Flint Jamison is a mechanical engineer who spent more than 15 years designing aircraft. He found real estate in 2018, applying the BRRRR model to his first duplex in Milwaukee. However, he quickly pivoted to syndications after coming across a Michael Blank podcast on BiggerPockets.
Today, Flint is the program manager at Vestus Capital, a syndicator that focuses on value-add multifamily and new build-to-rent development. He is a GP of 1,500 units and an LP of approximately 800 units. In this episode, he shares the steps he took to pivot from due diligence to capital raising, how he nurtures relationships with potential investors, and the challenges that come with managing a fund in the current economic climate.
Flint Jamison | Real Estate Background
- Program Manager at Vestus Capital, a syndicator that focuses on value-add multifamily and new build-to-rent development. They primarily raise capital, with some deal sourcing and asset management as well.
- GP of 1,500 units
- LP of ~800 units
- Based in: Denver, CO
- Say hi to him at:
- Greatest Lesson: If you build it, they will come — in regards to capital raising.
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Ash Patel: Hello, Best Ever listeners. Welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I'm Ash Patel and I'm with today's guest, Flint Jamison. Flint is joining us from Denver, Colorado. He is the founder of Vestus Capital. As a syndicator, he focuses on multifamily funds and build to rent properties. Flint's portfolio consists of being a GP on almost 900 units across four properties, and being an LP on three properties. He also works full-time as a program manager, where he runs a program to engineer and modify aircraft for the Air Force. Flint, thank you for joining us, and how are you today?
Flint Jamison: Good. That statement is a little dated, but it's good. Glad to be here.
Ash Patel: Well, give us an update. What's the latest?
Flint Jamison: Yeah, I think I'm up to 1,500 units. And that is the funds; the funds will just skyrocket you in numbers, because you get involved in a portfolio, you do a capital raise, you have a huge team, and all of a sudden you have three properties that close in three months, and they're all 250-300 units, and boom.
Ash Patel: Okay, hold on, you just gave me a bunch of ammunition for questions. But before we dive into that, can you give the Best Ever listeners a little bit more about your background and what you're focused on now?
Flint Jamison: Yeah, so I'm a mechanical engineer by trade, and then I got my MBA, and I designed aircraft for 15-20 years; like the 787 - I designed that for 10 years, like designing wing structure. So it's really fun to go fly on an airplane that I designed. Now, as you said, I'm [unintelligible 00:03:03.23] program manager and I am slowly working myself out of my W-2.
Ash Patel: When did you find real estate?
Flint Jamison: 2018. I BRRRRed my first duplex, bought it for 80k in a class C area in Milwaukee. I sold that in April, at the right time, serendipitously at the right time... And I sold it for 170k. and I made about 35% returns in totality on that average annual returns.
Ash Patel: Milwaukee is a long way from Denver.
Flint Jamison: Yes.
Ash Patel: Why Milwaukee? And how did you find that?
Ash Patel: To be honest, I came across a group - they basically offered the service for investors. So it was essentially this guy that took his wholesaling business and he partnered with some GCs; they found properties, they would offer these properties that needed rehab... And they said, "Okay, you can buy this property, but you have to buy it with cash, because it's a wholesale. And then here's the costs." They essentially take realtor fees and GC fees. You pay them to manage the whole thing remotely, and at the end, you end up with this property that you've BRRRRed. So rather than me building a team from ground up, there's this prebuilt team, and they came with deals.
Ash Patel: What a great return. Why not just keep doing that?
