move all those things to your next mini-model. Or you can tell the resident if they sign their lease that day that they get to keep all of those.

Darin: You talked about following people around the country. How does that work? Are they paying for your travel and your hotels and how long are you staying? That could get costly.

Lisa: The way that we're doing it right now is, we are doing me a Zoom call first so that we can learn about the property. We're looking at the website, and pictures, learning about the tenant base and having you tell us everything you can about the property so that we can learn about it. Then we're given the budget range, then we get a retainer to start working on the designs, and the retainer's 10% of the budget. Once we get the retainer, we fly to the property or drive, or drive depending on how far away it is.

We fly to the property, we take all the pictures, we measure everything, then we come back and do the designs in our studio. Then we present via Zoom and you pick your favorites and we take a deposit at that time, a 50% deposit. We have big delivery trucks, we actually are an installation team that drives to that property and installs everything. Because what we find with all of these things is their furniture, rugs, lamps, pictures, mirrors, and chandeliers. All these different things so much can get damaged with freight, particularly nowadays that you don't know what it's going to look like when you open it.

Construction Elements of a Value Add Design

Lisa: If everything was shipped to the property and your team had to open all of this stuff to see if it was okay, to build it. Building these desks takes hours and hours, and then what if the corner's broken or something? So we really take, again, all of that off of the operator's plate. We're receiving everything in our warehouses and then we drive and deliver it. Then in the interim, while everything's on order, we're working with your team and your contractor, and your property management company to make sure that any kind of construction elements are being done and be ready for us to come.

Darin: Talk about some of the construction elements. You would end up having the rehab construction crew do what versus what you guys do?

Lisa: For example, maybe we're doing exterior paint selection and we're doing renderings, but you want to add the cedar planks on the balconies. That could be done or all the exterior paint could be done. If it's inside the leasing office and we're working on that, it could be maybe we're going to have a mural painted on one wall. Maybe we're going to put wood on a wall or take some walls down, or change out the flooring and put the flooring that's in the units in there. There are always little things that need to be done. Maybe you're changing the front door, all the hardware, you're building a cabinet in, you're putting a business center in that has a built-in cabinet. We assist with directing all those things but that onsite team is doing all their own work and construction.

A Syndication Team

Darin: So you got a syndicator team that has a property that maybe it's definitely C class and maybe in a C class area. The team doesn't really think that they have the budget or that it will add value because the tenant base just wants a clean, affordable place to live. That's going to break the bank. What do you tell that team?

Lisa: I just say based on experience, that's just not true at all, because in C class, in particular, they've got a lot of properties they can go look at.

You've got to do something to set yourself apart. We have budget ranges, and so if we're in a C class, we're going to recommend probably that you be at the lower end of that budget range instead of the higher end of the budget range. So you can pick where you want to be. That's how we choose how much are we going to put in there, what quality are we going to put in there. Making those choices to keep it within the budget range that's comfortable. We've done lots and lots of C-class properties. B and C are our sweet spots. That's where we love to add value.

Darin: I've seen pictures of some of the places you've done. I'm like, that looks so nice. The leasing office looks like an A-class property.

Lisa: That's exactly what we want.

Darin: It really is amazing. I see that even with new apartment complexes, the names that people use are. It's an apartment complex and they're calling it the mansions. Well, it's not actually a mansion, but people want to live someplace that has a good name and that has a good feel to it.

Why Branding Is Important

Why Branding Is Important
Photographer: Yizheng Duanmu | Source: Unsplash

Lisa: That branding that you mention is important. We actually assist with that also. If you have a sign company that you're working with, we assist with the logos and the name. If you're trying to choose the name, we love the operators to get us involved. I had one not too long ago, the sign company had come up with four different ones. They already decided on their name, but they had four different logos and color palettes that they sent to the operator. We had just started working with that team. He sent them to us and it ended up that we loved one, but we didn't like the color, but we really loved the color of another one. We combined those two and it just turned out to be such a cool logo and branding.

That's really important because you want your image to be cohesive for the whole property. We would need to make sure that if the building's brick, what color is the brick? Are you painting it or not? If you're not, we need to make sure that whatever we do goes with that, including the logo. If it's red brick or orange brick or yellow brick or whatever it is, or if it's stucco and those kinds of things.

