[00:00:00] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Real Estate Syndication Show. Whether you are a seasoned investor or building a new real estate business, this is the show for you. Whitney Sewell talks to top experts in the business. Our goal is to help you master real estate syndication.
And now your host, Whitney Sewell.
[0:00:24.1] WS: This is your daily Real Estate Syndication show. I’m your host, Whitney Sewell. Today, our guest is Kavitha Baratakke. Thanks for being on the show, Kavitha.
[0:00:33.4] KB: Thank you for having me, Whitney.
[0:00:34.7] WS: No, honored to have you here. We met at a conference not too many months ago and a pleasure to have you on the show as well and to hear about your experience and your growth in this multifamily syndication business, you know, that we’re all trying to pursue and are growing all the time.
Anxious to hear about what you’re up to and a little bit about her, she’s a principal at Cherry Street Investments and is an Austin-based accredited real estate investor who recently retired from her technology career of 20 years to pursue multifamily investments as a full time sponsor. She has been an investor since 2009 and is currently invested in over 2,000 doors in San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Phoenix, as a limited partner in over 450 doors, as a general partner in key principle.
She is passionate about helping people in their journey towards financial freedom so they can pursue their passions and live their life to their dreams. She runs a Facebook group called Purely Passive Investor Group that is focused on educating passive investors to webinars and materials on creating passive income with multifamily, senior assisted living, and more.
So, Kavitha, thank you so much for your time today. I’m looking forward to getting into this. Tell the listeners a little more about where you’re located and your focus right now.
[0:01:47.4] KB: Thank you for having me on the show, first. I’ve seen a lot of your podcast and I love it so I’m really honored to be here today. I started my journey, and a little bit about myself, I came from India 23 years ago now and I went to College Station, Texas A&M. Did my grad school and started a tech career, working for IBM, that was almost 20 years ago and I realized over my career that I love what I do, I did, when I started but after 20 years of it, I wasn’t waking up with the same enthusiasm.
I was like, “Okay, I really need to change and be passionate about what I’m doing.” So I think influenced by a lot of books, a lot of people around me, financial freedom, independence, I wanted the ability to choose what I wanted to do with my time. My daughter is now 14 and she’s leaving home for college in four years so it became sort of like a critical juncture for me to say, “I really want to spend some time with her.”
And then, I was juggling a full time job, I was trying to be a single parent, I was trying to take care of two puppies, and I was trying to learn multifamily business and manage a portfolio of single family homes that I have in Austin and San Antonio. So, at some point, I was so overwhelmed that I’m like, “I can’t do this anymore. I really need to focus on something in that — that I’m really passionate about that I wake up and like yes, someone hit the ground running.”
So I realized in my journey of land lording and being a single family homeowner that that wasn’t the long-term solution for me. I would not retire myself on single family homes because, the more money I put into it, it was cash flowing initially and then taxes in Texas really killed me. Between 2 and 3%, 3.5% in some places. We don’t really make any money after all this. This is something I explain to a lot of investors who come to me and talk about investing in single family homes right now in this market.
So I kind of veer them away from it but also, my journey taught me that okay, land lording was cool, I had a good time initially and then there was a point of overwhelm where it didn’t scale. So, I decided to look into multifamily and when I got into multifamily, it seemed like it was really hard and there wasn’t enough information. So I ended up driving to Dallas almost every weekend for two years to learn from a mentoring group out there. Just to do passive investments and multifamily because at that time, I had a very busy W2 job that I couldn’t take time off from. So I spent all my weekends and evenings learning about multifamily.
When I decided to quit my job, when I thought about what I’d be doing, the first thing that came to my mind is that I want to help people like me who have busy jobs in finding investments that allow them to create that passive income. Not just finding investments but educating them as well. Because I felt like I went through a lot of hoops to learn that, but I felt like, “Okay, this could have been an easier process, it didn’t have to be so hard.” Not as a passive. I get that apartment business is difficult as an active sponsor because there are so many moving pieces to it. But as a passive investor, what do I need to learn?
I need to learn how to do due diligence on investment. I need to make sure that the sponsor is tight and is a good investment. I felt like I could help them distill it down to a smaller set of things that they didn’t have to go to get that information but it could come to them. That was sort of my motivation and starting the purely passive group. I really want to help people towards financial freedom because I feel like I want them to pursue their passions and not just be in a job because they have to pay the bills.