Flint Jamison: It's so much work. So to give you the 32nd story on how that happened... The BRRRR strategy wasn't successful. For one, I couldn't cash-out refi just because I didn't have enough value by the time I plunked a whole bunch of money into it. It cash-flowed really well, but in the end, the tenant stopped paying. It turns out the tenant was operating a group home for geriatric Alzheimer's patients in my property; they were running a not-so-legal group care home, and actually, the only way I discovered this wasn't through my property manager, it was through my real estate agent when I decided to sell, when the tenant stopped paying. So I'm kind of glossing over a lot of details there, but I pivoted way early on knowing that that property, even though it was cash-flowing well, like $300 per door - which is a good average, right? But I calculated I needed to have roughly 50 more doors before I was okay with the passive income to quit my day job. And the amount of work it took to get that one property and amount of capital... I needed to find something else. And I ended up coming across the Michael Blanc's podcasts on Bigger Pockets, and that was it, I pivoted.
Ash Patel: What was your first step in pivoting?
Flint Jamison: I listened to a ton of Michael Blanc podcasts. And then from there, I bought into a webinar and then started going to conferences and networking and partnering up with people; the standard story - you've got to educate yourself, however you do that: podcasts, books, webinars... And then you've got to network, form a team, find complementary people, and lots of grit.
Ash Patel: Who was on your team initially? You don't have to name names, but...
Flint Jamison: No, no. So we had a commercial broker who was finding the deal; we had a CPA, and we had a professional asset manager. That property, we initially went on -- it fell apart. That's a whole other story. It fell apart for various reasons. But the key was we couldn't raise enough capital, so it fell out of contract. And then I immediately pivoted again, as far as I was the boots on the ground, due diligence, inspections, and I realized we had a major gap in capital raising... So then at that point I jumped into a capital raising mentorship group. And now I'm a largely a capital raiser.
Ash Patel: And that's a big turnaround. What were your takeaways, and what steps did you implement to become essentially a capital raiser?
Flint Jamison: Yeah, I needed a lot of help. As an engineer and a programming manager, I have no idea how to do sales and marketing and funnels... So I've found another big group out there, that that's what they focus on, right? It's a mentorship and mastermind group, and they help teach you through it. And since that point - so that was September of last year. By November, I had a new website, I had an entire Active Campaign, and all the drip funnels and everything. I was pumping social media like crazy, I was getting investors through my funnels... I got invited on to another partnership, a group of guys that I've been talking with for a year - I got invited onto their deal to capital raise and do some asset management with them... And that was through December and January, and we closed in February. And that was -- to be honest, my first 100 units was February this year, and here I am, we're recording this August of '22, and I'm up to 1,500 units.
Ash Patel: Alright, there's a lot of the story we've got to hear. You hear these cliches with funnels and branding, thought leadership... What action items did you take to be able to raise money?
Flint Jamison: One is you've got to have a database. When I first started, it was friends and family; you don't necessarily need a database, you just try to do the best you can with what you have. But to really take it to the next level, you've gotta legitimately go out there and get like a MailChimp or HubSpot, or I use Active Campaign, and build a place for investors to go sign themselves up. They have to put their information in, and you've got to separate the sophisticated versus accredited investors... And then the website - you've got to have some sort of brand that they can go to. And then really what I did is I think -- I resonate with LinkedIn the most. So at that point, you're just grinding away on social media. And then in-person, talk to everyone you know; even in an elevator, some stranger - strike up a conversation. Say, "What do you do?" and they will ultimately ask what we do. And at that point, you mention it, and sometimes you hook people.
Ash Patel: I'm shy about asking people what they do... Because it feels like a judgmental question. Especially if somebody sees you in a nice car, or something like that, and they ask, what do you do? I often shy away from engaging, because I don't want to seem like I'm coming across boastful, or bragging, right?
Flint Jamison: Yeah.
Ash Patel: What are your thoughts on that?
Flint Jamison: It takes a lot of practice. As an introvert and an engineer, it's been a learning experience. I had a lot of failures along the way, right? Especially on LinkedIn posts. I've put some stupid stuff out there. You're right. Sometimes it takes the right person to talk to. If you're in an elevator with someone that appears to be that they don't have a lot of net worth, you may not want to go there with the conversation, and you let it be. But say you're at a big business conference hotel, and some other stranger walks out and they have a suit and tie... You can strike up the conversation that way.
