Earlier this year I attended Dave Lindahl’s Boot camp titled “How to Get Rich in Apartments.” Dave is one of the few gurus teaching how to buy apartment buildings as a pathway to riches in real estate investing.
Let me tell you about Dave Lindahl’s past. At one point in his life he was a landscaper that was broke. In order to purchase his first investment property, a triplex, he took a cash advance on his credit card. This purchase resulted in an almost four figure monthly positive cash flow. A year later he was collecting a five figure monthly cash flow.
The main reason for attending this boot camp was to learn the necessary steps that would allow us to move beyond the smaller multi-family properties we currently own and into larger apartment buildings. This is the same strategy everyone remembers from playing Monopoly which is to buy real estate, build 4 green houses and then trade up to one red hotel. After two years in real estate investing, we had accumulated 7 quad apartment buildings worth over $2 million. We were ready to trade up to our first red hotel which is what lead me to attend this boot camp.
The boot camp was held at a local hotel here in Atlanta and lasted for 4 days. By my estimate there were approximately 300 people in attendance. People came from all over the US – and one couple flew in from Ireland – just for this course which is a testimonial to Dave’s reputation as a speaker. We were given a mother lode of material that included:
· 3-ring binder manual
· Multi-unit Profit Finder software program
· Apartment House Riches (his home study program)
· Forms CD
· Certificate for 3 months of mentoring
· Several special reports
· CDs of interviews with past students
· DVD of Dave walking through 3 of his properties
· A t-shirt with the appropriate logo stating “Happiness is Positive Cash Flow”
On the morning of the first day, Dave asked everyone to stand that already had more than 10 rental units. Everyone who stood was given the opportunity to tell how many rental units they owned. One lady had over a thousand rental units. Much to my surprise, Brad and I were in the top 3% of all attendees in terms of total rental units and we were able to accomplish this in just two years. I still think attendees who have some previous investment experience will garner the most from attending this class. It is more of a challenge for somebody to purchase a 50 unit apartment building as their first foray into real estate investing which is why I think having some previous real estate investing experience would be beneficial before attending this boot camp.
Boot camps by their very nature are intensive learning formats and this boot camp was no exception. In a few short days we covered topics ranging from why buy apartment buildings, how to find deals, analyzing deals, making offers, emerging markets and market cycles, bank financing and using private money. The information was presented in a clear and straightforward manner albeit from a 10,000 foot perspective which lacked pertinent details that might benefit the more advanced investors attending the camp.
Dave recommends that purchasers of apartment buildings never ever deal with a tenant. Instead you should hire a professional property management company to manage your apartment building. When we started investing, we self-managed all 28 of our rental units which is contrary to his advice. Looking back we would not change a thing because we felt that having hands-on management allowed us to learn the intricacies of property management that we can use in evaluating a company when we decide to stop maintaining our own properties. If you have a property management company then you do not need to be concerned about maintenance and repairs and these topics were not covered.
A good amount of time was spent actually evaluating deals which involved understanding key financial figures such as cap rate, cash flow and net operating income (NOI). This emphasis on this one topic should be expected because it is the numbers that separate a killer deal from a dud. Once you understand how to effectively analyze a deal then half the battle is done and now all you need to do is to focus on finding properties and closing on the deal.
During the boot camp Dave had multiple attendees come up to the front to discuss possible deals that they had found. This gave everyone the opportunity to apply their newly learned material into a real-world example. Several of the “great deals” presented turned out to be real duds. BUT it was better to learn it in the context of a classroom instead of forking out $500K on a property and then learning that it is a dud!
Dave is very open to answering questions from students at any time. A microphone is permanently placed in the isle. At any time you have a question you can go to the microphone and Dave will stop and let you ask your question which he will then answer. Any time you did not understand the material and had more questions then you could just ask and immediately get an answer.
Dave Lindahl recently published a book titled “Emerging Real Estate Markets.” This book explains how real estate follows predictable cycles by moving through 4 phases. The gist of understanding market phases is that you can become even richer by purchasing properties in the right market phase that is about to start appreciating and then know when to sell before the market phase begins to decline. If your local market is in the wrong phase then you can be more successful buying in out-of-state markets that are in the right phase. Why settle for a 10% return in your local market if you can get a 30% return in another state.
The only complaint about this boot camp was the use of guest speakers. For 4 straight days we were subjected to a revolving door of experts speaking on a vast array of topics such as building websites, getting grants from the government, and writing to pre-foreclosure property owners. Their information may be valuable but I attended to learn about the specific topic of buying apartment buildings. Without the guest speakers, the format of the boot camp could quite possibly be restructured into a 3 day class that would allow the attendees to focus solely on the reason they attended.
You might wonder why you might need to learn how to buy apartment buildings when almost every book at the bookstore and every late night infomercial hype the advantages of buying single family properties. Economics 101 is the answer to that question. If you have you have a 50 unit apartment building then you have 1 roof and 1 location to visit instead of having 50 roofs located at 50 different locations throughout the town if you instead had 50 single family properties. The biggest advantage of apartment building is that if one tenant moves out then you have 49 other tenants paying rent to cover your mortgage. In a single family house, if the tenant moves out, then you are paying for 100% of your mortgage. That is why we want to move up to larger apartment buildings and this boot camp provided the blueprint necessary for us to accomplish this goal. If you want to learn how “get rich by going big” then this boot camp is perfect for you.