Looking for a sustainable and recession-resistant passive income stream? Perhaps it’s time to invest in self-storage! Today’s guest is Kris Bennett, Self-Storage Managing Partner at PassiveInvesting.com and podcast host of Storage Investor Nation. He joins Lisa Hylton to break down just why storage is considered a risk-averse asset class you should be investing in! Kris discusses everything you need to know about investing in self-storage and shares valuable tips to help you secure your financial future with stable cash flow. Stay tuned!
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Why Invest In Self Storage With Kris Bennett
Welcome to another episode of the show. I’m super excited to have Kris Bennett on the show. He is a Self-storage Managing Partner at PassiveInvesting.com where he leads deal sourcing, broker relations and overall strategy. He started his self-storage career with a family office sourcing deals in the Carolinas for their self-storage acquisition fund. He co-hosts the Storage Investor Nation Podcast and weekly webinars educating hundreds of investors about the self-storage industry. He’s a graduate of the North Carolina Chapel Hill where he served as a Fund Manager for the university’s private equity real estate fund. He resides in Charlotte with his wife and three sons. Kris, thank you for coming to the show. I appreciate it.
Lisa, thank you for having me. I appreciate being here.
I’m super excited to be talking about self-storage. It is one of those asset classes that are known to be recession-resistant. My audience knows my show is broken into three parts. We have the background, we jump into the meat, and we finish up with the Level Up questions. We already covered that you live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. What do you and your family like to do for fun?
To be honest, I like to play video games with my kids. We play Fortnite or Halo on the Xbox. That’s a lot of fun. We like to go on semi-spontaneous but sometimes planned family trips to the mountains. The beach isn’t that exciting to us because we have a toddler. He eats sand and all that stuff. We like the mountains a lot. We get away a little bit, do a movie night or play some games with the boys. It’s a lot of fun.
How did you get started in self-storage?
That’s a funny story. Very rarely do people begin saying, “I want to get into storage,” when they think of real estate. It’s usually single-family and multifamily homes, then scaling from there, which is my background. You hit the fact that I went to school at Chapel Hill. After graduating, I went to work for a family office in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was their “Director of Acquisitions.” That’s a fancy way of saying, “You’re a bird dog. Go find deals.” If you look on LinkedIn and somebody is a Director of Acquisitions, it means their job is to find deals for their company to buy. That was my job. I was looking in the Carolinas specifically for multifamily. Our criteria were 80 units and above, a certain age and all that kind of stuff.
That’s what I was doing for about a year. We couldn’t make the deals work only because the returns we needed to hit for our investors didn’t match what was going on in the market at the time. There was a disconnect between the cap rates and prices that others were paying and the required rate of return. We pounded our heads against the wall for about a year. I closed a big fat zero deal in that first year. It was super frustrating because I was expecting to close a few more. We all were. We all wanted to close more deals.
We ended up pivoting because the guys I worked for had done storage in the past, a couple of small 15,000-ish square foot deals. I think they had 2 or 3 either under construction or completed, and one larger one that was an existing acquisition they did a couple of years back. Those things weren’t their main bread and butter. It was multifamily.Historically, if you track the data, self-storage is a viable, stable, risk-averse asset class. Click To Tweet
Long story short, we ended up pivoting and going after self-storage. We decided to raise a fund and raise capital via CrowdStreet. That was in 2016 or 2017. If you think back, there were some good podcasts out, but I wasn’t much of a podcast listener at the time. I did listen to BiggerPockets. You can pick up a lot on that podcast from the single-family stuff that they talk about, at least at that time. I don’t know where they’ve gone since then, and apply it to multifamily. I would listen to it pretty avid. I still have all my notes from the 100 episodes I listened to during that time.
There weren’t that many like there are now. I didn’t know much about storage but that’s what we did. We went that route using CrowdStreet to raise capital versus building our own platform using social media. I went out and found the first deals in the Carolinas. I closed those. I was able to compare the two asset classes, multifamily versus storage. Multifamily is great. We do multifamily. Personally, I fell in love with storage. That’s what I chose to focus on from there on out.
