February 7, 2017
Joe Fairless

3 Essential Factors of Diversification in Passive Real Estate Investing

Jeremy Roll, who is currently an investor in more than 70 deals across over $500 million worth of real estate and business assets, is one of many speakers who will be presenting at the 1st annual Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Conference in Denver, CO February 24th to 25th.

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In a conversation with Jeremy last year, he provided his Best Ever Advice, which is a sneak preview of the information he will be presenting at the conference.

What was Jeremy’s advice? He explains the three essential factors to take into account when approaching diversification in passive real estate investing – geography, asset class, and operators.

Geographic Diversification

Some investors like to invest locally, which can be defined as a location that is within an hour or two-hour drive. Others will invest out-of-state, but all in one sub-market. There are thousands of different ways to invest and most of them are effective. However, there is a problem with having all of your properties concentrated in one geographic location: you are much more susceptible to economic, weather, and other geographically related risks.

If there is a major earthquake, for example, and you own 10 properties within 3 miles of each other that are all destroyed, you are in trouble. I know this is an extreme example, but it is still a risk. Since earthquakes and similar risks are such a rarity, Jeremy calls them 1% risks.

In last months of 2016, Florida was hit by hurricanes, which most likely had a major affect on some real estate. While it might be okay to own real estate in Florida, if you were heavily invested in one Floridian location and one hurricane wiped out half of your properties, again, you are in trouble.

Another weather-related example – Jeremy invests in six different funds with some very large mobile home park operators, with one being the 5th largest in the world. This operator shared a story about why they have no issue with investing in areas that have tornados, but they avoid hurricane areas. The reasoning was that when a hurricane hits, it typically wipes out massive territory. As a result, the different governmental agencies and insurance companies are too overwhelmed and can’t handle it, so it takes forever to repair the damage. But for tornadoes, a more isolated area is affected, so FEMA will come in immediately and help. Isolated areas are much more manageable. In this specific situation, these mobile home operators had all of their homes that were damaged or destroyed by a tornado replaced for free. The lesson here is that tornados are manageable and hurricanes are unmanageable.

Besides weather-related risks, another reason to diversify across different geographical areas is that each has its own unique economies and as a result, its own unique challenges. If you are invested in a city that relies heavily on a specific employer and decides to relocate their plant across the country, you are in trouble.

There are countless other examples, so all in all, it is important to spread your investments out across different geographical areas.

Asset-Class Diversification

It is also important to diversify across different asset classes, both from an asset-type and tenant perspective. For example, Jeremy won’t invest in apartments unless they are 100 units of more. For a 100 unit building, when one person leaves his vacancy rates increases by 1%. On the other hand, if you invest in a 4plex and one tenant leaves, your vacancy rate increases by 25%!

Diversifying across asset types is key because certain types perform better in a growing economy while others perform better, or are at least more manageable, during a downturn. For example, office and retail don’t perform as well during a good economy but can go through a recession relatively well. Specifically, retail with anchor tenants – big grocery stores, CVS, Walgreens. Mobile home and self-storage – can perform even better during a downturn. In 2009, self-storage vacancy only increased by 1%. This is probably due to the increase in demand that came from homeowners who were foreclosed on and needed a place to store all their personal belongings.

In the long term, you want to be as diversified as possible. In doing so, whether we are in a good economy or a bad economy, the cash flow is still going to come in. This is especially important if, like Jeremy, you are dependent on cash flow to live off of.

Jeremy does not recommend that you invest in every asset class. For example, he personally doesn’t invest in hotels or industrial space. On average, these asset classes tend to do really well in an upturn or positive economy. However, they tend to have really quick revenue reductions during a downturn. He doesn’t want to be exposed to that volatility.

Therefore, it is important that you diversify as much as possible, but make sure that you are comfortable and knowledgeable in all the asset classes you select.

Operator Diversification

Whenever you invest passively, you are trading control for diversification. You are giving someone else control of the day-to-day operations and you are probably investing with multiple different investors, so your control is minimized. Therefore, if you are going to give up control, you better trade it for diversification. Jeremy finds that there is always a 1% risk with operators, due to the possibility of mismanagement, fraud, a Ponzi Scheme, etc. You are increasing your risk inherently by being a passive investor. To mitigate that risk, diversify across operators. Don’t have too many eggs in one basket.

Everyone has their own take on the maximum exposure an investor should have in terms of number of operators. The common number that Jeremy sees is that people don’t like to be exposed to an operator with more than 5% to 10% of their total capital. The same applies to geography and asset classes as well.

It is also important to keep in mind that proper diversification takes a long time, but it is the best way to reduce risk. The more diversified, the better. Jeremy recommends that you shouldn’t invest more than 5% of your capital into an opportunity. This means that your goal should be to diversify across at least 20 different opportunities. At that point, you can determine how many operators you are comfortable with – 1, 3, 5 or more, depending on the person. It is very subjective and depends on what you are comfortable with.


Diversification in real estate investing is a must to ensure long-term success and reduce risk. Jeremy Roll diversifies his investments by keeping three essential factors in mind:

  1. Geography
  2. Asset-class
  3. Operators

Jeremy believes your ultimate investment goal should work towards investing no more than 5% of your overall capital into a single opportunity and to expose no more than 10% of your capital to a single geography, asset class, or with a single operator. 

What are some stories of problems you have come across that were a direct result of not being diversified enough?

Want to learn more about lease-option investing, as well as a wide range of other real estate niches? Attend the 1st Annual Best Ever Conference February 24-25 in Denver, CO. It’s the only real estate investing conference whose content and speakers are curated based on the expressed needs of the audience. Visit www.besteverconference.com to learn more!

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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