Ash Patel: Yeah, okay. That's very important. So know the environment, know the audience... Because what I really meant to say is when you hear "What do you do?" to me, it's almost like you're sizing people up. Right?
Flint Jamison: Okay, I get where you're going with that. Yeah, you've got to be careful how you say it, right? It's not just straight out "So what do you do?" You strike up the conversation, "Hey, how are you doing?"
Ash Patel: Awesome. Yes, I like that approach.
Flint Jamison: "I love the tie." You've got to crack the ice first before you say "So what do you do?"
Ash Patel: Okay, good. Well, now, my other question is, if you're a self-proclaimed introvert, why not outsource that part of the equation?
Flint Jamison: I tried that and failed with that.
Ash Patel: Do you enjoy constantly being out there, networking and finding out information about people?
Flint Jamison: Yes. So I would consider myself an ambivert. It isn a extroverted introvert.
Ash Patel: Got it.
Flint Jamison: I need to recharge my batteries on my own time reading a book or doing my own thing with my family... But when I go to like the Best Ever Conference - man, did I have a killer time. For three days straight I was out there in that hallway, just talking with everyone. It was a blast, right?
Ash Patel: Yeah.
Flint Jamison: But at some point, like 2:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, you've gotta be like, "I've gotta go take an hour and sit by myself for a bit and recharge." But I do really enjoy talking about what I do, and how I can help people.
Ash Patel: Okay, so I love that term, ambivert. Did you coin that, or is that a real thing?
Flint Jamison: No, that's a legitimate thing.
Ash Patel: Okay, because I've got some friends who say that they're an introvert/extrovert, and they're essentially referring to the same thing you just mentioned, an ambivert.
Flint Jamison: Yeah. There you go.
Ash Patel: Awesome. Now, the Best Ever Conference, by the way, was awesome... Shameless plug, if you will. But when I found out that all the attendees get access to the replays of the presentations, I stayed in the hallway the entire time. I'm like, "I'll listen to the conferences later."
Flint Jamison: I'm surprised we didn't cross paths out there. [unintelligible 00:11:55.03]
Ash Patel: I know. Next year, we need to connect. So I get that, it was a lot of fun just interacting with people. Everybody just seemed to be there to network. And that was incredible. So I've heard a lot of people who wanted to passively set up these funnels - the website, the branding - and have it automated, so that people just come to you. Does that work? Or do you have to be out there and interacting with people, having a conversation; in my opinion, they want a warm body to talk to, they want a face they can put the company name to, right?
Flint Jamison: Yes, yes. That's the hardest part about outsourcing. And I did do some outsourcing for social media with someone from the Philippines, you know, paying $5 an hour, but they don't have your same voice. And then they always say something wrong... There's the second language barrier. But the biggest thing about bringing an LP in is they have to know, like and trust you, and the only way for them to know, like and trust you is to actually talk to you.
So I think that there are really creative ways to bring people into a funnel and educate them. I plan on doing YouTube videos of what are the basic questions, what is a syndication. And you do a 20-second YouTube video and just offer that to investors on the website, so that they can digest, but it's coming from me personally. But I think in the end, if they still need that next level, they still have the opportunity to talk to me directly.
Ash Patel: I agree. I think that's incredibly important. In my experience, interviewing a lot of successful real estate people, engineers make some of the best syndicators out there, because they're very process and system-driven. You use Active Campaign... What information do you like to keep on potential investors, or just contacts in general?