A lot of people have never even considered investing in storage. They’re like, “What? This is interesting.” There are a couple of things to dive into here. What would be the reasons why someone would think about investing in storage at a high level and then at a micro-level specifically in this market?
One is whether they’d be active or passive, a lot of investors are looking for yield or different ways to diversify their portfolios. Maybe like me, they were getting hit with a 2×4 over the head like, “I can’t make the numbers work on some of these deals,” or whatever the story is. It’s a tough time right now. They probably have read something in The Wall Street Journal. There were a couple of articles about storage coming out of the pandemic better than other asset classes. There’s a big picture of a nice three-story facility on that one. They’re like, “The Wall Street Journal is talking about it. What is this thing?” That’s one main reason.
When they drive down the road, they see these places that are garages. They’re like, “What is this stuff? It’s popping up all over the place where I live.” There’s a good reason for that, which we’ll jump into. That probably piques someone’s interest in the asset class and then they want to jump in and learn a little bit more about it. What do the returns look like? What are the risks involved in those types of deals? At a more granular level, you had hinted at the idea that storage has done well during the last recession. It has during the pandemic. The world was falling apart.
If you remember, it was crazy and chaotic still at the time. Storage did extremely well coming out of the pandemic towards the end of the fall. Occupancies rose rather than went down. Rents increased year over year. I forgot what the number was. It was maybe 15% or 20%. It was insane. To digress for a quick second, there are a couple of data providers. They track all the rental rates, data and all this kind of stuff. It’s a graph that shows rates dropping when the pandemic hit and then going up, and then towards the end of 2021 continuing to go up and hasn’t gone down since. It’s crazy. People would think in a recession that storage doesn’t do well because people wouldn’t get rid of their stuff, but that’s not true. It’s quite the opposite.
They have data going back to 2008 and 2009. At that time, storage performed extremely well. Don’t get me wrong. Everything took a hit during that time. It was bad to get into the business. I got into real estate in 2007 as a residential broker. It was the worst time in 50 years to get into real estate. Everything did badly during that time, but if I remember correctly, storage was either the top or the second from the top-performing asset class next to mobile home parks during the 2008, 2009 or 2010 recession. It fared well because occupancy stayed at a relatively good level where it didn’t hurt operators. It didn’t hurt the bottom line quite as much as other asset classes.
I’m going off here a little bit but somebody reads an article. They see something about it and they see it popping up. They hear their friends. They see or read an episode like this, and they want to learn more about it. You then start doing the research and you realize, “Historically, it’s not just these guys talking about it and trying to tell me that this is a great investment.” If you track The Wall Street Journal articles, etc., you’ll see that this is a viable, stable and less risky asset class. Those are some of the reasons why and I can talk about it more as well.
For someone who is reading this and they’re like, “I want to invest in self-storage,” and then they get a self-storage deal sent to them from an operator. What are some of the things that investors need to be looking at? These are the people who are looking to invest passively specifically. They’re not necessarily people who are trying to buy storage units themselves. They want to passively invest in a self-storage unit. Can you talk about some of the things that they need to be looking at when they’re looking at these deals?
One is going to be the operator, in the sense of sponsor. They will sponsor the deal. What’s their track record? What have they done in the past? They don’t necessarily need to have done storage. I know a few guys and gals who have pivoted from something else. That’s what I did years ago. It’s okay to have a track record with something else. What’s their history and how do they operate as a team? Can you access them? Can you talk to them? Can you ask them any questions? Do you feel like you’re being put off? What’s the response like as far as investor relations are concerned? That’s going to be very important. Beyond that, due diligence is going to be the market.