We're making sure that the branding is cohesive from the very beginning and that you don't make expensive mistakes. We find that a lot of times people go out and spend a lot of money on their own, trying to do their own model unit and their own leasing office. They still don't look good at all. So why spend any money if it's not right?

Elevate a Property With a Value Add Design

Darin: I'm not a design guy, so I would love to have somebody like you. I didn't realize that you work all across the country. People that are listening to that are East Coast or wherever could still reach out and contact you.

Lisa: Yes. We've been doing Alabama and Atlanta and Nashville and Phoenix. Just all over. You mentioned the C-class property, and should they spend money? If you're completely full if your vacancy is nil, your rents are too low, and if you're trying to elevate the rents. You need to elevate the property in some way to give them a reason to elevate the rents if you feel like they're too low.

Darin: What if the vacancy is low?

Lisa: If the vacancy is low, then you still need to do something. You just have to be strategic about what's it going to be, and where to put the money exactly. What is the worst thing about the property? That cleanliness and neatness are so important. One little trick that I always do is, when you buy a property, always tell the team. Get the dumpsters changed to brand new dumpsters before you sign your contract with the waste management company.

Those look so terrible when you drive around. A lot of times they're not completely covered. Maybe you have some side walls, but they're not completely covered and they're all dented and they look awful. You can negotiate that before you sign your contract. Just say, we'll sign with y'all again, but we want new dumpsters. So they bring those in and that's just one little thing that looks neat and nice.

From Stock Market to Real Estate Investing

Lisa: Does Bark Park look needing cleaning? Is everything picked up? If you find an area on the property where there's always trash. We've had one area where there were some shrubs and people kept putting their McDonald's bags just under the shrub. So we put a nice trash can right there and it solved the problem. You just need to make sure the trash can looks nice and it goes with the property and you place them strategically where they're needed. Same thing with Bark Park. You need one that has bags built into it that residents can easily use and put right there into the trash. So the two-part trash system, not just trash with no bags.

Darin: No, that's cool. Why did you get involved with actually investing in real estate in addition to providing design services?

Lisa: Well, for years I saw all these people making all this money and just doing such a great job with it. A few years ago, I started looking at getting out of the stock market because I was so concerned with the volatility there. My dad is a commercial realtor and my son is actually a real estate investor. Both of them were saying, you should really be thinking about real estate. I started researching asset classes and there are so many different asset classes. When I saw multifamily, I thought, I know something about that. We've been working on these for so long, I know the ins and outs, the behind-the-scenes that even the operators don't see. We're on-site so much with just the property management team. What happens behind the scenes is what we see.

Paying It Forward

Lisa: So I thought, I'm going to research that. I started listening to hundreds of podcasts, and I call it Podcast University. Just to learn the terminology and all these different players and how it works. I just got sucked right in and loved every bit of it, read every book I could get my hands on. Then I started going to a lot of conferences just to meet as many people as I could. I ended up signing up for the mentorship program that we're both in. I've been to lots of different ones and they're all good in different ways. It's mainly just picking one that you like.

You have this ecosystem in place then and just start meeting as many people as you possibly can. I even started a multifamily meetup that's monthly in January. Because I felt like I needed to pay it forward from all these people's meetups that I went to and all these different conferences and events that I went to, bringing people together.

Darin: Where is that meetup?

Lisa: It's in DFW. It's in North Arlington.

Darin: Is it the first week of the month or the last?

Lisa: It's always on a Tuesday and it's either the third or the fourth Tuesday of the month. It's on meetup.com, and it's called Above and Beyond Multifamily Meetup, but it's just a great place to network. I do think networking is super important.

Darin: Why do you think networking is important?

Lisa: Because this is such a people business, and you are not going to do business with these people if you don't know them. The whole know, like and trust thing that you talk about even, and I love listening to all the guests that you have on.

Building Relationships

Lisa: You have to build these relationships. At first, I remember thinking, I'm going to just get into a deal real fast. They don't know me from Adam and I didn't know them. The other tip that I would say when I was starting out that I would do differently now is when I was first starting out when I would meet someone, I would tell them a lot about myself at the beginning. A lot, like this, is my whole background, that kind of thing. People don't really want that. They want to talk about themselves.