Flint Jamison: So beyond the necessary SEC stuff that we need to have, when I talk to people, I usually open up Active Campaign and write as many notes as possible. I am still trying to learn how to be better at this. You hear about salesmen that know the names of your kids, and how old they are, and when your birthday is... I personally don't feel like I have the bandwidth to handle all that, and I don't get to that level of detail with most investors. But what I do do - I talk to investors and say, "Look, this is like a two-way interview. You're trying to learn what I do, understand the process" and I need them to know, like and trust me. And likewise, I need to make sure that they're a good fit. So most of the time, I do ask, once again, "So what do you do?" and if they say they're a trash truck driver, it's likely that "Well, this is probably not the right fit for you", because I'm an engineer, I get that type of Avatar coming through. I get people that are IT professionals, VP of it, or engineers from NASA. At that point, I know that they are sophisticated individuals. I document all of that. If I run into them somewhere, I document all that, just to give me a refresher of where I know this person from... Because I've run into several people that are "Hey, Flint! Hey, how are you?" I'm like, "I don't really remember you..." So I try my best to give myself those key things that help remind me of how I met that person, and who they are, and where they come from.
Ash Patel: You just gave me an idea. I should find people's pictures on social media, and if I have their contact info, put a face to them. Because the more you see that, the more it should help in-person.
Flint Jamison: Yeah. And half the calls I have are Zoom with these investors. I could screen-capture it.
Ash Patel: Yeah. Even better. Yeah, put a face to a name, so this way, when you see them at a conference, you don't read their name tag with like, "Oh, Matt, how are you?"
Flint Jamison: Yeah. That actually just happened this weekend. I was at lunch and someone's like, "Hey, Flint, how are you?" and I'm like, "Oh... Good."
Ash Patel: I used to get caught a lot when I'd say "Nice to meet you." It's like, "Dude, we've met like five times." I've changed that to "Nice to see you. Good to see you." This way, it's like a blanket hello greeting.
Flint Jamison: Yes, that is brilliant.
Ash Patel: [laughs] It's only learning from failure. So you're also a GP on property... So what are you, Flint? Are you a capital raiser? Are you a syndicator, fund manager? What do you want to be when you grow up? [laughs]
Flint Jamison: All of the above. It's crazy... I'm doing build to rents now... So syndicator for sure. I think that's the easiest way to lump it. I'm also an LP on other deals. But I focus most of my time on capital raising; given that I'm in a W-2 job, I think it's the best position to be in when you're remote. The acquisitions guys, they have to fly all over the place. If you don't live in the place you want to invest in, you're constantly down there getting face to face with brokers. Likewise with asset management - you can do it remote, but there's a lot of travel you've got to do still; you've got to stay on top of things. So this has enabled me to be the most flexible as a capital raiser. And then, conveniently, I've converted into a fund manager, which is largely just pure capital raising. So I started a fund of fund, and then actually, just last week, I got invited onto a blind fund.
Ash Patel: Let's dive into those. And you mentioned that having the fund blew your business up exponentially.
Flint Jamison: As far as unit count, yes.
Ash Patel: Okay. So the fund of funds. Let's start with that. It's basically taking on investors and cultivating investments, evaluating deals for them, and investing their capital.
Flint Jamison: Correct.
Ash Patel: And there's a lot of people that do a fund of funds model. What's your value-add over other people?
Flint Jamison: The truth is everybody has their own database of investors, and we have to find a place for our own investors to go invest. That's really what it comes down to. And different syndicators or fund managers have access to different types of operators. Some may just operate in Florida. This recent one we did was three different states, and it totaled almost 800 units, three different properties, three different classes. So what was really cool on this one is the primary fund owner and the operators brought a wide variety of asset classes and business strategies to a single fund, in three different states on top of that, to provide investors a very diversified single investment.
Ash Patel: And Flint, how does a fund manager get paid?
Flint Jamison: There's a lot of work in setting up that fund of fund. We have to do a lot of the legal work; there's a lot of fees up front... So we take a small acquisition fee; we don't typically take an acquisition fee like an operator would, but we take a little bit. Essentially, the way it works is the primary fund offers a larger distribution to a fund of fund if you bring in X amount of money, whether it's a million dollar threshold, or a $5 million threshold. It's like multiple classes of investors.