As they say in residential, “Location, location, location.” That applies across all of the real estates. Some people don’t realize that but it applies across all real estate. Where is the deal located? Is it in a primary, secondary, tertiary or more rural market? What’s around it? Is the population growing? We like to look at a good growing market, business-friendly states and population growth. That’s one thing that’s pretty critical, and then supply and demand. Beyond that, you can look at a lot of different things like median household income, housing values or school systems. It’s all going to play together in a sense in what I like to look at as the rental rates for that market.
Price is very important from an economic standpoint. What someone is willing to pay for goods or services gives you an idea of their wherewithal, financial standing, and the type of product that they use. If I see rents that are good and strong in the market, I automatically know that market is going to have a good demographic as far as income is concerned.
When you say rents, are you talking about self-storage rents?
Yeah. I went a little fast there but the market is important, population growth, and the supply of storage. Are there any new builds coming in? Is anybody expanding a facility or adding more square footage to their facility? Also, the demand, which is not so easy to track. Nobody tracks that. If you look at multifamily in CoStar, they will track a lot of the occupancy data because they get that from these large, sophisticated investors who own these properties and want to share the data.
Storage is the opposite. Let’s call it 25% of facilities are owned by any publicly traded company, sophisticated REIT or private REIT. A lot of these other mom-and-pop owners who own only 1 or 2 locations don’t want to share their occupancy data with some random person who’s calling from CoStar or whomever else to get that information.
It’s a little bit harder to find out, so you have to do some digging a little bit. Make phone calls, go visit, and see how full they are to gauge occupancy or demand. It’s supply and demand, population growth, and then you asked about the rental rates. What we are talking about there is for the storage unit itself. An easy way to think about it is a 10×10 unit. That’s 100 square feet. If I look online and I can see the rental rates there, they’ll usually have a 10×10 non-climate controlled. Meaning there is no air conditioning or no temperature control, and then a climate-controlled, which is the opposite. They have temperature-controlled units.As they say in residential: location, location, location. That applies across all real estate. Click To Tweet
What are the rates for those? For a 10×10 non-climate controlled unit, if we’re at $0.60 per foot or less or $60 a month, I know the market is probably not going to fit our criteria. A storage facility can do well in those markets. Don’t get me wrong. I got a little anecdotal story about that. They can succeed and do very well. That’s just not where we’re going to look for deals. That’s all. If you look at it and say maybe it’s $0.80 a foot or $80 a month for a non-climate, if it’s over $100 a month for a non-climate 10×10 unit, that’s good asking rates. That tells me the market is going to have good incomes. It’s going to be a good market.
Why is that important?
It’s because they can buy stuff to store. You think, “They have better incomes, bigger houses and more land, but why do they need storage?” In fact, about 1 in 10 US households utilize self-storage. The people that can afford to buy stuff like Christmas decorations and all that don’t have the space in their home or they don’t want to store it in their home so they store it in a unit. There have been numerous times where we’ll go to a facility and the owner will walk us through the facility and say, “That is being leased by the local YMCA and that’s all their Christmas decorations. They come every year and pick that up.” They have 1, 2 or 3 units of that stuff and they’ll store it in there.
People also usually utilize storage when they’re moving, when someone passes away or when they’re taking another job somewhere and they’re downsizing. They utilize storage in a transitionary period in their life. That’s why it’s important to have that space there for them. They will utilize that space during that transition period. Oftentimes, they will keep utilizing that space because now it becomes a part of their life in a sense. They end up staying much longer than they had anticipated when they first got the unit.
Going back to that question, and this is for passive investors. They got that deal and got comfortable over the operator and with the market, what else should they be looking at to make sure that they’re putting their money in the right type of self-storage deal for them?
It’s going to be, “What do the returns look like? What are you targeting as far as your cash-on-cash, IRR, or equity multiple? What’s your goal as an investor?” Are they trying to double their money in ten years? Are they trying to hit a certain rate of return per year for cashflow? If I’m a passive investor, I have a horizon of investment period. If I’m maybe a little bit older, my horizon is shorter. It may be ten years or less. If I’m younger, my horizon is going to be a bit longer. Maybe I can get a little riskier looking at some other deals that are going to be at 2 or 3 multiples. Where is the deal located?