So now what I do instead is when I meet someone new, I just immediately say, tell me about you. Then I do something called hot potato. Every time they give me an answer, I repeat it in a different way and then hot potato it back to them with another question. So I keep them talking for as long as I possibly can, as long as I think it's a good personality mix. Eventually, if they do ask about me, sometimes they don't. But if they do, then I just have a shortened version, a really short little 32nd spiel about me. They can ask more if they want to.

Darin: What's the 32nd spiel?

Lisa: It's like I'm a syndicator. If you're looking to invest, we could always talk about possibly partnering in the future. I'm also known as the interior designer of multifamily investing. If you have any properties, I'm happy to help you there. I'm here to help you grow your business in any way I can. That's basically short.

Darin: I don't know another person that has your background, that I have met through conferences and networking sessions and it's needed.

Value Add Design Is the Name of the Game

Darin: Value add is the name of the game, it’s making the property nicer and people aren't really using services like yours enough. I’m guilty of it as well. I'm in a lot of deals where I'm partnered up with people and they have their own ideas on what they want to do. They're typically using a contractor and they're focused on the flooring and the paint and different things. But not some of the niceties that will catch a woman's eye. I didn't understand that before, but understanding that, makes a lot of sense. In the beginning, you were talking about your design services to a lot of people, but you weren't getting asked to partner. How did you get your first GP deal?

Lisa: Actually, in our mentorship group, our mentor had said to post in our group what our goals were for the year. This was at the beginning of two years ago or something now. I posted that my goal was to GP this year and or co-GP this year. Here's what I bring to the table, and what I can offer as a team member. It was pretty short. Then I had five or six people reach out to me and set up calls. We started building a relationship that way. Then I would see them at events. Towards the end of that year, maybe summer of that year, one of them that I'd had a call with reached out and said, we just got a deal in LOI accepted. Do you want to be part of this deal?

Mastermind Trips

Mastermind Trips
Photographer: Mike Swigunski | Source: Unsplash

Lisa: I was like, tell me about the deal, and I went and looked at it and I was all in. That's how I got to be part of that first deal. The second one that I'm on are some other members that I'm part of a mastermind group with, that's through that same mentorship group. I've just spent more time with those people because we go on these mastermind trips three times a year.

I think that's it. Instead of trying to get a hundred business cards at every event that you go to and not really building any relationships at all. It's spending a lot more time with just fewer people. I've found that if I gravitate just to the people that I'm really compatible with, personality-wise. If somebody irritates you at the beginning as a partner, when you just meet them and they're a potential partner, then you're going to have trouble.

This is five years that you're with this person a lot. What I've found is to just bounce off those people and then go on to other people that I really have a great gut feeling about. Just spend more time with them and get to know them closer. Then literally just ask, I'm looking for deals. Are you looking for deals? Do you think we would make good partners? I would love for us to do something together and just put it out there. I've had so many people go, yes, I would love to partner with you. I didn't think you would even think about me, which is exactly what I'm thinking also.

Filling the Gaps

Lisa: Then when a deal comes about, like this one that I'm in right now, that hasn't closed yet. We were needing some additional partners to fill different gaps, fill little puzzle pieces. I immediately thought of these particular people. That's how it all starts coming together. I think it's important when you meet people at networking when you give about yourself, and what you would bring to the table. In my case, it's capital raising, branding, image, design, overseeing CapEx work, and that kind of stuff.

Darin: Every one of you has a value that you can bring and you need to be able to communicate that to other people quickly and effectively. But the whole thing is what do you bring to the table? Because the other partners, they're seasoned people, they're pretty direct in terms of what they need. Oh, I got this covered. You can't take it personally. Maybe you have the same skill set as the person you're talking to and they're like, I don't need somebody like that. I already have that. Then they move on to the next person quickly. They don't spend a lot of time.

Lisa: It's business. They'll ask you what's your net worth. How much is your liquidity? You just have to be ready. If you're considering partnering with someone, you got to be ready to answer those questions.

Darin: When I talk to people outside of this world, when talking about financial stuff, like your net worth and liquidity and how much you plan on investing. That could be like, most people have a stiff arm up. They're like, that's out of bounds. You can't ask me questions about my financial situation.