[0:05:33.6] WS: Nice. Now, that’s important. Go ahead.
[0:05:36.9] KB: I just went off so I just needed to pause a little bit.
[0:05:40.1] WS: No, it’s good stuff, and it’s great. I like the group too and where people can come and learn and you can help educate them about why it’s important and I’d love for us to do that today and let us dive in a little bit about what you’re educating these people on and maybe they’re – how do they get to this group and who are these types of individuals that you’re educating?
[0:05:58.2] KB: I’m mostly targeting it towards people that are busy professionals, that don’t have a lot of time. So I started with meet-ups in Austin and I quickly realized, people want to be passive for a good reason, they don’t have time. And beating Austin traffic and coming to a webinar in the evenings isn’t quite the model that was suitable for those set of people because I am working, let’s say nine to five. By the time I beat traffic, I come home, it’s 6:30 in the evening and the last thing I want to do is leave my kids and step out to drive somewhere for half an hour or an hour to just learn something, right?
So there’s a gap between people who want things to come to them now, right? It’s the information technology where people want information to come to them and not have to go to information, to get information. I started doing webinars now so that’s been very positive for me, also, the Facebook group. I’m able to share blogs, I’m able to share information with them that I feel like a lot of people don’t know about, like depreciation. I didn’t know I could write off my income if I played it right, right? Get the qualified real estate professional and write off my income. So things like that, that a lot of people are not aware of, like investing for their retirement.
I look at 401(k)’s and I’ve asked a lot of people about this. It’s like, “Doo you know how much your 401(k) is making? What is it invested in? Two very simple questions. People always are like, “No idea, it’s like probably some 20, 43 retirement fund, you know, I could retire in 20 years and what is it making? Almost I don’t know, 80% of the people have no idea what it’s making.
If I look at the retirement fund and go, “Okay, they’re making maybe four to five percent and could we use that better? A lot of people are not aware of how they could use that better. You know, could you roll it over to us for solo 401(k) or to an IRA and invest that in alternative investments like real estate. I felt like I took a longer path to learn all that and I want to help people short circuit that a little bit.
You don’t have to go through on this hopes to learn this. This has to be more common place knowledge. Because what we get from most financial advisors are this whole 80/20 stocks split, put it 80% in stocks, 20% in bonds. I mean, the usual canned advice, right? But when I started attending the events and conferences, what I got out of it was the wealthy don’t invest like that.
It’s the middle class that invest like that and the middle class stay middle class until they’re 65 so you most of the time have to wait till you’re 65 and maybe you’ll have enough money to actually retire. I learned from attending all of these conferences and seeing wealthy people that this is not my fast track to retirement, it’s not going to work like that. So, I think I want to bring some of what I’ve learned to people and I hope to be able to do that through my group.
[0:08:49.4] WS: Nice, so these people are coming to the group and I guess let’s talk about maybe a few big questions or maybe a few big things that you initially want them to know, things that, you know, they’re not going to understand multifamily or real estate, all these things but you know, that’s why it’s so important and you’re trying to educate them but what are some of the first few things that you’re going to make certain that they understand?
[0:09:08.8] KB: I find that retirement accounts is the best place to start with most people because people who think they don’t have money, they usually have money in retirement accounts and they’re not doing anything much with it where they’re actually growing that income. So I feel like that is one of the best places for me to educate them on how they could be using their retirement accounts better. How they could create either a QRP or solo 401(k) to invest that money better.
The other thing was also multifamily. Since I work in a multifamily space, it’s natural for me to teach them, “Okay, this is how typical passive multifamily business works. I’m not only planning to teach them what I know but I also want to get guest speakers on in my made up here. I did like a 1031 exchanges. Topics around real estate and investing that people should know about, right? 1031 exchanges, hotels, assisted living, there are just so many investments out there that are alternative investments. Like still real estate, because I find that a lot of my friends and family and people that I know, when they think real estate, they think, “Go buy a single family home.” It’s just something that we’ve all been conditioned to think, right?
So I want them to think outside that box of single family homes and that being an investment because it’s not always a great investment, it was probably in 2008 when it got crashed. But right now, it’s the higher the market and I don’t want people to get into single family homes, thinking it’s a great investment because if you do the returns on the paper, you don’t make much money.
[0:10:39.6] WS: So how do you help them to understand that commercial investing, you know, investing to commercial real estate and syndication is better than single family.