So your standard investor straight into the fund might get just a seven pref and a 70/30 split, where we coming in with a $5 million check, we get a 10% pref and a 80/20 split. So then we can offer our investors something slightly better than what somebody going direct into the fund can have... And then there's enough meat on that bone for us to take a little bit off the top, because we do have to asset-manage, we do have to have CPAs and all the financials and K-1s. We're doing all that work. Because essentially, the way it works out is I sign the PPM, all the dots, to the primary fund. I'm basically handing over a $5 million check as an LP to the primary fund. Hopefully that makes sense...
Ash Patel: It does. And the other fund that you have set up, what is that?
Flint Jamison: The blind fund... Bear with me, I'm in it a week, so there's probably some gaps in my knowledge. But what I really love about this is it's almost like a perpetuity plan. You can ride this for a long time. So the cool thing is, is the plan is to buy a property, one or two properties every year. Normally, when you invest into a single property, there's this period where you have to stabilize the property, there's no cash flow, and the cash flows start out low, and as they ramp up. Well, once you get this blind fund built, and you have this cascading event of properties that are in varying levels of maturity in their business cycle, you can maintain a steady cash flow. So what we're doing is an 8% pref with an 80/20 split, and just ride it out.
So what's really fun is we're raising for the sixth asset of this fund, but asset number one is likely to sell here in a few months. So everyone that's in it is going to get a slight bump in pay for the next quarterly distribution, because there's a big capital event... While this new property is ramping up and stabilizing itself. So as you have that constant cascading flow of properties, it can be a long-term investment; you don't have to take distributions. Say you put $50,000 in - you don't want that $1,000 this quarter or that quarter, you can opt to put it back in; you don't pay any capital gains, and now you've grown your investment in that portfolio. So you're essentially creating a snowball effect, as more properties come on, and as properties sell, your capital gains if you want to put them back in, you don't even pay the taxes.
So there's a lot of options being in a blind fund to do as you choose with your money. If you don't want to have to get your money back, deal with the tax implications, find another deal to invest in, you just let it ride. Also, if for some reason there's a life event, you can get out in two years; you don't have to wait for the standard five-year -- you don't have to wait for the business plan to go full cycle to get all your money back. You can opt to buy out.
Ash Patel: Would you limit the number of properties that you have in each fund?
Flint Jamison: Yes.
Ash Patel: Why do you do that? Why not just blow it up and make it huge?
Flint Jamison: Great question. I think at some point you need to close the door on the fund. Now, I don't think I can eloquently say why, but this fund was written, the operating agreement says it's $100 million. That's the max. But we are already thinking in the future, once you hit that 100 million dollars, you'll likely offer a 1031 exchange to fund number two, and people can just roll right over and maybe it's another 100 million dollars.
Ash Patel: So as each of your properties sell in that fund, you give the investors the opportunity to 1031 or not.
Flint Jamison: No. As properties sell, you give people the opportunity to just keep their money within the fund, and then the money invested grows; or they can take the cash. So there's not a 1031, until that fund maxes out at $100 million dollars and we can no longer accept more funds.
Ash Patel: And then on the distributions, are there capital gains, or do you still have all the negative K-1s hitting?
Flint Jamison: So you get the K-1s, but you can opt to take distributions or not. If you take the distribution, there are capital gains.
Ash Patel: Okay. Interesting.
Flint Jamison: I don't know if I answered your question on that.
Ash Patel: You did. I'm just really curious on how these are set up, and how different people do them. If an investor wants to leave after two years, you have to replace that investor, right?
Flint Jamison: Correct. So what's interesting about funds is you can raise 100% of the time; there's no closure period. You can just raise while the fund is open, raise all year long. So likely what would happen in that event is the GPs might buy that person out and then backfill by raising some more money and getting someone in that position.
Ash Patel: Got it. And then once that fund is closed, you'd have another one that they could potentially 1031 into, in the perfect world.
Flint Jamison: Yes.
Ash Patel: Okay. When somebody commits money to a fund, versus timing of the capital that you need for your deal, how does that work? Do you have people wire money ahead of time?