Maybe, I don’t have quite as long a horizon, so I want a little bit less risk. Maybe I’ll look at deals or facilities in primary or secondary markets where the rate of return is a little bit lower but my risk is potentially a little bit less because it’s a very densely populated area. That facility is going to be expensive when it trades, but there’s a reason for that. It’s because the perceived risk is a little bit less risky in a densely populated area. It depends on the investor. You look at the team, the deal, the market, and then what do the returns look like as far as my personal goal, my investment horizon and what I’m trying to achieve by investing in self-storage.
You touched on this a bit in this last question but I want to drill down a little further here. As people are looking at returns, I want to break apart appreciation and cashflow. Before I dive into that, how are the tax benefits on self-storage? Does it mimic that of multifamily or is it different in terms of depreciation expense, etc.?
Your depreciation is a bit longer because it’s not residential. In residential, it’s 27 and a half years. In storage, it’s 39 years for depreciation. Storage is less to depreciate as far as the building is concerned with the components, but you also pay less. In multifamily, you have all the interior units, the pool and whatever else improvements might be there. In storage, you don’t have that. It’s metal buildings and paved drive isles if it’s an outdoor, non-climate controlled building. If you have a nice three-story deal, you might have a little bit more there that can depreciate. Beyond that, it’s going to be pretty straightforward. We can still get a cost seg study done and pass that depreciation onto investors. It’s going to be very similar except for the length of time that you can depreciate overall.
We’re now digging into the appreciation and cashflow. You touched on this but I want to highlight it here. Someone who is approaching the deal from a perspective of they want to be a little bit heavier on cashflow than betting on the appreciation. They want a big pop at the end when this asset is sold. What is the type of self-storage deal that would look like? I can provide more color if you need.
Let’s keep it simple. Let’s say we have the nice ones. When you drive down an urban area and you see the nice three-story deal or maybe it’s a very nice brand-new single-story deal in a strong market. That’s going to have lower cashflow because you have to pay more for that facility. In other words, if a person is okay with that and that’s what they’re looking for, then that’s great. You will probably get a big pop on the end when you go to sell it later on because of the cap rate. If you’re looking for more cashflow, you might need to go a little bit further out to a secondary/tertiary market, which there’s nothing wrong with that.
These facilities can do well in either case, but in that example, the sale price isn’t going to be quite as aggressive. You have a little bit leftover at the end of each month after paying all the bills and the mortgage to send cashflow back to investors and take advantage of that. A good example of that is the deal we closed in March of 2021. It’s in Gastonia, North Carolina. If you look on the map, it’s right next to Charlotte. It’s Gastonia-Charlotte-Concord MSA is really what it is.
You can look in Gastonia. Your audience can look it up. It’s called Glenn Storage Center. It’s a smaller deal. We’re going to be adding on about 22,000 square feet on that. This is an anomaly. We bought that at a seven cap. The location is fantastic. They’re building 400 homes not too far away. There’s good growth in the area. It’s great. We found that deal and we’re going to add more to it, and the cashflow is really good. We hit a little bit low in the first year, let’s say at 6%. On average, we should be above a 7% preferred return on that one.
Your audience might be like, “I want to do better than that.” Storage and multifamily real estate are hot right now. You’ve got to maybe look someplace else or a little bit more in a tertiary market, but to find that deal with that type of cashflow in that location was a little bit of an anomaly. It’s something like that where it’s not going to be looked at by some of the larger groups who are very aggressive trying to buy deals.
Another thing to talk about is the value-add. For the people who are in the multifamily space, they think value-add are carpets, wood floors, cabinets or appliances. Is value-add also something that is present in self-storage? If so, how does that manifest?
