Kris Benson is like many other investors who are getting their feet wet with residential properties. He dreamed of generating enough passive income from a small empire of residential properties to pay the bills. However, on his journey toward making this dream a reality, he discovered a more efficient and effective way to make far more money through real estate investments.
Today, Kris Benson is the CIO for Reliant Investments, which is part of Reliant Real Estate Management. However, his incredible story began many years ago when he was a sales professional for a payroll processing company, ADP.
Growing Up on the Fast Track
Kris Benson did not intend to settle down with a wife and kids early in life. An unexpected pregnancy in his early 20s may not have been in the plans, but this was a pivotal moment in his life. This blessing in disguise actually caused Benson to put his nose to the grindstone very early on, and this ultimately took him on a path toward passive investing. In fact, if he has any regrets, it is that he did not start investing in passive income streams even earlier.
He initially worked for ADP, and he later transitioned to a sales job at Intuitive Surgical. Benson worked long hours and had the same thought that so many other people have. He wanted to stop trading his valuable time for money. The solution that he came up with was to build a solid stream of passive income. While Benson could have started a business, he understood that he was not creative enough to walk along that path. Investing in rental properties was the clear option.
Amassing a Small Empire of Duplexes
Benson’s initial investment goal was to slowly build a solid portfolio of two-unit residential properties. He figured that if he had 25 buildings that were producing $200 per unit per month, he and his wife could live a comfortable life without the need for a 9-to-5 job. After he had 22 units across 11 properties, however, he realized this plan was not going to work for him. Even with a great management team in place, he did not want to deal with the stressful hassles associated with residential tenants. He also did not want to endure the stress of purchasing many additional duplexes.
He and his wife decided to divest. They ultimately sold all but one of the buildings. The property that they continue to own is one that Benson’s brother currently lives in. At this point, Benson had capital available to invest, and he was looking for a more effective way to generate passive income.
Co-Developing an Apartment Complex
Benson made the move that many others make when they gain more experience and have more investment capital. He decided to invest in an apartment complex. While he does not recall where he heard the advice, he attributes this move to the idea that big deals and small deals require the same amount of effort and time. The difference is that you make less money on small deals. Essentially, Benson believed that the return on an apartment complex would be more aligned with his output.
He teamed up with a partner who he knew from his childhood. While his partner was a construction expert, Benson was the capital investor. The pair built a large apartment complex in four phases. Initially, the project required Benson to put out a $200,000 investment. However, a shortfall in planning required him to front another $270,000 after the first phase was complete. When only a quarter of the property was constructed, he was already committed for almost a half-million dollars. However, he says he never thought about not following through with the other three phases. They made up some of the initial phase’s overage on future phases, and Benson recouped the majority of his capital later through refinances.
Transitioning to Storage Investments
Finding additional multifamily investment opportunities was a challenge for Benson. Through his research, he decided to pursue self-storage properties. Specifically, the National Association of REIT Data indicated that self-storage properties had a 17% annual return for the 23-year period between 1994 and 2017. This is compared to a 13% annual return for apartment complexes during that same time period.
Kris Benson used a storage industry publication issued by MiniCo to research the top self-storage operators in the country. MiniCo’s publication listed the top 100 operators, and he personally reached out to the top 30 operators on the list to find investment opportunities. This was how he connected with Reliant Investments. Specifically, he met with Todd Allen, who is one of Reliant’s principal partners. Todd was responsible for finding investors, but he preferred to manage operations. With Benson’s strong background in sales, he was the perfect individual to join the team and head up the equity committee.
He proactively structured a deal with them that allowed him to earn equity in the properties for those he assembled investors for. This ultimately transitioned into an extensive amount of passive income for Benson and his wife. On top of that, Benson also joined the company officially as its CIO.
Reflecting on the Past
As he reflects on the past, Benson attributes his success to several pivotal points. While he was stressed by his duplexes, he does not regret starting his journey with them. Getting started is often one of the most difficult parts of real estate investments and investing in his duplexes got the wheels moving in the right direction. He also states that his most successful investment to date is the apartment complex. If he were to give advice to a new investor, that advice would be to educate yourself as much as possible. However, you also need to jump in at some point and be prepared to learn more along the way.
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.