Be Ready With Your Value Add Design

Darin: In this world, they need to know that because they're applying for a large loan. They need to know what pieces of the puzzle they need to get from each person. I was really surprised at how quickly people will go there in the conversation. Be ready for that. I also like what you said about spending more time with people. Think about your friendships. I still have friends from growing up, middle school, and high school, and I think it's because we spent a lot of time together.

In college, you have downtime in between classes and you're spending a lot of time together. When you become an adult, who do you spend time with? It's either people you work with or other parents of kids. Your kids are on their sports teams. If you're not spending time with the right people, then get into other groups where you are spending the time with those people. You mentioned you're in a mastermind. Get into a mastermind, go to meetup groups, and join a mentorship group. Surround yourself with people that you want to hang out with, and that has the experience that you want.

Lisa: Complimentary skill sets like you're talking about, I think is really important because I'm not seeking out other people who are the creatives. I'm seeking out people who are engineers and people who have construction backgrounds. People who love working on spreadsheets or people with a lot of experience. I'm very particular about who I seek out. But then once I find people that I click with, then I spend a lot more time with those people and try to figure out how I can add value to them.

Tell and Ask

Darin: The other thing you said was to ask. I think it's tell-and-ask, people need to know that you're wanting to partner. People have choices on who they're going to partner with for a lot of different avenues, whether it's capital raising or asset management. If you don't tell people that you want to partner and you just sit at home, your phone is not going to ring. You have to actually tell people that you're looking for something, and you're looking to fill this gap or else it's just not going to happen.

Lisa: You have to make it happen. It's uncomfortable at the beginning. I can't tell you how many people now have come up to me and said, my goal is to GP. Here's my whole background. Then they go into the 30-minute thing and I coach them with people that are in my meetup group to say, my goal is to GP. Here's what I bring to the table. But I'm trying to figure out how I could add value to a team. What would you suggest? For them to ask me that, I want to help them.

I had a lot of people take me under their wing at the beginning. I'm new. I don't know anybody. What would you suggest that I do when I'm new? Are there particular people I should talk to? Particular events I should go to? Some of those people, I'm very close with now because they did take me under their wing and give me some advice. Even when I talked to you at the very beginning, when I was first starting out, I think you talked to me on the phone forever.

What’s Your Value Add Design in Multifamily?

Lisa: I always had that connection with you, because you were one of the very first people that I ever spoke to in multifamily. That's what I try to do, pay it forward and give little coaching tips and advice when people are new.

Darin: I'm thankful that you give back like that. When we all get started, we're thinking about ourselves. How do we grow our wealth? Or how do we break into this industry? How do we get our first deal? But then after you gain that experience, you could just hoard it for yourself or you can share it with others. I had so many people help me along the way that you just inherently want to help the next person coming in. There are a lot of people that want to help.

But if you just sit at home and they don't know that you need the help and that you want the help. If you don't build a relationship where people actually like you, then it's just not going to happen. So you need to get out there. Where do you go from here? What's the next big stretch goal for you? Is it growing the design business, is it the investing side, or both at the same time? Where's your vision for Lisa Landry going forward?

Lisa: I feel like it's a triangle. I'm always thinking about Above and Beyond Multifamily as my multifamily company and then Landry Designs as my design company. Then you have your whole personal life. It's like this triangle and I feel like it needs to be really balanced for me to be happy. I love a lot of activities, adventures, challenges, and learning.

How Multifamily Investing Opened Up New Doors

How Multifamily Investing Opened Up New Doors
Photographer: Belinda Fewings | Source: Unsplash

Lisa: So I get bored quickly if I'm not always learning something new. I like to work a lot and I enjoy the excitement of learning new things and mastering new elements. My goal is to continue syndicating and just continue to add GP deals every year, several a year hopefully. Then with Landry Designs, we're actually working on scaling right now. We're working on setting up satellite offices in different cities across the country versus working out of just our one DFW location.

So continuing to grow there. We've grown a lot in the last few years. Just me getting into multifamily investing has just opened up a lot of new doors for people that I'd never met before. It was a surprise, but we've just added a lot of business to Landry Designs, so I'm very, very thankful for that. Then always leaving enough time for yourself, your family, and fun and trips. I'm working to make sure that everything stays really balanced.