[0:10:48.1] KB: So in my presentation, which I did a webinar last week and I have another one coming up on Wednesday is focused on passive investing and syndications and I kind of lost rate. Okay, here’s what those single family investing looks like, here’s what multifamily looks like.
For example, let’s say you buy a one unit, here’s the property management fees you’re paying. Here is the overhead you have, here are the taxes and when I buy an apartment unit which is hundred units, here’s what my structure looks like, here’s how I introduce economies of scale.
Here’s where you don’t have to deal with tenants, you don’t have to deal with toilets, you don’t have to deal with any of those things and you’re just getting your cash on cash returns and your total returns on the end. You do have to give up some control but do you really want that control with your full time job?
[0:11:35.0] WS: Nice. So what if they say, Kavitha, you know, I really – I feel like I don’t have any control if I just hand you the money. How does that work? How is that different than the stock market or investing that way?
[0:11:45.6] KB: You are really investing in a tangible asset, right? You’re not investing in a stock market which is not controlled, you have no control on the stock market whereas this is a property that you have some control over as an investor as well.
I mean, sure, you don’t have day to day control of it but, you know, I was talking to another investor about investing like in Phoenix. So if you look at the spread and Phoenix market, when single family homes crashed, it was like 40% dip. But as the multifamily business of Phoenix didn’t, the spread was only like one and a half, two percent, in the worst time of the market and the best time.
I try to explain to them that multifamily doesn’t go through the same cycles as bad as a severe cycle as single family goes through and also, people need a place to live, right? This is not an expenditure that is discretionary. This is a required. Like, I need a roof over my head. Their money is better in that kind of an asset than putting it in the stock market right now and a lot of people have lost a lot of money the last few weeks in the stock market, already.
[0:12:53.0] WS: Nice. You know, I’d like to ask too though, about this, you’ve started this group, this Facebook group and — the Purely Passive Investor group and as far as growing your brand and your business, how has that group helped that?
[0:13:06.1] KB: I think, I always think of Rod Cliff. He was one of the people who really influenced me because when he said this, and it stuck with me: “It’s not about becoming successful or it’s not about being a successful person, it’s about adding value to people.” I find that this group has allowed me to add value to people and I think always, you know, people who are getting into the multifamily business always say, “Hey, how do I do this, you know?”
But I haven’t been in that long but people are asking me for advice and I always say it’s just about adding value. If you add value, people will come to you and people will invest with you and for me, that group is all about how can I add value to the people that I’m connected to?
[0:13:51.3] WS: Very important, yeah that’s awesome. Adding value, adding value to other people. Yes, I agree completely and you are adding value to the people in that group, right? I mean all the time so that is awesome and so what would you say has been the hardest part of just the syndication journey all together for you?
[0:14:07.1] KB: I think during my first deal. I spent almost a year underwriting like I don’t know, I must have underwritten at least like 100 units, a hundred apartments but gotten nowhere like submitted LOI’s didn’t get anywhere. So it was a very frustrating process to start with and then I realized, “You know, I should be really be partnering with people who have done this before. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” right? Because when you have someone on your team that has the track record and experience to close on deals, they get the deals.
And so I feel like in this business, it is absolutely essential and imperative to partner with people and who have the track record so you can ride on the track record initially. But once you stand on your own, you can take off. So I think for me that has been definitely a growing experience because when I started I was like, “You know I have X amount of dollars and I want to buy my own apartment.” I really did. I did not want to syndicate.
I wanted to buy my own 40 unit apartment in San Antonio and I spent a year trying to do that and I was like, “This is not working,” and I am glad one of my mentors, I don’t know if you Ferras? Ferras talked me out of it and I am so glad he did and he really sat me down and asked me, “Why do you think you want to do this?” And when I talked to him I realized I don’t really want to do it because that is all I’ll be doing right? If I take on an apartment by myself and I try to fix it up and I do everything that will consume me and not allow me to move fast. So partnership is everything in this business.
[0:15:46.9] WS: I couldn’t agree more and so, tell me though, how are you all preparing say for another downturn?
[0:15:53.0] KB: Conservative underwriting, really. So all of our underwriting and that is something I really want to work when I go on a team, I really spend a lot of time analyzing the deals just to see that the underwriting has consummative enough. You know, we are underwriting exit caps one and a half, even 200, two percent, over purchase gaps. Just rent growth, all of that I think consummative underwriting really plays into it.