Flint Jamison: Great question. So in this particular fund, we're essentially raising it in tranches, and those tranches are driven by the next property being added. So what's interesting is we will pitch a given property as if you're buying into a single property. "Here's the next asset number six", and it is straight up just a single property pitch. And "Here's the business strategy. Here's why we love it. And oh, by the way, there's already five other properties in here, at various stages of maturity, and they have historically, over the last two years, been providing a strong 8% pref and an 80/20 split." So that triggers the investors, they get in the gate. Now, I think where you're going with this is, "Okay, I get in on property number six, and property number one just sells. How's that weighted? How do I get a benefit of the property number one that just sold two months later after I bought in, but you have investors that bought into property number one?" That's all weighted. So the longer you've been in it, the more weighting you have for those big capital events.
Ash Patel: Got it. And I would assume that investors feel a little bit warm and fuzzy knowing that this is already in progress. This fund itself already has a track record. They're just buying in along with a whole bunch of other investors that were already in.
Flint Jamison: Yep.
Ash Patel: Do you ever ask yourself why every syndicator doesn't go with a fund model?
Flint Jamison: So here's the other thing - they're very difficult to set up. And as a fund manager, you have a fiduciary responsibility to continue bringing properties that can perform to the level that you've established. Two years ago, this 8% pref, 80/20 split, everybody's doing great, we can do this. Now in this world, it gets even harder. But here's the benefit as a fund manager... Because we end up being the big cheque writer; once again, it's like the fund of fun - I'm gonna write a million dollar check, or a $5 million check. In this scenario though, we come in with a $5 million check to an individual property and we talk to those property operators and say, "Hey, we've got a $5 million check for your 400 units. We want pref equity." So we get a little bit -- and that's where, especially in this day and age, when interest rates are high, cash flows are a little lower, negotiating that big check for a little bit of pref equity gives our investors the ability to maintain that 8% pref, 80/20 split.
Ash Patel: Interesting approach. Flint, what is your best real estate investing advice ever?
Flint Jamison: Take action. So to back up on that a little bit, I spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to educate myself a year or more. This is self-educating via podcasts and some books; I should have taken the first step within two months, three months, got myself involved in some networking event, a webinar, anything. Take that step. Because if you're going to try to know it all before you step in it, you're never going to know it all anyway. So just take that next step really early on.
Ash Patel: Yeah. Great advice. Flint, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Flint Jamison: Yes.
Ash Patel: Alright, Flint, what's the Best Ever book you've recently read?
Flint Jamison: The Go Giver. Not only from a capital raising standpoint was it super-beneficial to hear it, but just being a human being in life, and interacting with other people, The Go Giver was very profound.
Ash Patel: Yeah, I've got a good friend of mine that read that, and it was very impactful to him... So thank you for sharing that. Flint, what's the Best Ever way you like to give back?
Ash Patel: To be honest, I get a lot of syndicators or people wanting to be syndicators who find me and just ask how I got started. It's just kind of naturally happened. Now, in the future, when I become financially free and I'm able to really choose what I want to do, I really want to get involved with Engineers Without Borders, and travel the world, and teach my kids how to change the world around them.
Ash Patel: Yeah. Flint, how can the Best Ever listeners reach out to you?
Flint Jamison: You can go to Vestuscapital.com, or you can find me on LinkedIn. I think it's LinkedIn.com/FlintJamison.
Ash Patel: And it's Vestuscapital.com. Flint, I've gotta thank you for your time today, man. You got started in 2018 with a duplex. You've accomplished a tremendous amount in less than four years. Your engineering background I'm sure played a big part of this, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone... Thank you for sharing your story with us today.
Flint Jamison: Thanks, Ash. It's been great.
Ash Patel: Best Ever listeners, thank you so much for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a five-star review, share the podcast with somebody you think can benefit from it; also, follow, subscribe, and have a Best Ever day!
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