This article was originally featured in March 2018 Think Realty Magazine and written by Joe Fairless, Principal at Ashcroft Capital.
The most common type of apartment transaction is an on-market sale. An apartment owner lists their property with a broker, the broker markets the deal to the public, and, after a bidding war, the deal is awarded to the highest bidder. Off-market sales, where the apartment is purchased directly from the owner without an intermediary, are less common.
Apartment investors stand to benefit from locating these off-market deals, whether they are buying their first property or looking to expand an existing portfolio. However, you are not alone in the pursuit of off-market opportunities. That market is already saturated with investors who are actively bombarding apartment owners with the standard “We Buy Apartments” direct mailers daily. To be competitive in the off-market lead generation niche, you’ll need to find creative ways to receive a response from the motivated apartment owners.
Here are four unique methods for sourcing apartment deals and gaining that competitive edge:
Method #1: Go to Court
That’s right: I am suggesting that you voluntarily go to your local courthouse. But for a good reason: to meet apartment owners currently in the process of evicting a tenant. At no point in time will an apartment owner be more motivated to sell than during the moments leading up to or directly after their eviction hearing. Attend eviction court with the goal of negotiating a deal with the owners that are present.
Helpful Hints: Make sure you are showing up on the correct date and the right courtroom. You won’t have much success buying an apartment community from someone who has a hearing for a speeding ticket. Find the eviction court schedule online on the County Clerk of Courts website or the Sheriff’s Office website.
Alternative Actions: If the prospect of going to court is unappealing, conduct a direct mailing campaign to the list of owners with recent evictions. You can usually find this list on the same website where you found the eviction court schedule.
Method #2: Stroke an Apartment Owner’s Ego
It will take a little work, but placing yourself in position to invite experienced apartment owners to speak at a gathering for investors often leads, well, to generating off-market leads. (Note: You will have to start a meetup group to make this work.) The featured-speaker offer not only enables the apartment owner the chance to promote their business, network with active real estate professionals, and be the center of attention; it also provides you the opportunity to convey your interest in buying off-market apartment deals.
Helpful Hints: If the apartment owner has an asset they’re willing and ready to sell, you will be a strong candidate to be awarded the deal. Additionally, these individuals often are a great contact point for other apartment owners whom you can invite to speak in the future.
Method #3: Land a Wholesaler the Largest Fee of their Life
Wholesalers are more commonly known for providing deals to fix-and-flippers and multifamily investors who buy duplexes, triplexes, or quadplexes. However, they can also be a great source of apartment building deals (and most investors don’t think to ask them).
First, you need a reputable wholesaler in your target market. Look for them online in real estate fora or on social media. Attend local real estate events frequented by wholesalers, like meetup groups, REIA meetings and auctions. Post signs on busy street corners reading, “Needed: Wholesaler Who Wants to Level Up.” Reach out to the wholesalers interviewed on your favorite podcasts, or just ask for referrals from other, trusted investors.
Once you’ve made contact, simply ask if they ever come across apartment leads. If yes, ask to be added to their apartment email list. If no, ask them to probe incoming leads and other real estate professionals with whom they’re interacting (brokers, real estate agents, other wholesalers, etc.), about their knowledge of any distressed apartment owners or larger apartment deals.
Helpful Hints: Bear in mind, most apartment investors get their start investing in single-family homes. For example, I used to buy single-family residences (SFRs) in Texas. Many investors looking to sell SFRs also own other real estate. If they’re in the mood to sell, they might sell the larger stuff, too! Ask your wholesaler to find out about other pieces of real estate, specifically apartment communities.
If a wholesaler is hesitant about sourcing apartment deals, stress the fact that it is a win-win scenario. You will create another pipeline of apartment leads while the wholesaler will make a larger than normal wholesale fee – hopefully the biggest of their career – due to the higher purchase price of apartment communities compared to single-family and smaller multifamily deals.
Method #4: Direct Mail with a Twist
This method might sound like a martini you’d attempt to order at happy hour, but it’s far from that. This is another way to leverage your meetup group, and you’re going to love it far more than a martini. Include a “call-to-action” at the end of your direct mailers to apartment owners, inviting them to attend your meetup group, both as a speaker and a participant.
Like strategy #2, your goal should be to get the apartment owner to attend your event while proactively adding value to their business. In doing so, you build a relationship with them so that when they are willing and ready to sell an apartment community, you’ve increased your chances of being awarded the deal without that deal ever going to the open market.
Joe Fairless is a Principal at Ashcroft Capital, controlling more than $265 million in real estate assets. He is also the host of the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever. Learn more at joefairless.com.