And also make sure that we stress test the deal and make sure, “Okay, what did the occupancy look like in the downturn?” Could we at least handle that occupancy and still breakeven? We are not making a lot of money if things go south but at least can we hold onto the property? You know, we don’t want to lose the property. So I think those kinds of stress tests is very important and I also tell my investors as a part of their due diligence they should be stressed, asking their sponsors if they stress tested those deals.
[0:16:52.2] WS: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Great advice and I liked how you elaborated on what stress testing is a little bit in different ways that you all do that and so, what’s a way that you all have recently improved your business that we could all apply to ours?
[0:17:05.7] KB: I think for me as a sponsor just building my network of investors has been really important obviously. You know the more investors I have the more deals I have, the more we could close. So for me, a lot of it is hinged on education. I feel educated investors are the best investors. So I always tell my friends if you have money, I don’t want it. I want you make an educated decision. I will educate you and if you still want to invest after that I will take your money. But I feel like education as an investor and if I have a sponsorship business or I am in the business of syndicating apartments, I need to have educated investors on my deals.
[0:17:48.6] WS: Well what is the best way that or the best thing you’ve done to help build your list of investors?
[0:17:53.1] KB: I think a lot of it has been word of mouth. I really haven’t had to do much because I mean this business is like a relationship business. The more people you connect with, the more people hear about you just like random people call me and they say, “Oh I heard about you from this REA group and I just wanted to talk to you about this investment. What do you think about buying this house?” And you know one thing leads to another.
So I’d say word of mouth is very powerful. So in conjunction with that it is like what you do should not be short-sighted. I feel everything you do in this business has to be in the long-term, building that relationship and building the connection and genuinely wanting to help your investors get to their goals.
[0:18:34.0] WS: And what is the best way that you are educating your investors as well? You mentioned how important that was and how do you do that outside of the group?
[0:18:42.7] KB: Outside the group, I mean, it is mostly inside the group. I host webinars so it is open to people. Anybody can join, you know, I’ll share the recordings as well. So that is probably primarily one of the ways. But I also reach out to people and say, “Hey, if you want me to come and talk to a group of people I am happy to come talk to your friend’s group or whatever you want me to be.” Because I am just happy to connect with people. I love networking and I have attended, I don’t know, an event a month this year and I am just like conferenced out.
[0:19:15.0] WS: Yeah, I understand that and what is your best advice for caring for investors?
[0:19:19.6] KB: Caring for investors. Yeah, keep the goals in mind, right? What is their goal, what is their knowledge level? There are some investors that I don’t work with, right? If I feel that it is not a good match for me, I don’t care how interested they are. I just feel like I will do them a disservice because we are not on the same wavelength. So for me it is very important that I connect with them and I feel like they trust me. I think that is super important with their investments.
[0:19:46.8] WS: Yeah very important, very important. Any way you go above and beyond to help build that trust?
[0:19:53.3] KB: Again, I will talk to a lot of people who I get no investments out of. So I don’t feel like I am doing it from a place of, “Hey, I want your money or I want your investment and I’m talking to you because of that.” No, I am like, “If multifamily is not a good investment for you I totally understand. You have $500,000, I am not going to tell you to park it all in multifamily,” you know? So I feel like they know that I am looking out for them because I wouldn’t do something with their money that I wouldn’t do with my own money.
I think that is my guiding principle; what would I do with my own money? Would I do what advice I am giving someone else? So I feel like I build up that rapport of, “Hey, I am here to help you. You don’t really have to invest with me but if single family is what you want, don’t invest in Austin, please.” I put so many people out of the Austin market, realtors in Austin will hate me.
[0:20:45.5] WS: What would you say is the number one thing that has contributed to your success?
[0:20:49.2] KB: That is a good question. I think my connection with people and I didn’t realize that I was doing this. It was very unconscious. I have been talking about real estate in my real estate life for about 10 years now on Facebook and social media and a lot of people know that I am the associate maybe within real estate and honestly 10 years ago, I wasn’t trying to build a brand. I wasn’t trying to do any of those things. It was just me sharing that, “Hey, I am so excited I got this house!”
And so it weirdly turned around this year when I went full-time and I realized over time, people have been calling me about investments and I’m like, “Why are they talking to me? I am not an investment adviser.” So I became sort of a defacto, people turn to me for real estate investments. So it was interesting because I finally realized I had created a brand without realizing that I have and now I am grateful for it, really.