It’s different. There are no granite countertops or anything like that. We don’t want that in storage. It’s basically a garage in a sense on a concrete slab with metal walls and that’s it. How do you add value to storage? What you do is find a facility that does not have the ability to allow customers to rent online. Maybe they do have a website but it doesn’t allow customers to rent online. Oftentimes, they won’t have a website. Their management and bookkeeping are going to be on paper, Excel or QuickBooks a lot of the time. They don’t have specific management software that they use to manage their books, and then they don’t offer something called tenant insurance.Price is very important. From an economic standpoint, what someone’s willing to pay for a good or service gives you an idea of their wherewithal, their financial standing, etc. Click To Tweet
When somebody rents a unit, the larger like Life Storage, Extra Space or Public Storage, they’re going to require the tenant to have something called tenant insurance. It protects the goods that you’re storing in the facility. You can use your homeowner’s policy or buy their own version of it. Either way is fine. The point is that they don’t offer that at these mom-and-pop or smaller deals because they don’t want to, they’re afraid to or they don’t know about it. You can easily make $5 or $6 on every single unit that you offer and require to have tenant insurance there. If you have 100 units, that right there is a nice dump to the NOI right off the bat.
The other thing too are ones that haven’t raised rates in a while. As I mentioned, 75-ish% plus or minus of facilities are owned by what we call mom-and-pop owners who only own 1 or 2 locations. Oftentimes, they’ve built it from scratch or maybe they did acquire it 10 or 15 years ago or so, but they haven’t raised rates in 3, 4 or 5 years. We’ve come across some smaller ones a while back when I was first doing this. They haven’t raised rates in ten years on their customers. In that sense, it’s not what you would think value-add where I’m actually adding value to the customer. In apartments, you would go add value to the customer by putting in nice finishes and a new carpet and then they’re willing to pay more.
In storage, it’s a matter of what is supply and demand. Can I raise the rates? Can I improve the operations and the management of the facility? Can I put marketing online? Some places don’t even do any marketing online. They have no pay-per-click and they’re still 90% occupied or in some cases, 100%. The one we closed in Gastonia was practically 100% occupied at that facility. That’s the value-add there. Whereas an operator, I have ways of producing income, raising rates and offering tenant insurance, etc., that then add value to myself and to my investors.
Connected to that occupancy, I’ve heard that when you see self-storage that’s 100% occupied, chances are they have low rates. They probably need to increase their rates to have that little differential of occupancy.
Yes. In storage, typically about 85% to 90% physical occupancy is considered stabilized. Somebody coming from multifamily might see 95% are better being stabilized. More than 97% is good, but that would be high. That means I need to go up on my rates right away. It’s a little bit different getting used to that in storage. I might have 100 or 300 units. If I have 97% of them occupied, I can’t adjust to the market. That’s telling me right off the bat I need to raise rates and get this down to about 85% economic occupancy, but overall across the board, I have my rates up higher than they were before.
The other thing on the value add is there is a way you can add value to the customer who needs more. If I’m at max capacity, let’s say it’s 85% or 90% occupied, and I have extra land to expand on, I can build another building. I know most likely that I’d be able to fill it up with people if my occupancy is that high at that point.
Connected to that, can you talk a little bit about the types of loans? I always tell people when they’re looking at these multifamily deals that if you’re going into a value-add, the use of bridge debt on particular multifamily has a time and place for it, etc. Is there anything similar on self-storage or not?
There is. It depends on the loan size, which you would see in multifamily as well. The thing is with storage, let’s say it’s 100 units. That’s going to be about 10,000 plus or minus square feet. Maybe that deal is going to be $500,000 to $1 million of the purchase price. It depends on the rates. Let’s say that you’re going to buy that deal. That loan size is small, so you’re going to be looking for a private lender or potentially a local bank or the bank that already has the note on the deal. You use them to originate a new loan for you as the borrower.
If you get bigger in loan size, you can utilize some of the programs like bridge debt. You can get SBA loans as well. Permanent financing as well is available. If you get even bigger, if it’s a $10 million loan size or larger, it’s going to be a $12, $13 or $14 million purchase price and above. You can get very nice terms from some very large private funds. Other banks will participate in that as well to get CMBS debt on that, which is going to be a very nice, long-term debt like ten years or so with a very nice rate on that. There are a lot of options.