Darin: I've seen you like adventure and you're outdoorsy and you like to do different things. What do you like to do outside of work?

Lisa: I love adventure travel, where you're going and you're rock climbing and kayaking and the ice and crazy kind of things like that. I love backpacking and solo backpacking and hiking and kayaking and mountain biking.

Darin: Talk about some of the extremes there. Rock climbing, I repelled down a 30-foot rock, but that's different. I was in California last week and I saw people climbing Yosemite, like this rock that takes three days to climb. Where do you fit on the spectrum there?

Extreme Lessons

Lisa: I'm somewhere in between that. I just got back from Croatia and we did a lot of rock climbing. They had to use ropes and all these things. it was very high and it took us probably six hours to get to where we were going at the top. Then I did some ice climbing in Alaska recently, which was ice climbing on a glacier straight up with all kinds of tools I never used before.

Darin: How does that work? Is that with the boots that have spikes?

Lisa: The crampons and then the ice tools. It was very challenging, but I made it to the top.

Darin: How did you even get mixed up with that?

Lisa: There's an adventure group that's all women. Explorerchick.com is the website. They do women's adventure tours. Those two were women's groups that I went with, that are just adventure ones. That was where I was kayaking with ice all around my kayak, right by glaciers. Eight hours out there just in the freezing cold. I've done backpacking through the woods where I go in, then I don't come out for six days, 70-something miles just with everything on your back. I think that's super fun and I like all those kinds of things. You're learning something new and you're testing yourself and seeing where your limits are. It's fun.

Darin: I like what you said about the triangle, and one of them was personal. When I ask a lot of syndicators, what's the next big stretch goal? It's, I want to have this many units or this much in assets under management. They just keep pushing the goal further and they're very successful.

Why You Need Time Off

Darin: But I think that there's a time when you have to celebrate some of your successes and you need to also enjoy life a little bit, enjoy the journey. It sounds like you definitely carve out time to do that.

Lisa: When you're really driven, when you're a type A personality, which most of the people in multifamily are, it's so common. It's really like, we found our people. But I think your tank can go dry pretty quickly. It's important to just refill that tank, take some time to let your mind rest a little bit, assess your goals and where you are, and then start again.

Darin: Sometimes I'm on vacation and I'm an early riser. My family likes to sleep in. So I'm down by the pool or the beach or wherever we are, with coffee and reading a book. All of a sudden maybe an idea comes to me that, I'm like, I can't wait to get back to implement that. Had I just been working day to day and I didn't take that time, I may not have ever thought of that idea.

That could have a huge impact on your business too. I think of business as about making money, but there's also a fun aspect to it. Having a successful outcome, there's financial reward, but then it's also part of life that you did something good.

Lisa: If you don't get up every day excited to do what you do, whatever your work is, then I think you need to find something else. Or you need to think of just taking a vacation. You need to take a vacation or you need to find something else because you should wake up pretty excited.

Opening Up Your Brain to Big Ideas

Lisa: When you do get away and your mind gets quiet and not so full of your to-do list of a thousand things, that's when these big ideas come in, usually. Your brain is open enough to let big ideas come in. Those are what we need to focus on as entrepreneurs, the big ideas.

Darin: I love it. So, if people want to get to know you better, where can they go to learn more about you and contact you?

Lisa: On the designs side for Landry Designs, our website is landrydesigns.com. Then our multifamily website is growaboveandbeyond.com. Either way, you can reach out through there to contact me and we'll go from there.

Darin: Lisa, I really appreciate you coming on and I am so thankful that I have a resource that is creative because I'm not. Listeners, I hope that you enjoyed that one. Definitely check her out. I'm surprised that she said that she covers the country, so if you are a syndicator anywhere, you should be reaching out to her. Until next week, signing off.

How to Reach Lisa Landry

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Darin Batchelder

Wealth creation through real estate provided me with a new passion to get the word out and let others know that they have an alternative to investing in the stock market.

If I can inspire and educate just one person to take action that results in life changing wealth creation then the work to launch and grow this podcast is well worth the effort.

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