[0:21:45.7] WS: That says a lot about you though, you created a brand and you didn’t even realize it and so, you know, I tell people all the time everybody is wanting to know how to raise capital, how to do it and I tell people, “You are always raising capital. You know even before you get into the syndication business, you have been raising capital just how you present yourself, how you talk to people. All of those things a long time before you actually try to do a deal,” and so that is great advice.
Any other tips as far as how you could help the listener to be able to raise more capital or to connect with more high net worth investors?
[0:22:17.3] KB: So I have been exploring a lot of that myself. You know, I think from a person’s perspective, for example, now I have been reaching out to a few realtor groups in Austin thinking, “If I was a realtor and I am a qualified real estate professional, I could use depreciation to wipe off my income, wouldn’t I want to know about it?” And somehow I felt like that group is not very well tapped.
So think outside the box about don’t go to real estate conferences over and over again. Because you meet the same set of people after a while. So maybe go to a tech conference, maybe go to something somewhere else, another audience that you don’t think they might have a high net worth, but you don’t think of them as a traditional — okay it is not a real estate conference but you will be surprised with the kind of people that you meet because they are interested to learn about investments. So I went recently to another financial services conference, which has nothing to do with real estate.
And it was surprising how many people there wanted to invest in real estate. Those are alternative investments, life insurance and all of these other investments. But a lot of those people still are looking at real estate investments and they don’t know where to start. So branch out and think outside the box when you connect with people.
[0:23:30.2] WS: Nice, you’ve got to get creative, don’t you?
[0:23:32.7] KB: Yeah, if you do the same things everybody else is doing then you get the same results, right?
[0:23:38.0] WS: Yes. Well, Kavitha you’ve been a great guest. I really appreciate your time today elaborating on how you’ve been successful in educating your investors and raising capital. But tell the listeners how you like to give back?
[0:23:49.4] KB: That is super important to me. Thank you for asking that. I actually wrote my first newsletter and I got really good feedback on it. It took me eight months to get to my newsletter but I made it and I wrote a lot of stuff. So one of the things I did mention there and the people in my group are very well aware, I have three places that I’d like to give back. One is this year, I started this year and I intend to do this every year.
I did the MS150, which is a 150 mile ride like a bike ride to raise money for MS, multiple sclerosis suffers. So this is very close to my heart because one of my close friends is suffering from MS and a very progressive form of MS. So she is in a wheelchair and she had to go through severe intervention and then she has two three-year-old boys. That was really heartbreaking for me because she couldn’t run behind her kids and raise them like a normal mom and I felt the pain.
So I started doing that and we did a bunch of us, the road from Houston to Austin and I intend to do that every year to raise money for MS. But besides that, my daughter has actually a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. So that charity, it is a Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation. So that’s been very close to my heart. I’ve run for them, I have raised money for them and just generally kids who are sick, yeah, I am sensitive to it because I had a very sick child when she was little.
So that is really important to me and also I don’t know if you know [inaudible], he is one of the folks who is doing these operations for kids in the Philippines. So I contribute to his charity but I really look up to him because someday I want to grow up and be [inaudible]. I want to do that. That is really my purpose in life is to get to the point that I create all of these wealthy people and then they can contribute to my charity for sponsoring operations like especially heart operations.
That a lot of kids die in third world countries for a hole in the heart, a very simple minor surgery, which takes a $100 to fix in India and people can’t afford it and they let their kids die. So that is a cause, which is very near and dear to my heart.
[0:25:58.1] WS: Wow thank you for sharing that, I really appreciate that and your passion behind giving back and we can all see that. I appreciate that and tell the listeners how they can get in touch with you and learn more you?
[0:26:07.5] KB: I am always available. I have a Facebook group that is Purely Passive Investor Group, also Cherry Street Investments and of course, my Kavitha Baratakke, you can look me up on Facebook and any of the social media.
[0:26:20.0] WS: Awesome, great. Thank you, Kavitha.
[0:26:22.4] KB: Thank you so much, Whitney.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:26:24.5] WS: Don’t go yet, thank you for listening to today’s episode. I would love it if you would go to iTunes right now and leave a rating and written review. I want to hear your feedback. It makes a big difference in getting the podcast out there. You can also go to the Real Estate Syndication Show on Facebook so you can connect with me and we can also receive feedback and your questions there that you want me to answer on the show.
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