I mentioned SBA. People don’t know what that is. The SBA means Small Business Administration. They make loans to people who want to start a business. If somebody wants to go open up a mechanic shop, nail salon or whatever, they want to get a loan from the SBA. That’s who they go to. The SBA will loan to people who want to purchase a self-storage facility because they see it as an operating business. Back to the very beginning of the interview when we talked about the recession resistance in self-storage, back in 2008, 2009 and 2010, the SBA saw how well storage performed during the recession. They decided to make a program where they would loan dollars to folks who want to get into that business.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, people will think about it like, “I can go buy a self-storage facility.” The SBA looks at that as an operating business and not just a real estate play. They won’t loan funds if you want to go buy a multifamily thing. That doesn’t make any sense, but they will on self-storage. There are some tradeoffs with that. Every loan has its tradeoffs as far as terms etc., but the point is you can put about 10% down to get into a self-storage facility if you’re an active investor and utilizes SBA funds to do so. There are options out there.
That was good. To wrap this up, we are in a low-interest-rate environment. No one has a crystal ball but people do feel that interest rates will eventually increase maybe 1, 2, 3 or 5 years from now. What are you guys doing in your business as you seek to purchase self-storage units or facilities to leverage whether rates for these units will continue to go up or not? What are some of the things that you’re doing in terms of a business plan and acquisitions to make sure that you’re protecting investors’ capital?
We closed a lease-up deal. It’s about 30-ish% occupied and three stories with 530 something units. We have used bridge debt on that. The rate was 5%. Usually, those are floating rates. We can buy a rate cap. It’s a swap in a sense to protect your hedge against any increases in interest rates into the future. That’s typically what we’ve done in the past, and a lot of other operators will do the same thing. There are some limitations on that based upon the loan size, cost, and what makes sense as far as the cost of doing so. If you’re looking at floating rate debt, variable debt or variable interest rates, that’s the best way to hedge in the short-term, and then a refi in the long run once you stabilize the property.
When I was in school or I had graduated, it was in 2018. The UNC Chapel Hill does a real estate conference every year and they bring in all these top-notch speakers. They brought in an economist from Wells Fargo. He was talking about the economy of where we’re at right now in this situation. If we can remember back those three years, we were in a low-interest-rate environment at that time as well. Rates were around 3%. I don’t remember what it was. The Fed had increased the rate by maybe 25 basis points at that time and they had done it twice up to that point in time. The rates were already trending up.
He said, “This is going to continue. We see the economy coming out of this. We’re doing pretty well. We’re in the whatever ending. We expect rates to continue to trend upward,” and then what happened? Things started to go down again. The pandemic hit and the rates went down into the toilet. Now, the Fed is talking about raising rates again in the future. Any future acquisitions that we do, we’ll get fresh debt. If rates get too high, we can assume loans. We can assume a loan if they have a loan in place to take advantage of the rate that was locked in a year or two or a couple of years earlier on.
Purchase prices have to adjust to higher interest rates. It takes sellers a little bit of time for some reason to wrap their heads around the fact that borrowers can’t get great rates. For three years in the future, rates are at 5%. Sellers have to come to terms with that that they should have sold three years ago if they wanted the highest price possible. Those are rate caps in a sense, but swaps to hedge right now can control rates into the future. It will affect purchase prices later on and we’re aware of that as well.You can syndicate equity and buy large deals. Click To Tweet
One thing that you touched on, which is what I was seeking with the loan question, was you talked about the use of a bridge loan for a lease-up deal. Bridge loans typically work well when you know that you’re going to be increasing the value of the asset as opposed to buying an asset that is already stabilized. You’re just getting cashflow and then ultimately, trying to buy that asset which is expensive, but you’re using a bridge loan to try and purchase it with no real plan. This was good. Thank you so much for coming on. I’ll wrap up here with my Level Up questions that I ask all my guests. The first one is, what are you grateful for in your life right now?
My family. My three boys. That’s probably a trite answer but that’s true. I’m also grateful for the opportunity I have here with Passive Investing. I was in school at UNC Chapel Hill as an undergrad in my early to mid-30s or so. I stick out like a sore thumb while I was in school and it was extremely difficult. I got punched in the mouth 50,000 times because the academic rigor is so intense there. It was very difficult but she supported me through that entire time.
We were flipping through photos on my phone like, “Remember this? Remember that?” We had our second child there while I was in school and it was tough. She stuck it out with me through that entire time, so I’m super thankful for her being by my side. I’m also thankful for my partner, John and the guys at Passive Investing who’ve given us a right-hand partnership. John and I were looking for deals on our own.
My relationship with Dan goes back to when he started from Passive Investing. When he started years ago, I went to his very first Meetup and we have stayed in touch ever since then. Partnerships are so important. You’re not going to be good at everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re this super-strong entrepreneur like Steve Jobs or whomever. You can’t do it all. You have to have a partner. It’s good to have someone to offset some of the areas that you’re weak in. Those are the things I’m thankful for.
What has attributed to your success and continuous growth?
It’s my education because it opened up doors. A lot of people are poo-pooing these days going to get a four-year degree and I can understand that. When I was in school, there were kids in their twenties that I knew and were friends with from classes. They didn’t really know what they wanted to do. I went back with a different perspective. I knew in a sense what I wanted to do and why I was there, so it’s a little bit different.
You can go to a networking event. Two people go to the same networking event and one person meets three connections. It’s super powerful for them. Those connections have been wonderful. The other person doesn’t talk to anybody and goes, “This is dumb and the food was horrible. I’m never going to go back again.” What actions did they take while they were there? When I was in school, I took advantage of everything possible and tried to make the best outcome for myself and my family because the stakes were a little bit higher. That is what sets me up. It opened up the first doors and the doors after that.
Lastly here, what do you now know that you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey?
That you can syndicate equity and buy large deals. When I was in real estate, I got my license on August 20th, 2007. That was my first day on the job as a broker. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted to get into investing. I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad Poor Dad and it blew my mind. I was in ministry for about six and a half years, so I came from that background of nonprofit where you’re trying to help people and that stuff. I spent time on the mission field. To go into a self-employed business, I had no idea what I was doing.
I knew I wanted to get into investing in some capacity. I just didn’t know-how. When I was at Chapel Hill, I interned for a company called Eller Capital. They are in Chapel Hill and do multifamily. Daniel Eller taught me how to buy apartments. I was like, “This is blowing my mind.” One, I had never seen so many zeros. It was $16 million. I was like, “What is this?” I realized he was raising capital from investors to buy the apartments. The light bulb went off like, “You can go raise money from people to buy these things? I had no idea.” That would be the thing I wish I would have known back in the day. I would have bought everything back then because if I’ve bought everything in ’07, ’08 and ’09, we’d be at the beach together.
To close this down, for someone who’s reading this who’s at a point in their journey where they are going back to school, they’re in transition or they’re in university, you talked about going to that networking event. There are so many people that go to networking events, come out and they’re like, “That didn’t work for me.” Can you share how you have used your experiences to help you? How have you shown up to make the best out of life?
That’s what you said there. You got to show up. Personally, if I go to a networking event and I meet 1 or 2 people, that to me is a success, and we stay connected afterward. I don’t need to meet everybody in the room although that’s fun and I like doing that. I’m naturally an outgoing person, so that comes easy for me. That’s not easy for everybody else, but if I can go and make a meaningful connection and meet 1 or 2 people, introduce myself or have someone come up to me and we have a good conversation, that to me is a success. You have to be out there talking to people and getting to know people. Maybe you’re not super good at it. Maybe you don’t go to the middle of the room and say, “I’m here. Check me out.”
There’s somebody that’s like you at that networking event. Let’s take a look around and see who’s by themselves, who’s not talking to anybody. Go up to that person, talk to them and see where it goes. You will never know who you might meet. For me, I was like, “I need to take every advantage of this place that I’m in at this point in time.” There are so many opportunities to do that if a person is willing to look for those opportunities. When I was in school, I remember going to an etiquette class that they had on how to go to a business dinner for your job interviews.
I took advantage of the career services that we had there. I did twenty-something mock interviews at the business school to practice and practice and get good. You have to make a way for yourself because nobody is going to give it to you. I knew that going in when I was in school. Some kids understood that and some kids did not. Going out of your way to meet people, you don’t need to be the most outgoing person. Meet 1 or 2 people, make a connection, and then go from there and see where it goes. Also, reach out to people who are already doing what you want to do.
When I was in school, I always make myself available to alumni from the program. If an alumnus emails me saying, “Can I get some resume review help or interview prep? I want to talk to you about what you do in real estate,” I’m like, “No problem.” That’s usually how it is. If you’re a college student and you’re reaching out to somebody who’s a director or president of some division that you want to work in, reach out to them directly. It shows the initiative of you trying to find out more. It’s like a sneaky way of saying, “Give me a job. I’m a graduate,” but that’s okay. You’re finding out what it’s like. Go ask to shadow them for a day.
I’m going long here but I did that with Wells Fargo. I wanted to work in sales, trading or security. I wasn’t interested in real estate because I had such a bad experience during the recession. It was just a turn of events that my internship was at Eller Capital doing real estate, and then my eyes were opened and I loved it. I shadowed for a day on the trading floor in Charlotte, here in North Carolina. I was out there with the traders for the entire day to see what the job is like. That set me up for the interviews later on that year. Doing some of that and taking the initiative to get to know people ahead of time will open up doors for you later on. Those connections become valuable as you grow in your career.You have to make a way for yourself. Nobody’s going to give it to you. Click To Tweet
You said earlier about even how you met Dan, going to his Meetup, and now being a part of PassiveInvesting.com. He was already building that back then when you met him.
I don’t remember how he and I connected on LinkedIn or Facebook. I have no clue. I remember seeing an invite from Dan. I didn’t know who he was. Nobody knew who he was because he was just getting started. It was his very first Meetup. It was in Charlotte. I was like, “I’ll go and see what happens.” I went and that’s where he and I met. There were five of us sitting around a table in the space that he had rented. We were talking and chatting. From there, we stayed in touch. I kept going to the Meetup. You never know where things go in the future.
Thank you so much. If my audience wants to learn more about self-storage, passive investing or all that good stuff, where’s the best place they can go to learn more?
They can check out our podcast, the Storage Investor Nation Podcast. We have a Facebook group and we do weekly webinars as well. I did one on due diligence for self-storage and everything that goes into that. I posted my notes from that. It’s twelve pages of notes on due diligence for self-storage. If anybody wants to have the access to those notes, hit up the Facebook group, Storage Investor Nation, and they can go and connect there. If you have any questions on storage, I’m happy to answer them. We don’t sell coaching. We don’t try to do any of that kind of stuff. We are trying to build a thought leadership platform because we want people to invest with us. All the content that we put out there is for free and it’s available for anybody.
Thank you so much for coming on. I hope you’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I appreciate it.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
- Storage Investor Nation Podcast
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Storage Investor Nation – Facebook Group
About Kris Bennett
Kris Bennett is a Self-Storage Managing Partner at PassiveInvesting.com where he leads deal sourcing, broker relations, and overall strategy. He started his self-storage career with a family office sourcing deals in the Carolinas for their self-storage acquisition fund. Kris co-hosts the Storage Investor Nation Podcast and weekly webinars educating hundreds of investors about the self-storage industry. He is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, where he served as a Fund Manager for the university’s private equity real estate fund. Kris resides in Charlotte, NC, with his wife and three sons.
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